Congress, NASA

Hutchison and Nelson on the same page regarding NASA

Literally on the same page. The two co-authored an op-ed that appeared Monday in a few different publications, ranging from the Sacramento Bee to the Bangor Daily News. The essay gives them the opportunity to restate their vision for NASA, including the agreement Congress and the White House reached last year that identified development of the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion, commercial cargo and crew to support the ISS, and completion of the James Webb Space Telescope as the agency’s top three priorities.

The essay covers familiar ground, although one noteworthy passage comes at the end when discussing commercial crew. They argue that we must avoid “a false competition” between commercial providers and government exploration programs. However, the essay goes on to note that in order to get the most out of NASA’s budget, “NASA needs to focus its investment on only those providers that are likely to be able to provide crew transportation services by 2017.” The space agency, they add, “should consider identifying the strongest private firms at the earliest opportunity such that NASA’s precious resources are focused on ending our reliance on the Russians for transportation to the space station as quickly as possible. The cost would be less and the returns greater.”

That language is similar to what Hutchison has said in past hearings on the NASA budget proposal, where she called on NASA to limit new rounds of the commercial crew program to no more than a couple companies, not the four that currently have funded Space Act Agreements. Nelson, though, has not been as outspoken on this. At a hearing last month he said he supported increased commercial crew funding provided it did not come at the expense of SLS and Orion. In February he said he said he would fight to increase commercial crew funding. The essay’s language suggests he may be willing to support a lower level of commercial crew funding than the administration’s request of nearly $830 million.

128 comments to Hutchison and Nelson on the same page regarding NASA

  • amightywind

    That Bill Nelson aligns with the GOP position is a sign that CCDev2 down select is a done deal. Nelson knows he needs NASA peace as well as SLS (nee Ares)/Orion for his re-election. The four way CCDev2 development competition was a moronic idea to begin with, unprecedented in any previous NASA or military procurement. The only question left is where the blame falls, Gerstenmaier or Garver?

  • MindlessEavesdropper

    The works of Eligar Sadeh are worth reading–he discusses the proper economic role(s) of government in the fields of infrastructure and new technology development. One thing he makes very clear is that government is very bad about “picking winners.”

  • Dark Blue Nine

    And while Hutchison’s staff wastes time writing limp-wristed op-eds to garner support for inadequately funding commercial crew for the second year in a row, SpaceX is paying to conduct an environment impact review for building a new launch site near Brownsville, Texas… on top of the existing engine test site near McGregor, Texas:

    http://spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=40524

    In spite of Hutchison’s best attempts to do otherwise, commercial crew is bringing more jobs to her state. Texas voters must be very pleased at how hard Hutchison tries to undercut economic development in their state.

    You can’t make this stuff up. It’s so hamfisted and full of idiocy and irony that it could only originate with Hutchison and her staff.

  • Jeff Foust quoted:

    The space agency, they add, “should consider identifying the strongest private firms at the earliest opportunity such that NASA’s precious resources are focused on ending our reliance on the Russians for transportation to the space station as quickly as possible. The cost would be less and the returns greater.”

    They keep saying this but offer no evidence that proves this assumption.

    How is it that creating a government monopoly reduces cost and closes the gap? They never explain that. Fifty years of NASA history shows exactly the opposite.

  • Ben Joshua

    Senator Nelson tried to tell the Augustine group that without a strong recommendation for heavy lift, specifically shuttle derived, political pushback would be forthcoming, and essentially, it wouldn’t be pretty. Sadly, he was so right.

    Nelson’s and Hutchison’s op-ed tries to frame, justify, and enshrine for the public, the result of power politics in the NASA budget. Their argument that NASA spending has led to the creation of whole new economic sectors ignores the correlation between NASA innovation and economic development in the private sector. Just any NASA spending does not automatically lead to economic growth. As they paint broadly, “Space exploration is not inexpensive. But the money America has spent on its space program has proven to be a wise investment.”

    By arguing for a reduction in commercial spending to two contractors, these seasoned politicians are in fact trying to protect SLS not only from budget competition, but from an embarrassing contrast with the more innovative and dynamic (as in, lower cost and less development time) commercial efforts, as well as commercial’s superior approach to contract terms.

    Well, it is in the nature of entrenched power to bully forth, and quash or delay the future. We can hope that commercial efforts or newspace, this time around, have achieved enough critical mass in financing, development and the marketplace to carve out a viable niche and continue to grow.

    If the next Falcon flight is successful, a few heads may turn and take notice. But there will clearly be a challenging road for the newspace upstarts – perhaps more so in the halls of Congress and the offices of regulators, than in the technical and organizational requirements of successful spaceflight.

  • amightywind

    SpaceX is paying to conduct an environment impact review for building a new launch site near Brownsville, Texas

    Why shouldn’t SpaceX pay for this? They are the ones planning to hurl spent rocket stages at oil rigs, shrimp fishermen, and beach goers in Florida. I’ll never happen. Brownsville is a terrible location for a launch site. Musk isn’t Texas out of the kindness of his heart. He is there because of the benign tax environment. The state doesn’t owe any favors to shysters like Musk.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “CCDev2 down select is a done deal.”

    Congressional politics can’t accelerate a downselect because NASA is legally bound to finish funding the current agreements as long as the companies continue meeting their milestones. Pushing up the already planned downselect and reneging on those agreements would expose the government to more in damages and litigation costs than just finishing the work already underway.

    “unprecedented in any previous NASA or military procurement.”

    This is either a bald-faced lie or an abysmally ignorant statement. NASA paid _four_ competing contractors for early Space Shuttle development: General Dynamics, Lockheed, McDonnell-Douglas, and North American Rockwell. A fifth (Martin Marietta) did some work on their own dime.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Why shouldn’t SpaceX pay for this?”

    I never said that they shouldn’t.

  • Curtis Quick

    Should the upcoming Falcon launch and its mission succeed, both Nelson and Hutchinson will be left with egg on their face for supporting SLS over commercial. Unless they happen to know that it will not succeed. Entrenched powers will not stand idly by. A lot of money will be lost if Falcon succeeds. If I were SpaceX I would be making sure that security around the launchpad was both sufficient and loyal.

  • amightywind

    Should the upcoming Falcon launch and its mission succeed, both Nelson and Hutchinson will be left with egg on their face for supporting SLS over commercial.

    Should the simple mission succeed – and let’s face it folks, SpaceX has been working on it since 2004 and they only need to bring a spacecraft to the proximity of a robot arm on the ISS – there will be a collective sigh of relief for SpaceX supporters and the game will go on for SpaceX adversaries. One slip and their political enemies will pounce. Remember, what SpaceX hopes to do compared to what Lockmart and Boeing routinely do in launching national security satellites is modest indeed. These are the risks you run when you politicize government technology projects.

  • Robert G. Oler

    “The essay covers familiar ground, although one noteworthy passage comes at the end when discussing commercial crew. They argue that we must avoid “a false competition” between commercial providers and government exploration programs.”

    Hutchinson through “51D” and Nelson are beating a dead horse…there is no “exploration program” that has any political support from either political party. In sort of Clockwork Orange fashion both should be made to sit and watch Willard Romney tear into Newton’s notion of a moonbase…

    The problem for both of them is that history and events are not on their side. There is no chance that SLS will fly anytime soon with any part of it…and there is no chance that any mission for SLS will gain political support even inside the Willard campaign.

    It is very likely that sometime this year (hopefully in April/May) Dragon is going to dock/berth with ISS and then to quote a line from Game of Thrones “winter is coming” at NASA HSF.

    We are watching the final death throes of the old guard at NASA…the technowelfare is ending

    RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    amightywind wrote @ April 10th, 2012 at 8:13 am

    That Bill Nelson aligns with the GOP position is a sign that CCDev2 down select is a done deal. ”

    the Falcon9 second stage is spinning out of control…

    LOL RGO

  • Joe

    Dark Blue Nine wrote @ April 10th, 2012 at 8:52 am
    “And while Hutchison’s staff wastes time writing limp-wristed op-eds to garner support for inadequately funding commercial crew for the second year in a row, SpaceX is paying to conduct an environment impact review for building a new launch site near Brownsville, Texas…”

    I wonder if a Range Safety Analysis will be a part of the FAA’s Environment Impact Review.

    The Shrimp Fleets and Oil Rigs should love this.

  • Joe

    Dark Blue Nine wrote @ April 10th, 2012 at 9:53 am
    “This is either a bald-faced lie or an abysmally ignorant statement. NASA paid _four_ competing contractors for early Space Shuttle development: General Dynamics, Lockheed, McDonnell-Douglas, and North American Rockwell. A fifth (Martin Marietta) did some work on their own dime.”

    True but that was in the relatively preliminary (and thus relatively inexpensive) Phase A Study Level. The reason that Martin Marietta (which had lost out in the Phase A competition) could afford to do “did some work on their own dime”.

  • Robert G. Oler

    What is amazingly clear is how “retro” both Nelson and Hutchinson are…

    Neither seem to realize that a viable strong commercial spaceflight industry (as oppossed to the NASA Soviet design bureaus) is ESSENTIAL to any hope for future HSF exploration.

    It is UNLIKELY that there will ever again be a combination of world and political events that prompt any power to commit the billions in currency to an effort like Apollo…so what Kay is hoping is that HSF exploration spending stays in the “noise”…ie it self perpetuates in inertia…not having to actually accomplishing anything but keeping the political base employed.

    Thanks to GOP tax policies that have put the federal government into hard deficits…that is unlikely. We are going to see a political campaign this year which is abotu the role of the federal government AND combine with that who has to pay to support those roles.

    The billions SLS/Orion take for nothing but makework projects are going on the block.

    Commercial HSF will make human spaceflight both affordable and give the hardware to modify for future HSF efforts that are truly affordable…

    NASA HSF has truly gone “wheels stop” the bureaucracy is just to big and to expensive to accomplish anything significant on 3 billion a year…they should be able to but right now they just cannot. Kay and Bill dont see that but then they are relics of the past.

