Congress, Pentagon

Export control, spaceport measures added to defense authorization bill

Given how heated a topic like export control reform can be, yesterday was almost an anticlimax. At the beginning of debate on HR 4310, the defense authorization bill for fiscal year 2013, the House approved by voice vote a group of amendements deemed sufficiently non-controversial that they could be enacted without individual debate on each. Included in that group of amendments was one that would give the President authority to take satellites and related components off the US Munitions List, although still requiring Congressional consent and with restrictions on the export of such items to China and several other nations.

The passage of the amendment was celebrated by Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “Treating commercial satellites and components as if they were lethal weapons, regardless of whether they’re going to friend or foe, has gravely harmed American space manufacturers,” he said in a statement. “We depend on these manufacturers for our own critical defense needs; if onerous restrictions prevent them from competing in the international marketplace, then they can’t innovate and ultimately cannot survive.”

It’s not the first time that export control reform has made it through the House: the House included similar language in its State Department authorization act in 2009. That legislation died in the Senate, though. A companion provision (either in the Senate’s version of the defense authorization bill, in another bill, or as a standalone piece of legislation) has yet to be introduced.

Also included in that block of amendments passed on a voice vote was one introduced by Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) regarding cooperation on spaceport infrastructure, allowing the DOD to work with and accept funding from outside organizations to improve facilities at federal ranges. “Rolling back the red tape and enabling Defense Department, Space Florida, and the commercial sector to collaborate and work together is just a common sense way to make America more competitive,” Posey said in a statement Thursday.

76 comments to Export control, spaceport measures added to defense authorization bill

  • David Teek

    I’m glad to see Rep. Posey’s measure make it into the authorization act, that was pretty quick. Congratulations.

    Based upon this action, it would now be appropriate and beneficial for DOD, US DOT, NASA, the Florida DOT and industry to start working on a framework for a five year Spaceport Comprehensive Improvement Plan in anticipation of this language becoming law. While much discussion has occurred around the future of KSC (completely appropriate), it seems like people forget that CCAFS is there sometimes. The Bush space transportation policy (federal launch ranges are national assets) and the Obama national space policy (resilience and industry base) provide a sufficient policy basis for this step – it could be provided further backstopping and validation in the upcoming Obama space transportation policy revisions / update.

    The range has been under-invested in both infrastructure maintenance & development and technology upgrades for decades. The range serves NASA’s LSP and commercial launch as much as it does defense and intelligence, and could have a much larger role in a technology development and demonstration. The shifts in fundamental defense policy place much greater emphasis on space support for the war fighter – a robust and resilient launch head is a fundamental enabler for that.

    It is time for the agencies to move beyond expressing support for collaboration and getting about the business of putting together a five year plan with dates and dollars that leverages the overlaps and fills the gaps. In doing so, I also hope it will be driven by the folks at the 45th Space Wing, KSC and others on the ground – who have been doing a lot of this using workarounds for years.

    Roads, runways and rail should include seaports and spaceports. It is critical strategic infrastructure serving the national economy – not just national security.

  • pr

    I still have to ask whether ITAR is going to retain its current effect of squashing free exchange if ideas. ITAR’s most pernicious impact is not that it restricts export of physical goods, it’s that the release of “technical data” is treated as a crime because it might eventually cross a national border. And “technical data” means anything, so speaking of anything in public is a felony. Presenting a paper at a conference might be a crime. Posting meaningful promotional materials on the web might be a crime. You can’t tell, and if you can’t tell, the tendency is to stay on the safe side.

  • Robert G. Oler

    David Teek wrote @ May 18th, 2012 at 10:57 am

    good issue RGO

  • amightywind

    I still have to ask whether ITAR is going to retain its current effect of squashing free exchange if ideas.

    I hope it does. We don’t need for the Chinese to understand our military communications capabilities. We don’t need the Russians to understand our missile defenses. Your polyanaish notions of the free exchange of ideas end when national security it involved. Its where the words ‘I’d tell you but I’d have to shoot you’ are no joke. Ask an Iranian nuclear scientist if I am exaggerating.

  • common sense

    @ amightywind wrote @ May 18th, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    It’s because of ignorance that ITAR is not being revisited and is hurting our industry abroad. You really have no idea what you are talking about.

    All you refer to are covered under clearances that have nothing to do with ITAR. These clearances exist at the DoD, DoE, etc. All you refer to cannot be disseminated and you have to be (generally speaking) a US citizen to acquire any form of clearance.

    ITAR protection as enforced is idiotic. In order to receive any ITAR protected information you must be a US person, i.e. a citizen or a permanent resident, and that’s pretty much it.

    A permanent resident does not owe allegiance to the US. Let’s try again: A permanent resident does not owe allegiance to the US.

    You do not shoot any one for ITAR violation.

    Try better this really is pathetic.

  • Vladislaw

    We are not talking about nuclear weapon secrets. We are talking about not being able to sell a satellite with the same identical capabilities as a european satellite. Only we can not sell an identical product that can be purchased anywhere in europe.

  • Robert G. Oler

    amightywind wrote @ May 18th, 2012 at 1:57 pm
    Ask an Iranian nuclear scientist if I am exaggerating.>>

    any of them are still laughing over your statement about the Falcon 9…so this post just makes them laugh harder.

    You and Willard should get along well…neither of you is dealing in reality or facts…seesh RGO

  • DCSCA

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ May 18th, 2012 at 11:38 pm

    “… about the Falcon 9…so this post just makes them laugh harder…”

    Yeah, them-thare-Falcons are real knee slapping, collorful critters when they fizzle on the pad in the wee hours and miss yet another scheduled launch date– or when their cousins failed and dumped the remains of Gordo Cooper, Jimmy Doohan and a few hundred others into the drink:

    “[if] SpaceX launches its Falcon 9 rocket it will secretly be carrying celebrities. Actor James Doohan, who played Scotty on the original “Star Trek” series, died in 2005. His ashes will be on board this mission — as will those of Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper and 306 other people….This is the second time around for Celestis and Space X; the companies tried to launch Doohan and Cooper and 206 others back in August 2008. When SpaceX launched the remains on its Falcon1 rocket, the rocket never made it to space. When the rocket failed to get to orbit, neither did the cremated remains, or, for that matter, some small satellites sent by NASA and the Department of Defense.”

    source- http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/spacex-launch-falcon-rocket-carries-cremated-ashes-james/story?id=16373201

  • vulture4

    I agree. Any information that is vital to national security should e classified. The supposed purpose of ITAR was to limit the sales of actual arms, not to keep secrets. Thales puts headlines on its ads saying “ITAR-free”.

  • thomas m hancock III

    ITAR was designed to limit the flow of technology, ideas, capabilities and research to other nations. This was done for national security reason and national economic interest. The help Loral gave China in the 90’s provided them a commercial launch industry. In 1984 the Russian effectively abandoned independent research to copy/build off what was developed in the US and other western nations. Falcon 9 would make a nice ICBM for some Peoples Republic. ITAR is a pain; I have been impacted by it many, many times. The free exchange of engineering ideas is a myth. Everything we design, build and fly has a military application. Don’t put bullets in a bad guys gun.

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ May 19th, 2012 at 5:54 am

    LOL I test airplanes for a living…all of us who do are laughing at you. The other day we didnt get a 757 father then trying to start the APU(s)…

    sorry I find all the comments you make about SpaceX being “delayed” some of the weaker ones you make..you obviously do not have a clue about test flying RGO

  • E.P. Grondine

    Its nice to see our legislators work together to address the problems facing this nation.

