Events, Lobbying, NASA

NSS to step up plans to advocate for NASA human spaceflight programs

The National Space Society plans to increase its efforts to advocate for NASA’s human spaceflight programs in the near future, but will also act as a watchdog for at least one element of that effort, the space advocacy organization’s executive director said Thursday.

Paul Damphousse, who became NSS’s executive director early this year, told the audience at the Space Access ’12 conference in Phoenix that he would seek to invigorate the organization’s outreach efforts with respect to NASA’s programs. “NSS could have a done a little bit better job in the last couple of years” advocating for policies, he said. “One of the things at the top of my list is to bring back a strong advocacy role.”

That advocacy, he said, would include supporting NASA’s efforts on commercial crew transportation development. “We are big supporters of commercial,” he said, both for orbital vehicle development as well as the ongoing work by several suborbital vehicle companies. “We are engaging the Hill pretty regularly on the fact that, if nothing else, funding must remain for commercial crew because that is going to be the only thing that will get us off from relying on foreign providers to access the International Space Station.”

Damphousse said the NSS also supported [see update below] the development of the Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket and Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV). “It is now the law, and they are the programs of record,” he said. However, he said the organization would watch those programs closely to ensure the remain on cost and schedule, so they “certainly do not siphon funds away from other programs.”

Policy issues will be an emphasis for the organization’s annual conference, the International Space Development Conference, which will take place in Washington, DC, next month. Both NASA administrator Charles Bolden and deputy administrator Lori Garver (a former NSS executive director herself) are among those planning to speak at the conference. Damphousse said the NSS would also use the conference to roll its proposed roadmap for space exploration.

Update: Paul Damphousse sent me an email over the weekend requesting a clarification on the above paragraph regarding the claim that the NSS “supported” SLS and MPCV. He writes:

We have taken a very measured approach to ensure people understand that 1) these ARE now the programs of record and 2) the NSS is not taking the role of “bomb-thrower” in attacking something that is in fact the LAW, but rather a position that–

1. the programs of record MUST NOT exceed their budgets
2. the programs of record MUST NOT slip their schedules
3. the programs of record MUST NOT siphon funds away from other programs
4. funding for other programs (which have NSS’ strong support) MUST NOT be cut (i.e. space technology, commercial crew and cargo, etc.)

If any of these things happen, the response from the NSS will be a dramatically different one.

My apologies to Col. Damphousse for not properly reflecting his comments at the conference.

105 comments to NSS to step up plans to advocate for NASA human spaceflight programs

  • Coastal Ron

    Advocacy for anything space-related is not entirely constructive, so the NSS should really look into WHY they advocate for those things.

    Why commercial cargo and crew?

    Why the SLS & MPCV?

    Considering that we live in times of constrained budgets, what do we give up by advocating for each of those? What are the alternatives?

    To me, it’s not enough to say the NSS “the organization would watch those programs closely to ensure the remain on cost and schedule, so they “certain do not siphon funds away from other programs.”” By the time programs go over budget, they will have already done their damage, either in forcing a JWST-type of de-scoping of other worthy programs to cover the overages, or the wasted time and money when the program is killed for being over budget and over schedule (i.e. Constellation).

    What they advocate for has to be part of the foundation of future efforts in space that we cannot progress without, otherwise their efforts are just rubber stamping wish-lists.

  • amightywind

    but will also act as a watchdog for at least one element of that effort

    We already have watchdog committees in congress, thank you very much, and they are elected. If you recall, they prevented the SpaceX NASA coup in 2010 and keep ‘commercial space’ shenanigans to a minimum.

    Lori Garver (a former NSS executive director herself)

    The cozy relationships, and revolving door of these advocacy groups and the NASA leadership is disturbing.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Nothing has changed at NSS since I left…ie they support everything space…and are almost critical of nothing RGO

  • “he said the organization would watch those programs closely to ensure they remain on cost and schedule, so they “certain do not siphon funds away from other programs.”
    According to Booz-Allen, it isn’t likely that SLS will stay within budget more than five years out, so the “ensure they remain on cost and on schedule” part is wishful thinking. They are going to find themselves faced with a paradox, because the only way SLS could continue in the long run is to “siphon funds away from other programs” when its budgetary problems become pronounced. Especially since there are more efficacious ways of getting to deep space destinations.

  • Oops! Hit return too soon! Meant to conclude with:
    Especially since there are more efficacious ways of getting to deep space destinations, the only reasonable solution is to abandon SLS.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Coastal Ron wrote @ April 13th, 2012 at 11:10 am

    this is the same old song that NSS sang when Garver was pushing “support the space station” and “we really support Delta clipper as well”… RGO

  • Ben Joshua

    NSS conferences have provided lots of educational bang for the buck, especially for space fans, whose membership and attendance is based more on enthusiasm than any professional connection to NASA or contractors.

    NSS conferences have also, from time to time, offered a forum for passionate debate on issues of disagreement among spaceflight advocates. There heve been some real barn burners over the years.
    Informal gatherings in the hall or at dinner have given people a chance to mix with folks and hear stimulating and enlightening views they wouldn’t hear in the course of their normal work days. Bravo NSS!

    However…

    The notion of NSS as an SLS “watchdog” is laughable. NSS is a NASA booster and the “watchdog” posture is simply a fig leaf to cover their pro SLS flank. Their support for “commercial” also seems a bit tepid, or defensive, seeking to continue current funding (a super safe stance) rather than lobbying for restoration of funds taken away.

    Long ago NSS played a lobbying role in killing funding for the Industrial Space Facility. Too bad. We might have been well ahead of where we are now in LEO research and further commercialization.

  • Ferris Valyln

    I’d give Colonel Damphousse a chance. He is a good person, and I’d give him a chance to reform NSS, and make it an effective organization.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Ben Joshua wrote @ April 13th, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    Long ago NSS played a lobbying role in killing funding for the Industrial Space Facility. Too bad. We might have been well ahead of where we are now in LEO research and further commercialization.>>

    the entire post is well said, but this is, to quote my two year old daughter.. “deliciously good”

    Everyone who wants to understand where things are going now and why should go look at the Freedom/ISF/Delta Clipper era of space budgets and space lobbying and NSS even to figure out where the “effort’ goes.

    Now this is Garver’s bed and she is stuck in it (ironies are great). Garver use to pooh pooh things like ISF and Delta Clipper all based on what great things Freedom was going to do…When year after year it was becoming clearer that SpaceStation whatever it was going to be called…was simply an excersize in building not in building anything really useful.

    There are three things different with SLS…1) commercial this time is actually moving kind of on its own steam…2) SLS has no “end game”…ie you build the station all they hve to do is keep people on it and thats easy because “we will waste all the money before if we dont”…and 3) SLS literallyl cannot be built for the money it has and the money is going to get tighter thanks to the GOP tax cuts.

    In the endit will all come crashing down in the next year or so…and while I wish Lori Garver the best of success I am enjoying the irony that having been verbally engaged by her about killing “flagship programs”…she will likely be on deck as the ship goes under. RGO

  • Glad to hear the NSS intends to take a more activist and critical role.

    However … it would be really nice if they would cash the check I sent a month ago and send me my two-year membership card. I’ve heard nothing, and they’ve yet to respond to my e-mail inquiry.

    Col. Damphousse’s biography is on the NSS web site. It’s certainly impressive, not only for his military background but I like that he has political connections after serving as an advisor to Sen. Bill Nelson. He would seem to be someone who knows the halls of Congress a lot better than those who just show up to go rah-rah for space once a year.

  • Mark

    NSS as a NASA watch dog would be entertaining, if it actually happens. I wonder what NASA would do if the NSS objected to something it was doing?

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark wrote @ April 13th, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    NSS as a NASA watch dog would be entertaining, if it actually happens. I wonder what NASA would do if the NSS objected to something it was doing?>>

    the same thing Bolden does when the GOP folks beat up on him…go have a bourbon. RGO

  • vulture4

    I am an NSS member and I try to point out the problems with no decision on LEO vs BLEO human flight. But no one listens.

  • vulture4

    I think Ms. Garver would be glad to see SLS/Orion cancelled and LEO commercial and RLV development better funded. She has a clear vision of a future in which space is occupied by many people working productively, not just a few lucky ones doing stunts. Unfortunately there are people in the space program and in Congress who do hot have her vision.

    As for NSS, it cannot expect NASA to make the tough decisions if it fails to do so itself.

  • DCSCA

    “That [NSS] advocacy, he said, would include supporting NASA’s efforts on commercial crew transportation development.”

    Not with American tax dollars. Space exploitation is not space exploration. This is precisely why advocates of space exploration have bailed from the NSS, long ago wrecked by commercialist/aerospace lobbyists like Lori Garver, who never met an aerospace contract she didn’t like.

  • DCSCA

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ April 13th, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    Yep.

  • Mary

    “…It is now the law, and they are the programs of record…”
    To pad you wallet.

  • Frank Glover

    @ DSCA:

    “Space exploitation is not space exploration.”

    You keep repeating that as if it were a bad thing, or that anyone disagreed.

    Not only is it correct, but both are a subset of human space *flight.* Enabling HSF in general is what all this should be about, much as it is on NASA’s aeronautics side. Unfortunately, those who long for ‘boots on the ground exploration’ on one celestial body or another at (almost literally) all costs and in another Apollo-esq race/deadline, get what they wish for. Expensive launch and other systems that don’t lend themselves well to sustained operations. (you want to be able to *keep* going to your favorite gravity well, right? Or is ‘exploration’ just hopscotching across the solar system to the next object, after having ‘been there and done that’ a few times to the previous one?) That’s not just the opposite of what they should be looking for, but exactly what commercial needs, as well. ‘Exploration’ is no excuse to not use technologies that make economic sense in non-exploratory space flight. Or to not help nurture and enhance those initially commercial technologies.

    There’s a lot of commonality here, if we can finally shake off the old mindsets…

  • Mark

    <>

    Very droll and, for a change, with a kernel of truth.

    But what I was really fishing for was what will happen when, as it increasingly seems likely, Romney becomes president and executes the second coming of Mike Griffin?

  • Coastal Ron

    Ferris Valyln wrote @ April 13th, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    I’d give Colonel Damphousse a chance. He is a good person, and I’d give him a chance to reform NSS, and make it an effective organization.

    I’m not familiar with NSS, so from my perspective I likely won’t hear anything about them unless Damphousse does something to attract attention – either good or bad. I hope good, but I hope for him that he realizes that it’s better to concentrate what leverage they have on a limited amount of goals.