    Just like in Game of Thrones…the Dragons are coming RGO

  • John

    There has never been any objection to the development of commercial space. Unfortunatley Congress has used the current commercial space development program as a scapegoat to maintain the monopoly of Space Shuttle derived hardware. The purpose was to prevent NASA from building a reliable crew/cargo and HLV, which could not have been accomplished with just SRB’s.

  • Egad

    Joe wrote,


    I wonder if a Range Safety Analysis will be a part of the FAA’s Environment Impact Review.

    I’d hope that would be one of the main parts of it. Otherwise, why bother?

    The Shrimp Fleets and Oil Rigs should love this.

    If SpaceX is going to avoid flying over Florida, Cuba, Mexico, Jamaica(*) then it will have to thread either the Straits of Florida or the Straits of Yucatan at azimuths of 94 and 110 degrees +- a couple, respectively. Both of those go south of the northern part of the Gulf of Mexico where, AIUI, most of the shrimping and petroleum activity takes place.

    (*) Although that seems to be a common assumption, I’ve never seen any substantiation of it. If anybody has evidence for or against, it would be good to see it.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Joe wrote @ April 10th, 2012 at 11:18 am

    “The Shrimp Fleets and Oil Rigs should love this.”

    it probably wont be that big a deal.

    One of the things working in SpaceX favor is radar analysis of the breakup of the first stage…at least so far it is pretty total in the “long fall” down with not a lot of “heavy chunks” headed into the water.

    At one point in my life I had a major financial stake in a pipeline Patrol company (which I also sold safety services to) which patrolled both offshore and on shore pipelines and offshore rigs from Swan Island North and Aruba North. I am sure some things have been added in the “mix” since an amicable split but there should be no real problem with this.

    as an “example” the USAF launches SCUDS or SCUD look alikes into the Gulf of Mexico in “live fire” areas where there is the NAIRN field (an extensive Shell loop). They hot fire with simple notice to Mariners and Airman…and havent hit anything yet…

    I’ll ask a client about the Shrimp…he provides shrimp to Landry’s seafood chain and we manage his Citation X.

    look for Simpson and Bart quotes RGO

  • Ben Joshua

    Those politicians who wring their hands over our need for Soyuz, while simultaneously cutting funding for commercial cargo and crew, are truly standing in the way of, excuse the expression, progress.

    Hutchison and Nelson have their political interests and big money supporters to front for, and it seems the national interest is thrown in the trunk, forgotten with the other cumulus and detritus of political life.

    I hope that Dragon is successful in its next flight. Maybe that will at least re-frame the debate somewhat.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Egad wrote @ April 10th, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    Would they have to not overfly land on the east coast (or any of the Islands?) ?

    By the time they would hit the East coast the vehicle would be “quite high” ?

    the first stage “splashes” about 700 nm downrange…

    RGO

  • Joe

    Egad wrote @ April 10th, 2012 at 12:17 pm “If SpaceX is going to avoid flying over Florida, Cuba, Mexico, Jamaica(*) then it will have to thread either the Straits of Florida or the Straits of Yucatan at azimuths of 94 and 110 degrees +- a couple, respectively. Both of those go south of the northern part of the Gulf of Mexico where, AIUI, most of the shrimping and petroleum activity takes place.”

    Assuming they do that what orbital inclination would that put the hypothetical payload in?

  • Vladislaw

    amightywind wrote:

    “Should the simple mission succeed – and let’s face it folks, SpaceX has been working on it since 2004 and they only need to bring a spacecraft to the proximity of a robot arm on the ISS”

    So SpaceX started working on a cargo run to ISS for two years on their own dime in the hopes NASA would award them a contract 2 years later?

    “In 2006, NASA awarded the company a Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) contract to design and demonstrate a launch system to resupply cargo to the International Space Station (ISS). On 9 December 2010, the launch of the COTS Demo Flight 1 mission, SpaceX became the first privately-funded company to successfully launch, orbit and recover a spacecraft.” from wiki.

    Wind .. when is good enough … good enough? Or does everything NASA have to be a gold plated attempt?

  • Egad wrote @ April 10th, 2012 at 12:17 pm “If SpaceX is going to avoid flying over Florida, Cuba, Mexico, Jamaica(*) then it will have to thread either the Straits of Florida or the Straits of Yucatan at azimuths of 94 and 110 degrees +- a couple, respectively. Both of those go south of the northern part of the Gulf of Mexico where, AIUI, most of the shrimping and petroleum activity takes place.”

    Assuming they do that what orbital inclination would that put the hypothetical payload in?

    i = arccos(cos(l)*cos(a)) where i is inclination, l is latitude and a is azimuth.

    I think the proposed site is about 26 deg latitude, so it would be 93 degrees and 108 degrees. But I don’t think that, given the distance, overflying Florida or Cuba is a problem (especially Florida) because the IIP will pass over so quickly.

  • Oh, sorry, by “azimuth, you were measuring from due north. Measuring from due east, which that formula would require, would mean azimuths of -4 and-20 degrees, which would yield inclinations of 26 and 32 degrees.

  • Edward Ellegood has a map. The first stage drop is only a problem if it doesn’t fly back.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Rand Simberg wrote @ April 10th, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    Edward Ellegood has a map. The first stage drop is only a problem if it doesn’t fly back.>>

    Nice RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Rand….how much will the more southernly lattitude buy in payload or margin? Rough guess? RGO

  • Joe

    Rand Simberg wrote @ April 10th, 2012 at 2:39 pm
    “which would yield inclinations of 26 and 32 degrees.”

    Given the mass penalties for doing orbital plane change maneuvers, what satellite markets would this launch site be intended to service?

    Rand Simberg wrote @ April 10th, 2012 at 2:55 pm
    “Edward Ellegood has a map. The first stage drop is only a problem if it doesn’t fly back.”

    Avoiding the subject of the Falcon 9 first stage doing a retrograde fly back maneuver, the link below shows the concentration of rigs as of 2008. Looks as if there could be a problem in case of an abort, which would presumably be part of any Range Safety Analysis.

    http://geocommons.com/maps/268

  • Rand….how much will the more southernly lattitude buy in payload or margin? Rough guess?

    Do you mean the more southerly azimuth? The latitude doesn’t change. It doesn’t buy more. It costs more. The higher the inclination, the less the payload.

    Given the mass penalties for doing orbital plane change maneuvers, what satellite markets would this launch site be intended to service?

    The cost of plane change to GEO isn’t that big a deal, because most of it occurs at high altitudes. Are you unaware that the Cape, where many geostationary satellites have launched from, is two and a half degrees higher latitude?

  • A M Swallow

    IMHO Left to itself the CCDev spacecraft down select will be done in two ways. The first is companies pulling out of the market. Two flights a year to the ISS does not leave much room for 4 companies to make profits. Any Bigelow spacestation could be 5+ years away.

    The second down select is when the survives are awarded transport contracts.

    Excalibur Almaz will probably use its own capsule to dock with its own spacestation. However it does need a launch vehicle. It is interesting to see which one gets chosen and how many customers they can find.

  • Every satellite launched to GEO does a significant plane change, except for those launched by Ariane.

  • amightywind

    The first stage drop is only a problem if it doesn’t fly back.

    Thanks for the interesting link. Looks like Cancun vacationers will have to keep an eye cocked at the sky for flaming debris. I’m sure Cuba is relieved to have second stage ignition overhead. I thought the map looked a little contrived though. Here is a better one. As you can see the risk to oil rigs is somewhat understated, as one would expect.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “SpaceX has been working on it since 2004″

    No, you’re off by two years. NASA awarded SpaceX its COTS award in 2006.

    “Remember, what SpaceX hopes to do compared to what Lockmart and Boeing routinely do in launching national security satellites is modest indeed.”

    Nope.

    No routine national security satellite docks with a manned space station.

    No routine national security satellite returns to the Earth’s surface intact.

    “These are the risks you run when you politicize government technology projects.”

    A funny statement from someone who repeatedly makes false statements in an apparent attempt to politicize technical issues.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “The Shrimp Fleets and Oil Rigs should love this.”

    They’re also pursuing sites in Puerto Rico and Hawaii. So there are alternatives if there are no needles left to thread in the Gulf.

  • Joe

    Rand Simberg wrote @ April 10th, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    “The cost of plane change to GEO isn’t that big a deal, because most of it occurs at high altitudes. Are you unaware that the Cape, where many geostationary satellites have launched from, is two and a half degrees higher latitude?”

    No, I am aware of the location of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, in fact have spent time there. The point of the question was about what added capabilities this proposed new launch site would provide. I apologize if I did not make myself clear. I hope I have corrected my error. If you would like to address the issue now, it would be greatly appreciated.

    By the way you did not choose to address the potential abort problems from the proposed new launch site.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Rand Simberg wrote @ April 10th, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    thanks for the geography lesson…always appreciated.

    I was asking how much more payload a lower latitude (the 2 and 1/2 deg) would buy in your opinion…it would buy some. RGO

  • E.P. Grondine

    AW –

    You got a problem with the legislators of Texas giving tax breaks to attract and/or hold industry?

  • Egad

    They’re also pursuing sites in Puerto Rico and Hawaii.

    Vieques, PR would be a natural. Large parts of the island are pretty undeveloped due to historical circumstance, while the northwest coast has significant infrastructure.

    Even better, some PRian cousins have a beach house at Humacao on the main island with a view of Vieques, so we could watch the launches from there.

  • DCSCA

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ April 10th, 2012 at 11:29 am

    “Neither seem to realize that a viable strong commercial spaceflight industry (as oppossed to the NASA Soviet design bureaus) is ESSENTIAL to any hope for future HSF exploration.”

    No. Not when it cannot sell itself to the private capital markets and in desperation, tries to tap the Treasury for financing denied by savvy capitalists who recognize there’s a limited market w/minimal to no ROI. LEO is a ticket to no place. Commercial space exploitation is not space exploration. The future of HSF space exploration in this era is with government-funded BEO space projects, not the private sector.

    @amightywind wrote @ April 10th, 2012 at 10:56 am

    “Should the simple mission succeed – and let’s face it folks, SpaceX has been working on it since 2004 and they only need to bring a spacecraft to the proximity of a robot arm on the ISS – there will be a collective sigh of relief for SpaceX supporters and the game will go on for SpaceX adversaries.”

