Congress, NASA

Examining ISS utilization

At last week’s House appropriations hearing, subcommittee chairman Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) questioned NASA administrator Charles Bolden about utilization of the International Space Station (ISS). In particular, he asked about issues with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the organization selected last year to manage research on the US segment of the lab, which Congress previously designated as a national laboratory.

“We have awarded a contract to an organization called CASIS,” Bolden said during that discussion, late in the hearing. Wolf interjected: “That hasn’t worked out very well.” “It’s going through growing pains, but we’re confident it’s going to work,” Bolden responded. That was an allusion to recent events, such as the sudden resignation nearly a month ago of the executive director of CASIS. “They have milestones that they have to meet,” Bolden said, “and we have sent them, or we are in the process of sending them, another letter to remind them of the milestones, to remind them of the plan, and then we’ll see how they go.”

Wolf tried to get Bolden to give CASIS an “interim grade” on its efforts to date, which Bolden declined to do. “It’s a hundred billion dollars that we’ve spent,” Wolf said. “We all have an obligation to the American taxpayer to make sure that it’s utilized.”

The next day, either by coincidence or cause-and-effect, CASIS announced it has organized a group of “world-class” scientists to review experiments that have been flown the ISS to determine what areas—at least in biomedical fields, its initial emphasis—hold the most promise for future work, including commercial applications. Their findings will be delivered to NASA next month.

The utilization of the ISS is the subject of another hearing at 9:30 this morning by the full House Science Committee. The hearing charter indicates members will examine issues such as a potential shortfall in cargo transport to the ISS (based on a Government Accountability Office report last December) and management of station research.

61 comments to Examining ISS utilization

  • Hopefully this will help educate the idiots members in Congress of the importance of accelerating commercial crew access to the ISS.

    NASA has launched a new ISS Benefits for Humanity web site that has all sorts of handy documents proving the value of the ISS.

    One is International Space Station: Benefits for Humanity.

    I wish more people would actually educate themselves about what’s going on aboard the ISS. To argue this is a waste is simply ignorant.

  • amightywind

    Glad to see some light shined on the boondoggle that is ISS scientific research. As I have said many times before, ISS funding is orders of magnitude out of whack with the value of research conducted there. That other more worthy space science programs must go begging because of this is a national tragedy.

  • Justin Kugler

    It was coincidence. That scientific review was already in work.

  • vulture4

    Wolf, who is criticizing ISS utilization, is the primary roadblock to commercial access and to bringing the world’s newest manned spaceflight program (China) into the program.

  • Justin Kugler

    Don’t bet on it, Stephen. Pete Olson just published an op-ed in The Hill that claims NASA’s focus on commercial cargo and crew threatens national security by shortchanging SLS and MPCV. Of course, he doesn’t explain how that logic works when the USAF and NRO both depend on commercial launch for actual national security missions.

  • amightywind

    Pete Olson just published an op-ed in The Hill that claims NASA’s focus on commercial cargo and crew threatens national security by shortchanging SLS and MPCV.

    Can you provide a link? I wasn’t able to find it among Olson’s op-eds on the Hill.

  • Justin Kugler wrote:

    Don’t bet on it, Stephen. Pete Olson just published an op-ed in The Hill that claims NASA’s focus on commercial cargo and crew threatens national security by shortchanging SLS and MPCV.

    Rep. Hall in his opening remarks today claimed that “OR-ee-on” (doesn’t even know the proper pronunciation) is a backup vehicle for ISS, even though Gerstenmaier is on the record as saying that Orion isn’t compatible with ISS.

    Hall criticized Obama for claiming that Bush cancelled the Space Shuttle. Heaven forbid Obama tell the truth. Hall then bashed Obama for cancelling Constellation, which he claimed was for going to the ISS, but Hall conveniently forgot to mention that Constellation would be funded by ending U.S. participation in the ISS.

    What a tool.

  • Justin Kugler

    http://thehill.com/special-reports/defense-march-2012/218623-us-falling-behind-in-battle-for-ultimate-high-ground-space

    This is ridiculous. There are no national security payloads for SLS or Orion, so Olson’s argument is specious, at best. If we want to close the gap, commercial crew is the best shot we’ve got. Shortchanging it in favor of SLS/Orion does nothing to help us there.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    In addition to conflating national security concerns like anti-satellite capabilities with SLS/MPC — when they have nothing to do with each other (you’d think a Navy pilot would know better) — Olson’s opinion piece is also full of outright lies, like this one:

    “However Obama’s federal budget cuts funding for the MPCV by more than $300 million, pushing back its first manned flight to 2021.”

    Not true. MPCV’s first manned flight was 2021 in the FY12 budget. The FY13 budget proposal doesn’t change that.

  • Das Boese

    vulture4 wrote @ March 28th, 2012 at 9:21 am

    Wolf, who is criticizing ISS utilization, is the primary roadblock to commercial access and to bringing the world’s newest manned spaceflight program (China) into the program.

    Well, to be fair the Chinese haven’t shown much enthusiasm about joining the ISS project. On the other hand, having two manned space stations in orbit opens up several new interesting possibilities for cooperation.
    In any case completely shutting them out because of the irrational paranoia of people stuck in cold war era thinking isn’t helpful, it’s downright stupid.

