Congress, NASA, White House

Congressional and other reaction to the SpaceX Dragon berthing

Perhaps it was the fact that the berthing took place on a Friday of a holiday weekend, with Congress in recess. Or, perhaps, members thought they said enough with the successful launch of SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft on a Falcon 9 in the early morning hours Tuesday. In any case, the reaction from members of Congress to Friday morning’s successful grappling and berthing of the Dragon by the International Space Station got less of an official reaction from members of Congress than the launch itself.

“I congratulate SpaceX and its employees for accomplishing another historic feat today when its Dragon capsule successfully berthed with the International Space Station,” said Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL), whose district includes Cape Canaveral, in a statement Friday. “The completion of today’s space mission further underscores what’s possible when American scientists and engineers accept tough challenges and take another important step in U.S. space leadership.”

Posey was the only member to comment on both the launch and berthing, but a couple new voices expressed congratulations on the achievement. “This is a historic milestone for space exploration and an important achievement for the commercial space industry. We no longer live in a world where space is only explored by government agencies, and we should all take pride that an American company is the first to accomplish this mission,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (F-FL) in a statement Friday. “If the promise of the International Space Station (ISS) is to be achieved, it is essential that a reliable and cost-effective means to transport cargo to the ISS be available. Today’s successful berthing of SpaceX’s Dragon capsule to the ISS is an important step on the path to demonstrating operational commercial cargo transport support for the ISS,” said Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), ranking member of House Science Committee, in a statement by the committee’s Democratic leadership that also included comments from Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL), ranking member of the committee’s space subcommittee.

Not everyone was in a congratulatory mood, though. “The reality remains that SpaceX has spent hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to launch a rocket nearly three years later than planned,” Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) told the Huntsville Times. “The ‘private’ space race is off to a dilatory start at best, and the commercial space flight market has yet to materialize.”

The White House, as one might expect, was in far more effusive in its praise for the successful berthing, seeing it as validation of the administration’s emphasis on commercial spaceflight. “That is exactly what the President had in mind when he laid out a fresh course for NASA to explore new scientific frontiers and take Americans ever deeper into our Solar System while relying on private-sector innovators—working in the competitive free market—to ferry astronauts and cargo to Low Earth Orbit and the International Space Station,” Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) director John Holdren said in a statement. “It’s essential we maintain such competition and fully support this burgeoning and capable industry to get U.S. astronauts back on American launch vehicles as soon as possible.” OSTP also issued a selection of quotes from “space community leaders”, ranging from Norm Augustine to Sir Richard Branson to Steve Sqyures.

Also included in that statement were quotes from two former astronauts, Buzz Aldrin and Rusty Schweickart. While they expressed congratulations for the berthing, other retired astronauts have been more skeptical of commercial ventures. Their criticism—and their recent silence—did not escape the notice of journalist Miles O’Brien during a commercial space panel Saturday at the International Space Development Conference (ISDC) in Washington. “I haven’t heard any of the ‘national heroes’ congratulating Elon Musk,” he said. “It would be kind of nice and gentlemenly if they would.”

123 comments to Congressional and other reaction to the SpaceX Dragon berthing

  • Robert G. Oler

    “The reality remains that SpaceX has spent hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to launch a rocket nearly three years later than planned,” Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) told the Huntsville Times.

    Old Dick is a perfect poster person for Today’s GOP…concerned over millions while he watches Billions (SLS) go out the door to support his personal pork. Nice.

    RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    http://milasolutions.com/orbital_inclinations/?p=73

    Brother Banke has the correct line on this

    “Actually, truth be told, it really wasn’t a big deal. It was a heckuva deal.”

    well said Jim RGO

  • Martijn Meijering

    “The reality remains that SpaceX has spent hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to launch a rocket nearly three years later than planned

    And billions on Ares I / Orion. The suborbital Ares I-X test flight (just the test flight itself, not the development to get to that point) cost NASA as much as the entire Falcon / Dragon development program to date.

  • Coastal Ron

    The reality remains that SpaceX has spent hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to launch a rocket nearly three years later than planned,” Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) told the Huntsville Times.

    Words that will come back and bite him when the focus turns to the Senate Launch System.

    This country is supposed to believe that after waiting 10 years and spending $30B that the SLS will somehow prove worth the investment? Heck of a gamble, especially since Shelby refuses to fund any actual use for the SLS.

    Shelby also bloviated:

    The ‘private’ space race is off to a dilatory start at best, and the commercial space flight market has yet to materialize.

    Being a lawyer, Shelby doesn’t understand how markets are created and grow. The ISS is a market – it requires delivery of cargo and crew on a regular basis, and NASA would like those services to be redundant (i.e. more than one).

    Redundancy provides competition, which can provide some semblance of cost control, and that too is a something that NASA would like (as would U.S. Taxpayers).

    The other thing that Shelby doesn’t understand is that putting commercial cargo and crew capabilities in place means that entities other than national space agencies can test out space-based businesses much faster than national space agencies can move. That a lack of transportation infrastructure is a major “barrier to entry“.

    Bigelow Aerospace has provided plenty of evidence that it plans to test out it’s business plan, so Shelby pleading ignorance of this potential market is, well, ignorant. How unusual for a politician.

  • Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    ” “The reality remains that SpaceX has spent hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to launch a rocket nearly three years later than planned,” Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL)”

    I’ll continue the pile on. As I understand it from NASA’s COTS program, SpaceX is 2 years later than the original NASA-SpaceX milestone scheme. A nearly one year delay coincides with the absence of budgeted COTS money. So perhaps 1-2 years delay is due to political under-funding.

    But let’s go with 3 year delays. Then we should compare with the ~ 6 years delay that the HTV is claimed to have due to – berthing software! The same software that was responsible for ~ 1 year of SpaceX delays.

    The reality remains that a government has spent hundreds of millions billions of taxpayer dollars to launch a rocket nearly six years later than planned.

  • Ben Joshua

    So, in the last 40 years the U.S. has relinquished to other nations a chunk of market share, technical advantage and jobs in autos, rail, computers, solar, wind and manufacturing in general.

    Trade “agreements” sacrificed a chunk of our middle class. The pentagon became concerned by a shrinking of the electronic component industrial base in the U.S. and implications for national security.

    Now comes SpaceX, with a private effort unique to the U.S. We don’t yet know how big a market will emerge with the opening of more affordable access to space, nor how soon. It seems pretty straightforward though, that lower costs and private carriers will get potential customers thinking.

    I don’t foresee space hotels and circumlunar tours by mid decade, of course. I do see modest steps toward a new economic sector, at least a new pathway to economic activity centered around increasingly affordable trips to LEO. The possibilities, limited now by imagination and the go-slow (reasonably) requirements of starting a venture on the space frontier, should surprise most of us “ordinary ” Americans in say, the 5-15 years range.

    Perhaps access to space will just sneak up on us gradually, so that the public at large simply accepts it, looks on via space-cams on the web, and applies for the new jobs created, as those with bucks at last find a new way to spend back into the general economy, much as they did with emergent technologies in the past.

    SpaceX’ manifest suggests the beginnings of this new market, based in the U.S. with American jobs and dollars. Perhaps entrepreneurs operating back in the gravity well could take some inspiration and vision from the current mission, however understated in the media, and create businesses dealing in actual services and hardware.

  • “Old Dick’s” comments should wake up any who thought the flight would silence the strongest forces of pork and stubborn stupidity. For these, an outright failure would have been best, a great success (assuming a safe return of Dragon) is just labeled as irrelevant.

    These types ultimately must just be evaded or outlived. Forget about ‘convincing’ them.

    More important is the psychological effect outside of DC, where with 3 successes in a row Falcon 9 can march forward on its commercial comsat manifest, and where the credibility of new space ventures has been boosted.

    Looking forward to the first Lynx runway tests later in the yr…

  • Coastal Ron

    Ben Joshua wrote @ May 28th, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    I don’t foresee space hotels and circumlunar tours by mid decade, of course. I do see modest steps toward a new economic sector, at least a new pathway to economic activity centered around increasingly affordable trips to LEO.

    I agree. The business case for LEO and beyond is dependent on public and private entities that want to do science in space, or those that think want to test out business ideas at a (comparatively) low cost.

    Tourism, when it has a chance to hitch a ride, will not be a significant factor for a long time to come – certainly not a driver.

  • josh

    shelby can’t be convinced because he is a corrupt politician who is in the pocket of special interest lobbyists. he doesn’t care for what’s right. he cares about what’s in it for him.

  • Rhyolite

    Huntsville is a lumbering dinosaur that can’t do anything in less than 10 years and for less than 10 billion dollars. New space are mammals nipping at their heals. Chicxulub will happen will happen with the first private orbital spaceflight. Welcome to the end cretaceous Sen. Shelby.

  • amightywind

    I must say I share Senator Shelby’s opinion on this one. We continue to slouch toward a diminished space future as a nation.

  • amightywind wrote @ May 28th, 2012 at 7:11 pm
    “I must say I share Senator Shelby’s opinion on this one. We continue to slouch toward a diminished space future as a nation.”

    I would dare say our nation is just reaching its finest hour! In just the last 4 days I have had no less than a dozen ‘run-of-the-mill’ average Americans come up to me and ask a question paraphrased, “Gary a company has ship in space? Really?”

    Now I may be the so-called center of their universe for questions regarding space related activity, but no question about it, ordinary Americans not only heard the news, they took note of the news with some excitement. This was a win/win for the United States of America.

    Gary Anderson

    PS I really do feel for those who just are so stubborn they can’t even enjoy the good things happening. They are missing the party and it is a blast!

  • @ablastofhotair
    “I must say I share Senator Shelby’s opinion on this one. We continue to slouch toward a diminished space future as a nation.”
    You think the rest of us didn’t already know that you would agree with Shelby? You are the ultimate in inane predictability.

  • josh,
    shelby can’t be convinced because he is a corrupt politician who is in the pocket of special interest lobbyists. he doesn’t care for what’s right. he cares about what’s in it for him.

    Oh, Shelby can be convinced alright. All SpaceX needs to do is copy most of the other Huntsville bandits that Shelby funnels money to. Expand their Huntsville office, hire a bunch of his former aides and campaign staff as lobbyists, and send him lots of campaign contributions.