    No, in fact, it will be a poor redundancy- subsidied at U.S. taxpayers expense- to an operational system already at work, servicing a LEO platform with a limited lifetime, destined for a Pacific grave- the Soyuz and the Progress. Progress spacecraft have been servising space stations for over 34 YEARS. Soyuz has been flying crews up into space and back for four dacades.

    Subsidizing commercial crew for LEO operations w/tax dollars in throwing good money after bad and the smart move is to work to rule and fulfill contract obligations to that orbiting dinosaur and withdraw from LEO operations and leve it to the private sector to develop on its own, without government subsidies. LEO is a ticket to no place and space exploitation is not space exploration. Every dollar wasted on subsidizing commercial siphons off dwindling resources for BEO planning and development. The place for commercial to source funding in the private capital markets, notthe U.S. Treasury. Clarke advocated this 40 years ago; NdGT revisits it today.

  • DCSCA

    @John wrote @ April 10th, 2012 at 11:32 am

    “There has never been any objection to the development of commercial space.”

    Correct. The only ‘objections’ come when tax dollars are used to subsidize it when the private capital markets balk at investing.

  • As you can see the risk to oil rigs is somewhat understated, as one would expect.

    The risk to the oil rigs is almost non-existent, to anyone who understands statistics and geography.

    The point of the question was about what added capabilities this proposed new launch site would provide.

    The point isn’t “added capabilities” — it’s additional launch capacity. CCAFS probably can’t support the flight rate SpaceX will have once it starts to deliver on even its existing launch contracts.

    By the way you did not choose to address the potential abort problems from the proposed new launch site.

    Why would abort be any different from Brownsville than from the Cape? Anyway, until there’s a destination in a lower inclination than ISS, it’s not likely that manned flights would go out of the new launch site, because it would require overflight of the eastern US to get to the ISS from there.

    I was asking how much more payload a lower latitude (the 2 and 1/2 deg) would buy in your opinion…it would buy some. RGO

    It would depend on the launch vehicle, but not much.

  • Joe

    Rand Simberg wrote @ April 10th, 2012 at 6:06 pm
    “The point isn’t “added capabilities” — it’s additional launch capacity. CCAFS probably can’t support the flight rate SpaceX will have once it starts to deliver on even its existing launch contracts.”

    Launch capacity to send payloads where? Below you acknowledge not to the ISS. Not to any of the higher inclination orbits required for military reconnaissance satellites either. Other than equatorial synchronous orbit communication satellites, what market would this launch site serve?
    “Why would abort be any different from Brownsville than from the Cape? Anyway, until there’s a destination in a lower inclination than ISS, it’s not likely that manned flights would go out of the new launch site, because it would require overflight of the eastern US to get to the ISS from there.”

    If you actually look at the link previously provided you will see that there is a concentration of oil rigs immediately off the cost at the proposed site.

    I know you are far too busy to scroll back up, so for your convenience it is posted again below.

    http://geocommons.com/maps/268

  • Launch capacity to send payloads where?

    A variety of lower-inclination orbits. Do you imagine that SpaceX has no imagination or vision for its future business?

    If you actually look at the link previously provided you will see that there is a concentration of oil rigs immediately off the cost at the proposed site.

    What does that have to do with aborts?

  • Correct. The only ‘objections’ come when tax dollars are used to subsidize it when the private capital markets balk at investing.

    Well, since that is not happening (SpaceX is actually finding quite a bit of private money) once again your post is both irrelevant and ignorant.

  • DCSCA

    “And while Hutchison’s staff wastes time writing limp-wristed op-eds to garner support for inadequately funding commercial crew for the second year in a row, SpaceX is paying to conduct an environment impact review for building a new launch site near Brownsville, Texas… on top of the existing engine test site near McGregor, Texas”

    Yet another limp-wristed piece of PR churned out by SpaceX. A press release.

    Space X has failed to launch orbit and safely return anybody, has yet to test delivering cargo let along go operational but ‘alert the press’ about an EIS w/intent to build a launch pad in Texas some time off. That’ll ‘go over well’ – or maybe not so well w/o taxpayers subsidizing it and w/t oil facilities downrange… or like Space X reimbursment w/interest to the Treasury for Falcon facilities at the Cape refurbished w/tax dollars. But then, as Musk himself said on ’60 Minutes’– “I wish it wasn’t so hard.” Except it is, reaffirming Cernan’s assertion that ‘they don’t know what they don’t know yet.”

  • DCSCA

    “The essay’s language suggests [Nelson] may be willing to support a lower level of commercial crew funding than the administration’s request of nearly $830 million.”

    How about zero. The place for commercial space to source funding is the private capital markets, not the U.S. Treasury. Financing LEO operations w/tax dollars is throwing good money after bad. LEO is a ticket to no place and condemns HSF to going in circls for another generation or more.

  • Re the SpaceX Brownsville proposal …

    I have to wonder how much of this is driven by wanting to have an option if SpaceX doesn’t get a deal to their liking with KSC 39A or feel like the ugly stepchild at CCAFS LC-40.

    Maybe they think it’s a way of sending a message to the Space Coast powers that if you don’t give us a nice deal, we can always go somewhere else.

    One SpaceX executive told me the company wants to be in control of their own destiny, so its own spaceport in Brownsville would be entirely in line with that thinking. If SpaceX chooses to walk from the Space Coast, then it’s a big loss of future jobs here.

    I suspect everyone knows what are the logistical problems with launching from Brownsville. Just wanted to throw out the notion that perhaps Brownsville is a bluff.

  • Bennett

    Joe wrote “a concentration of oil rigs”

    From your link I see exactly five rigs off the coast of the proposed site.

    This is a rather thin “concentration “.

  • Joe

    Rand Simberg wrote @ April 10th, 2012 at 7:37 pm

    “A variety of lower-inclination orbits. Do you imagine that SpaceX has no imagination or vision for its future business?”

    Ok, I will try one more time, then it is time to call it a day. You said previously “The point isn’t “added capabilities” — it’s additional launch capacity. CCAFS probably can’t support the flight rate SpaceX will have once it starts to deliver on even its existing launch contracts.”

    A specific question: How many of Space X “existing launch contracts” would be delivering paying payloads to these “variety of lower-inclination orbits”? One?, Two? A specific number would be nice, so it could be compared to the price of building an entire new launch complex.

    “What does that have to do with aborts?”

    Oh I don’t know reigning debris onto a multi-billion dollar off-shore oil platform? No big deal, unless one of them is yours.

  • Joe

    Bennett wrote @ April 10th, 2012 at 8:14 pm
    “From your link I see exactly five rigs off the coast of the proposed site. This is a rather thin “concentration “.”

    Actually, if you click on the tabs and compare the coast line to the cone of flight Mr. Simberg linked to (which is unfortunately imprecise) you will see the number is somewhere between 7 and 10.

    That may seem like a rather thin concentration of multibillion dollar off shore platforms to you (since you do not own any of them), but what if dropping debris from an abort on even one of them caused a major oil spill. Want to play that game again. With the added complication that it is near the Mexican Border and it might be Mexican coastline that is being inundated by oil from an American accident.

  • DCSCA

    @Stephen C. Smith wrote @ April 10th, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    FACT: “In October 2009 NASA provided a pre-solicitation notice regarding an effort to be funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The commercial crew enabling work would include a “base task” of refurbishing and reactivating SLC-40 power transfer switches, performing maintenance on the lower Aerospace Ground Equipment (AGE) substation and motor control centers, installing bollards around piping, replacing the door frame and threshold for the Falcon Support Building mechanical room and repairing fencing around the complex perimeter. Several optional tasks would include work installing conductive flooring in the Hangar Hypergol area, performing corrosion control inspection and maintenance of the lightning protection tower’s structural steel, upgrading and refurbishing other facility equipment and performing corrosion control on rail cars and pad lighting poles, painting several buildings, repairing and improving roads, and hydro-seeding the complex.”

    “Maybe they think it’s a way of sending a message to the Space Coast powers that if you don’t give us a nice deal, we can always go somewhere else.”

    Hmmmm. Or go no place. It wil be denied, of course, given the taxpayers just footed the bill for the toys at the Cape that have hardly been used. Unless Space X plans to reimburse the United States Treasury w/interest for the tax subsided refurbishment of facilitied at CCAFB LC-40, the Brownsville proposal will most certainly be stalled and scrutinized if not denied. They really ought to get flying and get operational before asking for new toys to play with.

    But Smitty has a great point regarding leasing and modifying the existing LC-39A facilities which as noted on an earlier thread are too expensive for NASA to maintain and too costly to tear down. Leasing said facilities at 39A to Space X makes good sense and good use of existing assets– as long as they’re leased w/o any back door government subsidy to ease the burden. Musk can afford to pony up and Space X is in no position to dictate parameters of a deal, especially as it has yet to deliver any cargo and has failed to lauch, orbit and return any crewed spacecraft safely. But as Armstrong as said, it is good to encourage newcomers. But not subsidze them w/taxdollars. If Space X ever goes operational they’ll have more leverage and earned some street cred. Otherwise, the Texas pitch is just more tripe hype.

  • DCSCA

    @Rand Simberg wrote @ April 10th, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    “Well, since that is not happening.” Except it has. See above regarding government subsidies for Space X’s LC-40 operations. They could have paid for that themselves. And they continue to solicit subsidies (SpaceX is actually finding quite a bit of private money) <– then Space X can return the subsidies it has already rec'd w/interest to the Treasury, can't it.

  • Torus Littrow

    “One SpaceX executive told me the company wants to be in control of their own destiny, so its own spaceport in Brownsville would be entirely in line with that thinking. If SpaceX chooses to walk from the Space Coast, then it’s a big loss of future jobs here.”

    Great for Texas. Too bad they don’t move a bit closer to JSC !