  • Das Boese wrote:

    Well, to be fair the Chinese haven’t shown much enthusiasm about joining the ISS project.

    It was reported last week that ESA has had informal talks with China about mutual projects, including ISS.

    On the other hand, having two manned space stations in orbit opens up several new interesting possibilities for cooperation.

    We’ll have more if/when Bigelow is flying. Bigelow already has seven MOUs with nations that want to use his modules.

    In any case completely shutting them out because of the irrational paranoia of people stuck in cold war era thinking isn’t helpful, it’s downright stupid.

    There are concerns about technological piracy, which I think are legitimate, but I also think it’s not that big of a deal.

  • amightywind

    Thanks for the link. Pete Olson is a great spokesman for our conservative space faction. The US cannot be a space power without powerful space hardware. That’s a fact.

    On the other hand, having two manned space stations in orbit opens up several new interesting possibilities for cooperation.

    Several? Like what?

    In any case completely shutting them out because of the irrational paranoia of people stuck in cold war era thinking isn’t helpful, it’s downright stupid.

    ‘Cold war era thinking’ is a euphemism for muzzy-minded internationalists who would prefer to ignore excesses of totalitarian regimes. And for what? Feel good bonhomie in space? It was a mistake to collaborate with Russia on the ISS. Compounding that mistake with the Chinese makes no sense. MItt Romney has correctly said that Russia is our chief geopolitical adversary. China is a close second.

  • Justin Kugler

    Pete Olson is long on platitudes and short on coherent policy proposals. I can’t say I’m surprised amightywind is a fan.

    Romney also backtracked on that comment after someone pointed out to him how ridiculous it was. We live in a multipolar world in which it makes no sense to overstate one’s competitors.

    Besides, it is the fact that Russia and the US have dissimilar redundancy that has kept ISS going and given us the knowledge about in-space construction and maintenance that we have today. It was not a mistake to learn how to connect modules in space that had never before met on the ground.

  • DCSCA

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ March 28th, 2012 at 7:20 am

    ‘Hopefully this will help educate the idiots members in Congress of the importance of accelerating commercial crew access to the ISS.’

    No. Commercial HSF should be capable of developing its own markets w/o any government assistance. It’s not the responsibility of the U.S. taxpayers to throw good miney after bad and fund a faux market for commercial space then subsidize same to access it.

  • DCSCA

    “I wish more people would actually educate themselves about what’s going on aboard the ISS. To argue this is a waste is simply ignorant.”

    Deke Slayton, ignorant??? LOL Shortly beflre he passed, Slayton labeled it a WPA project for the aerospace insdustry. And he was 100% correct. You just want a government crutch to subsidize commercial. Pathetic, and demonstrates the weakness of commercial HSF’s business planning to begin with.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Commercial HSF should be capable of developing its own markets w/o any government assistance.”

    It is. But after the Ares I/Orion debacle, NASA needs human space flight transport yesterday, and commercial approaches are the fastest, most affordable, and only remaining way to obtain it.

    “It’s not the responsibility of the U.S. taxpayers to throw good miney”

    Like any customer, the federal government has to pay for the things it purchases.

    If NASA wants a new launch vehicle or reentry capsule demonstrated in flight, it has to pay for it.

    If NASA wants a visit to the ISS, it has to pay for it.

    If NASA wants a crew escape system developed, it has to pay for it.

    The taxpayer doesn’t get a free ride just because companies are putting their own investment into these systems.

    “after bad”

    Per NASA’s own analysis, COTS has already produced a new launch vehicle for a small fraction of what it would have cost the government to do the same using traditional contracting or in-house development approaches, saving the taxpayer one to several billion dollars.

    Orion, by contrast, has had billions of taxpayer dollars poured into it over a half decade with no orbital flight article to show for it, and requires at least another decade and billions more before any operational flight.

    It’s very clear which programs are throwing good money after bad, and it’s not the commercial ones.

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ March 28th, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    Shortly beflre he passed, Slayton labeled it a WPA project for the aerospace insdustry.

    Slayton died 19 years ago. Can’t you dredge up anybody more current? I know your frame of reference only includes people involved with the Apollo program, but try finding someone alive in this century if you’re going to proffer valid points of view.

    Sometimes you sound like Lord Kelvin, who ignominiously stated: “Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.”

    Commercial HSF should be capable of developing its own markets w/o any government assistance.

    Adding onto Dark Blue Nines response to this drivel, you continue to unaware that they government builds nothing. It buys everything it needs.

    You seem to be advocating we go back to the days of the Shuttle – the government building and operating their own transportation system. You apparently can’t get out of the 60′s far enough to learn that the Shuttle was a failure in trying to lower the cost to access space. Likely it raised it.

    Or it could be that you’re advocating that NASA relinquish all control over transportation standards, including all standards regarding accessing the ISS. Because that’s the only way that commercial companies will commit money the way you keep advocating – if they have total control of the service.

    But Congress and NASA don’t want commercial companies to have total control of the crew & cargo transportation services, so what do you recommend?

    I know, I know. Nothing. Like usual. Because you can only complain, you can’t contribute. Not unless it’s an idea from the 60′s…

  • Doug Lassiter

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ March 28th, 2012 at 7:20 am
    “NASA has launched a new ISS Benefits for Humanity web site that has all sorts of handy documents proving the value of the ISS.”