    ~Jon

  • Doug Lassiter

    amightywind wrote @ May 28th, 2012 at 7:11 pm
    “I must say I share Senator Shelby’s opinion on this one. We continue to slouch toward a diminished space future as a nation.”

    I’ve never understood this line of reasoning. SpaceX and their ilk represent citizens of our nation exercising abilities that assert the independence and commitment of our capitalist system. They do this proudly, and patriotically. The creativity, energy, and excitement that these commercial firms are harvesting shows off the best of us as a nation. How can one not be proud that our country can do things like this? It is a county that can’t do these things that is relegated to relying wholly on a federal agency to do space flight. A country that has to rely on a federal organization to do important things is the one that is slouching toward a diminished future.

    I guess the idea is that we’re diminished if the “we” has to be represented by a federal agency. In this view, we’re thus diminished by GM, Ford, Apple, and Dell, since we don’t have a federal agency responsible for manufacturing cars or computers. Shame on us!

  • MrScienceGuy

    “The reality remains that SpaceX has spent hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to launch a rocket nearly three years later than planned.” – Senator Shelby

    I feel like statements like this are incredibly subversive because they ignore the differences between the milestone based contracts of COTS/CCDev and the traditional cost-plus contracts. Yes, SpaceX has spent hundreds of millions of NASA funding, but they only received the money AFTER they completed various milestones. This is compared to other projects like the SLS/MPCV which fully fund contractors from the beginning, pay for overflows and delays, and still net the contract a certain profit in the end.

    Beyond that, I agree with Charles Lurio. It is doubtful any feat by SpaceX or other COTS/CCDev teams would change his views. Luckily, I think individuals like himself are in the minority and while it may take some time, continued success by SpaceX and hopefully Orbital Science will continue to bring legislators around to the idea of commercialized space.

  • Miya

    Funny how when SpaceX aborted its launch it was “The most important news in spaceflight in the last decade! Undeniable proof that commercial spaceflight can’t be trusted!”

    But a successful launch, rendezvous, and docking later, suddenly, “Oh, who cares, it was never really that important anyways, I don’t know why anyone’s making such a big deal about it.”

    The detractors will look for any excuse to argue that COTS and CCDev are have failed, or are costing too much money, or taking too much time… all while ignoring the blatant irony of continuing to support a strategy that has sucked up tens of billions of dollars over almost a decade and produced virtually nothing

  • yg1968

    RGO,

    Commercial crew and cargo isn’t a Democrat versus GOP issue. I am not sure why you are trying to divide this issue over party lines. Shelby represents the GOP’s past. I hope that you also noticed the favorable statement by Republican (and potential VP candidate) Marco Rubio. People like Rubio represent the GOP’s future.

  • Robert G. Oler

    amightywind wrote @ May 28th, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    I must say I share Senator Shelby’s opinion on this one.>>

    Naturally…and before long Whittington will weigh in with some inane comment about subsidies and DSCA or whatever will come on with his “but its not” (at least the tick tock is silent)…

    Dicks of a feather stick together. RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    http://spaceflightnow.com/falcon9/003/120528crew/

    slippage continues to occur in the anti Dragon crowd. RGO

  • @Coastal Ron

    “The ISS is a market,”

    There are no essential products being produced at the ISS that even come close to paying for the titanic expense of that wasteful $3 billion a year program. Continuing the ISS beyond 2015 is simply a ruse used by Holdren and the Obama administration to cripple NASA’s manned beyond LEO program.

  • BeanCounterfromDownunder

    I agree Gary however if you include the two Bigelow modules then that’s 3 in space, not just the one. Admittedly two are pretty much fixed in their postions and not able to move independently but they’re still up there.

  • Fred Cink

    “I don’t forsee space hotels or circumlunar tours by mid decade” Nor do I, but those things are certainly possible, maybe by the END of the decade, now that not just one, but FIVE “first steps” have been taken. (Falcon launch, dragon orbit, dragon recovery, rendezvous, docking) The next two steps needed are a Bigelow module docked for long term testing at ISS (easily doable in the next two-three years if it weren’t for all the nay sayers. (like Shelby and Windy) Then a manned dragon demo. Those are the last two steps required to blow the doors open to a future in space that SHOULD have happened 30 years ago. (but didn’t thanks to all those well meaning “government-knows-best types” in DC and at NASA

  • BeanCounterfromDownunder

    Fred Cink wrote @ May 29th, 2012 at 12:42 am

    Why should a private company dock its module to the ISS. Bigelow’s modules are streets ahead of the ISS in design and modern materials technology. NASA isn’t required to licence or even approve Bigelow’s modules. Likewise SpaceX can fly to a Bigelow module on FAA approval. NASA again has no say and neither does Congress for that matter.

  • BeanCounterfromDownunder

    SpaceX must be thoroughly enjoying their moment of glory watching their political enemies writhe and chaf and try to backpeddle. Not to mention the admiration coming from the ISS astronauts on the Dragon. Elon’s also showing more confidence. EDL a known workable system or words to that effect. It’s definitely their party time for a while.
    Onya SpaceX. Looking forward to:
    FH
    Dragon Crew
    Reusable LV.

    And with Bigelow who still has IIRC approx $300 million not yet spent, who knows what they’re planning.
    Interesting times ahead.

  • BeanCounterfromDownunder

    Marcel you don’t seem to get it yet. If NASA actually renegged on their international contracts and stopped funding the ISS, do you really think they’d keep the $3 billion? Grow up!! Not a snowball’s chance in hell. It’s pure fantasy anyway. Not going to happen so get over it.

  • BeancounterFromDownunder

    Fred.

    Why would a private company link to the ISS? Bigelow’s modules are streets ahead of the ISS in technology and he’s well on the way to proving up his other systems and NASA’s methods would simply slow him down. He doesn’t need NASA’s ok, only the FAA and neither does SpaceX unless they specifically fly to the ISS.
    Bigelow’s still got approx $300 million unspent and Elon’s got a fair bit himself. Love to have been a fly on the wall when those two got together.
    I think they’re going to leave NASA in their dust. JM2CW

  • DCSCA

    amightywind wrote @ May 28th, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    We call it the Magnified Importance of Diminished Vision.

    Coastal Ron wrote @ May 28th, 2012 at 4:39 pm
    “The ISS is a market…”

    Except it’s not.

    It’s doomed to splash in a Pacific grave. It’s failed to come anywhere close to deliver a ROI to justify the $100+ billion expense and $3 billion annual operations budget. It is a Cold War relic; a one-off; an aerospace WPA project as Slayton labeled it; an ‘orbiting zombie’ as Goodgaw calls it.

    – it requires delivery of cargo and crew on a regular basis.

    ‘It’ is an international space platform. Russian Soyuz do that while Progerss spacecraft have kept ‘em supplied and satisfied. Indeed, Progress has been servicing LEO space platforms for over 34 years and Soyuz has been ferrying humkans to LEO for over 40. They’re operational, reliable. And routine.

  • @BeancounterFromDownunder
    “Marcel you don’t seem to get it yet. If NASA actually renegged on their international contracts and stopped funding the ISS, do you really think they’d keep the $3 billion?”
    That’s no sillier than the notion he has that SLS (if given that money) would get us beyond LEO any sooner. Logic flows past him like water off of a duck’s back, evidence to the contrary of what he believes is simply ignored. If he doesn’t like it, it can’t be true — for the mere reason that he doesn’t like it.

  • BeancounterFromDownunder

    DCSCA wrote @ May 29th, 2012 at 6:10 am

    That’s irrelevant if you want a U.S. capability. If not, then fine, don’t spend the money but then why support any of the NASA efforts such as SLS, MPCV, JWST, MERs, et al? Let the Russians do your work for you.

  • Terence Clark

    ““The ISS is a market…”

    Except it’s not.

    It’s doomed to splash in a Pacific grave.”

    And every Naval warship we have ever built and will ever build will eventually be scuttled or become a museum piece. Nearly every house ever built is eventually demolished with very rare exception of those that become sites on a historical register. A project’s inevitable fate does not preclude it from being a market.

    “It’s failed to come anywhere close to deliver a ROI to justify the $100+ billion expense and $3 billion annual operations budget. It is a Cold War relic; a one-off; an aerospace WPA project as Slayton labeled it; an ‘orbiting zombie’ as Goodgaw calls it.”

    None of the above makes it not a market. Titanic’s fate didn’t make its supply lines not a market. The people whose jobs were maintained by the Spruce Goose or the Hindenburg were no less happy to collect their respective paychecks, and the suppliers were just as happy to collect theirs. Further, none of this is SpaceX’ issue. It’s a NASA issue. I personally think there’s value in the ISS, but even if there isn’t your point is entirely inapplicable to the question of whether or not the ISS is a market. Up to and until we stop supplying it is a market.

    “They’re operational, reliable. And routine.”

    And old hat, and expensive, with no down mass capability and no refrigeration capability, and dead end projects with no future, planned or expected, beyond ISS. Color me excited! I can still write a paper or surf the internet on my Apple IIgs and I could build my house effectively out of mud and straw. Neither of which make modern computers or building materials not a market, nor do they preclude their utility above and beyond their predecessors.

  • Porkonaut Richard Shelby aside, elsewhere in Huntsville the town newspaper is warming up to NewSpace.

    From the May 27 Huntsville Times:

    The private sector may bring efficiency and new ideas that may be applied to the new heavy-lift rocket being developed by Huntsville’s Marshall Space Flight Center.

    Commercial space firms might also provide rides into low-Earth orbit for tourists. Or send probes to celestial bodies to mine valuable minerals.

    That can inspire Americans to support a vigorous space policy that keeps NASA at the forefront. It’s a marriage made in the heavens.

    I loved that paragraph about “new ideas” being applied to SLS. “New ideas” is a very dirty word in PorkSpace.

  • It was really nice to see some of the reactions coming from some of our elected officials. Especially from the minority side in the House Science Committee. I hope they do more things like this and I hope certain Republicans start to see the value of the COTS/SAA model.

    It works.

    Also, and please understand I am not trying to curtail any disappointment in Senator Shelby’s statement, but we need Senator Shelby as an coalition member, somehow, someway, someday. He is a very powerful Senator on the Appropriations Committee. While I completely disagree with his statement at some point we have to have a break through.