  • BeanCounterfromDownunder

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ April 10th, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    No don’t think it’s a bluff. Your reasoning wrt SpaceX and control of their own destiny is IMO sound. Their entire strategy has been oriented toward that end and the desire for their own spaceport is in line with that.
    In addition, they’re plans include NASA while NASA is of value to them. So development of Dragon Cargo and Crew in partnership with NASA has value. If costs of such a partnership begin to exceed perceived benefits, then I’d say you’ll find them parting ways. SpaceX have consistently stated that they’d do crew on their own if they had to. When you get down to brass tacks, I’d expect that SpaceX has pretty much sucked all useful knowledge out of NASA by now anyway wrt leo flight and crew is probably well on the same path. When they start the CRS contract, they’ll start gaining skills and knowledge that either doesn’t exist much in the U.S. at present or is being lost as capabilities diminish.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Yet another limp-wristed piece of PR churned out by SpaceX. A press release.”

    No, I’m certain that I wrote those words in the comments section of this blog.

    I don’t know why you would think otherwise. Maybe you’re off your meds and hallucinating.

    But you’re probably just cranking to crank.

    “Space X has failed to launch orbit and safely return anybody”

    But Orion/MPCV has yet to return from orbit.

    False equivalency!

    Heck, Orion/MPCV has yet to orbit at all.

    More false equivalency!

    “but ‘alert the press’ about an EIS”

    The “alert” (an Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement) was released by the Federal Aviation Administration in the Federal Register, not by SpaceX in a press release.

    http://spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=40524

    If you had a background in policy, you’d understand words like “Source” and acronyms like “FAA”. But as a mere, helpless technician, the meaning of these things is far beyond your comprehension. Just stick to cranking wrenches.

    But don’t crank to crank.

    But cranking a crank is okay if it’s one of the duties of your job.

    As a technician.

    “‘they don’t know what they don’t know yet.’”

    Ah, yes, such useful pearls of wisdom from classic comedy routines:

    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/IKnowYouKnowIKnow

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ April 10th, 2012 at 7:43 pm

    Financing LEO operations w/tax dollars is throwing good money after bad.>>

    yeah and the 15 billion wasted on Cx was just chickenfeed…gee try for some consistency in logic. you are falling into the right wing trap RGO

  • vulture4

    “Nelson and Hutchinson will be left with egg on their face”

    Unfortunately they will not acknowledge any egg at all. in fact Senator Nelson will take credit for the success of the SpaceX launch as a promoter of commercial space and in the next breath talk about his enthusiastic support of “the big rocket”. Although this may seem inconsistent to us, we will not have the opportunity to take the floor.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ April 10th, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    Thank hyou for the USA link…interesting to add to my archieves.

    You are a bright guy and I read everything you post here…I to think there might be a little bluff…but if I were a betting man…I would bet right now that unless the Falcon9 really does turn Humans into a “bowel of Jelly” …the vast majority of the launches oh say 5 years from now will be at wherever SpaceX builds its own launch site.

    There are some internal reasons for this…SpaceX seems to like to run its own show away from prying eyes and if they start doing reusable flight testing…but I would also note this.

    I think that SpaceX business, if the 9 makes its cost will be primarily in launching “parts” for human tended geo platforms that in my view are going to become commonplace over the next oh 15 years and servicing those platforms. These platforms are going to be primarily serviced and tended by “automated devices”…but there will also be some human interaction with them as well.

    in my view this is what the Chinese are aiming for…and I believe that most satellite manufacturers are looking at this as well. the US military is as well.

    just my thoughts…but we will see. RGO

  • Fred Willett

    Musk is trying for reusability. Launch, stage, then fly the first stage back to the launch pad.
    But it’s so much more economic if you can launch from South Texas, stage, then just let your first stage drop down to a nice soft landing in Florida.
    A lot more economic than flying all the way back to the launch site.
    Saves a lot of fuel.
    Adds a lot of up mass.
    Could be Musk is smarter than we think.

  • Florida Today has an article this morning on the Brownsville option.

    Reading the article, it sounds like reporter James Dean took it the way I did. SpaceX wants to control its own destiny and Brownsville is a means of doing so.

    The quote from Space Florida president Frank DiBello to me kinda sound like he might think it’s a negotiating ploy too. “We’re continuing the dialogue with the company on launch site possibilities. I do not see this as a rejection of any other site that they may be looking at.”

    A potential use by SpaceX of KSC’s LC-39A would probably go through Space Florida because apparently NASA can’t lease a facility directly to the private sector. It goes through Space Florida, a state agency. NASA leases to Space Florida, which then subleases to the commercial entity. That’s how they did the Boeing lease of OPF-3 across from the VAB.

  • amightywind

    But it’s so much more economic if you can launch from South Texas, stage, then just let your first stage drop down to a nice soft landing in Florida.

    The 1st stage drop zone is in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. So the stage will continue powered flight another 500 miles and land safely in a parking lot Florida?

    Could be Musk is smarter than we think.

    No. He is betting on you being profoundly stupid. It is a winning bet apparently.

    You got a problem with the legislators of Texas giving tax breaks to attract and/or hold industry?

    Yes. I have problems with any state doing this. For every tax break winner there are 10 losers who also employ people. It is in the interest of any state that strives for economic growth to set low business tax rates. Admittedly, most states are not interested in economic growth. There is a an idea called ‘equal protection under the law’. It was once a founding principle of this country.

  • Egad

    I suspect everyone knows what are the logistical problems with launching from Brownsville.

    I’m not sure I do know. What makes Brownsville more problematic that other locations?

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ April 10th, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    Unless Space X plans to reimburse the United States Treasury w/interest for the tax subsided refurbishment of facilitied at CCAFB LC-40

    Why should SpaceX pay for something they don’t own, they can’t take with them, and that would be usable for the next tenant of SLC-40?

    You really don’t understand anything about landlord improvements, do you?

    And again, you are obsessed with SpaceX issues, but ignore the vast amount of money that the top NASA contractors get, like Lockheed Martin, ATK and even Boeing. I’m beginning to think that you’re a paid ATK lobbyist. A poor one (especially with all the typos), but definitely you fit the narrative that ATK has been putting out.

  • Scott Bass

    I still have issues with companies being called commercial space when they would fold without government contracts and subsidies…. Just seems like a play on words to me, Boeing ,Lockheed ,atk etc those and all the companies that participate in SLS etc etc…. All are commercial space….. By definition virgin is the only one that really qualifies and they are signing contracts with NASA now too

  • DCSCA

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ April 10th, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    =yawn= Hmmmm. You’re the fella who fails to acknowledge Space X’s government subsidies even when shown the facts. Left/Right has nothing to do w/this. The ‘trap’ is LEO and funding operations to continue same. And you’re the one who insists commercial is the future of space exploration by attempting to label exploitation exploration- except it’s not. Space exploitation is not space exploration. LEO is a ticket to no place and inancing same w/government funding is

    @Dark Blue Nine wrote @ April 10th, 2012 at 10:19 pm

    More false equivalency– the Musketeer Mantre. Master Musk pitched it to Jon Stewart last evening. Hilarious comedy routine alright. His plans to retire on Mars wwere funny, too. Mars, Pennsylvania is more likely. Too bad N. Korea might steal some spotlight from his pre-launch press tour if they launch and orbit a satellite soon. That’s funny, too. Eventually you’ll learn that Space X, a firm which seeks and has rec’d government subsidies yet bills itself as a ‘private enterprised’ firm; a company which has failed to launch, orbit and return any crewed spacecraft safely has zero credibility compared to half a century of HSF by NASA, by Russia and of late, by the PRC. A firm which to date has failed to get operational and make regularly scheduled runs to the ISS; has failed to ferry crews and failed to ferry cargo to the ISS; a capability routinely performed by Russian Soyuz and Progress vehicles to various space platforms, including the ISS, for decades– in the case of Progress spacecraft, for over 34 YEARS. Maybe by early May, Space X will demonstrate it can do what Progress vehicles have been doing since 1978. But it’s throwing good money after bad, as LEO is a ticket to no place, going in circles, as the ISS is a dinosaur doomed to a Pacific splash, representing past policy planning now defunct and shelved.

    What Space X is developing w/tax subsidies is redundant access to a ‘faux’ market and a massive waste of government resources, as Soyuz and Progress are operational and in place. If they want to do it on their own dime, if musk wants to pure more millions of his own fortune into it and can source financing in the private sector by pitching a business plan for a limited market with a minimal low-to no ROI, fine, just do it w/o tax subsidies. Gene Cernan, who flew to the moon twice, is correct – ‘They don’t know what they don’t know yet.’ And Musk’s lament on ’60 Miuntes’- “I wish it wasn’t so hard.” Except it is. He’s learning. Shelby has ‘em pegged; Armstrong, Cernan, Lovell, Kraft et all do as well.

    @Fred Willett wrote @ April 11th, 2012 at 2:13 am

    “Musk is trying for reusability. Launch, stage, then fly the first stage back to the launch pad. But it’s so much more economic if you can launch from South Texas, stage, then just let your first stage drop down to a nice soft landing in Florida. A lot more economic than flying all the way back to the launch site.
    Saves a lot of fuel.
    Adds a lot of up mass.
    Could be Musk is smarter than we think?”

    No. But PT Barnum would admire the chutzpah- especially as a multi-millionaire asking taxpayers to subsidize his hobby.

  • DCSCA

    Coastal Ron wrote @ April 11th, 2012 at 8:54 am

    =eyeroll= why do people lease cars, homes and office buildings. What you fail to accept is taxpayer funds were spent when Musk could have paid for it. Which is why the Brownsville proposal is. like manned Dragon flights, going no place fast.

  • DCSCA

    @Stephen C. Smith wrote @ April 11th, 2012 at 6:24 am
    “Florida Today has an article this morning on the Brownsville option.

    Reading the article, it sounds like reporter James Dean took it the way I did. SpaceX wants to control its own destiny and Brownsville is a means of doing so.”

    Won’t happen. Especially after tax monies have been spent refurbishing the LC-40 set up. And the greenies will raise heck. It’s more likely an attempt at leverage for a deal on the 39 A facilities as you stated before–very Space X move. But the best street cred is to get flying but they do everything but. They’ve got a lot to prove April 30 before anyting else gets approval.

  • “What does that have to do with aborts?”

    Oh I don’t know reigning debris onto a multi-billion dollar off-shore oil platform?