    I have to say that I remain skeptical about the science value of ISS, though as an engineering exercise, it has been hugely important. The trouble with many of the science cases presented here and elsewhere isn’t that the science isn’t good, but that it isn’t clear that ISS is really needed to do it most effectively. That is, just because ISS can do something great doesn’t mean that it’s the smartest way to do that something great.

    Now, I haven’t looked carefully at these cases, but, for example, Earth observation? You mean to tell me that astronauts taking photos of the Earth provide enabling opportunities that we couldn’t get with uncrewed satellites? The question is, and I offer it up here, what science that is proposed on ISS really REQUIRES in situ humans to do it, and is worth the cost of those humans being there? Consider, for example the science cases laid out in the Benefits for Humanity document. OK, anything having to do with human factors in space is pretty justifiable. Kind of hard to do that stuff telerobotically. But everything else?

    No question that, in the days of primitive telerobotics, having a human brain leaning over an experiment offered some advantages that were worth the huge cost of supporting that human brain there. That’s very much not necessarily the case anymore.

    So again, let’s get away from the “ISS can do this!” argument, and back off to the “ISS should do this!” argument. That latter line of reasoning really needs to be applied to much of the human space flight program.

  • I’ve uploaded the video of today’s hearing to my YouTube channel. The link is:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXc2IpYDTJ4

  • Explorer08

    Dear Amightywind,

    You are such a xenophobe – - I hate to think how your posts would read should we ever actually come in contact with LGMs.

  • Frank Glover

    “The US cannot be a space power without powerful space hardware. That’s a fact.”

    What constitutes ‘powerful hardware’ changes with time. We no longer measure Naval power by number of battleships, either.

    Apollo is over.

  • vulture4

    China will certainly not propose joining the ISS program until the US indicates it is receptive to the idea. While at a conference in China, Mike Griffin famously insulted his hosts by refusing an invitation to visit their launch site, saying he had seen enough launch pads. He might have learned something; the Chinese pad at Jiuquan has some interesting innovations.

  • vulture4

    As to ISS utilization, at $70M a seat nothing that can be done on ISS that is economically productive. At $20M there might be demand for 2 or 3 seats a year. At $1M per seat there would be a market for between 20 and 50 seats a year. There is no economically viable market for SLS/Orion. SpaceX or Boeing can at least achieve costs that are marginally viable for a small market.

  • vulture4

    However I am afraid the decision by CASIS to emphasize biomedical applications in their search for applications of ISS is quite naive. They seem to have been taken in by their own PR.

  • The sooner NASA can end the $3 billion a year ISS program, the sooner NASA can move on towards establishing permanently manned outpost at the lunar poles, the Earth-Moon Lagrange points, Mars orbit, and on the Martian surface: and the sooner private industry can follow!

    If the private commercial spaceflight industry wants commercial space laboratories at LEO then they need to go to Bigelow Aerospace. They’re ready to go!

    Marcel F. Williams

  • Justin Kugler

    I disagree with that characterization, vulture4. CASIS is just going after where the initial interest from corporations is. That is far from the only area of interest as they develop their Marketplace. Think of it as priming the pump.

  • DCSCA

    @Justin Kugler wrote @ March 28th, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    “Romney also backtracked on that comment after someone pointed out to him how ridiculous it was. We live in a multipolar world in which it makes no sense to overstate one’s competitors.” Romney is the perfect candidate for the America of 1952. They’re running Ike instead.

  • amightywind

    Per NASA’s own analysis, COTS has already produced a new launch vehicle for a small fraction of what it would have cost

    It has actually produced two. The Antares design has far more potential than the Falcon9. And, oh, after 8 years neither Orbital nor SpaceX have launched so much as a new track suit to the ISS. It has taken so long that COTS is barely relevant. At best they will provide a few years of transport to a dying station. After that, there is no mission. That’s why its so hard for me to understand how all of you get so wee-wee’d up about this little project.

    Mike Griffin famously insulted his hosts by refusing an invitation to visit their launch site,

    They shouldn’t be insulted. Mike Griffin is a man of action with no time for pleasantries.

    He might have learned something; the Chinese pad at Jiuquan has some interesting innovations.

    What would those be?

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “It has actually produced two.”

    Not yet. Antares has yet to launch.

    “The Antares design has far more potential than the Falcon9.”

    Nothing against OSC, but they designed none of the potential into Antares that SpaceX designed into Falcon 9. Antares has only half of Falcon 9′s throw weight (5,000kg to LEO vice over 10,000kg to LEO), cannot sustain a high launch rate affordably, and has no plans for crew launch, heavy lift, or reusability.

    There is logic behind Antares’ tradeoffs to get to low cost, but those tradeoffs limit the vehicle to a couple ISS cargo and Delta II-class launches a year.

    “It has taken so long that COTS is barely relevant. At best they will provide a few years of transport to a dying station.”

    This is simply untrue. Whether SpaceX successfully docks with ISS this year or next, there are 7-8 years of operational CRS flights to ISS coming, minimum. Another 8 years if ISS is extended to 2028 as most of the partners appear to desire.

    “After that, there is no mission.”

    Also untrue. ISS could drop into the ocean tomorrow, and NASA would still have science payloads for these launch vehicles, not to mention Falcon 9′s commercial manifest.