    For me, what’s missing at every level of government is an affordable path forward. The SLS & MPCV do not fit into any affordable scenario, and right now with the JWST the science side of the house is pretty constricted. Everyone has their eyes on Mars, but no one is truly owning up to the lack of progress on many fronts needed to survive a trip to Mars in good health.

    That is a big disconnect, and that is why I think we need the human space exploration equivalent of the Decadal Survey. This is not a new topic (Jeff Foust raised it back in March of last year), but I think all our other forms of planning continue to be utter failures.

    The bottom line is what Congress ends up funding, and so far they are not funding any kind of coherent plan that takes humans out of LEO. Now certainly some blame can go to them, but other blame has to go to the lack of a plan that Congress can reference like they do for the Mars robotic missions.

    My $0.02

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark wrote @ April 13th, 2012 at 11:20 pm

    But what I was really fishing for was what will happen when, as it increasingly seems likely, Romney becomes president and executes the second coming of Mike Griffin?>>

    if we were to have the election today Willard would be creamed…it is impossible now to predict Nov of this year…as it is to predict if Willard were to win that there would be a second coming of Griffin…there is no data to support you’re analysis…no more then what you said about Saddam…and it was all wrong RGO

  • DCSCA

    @Frank Glover wrote @ April 13th, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    It’s ‘bad’ when ‘exploitation’ is being used/peddled/morphed itno a raison d’etre to surplant government space exploration projects of scale, particularly if that private enterprised ‘exploitation’ is subsidized w/tax dollars. As a stand alone enterprise w/financing solely from the private sector, it’s fine for LEO commercial development and advocated by the likes of Arthur C. Clarke four decades ago in a fine epilogue to the book, ‘First Men On The Moon;’ and it’s a pitch revisited by NdGT of late as well. Leave LEO to commercial exploitation and BEO space exploration to government space projects of scale. But inventing ‘faux’ markets like the ISS by commercialists who want to use government as crutch to subsidize private ‘exploitation’ because they can’t sell the market viability of LEO to the private capital markets produces the perception this faux ‘exploitation’ is actually an adequate space program when in fact it condemns HSF to LEO for generations to come. Worse still, subsidizing firms like Space X and others w/tax monies is short term planning and redundant as there’s already an operational system in place- Soyuz and Progress, which have been servicing space platforms for decades- Progress, in fact, has been delivering the groceries for 34 YEARS. The point ot to get government out of LEO operations, work to rule and fulfill minimal ISS contractual obligations, leave LEO to comercial and have NASA press on w/BEO planning and operations. Every dollar that goes to LEO siphons off dwindling funds for BEO.

  • Justin Kugler

    You can’t get the government out of LEO operations without vehicles to perform LEO operations. Soyuz and Progress themselves are not sufficient to fulfill ISS operations. They simply do not have the return capability that is necessary. It is not a subsidy for the government to pay down the development risk to create a service it needs and will use. That’s the same kind of thinking that created a false equivalency between Airbus’ direct launch aid from European governments and NASA aeronautical research contracts performed by Boeing.

  • vulture4

    I agree that there is no current commercial market for human spaceflight, LEO or BLEO. However the reason for this is that cost is too high with current technology, including Soyuz . The only real solution is fully reusable launch systems for LEO access. Industry cannot advance technology without government support. In fact, this was true in 1915 when NACA was created to help US aircraft industry compete against European industry that already had government R&D support. Dragon/Falcon will not solve this problem but it will have less than half the cost per seat of Soyuz.
    I do not believe that the US can conceivably afford a government-funded BLEO HSF program like Apollo, based on expensive 50-year-old technology. Government has the ability to invest where industry cannot, but government investment also must be justified and Constellation/SLS/Orion produces no practical benefits.

  • Coastal Ron

    Mark wrote @ April 13th, 2012 at 11:20 pm

    But what I was really fishing for was…

    You have an obtuse way of fishing.

    ,,,what will happen when, as it increasingly seems likely, Romney becomes president and executes the second coming of Mike Griffin?

    The history of Romney is do what it takes to get elected. If elected President, I don’t think he will have much loyalty to Griffin, but if he did, then NASA stays irrelevant (and broke) for a least a decade. I’m sure you’ve heard what one of the definitions of insanity is, and putting Griffin back in charge of NASA and expecting a different outcome would be, well, you can guess.

    Romney has pretty much pooh poohed any Moon plans, but one can never tell which direction the wind will blow around him…

  • vulture4

    The NSS began as the L-5 Society, promoting the concept that space should be a place where large numbers of ordinary people can live and work. This requires low-cost access. I think Lori Garver is well aware of this mission and advocates it effectively. The L-5 Society never advocated Apollo-style missions as ends in themselves, whether to the moon, Mars, or beyond. They do not serve any purpose in creating a space-faring society.

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ April 14th, 2012 at 7:15 am

    But inventing ‘faux’ markets like the ISS by commercialists who want to use government as crutch to subsidize private ‘exploitation’ because they can’t sell the market viability of LEO to the private capital markets produces the perception this faux ‘exploitation’ is actually an adequate space program when in fact it condemns HSF to LEO for generations to come. >>

    You can have you’re own opinions and even ones one viewpoints but I wont let you do what is commonplace these days and rewrite history.

    The US government in particular has since its birth “invented” markets that it felt was in the interest of The Republic…and itself…used them until either the need vanished or the private engine of free enterprise found a need for it and took over…the “internet(s)” are one such example…commercial air transport is another.

    The “air mail” subsidy was completely invented…there was no pressing private need for it; people were not clamoring for “faster mail service”…it was created because the airlines could not survive without the direct subsidies AND MOST IMPORTANT there was no direct market for the new emerging airplanes…the biggest lobbyest for the air mail subsidy were Mr. Douglas and Boeing.

    There is nothing even wrong with “Solyndra” (spell) although COTS and crew are not remotely like this. The oil companies got their “Solyndra” a century ago…and now even with record profits they are fighting tooth and nail to keep the tax subsidy part of it.

    The thing is that all you seem to advocate for is government human spaceflight…and for no real purpose. Goofy RGO

  • Martijn Meijering

    It is now the law, and they are the programs of record

    What a stupid reason for supporting something. Obamacare is the law too, I guess everybody will just have to support it. Heck, even slavery was once the law in some parts.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark…you wrote:

    “, with a kernel of truth.”

    I should return the favor….this has a “kernel” of truth in it as well.

    http://www.examiner.com/space-news-in-houston/nasa-s-bolden-not-serious-about-going-to-mars

    Sure Charlie is not serious about going to Mars…no one who has or ever will have any political power in the next 10-15 years is serious about humans going to Mars. It amazes me that people who think Mars would be a good idea, not only think that but that they think any politician in power that agrees with them is not lying…and it really amazes me that you believe in anything Willard says at all (the man of all positions)…

    Any effort to send humans to Mars cost to much and returns to little given our technology and the fine mess GOP economics have gotten us into. It would take decades and no one is interested in that.

    Bolden has to mouth the words for the faithful…but he nor anyone else really cares…Ask Newt Gingrich you’re pal how much support such an effort would get. RGO

  • Last night here at Brevard Community College we held a forum titled, “What’s Next? A Turning Point in the United States Space Program.”

    I videotaped the event for BCC. Click here to watch.

    The panelists were:

    * Frank Di Bello, President, Space Florida;
    * Janet Petro, Deputy Director, NASA KSC;
    *Mike Leinbach, Director of Human Spaceflight, United Launch Alliance;
    * John Kelly, Florida Today, moderator

    This was a really good event. It certainly helps debunk the claims by some that the U.S. space program is out of business, that KSC is closing down, nothing is going on, etc.

    A *lot* is going on, and very soon.

    It pretty much confirmed all I’ve been hearing, but this was with a lot more detail.

    It’s well worth the 80 minutes to watch.

  • Vladislaw

    “We already have watchdog committees in congress,”

    And what we have been seeing in the news lately about the gross spending it looks like they have really been doing their job.

  • Vladislaw

    Mark wrote:

    “Romney becomes president and executes the second coming of Mike Griffin”

    The republicans who voted to kill constellation would do the same thing.

  • DCSCA

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ April 14th, 2012 at 2:07 pm
    Last night here at Brevard Community College we held a forum titled, “What’s Next? A Turning Point in the United States Space Program.”

    “A *lot* is going on, and very soon.”

    If Constellation was revived, alert the press, otherwise the assertion above is pure poppycock. It is precisely the kind of calculated chicanery commercialists peddle as a ‘faux’ space program to busy Americans. Private enterprised space dalliances, the U.S. tax dollar subsidized LEO exploits at exploitation which fail to get private sector financing, are not ‘the United States Space Program’. Space exploitation is not space exploration.

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ April 14th, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    “…wont let you do what is commonplace these days and rewrite history.”

    ??? Apparently you overlook your own ‘rewrites’ about Space X getting government subsidies yet the history says otherwise: “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.”

    “The “air mail” subsidy was completely invented…there was no pressing private need for it; people were not clamoring for “faster mail service”…” False analogy. The ISS is not the postal system- the mails benefit benefits the many and can be accessed by everyone on the planet. The ISS, not so much. It services a crew of, what…. six people. =eyeroll= And, of course, following your analogy, the U.S. government didn’t subsidize an ‘air mail’ system when there was an ‘air mail’ system already in operation for decades-the ‘system in place’ to the ISS is Progress and Soyuz– and of course global postal operations wasn’t a dead end market, as the ISS is doomed to a Pacific splash in a few years. Unless you’re advocating ‘rocket mail’ now which Germany shelved in the 1930′s. And in case you’ve forgotten, postal operations- a base operation of established nation states, benefits the many, not the few. Subsidizing Space X w/tax dollars today benefits a select few- multi-millionaires- and the services offered, delivering groceries to the ISS already exists. It’s redundant and does not merit government subsidies. There’s nothing in it for the vast majority of people of the U.S. . =eyeroll= Furthermore, if you want to overlay earthly patterns of progressive commerce on to space operations, you’re going to discover that those patterns do not apply; there’s no market to service as commercial space has learned torying to sell private capital markets on it. Space exploitation is not space exploration. Clarke layed this out quite well in his epilogue to ‘First Men On The Moon.” NdGT revisits it of late. Commercial creates its own markets to exploit w/o government subsidies in LEO, as the ‘free market’ should, and BEO exploration operations are left to government. Every tax dollar spent on subsidizing commercial space today siphons off dwindling resources from government BEO space planning and projects of scale.