    And what does “reigning debris” [sic] (I think the word you’re looking for is “raining,” though it’s hard to be sure given how little sense the entire unpunctuated sentence makes) have to do with aborts? Do you know what the word “abort” means?

  • Coastal Ron

    Egad wrote @ April 11th, 2012 at 8:20 am

    What makes Brownsville more problematic that other locations?”

    I would imagine because it’s not close to anything, and the road infrastructure is not as robust as it is getting to CCAFS and VAFB. They made need some road work done to allow the Falcon 9 1st stage transporters to make it through some areas. Texas would probably foot the bill for that – if they want the business (and Rick Perry might do that just for bragging rights).

    But Puerto Rico and Hawaii are even further away, and would require transportation by sea – that adds significant cost. At least with Brownsville you can still use ground transportation for everything.

  • I still have issues with companies being called commercial space when they would fold without government contracts and subsidies

    And we have issues with the repeated lies that any of these companies would “fold without government contracts and subsidies.”

  • The 1st stage drop zone is in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. So the stage will continue powered flight another 500 miles and land safely in a parking lot Florida?

    No, it would land safely at a pad at the Cape. There would be a payload penalty, but a huge cost reduction of not throwing the stage away would more than make up for it.

  • Coastal Ron

    Scott Bass wrote @ April 11th, 2012 at 9:04 am

    I still have issues with companies being called commercial space when they would fold without government contracts…

    That’s because you don’t understand the definition of what makes a company “commercial”. You keep getting hung up on who the customer is, which is the wrong way to look at it.

    I’ve worked for a number of commercial companies that got most of their revenue from government contracts, and they were still commercial companies. Some were public companies, some employee-owned – all were commercial through and through.

    Regarding “folding”, companies make choices all the time as to how much they want to be dependent on one customer. For SpaceX, they have commercial contracts, and most of their launch backlog is commercial. Dollar volume of their contracts is skewed to government, but the majority of it is in the services sector (CRS), which is pretty predictable once they get started.

    One of the reasons I changed over from companies with a strong government contract backlog to one that was more B-to-C and B-to-B was the yearly worries over Congressional funding for our programs (i.e. “risk”). But the company I left is still going strong, and even has a bigger % of government backlog – that’s what they want to specialize in, and they know the risks.

  • Joe

    Rand Simberg wrote @ April 11th, 2012 at 9:50 am
    “And what does “reigning debris” [sic] (I think the word you’re looking for is “raining,” though it’s hard to be sure given how little sense the entire unpunctuated sentence makes) have to do with aborts? Do you know what the word “abort” means?”

    Yes I know what “abort” means; I also know that when you cannot address an issue you begin throwing insults around in the apparent hope of provoking an angry response and changing the subject.

    By the way, the other subject you did not address is: How many of Space X “existing launch contracts” would be delivering paying payloads to these “variety of lower-inclination orbits”? A specific number would be nice, so it could be compared to the price of building an entire new launch complex.

  • Yes I know what “abort” means

    One wouldn’t know it from your continuing inappropriate use of the word.

    By the way, the other subject you did not address is: How many of Space X “existing launch contracts” would be delivering paying payloads to these “variety of lower-inclination orbits”? A specific number would be nice, so it could be compared to the price of building an entire new launch complex.

    Go look at their manifest. Do I have to do all your homework for you?

    There are five geosats, and Dragonlab could probably fly east. It’s unclear what inclination Bigelow will be going into, but that could be a candidate as well. And once they establish a track record they’ll likely pick up more GEO business, given their pricing. And launch complexes don’t have to cost that much.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “I still have issues with companies being called commercial space when they would fold without government contracts and subsidies”

    None of the COTS or CCDev performers would fold if those programs ended tomorrow. Boeing and OSC are large, diverse aerospace firms. Sierra Nevada is a large, diverse defense firm. SpaceX has a launch manifest with more commercial payloads than government ones. And Blue Origin depends on Jeff Bezos’s good graces, not the government’s.

  • Actually, make that six. I didn’t count Israel’s Spacecom bird.

  • amightywind

    There would be a payload penalty, but a huge cost reduction of not throwing the stage away would more than make up for it.

    This is such a dumb thread. The F9 would have to have to be about twice as large to accomplish this mission, not to mention having Merlin deep throttling capability and landing gear. Could you imagine such a contraption flying over Tampa? Besides, I thought you SpaceX cheerleaders claimed that F9 first stages are throw away cheap.

    And what does “reigning debris” [sic]

    You know Simberg’s argument has been pwnd when he resorts to spelling flames. I attribute the heterograph spelling error to simple haste.

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ April 11th, 2012 at 9:31 am

    You’re the fella who fails to acknowledge Space X’s government subsidies even when shown the facts.”

    then you wrote:

    “What Space X is developing w/tax subsidies is redundant access to a ‘faux’ market and a massive waste of government resources, as Soyuz and Progress are operational and in place”

    You clearly now are either arguing to argue or are a “low information” person.

    Let us start at the latter. Federal tax dollars which are paid by citizens are never wasted when they go toward developing structure internally that we are paying for abroad. It is ludicrous for people in Santa Fe Texas to pay for Ivan and Natasha to work toward doing something inside Russia…when they could pay for Bill and Jane to do it inside the US…and that capability have some value in terms of doing something OTHER then the service provided.

    I am sure the Russians appreciate the “hard currency” but other then treaty obligations there is no reason to continue that effort…particularly when the vast majority of it is used doing what you bitch about all the time…developing their products to sell on the open market. The vast majority of improvements in Russian launchers are more or less paid for by the US “treaty” obligations.

    to not acknowledge that is goofy…and its almost silly. or it is silly.

    But it does explain a lot of things about you.

    as for subsidy/product…look I know the difference you dont. You have not presented any facts. You harp on the ravings of an old man Gene Cernan who is so far out of real life he probably is still talking about how to program the Apollo CM computer…

    Not all subsidies are created equal and not all products are created equal when it comes to tax dollars.

    WW2 was a massive federal government centered effort…and while it spent a lot of “dollars (they were almost worthless by the end of the war) on things which were disposable (planes, ships tanks etc)…they also built a lot of infrastructure that at the end of the war still remained. One reason Ike did the interstate highway was to spur demand for cars which could be met by factories which had produced Sherman tanks and were now idle.

    We as a nation really do subsidies the oil industry and have for almost 100 years because for sometime it needed the help starting up…now not so much…but the point is that federal dollars should be used to create infrastructure that benefits the entire country.

    you are completely out of the discussion loop because you seem to think it is OK to spend federal dollars to create infrastructure in Russia as oppossed to doing it here…and with that statement you label yourself as either goofy or just arguing to argue…and that is where I came in.

    Dont worry SpaceX is about to fly..and when they do people like you will be like a fish out of water. sucking air RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Joe wrote @ April 11th, 2012 at 10:17 am

    Yes I know what “abort” means; I also know that when you cannot address an issue you begin throwing insults around in the apparent hope of provoking an angry response and changing the subject.”

    at least he doesnt quote cartoon figures…RGO

  • Egad

    I would imagine because it’s not close to anything, and the road infrastructure is not as robust as it is getting to CCAFS and VAFB. They made need some road work done to allow the Falcon 9 1st stage transporters to make it through some areas. Texas would probably foot the bill for that – if they want the business (and Rick Perry might do that just for bragging rights).

    I commute down I-37 and US 77 to the area several times a year and think the only road problem might be TX 4 itself, maybe some light poles and such if the route actually goes through Brownsville. So Texas (which I agree would not hesitate a microsecond to do the work) might have something like 25 – 30 km of improvement to do, depending how the route went through or around Brownsville itself.

    Of course it would be necessary to send a pathfinder to check clearances, corners and such (if SpaceX hasn’t already done such). I note that the construction of the Peñascal Wind Farm off US 77 near Sarita involved trucking turbine components of similar hugeness to the Falcon 9 first stage, and from Sarita all the way to Brownsville is a clear shot on heavy-duty roads.

  • Vladislaw

    I thought when you had a launch abort, you were aborting the launch .. meaning the launch doesn’t happen because it was aborted. There wouldn’t and debris raining down.

    If the launch takes off and in those first seconds it takes off in the incorrect path they self destruct it when it is clear.

  • common sense

    @Rand Simberg wrote @ April 11th, 2012 at 9:50 am

    “And what does “reigning debris” [sic] have to do with aborts?”

    Well. Since they are reigning, they are in charge hence go wherever they please. Places like oil rigs, multi-billion rigs, will be assaulted by reigning debris.

    But I think we are missing the actual point, i.e. those debris that make up 99% of all debris. This fervor for the 1% reigning debris really is misplaced and I would like that we talk of the 99% debris. They may not fall on the multi-billion oil rigs but they may fall on less valued places. It seems to me that the right wing always tends to favor the 1% elite be it CEOs, oil-rigs or debris!

    Don’t you know it is an issue? A presidential campaign issue.

    Vote NO against the 1% reigning debris, give a voice to the 99%.

  • Robert G. Oler

    There is one more point to be made.

    the GOP has lied its way into a semantics battle; there is no difference between a “tax break” and “subsidy”. The nation declines revenue in the form of tax breaks from people who own homes because we want to encourage homeownership.

    There is a difference between tax breaks/subsidies…and a fee for service. The federal government does not manufacturer ball point pins…it buys them.

    Revenue enhancers are/were tax raises. RGO

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Too bad N. Korea might steal some spotlight from his pre-launch press tour if they launch and orbit a satellite soon.”

    You’re comparing a small satellite to a mid-sized docking and reentry capsule.

    False equivalency.

    “compared to half a century of HSF by NASA”

    You’re off by eight years. NASA didn’t launch anyone from 1975-1982 and stopped launching again last year. They’re not scheduled to launch anyone again for another decade at the earliest, and that assumes there is no cost growth, schedule delays, or cancellations on SLS/MPCV.

    51 years is not the same thing as 43 years. Once again, you are engaging in mathematical…

    False equivalency.