    The voters of Alabama just re-elected him, and like it or not, we must acknowledge that we need to educate and work with Senator Shelby. Simply clubbing him over the head for his views does us no good on Capitol Hill.

    I do not have the answer but I do know that the current tactics that space advocates are employing are not working. We need a new strategery.

    Respectfully,
    Andrew Gasser
    TEA Party in Space

  • Andrew Gasser wrote:

    I do not have the answer but I do know that the current tactics that space advocates are employing are not working. We need a new strategery.

    His sole interest is his own wallet.

    If PorkSpace companies like ULA and Boeing start flying more commercial space with part of their production based in Alabama, he’ll find religion.

    Shelby doesn’t care about us. But he’ll listen to the PorkSpace lobbyists who throw $$$ his way.

  • amightywind

    “I haven’t heard any of the ‘national heroes’ congratulating Elon Musk,” he said. “It would be kind of nice and gentlemenly if they would.”

    One idiot’s opinion. The ‘Big Guys’ (Armstrong, Lovell, and Cernan) don’t congratulate Boeing or Lockmart for every satellite launch either. Why should they slobber over Obama’s well connected friends? The SpaceX supply mission is less demanding than those. Don’t forget that SpaceX is preceded by the national space agencies of Russia, Japan, and Europe in station resupply.

  • Justin Kugler

    It was Bigelow that proposed to NASA testing one of their modules on the ISS, called BEAM. As I understand it, they wanted to get the flight heritage from being berthed to the ISS and better validation for their environmental models. NASA has also been pursuing its own new inflatables that are not based on the technology that Bigelow licensed.

    Congress also played a key role in continuing ISS operations, so these conspiracy theories about the White House trying to kill BEO exploration are laughable. Soyuz does not have the sample return capability needed to maintain ISS science operations. Neither does Progress, HTV, or ATV. Dragon absolutely is providing a necessary capability.

    Any LEO space station probably will go into the Pacific at its end-of-life, so that’s a complete non sequitur.

    The ISS is our foothold in space. It is our only permanently deployed asset for human space flight and, as such, should be utilized to its fullest extent for commercial research and BEO exploration technology development. Just throwing it away isn’t going to accelerate BEO exploration.

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ May 29th, 2012 at 6:10 am

    Progress has been servicing LEO space platforms for over 34 years and Soyuz has been ferrying humkans to LEO for over 40. They’re operational, reliable. And routine…

    … and being replaced by American assets.

    As Ambassador Kosh would say “The avalanche has already started. It is too late for the pebbles to vote.”

    Cargo now. Crew next.

  • Coastal Ron

    Andrew Gasser wrote @ May 29th, 2012 at 9:00 am

    I do not have the answer but I do know that the current tactics that space advocates are employing are not working. We need a new strategery.

    I for one have not targeted my comments and opinions at directly influencing a sitting Senator. My target is his constituents, who in turn have far more sway with their Senator.

    That’s why for years I have posted educational and persuasive comments on various Alabama online media when they have space-related stories. And in general the media in Alabama has been pretty sympathetic to SpaceX, and not so much to the SLS. Pretty telling.

    And it’s a pretty easy story to tell – powerful politicians create a $30B pork program that has no funded use or need. The story tells itself.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Other then the use of a time worn phrase…will someone who believes ISS is not a market..

    tell me why? RGO

  • Coastal Ron

    More proof of a tipping point for NewSpace in general, and SpaceX specifically, Intelsat and SpaceX announced the first commercial contract for the Falcon Heavy rocket.

    That’s bad news for Arianespace, which is starting to lose the hearts and minds (and business) to SpaceX that they used to dominate. ULA should also take this as a wakeup call, if they haven’t already, as it’s only a matter of time (and launches) before the Air Force will add SpaceX into competition with Delta IV Heavy. And don’t think the prospect of saving $300M/launch doesn’t give war planners ideas for how they could add more assets in space without increasing their budget.

    Tick tock, tick tock indeed.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    Intelsat Signs First Commercial Falcon Heavy Launch Agreement with SpaceX

    http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=37201

  • Vladislaw

    amightywind wrote:

    “I must say I share Senator Shelby’s opinion on this one. We continue to slouch toward a diminished space future as a nation.”

    When Shelby was a Democrat, spouting “protect my pork” were you with him then, or was he an evil liberal democrat and you automatically disagreed?

  • Das Boese

    Coastal Ron wrote @ May 29th, 2012 at 9:50 am

    DCSCA wrote @ May 29th, 2012 at 6:10 am

    “Progress has been servicing LEO space platforms for over 34 years and Soyuz has been ferrying humkans to LEO for over 40. They’re operational, reliable. And routine…”

    … and being replaced by American assets.

    As well as Russian ones, eventually. The Russians have been trying to replace Soyuz/Progress and their legacy LV fleet for over 20 years now.

  • yg1968

    Andrew,

    I think that the only way to deal with Shelby is to remind him that he voted in favour of the 2010 NASA Authorization Act which included commercial crew and cargo funding. This Act was a compromise and if it isn’t respected, expect the Administration to slow walk SLS and MPCV even more than it already has.

  • @ablastofhotair
    “One idiot’s opinion. The ‘Big Guys’ (Armstrong, Lovell, and Cernan) don’t congratulate Boeing or Lockmart for every satellite launch either. “
    But they didn’t constantly badmouth Boeing and Lockmart like they did SpaceX, nimrod.

  • Vladislaw

    amightywind wrote:

    “One idiot’s opinion. The ‘Big Guys’ (Armstrong, Lovell, and Cernan) don’t congratulate Boeing or Lockmart for every satellite launch either.”

    But this wasn’t just another satellite launch. This is something neither Boeing or Lockmart, or .. well no other commercial company on the entire planet has ever done.

    In the space business, this is what’s known as a FIRST. As SpaceX is the first commercial company in the entire history of spaceflight to do this.

    So to try and downgrade the achivement is rather disingenous to say the least.

  • Coastal Ron

    Das Boese wrote @ May 29th, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    As well as Russian ones, eventually. The Russians have been trying to replace Soyuz/Progress and their legacy LV fleet for over 20 years now.

    The Russian government can’t afford it right now. However if a couple of their 78 Moscow $Billionaires were to fund a new spacecraft (Musk was only a multi-Millionaire when he started SpaceX), then maybe.

    For now they are lucky to keep building the old hardware they have, and even that will get harder as competition eats into their market. Something needs to change, and soon, to stop the slow death of their space industry.

  • amightywind

    So to try and downgrade the achivement is rather disingenous to say the least.

    I’m not denigrating it. It is a modest achievement. I’m just stripping away the hype. The flight of Dragon is no different than the space systems launched by Orbital, Lockmart, Boeing and many others throughout history. I fault Musk and SpaceX for the hyper-politicization of the result. I predict it will come back to haunt them. The daggers have been drawn on Capital Hill for some time.

  • DCSCA

    Coastal Ron wrote @ May 29th, 2012 at 9:50 am

    Corporations owe no loyalty to any nation-state. And, of course. experience should tell you not to light your cigar ’til your bird is down intact and safely recovered. As ‘ambassador’ Yogi Berra said, ‘It ain’t over ’til it’s over.’

    “Cargo now.” Cargo then, — for over 34 years Progress spacecraft have been servicing LEO space platforms. But it’s quaint to see you embracing the Magnified Importance of Diminished Vision. LEO is a ticket to no place, going no where, fast. But then, you know that.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ May 29th, 2012 at 12:09 am
    “There are no essential products being produced at the ISS that even come close to paying for the titanic expense of that wasteful $3 billion a year program.”

    One of the more profound “products” of ISS has been successful international collaboration in doing human space flight, involving umpteen space agencies. That’s not an organizational accomplishment that just falls out of the ether. It’s not a matter of people shaking hands and smiling at each other. It’s a matter of budget scheduling, technology and culture interfacing, policy reconciliation and and global cooperation. Now, the United States spends vastly more than $3B/year on international aid, which is done primarily to buy cooperation from valuable international partners. How is that so different from ISS? At least this ISS money is going into technology development as well as cooperation.

    Bolden and Gerst have admitted it. Human space flight in this country, at least outside of LEO, isn’t going anywhere without international collaboration. That’s a fact. Constellation kept the internationals at arms length, and the embarrassing demise of that enterprise is part of the proof of that fact. The recent GLEX2012 conference and the ongoing development of the Global Exploration Roadmap marks the first exciting steps towards that collaboration. It is widely and completely understood that ISS broke the ground and holds the flag for that kind of collaboration, and future efforts will be structured with ISS in mind.

    Yes, one could say that once these partnerships are established, we don’t need ISS anymore, but it’s a living partnership. Two decades from now, you don’t want the first international Mars expedition organizers taking their lessons from ISS by reading archival reports.

  • DCSCA

    “Crew next.”

    Except it’s not.

    Soyuz has been ferrying international crews aka humans, including Americans, to the ISS for years and before that, for years to MIR. Soyuz is operational. Reliable. Routine. What you continue to embrace is the condemnation of another generation to LEO ops and the resources to sustain it. When the ISS splashes into the Pacific at decade’s end or so, you’ll be right where you are now, after sinking billions of more dollars, a dwindling resource in the Age of Austerity, into maintaining this Cold War relic and its ops. There is simply no justification for the expense given the low to no ROI of this ‘orbiting zombie; as Googaw notes. And you advocate wasting more on contracting for a redundancy to for a doomed space platform destined for a Pacific grave by decade’s end or so. Chasing government contracts for this wasteful redundancy is lobbyist Garver’s mantre. Her goal is to secure contacts. That’s all. Always has been since her NSS days. That’s why we’re saddled with the ISS, an aerospace WPA project, as Slayton called it. Wasting billions on redundant commercial LEO cargo runs and possibly crew as well is not only short-sighted, it’s foolish, unless you’re a propagandist for the Magnified Importance of Diminshed Vision– which is what LEO ops is. Or you’re simply a corporatist. Step back and look at the timeline: Since Skylab, the U.S. has restricted itself to LEO ops. Factor in the Russian ops, and that’s coming up on 40 years now through several generations of space platforms and space engineers, etc. Profit driven corporations bent on securing contracts are not going to altar that trajectory. LEO is a ticket to no place, heading no where fast, going in circles.