  • DCSCA

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ May 19th, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    “LOL I test airplanes for a living…”

    Which may explain why your knowledge base of modern rocketry is so poor. The bottom line is Space X failed again to meet a launch date, reaffirming that the only thing reliable about Space X is their unreliability. Space X has been contracted to deliver goods and services, not have an open-ended test program financed. And, of course, they have not lofted a D/F stack on a ‘test flight’ in over 17 months. But if you’re into comedy, Diller’s terminal count’ is a classic and sure to make the Daily Show.

  • Miya

    DCSCA’s just disappointed the rocket didn’t blow up on the pad.

  • David Teek

    I was lucky enough to be out at KSC for the launch attempt today. When Charlie Bolden spoke to the group, he emphasized that this is a test flight, and the purpose of test flights is to, well, test. The nature of successful rocketry is not that nothing unexpected ever happens, it is that you have designed a system and processes that can deal with the unexpected. One tank was reading over pressure, so the vehicle did exactly what it was supposed to do.

    Once the engine cut off, I listened as the launch controller quickly and calmly stepped the control team through the process to safe the vehicle (de-arming the FTS, venting tanks, etc.) and confirm when it was in appropriate status. Maybe an engine needs to be switched out / maybe a sensor needs to be switched out. We’ll know soon enough, and the architecture is such that SpaceX will be able to do this quickly without a lot of fuss or bother.

    The Falcon 9 launch manifest (http://www.spacex.com/launch_manifest.php) has somewhere around forty flights, of which 13 are for NASA (this test flight and 12 ISS fee for service resupply flights). The rest are commercial entities voting with their dollars. Further, the potential for real opportunity driven activities in LEO represented by the Bigelowe / SpaceX combination ought to be appreciated by anyone who sees space as something other than an opportunity for congressional appropriations.

    Over the years, I have seen a lot of vehicles (including Challenger) turned into flaming debris spread across the sky. Some may see a T +1 second engine cutoff as a failure to be mocked, I see it as a success to be grateful for.

    It seems that some on this board can’t defend their preferred option on the merits, and so can only resort to snark about the competition / alternatives. That being the case, one would think you would at least be able to get a better class of snark out of them….

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ May 19th, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    @R

    Which may explain why your knowledge base of modern rocketry is so poor. The bottom line is Space X failed again to meet a launch date, reaffirming that the only thing reliable about Space X is their unreliability. >>

    LOL…you and Wind are the comedians here.

    In the end testing “any” complex mechanical or electrical device is pretty much the same no matter what it is. You remind me of the NASA safety people who are always explaining how “space is different” when it comes to safety and yet from operating theaters to nuclear reactors to automobile plans to (and I found this entertaining) the people who make hot tubs…its all the same.

    Anyway, if we were talking about a mature system that had a bunch of years of operations under its belt…like the shuttle did, then I might agree with you otherwise I just enjoy the hoot. And brother I need it. Hot day in Santa Fe and digging the power pole holes is a lot of work…RGO

  • amightywind

    One tank was reading over pressure, so the vehicle did exactly what it was supposed to do.

    SpaceX says it is a faulty valve in the #5 engine. Why its should become faulty between last week’s test firing and now is a tad intriguing. It was good the engine controller pulled the plug. One wouldn’t want to fly with the valve ‘out of control’.

  • DCSCA

    @amightywind wrote @ May 19th, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    ” SpaceX says it is a faulty valve in the #5 engine. Why its should become faulty between last week’s test firing and now is a tad intriguing.

    In business, Windy, all that matters are results. And as Musketeers love to remind everyone, they’re a commercial, profit driven enterprise vying for more business based on the performance fulfilling existing contractual obligations. And this has become a commercial business problem. Space X has been contracted to deliver goods and services, not have an ‘open-ended test program’ funded, and in spite of plenty of breaks cut their way on contract modification and input from NASA, they once again have failed to meet a scheduled launch date and deliver those goods and services. Even the media is cutting them slack…. but it has been 17 months since their last ‘test flight’… and all we get is hype, not flight. Saturday’s fizzle serves to reaffirm the only thing reliable about Space X is their unreliability.

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ May 19th, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    “In the end testing “any” complex mechanical or electrical device is pretty much the same no matter what it is.”

    Except it’s not. And spaceflight IS different. But if you want to equate fixing a toaster oven with test flying 757s or spaceflight, go for it. If Musk sells a Tesla, he’s selling a finished product off his ‘assembly line’ and doesn’t tell the customer his production models are ‘test vehicles’ and all their happy motoring will be ‘test drives.’ =eyeroll= But if you’re copping to delivering Boeing products for passenger service as ongoing ‘test flights’ rather than as finished products for ‘scheduled passenger service’, the financiers, the passengers, the FAA, Congress and Boeing oughta know about it. ;-).

    @David Teek wrote @ May 19th, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    “Some may see a T +1 second engine cutoff as a failure to be mocked, I see it as a success to be grateful for.”

    Except it’s not. This is a business matter. Space X has been contracted to deliver goods and services, not operate an ‘open-ended test flight program’ for Charlie or anyone else to makes excuses about. And it’s troubling that Space X continues to fail to meet launch schedules after being cut some generous contract modifications, too. Their last ‘test flight’ was conducted over 17 months ago and they’ve had more than enough time to get their ducks in a row. The only thing reliable about Space X is their unreliability.

    “Over the years, I have seen a lot of vehicles (including Challenger) turned into flaming debris spread across the sky.”

    False equivalency, of course. But bad management is very unforgiving in the space business– government or private- something Space X is learning the hard way w/o loss of life, just loss of face and confidence in same. But as Cernan said, ‘they don’t know what they don’t know yet.” But they’re learning. “I wish it wasn’t so hard, say Musk. Except it is.

    @Miya wrote @ May 19th, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    Speak for yourself or pitch that Windy’s way. No space advocate wishes any kind of disaster on that kind of scale and the fact it even crossed your mind speaks volumes about your own demons. Stay away from space operations. It’s risky enough as it is.

  • Googaw

    five year plan

    Where have I heard that phrase before?

  • Googaw

    a T +1 second engine cutoff…I see it as a success to be grateful for.

    One minute NewSpace is blabbering on about asteroid mining, moon colonies, space hotels, and retiring on Mars. The next minute they’re being grateful that their cargo rocket to LEO stayed on the pad instead of blowing up.

  • Googaw

    You remind me of the NASA safety people who are always explaining how “space is different” when it comes to safety

    But it’s the NASA safety people who are in control here. “The customer is always right”, especially when said customer is underwriting most of the R&D of your rocket (and is expected to end up paying practically 100% of the costs of Dragon, plus profits).

    If you lie down with dogs, you can expect to get up with fleas.

  • David Teek

    Re: DCSCA & Googaw (and I guess windy)

    DCSA incorrectly states implies that SpaceX and NASA are trying to conduct an “open-ended test program”. This is clearly not the case – in fact NASA and SpaceX executed an agreement to combine the milestones of test flight 2 and test flight 3 in order to be able to move more quickly to the operational services delivery phase. The first test launch last June demonstrated the vehicle and capsule performance, this one is primarily was ISS rendezvous and docking, which is a different set of activities and capabilities. The schedule changes were mostly driven by software development and validation for ISS, which clearly has a large number of potential variables and requires extreme precision and high performance. This is a bit more than “getting ducks in a row” and 17 months is quite reasonable.

    Loss of vehicles has occurred from a operational and design mistakes, often a combination of the two. SpaceX design and procedures work to minimize this. Further, in a previous flight, SpaceX had a post-firing pad abort, corrected it, and and then recycled and flew later in the day. I am not aware that any other vehicles are capable of doing that. The Falcon 9 design and procedures work to minimize the possibility of launching with an unknown problem and later losing the vehicle and payload. That is an equivalent equivalency.