    “That’s why its so hard for me to understand how all of you get so wee-wee’d up about this little project.”

    Because, after the X-33/VentureStar, SLI/OSP, CTV, and Ares I/Orion failures, it’s the first time NASA has had a hand in the successful development of a new launch capability in 30 years.

  • Robert G. Oler

    vulture4 wrote @ March 28th, 2012 at 11:00 pm

    As to ISS utilization, at $70M a seat nothing that can be done on ISS that is economically productive>>>

    Probably the best statement this thread. Actually the cost are higher then 70 million a seat…I bet that the true operating cost of ISS are close to 1 Billion a person in permanent crew a year…

    The best (and it is the best) that can be hoped for is some process to be developed on ISS that has some usefulness in a cheaper environment. I view this as more random chance then anything else because the odds are small that such a process could get through the massive “roadblocks” NASA puts up. the Russians dont care about science, the Europeans and Japanese and Canadians and all the other “folks” are pretty hampered…

    A more reasonable expectation for ISS is that the operational aspect of it will allow someone to figure out “how to do it cheaper” and true science/industrial platforms can emerge…RGO

  • Coastal Ron

    vulture4 wrote @ March 28th, 2012 at 11:00 pm

    As to ISS utilization, at $70M a seat nothing that can be done on ISS that is economically productive.

    This is a false metric. Apply the same logic to our Antarctic operations – what is their economic productivity? How do you justify the cost of supporting all of our Antarctic bases with planes and ships?

    The better question is whether there is a less expensive way to get the same science, since the ISS is a National Laboratory. The costs/seat on the Shuttle were far higher than what we’re paying for Soyuz, and in terms of overall economic benefit, paying the same amount/seat to Boeing/SNC/Blue Origin would be far better than sending the money out of the country. SpaceX will likely be far less than what we’re paying for Soyuz, so I think as long as the trend is going in the right direction, that’s good.

  • The US needs a manned space station program that actually enhances the human ability to live in space, like artificial gravity space stations.

    But floating around in microgravity space stations for more than a few weeks is really a stunt that is inherently deleterious to the health of astronauts.

    Marcel F. Williams

  • Doug Lassiter

    Doug Lassiter wrote @ March 28th, 2012 at 7:09 pm
    “The question is, and I offer it up here, what science that is proposed on ISS really REQUIRES in situ humans to do it, and is worth the cost of those humans being there?”

    Gee, no one’s biting. My skepticism seems justified. I have an open mind, but most of the science not having to do with putting humans in zero-g that I’ve seen promoted for ISS just doesn’t pass the value (output-per-dollar) test.

    Photo reconaissance of flooding in North Dakota? Venice lagoon imaging? Photo documentation of the tsunami in Japan? Sorry, but while that’s important stuff, there is nothing about such recon from ISS that can’t be done vastly more efficiently with facilities not carrying humans who might be holding cameras. Global education? Give me a break.

    I look forward to the CASIS committee evaluating more than whether ISS science was successful, but also whether doing it from ISS was justifiable.

  • Coastal Ron

    Doug Lassiter wrote @ March 29th, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    I have an open mind, but most of the science not having to do with putting humans in zero-g that I’ve seen promoted for ISS just doesn’t pass the value (output-per-dollar) test.

    As far as I know, that’s a pretty small amount of what they are doing up there – maybe it’s what they do in their spare time when they are looking out the windows.

    Here is link to the NASA page for “NASA – Experiments By Expedition” for all of the expeditions to the ISS. Lots of human-tended type science.

    But part of NASA’s goals are biased towards education, and no doubt media related. Without the rocket equivalent of a drama queen (i.e. Shuttle launches & landings) to remind people that we have a space program, NASA has been able to get a frequent stream of media mentions about everything-but-Shuttle. Is that bad? Too much is, but some isn’t.

    But ISS astronauts with hand-held camera’s are not replacing dedicated Earth observation satellites.

  • DCSCA

    Whether SpaceX successfully docks with ISS this year or next, there are 7-8 years of operational CRS flights to ISS coming, minimum.

    And Soyuz can handle it.

    Another 8 years if ISS is extended to 2028 as most of the partners appear to desire. Do a cost/benefit analysis of that bogus pitch and you’ll see it doesnt add up in the age of Austerity. Subsidizing a faux market for commercial space is not a space program– but it is a desperate pitch by commercial HSF advocates who cannot or will not develop a rationale or a market on their own w/o government subsidies.

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ March 29th, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    And Soyuz can handle it…

    …Do a cost/benefit analysis of that bogus pitch and you’ll see it doesnt add up in the age of Austerity.

    Oh cut the “age of Austerity” crap. You are advocating borrowing money from China to send to Russia, with us stuck paying the interest and getting none of the economic benefit. How does that make sense?

    And recently you have been advocating that we should double the amount of money we borrow from China. I guess it’s OK if we borrow it for the things YOU want.

    So to summarize your feelings on this matter:

    - It’s OK to borrow more money from China for your priorities
    - It’s OK to depend of Russia for our access to space
    - It’s not OK to depend on American companies for our access to space

    You have misplaced priorities bub.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Coastal Ron wrote @ March 29th, 2012 at 4:50 pm
    “As far as I know, that’s a pretty small amount of what they are doing up there – maybe it’s what they do in their spare time when they are looking out the windows.”