    This Magnified Importance of Diminished Vision will restrict another generation for another decade of going in circles. That’s half a century of going no place fast, wasting time and now, dwindling resources. Space exploitation is not space exploration

  • DCSCA

    “I haven’t heard any of the ‘national heroes’ congratulating Elon Musk,” [O’Brien] said. “It would be kind of nice and gentlemenly if they would.”

    O’Brien’s opinions are his own, of course, but the ‘national heroes’ are smart enough to know you don’t light up the cigars until the mission is safely and successfully over and O’Brien should know better. Further, O’Brien forgets this is really a business story. People usually don’t congratulate businesses for being late to finally providing goods and services they’ve been contracted to provide even after contract modifications in the businesses favor. Perhaps O’Brien thanks his car mechanic when they agreed to fix his car in three days and they take two weeks to do it, instread. Most people don’t. What Miles is falling prey to is a similar ‘gee-whiz’ high similar to the ol’ shuttle era line of ‘people don’t care what it costs (in time or money) if the mission is successful.’ The actual space ops are nothing to gush over as he well knows– the business side of it is, and that’s the real story worth reporting.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Andrew Gasser wrote @ May 29th, 2012 at 9:00 am

    I do not have the answer but I do know that the current tactics that space advocates are employing are not working. We need a new strategery. >>

    Andrew. there is none that will work…Shelby and some other members of the GOP are not going to “convert” until it is in their self interest to do that…and it wont be as long as the “Yank” that old space has is the power of various corporations to influence Shelby and others beliefs with money…

    David Frum in his book “Dead right” more or less nailed the reason quite sometime ago and it has really done nothing but get worse. The GOP (and sadly that includes those who claim that they support your group …the tea party) are really all about maintaining the status quo in terms of government financing of projects which create corporations and feed them money…that otherwise they would no longer have.

    RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    amightywind wrote @ May 29th, 2012 at 3:18 pm
    I’m not denigrating it. It is a modest achievement. I’m just stripping away the hype. The flight of Dragon is no different than the space systems launched by Orbital, Lockmart, Boeing and many others throughout history”

    what you are doing is typical right wing jerk off. You take one fact “the Falcon9 second stage has a roll issue” and spin it out of control…and you are of course wrong.

    The flight of Dragon is no different than any other space system that exist but you need to add in the field of private enterprise….

    and there is no private enterprise; at least there was not until Dragon, in human spaceflight or even on the periphery of it.

    The Dragon is to the human spaceflight industry what the P51 was to pre war fighters…it is a completely new innovative design put together outside of any government “technology” specs or trends…put together completely by private enterprise in response to a demand (a market) by government. In the case of the P-51 it was that the P-40 production line was not only already running at pre war capacity but it was not suitable (ie it underperformed) for European combat standards.

    Approached to build the P40 under license NAA had a better clean piece of paper design which used the technology innovations that had occurred since the P-40…

    There is no example in US (or foreign) human spaceflight design of a company doing what Musk has done with Dragon (and a few others are also trying to replicate). None.

    Musk competitor OSC (and I hope that they succeed) really is a “parts” shop. Other then using OSC’s satellite bus for control the entire system is really a lot of current parts made under license.

    The irony of it is, is that Musk and his product is truly American exceptionalism. here is the operative line from Forbes

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/lorenthompson/2012/05/29/spacex-will-elon-musks-triumph-be-transformative-or-transient/

    ” First, it demonstrates the dynamism of private enterprise. Second, it has the potential to save taxpayers and customers alike billions of dollars. Third, it rewards a risk-taker who committed most of his personal fortune and waking hours to making a revolutionary venture work. And fourth, it is underpinned by a vision of mankind’s future in space that renews our sense of human possibilities.

    No doubt about it, Elon Musk has much to be proud of today. He is well on his way to becoming the latest example of that American icon, the immigrant who works tirelessly and ends up changing the world. People may one day compare him with Nikola Tesla, the famous Serbian inventor and futurist after whom Musk named his other big venture, which makes sleek electrically-powered automobiles.”

    Now people like you roll American exceptionalism into big weapons, boisterous leaders who make threats against foreign pygmies, and big rockets that you substitute for anatomical parts; but in the end what Musk has done is build a better mousetrap.

    And people like you are to full of themselves and their old ideas…to see it RGO

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ May 29th, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    Corporations owe no loyalty to any nation-state.

    Who cares? Legal contracts perform the same function, and that’s all that matters.

    Soyuz has been ferrying international crews aka humans, including Americans, to the ISS for years

    Again, who cares? But since you’re promoting this canard, how much loyalty does Russia have to the U.S.? What recourse do we have with Russia if they decide not to transport our astronauts?

    Oops, is that your house of cards crashing down?

    Stop being an idiot. Everyone in the U.S. (and you said you live outside the U.S., so apparently you are not included) wants the U.S. to have a domestic transportation capability to access space. Haven’t you been watching all the media coverage about what they think this historic SpaceX mission means (i.e. restoring a capability we lost with Shuttle)?

    If Congress was concerned about relying on companies for access to space, all they have to do is put in place the same type of arrangement we already have for the Civil Reserve Air Fleet, where selected aircraft from U.S. airlines are contractually committed to Civil Reserve Air Fleet to support DoD airlift requirements in emergencies. Space transportation companies would love this, because they would be paid to do what they would be doing anyways.

    Your “we should let Russia control our access to space” argument is a total fail.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Doug Lassiter wrote @ May 29th, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    Bolden and Gerst have admitted it. Human space flight in this country, at least outside of LEO, isn’t going anywhere without international collaboration.>>

    they are wrong on that. Human exploration outside of LEO is going nowhere unless 1) the cost come down a lot 2) there is a lot of dual use technology and 3) there is some demonstrable reason to go that needs the versatility of humans.

    ISS is international really only at the margins. It is more “binational” meaning the US and now Russian (former Soviet) space programs absent the inability to continue on separately found a good reason to join together…and the “bit players” in some fashion or another joined it…but take away the Europeans and the Japanese and the station is still viable (although smaller) as a “superpower” space effort.

    A reasonable guess is that ISS is the high water mark for government space programs…and that is one reason all this talk (not by you) of it being “splashed” in some time period that is relatively short is completely goofy.

    not a chance. RGO

  • DCSCA

    “The irony of it is, is that Musk and his product is truly American exceptionalism.”

    Goofy. There’s no such thing as American exceptionalism. =eyeroll=

    Ask a Roman.

  • DCSCA

    @amightywind wrote @ May 28th, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    “I must say I share Senator Shelby’s opinion on this one. We continue to slouch toward a diminished space future as a nation.”

    Yep. The Magnified Importance of Diminished Vision at work. If ants had a space program, it would be the Empire State Building… and they’re getting attentiion this week for reaching the Fifth Avenue Lobby

  • @ BeanCounterfromDownunder

    The ISS wasn’t supposed to be extended beyond 2015. That was Holdren and Obama’s idea in order to replace the lunar outpost program that they were extremely hostile towards.

    If NASA had no lunar program and no space station program and no Shuttle program then Obama would have had absolutely zero support in Congress.

    Marcel F. Williams

  • @Rick Boozer

    You don’t think a lunar lander can be built with $3 billion dollars a year in extra funds over the next ten years ?????? Now that’s silly!

  • Googaw

    …Bigelow…Bigelow…Bigelow…Bigelow…Bob…Bigelow…

    The astronaut cult continues to cite the “visions” of the ultimate crackpot with coin, the great UFO hunter of MUFON fame himself, as their sole authority for the Imminent Coming of the Heavenly Market of the Future. Space stations, space stations, and more space stations.

    No matter how many hundeds of billions of taxpayer dollars have been squandered on this cult dogma over the last 40 years, each ending their useless lives in the easiest orbit to get to with a fiery plunge into an earth ocean — no matter, space stations are going to revolutionize space development Real Soon Now. Never mind that real commerce and useful security in space have been entirely unmanned this whole time, and that these machines continue their rapid improvements: we need more manned space stations! Space statons straight out of the pages of mid 20th century pulp fiction.

    Space stations have about as much chance of being economical in our lifetimes as flying cars and rolling roads have of replacing freeways. The odds of discovering Bob’s green-headed friends or L. Ron’s Xenu may be higher. But a little thing like rationality should hardly stand in the way of our heavenly pilgrims now should it?

  • BeancounterfronDownunder

    Marcel,
    relevence? You continually talk about things which have next to zero chance of happening or have never happened. It appears to me that you simply cant face reality. Good luck with that. NASA’s a bit like that for the most part which is why they’re lookiing a bit irrelevent.

  • DCSCA

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ May 29th, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    “No doubt about it, Elon Musk has much to be proud of today. He is well on his way to becoming the latest example of that American icon, the immigrant who works tirelessly and ends up changing the world. ”

    Nonsense. This isn’t a Sicilian building a pizza business from a pushcart along 6th and 48th outside Fox News HQ. Musk sought and used tax dollars and assets in place built by the United States. =eyeroll= Any attempt to label SpaceX as a true private enterprise space venture is bogus and inaccurate:

    “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.”

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ May 29th, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    “ISS is international really only at the margins.”

    Except it’s not.

    But it’s quaint to see purveyors of the Magnified Importance of Diminished Vision sully the partners in the ISS who constrcted various compnents and ferry supplies and international crews to it.

    @Terence Clark wrote @ May 29th, 2012 at 8:12 am

    Nonsense. It’s not a market. It’s a faux market ginned up by desperate NewSpacers hungry for government contracts chummed out by Garverites. Commerical markets involve transactional commerce and the ISS produces none of that. It produces nothing by bills. ‘Operational’ for 11 years, it has produced virtually no ROI for the $100+ billion cost and the $3 billion/yr operational expenses. That’s no a market to a capitalist- that’s a liability. But it may be to opportunists who are purveyors of the Magnified Importance of Diminished Vision, a liability has to be spun to have faux value. It’s Project Pyrite. Fool’s Gold. As Googaw said, it’s an ‘orbiting zombie.’ Every boat owner on Earth knows what a boat truly is, and the ISS is– a hole in the ‘New Ocean’ into which one pours money. That’s not a commercial market.