    Further, it is a short distance between “all that matters is results” to “this issue is in family”. I think if there is loss of face to be concerned about it would be by windy and DCSCA. Oh wait, they don’t attach their names to their posts – so only the false face is risked in these posts. Not only is their 3rd rate snark demonstrably false, it is also anonymous. Perhaps if there were more factually defensible convictions being put forward, there might be increased courage within the authors.

    And yes Googaw, NASA investments in maturing technology to enable affordable ISS resupply is an enabler for a growing enterprise that in time can include private habitation modules in LEO and asteroid mining in the future. I am grateful for that, and that there are alternatives to the congressional / cost-plus approach now being created.

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ May 19th, 2012 at 10:58 pm

    I wrote:
    “In the end testing “any” complex mechanical or electrical device is pretty much the same no matter what it is.”

    You replied
    Except it’s not. And spaceflight IS different. But if you want to equate fixing a toaster oven with test flying 757s or spaceflight, go for it. If Musk sells a Tesla, he’s selling a finished product off his ‘assembly line’ and doesn’t tell the customer his production models are ‘test vehicles’ and all their happy motoring will be ‘test drives.’ =eyeroll= But if you’re copping to delivering Boeing products for passenger service as ongoing ‘test flights’ rather than as finished products for ‘scheduled passenger service’, the financiers, the passengers, the FAA, Congress and Boeing oughta know about it. ;-) .

    my comments.

    You are free to have an opinion and mostly I dont care to keep arguing a point which is making no headway with you (or me) and you are not presenting facts just opinions. I am tempted to give you the quote my Dad gave one of the SCOTUS justices when running out of time the Justice kept hammering my Dad on a point and said “I am sorry Mr. Oler I just dont get it”…my Dad’s reply is kind of classic and he did of course carry the day in a 6-3 decision (which is rare these days).

    However I will say this.

    Spaceflight is no different then any other complex endeavor and sadly for your logic you cannot point out an arena which makes it different. NASA has been singing that song for decades trying to justify bloated workforces and budgets and some stupids on Congress buy it because it is in their self interest…But to people who know nuclear subs, nuclear plants, coal plants, coal extraction and yes undersea drilling…they know better.

    You dont, you dont seem to have a technical background and I dont argue CV’s (not cruisers carrying heavier then aircraft) with unknown comics.

    and how do I know this

    I wrote

    “The other day we didnt get a 757 father then trying to start the APU(s)…”

    to which you tried this clever reply

    “But if you’re copping to delivering Boeing products for passenger service as ongoing ‘test flights’ rather than as finished products for ‘scheduled passenger service”

    there is not a single “nickle seven” in passenger service with “APU(s)”…they all have a single certified APU…one probably could get one certified for pax service with APU(s) but there is not one.

    The airplane we are working on is a nickle seven with a TFE731′s sitting on each wing, they negate drag but their main role in life is to produce electrical power…that is not a trivial modification.

    and if you knew anything about what you are commenting on you would know that.

    As for “the FAA, Congress and Boeing oughta know about it. ;-) . ”

    Congress knows about it since they appropriated the money, Boeing knows about it because they are paying me large dollars to do what I do and the FAA knows about it because if I know about it, they do. My “credentials” carry FAA Administrator numbers; even though I donot work for the FAA. Learn something and you will know how “special” that makes me.

    Have a great day. SpaceX will fly and fly soon…this is what test flying does. RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Googaw wrote @ May 20th, 2012 at 11:14 am

    “But it’s the NASA safety people who are in control here.”

    it would surprise me if NASA safety people wrote the criteria for a pad abort…I suspect that the people who built the rocket did. RGO

  • David Teek

    Googaw wrote @ May 20th, 2012 at 12:45 am

    five year plan

    Where have I heard that phrase before?

    NASA, the Air Force and the state Dept. of Transportation have five year capital plans, that add an additional out year as the current year is completed. The SCIP would provide an overlay to the existing facility and capital improvement budgets that would provide a framework for collaborating and cooperating on development / modernization where there are shared or synergistic requirements and interests. Also provides a mechanism for using financing, bonds and some direct state government investment to increase overall capability and efficiency. This is general approach used for roadways and runways.

    And I’m not the one here desperately trying to preserve the “soviet shoe factory” business model as the only game in town.

  • Coastal Ron

    Googaw wrote @ May 20th, 2012 at 11:14 am

    But it’s the NASA safety people who are in control here.

    I still see a lot of hand waving but little actual evidence to support your assertions.

    Also, you seem to think that the safety solutions commercial companies would come up with are incompatible with the safety solutions that NASA would accept.

    I see no evidence of that, either in the public comments that NASA has made, nor in the various communications that the COTS and CCDev companies have made. If there were large areas of disagreement, something would have leaked out.

    Provide something – anything – to back up your assertions.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ May 20th, 2012 at 9:52 am

    Stephen…to under stand “Congressman Pete” is to understand the modern GOP.

    The GOP figured out a while back that the key to election success was 1) a stable funding base and 2) a block of voters which would support whatever policies that the stable funding base needs.

    As a result the GOP has become what they use to claim the Democrats were…a wealth transfer party…in this case what they do is transfer middle class wealth to various corporate interest all under the guise of “policies” which can satisfy their low education and low information level voters.

    SLS is a perfect example of this. There is no real mission for SLS, but without it the various “stakeholders” are all walking the unemployment line and the corporate groups that keep them employed…are gone…So how to make something seem useful? Generate a Chinese threat, talk about the loss of American greatness, babble on about “American exceptionalism”…and go check out Olson’s facebook page now…blame Obama for not supporting NASA enough…

    As you have seen here the “low information” voters accept that Obama killed the space shuttle because it stopped flying on hiw watch…not that the decision was made on someone elses (someone who they generally supported)…without question or even a rhetorical thought.

    I have been at gatherings here where people who know better, people who are or were at the highest levels of USA get up and say things which are simply not true…and say it with a straight face…and Olson sits there at the ones he is at…and nods in approval.

    Go look at GOP opposition to almost any of Obama’s programs and they are at their heart opposition generated by their corporate sponsors. PEOPLE WHO HAVE GOVERNMENT HEALTH CARE were getting up shilling for “death panels” when their real opposition to Obama care is garnered up in a cap on corporate profits. It is opposition that is channeled by the rhetoric that appeals to “low information” voters.

    From their policies on health care, to defense to space; GOP policies are about transferring wealth to the corporations that support them. Olson is a perfect example of that.

    That is all Olson is. Otherwise he couldnt speak coherently on any subject. RGO

  • DCSCA

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ May 20th, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    “Spaceflight is no different then any other complex endeavor.”

    =yawn= Except it is. And it is a fool’s errand to keep insisting it isn’t. Accordingly, it appears you have endless errands to run these days.

  • DCSCA

    @David Teek wrote @ May 20th, 2012 at 11:42 am

    DCSA incorrectly states implies that SpaceX and NASA are trying to conduct an “open-ended test program”. This is clearly not the case –

    Except it is- to date. Space X is a private-enterprised commercial firm in business to make a profit and this is a straightforward business matter. With respect to the ISS contractual obligations, Space X remains non-operational, in this ‘test flight’ mode, failing to supply ‘goods and services,’ repeatedly slips their own announced launch dates even with granted requests for favorable contract modifications (because they were falling behind schedule) and input from their customer, NASA. Their last ‘test flight’ was over 17 months ago. And bear in mind, the ‘service’ they’re attempting provide is a supplement; redundant as Progress spacecraft have been servicing the ISS and earlier LEO space platforms for over 34 years. In addition, Soyuz has been flying even longer. Just this week Soyuz ferried an astronaut and two cosmonauts up to the ISS. It’s reliable, routine– and operational. Eventually, Space X should get delivering the groceries, but their record of schedule slippages and erratic management does not bode well for future contracting for the ‘big prize’– the next generation of manned spacecraft, which Musk has publicly stated he’s chasing- that and as he mentioned on PBS, sending millions of people to Mars.