  • DCSCA

    @Mark wrote @ April 13th, 2012 at 11:20 pm

    “…Romney becomes president and executes the second coming of Mike Griffin?”

    We already know Romney’s take on space given his dismissal of same in the debates. However, given his propensity for extravagant expenditures in his La Jolla garage, expect talk of ‘the space elevator’ to make a comeback. ;-)

  • DCSCA

    @Justin Kugler wrote @ April 14th, 2012 at 9:26 am

    “You can’t get the government out of LEO operations without vehicles to perform LEO operations.” Yes you can and nothing is stopping private enterprise from building and operating them except the very parameters of the market they want to service. So commercialists ‘create’ one- a ‘faux’ market– the ISS.

    “Soyuz and Progress themselves are not sufficient to fulfill ISS operations.”

    Yes they are. And they’ve been doing it.The ISS has a crew of just– what.. six…. and it is a dinosaur represent past planning from an era long over, doomed to a Pacific splash.

  • William Mellberg

    Robert G. Oler wrote:

    “The ‘air mail’ subsidy was completely invented … there was no pressing private need for it; people were not clamoring for ‘faster mail service’ … it was created because the airlines could not survive without the direct subsidies AND MOST IMPORTANT there was no direct market for the new emerging airplanes … the biggest lobbyest for the air mail subsidy were Mr. Douglas and Boeing.”

    Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Are you familiar with Pony Express, American Express and Railway Express? All were founded on an existing need/demand/mass market for faster mail delivery. The same was true for Federal Express (which, in effect, replaced Railway Express). The history of transportation is filled with examples of new means providing faster service between Point A and Point B.

    The world’s first regularly scheduled airmail service was launched in the UK in 1911. The U.S. Postal Service began Air Mail flights in 1918 between Washington and New York via Philadelphia. The route was later extended along a single, transcontinental line. Private companies (fledgling airlines) were awarded contracts to feed that line from other points north and south of the “mainline” route. They eventually replaced government Air Mail flights until Franklin Roosevelt’s short-lived and disastrous effort to cancel the Air Mail contracts and use Army planes and pilots to carry the mail (see James Duffy’s 2010 book, “Lindbergh vs. Roosevelt”). Mail planes were not passenger planes.

    However, Boeing Air Transport (later United Airlines) did carry two (later four) passengers in its Model 40 mail planes between Chicago and San Francisco. That service created a market for passenger air travel in the U.S., although European airlines had been carrying people for more than a decade. The Boeing Model 80, Fokker F.VIIA-3m and Ford 4-AT were all tri-motor aircraft introduced in the late 1920s to carry both passengers (roughly a dozen seats in each) and mail. These early types could not turn a profit carrying passengers alone. So the Air Mail contracts helped make passenger service possible through the added revenues they provided. But Uncle Sam was not subsidizing the airlines to carry people. Uncle Sam was paying the airlines to carry mail. In other words, the early airline industry was built on a pre-existing mass market. Moreover, Air Mail was consumer-oriented.

    Many years later (following WWII), Uncle Sam did subsidize the so-called “Local Service Airlines” to provide passenger service to smaller communities across the country. The purpose was three-fold: 1) replace the passenger rail service that was being abandoned in many smaller communities, 2) feed the growing national and global air transport systems, and 3) help local economies by making sure that small communities had essential transportation service. Those subsidies were gradually dropped as Local Service Airlines (Allegheny, Mohawk, Ozark, Piedmont, North Central, Southern, Bonanza, etc.) entered the Jet Age, expanded their business and became ‘regional’ carriers. But that chapter in aviation history is very different from the early days of Air Mail contracts that you cite. And those airlines (with the exception of US Airways) were all absorbed by larger airlines.

    The main point is that Air Mail was not “completely invented” as you suggest. Contrary to your statement, there was a private need/demand/mass market for Air Mail … and for passenger air service. In both cases, air transport was simply supplementing or supplanting existing forms of transportation. Which, of course, is the history of transportation, in general.

    There is no equivalent need/demand/mass market for “commercial” space. “Commercial” space (in terms of human spaceflight) is being “completely invented” by the Government. It is similar to the ill-fated attempt by the U.S. Government to create a market for a Supersonic Transport (SST) in the 1960s. The Boeing 2707 would have been an economic disaster as there was no need/demand/mass market for a fuel-guzzling aircraft that could not produce a profit and could not attract enough “millionaires and billionaires” to fill the seats. As soon as Congress pulled the plug (i.e., stopped paying for the project), Boeing axed its SST. And, of course, the only customers for Concorde were the state-owned airlines of Britain and France which built the airplanes. Concorde was a magnificent achievement. But it was completely impractical and contributed virtually nothing to the development of global air transport. The billions of tax dollars that were sunk into Concorde by Britain and France proved to be a complete waste. Apart from a wealthy few, the taxpayers who paid the bills could not afford to fly on the airplane. Which will be the case for “commercial” space, as well, despite the hyperbole of some people who seek more taxpayer subsidies.

    In short, other than the SST example (which was a complete boondoggle), there is no comparison between commercial aviation and “commercial” space.

    You might want to research the history of Pony Express, American Express, Railway Express and Wells Fargo. And you might want to study the history of the early airlines a little more carefully, as well. Your comments reflect a rather shallow understanding of the topic. I don’t mean that as an insult. I’m simply saying that your remarks suggest you have not studied transportation history in-depth.

    One last point. The aircraft industry went from the Boeing Model 80 and the Ford Tri-Motor to the Douglas DC-3 in eight years. The DC-3 was the first airliner that could earn a profit carrying passengers alone (i.e., it did not need Air Mail contracts to make money). That rapid advancement reflected the growing need/demand/mass market for passenger air service. I do not see any similar need/demand/mass market for human spaceflight. All I see is a government requirement to service the International Space Station with a handful of flights per year over the next decade (at most). A commercial space station(s) could and would increase that requirement. But not in a way that could compare with the commercial aviation industry.

  • William Mellberg

    Justin Kluger wrote:

    “That’s the same kind of thinking that created a false equivalency between Airbus’ direct launch aid from European governments and NASA aeronautical research contracts performed by Boeing.”

    Americans (Boeing, labor unions, politicians) have been whining about Airbus ever since Frank Borman bought the A300 for Eastern Airlines in 1976. I attended a meeting in Washington at the time during which Colonel Borman talked about that order. He cited the fact that 33% of the A300′s cost was comprised of American-made components, including its GE CF-6 engines and Collins avonics. He also noted that there was no American-built aircraft in the A300 category. Moreover, Borman suggested that the market for the DC-10 and L-1011 was too small for either McDonnell Douglas or Lockheed to make a profit. “They should have followed the European example and combined their resources to build one airplane.” Not a bad idea.

    Indeed, the British had been planning their own A300-type aircraft, the BAC Three-Eleven. But they could not afford to go it alone. In the end, the UK Government pulled out of the Airbus consortium before the A300 even flew. But Hawker Siddeley Aviation stayed in the project as a private venture. So did Fokker. Of course, the French and the Germans owned the majority shares in Airbus Industrie, and the venture was subsidized by the French and German governments. But they made the case that Boeing’s airliners were subsidized, too. The development costs for both the 707 and 747 were covered, in large part, by USAF contracts. In the case of the 707, the USAF ordered hundreds of KC-135 transports and tankers, all based on the 707. And the 747 sprang forth from Boeing’s losing entry in the C-5A contest.

    The bottomline is that Airbus has succeeded for the simple reason that it builds good airplanes. The A300 was a brilliant design which led to the A310, the A330 and the A340. Likewise, Airbus had a family of jetliners in mind when it developed the single-aisle A320 — which evolved into the A321, A319 and A318. Time will tell if the A380 winds up as a success or a failure. I suspect that project is far from the break-even point (250 sold). But the A350 looks like it will be another winner with more than 500 aircraft already on the order books (competing head on with the Boeing 787).

    Finally, here’s an interesting anecdote …

    In 1994, a Boeing official revealed that the company had thought about leasing an Airbus A320 to put on display in front of its Renton (737/757) plant. The idea was to give Boeing employees a good look at the competition as they went into work every day. Although it never happened, the thought alone is a reflection on the quality of Airbus products.

  • Coastal Ron

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ April 14th, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    It pretty much confirmed all I’ve been hearing, but this was with a lot more detail.

    It’s well worth the 80 minutes to watch.

    I don’t have the time to watch it, but if you summarize it I’d be glad to look at it on your website.

    I can imagine that it’s going to take some time for people to reorient to the new level of space activity, since the Shuttle was such a large presence, both in spectacle and in employment. The good news (from a taxpayer standpoint) is that the new activity coming down the pike will provide a much more steady supply of activity, but without the government overhead (SLS not withstanding).

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ April 14th, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    A commercial space station(s) could and would increase that requirement. But not in a way that could compare with the commercial aviation industry.

    No one said it would grow as fast as the early years of commercial aviation, especially considering how few people there will be in space even with two or more commercial crew providers. But there is no chance to grow unless there is a capability put in place to service LEO and points beyond.

    The real choice at this juncture of time is how the U.S. Government will choose to satisfy their need for crew transportation:

    A. If we do nothing, and continue to rely upon the good graces of a country that we don’t always see eye-to-eye with, then our efforts in space will be beholden to that country.

    B. If our government decides to support our assets in LEO with government-designed & owned hardware, then there is no opportunity for sharing the burden of costs with the commercial market, and the commercial market has no opportunity to start up a transportation market without doing it from scratch.

    C. If our government continues to fund the course of action that President Reagan laid out, that Congress endorsed, that Bush 43 started, and that Obama has continued, then government and commercial will share the risks and the rewards of creating a capability that can grow with demand that is undefined. Government doesn’t do well planning the undefined, but businesses do, and once the transportation capabilities are in place, I think we’ll see customers stepping forward.

    So far “C” is the program of record, but there are people in Congress that would rather support a rocket that has not funded mission, and has no known or defined customer base. We’ll see what happens during the next appropriations round – should be an exciting year one way or the other.

    Oh, and nice aviation history summary.

  • Coastal Ron wrote:

    I don’t have the time to watch it, but if you summarize it I’d be glad to look at it on your website.

    John Kelly at Florida Today just did it for me. Click here to read.