    Funny that these are the things they call out in “Benefits to Humanity”. I can’t say that they aren’t benefits to humanity, but the question is whether humanity would have paid a lot less for them if done in other ways. Humanity might have benefited a lot more if the expenditures had covered other benefits as well.

    I still welcome specifics. What science is being done that NEEDS humans leaning over it? Go to the “Experiments by Expedition” and point to things. I suspect you’re not going to find a lot of information there that explain clearly why humans leaning over experiments are necessary. One possible reason is because they’re not.

    I’m willing to grant that ISS astronauts don’t spend a lot of time gazing out windows, and do spend a lot of time just making the facility work, which is a major accomplishment. But we’re talking science here.

  • Coastal Ron

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ March 29th, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    The US needs a manned space station program that actually enhances the human ability to live in space, like artificial gravity space stations.

    I’m all for starting to develop rotating spacecraft, but Congress has no interest. None. They don’t even ask NASA what the HSF exploration implications are of the results we’re getting from long-term studies of zero-G effects on the ISS. They don’t want to know either, because that would radically change the funding plans for NASA, which could lessen the amount that goes to their constituents.

    If they did decide to find how much zero-G is stopping us from doing any BEO trips longer than 6 months in length, they wouldn’t be spending $30B on a rocket we don’t need, and $8B on a upsized Apollo-style capsule that doesn’t address the zero-G problem either.

    The top three priorities for human exploration are addressing logistics, zero-G health effects, and radiation.

  • Coastal Ron

    Doug Lassiter wrote @ March 29th, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    What science is being done that NEEDS humans leaning over it? Go to the “Experiments by Expedition” and point to things.

    I’m not a scientist, I’m a manufacturing guy. So maybe we should look at this question from the other direction? How would you do that same science without the ISS? What hardware would you need, what would it cost, and so on?

    I suspect that there is no less expensive alternative, especially when you consider that the ISS was built to be a general purpose facility, and lots of experiments can be running at the same time. And humans provide an advantage in being flexible enough to shift priorities as needed.

    So what would be a better alternative for getting the same long-term science done?

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “And Soyuz can handle it.”

    No, it can’t. Soyuz is a crew transport vehicle. The CRS flights are cargo resupply flights, which Soyuz doesn’t do.

    “Do a cost/benefit analysis of that bogus pitch and you’ll see it doesnt add up in the age of Austerity.”

    So now the Age of Austerity is back? In a prior thread, you were talking about doubling NASA’s budget. Which is it?

  • Fred Willett

    DCSCA wrote @ March 29th, 2012 at 5:05 pm
    Whether SpaceX successfully docks with ISS this year or next, there are 7-8 years of operational CRS flights to ISS coming, minimum.
    And Soyuz can handle it.

    Actually it can’t. NASA needs to have additional up mass beside ATV HTV and Progress. And without Dragon there is no down mass to speak of.

  • DCSCA

    @Coastal Ron wrote @ March 29th, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    “Oh cut the “age of Austerity” crap.”

    Bravado from someone who likes to spend other people’s money. And, uh, no, you said that; a 2% shift from DoD’s annual $800 billion budget to NASA would roughly double the angcy’s funding- of course tucking it under their wing and consolidating space operations would be smarter still. But if you want to try to sell subsidizing LEO commercial HSF and explain to granny wh she has no COLA for SS or that Medicare has to be cut, go for it. always amusing.

  • DCSCA

    Dark Blue Nine wrote @ March 29th, 2012 at 8:43 pm

    “No, it can’t.”

    In fact, it has, can and does. Quite well, too. And Progress is resupplying a max ISS crew of six just fine. The Age of Austerity never left and will be with us fowell into this century. You can double NASA’s budget by cutting other programs across budget landscape. Bear in mind, DoD spends the equivalent of NASA’s annual budget on wars now in about 8 weeks. Zeroing out commercial all subsidies, clearing out shuttle/ISS era deadwood and shifting roughly 2% of the $800 billion DoD budget and retargeting NASA toward exploration, not exploitation is the key. Leave LEO to private capital markets and private commercal firms to exploit w/o NASA as a crutch and NASA doesn’t need commercail as a crutch to justify short-term HSF operations. Better still for the United States, consolidate all space operations, civil, DoD & dark to reduce redundancy and streamline operations under the wing of the DoD w/national security as the budget umbrella.

    @Fred Willett wrote @ March 29th, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    You mean what NASA ‘wants’ not ‘needs.’ It doesn’t ‘need’ the ISS at all. They can’t figure out what to dow w/it in the first place, had plans a few years ago to splash it in mid-decade. Soyuz works. Wasting funds on LEO operations to a dead project like the ISS is a ticket to no place. The objective is to work to rule, meet minimal ISS contractual obligations, have NASA withdraw from ISS LEO operations, leave LEO exploitation to commercial w/o government subsidies in the Age of Austerity and return NASA to BEO exploration projects of scale.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “In fact, it has, can and does.”

    No, Soyuz does not supply cargo. It cannot replace CRS.

    You don’t understand what vehicles do which jobs.

    “shifting roughly 2% of the $800 billion DoD budget”

    In other threads, you want to “tuck NASA under DOD’s wing”. Now you want to cut DOD and transfer the funds to NASA.