    @Oler- “SpaceX will fly and fly soon…this is what test flying does. RGO”

    Except they’re flying already, as Musketeers like to remind us, RGO. Just not to the ISS, which as a business, Space X has been contracted to do; that is, to provide a service; to supply goods and services, not have an ‘open-ended test program’ financed. It doesn’t take much to send you off into the weeds, either- just mention ‘airplane.’ ;-)

  • Googaw

    …Space X has been contracted to do; that is, to provide a service; to supply goods and services, not have an ‘open-ended test program’…

    That’s what the propaganda said they were contracted to do. That’s what NewSpace fans and the public in general were fooled into believing Space-X was contracted to do. One particularly popular, despite being particularly moronic, comparison was between the actual contract, where NASA funded the R&D of a service that makes sense only targeted at NASA, and NASA buying airline tickets for its employees on already existing airliners that also service millions of other people with the same basic standard transportation service, flying from airport to airport.

    When airlines delay your flight overnight — not to mention 17 months — they refund your money, or buy you a ticket on another flight (even on a rival airline), and give you a free hotel stay. There is nothing resembling such a thing in Space-X’s contract with NASA. Even though every delay means an ever longer dependence on Russia to get to the ISS. It is U.S. prestige, not Space-X, that is suffering the consequences of Space-X’s delays under the actual contract.

    It should have provided a clue that Space-X was not exactly running an airline when it was running a profit long before they were providing a useful service to anybody — indeed even as their Falcon 1s were sending customer payloads into the ocean.

    A similar clue should also arise from the profit Planetary Resources is running, without having a hired a single expert in mining or the processing of raw materials, much less long before having actually gotten any robot’s hands dirty with any actual asteroid. They are actually profitable running a completely different business. Clues people. Read the clues. Of course certain people can be provided with facts all day long, but since they don’t like the facts they ignore the facts and then complain that you aren’t provding any facts. When they are provided ad nauseum by me and by the rest of the real world every day, and it is the astronaut cult addled brain that is filtering them out.

    Because Space-X is indeed in an open-ended test program, to try to develop a service that only NASA (or other civilian government agencies who launch useless astronauts for the sake of launching useless astronauts) will use, with ever-changing yet still paid-for “milestones” that fell and still fall far short of actual delivery of important cargo. That is indeed what in reality the actual contracts allowed for. That is indeed how Space-X has been making profits while destroying more cargo than they deliver and failing to keep to any semblance of a schedule. These “commercial” government contracts turn out to be just as flexible and as prone to poor performance as cost-plus contracts.

    These contracts indeed allow NASA to simply change the rules as they go along — either in Space-X’s favor, allowing them to default on the supposed obligations to deliver cargo that were actually supposed to be delivered by now (according to the hype about the contract, if not actually in the contract itself), or providing them with free infrastructure, or against Space-X, by coming up with new safety theater, more Dragon rotations, nutations, flips and flops to wow the NASA TV viewers, a set of byzantine rituals to purify the tawdry “commercial” Dragon before it is allowed to touch the hallowed shrines of the ISS. There is no end to the safety rituals NASA could demand, and Musk and his engineers have no way to anticipate what these leaders of the astronaut cult might think of next. Unless they get into the twisted minds of these directors of the HSF safety circus and figure out along with them which rituals will play best on the NASA channel.

    NewSpace started out as a bunch of libertarians believing they could privatize a s*c**l*st economic fantasy. The silliness of that goal now utterly apparent, it has devolved into just another rival group of NASA (sub-)contractors and (sub-)contractor wannabes. People who once trashed NASA and declared their independence from NASA now join OldSpace in the mad scramble for NASA money. Space-X is ever more rapidly entering into the trajectory that Orbital Sciences did two decades ago — a “commercial” venture turning into just another government contractor. That, plus a bunch of unfunded memoranda of understandings they call a “launch manifest”, potential customers who are growing sick and tired of the 17-going-on-18 month delay in Space-X’s satellite launch business while they pursue the very different line of business of trying to perform HSF safety theater. They could have made a good go of the real commerce of satellite launch, but instead they have been distracted into something radically different: the “business” of NASA safety theater. Many more lines of yaw, pitch, and roll code will need to be added to Dragon’s computers, and the resulting maneuvers pronounced kosher by the high priests of astronaut safety, before the “standard cargo service” will be allowed to commence. And many more politicians’ Super-PACs will have to be greased.

    Meet the NewSpace. Same as the OldSpace. It’s pathetic, it’s sad, it’s the reality down here at the bottom of a very deep gravity well on our planet Earth in the year 2012.

  • David Teek

    @ DCSCA wrote @ May 20th, 2012 at 5:17 pm

    Of course, the American application of the approach used in evolution of Soyuz into Progress during the 1970′s would have been to implement the John Marburger / Sean O’Keefe proposed CEV & EELV combination, instead of going down Mike Griffin’s Constellation collective farm detour.

    The time and cost of development of the Falcon family of vehicles and the Falcon 9 series compares very favorably to any other successful flight system you can name in both time and cost. This includes shuttle, shuttle return to flight, EELV and Apollo / Saturn. Further, the structure of the C3PO is to fund completion of milestones and deliverables, extra testing does not translate into extra cost.

    A test program that is completed when objectives for performance and reliability are met is not “open-ended”, it is well defined, and will avoid the “declare victory when the govt. budget runs out” trap.

    BTW, we could have used a Progress-like approach (evolve Soyuz-based capabilities) if we had used an EELV/CEV to start implementing the Vision for Space Exploration. If only we had not selected an administrator who stated “I never want to hear the phrase ‘spiral development’ ever again”. Ironically, we will likely see that implementation (among others) coming on line as an Orion / Atlas V combo – which will happen about a decade later than we could have had it, and at least a couple years after the first crewed Dragon flight.

    I get it that many people do not like Elon personally, and are threatened by the potential replacement of the cold war-era cost plus program model with a more commercialized procurement approach. The personal prejudices you choose to entertain are certainly your own prerogative, but I find they do not constitute a very persuasive argument.

    However, I am pleased that you seem to be endorsing the planned incremental and evolutionary development of capability – on that path lies wisdom, and eventually enlightenment.

  • common sense

    Back on topic somewhat.

    ITAR dementia back in 2007:

    http://nasawatch.com/archives/2007/07/nasa-ksc-itar-run-amok.html

  • Coastal Ron

    Googaw wrote @ May 21st, 2012 at 1:03 am

    Yikes, you have really gone into Chicken Little mode. And maybe even “headless chicken” mode too.

    It is readily apparent that you are not familiar with how government contracts work, and likely you don’t know how the world of business works.

    That’s OK, since everyone is entitled to their opinion, but that means you are, in words of Bush 43, “all hat, no cattle”. Adding length to your posts doesn’t make them anymore believable either. On to the corrections…

    re: Profit

    Revenue – Expenses = Profit

    That’s it. SpaceX has profit because their revenue exceeded their expenses over the past couple of years. They get revenue from their government contracts such as COTS and CCDev, plus their get launch deposits when their customers sign launch services contracts (not MOU’s as you state). Launch deposits lock in prices and schedule position, and it’s a standard business practice. And they spent less than they brought in. Good business practice.