  • @EarthToPlanetMarcel
    “You don’t think a lunar lander can be built with $3 billion dollars a year in extra funds over the next ten years ?????? Now that’s silly!”
    What is silly is you putting words in my mouth. Yes, indeed I think a lander, propellant depot tech, a true deep space vehicle (that stays in space) and a number of other great projects can be built with the $3 billion dollars per year funding being wasted on SLS/MPCV.

    That is assuming NO cost-plus contracting and true competition; otherwise, it could only be one of those at maximum. No reason why we should stupidly cripple ourselves economically with cost-plus and no competition the way it was with Constellation and is now SLS/MPCV.

    Since we don’t need either a shuttle-derived HLV or expensive government capsule to do any of those things I outlined, then we should dump SLS/MPCV and get the money that way rather than splashing ISS.

    But again, logic is not a strong point on your planet.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ May 29th, 2012 at 11:00 pm

    You don’t think a lunar lander can be built with $3 billion dollars a year in extra funds over the next ten years ??????>>

    No more then NASA has been able to build a derivative of the shuttle having spent mroe then the shuttle itself cost. RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Googaw wrote @ May 30th, 2012 at 2:16 am

    “Space stations have about as much chance of being economical in our lifetimes as flying cars and rolling roads have of replacing freeways”

    I think you mean “productive” or “profit centers”…do you?

    If all you mean is economical then I dont think much of that statement. First off economical is in the mind of the beholder and second I have no doubt that a space station could be built that is operational on about 1/2 to 1/4 or what ISS cost to operate…I suspect a station can be built for about 1/10 or what ISS was.

    “Economical” or “productive” starts with “well defined”…ie “what is the darn thing suppose to do”. The shuttle/station/ and now SLS are neither economical nor productive because the definition of them always had to do with things that are essentially non space or “production” related.

    RGO

  • E.P. Grondine

    Googaw –

    I guess that depends on where the space station is, or is going to.

  • Vladislaw

    “This isn’t a Sicilian building a pizza business from a pushcart along 6th and 48th outside Fox News HQ.”

    So if this buiness took some special tax cuts, excelerated depreciation and hired an employee for the government kick back oh an hired an ex vet. This small business would not be a private business either according to your parameters.

    Just about every business in the U.S. gets something. If it is not from the Federal government, it is the state, if not the state, the county, if not the county, the township, if not that then the town or city.

    You may not be aware of this but ALL government, wants businesses to succeed in their area. They are willing to give land, tax breaks et cetera to get them to form in their area.

    Having written business plans for entrepreneurial start ups I can tell you, one of the first things a consultant does is looks to government, from local to state to federal and find out what is available to make that partictular start-up a success story.

    It is not like this is some sort of secret either. The rest of the world is now emmulating the U.S. and you are seeing businesses move from our shores because foreign governments obviously want those businesses more than we do because they are offering more.

    So get off your soap box that somehow SpaceX is a rouge company that is Dr. Evil using the government, because all levels of government are trying to help businesses.

  • Terence

    “Nonsense. It’s not a market. It’s a faux market ginned up by desperate NewSpacers hungry for government contracts chummed out by Garverites.”

    The ISS has been operating over a decade now without a single commercial flight until a week ago. It was intended to fly until at least 2015 and now 2020 with or without commercial space. As to “Garverites”, commercial space has been a keystone in every presidential administration since at least Reagan. This is not a new invention of the current administration, nor is it particular to it. The difference is only the commercial space’s ability to deliver.

    “Commerical markets involve transactional commerce and the ISS produces none of that. It produces nothing by bills. ‘Operational’ for 11 years, it has produced virtually no ROI for the $100+ billion cost and the $3 billion/yr operational expenses. That’s no a market to a capitalist- that’s a liability. But it may be to opportunists who are purveyors of the Magnified Importance of Diminished Vision, a liability has to be spun to have faux value. It’s Project Pyrite. Fool’s Gold. As Googaw said, it’s an ‘orbiting zombie.’ Every boat owner on Earth knows what a boat truly is, and the ISS is– a hole in the ‘New Ocean’ into which one pours money. That’s not a commercial market.”

    That long winded explanation is an argument not for ISS resupply as a market, but for the financial viability of the ISS as a whole. Again, not one thing you mention makes ISS resupply anything other than a market. Clay for art exhibits is a market despite minimal and in many cases no ROI from the project. ISS is not a market, I’ll agree. I disagree with your stance that it isn’t worth what we’ve spent on it, primarily because it is not meant to be a factory or an accounting firm, and never was and so shouldn’t be judged as though it were. ROI is not an appropriate measure in all cases.

    But suspending that disagreement for a moment, the fact that ISS itself is not a capitalistic venture doesn’t mean that supplying it is also not a capitalist venture. In the same vein, we sell raw materials to many communist and authoritarian regimes around the world. What they do with it is not capitalistic. Our sale to them is. Indeed our entire capitalist system has a very large component related to sales toward non-capitalist activities domestic and international. You need to separate the thing from it’s supply chain. My car? Not a market. Fueling it and maintaining it? Market. If you’d like to reply on those grounds I’ll continue, but so long as you insist that ISS’ ROI has some bearing on the status of resupply as a market, I think I’ve said enough on the matter.

  • DCSCA

    @Terence wrote @ May 30th, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    “That long winded explanation is an argument not for ISS resupply as a market, but for the financial viability of the ISS as a whole…”

    =blink= That’s the whole point of the commerical pitch. It’s a ‘market.’ =eyeroll= “…the fact that ISS itself is not a capitalistic venture doesn’t mean that supplying it is also not a capitalist venture.” So your logic is to have a government subsidied ‘commercial firm’ service a dying government project with tax dollars, a dwindling resource in the Age of Austerity, lost on both ends. Keep in mind, Musk only put $100 million into Space X. This is the same logic that rationalizes the US Mint spending three cents to mint every one cent coin, which benefits the select few suppliers at the expense of the many taxpayers. What you’re advocating is benefiting an elite few at the expense of the many– and keep in mind, the government has to borrow 42 cents of every dollar it spends to subsidize this ‘market’ and it’s ‘commercial’ suppliers. The ISS is not a market. It’s a faux market’ ginned up as a ‘destination’ for desperate NewSpace advocates seeking seed money subsidies deined by the private capital markets who remain wary and see little to no ROI in LEO HSF operations. So they invest in oil, instead. Bear in mind, NASA had plans to splash your faux ISS market by mid-decade before Constellation was scuttled. It’s not a market. It’s a liability; an aerospace WPA project; a faux market ginned up by desperate NewSpacers hungry for government contracts chummed out by ‘Garverites’ (lobbyist Garver never met a government contract she didn’t like) and, as Googaw says, the ISS is ‘an orbiting zombie.’ It’s a drag on progressing onward and outward. It’s not a market. LEO is a ticket to no place, going no where fast, and wasting resources condemns another generation to LEO ops. Space exploitation is not space exploration.

  • Terence

    ” So your logic is to have a government subsidied ‘commercial firm’ service a dying government project with tax dollars, a dwindling resource in the Age of Austerity, lost on both ends. Keep in mind, Musk only put $100 million into Space X.”

    No my logic is that it’s there, and we’re paying to resupply it, whomever it is we happen to be paying to do so. I’d personally rather pay US firms. But if you’d rather pay Russia, that’s your deal. Despite the greatest wishes of a few on here, de-orbiting ISS has never been seriously on the table regardless of the status of NewSpace, regardless of the party in power or the president’s tie color, and despite the decades of its existence. And since it needs to be supplied and we’re paying someone to do it, that’s a market.

    And privately funded doesn’t mean “funded out of the CEO’s pockets”. Musk has only put $100 million toward it, but considerably more, in the billions territory, has been spent out of the Founder’s Fund and earnings from satellite contracts which it has already begun delivering on. Most of those contracts, and the dollars involved, are commercial. NASA’s contribution has been a fraction of that. Musk has freely admitted he needed the government funding, but that doesn’t mean it’s entirely government funded.

    “The ISS is not a market. It’s a faux market’ ginned up as a ‘destination’ for desperate NewSpace advocates seeking seed money subsidies deined by the private capital markets who remain wary and see little to no ROI in LEO HSF operations.”

    Are you suggesting that Musk has a plant in Moscow, Brussels, Ottawa, and Tokyo, too? If NewSpace doesn’t come through and we pay the Russians, is it then a make work so we can grease Putin’s palms? And if this is a buddy buddy deal between Obama and Musk, as you claim, why is it that even the most vociferous critics of NewSpace in congress haven’t suggested we sundown ISS or even mentioned the connection. Surely with as much as they’ve thrown at SpaceX, et al, they’d have at least noted that. And surely since they brutally grill Newspace folks every time they speak at a hearing it isn’t out of fear. I’m sorry, there’s cynicism, there’s conspiracy theory, and there’s plain ideological fantasy. All evidence points to your stance being the latter.

    And again, even if your magical world where somehow ISS was simply a NewSpace make work and nothing more and someone, anyone, in congress was even entertaining the idea of sinking it, it still wouldn’t make it anything other than a resupply market, just as your penny scenario is still a market (I’d rather be rid of the thing, but evidence suggests public opinion is the real reason it’s still there).

  • Terence

    Hell, if Musk is able to pull one over on 12 different countries, some of whom aren’t entirely fond of us, and gotten them to come together to build a $100 billion spacecraft, staff it, supply it, and fight for it in all of their legislatures, we don’t need him building rockets, we need him in the State Department.

  • Vladislaw

    “The ISS is not a market. It’s a faux market’ ginned up as a ‘destination’ for desperate NewSpace advocates seeking seed money subsidies deined by the private capital markets who remain wary and see little to no ROI in LEO HSF operations.”

    Now this whole idea of a space station being “ginned up”, when did the actual ginning take place? Skylab? When NASA talked to President Nixon about a big space station? Von Braun? President Reagan? President Clinton?

    When was the idea of a space station first ginned up for desperate newspace advocates?