    “by Russia”

    Domestic U.S. launch systems keep U.S. taxpayer dollars in the U.S., generate jobs in the U.S., and don’t support regimes that oppose U.S. foreign interests. Using foreign, Russian launch systems sends U.S. taxpayer dollar overseas, takes jobs out of the U.S. and props up a regime that doesn’t support U.S. foreign interests. Comparing the two is a big load of…

    False equivalency.

    “and of late, by the PRC”

    Shenzhou hasn’t launched in three years. Comparing an operational system that launches every three years to one in testing that launched just last year is…

    False equivalency.

    “a ‘faux’ market”

    If you put the French word for “fake” in quotes, does that mean the market you’re referring to is not fake?

    You seem to lack the basic policy writing skills necessary to make yourself understood to other readers. It’s okay, though, we understand that you’re just a mere technician.

    “and a massive waste of government resources, as Soyuz and Progress are operational and in place”

    NASA spending on SpaceX to date has been a fraction of what it’s costing NASA to pay for one year of Soyuz and Progress flights to ISS (which is approaching a half billion dollars). Once again, you’re engaging in mathematical…

    False equivalency.

    You’d think a technician like yourself would be better with numbers. You must not be a very good technician.

    I guess you’re just cranking to crank.

    “‘They don’t know what they don’t know yet.’”

    Twice with the classic comedy routine in the same thread! So endearing!

    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/IKnowYouKnowIKnow

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ April 11th, 2012 at 9:36 am

    What you fail to accept is taxpayer funds were spent when Musk could have paid for it.

    The landlord wanted a tenant, and wanted to make leasehold improvements. Gee, how unusual.

    You really don’t know anything about the business world, and you continue to focus only on SpaceX, even though ULA launches from government land and Boeing just leased space in the VAB, yet you don’t rail against those leases.

    And you are completely silent on $30B being given to the largest aerospace companies for the biggest space-related boondoggle in history – yet you are mysteriously silent on that. Earlier I asked if you were an ATK lobbyist, but maybe you are a Lockheed-Martin or Boeing lobbyist?

    In any case, you obviously have jealousy issues with Musk… ;-)

  • Joe

    Rand Simberg wrote @ April 11th, 2012 at 11:24 am
    “Go look at their manifest.”

    I did. None of the listed potential payloads shows orbital inclinations.

    “There are five geosats, and Dragonlab could probably fly east. It’s unclear what inclination Bigelow will be going into, but that could be a candidate as well.”

    Not one concrete piece of information, lots of wishful speculation in place of evidence.

    “Do I have to do all your homework for you?”

    No. But it would be nice if you did your own, something you obviously have no intention of doing.

    Have a nice evening.

  • Coastal Ron

    Joe wrote @ April 11th, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    Not one concrete piece of information, lots of wishful speculation in place of evidence.

    Now that’s the old Joe I know – ask people to do your research for you, and then complain when they don’t give the results that you want.

    If you already knew that the SpaceX website didn’t contain enough information for what you wanted, then why did you ask Rand to look up the same information and make educated guesses? It’s like you come looking for something to complain about…

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “None of the listed potential payloads shows orbital inclinations… Not one concrete piece of information, lots of wishful speculation in place of evidence.”

    C’mon, man. By definition, any geostationary satellite will have 0 deg. inclination. And if you don’t know which satellite operators run geostationary birds and which run LEO constellations, you can just Google them. Here are links to descriptions of the GEO birds from the SpaceX manifest:

    Thaicom 6
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thaicom_6

    SES-8
    http://space.skyrocket.de/doc_sdat/ses-8.htm

    AsiaSat-6
    http://spaceflightnow.com/news/n1202/08spacexasiasat/

    AsiaSat-8
    http://spaceflightnow.com/news/n1202/08spacexasiasat/

    SpaceCom AMOS-6
    http://www.satmagazine.com/cgi-bin/display_article.cgi?number=4942863

    SES (TBD in 2015, at bottom)
    http://spaceflightnow.com/news/n1202/08spacexasiasat/

  • vulture4

    Boeing did not lease space in the VAB, they leased OPF Bay 3 as an assembly area for their CST-100 capsule.

  • This is such a dumb thread. The F9 would have to have to be about twice as large to accomplish this mission

    OK, show your work.

    None of the listed potential payloads shows orbital inclinations.

    OK, I apologize for assuming that you were smart enough to figure it out from the information provided. I really didn’t realize that you needed that much hand holding.

    I’ll try to talk down to you more in the future.

  • E.P. Grondine

    DCSCA –

    “Maybe by early May, Space X will demonstrate it can do what Progress vehicles have been doing since 1978.”

    DCSCA, that is not a fair comparison – SpaceX intends to be a US firm delivering low launch costs. While I don’t know the current Russian costs to orbit per kg in US dollars, I do know that SpaceX intends their price to be
    less.

    Hi AW –

    Let’s see. The Southern states have been outbidding the Northern states for industries for some 50 years, but itrs only when Texas underbids Florida that we hear from you? Hmmm…

  • General comment …

    It seems like every thread here gets hijacked by one or two trolls posting blatantly false claims. Why folks take the bait is beyond me.

    Look, no matter what these trolls claim, they have zero influence on the course of events. SpaceX has one hurdle left, a Flight Readiness Review with NASA on April 16, and then it’s on to launch day on April 30.

    A successful launch and mission is all that really matters. False claims by trolls are irrelevant. They will always be there, just as we still have the people who claim the Moon landings were faked or JFK was assassinated by a mass conspiracy that included LBJ/USSR/Castro/Mafia/CIA/Dallas police/Elvis/fill-in-the-blank. These people all have one thing in common — they know they can get attention by making outlandish and baseless claims.

    Please, everyone, just ignore them. That’s how you win and they lose. They want attention. If you don’t give them attention, it drives them crazy. History will prove who’s right and who’s wrong.

    And now an attempt to actually post on-topic.

    Spaceflight Now ran a story about a Boeing exec saying the only way the CST-100 stays on schedule is if Congress appropriations more for commercial crew for FY 2013.

    As I blogged today, I think this is significant because Boeing is the #1 aerospace lobbyist in town. In 2011, they outspent SpaceX more than 18:1. Congress doesn’t listen to SpaceX, but they’re more inclined to listen to Boeing.

    Perhaps Boeing has decided it’s time for the sleeping lion to roar.

    So if Boeing is quietly making the rounds in Congress, perhaps that’s a good sign that commercial crew will get more money in FY 2013.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Since AW seems to be new to the issue, I’d like to mention that the first NASA Administrato, James Webb, built a nationwide coalition by assuring that NASA development ontracts were awarded nationwide.

    With all due respect to Pensylvania, clearly the NASA robitics center should have gone to Detriot rather than Pittsburgh. And sincee neither California nor Massachusetts assembled a bid, the ISS research contract should have been given to a nationwide University group, in collaboration with a research institure which has long nationwide experirene, in my opinion.

    How you get legislators to look beyond local issues to national issues
    is one of those difficult problems for which there are no easy answers.

  • Scott Bass

    Just was pointing out that Boeing, Lockheed etc space divisions are companies inside of companies, they make money where ever they can, government, commercial, private, whatever as long as they are in the black…. SpaceX will too…. When you think about it all the newspace guys are like a tool of transformation for a fixed cost future….. If the new space guys did not exist it would be very hard to change the status quo….. Which brings us to SLS….. Which clearly shows how entrenched the old system is and how strong the old space lobby is. No doubt though new space will eventually become the norm, SLS will probably get built the old way but after that Lockheed Boeing etc will have to be reading off the same page as Musk just to compete. Unlike lots of people I see the transformation of these old companies happening over 10 to 15 years…. Change is slow but it will happen. In a nutshell SLS is the last hurrah, after that there will be zero difference between the old and the new

  • Robert G. Oler

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ April 12th, 2012 at 10:25 am

    These are, as you mostly always do…excellent comments.

    Things take a bit to change…from an historical viewpoint change goes quickly because generally it is read off the words of apage (or a computer) and the years fly by quickly as we go from “this” to “that”…but in reality the evolution is slow but steady.

    Both SpaceX and Boeing (and maybe a few others) see what is …and that is a market to the ISS and perhaps beyond in terms of human flight. They are looking at the foundation of a product that in my view will slowlly but surely expand to generate the next major thrust in human space history which is going to be the interaction of humans with machines (sort of BSGish) in the use of “Near” Earth orbit (ie geo and down).

    AS The Duke said in “Chisum” …things change mostly for the better..

    and that is happening here. I hope you and your family are well. RGO

  • Joe

    Dark Blue Nine wrote @ April 11th, 2012 at 10:31 pm

    First of all thanks for at least taking the time to try to provide some actual content.

    A few comments based on the links provided:

    Thaicom 6
    “’Thaicom 6′ is a planned Thai satellite television of Thaicom series, and in 1991 founded’ Shin Satellite Public Company Limited, a subsidiary of Shin Corporation located in Thailand.”

    The satellite is planned, but a firm launch contract has already been signed.

    SES-8
    “SES World Skies announced in February 2011 that it has commissioned the SES-8 spacecraft from Orbital Sciences Corporation for a launch in the first quarter of 2013.”

    Orbital Sciences (Space X only COTS competitor) is “commissioned” for the satellite, but Space X will launch it.

    AsiaSat-6

    “The AsiaSat 6 and AsiaSat 8 communications satellites will lift off from SpaceX’s launch site in Cape Canaveral, Fla. AsiaSat-8”

    The satellite (according to the article you linked) will fly from Cape Canaveral, not Texas (which after all was the subject of this discussion).

    AsiaSat-8

    Same comment as AsiaSat-6.

    SpaceCom AMOS-6

    There appears to be no reference to Space X in this article (I did a word search). If I am in error, it is an honest one.

    SES (TBD in 2015, at bottom)

    TBD but there is supposedly a firm launch contract.

  • Robert G. Oler wrote:

    Both SpaceX and Boeing (and maybe a few others) see what is …and that is a market to the ISS and perhaps beyond in terms of human flight.

    It’s broader than that. There is a market in microgravity. There are too many governments, private companies, research and educational institutions looking for ways to get into orbital or suborbital flight to deny that this is inevitable.