    Planetary Resources, to my knowledge, has never stated that they are profitable, so I think this is a figment of your imagination. Provide a link if you think you are right, but so far you have failed to back up any of the assertions that I have asked you to prove, so I won’t hold my breath on this one either.

    re: COTS

    SpaceX and Orbital Sciences are paid for completing previously negotiated milestones. If SpaceX completes their C2 milestone on this upcoming flight, they will receive $5M. If, for whatever reason, they don’t successfully complete the C2 milestone objectives, they don’t get $5M. They don’t have to do a contract modification.

    And in case you were unaware of this, if this upcoming flight meets all the planned requirements, then SpaceX will have successfully completed the COTS program. So all the hand waving and headless-chicken running around is pretty silly.

    There is no end to the safety rituals NASA could demand…

    I’ve challenged you on this before, and you have failed to back up your assertions. The Falcon 9/Dragon getting ready to launch is thought by SpaceX and NASA to meet all COTS requirements, so where is the drama? Where is the chaos that you are imagining in your colorful brain?

    Dont’ be a drama queen like DCSCA. Try to be better.

  • Go look at GOP opposition to almost any of Obama’s programs and they are at their heart opposition generated by their corporate sponsors. PEOPLE WHO HAVE GOVERNMENT HEALTH CARE were getting up shilling for “death panels” when their real opposition to Obama care is garnered up in a cap on corporate profits. It is opposition that is channeled by the rhetoric that appeals to “low information” voters.

    From their policies on health care, to defense to space; GOP policies are about transferring wealth to the corporations that support them. Olson is a perfect example of that.

    This is a) nuts and b) off topic. Both parties transfer wealth to corporations that support them. This isn’t “GOP policies,” it is politicians (as opposed to statesmen) policies. Unless you think that Bill “SLS” Nelson is a member of the GOP.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Rand Simberg wrote @ May 21st, 2012 at 1:48 pm
    .Both parties transfer wealth to corporations that support them. This isn’t “GOP policies,” it is politicians (as opposed to statesmen) policies. Unless you think that Bill “SLS” Nelson is a member of the GOP.>

    I let someone else decide what is on topic…and while Nelson is a Dem and is supportive of SLS…THE VAST majority of people who are in the Congress supporting SLS/Orion are members of the GOP and the overwhelming majority of the folks who are supporting vocally SLS/Orion “out of district” are Republicans.

    It is the defense the GOP right uses, but it is not a valid one to say “everyone else is doing it” that does not make it correct behavior in either individuals or in politics.

    The vast majority of GOP spending is spending that is related to keeping corporations afloat. As I noted opposition to Obama’s health care is primarily at the cap corporate profits level. The insane Defense bill that is a product of the GOP House is a corporate welfare program…and most of the space spending is direct aide to corporations without any real motive AS TO WHAT the effort does.

    There is a reason that Willard wants to tie Defense spending not to defense needs but to GDP…and that is so at the end of his “first” term he would have defense spending ALMOST DOUBLE without any real threat…his corporate masters need a payback.

    You will find his space program, after people tell him (to quote your buddy Mark W) “what he thinks” will do the same thing. RGO

  • DCSCA

    @Googaw wrote @ May 21st, 2012 at 1:03 am

    Interesting perspective. Well stated. Perception is reality, of course, w/respect to the intent of the NASA/Space X relationship, but you pitch some thoughtful woo. However, “It is U.S. prestige, not Space-X, that is suffering the consequences of Space-X’s delays under the actual contract” is closing the barn door after the horse has left. There is no prestige associated w/t ISS for the U.S. today, only costs and expenses to the inevitable splash. But the dinosaurs from the Reagan days, when the ISS was spawned, will try to tell you otherwise and wave a flag to blind you. Bear in mind the ISS was a Cold War relic and just a few years ago NASA was willing to splash it by mid-decade and press on w/Constellation. Clues. This is about trying to keep U.S. HSF operations alive. That’s all. And that’s the real, core question: what is there a rationale for HSF for the United States. There’s no appreciable market for it, as capital investors know given the low to no ROI, hence the desperation to label the ISS as a ‘faux market’ for commercial LEO HSF development to ferry cargo and eventually crews. Russia has fused a rationale for HSF for decades and maintained it through some tough political and economic times and has fused it into their national character. The PRC is following suit as well. But Americans never really had one outside the appeal of geopolitical competition and the ‘flags & footprints’ pitch. And it remains unresolved. Advocates like myself support HSF along the Cernan/Armstrong/Lovell lines, the famed ‘intangibles’ et al., for BEO human exploration w/government space operations and the eventual return from economic spinoff but it’s a tough sell, particularly in tight times, to invest in that kind of R&D on that scale, given the costs involved. Opponents cite the valid point of the cost-effectiveness of the BEO science probes over LEO HSF operations. But as a matter of national resolve, the rationale for American HSF remains elusive, hence, as you allude to, HSF operations jump from one path to another and cling to life- in this case the clique of commercialists within NASA trying to keep HSF alive on life-support. The only rationale for the ISS is to buy time for U.S. HSF in the hopes some fresh rationale, or new competition, comes along. It offers no appreciable ROI for its $100+ billion cost and projected expenses til splash. But the question for Americans today remains unanswered- why have a HSF program. It appears the Russians answered that for themselves long ago and the PRC is folling suit.

    @David Teek wrote @ May 21st, 2012 at 8:40 am

    “I get it that many people do not like Elon personally, and are threatened by the potential replacement of the cold war-era cost plus program model with a more commercialized procurement approach. The personal prejudices you choose to entertain are certainly your own prerogative, but I find they do not constitute a very persuasive argument.”

    =yawn= As ‘Michael Corleone said in ‘The Godfather,’ ‘It’s not personal … it’s business.’ And this is a straight-forward business matter. Space X is a private-enterprised commercial firm in business to make a profit and it’s contracted w/NASA HSF activities is a straightforward business matter. With respect to the ISS contractual obligations, Space X remains non-operational, in this ‘open-ended test flight’ mode, failing to be operational and supply ‘goods and services,’ in a routine fashion, repeatedly slipping announced launch dates even after granted requests for favorable contract modifications (because they were falling behind schedule) from their customer, NASA. Their last ‘test flight’ was over 17 months ago. It’s not personal… it’s business. But then, doing business with a fella who talks of retiring on Mars, sending ‘millions of people’ there– or a green house to televise- and complaining ‘I wish it wasn’t so hard’ when it clearly is does bring some questions of character, mind set and maturity into play.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Coastal Ron wrote @ May 21st, 2012 at 12:09 pm
    .

    That’s OK, since everyone is entitled to their opinion, but that means you are, in words of Bush 43, “all hat, no cattle”.>>

    actually McCain used that line to describe Arbusto (Bush43) in the 2000 campaign; in one debate in particular…I dont recall which one.

    RGO

  • DCSCA

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ May 21st, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    A well written piece on the SpaceX abort…RGO

    You mean the Space X failure to meet another scheduled launch date. Excuses, excuses. Worse still was Musk’s very public back door excuses of exlaining away failures and to keep trying to get it right again and again until they do, when they’ve been contracted to provide goods and services; not have an ‘open-ended test program’ financed ’til they get it right. What a sucker deal. Imagine that kind of pitch when you buy a Tesla roadster- if the wheels fall off or it veers off the road into a ditch, don’t fret, as long as yuor checks clear we’ll keep building them until we get it right. =eyeroll= The only thing reliable about Space X is their unreliability.

  • Googaw

    Planetary Resources, to my knowledge, has never stated that they are profitable

    As usual, I have to do your homework for you:

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/alexknapp/2012/04/27/how-billionaire-asteroid-miners-make-money-without-mining-asteroids/

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ May 21st, 2012 at 8:49 pm

    You mean the Space X failure to meet another scheduled launch date. >>

    LOL If they are having these issues a year from now thenyou might have an issue…as it is it meets the criteria for a test/development effort quite well. Sad you dont know them RGO

  • Coastal Ron

    Googaw wrote @ May 21st, 2012 at 9:05 pm

    As usual, I have to do your homework for you:

    And I have to interpret for you:

    Diamandis said that they are “a positive cash-flow company.” Being cash-flow positive is not the same as being “profitable” (your assertion), and he never said they were profitable.