    The bottom line, in my opinion, is that there are too many private sector initiatives — partnering with NASA or otherwise — to deny there’s a demand for LEO access. Exploitation of LEO will create the demand that will trigger exploration. Many of the great exploration voyages of past centuries were really all about exploitation.

  • William Mellberg

    Coastal Ron wrote:

    “No one said it would grow as fast as the early years of commercial aviation, especially considering how few people there will be in space even with two or more commercial crew providers.”

    I agree with most of your points. But i also remember what Frank Borman said about McDonnell Douglas and Lockheed Aircraft in his remarks about Airbus. The jumbo jet market in the 1970s wasn’t big enough to support two nearly identical airplanes (the DC-10 and the L-1011). Which is why the Europeans were wise to bring their resources together under the single Airbus umbrella.

    Although I can see the wisdom in having more than one source to access LEO (in case of a major problem like the ones that grounded the Space Shuttle twice), I do wonder why the taxpayers ought to be subsidizing more than two providers when the “market” is so limited? It does not seem like the best use of time and money. And it has taken a painfully long time to get off the ground.

  • DCSCA

    @William Mellberg wrote @ April 14th, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    Well said, as usual.

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ April 14th, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    Sorry I wont discuss pad refurbishment or any other improvements at federal centers (including runway building, the new L band radar system etc)…those are not subsidies. If you cannot see that then you are simply not reachable with logic…but

    I find this entertaining

    “The aircraft industry went from the Boeing Model 80 and the Ford Tri-Motor to the Douglas DC-3 in eight years. The DC-3 was the first airliner that could earn a profit carrying passengers alone (i.e., it did not need Air Mail contracts to make money). That rapid advancement reflected the growing need/demand/mass market for passenger air service. I do not see any similar need/demand/mass market for human spaceflight. ”

    Yes…it did that because of the airmail “subsidy” which was designed to foster that exact kind of technological achievement.

    The DC-3 could operate with a profit carrying passengers without the airmail subsidy BUT that was only if all the seats were full…and that rarely happened…the goal was to let the Douglas fly without filling all the seats to encourage scheduled airline service.

    ISS is not the mail but the airmail subsidy was not designed to affect everyone…it was aimed directly at the airplane manufactors because the US wanted to promote its airplane industry.

    You can go on and on all you want about Soyuz and Progress but thats simply nonesense…you are free to your viewpoint but it is one rejected by almost all.

    in any event the commercial space era is dawning…sit back and watch. RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    William Mellberg wrote @ April 14th, 2012 at 6:38 pm
    The development costs for both the 707 and 747 were covered, in large part, by USAF contracts. In the case of the 707, the USAF ordered hundreds of KC-135 transports and tankers, all based on the 707. And the 747 sprang forth from Boeing’s losing entry in the C-5A contest.””

    to varying degrees you are wrong there.

    Even Boeing knocks it down pretty hard when you get typed rated in the planes from a Boeing factory school!

    The Dash 80 and KC 135 are similar but different…and Boeing went to pains to keep the development lines separate.

    Where Boeing got a lot of “help” in the development was from the B-29 KC-97, B47 and 52 lines. The Dash 80 is a nice melding of all of those technologies.

    RGO

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ April 14th, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    The jumbo jet market in the 1970s wasn’t big enough to support two nearly identical airplanes (the DC-10 and the L-1011). Which is why the Europeans were wise to bring their resources together under the single Airbus umbrella.

    The DC-10 and L-1011 may be good examples of what not to build in a market full of fungible transportation options, but crew transportation to LEO is currently a monopoly, and not full of fungible transportation options.

    I do wonder why the taxpayers ought to be subsidizing more than two providers when the “market” is so limited?

    No, there is no subsidy, and everyone that has suggested otherwise has failed to offer any proof that there is.

    My background is manufacturing, and what NASA is doing with the CCDev and CCiCap programs is establishing a dual/multiple sourcing strategy for their crew transportation needs. Since what NASA wants is unique and they want control over how the service is provided, what CCDev & CCiCap are doing is no different than what Apple does for it’s supplier network, and no one would accuse Apple of subsidizing their suppliers.

    It does not seem like the best use of time and money.

    Would you rather be dependent on Russia for our access to LEO? How much is it worth for the U.S. to have it’s own domestic transportation system to LEO?

    And it has taken a painfully long time to get off the ground.

    That’s a weird statement. The first CCDev contract of $50M was only awarded two years ago. The second CCDev, which was for $270M, was only awarded one year ago this Wednesday. NASA has been asking for enough funding to get Commercial Crew starting service by 2017, which would only be 7 years after the program started.

    Contrast that with NASA’s Orion/MPCV capsule, which will have taken 13+ years after program start before it flies it’s first crewed test flight – and it still has no real mission that it’s needed for. So which program is taking “a painfully long time to get off the ground”?

  • Robert G. Oler

    William Mellberg wrote @ April 14th, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    this post is both entertaining and useless.

    It really shows that while you “know” a lot you cannot really apply it all that much.

    The goal of the 1930 airmail act was to push the airlines into “larger” planes…because Mr. Boeing and Mr. Douglas wanted to sell them. This is obvious because Air mail carriers would be paid for having sufficient cargo capacity on their planes, whether the planes carried mail or flew empty, a disincentive to carry mail since the carrier received a set fee for a plane of a certain size whether or not it carried mail. The purpose of the provision was to discourage the carrying of bulk junk mail to boost profits, particularly by the smaller and inefficient carriers, and to encourage the carrying of passengers.

    If you dont understand that…then you dont understand the Air Mail Act…

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    William Mellberg wrote @ April 14th, 2012 at 6:08 pm
    . I don’t mean that as an insult.”

    I am sure you dont and I dont take it as one. I simply understand that you have a lot of knowledge but are really quite unable to understand the context of it. Its OK…I teach people to fly in airplanes that you ride in (and check them) so I know how to spot it.

    RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    William Mellberg wrote @ April 14th, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    The jumbo jet market in the 1970s wasn’t big enough to support two nearly identical airplanes (the DC-10 and the L-1011). >>

    Neither would have survived even had they been alone. its called revenue seat miles (RSM)…RGO

  • pathfinder_01

    ”As soon as Congress pulled the plug (i.e., stopped paying for the project), Boeing axed its SST. And, of course, the only customers for Concorde were the state-owned airlines of Britain and France which built the airplanes. Concorde was a magnificent achievement. But it was completely impractical and contributed virtually nothing to the development of global air transport. The billions of tax dollars that were sunk into Concorde by Britain and France proved to be a complete waste. Apart from a wealthy few, the taxpayers who paid the bills could not afford to fly on the airplane. Which will be the case for “commercial” space, as well, despite the hyperbole of some people who seek more taxpayer subsidies.”

    Err, not quite. Concord was originally aimed at the mass market. The problem was few people were willing to pay extra for a faster trip. To be blunt, she just isn’t fast enough to justify spending extra. New York to London is about 7-8 hrs on a regular flight vs. 3hr 30 mins. The only way the serviced survived was to aim at the rich (they upscale the service). In both cases you arrive the same day.

    Concord also had limited routes due to sonic boom and limited range. It was not like say airplane vs. ship travel or airplane vs. long distance rail travel where air travel literally cut days off travel time. In the US one of the early cross country air services was unable to fly coast to coast due to the range of the aircraft so they flew the passengers as far as they could, switched to the train for overnight travel then flew again in the morning and even then adding two plane trips and an overnight train trip cut a day off travel vs. train alone.

    It is understood that commercial space will first cater to the rich, but like many things the rich are often the first to do like oh, fly. I mean john Joe average probably didn’t consider flying until the 1950ies. Heck my family usually went down south to visit relatives in the 80ies and unless it was an emergency or a funeral we used the train because it was cheaper then (it was overnight vs. an hour or two flight.).

    If you want super sonic travel to happen for the mass market, you need a plane able to fly land routes at super sonic speeds (.e. the boom problem) and if it fly’s over ocean it needs to fly further (i.e. Concord couldn’t do say L.A. to Tokyo) and it really helps if the plane can carry more than about 100 passengers.

  • Martijn Meijering

    No, there is no subsidy, and everyone that has suggested otherwise has failed to offer any proof that there is.

    Right, if anything is a subsidy it is SLS / Orion. It is ridiculous for the government to design a government-only capsule and launcher in addition to competitively procured commercially available ones.

    Mellberg:
    It does not seem like the best use of time and money.

    Again, this applies perfectly to SLS / Orion, not commercial crew.

    And it has taken a painfully long time to get off the ground.

    Because it excluded established players and because it got very little money. And again, look at Constellation / SLS / Orion.

    You’re just an apologist for the old guard at NASA.

  • DCSCA

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ April 14th, 2012 at 11:50 pm

    “…those are not subsidies.”

    Except they are.

  • DCSCA

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ April 14th, 2012 at 11:50 pm

    “You can go on and on all you want about Soyuz and Progress but thats simply nonesense…”

    Except it’s not -and both are operational amd been so for decades.

  • DCSCA

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ April 14th, 2012 at 11:50 pm

    “ISS is not the mail but the airmail subsidy was not designed to affect everyone…”

    =blink= Post offices sold air mail stamps to citizens willing to pay for it and every citizen could access the service purchasing same. Not so w/t ISS.

  • vulture4

    Stephen C. Smith wrote: “Exploitation of LEO will create the demand that will trigger exploration.”

    I would not say that BLEO HSF is “exploration”, since the environment can be well assessed by unmanned systems, nor will LEO HSF create BLEO demand. The demand curve for BLEO HSF will remain to low to create a viable market with current technology.

    However the new technology needed for development of a LEO infrastructure may lower the price-vs-supply curve for all HSF, and thus increase the market size. This was the goal of Shuttle, to serve as an “enabling technology”, and although it failed to achieve this goal, the goal was correct.

    A competitive supplier can only raise price until the customer shifts to an alternate source. A sole supplier with monopoly power will naturally maximize profits by raising price until the customer can barely afford the product. Both ULA and Soyuz have used monopoly power to inflate price. This is normal business practice.

    If launch vehicles are procured from suppliers and operated by the government, competition can be enforced at the vehicle supply contract level and only one vehicle has to actually be built. But if the government procures launch services (the “commercial” paradigm) than the provider is free to charge whatever it wants per launch. The only way to achieve competitive cost is to have more than one supplier with operational vehicles.