    Your positions are inconsistent and incoherent. Make up your mind.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Coastal Ron wrote @ March 29th, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    “I suspect that there is no less expensive alternative, especially when you consider that the ISS was built to be a general purpose facility, and lots of experiments can be running at the same time. And humans provide an advantage in being flexible enough to shift priorities as needed.”

    With all due respect, nonsense. That’s just handwaving, about general purposeness and priority shifting. Unmanned launchers provide enormous flexibility as needed, when priorities shift. I can launch a science payload into LEO for not much more than it costs to launch a single human body into LEO. But keeping that science payload operational while it’s there is vastly cheaper than keeping that human alive/operational while he or she is there.

    OK, so what of the science experiments being done REQUIRE general purposeness and priority shifting? Sure, those are generally enhancing capabilities. Have those capabilities actually been used, to achieve science goals, in a way that justifies the absolutely enormous cost of keeping people there?

    The better alternative for getting long term science done might be launching those science experiments without attached people. The simple question for CASIS reviewers is … is this particular piece of science doable any more economically by not doing it on ISS? I should say that a huge incentive for at least Earth and physical science experiments being done on ISS is that HEOMD, rather than SMD, pays for it. You don’t care how much it costs if the money is coming out of a pot that ordinarily wouldn’t even be doing science.

    Now, I’m not arguing with the idea of doing science on ISS. I’m just saying that we should take an honest look at the value of doing individual science experiments on ISS, where value is “cost to nation” rather than “cost to SMD”.

  • Coastal Ron

    Doug Lassiter wrote @ March 30th, 2012 at 10:21 am

    is this particular piece of science doable any more economically by not doing it on ISS?

    To know that, you’d have to cost it out.

    However separate experiments that are launched on disposable missions can’t reuse the science equipment that was built. That alone accounts for a cost savings when using the ISS, especially if the ISS will be used well into the 2020′s.

    Now, I’m not arguing with the idea of doing science on ISS. I’m just saying that we should take an honest look at the value of doing individual science experiments on ISS, where value is “cost to nation” rather than “cost to SMD”.

    In order to make a comparison, you have to have something to compare the ISS against. What is the alternative? Ground-based experiments? A whole series of individually launched “satellite experiments”? Nothing?

    There is science output from the ISS, so how do we value that? And there is “value” from a space station other than the obvious experiments, since the whole space station is an experiment in itself – can we sustain a permanent presence in space, and what does it take to do that?

    Definitely a perception thing, since we have no clear “National Imperative” for being in space. Enough people in government think we should. The challenge is convincing them that we should continue.

    That’s as far as I can go on this topic.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Doug Lassiter wrote @ March 30th, 2012 at 10:21 am
    “is this particular piece of science doable any more economically by not doing it on ISS?”

    Coastal Ron wrote @ March 30th, 2012 at 1:26 pm
    “To know that, you’d have to cost it out.”

    I’d like to see evidence that this was done for individual ISS science experiments. Never seen that.

    “There is science output from the ISS, so how do we value that?”

    The word “value” is quite precise. The value is how much it costs to accomplish it. If you paid a lot more to do it than it could have cost if you did it another way, you’ve overvalued it. I just suspect that a lot of science that ISS accomplishes is overvalued in this way.

    I just find it grating when we’re told that ISS has done, or could do wonderful science. No question that it did, or can. The question is, should it have?

  • Coastal Ron

    Doug Lassiter wrote @ March 30th, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    The word “value” is quite precise. The value is how much it costs to accomplish it.

    Here is what my dictionary says:

    1 the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something:
    2 ( values ) a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life:
    3 the numerical amount denoted by an algebraic term; a magnitude, quantity, or number:

    Value can be interpreted in more ways than one. What is the value of having a military? What is the value of having the National Park System? You can determine the cost of what it takes to create and sustain those, but how do you calculate the ROI on the other end? It’s not as black and white as you imply.

    I’d like to see evidence that this [costing out alternatives to the human-tended ISS] was done for individual ISS science experiments. Never seen that.

    Likely not. And the answer from 1990 would not have been as valid if you had done the study today. Meaning that 22 years ago the level of automation possible may have made human-tended experiments as the better/cheaper alternative. Today, with automation and better robotic systems with better end effectors, maybe the equation would be different.

    You though – you – haven’t tried coming up with a cost for individual experiments to be run independently from the ISS. Until you do, all you have is a supposition, or theory, with no basis of comparison.

    When the Shuttle program was started, they had a supposition that it would lower the cost to access space, and be safer. Great goal, but during the 30 years the program ran, no one ever officially challenged those suppositions. As we know now, it didn’t meet either one of those two goals, but no one really cared about it. Good? Bad?

    I can appreciate that you don’t want the ISS to end up the same way, but I think you have to look at the alternatives to using the ISS before you can start reaching conclusions.

  • DCSCA

    @Dark Blue Nine wrote @ March 30th, 2012 at 8:14 am

    “No, Soyuz does not supply cargo. You don’t understand what vehicles do which jobs”

    =eyeroll= Uh, no, it is you who seems purposely oblivious to what works and what doesn’t, as what is working doesn’t bode well for commerical advocates. Soyuz can carry up whatever is strapped inside, people or a wheel of cheese– and Progress, a Soyuz derivitiave, delivers cargo and been resupplying LEo space platforms for three decades or more. Get with the program.