    That’s OK that you confused the two, as I already knew you were not a business person.

    But now that you’ve proved that you’re reading my posts, answer the questions I asked you. If you can.

  • Googaw

    DCSA, thank you for your thoughtful response. It’s true that ISS doesn’t give us much prestige. But then again neither does announcing even bigger and even more useless goals we can’t afford. How much prestige does Newt Gingrich now enjoy?

    As a realist, I appreciate that one of my most cherished long-term objectives, space colonization, is a set of problems our grandchildren, and their grandchildren, will be able to solve far better than we. This being the reality, I decry the grandiose dead-end economic fantasies, be they in LEO or BEO, and urge us to focus our attentions on the tiny incremental problems that we can solve, on the ways we can in reality advance the balls down the courts. On the things that can steadily expand the utility of outer space in our lives — practical things, like comsats and GPS and Google Earth, not dead-end Cheng-Ho type missions of fleeting glory, nor bridges to a sci-fi economy that never was and never will be, like the ISS that you quite properly deride.

    Nor do I just criticize the econoic fantasies of HSF. When the robot people start spinning their own fantasies, as with “Planetary Resources” (makers of fine fragile instruments that would fog or crumble at the first puff of asteroid dust), they too become the targets of my hopefully entertaining and enlightening pleas to space fans everywhere to stop confusing sci-fi with reality.

    I’d also love to see much more attention on earthside industries that we can advance today that will make creating a space economy easier for our grandchildren. Such as advancing the state of the art in remote automation, as we are doing with undersea extraction industries. Those endeavours are doing far more than a universe full of “Planetary Resource”-type companies could ever do to make asteroid mining something that our grandchildren will be able to accomplish in reality rather than as viral marketing strategies for the sci-fi community.

    As for cosmonauts and taikonauts, if that is how foreign governments want to spend their dough, I say let them have at it. As a patriotic American, I say let some foreigners be the ones idiotic enough to try to control a LaGrange point, or some other focus of sci-fi strategy, with flesh and blood. A nuclear warhead that weighs much less than a Mercury space capsule, or even just a meteoroid (mini-asteroid) divertible into intercept trajectory by cheap gravity tug, can take out a thousand taikonauts in one blow. Not that anybody is going to be able to support a thousand humans in space in our lifetimes, or our childrens’ — by which time the space weaponry will be far more lethal still.

    I’m far more concerned about how to protect and extend the capability of the actual security assets the DoD/NSA/NRO in fact have in space. That is a very interesting set of problems, ones that could actually benefit in the near term from some entrepreneurial and engineering prowess, which being practical solutions stand a much better chance than grandiose schemes of expanding our capabilities for the future. But our space security hardly benefits from the sci-fi cult dogmas that pass for space advocacy these days.

  • Robert G. Oler

    It has been a long time since Rich Kolker and I (with Mark Whittington asking for and getting his name attached to the piece but not writing any of it) discussed “The Liberty Vehicle” in the July 1999 Weekly Standard.

    To see it fly…is quite a happy occasion. Well Done SpaceX RGO

  • Das Boese

    Dragon is in orbit and has deployed its solar panels.

    One less excuse for the commercial detractors.

  • DCSCA

    Congratulations to the launch team at Space X for finally fulfilling a contractual obligation at last by meeting an announced launch date and lofting a Falcon9/Dragon stack on time, over 17 months after its last successful ‘test flight’. The long road to building a business eputation for reliability and service has begun.

    This second launch starts the second ‘test flight’ in their ‘open-ended test flight program’ to perfect a capability to supplement existing, reliable, routine, operational cargo flights by the Russian Progress spacecraft to the doomed-to-splash ISS. Russian Progress spacecraft, of course, have been servicing various LEO space platforms for over 34 years.

    The early morning launch, covered live by Fox News and CNN for several minutes through staging for U.S. viewers, incorrectly reported no government funding was involved, when in fact a great deal of government funds were used to refurbish the launch facilities and finance the contracts, modified at Space X’s request in their favor due to schedule delays by the government customer, NASA. But any launch, better late than never, is a stellar achievement. Regardless of Oler’s assertions to the opposite, spaceflight is hard and the Falcon9/Dragon liftoff had all the anxiety and excitement and tentative confidence associated with those early days at the Cape, similar to an Atlas/Agena launch in the Gemini days, circa 1966. Nice job, Space X! (Space X press people compared the complexities of the timing and trajectories involved iwith this launch to a bullet chasing down another bullet- the same styled description Chris Kraft used discussing rendezvous operations back in 1965) Keep it up, Space X! ’60′s retro is vry hip these days. Make that rendezvous happen, get it berthed, deliver the groceries and get it back down and ready for another run. Well done, Space X. Outstanding.

  • David Teek

    It was a beautiful launch with a perfectly clear and still sky, visible way past stage separation.

    Congratulations to the SpaceX team, who have worked exceptionally long and hard hours to get here. Congratulations as well to the NASA C3PO team, who are creating a new model for technology development and operational services.

  • DCSCA

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ May 21st, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    “LOL If they are having these issues a year from now thenyou might have an issue… ” In fact, their history of ‘issues’ is well known and, of course, the only issues that matter to taxpayers is fulfilling contractual obligations w/NASA, whose representative, your hero, Charlie Bolden, was on CNN at 5:20 AM taking bows for the Space X launch yet was oblivious when questoned to the cargo aboard and kept mixing government and private terms in the aimless banter. It was truly a pathestic piece of television.

  • amightywind

    Elon Musk is waxing poetic about HAL 9000. I am glad those marooned on ISS will soon have fresh underwear. But this is truly amazing performance of singularly astounding significance auguring a new era in spaceflight…except Boeing and Lockmart do it all the time. Oh well.

  • BeancounterFromDownunder

    Well I’ve never quite seen such a couple of spoil sports as DCSCA and Windy. You’d think you guys were the opposition not U.S. citizens who could be basking in some of the glory accruing to a U.S. commercial entity. Bet Korea and India are pretty green with envy considering their recent record. And SpaceX competitors both in the U.S. and abroad will be doing a little more shaking in their boots.
    Sour grapes is all I can say. And if you continue to compare this achievement to those going before it, well try looking a little deeper.

  • The usual suspects here are underplaying what happened last night, just as one would expect. History will decide who is relevant and who is not. I suspect those guys will not like history’s final verdict.

  • Paul

    except Boeing and Lockmart do it all the time. Oh well.

    For multiples of the price. But you’re a tax-fattened parasite feeding at that trough, aren’t you?

    Cost matters. Doing the same as competitors (or even somewhat less), but slashing the cost of the service, is very often a huge advance. Focusing entirely on performance while ignoring economics is what got the space program on the road to irrelevance. Space X and Musk have a chance to set things right.

  • Coastal Ron

    amightywind wrote @ May 22nd, 2012 at 8:05 am

    …except Boeing and Lockmart do it all the time.

    Boeing and Lockheed Martin launch rockets, but they don’t launch their own autonomous spacecraft that carry supplies to the ISS. They are going to have to kick up their game a little to catch up (which I hope they do). Also, they don’t launch autonomous spacecraft the size and complexity of Dragon for a customer price of $133M, so they have a lot of work to do in order to make themselves affordable in competitive markets.

    That heavy sigh you hear is Old Space starting to understand that New Space truly is eating their lunch, with many of the people that they trained. Time to evolve or die.