    This was the plan for EELV. The problem was that when Boeing was caught cheating, instead of simply fining them the government responded by cutting their share of the contract, and Boeing didn’t have enough launches to operate profitably, providing a rationale to merge the programs. Boeing further cut competition by dropping the Delta II.

    There is a lot of confusion about economies of scale. Less than 6-8 launches per year for a given vehicle will likely increase costs due to fixed overhead, but more than 10 does not reduce cost per launch because more labor is needed for manufacturing and processing.

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ April 15th, 2012 at 4:47 am

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ April 14th, 2012 at 11:50 pm

    “…those are not subsidies.”

    You replied:
    “Except they are.”

    except that every industry in the US gets it …so the objection you have is meaningless. RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ April 15th, 2012 at 4:52 am

    DCSCA wrote @ April 15th, 2012 at 4:59 am

    none of those are valid objections to the comparison with the airmail act…indeed I suspect Musk will sell a seat to anyone who can buy one. dont be goofy…we are going to give commercial space a try after doing it you’re way for decades…sit back and enjoy RGO

  • William Mellberg

    pathfinder_01 wrote:

    “Err, not quite. Concord was originally aimed at the mass market.”

    E-r-r-r … not exactly. Concorde (with an ‘e’) was originally aimed at the First Class market since the operating economics of the aircraft always meant that there would be a surcharge over the existing First Class fares. The manufacturers (originally BAC and Sud-Aviation) proposed a “dual fleet” approach to the airlines. Jumbo jets would fly Coach passengers (the masses) since they significantly lowered seat-mile costs. Supersonic transports (SSTs) would cater to the elite — primarily business people for whom “time is money.” My former boss was the Concorde marketing director for BAC during the late 60s and gave me copies of dozens of reports, studies and brochures promoting the “dual fleet” concept. In hindsight, they are laughable. But as he told me many years ago, “When you have a lemon, you try to make lemonade.” Concorde was a lemon, albeit a very impressive lemon. From an engineering point of view, it was a grand success. From an accountant’s point of view, it was a disaster. I see similar hurdles for human spaceflight.

    “The problem was few people were willing to pay extra for a faster trip. To be blunt, she just isn’t fast enough to justify spending extra.”

    That is true. The time saved did not justify the added cost for most travelers. Only a relative handful of wealthy business passengers were willing to pay the exorbitant cost to make a day trip across the North Atlantic and back. When Concorde was introduced on other routes to South America, the Middle East and the Far East, too many seats went empty. For a year or so, Braniff flew an interchange service with Concorde between Washington-Dulles and DFW Airport in Texas (flying subsonically, of course). That did not attract many passengers, either, and the service was suspended.

    “Concord also had limited routes due to sonic boom and limited range.”

    Concorde was always aimed primarily at the lucrative North Atlantic routes, and other overwater routes could have provided plenty of additional services. Concorde B, which would have come off the line starting with the 17th production aircraft (only 16 production aircraft were built) had increased range owing to increased wing area and fuel capacity. It would have made non-stop service available on additional trans-Atlantic routes (e.g., New York-Frankfurt), as well as one-stop trips across the Pacific. But SST economics forced Pan Am, TWA, Air Canada, Lufthansa, Sabena, MEA, Air India, Qantas, JAL, American, Braniff, Continental, Eastern and United to cancel all of their orders — leaving only the state-owned Air France and British Airways.

    “It is understood that commercial space will first cater to the rich, but like many things the rich are often the first to do like oh, fly.”

    What laws of physics and economics are going to be changed to bring space travel to “Joe Average” anytime in the next 50 years? What laws of physics and economics have been changed to make supersonic air travel affordable for the masses? Answer: None. Which is why 50 years after Britain and France agreed to jointly design and build Concorde, no successor is in sight. The SST was a boondoggle because you can’t fool Mother Nature … or bankers.

    “If you want super sonic travel to happen for the mass market, you need a plane able to fly land routes at super sonic speeds (.e. the boom problem) and if it fly’s over ocean it needs to fly further (i.e. Concord couldn’t do say L.A. to Tokyo) and it really helps if the plane can carry more than about 100 passengers.”

    The Boeing 2707 would have carried between 250 and 300 seats. But given the horrendous economics of the aircraft, they never would have been filled. You couldn’t find that many people willing to pay the huge surcharges to fly supersonically. So it didn’t help to have more than 100 seats. In theory, more seats would have lowered seat-mile costs. But the enormous operating expenses associated with the 2707 would have made that a mute point. BTW, Concorde could have carried up to 140 passengers in a high-density configuration. Which would have provided the same discomfort level as today’s Regional Jets. You don’t attract First Class passengers by packing them in a tube like sardines.

    A supersonic business jet seating between 8 and 12 passengers might be more practical. Quite a few designs have been proposed, including the Tupolev Tu-444. But none has ever left the drawing board.

    If supersonic air travel is unaffordable to the masses, how will the cost of air travel ever be brought down to a level where “Joe Average” can take a trip?

    It’s not going to happen, despite the dreams of some and the hyperbole of others.

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ April 15th, 2012 at 4:47 am

    Except they are.

    It’s easy to disagree – any two-year old can do that. It’s harder to persuade with facts and logic. Maybe you’ll try that someday?

    If so, I suggest the Compare and Contrast method. Here is an appropriate-level website for you to use.

  • William Mellberg

    DCSCA wrote:

    “Post offices sold air mail stamps to citizens willing to pay for it and every citizen could access the service purchasing same. Not so w/t ISS.”

    Precisely! And that is the point that so many miss when they compare the early days of commercial aviation to “commercial” space. There is no comparison for the very reason you cite. Air mail was available to the masses. “Commercial” space is not. And it won’t be for a very long time.

  • William Mellberg

    Robert G. Oler wrote:

    “The Dash 80 and KC 135 are similar but different…and Boeing went to pains to keep the development lines separate.”

    The 707 and KC-135 were supposed to share the same airframe. But when Douglas offered the DC-8 with six-abreast seating, Boeing was forced to widen the 707 cabin by four inches (via a “double-lobe” fuselage) to match the competition and win additional sales. It was a costly but necessary change. Boeing did not go to “pains to keep the development lines separate.” Rather, they endured the pain of having to build separate fuselages in order to satisfy the commercial market. Of course, that change resulted in the tremendous success of the 707, 720, 727, 737 and 757 — all of which shared the same cabin cross-section.

    The first 707 order came from Pan Am in October 1955. They bought 20 707s … and 25 DC-8s! The first KC-135 orders from the USAF had been received one year earlier (September 1954). Boeing wound up selling more than 800 KC-135 Stratotankers — most of them to the USAF. Which is why much of the 707′s development costs were paid for with tax dollars (supporting the Airbus argument about the A300). Indeed, the Dash 80 prototype was designed and built with the goal of becoming a Jet Age successor to the piston-powered KC-97 in order to refuel the new B-47 and B-52 jet bombers.

  • William Mellberg

    Correction:

    “If supersonic air travel is unaffordable to the masses, how will the cost of air travel ever be brought down to a level where ‘Joe Average’ can take a trip?”

    Oops! I meant to say “space travel” — not air travel.

  • Using the ISS as a $3 billion a year make-work program is an extremely expensive and inefficient way to help support Commercial Crew companies. There simply isn’t enough manned spaceflight traffic to the ISS to support more than one or two companies. And two companies transporting personal to the ISS would struggle every year to financially survive.

    There have been eight tourism flights into space by the super wealthy. And there are nearly 100,000 wealthy people on the planet that could afford at least one $20 to $25 million trip into space. The question, however, is what percentage of that number would be willing spend that kind of money. If just 1% of that number bought tickets to a private space station per decade (0.1% per year), that would mean nearly 100 paying passengers annually (20 flights per year?). That should be enough to sustain at least four or five private launch companies.

    Additional traffic could come from national and international space lottos.

    It would also be substantially cheaper for NASA to end the $3 billion a year ISS program in 2016 and just spend a billion a year simply subsidizing a national space lotto system, ensuring that at least 40 or more average Americans would fly aboard private American space vehicles to private American space stations every year, perhaps 8 to 10 flights per year.

    NASA could then use the other $2 billion a year to support its beyond LEO program.

    Marcel F. Williams

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ April 15th, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    If supersonic air travel is unaffordable to the masses, how will the cost of [space travel] ever be brought down to a level where “Joe Average” can take a trip?

    and

    Air mail was available to the masses. “Commercial” space is not. And it won’t be for a very long time.

    Why do you keep presenting these straw-man arguments as fact?

    No one involved with Commercial Crew, or anyone in-the-know in the aerospace industry, is stating that they will bring the cost of getting to LEO down to the point where “Joe Average” can take a trip.

    The current price for transport to/from the ISS using Soyuz is $62.75M/seat ($188.25M for all three seats). Boeing says they will be competitive with Soyuz, and SpaceX plans to offer $20M/seat with a full capsule ($140M/flight). Maybe you meant “1% Joe Average”?

    And where is “Joe Average” supposed to go in space? Unless you believe in “secret space stations”, the only destinations now or even planned are places of work, not Best Westerns and Disneylands in space.

    And of course business jets are out of the reach of “Joe Average” for taking trips, yet the market is saturated with business jets in sizes ranging up to the Airbus ACJ380-800 “Flying Palace”. Even ground transportation for two can range up to $2.4M for a production car (the Bugatti Veyron), so you can stop your crocodile tears for “Joe Average” inability to enjoy expensive transportation options.

    Space will be a place of work for the foreseeable future, and it will be countries, governments and businesses that will be footing the costs for getting there. And yes, if there is room leftover, then some 1% types will be allowed to go too, but they do not drive the demand, they only take advantage of excess supply.

  • Robert G. Oler

    William Mellberg wrote @ April 15th, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    again a rather simplistic discussion.

    Three things doomed the Concorde (or any supersonic airplane)…in no particular order.

    The first was the inability to go supersonic over land. When the US FAA mandated subsonic flight that doomed the airplane. At that era in time there simply was not enough traffic “overseas” to support the airplane in any fashion.

    Second was the massive rise in fuel cost that occurred in the 70′s. The Concorde depended on “reheat” (afterburner) for its supersonic capability…and the fuel cost skyrocketed.

    The third was the introduction of the 747…Concorde was fast but on Revenue Seat miles…it simply could not compete…and to attract the lucrative business traveler…well you have to work the time zone changes to try and understand high value business travel…and where the numbers go.