    Because is seems to me that space stations have always been advocated from the begining of spaceflight and there was never anything about faux markets, or desperate newspace advocates.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ May 29th, 2012 at 7:48 pm
    “Human exploration outside of LEO is going nowhere unless 1) the cost come down a lot 2) there is a lot of dual use technology and 3) there is some demonstrable reason to go that needs the versatility of humans.”

    Yep. As per #1, international collaboration keeps U.S. costs down. That’s the fiscal decision metric here. It’s about cost to the U.S. Dual use technology? Sure. That’s also how you keep the costs down. Finally, it has nothing to do with “versatility”. The demonstrable reason to go IS humans. At least, that’s what they say … That is, it has nothing to do with what humans can do by going. It’s about their going. (If you shake your head hard enough, it almost makes sense.)

    As to demonstrable reasons for humans, it’s always easier to have humans either at an exploration site, or close by, so they can work efficiently telerobotically. But that’s not a reason. That’s how to make it easier when you decide on a reason. By and large, we don’t have many good reasons. But we know how to make it easier when we can get some.

    But the U.S. isn’t going to go outside of LEO without holding hands with someone else. That’s the way the cards have fallen, for better or worse. NASA administration reluctantly understands that. It isn’t going to change.

  • Daddy

    Congratulations to SpaceX!!! They have duplicated 1966 Gemini technology… Oh, sorry, not quite…. Gemini was manned and piloted to a rendezvous… But they did duplicate automated Russian cargo vessel technology… Oh, well, not quite that either… The Russians can actually do an automated docking maneuver. Well, anyway, just a few more decades of development to go….

    I will get excited when our nation demonstrates some human space exploration vision. I will get excited when we commit to a space-based infrastructure. I will get excited when we prepare a lunar outpost suitable for facilitating a deep space launch capability.

    Oh, hey, I sorta articulated a national space policy… Wouldn’t it be cool if we had a president who did that? Well, I guess he is busy congratulating egotistical entrepreneurs for launching 1966-era low earth orbiting spacecraft and slandering NASA for wasteful bureaucratic efforts doing what no other organization on this planet can do…. Now that’s leadership we can be proud of!!! Doesn’t that make you just want to stand up, salute, and motivate the giant economic engine of the good old USA?!?!?

    SpaceX and BarryO, I am underwhelmed….

  • Daddy

    Oh, wait!!! Our glorious leader is on a late night talk show slow-jamming about student loan interest….. I’m so inspired!!! if I were in college today, I might actually consider taking political science, sociology, or drama, or even a modern art class… Why bother with calculus or physics? We’ve already been to the Moon, right? And we have problems right here and now…paying student loans.

    BarryO, I am underwhelmed….

  • Googaw

    all levels of government are trying to help businesses.

    And NewSpace drifts ever farther away from its libertarian roots. There seems to be an odd correlation between this drift, now seemingly a sprint, and dependency on NASA contracts.

  • Googaw

    RGO — like you, I’m using “economical” and “productive” interchangeably. Profit may or may not be productive — the profit NASA contractors make for example chasing NASA’s economic fantasies tends to not be very productive. SpaceX being a possible partial exception to that trend (Falcon 9 potentially very productive; Dragon like the ISS it serves preposterously unproductive).

  • Vladislaw

    So the 12 nasa cargo flights are make it or break it for SpaceX and the other 30 launches on their flight manifest don’t count?

  • Justin Kugler

    Daddy,
    SpaceX met the requirements of its customer. The Common Berthing Mechanism is not designed for active docking. All visiting vehicles and modules that use that system – and, thus, that have the capability to carry Station payload racks – must berth.

    The commercial crew vehicles will certainly have docking adapters because those are part of the mission requirements.

    You are deliberately misrepresenting the situation.

  • Coastal Ron

    Googaw wrote @ May 31st, 2012 at 1:46 am

    And NewSpace drifts ever farther away from its libertarian roots.

    Who said NewSpace had libertarian roots?

    If anything, the field seems to be dominated by capitalists, with a few non-rich but smart business people (like Jeff Greason) thrown in.

    I think you are applying your motivations to their actions, and are now disappointed because they are not acting like you think they should. How rude of them… ;-)

  • Coastal Ron

    Splashdown of the Dragon.

    Cargo now. Crew Next.

    SpaceX is now able to lower the cost to resupply the ISS from the $1.5B full-up cost of a Shuttle mission to $133M (current CRS contract price). That is a good example of disruptive innovation (aka disruptive technology).

    And in case you haven’t been listening in on the various NASA briefings, NASA has confirmed that Dragon is able to carry up in it’s trunk all the external LRU’s that NASA needs to keep the ISS going.

    Combine that capability with our existing heavy-lift rockets (Delta IV Heavy & Falcon Heavy) and a future automated tug (maybe based on OSC’s Cygnus bus), and that means the U.S. has the major components we need to build, resupply and maintain space-only spacecraft and space stations in space. No SLS needed.

    So to tie in to this blog topic, the Congressional reaction I would want to see is that it’s time to cancel the unneeded SLS, and use that funding to build Nautilus-X and start our beyond LEO exploration.

    However Congress won’t do much until after the November elections. For the rest of this year I’m sure SpaceX will get a little more media coverage with their first CRS flight, but after that we can turn our focus and public support to Orbital Sciences and their Antares/Cygnus system. Go OSC! Go redundant and competitive cargo resupply!

  • Daddy-O

    Ares 1-X Daddy. Say it softly, and often. Ares 1-X.

  • vulture4

    @Daddy
    It would be helpful if you could explain your intense hostility toward Mr. Obama. He initiated the commercial crew program, rescued the CCDev program from starvation and ISS from termination, and is close to returning human spaceflight to the US. He took over the country after eight years of Republican leadership had left it in financial disaster and has gradually put the economy in order.

    Yet a substantial fraction of NASA civil servants seem to have been born hating Mr. Obama at first sight. Reason doesn’t play a role. Mr. Romney claims that despite record business profits the recovery is “weak”. he doesn’t mention that we are recovering from a GOP-directed meltdown.

    I certainly remember when this level of hostility and polarization overwhelmed political debate. Can you explain?

  • Yep. As per #1, international collaboration keeps U.S. costs down.

    That’s the conventional wisdom, but there’s no evidence that it’s true. International partners complicates things significantly, and just encourages a more porkish approach. This nation is perfectly capable of developing space on its own. It simply chooses not to do so.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Doug Lassiter wrote @ May 30th, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ May 29th, 2012 at 7:48 pm
    “Human exploration outside of LEO is going nowhere unless 1) the cost come down a lot 2) there is a lot of dual use technology and 3) there is some demonstrable reason to go that needs the versatility of humans.”

    You wrote:
    “Yep. As per #1, international collaboration keeps U.S. costs down.”

    We went overseas in the space station project because NASA and the contractors could not KEEP THEIR COST in line ie they were exploding (the US spent 1.5 or so billion on its own propulsion module)…but that was an internal issue…and in no way reflected cost “going down” except in a relative fashion…

    I dont think so. I’ve heard that over and over and yet I dont believe it at all…no one has ever proved that.

    As SpaceX has proved US industry is perfectly capable of doing things for an affordable price; the US just has to be willing to bring “the stakeholders” in line.

    as for the rest of it…I dont think that there is a political reason for human spaceflight that “works” right now RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Googaw wrote @ May 31st, 2012 at 1:54 am

    RGO — like you, I’m using “economical” and “productive” interchangeably. ”

    I should be more careful then. grin

    there is economical ie something is cheap enough to afford it even though it doesnt produce all that much…and productive which implies it has some value for cost.

    My wife and I have a barn at our new place that is nearly 100 years old. There is not a single contractor that has come and looked at it and not said “tear the thing down,s ave some parts and go on” …but we are determined to save it…its not economical compared to starting anew, but we make a lot of money and the money to fix it is not “all” that much…on the other hand we spent about 60K raising “our place” with dirt to get it above flood stage…that is more or less productive and we got a good cost forit.

    These bars interact somewhat and somewhere. If a space station cost per person to sustain about twice or five times what a person in the South Pole area takes…no one would care what it cost or what they do (this is the South Pole story)…nothing comes from there of value for the cost…except doing it…but doing it is cheap.

    Sadly human spaceflight is far more expensive so the trick is to try and have it do something that has some value for the cost.

    Dragon (not FAlcon) only has “value” so far as it lowers the cost to ISS…but its ability to open up human operations in space beyond that has yet to be demonstrated. Falcon9 and its derivatives probably have value all their own as uncrewed launch vehicles. RGO

  • Vladislaw

    Actually economical is not about the cost. it has more to do with efficient use of resources and not being wasteful. Here is the archaic definition:

    “avoiding waste or extravagance, thrifty, marked by careful, efficient, and prudent use of resources”

    By following those tips you can derive the most economical product, not always the lowest cost but the best use of available resources.

    A good example would be it would not be economical to obtain water from the moon yet because it would not be a prudent use of resources at this point in time.

  • Daddy

    @Vulture4,
    Our president lied about his commitment to space during the 2008 campaign. He put an incompetent political scientist in the NASA number 2 position, who later planted dull knives in the backs of those she had grudges with since her previous incompetent years with NASA. He sent the NASA Administrator to the Middle East to thank Arabs for math, then denied having any support for said Administrator’s mission to Muhammad. He glad handed Sir Elan at KSC while ignoring the NASA workforce. He dissed the Apollo legacy by saying “been there, done that.” He supported a budget and agency policy few in the space community or NASA had anything to do with developing or supporting, therefore inviting congress to tear it apart. I will pause there….

    I know there is little interest in this presidential campaign for space, but I think even Romney could approach the agency’s mission in a more coherent fashion. What we have seen the last three years is what I call motivated idiocy — when incompetents run blindly forward destroying things, convinced of their righteousness. Yes, Griffin was a self-righteous force of nature himself, but at least he had a vision, a plan, and some level of technical competence.

    Thank you very much for inviting me to clarify my opinions…

    And @DaddyO, I will say it, “Ares 1-X”. And your point is what exactly?

  • Coastal Ron

    Daddy wrote @ May 31st, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    Yes, Griffin was a self-righteous force of nature himself, but at least he had a vision, a plan, and some level of technical competence.