    I tell people all the time that microgravity will be the next Gold Rush. The Great Enterprise Initiative announcement today by the Space Studies Institute is just the latest example.

    Not all of them will succeed. Not everyone who set out for California in 1849 made it either. But enough of them are on the way that it’s inevitable.

  • DCSCA

    @Stephen C. Smith wrote @ April 12th, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    “There is a market in microgravity.”

    Which is precicely what Arthur C. Clarke advocated some 40 years ago and fully expected commercial to exploit it accordingly but without government subsidies and leave the larger, space projects of scale to government space. NdGT advocates same. Space exploitation is not space exploration. The problem facing commercialists is they can’t sell the ‘microgravity’ market pitch to venture capitalists, so they look to government as a crutch; and the commercialists in gov’t, facing dwindling resources are using the ISS as a ‘faux’ market and a crutch to keep commercial alive. Without it, commercial HSF is DOA, save Branson’s enterprise.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ April 12th, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    It’s broader than that. There is a market in microgravity.>>

    As Rich Kolker use to say “this is the depressing part of the meeting”. If there is no market in microgravity then human efforts in space will be very very thin…

    (BTW I think that there is, I just yet do not know the method of exploiting it)…

    There may be enormous resources on the Moon, PGM’s etc but unless there is some other reason to develop the infrastructure that makes human access to space routine and affordable, we are no more going to go “get that” then we are going to “farm the ocean floor”.

    It is discouraging to me when I see how badly ISS is being used along these lines…but hope springs eternal.

    RGO

  • Coastal Ron

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ April 12th, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    I tell people all the time that microgravity will be the next Gold Rush. The Great Enterprise Initiative announcement today by the Space Studies Institute is just the latest example.

    This is a great example of people trying to focus on the little things that keep us from accomplishing the big things. And it’s being pushed by a non-governmental group.

    I hope this effort succeeds long-term, and if so, that it inspires other groups to come together to solve the immediate issues keeping us from expanding out past LEO – and surviving out there long-term.

  • E.P. Grondine

    IMO, this is the third time NASA has not adequately exploited US micro-gravity capabilities. You only get so many chances, and then other nations step in. I expect that ISS patners will be more effective.

    With all due respect to Florida’s fine efforts, Batelle and USRA would have done better. What is this, Ed Weiler’s final “gift” to NASA?

  • @Scott Bass
    There is a lot of common sense and truth in your last comment.

  • I tell people all the time that microgravity will be the next Gold Rush. The Great Enterprise Initiative announcement today by the Space Studies Institute is just the latest example.

    The Great Enterprise Initiative is now about microgravity, but about partial gravity — a subject that has been almost completely ignored by NASA for half a century.

  • DCSCA

    E.P. Grondine wrote @ April 12th, 2012 at 10:22

    “SpaceX intends to be a US firm delivering low launch costs.”

    Corporations do not owe any loyalties to a nation state. The exodus of corporat operations/assets overseas should show you tha globalization in the rule, not the exception. A firm will go where they can get the best deal, particularly as their goal it generate profita, not wave a flag. But if you advocate nationalism in your launch operations, the U.S. has that already in NASA and the DoD space operations.

  • vulture4

    RGO: “If there is no market in microgravity then human efforts in space will be very very thin.”

    All markets are functions of supply and demand. The demand for spaceflight is highly sensitive to price and the demand curve will not change much regardless of what we find. The search for gold, whether microgravity (vaccines or CFES) or extraterrestrial materials (helium-3 or asteroids) is complete wishful thinking and nothing else. Other nations won’t “step in” because there is nothing to step in to. So far as I can tell the main applications for humans in space are for science, tourism, and possibly spacecraft servicing. Human spaceflight is actually quite valuable for these purposes, but it is not nearly valuable enough to create a viable market at current costs.

    The answer is NOT increasing demand. The supply curve shows clearly that the cost of spaceflight goes UP with increasing demand, not down. In fact this is true for virtually all goods and services. New technologies can lower the entire supply curve but the market is not profitable enough to stimulate the necessary investment in those new technologies, so they will occur only with government investment.

    So the market for human spaceflight can only be increased by substantially reducing cost. Since over 80% of launch cost is in vehicle fabrication, significant cost reductions can only be achieved by full reusability. Every tax dollar spent on SLS/Orion is wasted.

  • Robert G. Oler

    vulture4 wrote @ April 13th, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    Every tax dollar spent on SLS/Orion is wasted.”

    sigh sadly that sentence is about the only thing we agree on in your post. YOU MIGHT BE CORRECT in your various assumptions but I am hoping not and am pretty confident you are not.

    Paragraph 1 of your post

    It is far to early to tell “what” processes (again if you are correct…”if any”) turn out to be valuable in terms of processing various “things”. It is not my expertise but just as developing a glue that doesnt quite work out to do what it was suppose to do…comes up with “sticky notes”…the reality is that we have hardly scratched the surface of “doing things” in micro or partial gravity. Our science as well as our bodies are for the most part years of evolution in a 1 gee field…and what can be done in “less” is at least worth looking into.

    I dont think that “science” (if its just pure science like say astronomy) is in any shape or form valuable to human spaceflight jsutification…tourism at todays prices or those foreseeable cannot support any sort of industry (its like all the luxury airlines that flowered then flopped) …satellite servicing in my view will be a big deal…particularly if SpaceX can hold its price.

    THERE IS NO technological bullet that is going to lower the cost of space access, there is no magazine full of bullets that is going to lower the cost of space access…that in my view is a useless goal. We as a nation are never going to pursue technology just for the sake of lowering access to space…it will only be done if there is some “seesaw” (forget supply and demand) that starts rocking back and forth much as the geo comm system did.

    And in my view the geo sat comm system is the motor behind the seesaw right now that is lowering access cost…and that will allow humans to fly at lower cost. The Capsule is nothing. RGO

  • pathfinder_01

    “But if you advocate nationalism in your launch operations, the U.S. has that already in NASA and the DoD space operations.”

    Wrong.

    DOD has no launch operations. NASA unmanned spaceflight has no launch operations. NASA human spaceflight had the shuttle.

    DOD found it much cheaper to depend on ULA and others to do the work of launch. NASA unmanned spaceflight is banned from using NASA rockets in general(i.e. If a commercial rocket can do and commercial rockets right now can lift up to about 25-30MT a shoot—as much to more than the shuttle.). Only NASA HSF is partially stuck in the dark ages attempting to do a job that is best farmed out to commercial.

  • DCSCA

    @pathfinder_01 wrote @ April 14th, 2012 at 12:44 am

    “DOD has no launch operations.” =blink= Except they do– likely some in places you never see and don’t know about.

  • Vladislaw

    “The answer is NOT increasing demand. The supply curve shows clearly that the cost of spaceflight goes UP with increasing demand, not down. In fact this is true for virtually all goods and services.”

    Only in the short run. When you have a demand shock, suppliers raise prices to create a new equilibrium price. This price increase now pushes some customers out creating pent up demand. When that happens suppliers are now enjoying extra normal profits. This usually happens when there are just a very few suppliers. Capital automatically flows to those profit centers.

    Either suppliers will build new plants and buy more equipment and hire more workers, or new suppliers will enter the market if the cost of entry is not a barrier.

    What happens in the long run is over production is created and prices drop to below the starting price when the extra demand cycle started.

    When satellite demand increased American firms raised prices and that move priced them out of the market as Russian, European, Japanese, Chinese etc started making more commercial launches.

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ April 14th, 2012 at 7:19 am

    @pathfinder_01 wrote @ April 14th, 2012 at 12:44 am

    “DOD has no launch operations.” =blink= Except they do– likely some in places you never see and don’t know about.>>

    LOL the only DoD launch operations are missiles in silos and “boomers”…A taste of Armageddon. RGO

  • vulture4

    RGO: “I dont think that … astronomy … is in any shape or form valuable to human spaceflight jsutification”

    I don’t think the nation should go broke for pure science. But if you consider Mazlow’s hierarchy of needs, beyond food and shelter almost everything we strive for is existential. I believe understanding, particularly of the awesome nature of the universe, adds real value to our lives and there should be reasonable taxpayer funding. I think the arbitrary division between NASA (i.e. Space Telescope Science Institute) and NSF in astronomy is wasteful; a better division would be between technology and observation, and NSF and the observer community should set priorities for observation, not the NASA administrator.

    “we have hardly scratched the surface of “doing things” in micro or partial gravity”

    I’ve been in the business, off and on, for 30 years, and I cannot even begin to recount the long list of hyped justifications for microgravity and space resources that were exaggeration or wistful thinking at best and fraud at worst, from perfect ball bearings to helium-3. Each was greeted with fanfare. No one has used critical thinking. When I bring up questions no one wants to listen, or discuss programs and ideas that were quietly dropped. The problem isn’t that microgravity science is worthless. The problem is that it is worth considerably less than it costs.

    “THERE IS NO technological bullet that is going to lower the cost of space access,”

    If you are correct, then there is no reason to pursue HSF. However I do not agree. The basic problem is not lack of technology, but lack of interest. As a former industrial engineer I have been astounded at how little interest there is in why the Shuttle was expensive to fly!! No one knows or cares why so many Shuttle subsystems required so many man-hours per flight hour. No one cares about the economics or industrial engineering of the launch process. No one even knows the cost of rocket fuel!!! No one understands where the Shuttle program diverged from its original goal of practical operational cost, or wants to talk about it. No one understands the cost drivers in ELV fabrication, or knows the difference between random and deterministic failures. Don’t get me wrong; the USA engineers and techs were extraordinarily dedicated and superb craftsmen, but they saw their job as, against all odds, making the Shuttle work, not as incorporating its lessons in designing a new generation of RLVs. SpaceX is not using new technology, but at least Musk realizes that price should go down, not up. This alone is revolutionary.

  • vulture4

    “They’re also pursuing sites in Puerto Rico and Hawaii.”

    Hawaii would be very difficult because of living cost and land use restrictions. Puerto Rico has clear launch azimuths, vastly superior to Texas, and is closer to the US mainland than Hawaii. The Roosevelt Roads naval station might provide some logistical support, as well as air-sea rescue and similar contingency resources. If I were Luis Fortuño I would be getting Elon Musk on the phone even as we speak.