    “A supersonic business jet seating between 8 and 12 passengers might be more practical.” not really. again the only “legs” it would likely have would be the US (east coast) to the UK (maybe paris)…and it would have the same time issues that the Concorde did…second with “short legs” it would be useless on longer legs…which are becoming commonplace. The G 650 is trying to run the best of both worlds…ie near supersonic cruise for the K(east coast) to London or Paris and other way…and then very very long legs for where the real action is now (US to Mideast/Africa/ Pacific)…

    you get an A for effort though

    RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    William Mellberg wrote @ April 15th, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    “If supersonic air travel is unaffordable to the masses, how will the cost of air travel (space travel) ever be brought down to a level where “Joe Average” can take a trip?”

    the same way it has worked in sub sonic air travel…or alternatively for the reason it has not developed in undersea travel…

    ie there will or will not be an economic system develop which spurs the technology development.

    Robert G. oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    William Mellberg wrote @ April 15th, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    It is not worth arguing as it is not a really space or space development issue…but you are clueless on the development of the KC 135 or the 707…

    RGO

  • pathfinder_01

    “If supersonic air travel is unaffordable to the masses, how will the cost of air travel ever be brought down to a level where ‘Joe Average’ can take a trip?”

    Easy, false comparison. Supper Sonic air travel is expensive becuase of Concorde’s design: Concorde has limited routes and range this means limited sales. A 747 for instance can go about 5,300 miles in it’s earliest form and is not limited to over sea routes. Concorde’s range was 4,500. It could only carry 100 passengers. Most airliner carry more than that. The fewer the passenger count the fewer the people you can spread your costs over. Basically Concorde suffered from increased costs of operation with fewer people to spread them over. So say if Concorde were say twice as expensive to operate, the ticket price would be far more than twice as much as a competing airliner due to low passenger count.

    In the case of space travel, like faster jet travel. Technology. Fly back boosters and other forms of reusablity will cut costs. Heck compared to the shuttle just using Atlas cuts costs.

    Here is a quote to think about:

    “I confess that in 1901, I said to my brother Orville that man would not fly for fifty years. . . . Ever since, I have distrusted myself and avoided all predictions.

    — Wilbur Wright, in a speech to the Aero Club of France, 5 November 1908.”

    I think that the first step into the rest of the universe by man is to make LEO accessable by more than just governments.

  • What laws of physics and economics are going to be changed to bring space travel to “Joe Average” anytime in the next 50 years?

    What “laws of physics and economics” would those be? The current high cost of spaceflight is not required by any laws of physics.

  • William Mellberg

    Coastal Ron wrote:

    “No one … is stating that they will bring the cost of getting to LEO down to the point where ‘Joe Average’ can take a trip.”

    Elon Musk is. Indeed, Mr. Musk not only predicts sending “Joe Average” into LEO, he claims he’ll be sending thousands of “settlers” to Mars and plans to retire there himself. That sort of hyperbole is why some people don’t take Mr. Musk as seriously as they might otherwise.

    Pathfinder_01 wrote:

    “False comparison.”

    No. You don’t seem to understand transportation economics. The Boeing 2707 represented a significant increase in capacity (250+ passengers) and range (4,250 miles) over Concorde. But it did not decrease the enormous cost of producing a titanium aircraft and feeding its incredibly fuel-thirsty engines. As such, the 2707 would not have lowered seat-mile costs or ticket prices appreciably over Concorde. Thus, you would have had low load factors (lots of empty seats) on every flight, making the aircraft a totally uneconomic proposition. There simply weren’t enough millionaires to fill hundreds of giant SSTs. A sustainable market for SST did not exist. And that is the reason Boeing pulled the plug as soon as Congress pulled the tax dollars on the American SST. That is also the reason no other SST has gotten airborne since (besides the ill-fated Tupolev Tu-144 which was withdrawn from service after less than 100 scheduled flights).

    Flying an SST at Mach 2+ and 60,000 feet is one thing. Flying into space (and returning) where the environment is even more hostile is quite another. It is one thing for governments to send people into space. It is quite another to do it safely and profitably as a private venture. Those who think that the cost of space travel will be brought down to anything approaching fares that will be affordable for space tourism (other than for the 1%) are kidding themselves. You can’t fool Mother Nature. And the laws of physics and economics make the dream of routine space travel just that … a dream.

    The question is, should billions of tax dollars be spent pursuing another dream? That’s what happened for a decade with the American SST. And after billions of dollars were spent on the project, not a single American SST was built or flown. The private sector never supported SST development in the US, or in Britain and France (where average taxpayers objected to the money that was being spent to build an airplane for the super rich). That’s because the private sector (banks, investors) knew the SST was a losing proposition.

    BTW, my friend Jim Floyd designed a Mach 1.15 “no boom” SST when he was the head of Hawker Siddeley’s Advanced Projects Group in the early 1960s. The “boom” from his Type 1011 (no relation to the later Lockheed L-1011) would not have reached the ground. So the aircraft could have been flown overland. Floyd preferred the Type 1011 to the proposals which evolved into Concorde. But the British government wanted Mach 2, not Mach 1.15. (I did an interview with Jim Floyd about his “no boom” SST for AIRLINERS magazine many years ago.)

    Nearly four decades later, Boeing revisited Floyd’s concept with its Sonic Cruiser. However, the increased operating costs of the Sonic Cruiser (which was designed to fly just under Mach 1, but which could have been adapted to fly at Mach 1.15) failed to attract any airline customers. So Boeing went with the 787 which lowered operating costs. A wise decision, it would seem.

    Robert G. Oler wrote:

    “You are clueless on the development of the KC-135 or 707 …”

    I suppose that’s why MECHANICAL ENGINEERING magazine asked me to write a short history of the Boeing 367-80 (the 707/KC-135 prototype) for their “100 Years of Flight” special issue in 2003.

    You should find a copy of my old FAMOUS AIRLINERS book (look for the expanded 2nd edition with Concorde taking off on the cover) on eBay or Amazon.com or your local library. You might find it to be entertaining and enlightening.

  • Robert G. Oler

    William Mellberg wrote @ April 16th, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    I suppose that’s why MECHANICAL ENGINEERING magazine asked me to write a short history of the Boeing 367-80 (the 707/KC-135 prototype) for their “100 Years of Flight” special issue in 2003.””

    If you wrote the same thing you wrote on this blog all it shows is that people who dont know a lot are impressed by people who know a little.

    Technology does not exist by itself in most instances. Apollo and Concorde are two examples where the technology was “forced” by government who were trying to make some political statement with the technology; not so much to design a product that was economically viable.

    The 707/KC-135/Dash 80 is an excellent example of when the economics of an issue pushed “risk takers” toward making a decision to integrate technology into a product to see who would “buy”.

    the 367-80 is an excellent example of a company taking measured risk. All the parts were there through previous efforts (swept wing podded engines, pressurized cabins) but the potential customers (the airlines in particular) were shy about such a product…so Boeing put an airplane together.

    That is why the -80 is a one of a kind…it is neither a 707 or a KC 135 (or one of the hybrids made from 707 and KC 135 parts)…it was a demo and it worked for the client base.

    In many ways Boeing did with the dash what Musk is trying to do with the Falcon9/Dragon combination. People like you today have an easy time connecting the dots because the dots are history…Musk’s dots are ahrder to connect because they are the future (either success or failure).

    There are economic “Mini systems” associated with technologies that continually advance and lower cost and raise capability…they all have to come together to create those mini systems. Ask Convair. Their notion of a jumbo passenger carrier was a few decades to early.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    William Mellberg wrote @ April 16th, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    Flying an SST at Mach 2+ and 60,000 feet is one thing. Flying into space (and returning) where the environment is even more hostile is quite another. >>

    not so much RGO

  • William Mellberg

    Rand Simberg wrote:

    “What “laws of physics and economics” would those be? The current high cost of spaceflight is not required by any laws of physics.”

    Some of the same laws of physics and economics which make it so very difficult for commercial airlines to earn a profit while flying hundreds of flights and carrying hundreds of thousands of people every day. And they don’t have to operate in a vacuum with huge temperature extremes and searing re-entry profiles.

    I’m all for reducing the cost of sending payloads into space. But the suggestion by some enthusiasts that those costs can be lowered to anything like today’s air fares, making space tourism affordable to the masses, is totally unrealistic.

  • Martijn Meijering

    The question is, should billions of tax dollars be spent pursuing another dream?

    Should many more billions be spent on SLS / Orion?

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ April 16th, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    Elon Musk is.

    In a decade he said he thinks he could get the costs down to $100-200K/seat to LEO, which would be within the reach of someone that wants to splurge. But he also said that he doesn’t know what someone would do, since there wouldn’t be any destination for a volume of high-spending people to visit. He was talking about the supply side of the market, not the demand side.

    Indeed, Mr. Musk not only predicts sending “Joe Average” into LEO, he claims he’ll be sending thousands of “settlers” to Mars and plans to retire there himself.

    I think you’re having a hard time separating goals (i.e. lowering costs to LEO and Mars) with firm plans. It is Musks goal to lower the costs for accessing not only LEO, but also Mars. That is a goal.

    That sort of hyperbole is why some people don’t take Mr. Musk as seriously as they might otherwise.

    If you understood the definition of the word “hyperbole“, then you would know that it doesn’t apply. Musk has publicly identified the transportation elements that would allow SpaceX to dramatically lower the costs to not only LEO, but also Mars.

    - Falcon 9 exists and has flown twice.

    - The FAA is looking at issuing a permit to allow reusable rocket testing based on Falcon 9, which could lead to a partially (1st stage only) or fully reusable rocket system.

    - SpaceX is partnered with Stratolaunch for yet another method of reusable flight hardware.

    - The Dragon spacecraft, which has already flown and been recovered, is built to be reusable.

    - Falcon Heavy, which adds two Falcon 9 1st stages as boosters on a Falcon 9 core, and is planned for it’s first flight around 2013-14.

    If Musk was engaging in hyperbole, there wouldn’t be any evidence of how he would get from here to there. But he has shown how he wants to get there, and if successful it is possible that he can reach his stated goals. How in any way is that hyperbole?

  • Martijn Meijering

    But the suggestion by some enthusiasts that those costs can be lowered to anything like today’s air fares, making space tourism affordable to the masses, is totally unrealistic.

    Can you name any of these enthusiasts? I’ve not seen anyone here suggest that the masses will be able to afford this earlier than at least a hundred years from now, probably more. A thousand years from now, sure.