  • DCSCA

    @Dark Blue Nine wrote @ March 30th, 2012 at 8:14 am
    In other threads, you want to “tuck NASA under DOD’s wing”. Now you want to cut DOD and transfer the funds to NASA.

    Your positions are inconsistent and incoherent.

    Nonsense. It is your position which are poisonous to spaceflight. You simply fear the flexibility of options detrimental to commercial. If you want to try to keep an independent NASA, shift funding; if you want to save monies, consolidate space operations across agencies and tuck NASA as a civilian division under the wing of the DoD. The goal ot so maintain steady funding streams for mid to long term program development and DoD offers the added ‘protection’ of a ‘Nat’l Security’ umbrella. NASA is a vulnerable stand alone high profile civilian agency- a luxury in the Age of Austerity. created for Cold War geopolitics long over (excpet in them ind of Mitt Romney.) In its current configuration NASA is a sitting duck for endless budget cutting.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Soyuz can carry up whatever is strapped inside, people or a wheel of cheese”

    No, it can’t. Soyuz has no accommodations for most ISS cargo containers.

    “and Progress”

    You wrote “And Soyuz can handle it.” Not Progress.

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ March 30th, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    Soyuz can carry up whatever is strapped inside…

    You mean as long as it’s small enough. Besides the size limitation because of the docking system it uses, Soyuz only has 8.5m3 of volume between it’s two modules, and Progress has 7.6m3 of volume for cargo. The most cargo the Progress can carry is 2,650kg (5,842lbs). Pretty small, and pretty limited.

    Compare that to ESA’s ATV, which has an interior volume of 48m3, and which can carry 7,667kg of cargo. Or JAXA’s HTV, which has 14m3 of cargo volume, and because it uses the common berthing mechanism (CBM), it can carry up International Standard Payload Racks (ISPR).

    Soyuz and Progress are OK for some tasks, but they can’t support a full-sized space station on their own. It would be like supplying all the needs of an Earth-bound science facility using a 1967 VW Beetle.

    As always, your lack of knowledge about anything built after the 60′s leaves you looking quite ignorant.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Coastal Ron wrote @ March 30th, 2012 at 4:41 pm
    “Value can be interpreted in more ways than one. What is the value of having a military? What is the value of having the National Park System? You can determine the cost of what it takes to create and sustain those, but how do you calculate the ROI on the other end? It’s not as black and white as you imply.”

    Well, yes it is. If our country can find a way to maintain and support the national parks in a way that is a lot less expensive than the National Park Service does right now, I’d say that that agency isn’t providing value.

    “Today, with automation and better robotic systems with better end effectors, maybe the equation would be different.”

    That’s precisely right.

    “You though – you – haven’t tried coming up with a cost for individual experiments to be run independently from the ISS. Until you do, all you have is a supposition, or theory, with no basis of comparison.”

    Exactly right. It’s a supposition, or better yet, a question. It’s a challenge to the CASIS review team to do that cost assessment that they could do far better than I could. It’s not up to me to do it. I’m paying for ISS science, but that doesn’t mean I have to assess the value of it. I’m not saying that ISS science isn’t cost effective. I’m just saying that I’ve never seen good assurance that it is compared to other options for doing that science. Now the CASIS evaluation team is assuredly not being charged by HEOMD to do that assessment, about whether we need humans in space, and that’s part of the problem.

    Now, let’s be fair. If the main goal of ISS is to do science, then that’s a cost assessment that really needs to be done. If the main goal is to understand how to support humans in space, then it’s nice to give those humans something to do while we’re trying to support them. As long as they’re going to be there anyway, asking them to do some science isn’t hard. But let’s not pretend that the science is driving the bus.

    But the “Benefit for Humanity” document doesn’t put it that way.

    “This unique scientific platform continues to enable researchers from all over the world to put their talents to work on innovative experiments that could not be done anywhere else.”

    While that statement may well be correct in a limited way, for much of ISS science, my humble supposition is that it’s not quite true.

  • DCSCA

    Coastal Ron wrote @ March 30th, 2012 at 6:10 pm
    “Soyuz and Progress are OK for some tasks, but they can’t support a full-sized space station on their own.”

    Except they do, have and will. The ISS’s crew of six won’t miss a meal. And most wheels of cheese and can fit in a Soyuz and a Progress just fine.

  • DCSCA

    Dark Blue Nine wrote @ March 30th, 2012 at 5:37 pm
    =yawn= You’re not following along and simply refuse to accept commercial for ISS operations isn’t necessary and just tossing good money after bad. LEO is a ticket to no place.

  • Coastal Ron

    Doug Lassiter wrote @ March 30th, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    If our country can find a way to maintain and support the national parks in a way that is a lot less expensive than the National Park Service does right now, I’d say that that agency isn’t providing value.

    How do you find out if you can do something better than the way it’s currently being done, unless you do it differently? For the ISS, that’s hard to do in parallel, and it wouldn’t be cheap either.

    But I think the science community would be the best organization to make that determination, wouldn’t you? Based on our goals for space?

    It’s a challenge to the CASIS review team to do that cost assessment that they could do far better than I could.