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ May 22nd, 2012 at 4:52 am

    LOL

    you wrote “spaceflight is hard ”

    Only to people who believe stupid stuff like this, people who have no idea of things like Physics, closure rates and relative velocity.

    “Space X! (Space X press people compared the complexities of the timing and trajectories involved iwith this launch to a bullet chasing down another bullet- ”

    If they used that analogy it must have been for people like you…goofy

    A “bullet chasing a bullet”…really is amusing. You remind me of the astronaut who came to our school board meeting and was singing his praises about having docked with the space station, in the shuttle at 17,000 mph.

    My reply was “really? you closed on the space station at 17,000 mph?” I looked at the audience and said “here is a test for astronaut (Dan Bardo…name withheld to protect the innocent) there was a traffic accident here outside a few minutes ago, which had higher closure rates? The shuttle with the space station or the two cars that ran into each other?”

    I dont know if the SpaceX team used that analogy, I only watched for about 20 minutes in the pre launch and they were gone shortly after SEP…but if they did it was to impress people like you who have no real clue that the closure rates of Dragon with the station will never get greated then that of my wifes 737 with runway 12R at Hobby.

    Gee. RGO

  • MrEarl

    Truly a great day for SpaceX and anyone interested in inexpensive transport to LEO. Let’s hope that the rest of the mission goes as well.

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ May 22nd, 2012 at 4:52 am
    ’60′s retro is vry hip these days.

    ….

    What I saw of the SpaceX commenting team well oh Rob Navias (spell) must have been doing flip flops) it is the time of a complete rethink of spaceflight and that includes the commenting that goes with it.

    The three folks were (and I push this as a compliment because where California goes the country is generally going)…”so California”…two guys one gal…I almost expected “bitchin” to come out (but that signals me as well…older)

    None of the drama of the NASA PAO folks “and this is so hard Fred, Mike and Tara are all working hard to determine if we should order pizza”…

    If one understands history (and Iknow you dont) this is Lindbergh going across the Atlantic…

    (I Know Dwayne Day is also having “a cow”) RGO

  • josh

    let’s just ignore windy and that other guy. they’re sore losers, what did you expect? spacex did very well and that’s all that really matters:)

  • Coastal Ron

    BeancounterFromDownunder wrote @ May 22nd, 2012 at 9:10 am

    Well I’ve never quite seen such a couple of spoil sports as DCSCA and Windy.

    The way DCSCA talks, he likely owns a Ford Model T and stands in front of Ford dealerships yelling “why are you selling new cars when the old ones worked perfectly fine!” ;-)

  • pathfinder_01

    “Cost matters. Doing the same as competitors (or even somewhat less), but slashing the cost of the service, is very often a huge advance. Focusing entirely on performance while ignoring economics is what got the space program on the road to irrelevance. Space X and Musk have a chance to set things right.”

    Amen. Both Apollo and the Shuttle suffer this flaw. Apollo got us to the moon, but at a cost that is very hard to justify a return. The Shuttle meet the goal of reusability, but not the goal of bringing down the cost of access to space again due to cost of refurbishment.

  • MrEarl

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ May 22nd, 2012 at 10:56 am

    Wow! That’s one of the most D-Bag things you’ve ever said. There’s just so meny non-sequitars and strawmen in that post I don’t know where to start.

    The point is, tracking down the ISS then docking, either manned or remotely, is no easy task. If SpacesX is succesfull, they will be the first private entity to do it and should be proud of their accomplishment.

    “Flyin’ through space ain’t like dustin’ crops boy!” Please remember that in your future posts and dealings with astronauts.

  • DCSCA

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ May 22nd, 2012 at 10:56 am

    “LOL you wrote “spaceflight is hard ” Only to people who believe stupid stuff like this, people who have no idea of things like Physics, closure rates and relative velocity.” Hmmm… apparently you mean people who belief stupid stuff like Elon Musk, who stated on CBS to Scott Pelley, “I wish it wasn’t so hard.” Except it is. ” Pretty funny, RGO. You really outta take the compliment– they got a bird off on time for change. “… this is Lindbergh going across the Atlantic…’ Except it’s not. For starts, there’s nobody aboard the Falcon/Dragon stack, RGO. In the weeds w/aeroplanes again, aren’t you. But your poor sense of history is endlessly amusing. This morning’s launch was akin to lofting an Atlas/Agena circa 1966. And, of course, replicating that feat in 2012 is… well, quaintly retro. Now run along , RGO.

    @amightywind wrote @ May 22nd, 2012 at 8:05 am

    “Elon Musk is waxing poetic about HAL 9000. I am glad those marooned on ISS will soon have fresh underwear. But this is truly amazing performance of singularly astounding significance auguring a new era in spaceflight…except Boeing and Lockmart do it all the time. Oh well.”

    Well, Windy, Progress has actually been delivering fresh BVDs and munchies to crews aboard LEO space platforms for over 34 years, so this is no big deal in space circles, just a big deal in Space X circles. Nevertheless, any successful launch is a good thing, because inspite of Oler’s insisting the opposite, spaceflight is hard. More important, this particular contractor delayed 17 months to loft just 1,000 lbs., this morning but they finally did it. Bolden and Nelson were all over the media touting the successful launch, more out of some MSM taking interest again, and Nelson was hyping Orion’s arrival at the Cape later this year and again said ‘we’re going to Mars’ and hyped ther rope an asteroid plans. A bit churlish. Space X deserves kudos for getting their bird off the pad on time and replicating something NASA has been doing for five decades. The real test is when they meet shedule routinely and fly as reliably as Progress. That’s a long time coming and their true goal isn’t to deliver grocveries but secure the next manned spacecraft contract, which is doubtful.

    @josh wrote @ May 22nd, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    “let’s just ignore windy and that other guy. they’re sore losers, what did you expect? spacex did very well and that’s all that really matters:)”

    Space X finally did what it was contracted to do— that is, launch some cargo on time (in this case, the customer waited 17 months for 1,000 lbs., of sundres to get lofted). When it achieves rendezvous, is berthed by the ISS crew, off-loaded and returns safely, then you can light your cigar. But at least the families of Jimmy Doohan, Gordo Cooper and 300 -plus others can be happy Space X finally fulfilled their contractul obligations and placed the back-up remains of their loved ones into space and not into the ocean.

  • pathfinder_01

    DSCA, I think you need to get a digital clock. Today’s clocks do not tick, do not require winding, and some even can set themselves! I mean all that ticking and tocking, how can you get any sleep and imagine all the labor you will save with not having to wind your watch, alarm clock, ect…
    Rendezvous and docking are concepts far older than the space program. However Gemini, can not rendezvous or dock unmanned. Cannot exchange cargo(it lacks a tunnel). It is rather like the mid air refueling circa 1930ies. A nice trick, even enabled the world’s first round the world flight, but generally useless.

    As for Progress well it is Russian, and if we had Progress’s capabilities Skylab would have lasted longer than just 3 missions. What automated resupply does is allow you to resupply a mission a lot cheaper than if you used a manned spacecraft like the Shuttle. Supply and resupply is a fundamental need for any long duration spaceflight and it needs to be done as cheaply as possible.

  • Robert G. Oler

    MrEarl wrote @ May 22nd, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    “The point is, tracking down the ISS then docking, either manned or remotely, is no easy task.”

    but it is. First off Dragon does not Dock…they grab it with the “robot arm” (sigh) and then berth it.

    The Rendezvous math is fairly “simple” particularly with computers (Buzz did it with graphs and a amped up E6B) and the prox ops are not that difficult to understand either. and the notion that we are “doing this at 17X00 (some add a 5 at the X) mph” is of course goofy. A 737 on final for 12R at HOU has a higher closure rate then anything that happens in prox ops or docking or berthing.