    Funny, when you were describing what you thought about Garver, it initially sounded like Griffin. Griffin readily disposed of the work his predecessors had done, and installed his design for Constellation.

    As it turns out, I think most would agree that Griffin’s over-ambitious hardware designs were responsible for the cancellation of the Constellation program – not Obama, not Garver, and not even Congress. If the program would have been meeting it’s cost and schedule goals, no one would have pushed to cancel it, and Congress would have kept funding it.

    Griffin was also responsible for not dealing with the JWST program fiasco, which pushed a HUGE funding decrease onto future Planetary Science budgets in order to save the program. Congress is mad about a lack of Mars missions, and that is a direct result of Griffin’s mismanagement of JWST.

    Our president lied about his commitment to space during the 2008 campaign.

    Maybe I’ve been around a lot longer than you have, but I am not surprised when politicians say one thing to get elected and do another when they take office. It happens at every level of government, so if this really makes you angry, then you must be angry at everyone in government, not just Obama. If it weren’t so much further Off Topic, I’d share with you a VERY long list of things that Bush 43 lied about. Get used to disappointment.

    What really matters is what politicians do once they are in office, and for NASA, Obama hasn’t done too bad. He pushed to get Commercial Crew going, continued to support the end of the Shuttle and the startup of Commercial Cargo, and he has requested far more funds for NASA than Congress has provided.

    Presidents rarely get all the things they want, but Congress did agree with Obama that the Constellation program was a fiscal disaster, and they agreed to cancel it. However, Congress has forced NASA to embark on a $30B rocket program that has no clearly defined need, zero customers, and plenty of commercial transportation alternatives. Win some, lose some.

    Overall I don’t think Obama has done too bad with NASA, especially considering the shape it was in when Griffin handed it over.

  • @Daddy
    “Yes, Griffin was a self-righteous force of nature himself, but at least he had a vision, a plan, and some level of technical competence.”
    The first clause in the above statement is the only accurate part. The rest after “but” is hilarious. I’m for any realistic plan that will return us to deep space, and that takes more than a “vision” popping into someone’s head. Not all “visions” match objective reality and his didn’t. I don’t know what you’ve been smoking, but it must be some high quality stuff.

  • Daddy-O

    “Ares 1-X”. And your point is what exactly?

    If you can’t see the Ares 1-X point, there was no point.

    $10 billion doesn’t even buy a point anymore when NASA is in charge.

    Yes, Griffin was a self-righteous force of nature himself, but at least he had a vision, a plan, and some level of technical competence.

    Thanks for making my point.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Daddy wrote @ May 31st, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    Our president lied about his commitment to space during the 2008 campaign. “”

    No he (Obama) did not.

    And who cares about the “NASA work force”. REally..

    these are mostly right wing loons (both in the GS and contractor groups) who babble on incessantly about this or that right wing notion; they for instance are opposed mostly to single payer health care…all the while they essentially have it.

    I’ve had the “NASA workforce” come to my school board meetings and babble on about the health care the CCISD gave their employees and about “cutting middle management” when both USA and GS employees have better health care…and most of the babbling is done by GS and USA “middle management”.

    In the end these people worked at a government technodole job that essentially ran out of steam. Now I agree a lot of it was not at their paygrade (although I’ve had astronauts come to the school board and explain why the earth is 6000 years old; a lot of them are loons as well) but in the end of it the people who mostly rail on about this or that conservative cause; sucked at the government trough producing not a lot of value for decades.

    Dont be bitter…RGO

  • josh

    @rgo

    there is a word for people like this: hypocrites.

  • Daddy

    @DaddyO,
    I am assuming your alias is in my honor… If so, I am flattered. To your point, $10B bought a hell of a lot more than Ares 1-X. Don’t leave out Orion design, which has essentially survived in an evolved state, and some very mature and innovative launch abort technology are the most significant products.

    As for the other NASA-bashing, particularly from the distinguished Mr. Oler…. There are examples from ignoramouses in every industry. But a majority of the NASA employees I have worked with are among the most dedicated and productive people in government. They don’t deserve the group bashing they are getting.

    As for Dr. Griffin — 8 years ago, I would not believe I have found myself in the position of defending him. But Ms. Garver’s incompetence has created a new low in my expectations of NASA leadership.

  • Coastal Ron

    Daddy wrote @ June 1st, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    But a majority of the NASA employees I have worked with are among the most dedicated and productive people in government.

    So those that work for the Department of Defense, or Department of Homeland Security? Not so much, eh?

    Maybe what you mean is that the NASA people you’ve worked with are just as productive as other dedicated government employees. And I’m a Theory Y type of manager, so I do think that there are good government employees out there (good management is another issue).

    They don’t deserve the group bashing they are getting.

    I think you are confusing too many of the various discussions about NASA and what “they” do well and what “they” don’t.

    NASA has lots of institutional knowledge, and it’s in their charter to share that with industry. NASA also has a lot of knowledgable workers.

    The question though is whether they are the right entity to do certain things, like design, build and operate transportation systems. Is NASA as a whole the best entity to do that?

    The answer to me is “No”, but that doesn’t mean that NASA employees are bad people, or not smart. It just means that NASA is not the right organization to do certain things, and their skill-sets are not appropriate.

    NASA didn’t build the Shuttle spacecraft (Rockwell International did), and NASA certainly didn’t operate the Shuttle system either (United Space Alliance did). What inherent knowledge do they have in that field? No more than anyone else, and less than some. And whatever applicable talent they do have can be hired away by private industry, as happens frequently.

    So we’re not attacking your friends when we say “NASA can’t do that”, we’re attacking the idiots that are trying to force NASA to do what it is not best at doing. Big difference.

    My $0.02

  • Daddy-O

    And how many time has Orion flown and what has it accomplished … yet?

    Again, you great making points. Wrong endzone, though.

  • Daddy

    @Coastal Ron,
    I don’t agree with you completely, but you make a fair point. I do recall in the early Shuttle days how much of a challenge it was to get NASA thinking long-term logistical processes to keep the Orbiters in shape. That was painful, but I think effective lessons were learned. Not sure that there were very effective bench marks for things like hypergolic systems. NASA had to lead the effort.

    And I would put NASA civil servants way up on the government effectiveness ranking. I’ve worked closely with DoD folks and there is far more blatant waste. Homeland Security… I’m no expert with them, but I think the Coast Guard is the only worthy group there.

  • Coastal Ron

    Daddy wrote @ June 1st, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    That was painful, but I think effective lessons were learned.

    No doubt, the people working on Shuttle wanted it to be a safe system. No doubt.

    My point is that there are some things that NASA was intended to do well, like one-off exploration hardware. But there are things that private companies have more experience doing, which now includes cargo resupply to LEO.

    Sure, if given enough money NASA could do just about anything. But there isn’t enough money, and for something like the SLS there will never be enough money to fly it frequently enough (a good operational tempo) so it could become reliable. That’s not a dig at NASA, it’s just the reality of the situation that Congress is forcing upon them.

    It was also the reality of the Shuttle. A Congress or President should have done a top to bottom assessment of the Shuttle program after it became clear that it has reached it’s peak tempo and use. That didn’t happen, and the Columbia accident is a direct reflection of no one truly understanding how fragile a system the Shuttle was. It was very flexible, and that’s what every focused on, but it required too much loving care and hope. Failure was likely inevitable.

    Owned by a private company from the start, the Shuttle would have either failed quicker or evolved to something better faster. Instead we were stuck with an over-priced transportation system that left no successors behind. An evolutionary dead end.

    So when I say that NASA can’t do something, NASA employees may take umbrage, but it means that there are better organizations, not that NASA employees are bad or that they can’t learn “effective lessons”.

    One of the things that I liked about Obama’s first NASA budget was that it focused more on the technology side of the house, which I think has been neglected. Make NASA more NACA-like. We need more technology choices, not more government rockets, if we’re going to leave LEO and get back into space exploration.

    Hence my dislike for the SLS and Congress, not the poor souls forced to work on a pointless rocket that is likely to end up on the scrap heap.

  • pathfinder_01

    “The question though is whether they are the right entity to do certain things, like design, build and operate transportation systems. Is NASA as a whole the best entity to do that?”

    Amen. Locally the public transits run by a government organization and even they don’t design busses and rapid transits cars. Nor build them. They may do heavy repair on them but that is about it. And mind you their job is to provide transit. By doing this they can get busses and rapid transit cars cheaper than if they attempted to run a factory and they can take advantage of new innovations from those companies.(Knelling busses and A.C. powered transit cars)

    NASA really should not be in the launch business period. ULA, Space, and Orbital all can launch something and frankly there are not enough manned spaceflights to justify a manned only system.

    I can live with NASA owned spacecraft, but even here they should be as commercial as possible. If for instance Orion (which I am no fan of) was launched on the EELV the whole Ares-1 debacle would have been avoided and the funds that Ares-1 used could have been put to more productive use. Right now I think using Dragon would be a much better use of funds than Orion.

  • Daddy

    @Coastal Ron,
    I can appreciate your Shuttle design assessment. I thought of it as launching egg-shells into space. I recall Shuttle cargo variants going all the way back to the mid 80s, with no traction ever demonstrated. That is until Cx. And then the traction turned into an uphill slippery slope. I do think, however, Cx, with dare I say it, an Ares-derived configuration, would offer the potential for an evolvable heavy lift capability. In that way similar technology application would retain a homogeneously skilled support crew that could be used for LEO cargo, crew to heavy lift applications, like, dare I say it, SLS.

    But I couldn’t see any logic to the “game-changing technology” laden budget Ms. Garver and Dr. Holdren advocated. Vast sums of money directed at vague technology demonstrations. To a practical-minded engineer it looked like an insane expense with virtually no assured payback.

  • Coastal Ron

    Daddy wrote @ June 1st, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    I do think, however, Cx, with dare I say it, an Ares-derived configuration, would offer the potential for an evolvable heavy lift capability.

    For what? Is Congress funding a program that requires such a capability?

    In that way similar technology application would retain a homogeneously skilled support crew that could be used for LEO cargo, crew to heavy lift applications, like, dare I say it, SLS.

    What flight rate would it take to keep such a “homogeneously skilled support crew” at a competent level?