    As far as I can tell, they are not charged with doing a cost assessment. On their website they say “CASIS is designed to maximize the utilization of the ISS U.S. National Lab…” Unless that’s something that Congress has authorized them to do, however Congress usually asks the GAO to make those kinds of assessments.

  • pathfinder_01

    Soyuz can only bring down about 100 pounds and that can be a tough squeeze. Progress has no return capability, it can only bring up about 2.5MT of stuff and of the 2.5MT you only get about 1.5mt of dry stuff(food, clothes) in 7.6 m³ worth of space the rest of it is liquid storage(gasses, propellant,. Soyuz is built stricly for crew(in orher words you can’t strap anything you want inside it). Heck some of our tall astronaunts are bared from ISS stays cause they can’t fit in Soyuz!

    Compare that to the two ccdev craft. Dragon can bring up 6mt and bring down 1MT in 10 m3 worth of space. Cygnus can bring up 2mt worth of dry and has 18.9 m3 worth of volume and can handle up to a. Orbital’s contract is for 1.9 billion for 8 flights. Space X’s contract is 1.6 billion for 12 flights. Total 3.5 billion, barely enough to buy 1 flight of the shuttle.

    Let’s say you wanted to support another space station or moon base or even stock a mars bound craft. You can use what currently exists or modify for this function. For instance in terms of life-support the biggest problem isn’t mass but volume. Food and clothes are not really heavy, they are bulky. Something like Cygnus could hold about 3 months worth of supply and could easily be launched towards l1/l2 using a delta rocket. If solar electric propulsion is available (or if you deep spacecraft departs from LEO) no bigger rocket needed.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “You’re not following along”

    I repeated your post exactly as you wrote it. You wrote “Soyuz”, not “Progress”. You’re the one who can’t follow your own writing, not me.

    “and simply refuse to accept commercial for ISS operations isn’t necessary”

    It’s necessary if you don’t want to send a half-billion U.S. taxpayer dollars to Russia each year. It’s necessary if you want to have an alternative for crew transport if Soyuz has a bad day. It’s necessary to sustain operations because the flight rates for ATV, Progress, and HTV aren’t high enough. It’s necessary if you’re going to bring the cost of space transport down to a level where there’s enough funding left over in NASA’s budget to develop and operate BEO systems. It’s necessary if you’re going to crew and sustain those BEO systems affordably.

    “LEO is a ticket to no place.”

    LEO is the only place you have to go through to get to anywhere else in the solar system.

  • Martijn Meijering

    If solar electric propulsion is available (or if you deep spacecraft departs from LEO) no bigger rocket needed.

    Or if the deep space spacecraft does depart from L1/L2, but the payloads get there through EOR with a prefueled transfer stage, just like Constellation or DIRECT would have done. There’s no reason EOR would only work with HLVs, in fact EOR makes them unnecessary, even before we have depots. After that, large rockets become even less useful, although a larger upper stage would become very useful and that would give a larger rocket as a side effect.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Coastal Ron wrote @ March 31st, 2012 at 12:08 am
    “How do you find out if you can do something better than the way it’s currently being done, unless you do it differently? For the ISS, that’s hard to do in parallel, and it wouldn’t be cheap either.”

    Good heavens. You can certainly do a cost assessment for an ISS science topic, and decide whether dollars would be saved by doing with an expendible launcher and robotic systems instead of with ISS. That’s just daft to believe that you have to DO something to cost it. If that were the case, nothing would ever get done.

    ‘As far as I can tell, they are not charged with doing a cost assessment.”

    As far as I can tell, that’s correct, It’s ME who is challenging CASIS, not the feds. (Not that my challenge is likely to go anywhere!)

    It’s really simple. It appears to me that there is a lot of “science” that the ISS team proud of having done that could have been much more easily been done by unmanned systems. I named a few above. But I think the lesson that this is teaching us is that we don’t do these things with ISS because that’s the cheapest way to get it done, but because we’ve decided that people need to be there, and heaven forbid they get bored to tears twiddling their thumbs.

    I believe that people need to be there, and I believe that ISS is doing great, and valuable work in providing experience with human survival in space. But let’s just not pretend that ISS is the godsend for science, when sometimes it really isn’t.

  • Coastal Ron

    Doug Lassiter wrote @ March 31st, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    You can certainly do a cost assessment for an ISS science topic, and decide whether dollars would be saved by doing with an expendible launcher and robotic systems instead of with ISS.

    IF you’re using proven analogies. Every time we base a new system on new technologies and techniques, NASA at least has a horrible track record of coming close to estimates.

    That’s kind of why you brought this up, and it’s a valid concern, but that’s why I think it’s not so easy to come up with comparables to something that is so unique. Sure you can come up with costs for a single experiment, but that doesn’t scale so well to a multi-use facility.

    Out of curiosity, how are our other National Laboratories judged?

    As far as I can tell, that’s correct, It’s ME who is challenging CASIS, not the feds. (Not that my challenge is likely to go anywhere!)

    As a taxpayer, it’s a fair question. And I definitely think that NASA is not asked to validate the worth of what they’re doing enough. Programs like the Shuttle go on automatic and it’s assumed that they are worthy, but like I mentioned earlier, no one ever validates that assumption.

    I like rules to be applied evenly, so not only should the ISS be evaluated for “value”, but the SLS too – better now than after it wastes $50B.

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