  • William Mellberg

    Martijn Meijering wrote:

    “Should many more billions be spent on SLS / Orion?”

    That is a question for US taxpayers (of which I am one) to answer through their elected officials.

    And that question addresses another question:

    Do the American people still believe that exploring John Kennedy’s “New Ocean” of space is worth the cost?

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ April 16th, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    But the suggestion by some enthusiasts that those costs can be lowered to anything like today’s air fares, making space tourism affordable to the masses, is totally unrealistic.

    Again you are presenting straw-man arguments. No one is stating that people will be able to fly to space for the same price as flying from New York to Denver, or even New York to Tokyo. That is complete fiction.

    But I do wonder though why you think lowering the cost of getting someone to LEO by, say, $10M/seat is not significant? What about $20M/seat? At what point is money an issue for you? Shouldn’t we be celebrating the ability to stop paying ever increasing amounts of money to access space?

    I’m not sure you are focusing on what matters, which is a lack of money for doing what everyone wants to do in space. We’re not going to get to Mars, much less the Moon, unless we lower costs beyond where they are today. $30B for a rocket? $1.5B/flight? Non-reusable hardware? We can’t afford too much space exploration like that. Why you and others don’t encourage lowering those costs is beyond me…

  • William Mellberg

    Robert G.Oler wrote:

    “If you wrote the same thing you wrote on this blog all it shows is that people who dont know a lot are impressed by people who know a little.”

    FYI, Mr. Oler, MECHANICAL ENGINEERING is a peer-reviewed magazine published by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. (ASME named the Boeing 367-80 as an International Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark in 1994.) Unfortunately, the on-line version of their special “100 Years of Flight” issue is no longer accessible to the general public. Otherwise, I’d suggest you read it … and learn. You might also look for a copy of the March 2007 issue of AIR INTERNATIONAL which included my short history of the 707 (pp. 64-66). It was one of a series of airliner histories that I wrote for that highly-respected publication. AIR INTERNATIONAL is the UK’s best-selling aviation magazine (widely distributed overseas). They don’t publish articles by “people who know a little.”

    Of course, your comments never surprise me.

  • pathfinder_01

    “Do the American people still believe that exploring John Kennedy’s “New Ocean” of space is worth the cost?”

    This pro space American thinks not. If you do not lower the price to space, nothing will ever be economical. I want a world where you DON”T need the US government to fund a lunar trip. If you could lower into the millions then say a university could sponsor a trip.

    Here is the rub. The reason why we have not gone deeply into space is because it is too expensive. 3 billion dollars could upgrade my local mass transit and help thousands. Or you can look at three guys dancing on the moon knowing full well that you, your grand kids and your great grand kids will never go there via NASA due to cost and probability. I want to expand space travel, not keep it forever scared.

    If Columbus had to replace his three ships every time he went out there would be little exploration of the new world. If he approached it like the Chinese with large thousand ship fleets then again it would not be sustinable. If he were as primative as the vikings colonization of the new world would be hard, very hard. We need to move technology not with stunts but with lowering costs and increased capacity.

  • William Mellberg

    Martin Meijering wrote:

    “Can you name any of these enthusiasts?”

    What about pathfinder_01? He/she wrote the following in this very thread:

    “It is understood that commercial space will first cater to the rich, but like many things the rich are often the first to do like oh, fly. I mean john Joe average probably didn’t consider flying until the 1950ies.”

    The implication is that just as air travel was something of a luxury for business travelers in the 1950s, it had become commonplace for average people less than 20 years later with the advent of jumbo jets. And so it will go with space travel. But I seriously doubt if space travel will be affordable to average people within any of our lifetimes. The economics simply don’t work because a need/demand/mass market does not exist for human spaceflight. Musk himself has talked about the need to fly his rockets and spacecraft hundreds of times a year to come even close to lowering costs enough that space tourism would be within reach of the 99%.

    I’ve talked with college students who are firmly convinced that “Elon” will be sending them into space by the time they’re 40. Of course, when I was their age, I was firmly convinced that I’d be flying aboard Boeing SSTs by the time I was 40. That was before I got into the commercial aviation industry and came face-to-face with economic reality.

    Dreamers are welcome to dream on. But please … don’t pay for those dreams with my American taxpayer dollars.

  • William Mellberg

    pathfinder_01 wrote:

    “I want a world where you DON”T need the US government to fund a lunar trip.”

    Then come up with a revolutionary design that will lower the costs as you suggest, and find the funding IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR to build it. You’ll get the capital for an idea that will work. But you’ll get nothing for a pipe dream.

  • Robert G. Oler

    William Mellberg wrote @ April 16th, 2012 at 5:21 pm
    :

    Do the American people still believe that exploring John Kennedy’s “New Ocean” of space is worth the cost?>>

    depends on what the cost is.

    New Horizons is a fairly modest expenditure for an Empire..and it is the spirit of an Empire based on pushing back the frontiers of knowledge and activities.

    6 people on ISS singing songs and playing with lego things and costing about 1 billion or so a piece? Oh probably not RGO

  • William Mellberg

    Coastal Ron wrote:

    “We’re not going to get to Mars, much less the Moon, unless we lower costs beyond where they are today.”

    We’re not going to get to Mars, much less the Moon, with President Obama canceling human exploration of the Moon and robotic missions to Mars. That said, I can’t say much would change with a President Romney given his comments on the subject.

    Coastal Ron added:

    “Why you and others don’t encourage lowering those costs is beyond me …”

    I can’t speak for others, but I think you know that I’ve supported the efforts by SpaceX, Orbital Sciences and others to service the ISS with lower cost hardware. Frankly, I have no choice but to support them. It’s them or nothing at this point. So I wish them well. And I have said so here consistently.

    But, as you also know, I support government-sponsored programs (including multi-national efforts like the ISS) to explore space beyond LEO. At the moment, economic reality makes those efforts less appealing. In the long-run, however, commercial space and space exploration would both become the beneficiaries of a permanent human presence on the Moon. As you are well aware, Dr. Paul Spudis (among others) has written about those prospects at length.

    http://www.spudislunarresources.com/

  • pathfinder_01

    Ah Elon gets support because he does get things done which is more than I can say for NASA. Ah it took longer than jumbo jets to make air travel affordable. The first flight of anything was in the 18th century. If you just count airplanes the first Wright flights took place in 1903.

    If a need for HSF that exists outside of government does not arrive, there will be no human spaceflight period. The lunar landing will be talked about the same way we talk about the Chinese fleets of exploration.

    Anyway there is a need for cargo and crew at the moment, it is called the ISS. There is some demand outside of government there have been 7 trips to the ISS and there would probably have been more if the US wasn’t hogging all the Soyuz seats. Heck even other governments and political parties have paid to put people into space. Heck one trip was paid for by a Japanese newspaper!

    The need can be expanded, many millionaires questioned stated they would love to stay at a space station and Bigleow has launched two prototype stations into orbit (not to mention other people interested in space stations). I do think it can be made cheap enough for billionaires at this point. Heck airplanes pre WWI are nothing more than gentleman’s toys. I mean look at the first airplanes, not faster than a train, very limited range, can fly only under clear weather conditions. Useless toys they would be without development.

    I don’t think spaceflight will be affordable to the common man in my lifetime, but I do think that if we don’t start to get the price down now it will never be and will forever be in pearl of ending as not worth the cost. NASA cannot live on glory days and hopes budget increases. It must do what everyone else throughout history has done. Do more with less and commercial is the way to do this.

  • pathfinder_01

    Anyway here is a radical idea to lower the cost of spaceflight. If you had reusable solar electric tug, you could use the COTS craft to supply a BEO mission. A Cygnus for instance could carry enough to supply a crew of 3-4 for about 3 months. If instead of worrying about building a rocket you did this NASA could supply a station at l1/l2 for not much more than an ISS run. Or if they used something commercial like Delta instead of SLS to do the lifting you would find that almost any mission happens a lot faster and cheaper.

  • DCSCA

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ April 16th, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    William Mellberg wrote @ April 16th, 2012 at 2:48 pm
    Flying an SST at Mach 2+ and 60,000 feet is one thing. Flying into space (and returning) where the environment is even more hostile is quite another. >>not so much RGO”

    Except it is. =eyeroll= “I wish it wasn’t so hard.” — Elon Musk.

  • The economics simply don’t work because a need/demand/mass market does not exist for human spaceflight.

    Every survey ever done on the subject indicates that about half the public would like to visit space if they could afford it.

    Musk himself has talked about the need to fly his rockets and spacecraft hundreds of times a year to come even close to lowering costs enough that space tourism would be within reach of the 99%.

    You don’t need the put it within reach of the 99% to make it much less costly (by orders of magnitude) than it is today. And there are no laws of physics preventing this.

  • DCSCA

    @William Mellberg wrote @ April 16th, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    “I support government-sponsored programs (including multi-national efforts like the ISS) to explore space beyond LEO. At the moment, economic reality makes those efforts less appealing. In the long-run, however, commercial space and space exploration would both become the beneficiaries of a permanent human presence on the Moon.”

    Precisely.

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ April 17th, 2012 at 11:19 am

    Except it is. =eyeroll= “I wish it wasn’t so hard.” — Elon Musk.”

    and I wish that when I woke up from having my tonsils out the pony that the person giving me the ether (and it was that) was outside my room.

    You take that line out of context…but life is hard. All human endeavor to climb up out of the slime pit of religious intolerance, sheer lack of knowledge and the intolerance of the dumb…is hard.Galileo must have marveled at the pain the Catholic Church of the day was putting him under…because he could see the moons of Jupiter and so could they if they would look.

    It is hard to find the right team which finds the right technology all at a price that puts together a product that sells…if it were not then there would be thousands of Southwest copies around.

    RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    pathfinder_01 wrote @ April 16th, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    I don’t think spaceflight will be affordable to the common man in my lifetime, but I do think that if we don’t start to get the price down now it will never be and will forever be in pearl of ending as not worth the cost. NASA cannot live on glory days and hopes budget increases. It must do what everyone else throughout history has done. Do more with less and commercial is the way to do this.>>

    well said RGO

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ April 16th, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    But, as you also know, I support government-sponsored programs (including multi-national efforts like the ISS) to explore space beyond LEO. At the moment, economic reality makes those efforts less appealing. In the long-run, however, commercial space and space exploration would both become the beneficiaries of a permanent human presence on the Moon. As you are well aware, Dr. Paul Spudis (among others) has written about those prospects at length.