    I share a story of difficult. One of the people who was an early rendezvous guy in Gemini was also on a USN Submarine during ww2 when it did a night surface attack solely on radar. at the time plotting boards were not on subs…on the bridge at night with a yoeman holding a red flashlight; he ran the plots backwards on an E6B…Jim McD was lost on Gemini IV…but my friend was not. it is only understanding the math. RGO

  • DCSCA

    “Focusing entirely on performance while ignoring economics is what got the space program on the road to irrelevance. Space X and Musk have a chance to set things right.”

    Not really. Magnifying the importance of an LEO satellite launch is the exit ramp to mediocity. It doesn’t replace a moon shot. Or a Mars probe. Obsessing on LEO, that is, going in circles, no place fast, is the road to irrelevance.

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ May 22nd, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    Space X finally did what it was contracted to do—>>

    NOOOOO

    that will come next (assuming all goes well) they (SpaceX) are not doing any of the things that they are contracted to (ie delivering significant amounts of cargo)…but thanks for playing RGO

  • DCSCA

    @amightywind wrote @ May 22nd, 2012 at 8:05 am

    Keep a business ledger, Windy– tally up the costs for retaining the services of Space X from day one against the total poundage of cargo delivered. Red pencil in 1,000 lbs., thus far, assuming all contnues to go well. Should be interesting to total up the costs factoring in the refurbishment of the pad and facilities, the delays- inclusing the 17 months ’til this morning’s launch; the costs of renegotiating contracts at Space X’s request and costs of cargo flown on Progress in the meantime, etc. This LEO tinkering is quaint, but short-sighted planning, of course, just going in circles, headed no place fast.

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ May 22nd, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    Uh, yes, as they were contractually modified, but if you’re pitching advocacy for an on-going open-ended test program, the laughs just keep on coming. Stick to aeroplanes and bone-up on the differnce between laiunching an unmanned satellite in the wake of thousands of others lofted over half a century to a solo-piloted aeroplane flown from NY to Paris the in 1927. Endlessly amusing, RGO. .

  • DCSCA

    Coastal Ron wrote @ May 22nd, 2012 at 2:12 pm
    So you believe Soyuz and Progress are Model-T’s eh… always a pleasure to see someone slam a partner in an international project. Bear in mind, Model T’s are quite valuable these days and it’s a credit to their design that they still operate and, of course, were designed to be affordable, operational and deliver the goods. So to, were DC-3′s. Fresh BVDs and freeze-dried dinners are welcomed by hungry astronauts in soiled underwear if they arrive on a Model T, a DC-3, a Progress or a spiffy, shinny electric car– the objective is to deliver the goods. Progress spacecraft have been doing just that for 34 years to LEO space platforms. Dragon, not so much– in fact, not at all, yet. But keep pitching redundancy to access a doomed-to-a-Pacific-splash-LEO space platform against a routine, reliable, adaptive and operational system that’s worked for decades. It’s iamusing.

  • Googaw

    I congratulate Space-X on another successful flight test of the Falcon 9. Alas, it is too bad that for the last year they have been distracted from advancing real space commerce by the byzantine safety dances and other contortions that come with NASA HSF contracting. I hope they mature Falcon 9 to the real business of launching actually useful satellites soon.

    All this talk about economics as if it only means cost reflects a preposterous misunderstanding of economics. Economics is first and foremost about value. Of what value is ISS, and thus its cargo, to humanity? Almost nil. It is just another bizarre dead-end project spun off the pages of long-obsolete, but occasionally still entertaining, sci-fi. Launching worthless cargo at lower cost is still not economical. Falcon 9 still has a good chance to advance the economics of space development by launching actually valuable satellites for less cost. But with Dragon the Space-X crew are contorting themselves into economic pretzels for the sake of long obsolete sci-fi dogmas.

  • BeanCounterfromDownunder

    Googaw wrote @ May 22nd, 2012 at 8:29 pm
    If you’re an economist, evidenced by your seemingly vast knowledge of the subject, then you’re a damn good one. Most economists can’t predict the future either. The space business is not simply satellites.

  • DCSCA

    A disturbing postscript to MSM news coverage of events spacial today. Most of the U.S. still gets its main dose of national news from the three network newscasts.Williams’ NBC report devoted a brief voiceover piece 20 minutes into the newscast then segwayed into a longer report on a wedding in Kansas beset by tornadoes. Human interest junk. CBS’s Pelley was more comprehensive and had his Space X piece much earlier in the newscast and ncluded a recut package from the Musk 60 Minutes piece earlier this year… but Sawyer’s ABC national newscast failed to report on the launch at all. Stunningly bad journalism. PBS’s Newshour wrapped up the night w/an as always solid report by Miles O’Brien, late of CNN’s disbanded technology news department. So if you watch ABC News, you’re lost in space.

  • Coastal Ron

    Googaw wrote @ May 22nd, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    Alas, it is too bad that for the last year they have been distracted from advancing real space commerce by the byzantine safety dances and other contortions that come with NASA HSF contracting.

    You keep babbling about this, but you have failed to provide any evidence of it.

    SpaceX has been working on perfecting a cargo vehicle that can autonomously deliver pressurized cargo to an exact point in space. Don’t you think that’s a feature that makes them more valuable in the future? Bigelow would find that valuable, especially since they will be relying on cargo and crew providers that have already proven themselves.

    I hope they mature Falcon 9 to the real business of launching actually useful satellites soon.

    In case you haven’t noticed, they have been working with a customer that has bought 12 launches from them. Don’t you think that makes that customer important? You really don’t have much business sense, do you?

    Besides, if you had watched the pre-launch briefing that NASA held before the first launch attempt, you would have heard Gwynn Shotwell state what their launch tempo ramp-up was going to be for the next two years – IIRC three more this year, six next year, and one per month the year after that.

    Of course you are also ignorant of their manufacturing plans, which calls out for changing production from the current Merlin 1C/Falcon 9 v 1.0 to the Merlin 1D/Falcon v1.1 after flight #5. That will bring them up to their long-term production configuration, and that has been part of the reason they have not launched during the past year.

    You see conspiracies.

    I see a well planned business strategy to maximize their learning curve, and maximize profits. Other than hand-waving and references to witchcraft, so far you have failed to provide any proof otherwise.

  • Googaw

    SpaceX has been working on perfecting a cargo vehicle that can autonomously deliver pressurized cargo to an exact point in space. Don’t you think that’s a feature that makes them more valuable in the future?

    No. There is no natural market for this.

  • Vladislaw

    Is there a natural market for chia pets?

  • DCSCA

    @Googaw wrote @ May 23rd, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    Correct.

  • DCSCA

    “SpaceX has been working on perfecting a cargo vehicle that can autonomously deliver pressurized cargo to an exact point in space.”

    Russian Progress already do this — ‘perfecting’ the technical skill set to do it nearly 35 years ago- and can automatically dock w/a LEO space platform, too…

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ May 26th, 2012 at 1:09 am

    That undisclosed overseas location you blog from is looking more and more like Russia the way you gush over Progress, Soyuz and Zond. исправить?

    Russian Progress already do this

    And that’s great for Russia. Now the U.S. has that capability too – a true American would want that, so where do you stand?

    Also, as usual, you don’t understand the technical differences either.

    o Dragon has a full-sized hatch for large cargo – Progress doesn’t.

    o Dragon can carry large unpressurized cargo – including all the LRU’s to keep the ISS in full operation – Progress can’t.

    o Dragon can bring back up to 3kg of cargo to Earth – Progress burns up on re-entry.

    o Dragon represents choice – Progress represents a monopoly.

    Понимаешь?

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