  • vulture4

    Of course, if SpaceX leaves Florida it will be a slap in the face to Bill Nelson who is all for supporting Commercial Crew but only with what dregs are left after SLS/Orion consumes every penny it wants. Nelson has to make a decision. The _real_ downselect in HSF is the unavoidable choice between SLS/Orion and SpaceX.

  • Robert G. Oler

    vulture4 wrote @ April 14th, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    The problem (and I think you address it in you’re post) is that we have since Apollo been looking for “bullets” when what we need is evolution.

    The shuttle is (or was) expensive to fly because NASA tried to go from expendable vehicles flown infrequently to a mostly reusable system flown frequently. They did not have two things to do this…the first was the technology and the second was the operational management to understand either the technology or that the technology did not exist.

    I freely admit I supported the shuttle decision in the 60′s but 1) I was a child and 2) didnt know better…other people did. I’ve done a lot of reading of the papers (from the Nixon library) of the interagency discussion on the decision to build the shuttle…and while there is almost no real dissent inside of NASA (some but not much)….the CIA and USAF which are going to be tied to the hip on the shuttle have smart people and they raise very wise objections to even the effort.

    The USAF in particular is amazingly wise..people who had just come off the MOL experience raise coherent points about going from “nothing” reusable to a full up system…Even CIA under a letter signed by Poppy Bush eventually (under Ford) gets into the discussion.

    We have to evolve systems…much like in my view SpaceX and Boeing are doing.

    As for microgravity…again evolution instead of hype is essential. By the 80′s I was openly skeptical of the microg claims…all the magic products…you dont get there that way…its patient “work it out” that eventually stumbles on a major winner. We just have not tried any of that yet.

    RGO

  • well

    The fix has been brewing for some time. This is just more evidence of it. With Nelson onboard they’ve apparently won and hitting commercial funding is just paperwork now.

  • Egad

    Puerto Rico has clear launch azimuths, vastly superior to Texas, and is closer to the US mainland than Hawaii.

    Vieques comes to mind.

    (I still would like to get some substantial information on what the azimuth restrictions from Brownsville would actually be.)

  • vulture4

    @well: “commercial funding is just paperwork”
    I am not sure commercial thinks they have won with Nelson. He has given first priority to SLS/Orion which will consume all there is and then some.

    RGO: “We have to evolve systems”.
    I agree. The fundamental error of the Shuttle program was the abandonment of traditional aviation incrementalism (build a little, fly a little, learn a little) for the seductive magic of systems engineering. Would any aircraft company build something as radical as the Shuttle without real flying engineering prototypes? Obviously there is no way to detect deterministic failures or identify unanticipated maintenance costs. Yet even today management asks engineers to estimate the failure rate of systems on the SLS/Orion that do not yet exist and they do it immediately. To three decimal places.

    Even Wayne Hale now believes that the lack of developmental prototypes may have been a fundamental problem. But take a real developmental prototype, like the X-37, and NASA ignores it.

  • Martijn Meijering

    The answer is NOT increasing demand. [...] will occur only with government investment.

    Adding to what Vladislaw said:

    The two are not in conflict. The USG can stimulate private investment into RLVs by providing demand for launch services. And it would need a whole lot of launch services for an exploration program. It would be a perfect synergy, and much more likely to succeed than a government R&D program. We don’t need to postpone exploration and go on a NASA-directed research-a-thon to get RLVs, getting on with exploration as soon as possible may be the best way to develop RLVs, provided care is taken to maximise commercial synergy. Creating a propellant market in orbit would be an excellent way to do it.

  • Coastal Ron

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ April 14th, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    LOL the only DoD launch operations are missiles in silos and “boomers”…A taste of Armageddon. RGO

    DCSCA was probably meaning Area 51, or some other “conspiracy” facility that supposedly houses secret rockets for the DoD. Of course only he knows it exists…

  • Robert G. Oler

    vulture4 wrote @ April 14th, 2012 at 4:06 pm
    Would any aircraft company build something as radical as the Shuttle without real flying engineering prototypes? >>>

    no. Boeing was tempted on at least two occassions to jump into the passenger jet market…there are B47 and B52 passenger “models”…but they always resisted until the technology and operational experience had come far enough along. RGO

  • vulture4

    Martijn Meijering wrote: The USG can stimulate private investment into RLVs by providing demand for launch services.

    The development period for the RLVs is much to long to respond to current demand. In fact, the next generation of RLVs are not going to be revenue producers, they will only demonstrate the technologies and point the direction toward the appropriate design strategies. Some private investors have the money to build demonstrators for some aspects of the technology (Armadillo, Blue Origin, etc) but for more addvanced vehicles this can only be done with government funding, like the X-15, DC-X, X-33, X-34, X-37, etc.

  • Martijn Meijering

    The development period for the RLVs is much to long to respond to current demand.

    It is true that development of RLVs with EELV (or even just Falcon 9) class payloads will take a very long time, longer than the investment horizon of the private sector. But that doesn’t mean demand generated by the USG (an exploration program being an obvious way to do it) cannot lead to RLVs.

    Two reasons stick out in my mind:

    1) The length of the road ony means incremental development will be necessary, which has always been the logical way to do it.

    2) Sustained exploration for at least a decade, maybe two may be necessary to lead to Falcon 9 RLVs.

    In fact, the next generation of RLVs are not going to be revenue producers, they will only demonstrate the technologies and point the direction toward the appropriate design strategies.

    That is the old NASA (SLI) or even NACA approach and I think it would be doomed to fail given political realities and much slower than a market-driven approach even if those difficulties could be surmounted. It’s not that it couldn’t work in theory, just that those providing the funding (public as well as private) would not be willing to wait for it.

    The XCOR approach shows an alternative: incremental development of ever more powerful non-orbital system that each generate some revenue. They didn’t get into aircraft rocket racing just for the fun of it, but because it was a step on the way towards Lynx, which is itself a step on the way towards first a reusable first stage for use with an expendable upper stage and then a fully reusable TSTO RLV.

  • Coastal Ron

    Martijn Meijering wrote @ April 15th, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    That is the old NASA (SLI) or even NACA approach and I think it would be doomed to fail given political realities and much slower than a market-driven approach even if those difficulties could be surmounted. It’s not that it couldn’t work in theory, just that those providing the funding (public as well as private) would not be willing to wait for it.

    What I would add is that if SpaceX proves out their commercial satellite operations, and is able to separately perfect reusability of any kind for Falcon 9/Heavy (even 2 flights of one 1st stage would be a dramatic reduction in cost), then the market will start responding within the length of time it takes for new satellite orders committed to the new RLV (i.e. around 5 years).

    Another initiative to watch is the Air Force Reusable Booster System (RBS). Though NASA has a hard time keeping transportation programs on track, the Air Force is a little better. And though it’s still a government program, it could spin off into industry if proven.

    Lastly, when Virgin Galactic and the small sub-orbital reusable vehicle makers finally start carrying paying payloads, we’ll get an idea about the market size for that type of business, and if there is demand for currently unknown spin-offs (the advantage of commercial operations vs government). Because the vehicles are reusable, the amount of time it takes to try out a business plan becomes very short and relatively inexpensive, so reusability promotes business experimentation far more than government operations do.

    It’s going to be an exciting decade ahead of us on many fronts.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Martijn Meijering wrote @ April 15th, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    >>But that doesn’t mean demand generated by the USG (an exploration program being an obvious way to do it) cannot lead to RLVs.>>

    there is not enough demand for USG launches in exploration…there is no political support for it RGO

  • vulture4

    Like all space enthusiasts I hope XCOR and similar companies succeed, but suborbital is a small market and if they are lucky passengers will pay the direct operating cost of their rides. For the design to evolve I believe they will need a government R&D contract. The market is unlikely to drive design evolution because until costs are much lower the market will not increase in size.

    That leaves political realities. I think the space advocate community needs to come to a consensus (LEO vs BLEO) and apply some effective lobbying. It can’t hurt.

  • BeanCounterfromDownunder

    vulture4 wrote @ April 15th, 2012 at 11:22 pm

    Sorry, but I don’t think any amount of lobbying is going to cut through the current porkfest that what seems like most space-oriented Congress pollies engage in. The true game changer is going to be SpaceX. Interesting that a single company driven by a single person can change so much. That’s happened before in history and I believe we’re seeing it again. As I noted in another recent post, SpaceX flies April 30 or maybe May and success will lead to CRS and an operational capability. Game changing! They may then still be the new kids on the block but they will have shown everyone that they’re serious. Even DCSCA may agree – well at least partially :)

  • Martijn Meijering

    Like all space enthusiasts I hope XCOR and similar companies succeed, but suborbital is a small market and if they are lucky passengers will pay the direct operating cost of their rides.

    I agree this would take a long time to lead to orbital RLVs, but not necessarily that it would be a small market. If they can make it cheap (say $1000/seat eventually), then lots of people would be interested in a suborbital flight. We know this because hundreds of people have already paid VG deposits even at $200,000 / seat. And if they can’t make suborbital cheap, then they probably can’t make orbital substantially cheaper either.

    For the design to evolve I believe they will need a government R&D contract.

    Or a government propellant launch contract. If there is a large market for propellant in orbit (and 100mT a year is a small amount for an exploration program, but a huge amount for a 1mT orbital RLV), then that gives you a decent business case for private RLV investment.

    The market is unlikely to drive design evolution because until costs are much lower the market will not increase in size.

    True for commercial clients, but not for the USG. Both your approach and mine would rely on USG funding for R&D, one directly and the other indirectly.

    That leaves political realities. I think the space advocate community needs to come to a consensus (LEO vs BLEO) and apply some effective lobbying. It can’t hurt.

    It couldn’t hurt, but I’m afraid it is unlikely to happen.

  • Martijn Meijering

    there is not enough demand for USG launches in exploration…there is no political support for it

    You mean there isn’t enough support for exploration even though SLS / Orion are ostensibly meant for exploration? That may be true. Congress as a whole might be happy to pay the same amount of money for real results instead of pork, but the people on the space subcommittees wouldn’t be.

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