    It’s funny that you were talking earlier about “…why the taxpayers ought to be subsidizing more than two [crew] providers when the “market” is so limited?” You saw the Commercial Crew Program as a subsidy.

    My response was that NASA already has demand for cargo and crew services, and they are dual/multi-sourcing their sources of supply. By any definition, that would not be a subsidy. That could change if the government decides to buy an excess amount of transportation – which would be a subsidy – but that hasn’t happened.

    I’m sure you have read the Spudis/Lavoie lunar resources plan, and I wonder if you realize that they are talking about the government subsidizing a non-existant lunar LH2 & LO2 market? Dr. Spudis has been very clear that their plan would be funded by the government ahead of any demand, and that meets the definition of a subsidized market.

    Interesting, huh?

  • Robert G. Oler

    Rand Simberg wrote @ April 17th, 2012 at 11:29 am

    You don’t need the put it within reach of the 99% to make it much less costly (by orders of magnitude) than it is today”

    EXACTLY …and dropping it by a orders of magnitude will dramatically change the market that exist today. and that will start the cycle…well said RGO

  • Coastal Ron

    I don’t know when Jeff Foust updated his original post, but I see he has added comments from Paul Damphousse.

    I still stand by my original post at the top, in that I think the NSS is not very clear in why they support what they do support. I think it’s nice to like everything, but in these tight economic times not everything is affordable enough to be useful.

    For instance, I don’t see that there is enough money in NASA’s shrinking budget to support building the SLS, operating the SLS, and building SLS-specific missions for it. Each SLS-sized mission is likely to take $10B+ and 10+ years to build – how many other those can NASA afford, and what does the SLS do in the meantime besides consuming NASA budget? It doesn’t add up.

    And even if we do continue to build the SLS, when would we finally be able to launch a stream of missions using it? By 2030? That means a two decade wait for leaving LEO, and we know we can leave LEO today with existing rockets. So why are we building the SLS? No one, not even the NSS, has a good answer for this. And by good, I mean an identified/demonstrated “pain” or limitation that we have today that only the SLS can solve. What customers, with money, are clamoring for the SLS? * crickets chirping *

    Commercial Crew & Cargo need to meet this requirement too, and I think they do. What happens if we don’t have a redundant ability to get crew to LEO? What happens if we don’t have automated cargo vehicles that can get cargo to & from space? How does that affect our ability to expand in LEO or mount missions beyond LEO?

    What if the NSS had to choose one of these two to support? I’m not saying that they would be active in advocating the cancellation of the other, just that they would be a vocal advocate for the preferred one?

    Because Congress seems like they want to choose one over the other, so this is not some theoretical discussion. Lines are being drawn, budgets being allocated. I think people need to think about how our efforts in space would unfold if we had to choose to fully support the budget of one while not 100% supporting the other.

    NASA doesn’t get enough money to 100% support both, so it’s time to choose. The NSS can’t advocate for everything – I think they need to narrow their choices.

    My $0.02

  • Robert G. Oler

    Coastal Ron wrote @ April 17th, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    I don’t know when Jeff Foust updated his original post, but I see he has added comments from Paul Damphousse.>>

    the added comments are useless.. Sorry Paul. what for instance is NSS going to do when SLS either goes over budget or slips? And you must know Paul it will…so whats the plan?

    RGO

  • Martijn Meijering

    But I seriously doubt if space travel will be affordable to average people within any of our lifetimes.

    So do I.

    Dreamers are welcome to dream on. But please … don’t pay for those dreams with my American taxpayer dollars.

    Then why don’t you apply the same reasoning to SLS / Orion? NASA can send its astronauts beyond LEO using competitively procured launchers and competitively procured capsules. There’s no reason to have vehicles with a monopoly on transport of government crew and payloads and no reason not to make those vehicles available to commercial clients as well. If no one takes them up on that offer, fine. Recent history suggest they will however.

  • Martijn Meijering

    That is a question for US taxpayers (of which I am one) to answer through their elected officials.

    And something for visitors of this forums to discuss. We are not required to agree with the US Congress and we’re totally free to criticise its decisions.

    And that question addresses another question:

    Do the American people still believe that exploring John Kennedy’s “New Ocean” of space is worth the cost?

    Who knows. I do know that substantially lower budgets than NASA has had historically would be enough to make significant breakthroughs in the commercial viability of manned spaceflight at no extra cost to exploration. In fact exploration would be likely to benefit enormously from it too.

  • DCSCA

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ April 17th, 2012 at 11:54 am

    The context is not only accurate but alarmingly revealing. He clearly ‘doesn’t know what he doesn’t know yet’ -b ut is discovering it’s harder than he thought. Points to Cernan, as expected.

    @Rand Simberg wrote @ April 17th, 2012 at 11:29 am

    “Every survey ever done on the subject indicates that about half the public would like to visit space if they could afford it.”

    Which is why Branson’s suborbital enterprise, really an entertainment exercise, will be an illuminating business model once it’s operatoonal- and a logical next step for deep-pocketed general public access before attempting the move to orbital flight. Folks who can’t swim say they like to relax and float in bathtub, too. Your citation is essentially meaningless if only by the physiological constraints and rigors involved alone. Not every aged Aunt Bea w/a heart condition who waxes starry-eyed at the night sky with a bank account is in shape to manage the stresses involved of getting launched into and returning from space as the well trained John Glenn was when he flew on shuttle and most Opie’s today aren’t in as good a shape as the younger, 40 year old Glenn was when he few aboard Friendship 7 in ’62. Getting there would risk the lives of many of them beyond the parameters of the flight itself given the obesity levels of the ‘public’ the American public that is.

    They not only put their own lives at risk but risk others along for the ride not to mention the liabilities it exposes to the operator. Which makes Branson’s effort all the more interesting to watch and see how it plays out in the marektplace. It’s easy for Opie and Aunt Bea say they’d love to go in a phone survey from the comfort of their homes after watching an old episode of ‘Star Trek.’

  • pathfinder_01

    Costal Ron:

    “ Commercial Crew & Cargo need to meet this requirement too, and I think they do. What happens if we don’t have a redundant ability to get crew to LEO? What happens if we don’t have automated cargo vehicles that can get cargo to & from space? How does that affect our ability to expand in LEO or mount missions beyond LEO?”

    Most of the BEO now with large rocket Apollo 2.0 types don’t consider this. For instance having commercial crew opens up the possibility that you don’t need to travel home in the same craft you launched in. You could design a capsule or other return system for return only. In the case of HEFT there were substaintial cost savings by doing so.

    It was like $840 million a unit for an Orion that did both launch and landing vs. $597 million a unit for one that just did landing but otherwise had the same functionality vs. $400 million a unit for one that just did landing and had no in space crew support time(about 9 days for the other two verisions). In addition without a LAS an Atlas could lift Orion to LEO vs. needing at least a Delta heavy to get to LEO much less SLS.

    Mars DRM 5.0, used two different versions of Orion on each mission! A CCDEV craft could handle the job of one of them, cheaper.

    Automated cargo is needed for any realistic expansion into the solar system. You really can’t carry everything with you without huge penalty and the smart move is to use commercial rockets for resupply since they would be cheaper.

  • pathfinder_01

    Anyway what ccdev and commercial could enable is a cheaper, more sane BEO plan. Instead of trying to build a 3 stage rocket (SLS) NASA could just work on an Orion plus and upper stage to push it to l1/l2. Such a stage could be launched on existing Delta heavy or perhaps the FH once it has proven itself. Launch Orion to ISS(or other station), Launch crew via ccrew(all ccrew craft hold 7 enough to man Orion and transfer the crew of the ISS), launch upper stage. Atlas, Delta, FH don’t cost NASA near as much as a government owned system would.

    The focus really should be on payloads and technology not rockets. SEP or prop depot\transfer could be used to move items to l1/l2 such as landers, habs ect.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Instead of trying to build a 3 stage rocket (SLS) NASA could just work on an Orion plus and upper stage to push it to l1/l2.

    A modified Centaur or DCSS would do the trick, so we don’t need a new NASA upper stage. It would even be a step towards ACES (and ACES depots) and EELV Phase 1. And of Orion only the SM and avionics are needed, not the CM which could be an appropriately modified crew capsule. Just the SM and missions, that’s what NASA needs to focus on.

  • Coastal Ron

    pathfinder_01 wrote @ April 19th, 2012 at 3:52 am

    Most of the BEO now with large rocket Apollo 2.0 types don’t consider this. For instance having commercial crew opens up the possibility that you don’t need to travel home in the same craft you launched in.

    Yep. There is a lack of an overall transportation plan for operating beyond LEO, for both human occupied vehicles as well as automated ones.

    And since transportation-related hardware currently consumes the front end of all of NASA’s HSF schedules and budget profiles, we are stuck in LEO waiting for one-off solutions that won’t add lasting value (i.e. SLS). Until that mindset is changed – which means decoupling large chunks of money from single suppliers and political districts – we’re not going anywhere fast.

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ April 18th, 2012 at 12:12 am

    @ It’s easy for Opie and Aunt Bea say they’d love to go in a phone survey from the comfort of their homes after watching an old episode of ‘Star Trek.’>>

    In one of the last episodes of Mayberry RFD…Aunt Bea solo’s a Cessna 150.

    RGO

  • Martijn Meijering

    the NSS is not taking the role of “bomb-thrower” in attacking something that is in fact the LAW

    OK, let me get this straight. If a lobbying organisation attacks something that is the law, then it’s bomb-throwing?

  • Coastal Ron

    Martijn Meijering wrote @ April 20th, 2012 at 7:56 am

    OK, let me get this straight. If a lobbying organisation attacks something that is the law, then it’s bomb-throwing?

    A very good observation Martijn.

    However if the NSS wants to avoid the perception of being “Against” something, I think the best way to do that is only talk about what they are “For”.

    Focus their energy on what they see as their top priorities, and if anyone asks about anything else, then just say that it’s not their top priority at this time. That way they at least have a strong voice on something, which right now they don’t – as far as I can tell they support everything, which means nothing.

  • Martijn Meijering

    However if the NSS wants to avoid the perception of being “Against” something, I think the best way to do that is only talk about what they are “For”.

    A good point and it’s fine if they do that. But Damphousse was effectively tarring people who publicly criticise SLS / Orion with the label bomb-thrower. That’s crossing the line.

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