    Shuttle was averaging about four flights a year – are you thinking such a fictitious HLV would fly that often?

    If so, when will Congress start allocating the $10B/mission (and 10 years to build them) that it will average for SLS-sized missions?

    Bottom line – I have no doubt that given enough money and given enough time, that NASA can build and operate an HLV safely. I just don’t see that there is any money coming from Congress to use it many times per year for the 20+ years it would take for it to be a positive ROI for the U.S. Taxpayer.

    Convince me otherwise. Show me the money or customers.

  • Daddy

    @Coastal Ron,
    I guess I envision a reality that doesn’t need America to spend $700B a year on a military capability to police the world against nuclear Armageddon…. I don’t want to debate foreign or defense policy in this venue, so I guess it is pointless to expand on how and why I advocate diverting a significant boost to NASA’s budget. I have always advocated NASA’s dreams slightly outside of its grasp, rather than simply relenting to ever-shrinking budgets and ever-shrinking ambitions. Perhaps that is at the heart of the criticism against NASA management over the years. Chasing bold, unattainable dreams rather than accepting grim reality.

    I also credit NASA directly for inspiring my education and career goals. I think that is the case for a majority of fellow engineers and scientists in my generation. It didn’t take a NASA education program to do that. It just took doing remarkable things on a regular basis. I don’t know how you put an ROI estimate to that kind of educational and technological motivation that influences such a large segment of the public.

  • pathfinder_01

    “ In that way similar technology application would retain a homogeneously skilled support crew that could be used for LEO cargo, crew to heavy lift applications, like, dare I say it, SLS.”

    Not really. The EELV would be cheaper than Ares-1. The trouble with Ares-1 is the workforce, or rather the size of it. ULA builds both Atlas and Delta with about 3,000 people. The shuttle required about 10,000 people. Unless you paid those 10,000 1/3 as much as ULA, it means you are over paying for a capability. Even worst Orion’s disposability does not help here.

    The ISS really does not need heavy lift. 10-20 tons of lift is fine LEO cargo, LEO crew. And, as Atlas and Delta have other users[DoD, NASA unmanned spaceflight] they could crank out an extra 2-6 rockets at very low cost relative to attempting the develop Ares-1. By not using the shuttle workforce NASA saves about 2-3 billion a year on ISS support. What killed the shuttle were high fixed costs. That huge workforce costs a lot and they got paid wither they launched or not—else you would lose the capability to launch the shuttle.

    However there was little of value that the shuttle could do for its price by the year 2,000. In terms of science, the ISS is better. The shuttle limited you to two week missions (or so). You can run an experiment for week, months, even years at the ISS. In terms of launching cargo of any kind other rockets are better and they don’t endanger the lives of a crew to send up supplies or a weather satellite. In terms of crew well we know we can make things safer, plus they were getting almost 30 years old.

    I personally think the choice of Space X and Rocket Plane Kreisler for COTS was an attempt to sabotage the program (look, commercial doesn’t work and space is so hard the government needs to do everything). It is just the Space X survived and Orion fell so far behind that it endangered the ISS and NASA HSF. Heck they canceled the cargo version of Orion attempting to save money.

    Even in the case of CXP, one dirty little secret was that the SRB needed for Ares V was slightly different from the SRB needed for Ares-1(it would have had an extra half segment). The whole Ares program was an attempt to relive Apollo, but without Apollo budgets something had to give—in the end it was the whole program.

  • pathfinder_01

    “But I couldn’t see any logic to the “game-changing technology” laden budget Ms. Garver and Dr. Holdren advocated. Vast sums of money directed at vague technology demonstrations. To a practical-minded engineer it looked like an insane expense with virtually no assured payback.”
    There are lots of advantages.

    Fuel depot/propellant transfer technology—Now you are no longer limited by the size of your rocket. You no longer have to launch 2 rockets in 3 days (like lunar XP). Even lunar CXP wanted to develop a thermal blanket for the booster—else your propellant will boil away in hours.

    Electric propulsion—reduces the amount of propellant needed and can in certain instances enable faster or cheaper travel for both crew and cargo.

    Aero braking/Aero capture-reduces the amount of propellant needed.

    The thing is the problem of how to get mass into space has been solved. NASA no longer needs engineers working that problem. They need people working on how to live long term in space, how to travel faster/cheaper/more efficiently and so on.

  • pathfinder_01

    “ I recall Shuttle cargo variants going all the way back to the mid 80s, with no traction ever demonstrated.”

    No traction was demonstrated because of cost. Basically after challenger the world knew the shuttle was a failure at lowering launch costs and risking lives to launch a communication satellite is a bad idea. It’s resuseablity came at a high price. The deregulation of space caused the shuttle to be used solely for NASA HSF-other rockets went on to be used by commercial launch companies. Franky the only reason why the shuttle itself was not canceled with challenger was because we had spent billions of dollars and years of development and the country was not in the mood to do it again for a new manned spacecraft.

    When the shuttle was conceived it was to launch all satellites for the US. It would have a crew but its role would be more than HSF. In fact until challenger blew, the plan was to cancel the ELV in favor of the shuttle. The trouble with NASA owned heavy lift is that NASA is stuck fully with its costs.

    For instance Shuttle-C was thought about, but the problem is you are throwing away about half an orbiter every flight of shuttle-C. They thought they might use it to build the ISS, till they crunched the numbers and found that development of shuttle-C would delay the ISS ten years and add billions to the cost.

    Contrast that with something like the EELV phase I/II or Falcon heavy. The smaller variants of those rockets would have other users (DOD, Commercial, NASA unmanned) and NASA would only pay for the larger variant for heavy lift.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Fuel depot/propellant transfer technology—Now you are no longer limited by the size of your rocket.

    We are in that blissful state already with existing propellant transfer technology – no depots needed.

    You no longer have to launch 2 rockets in 3 days (like lunar XP).

    We are in that blissful state too, simply launch the transfer stage last. Storable payloads don’t boil off and we have a space station where astronauts can safely await arrival of their transfer stage.

    The thing is the problem of how to get mass into space has been solved.

    But the problem of doing so cheaply hasn’t been. That’s far more important than all the other things combined and it is why market forces should allocate resources.

    Going on a researchathon would be a terrible waste of time and money. Not quite as bad as SLS / Orion, but that’s not saying much.

  • But I couldn’t see any logic to the “game-changing technology” laden budget Ms. Garver and Dr. Holdren advocated. Vast sums of money directed at vague technology demonstrations.

    There was nothing at all “vague” about it. This statement says much more about your inability to understand the technology than the plan itself.

  • Googaw

    market forces should allocate resources.

    Then why do often advocate preposterously expensive (Dragon) or preposterously cheap (propellant) payloads that only Congress is or would pay for (courtesy that money they take out of your paycheck), instead of the actually useful satellites that the actual market actually demands?

    Take your own advice,please.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Then why do often advocate

    I don’t. My argument is merely that if NASA is going to spend money on crew transporation, it should procure transportation services competitively and if it is going to do exploration it should buy launch services and propellant in orbit competitively. I’m not advocating there should be a NASA at all. I know of no compelling justification for government-funded manned spaceflight.

    I don’t get your point about preposterously cheap payloads.

  • Daddy

    @Mr. Simberg,
    I forgot I needed to talk on a different frequency for your huge brain… The objectives were somewhat well defined… What was dramatically VAGUE was when this technology would be ready for some form of practical application. For what was a thankfully a short period of time, all the NASA Centers were struggling with what the definition of success would be for these wonderful game changing technologies and exactly what timeline we were supposed to be following. What this wonderfully whimsical strategy was personifying is the classic phenomena of science for the sake of science — Let’s throw money at it and maybe someday we’ll have an idea of what we can do and then we can get even more money to building a mission around it and some useful hardware with it.

    You start with an objective and then you determine a realistic timeframe, then you adjust based on the funding that can be made available. After a few questions along those lines from Congress, it was obvious that there was not nearly enough thought put into the original 2010 budget request. Neither Holdren or Garver bothered to defend it, leaving Bolden to flap in the breeze because neither he or anyone else in NASA hierarchy knew enough about it to put up a good act to defend it.

    @Pathfinder_01,
    You make some good points and thank you for fleshing out the game-changers and Shuttle-C history. However, orbital propellant depots are hardly what I would call new technology… Simply new mission and logistical planning, and vehicle application. And electronic propulsion??? Perhaps for long-term deep-space missions, but hardly the stuff that is going to enable the efficiency and speed that is going to “change the game” of human spaceflight. And aero-braking??? Again, like propellant depots, not much of a technological leap, just a new application with known physical principles.

    All the “game-changers” are viable concepts, but what Holdren and Garver ignored is how they will be applied??? There is nothing more pathetic than intellect without application… Holdren fits that characterization perfectly. Garver is merely a liberal-minded space groupie. She doesn’t know what any of it means, but she is in awe of those who can actually do calculus and tell her in geeky detail about the physics behind her favorite Star Trek episodes.

  • Coastal Ron

    Daddy wrote @ June 2nd, 2012 at 12:13 am

    I don’t want to debate foreign or defense policy in this venue, so I guess it is pointless to expand on how and why I advocate diverting a significant boost to NASA’s budget.

    NASA doesn’t need more money, it just needs to use it’s money more effectively.

    Daddy wrote @ June 2nd, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    All the “game-changers” are viable concepts, but what Holdren and Garver ignored is how they will be applied?

    You advocate spending $30B on an unneeded, government-owned, government-run rocket. What if someone came to you and said:

    Congress is holding a contest to see how much space exploration could be done for $30B – the winning proposal will manage the program. What are your ideas?

    Would the first thing out of your mouth be “let’s blow all the money on a rocket too big to use, and have no money left over for mission hardware or operations”? Of course not, right?

    Last year I spent some time pulling together cost estimates to see if it would be possible to build and operate a small space station at L1 for $10B or less. Even using Delta IV Heavy and crew-rating Falcon 9/Dragon I was able to meet that cost objective, and that included three 6-month crew rotations and the space station would be available for future missions with future funding. Boeing recently unveiled a similar concept, and I would imagine their costs would be the same.

    With a space station at L1, which could act as a layover point (aka a way station) for traffic to/from the Moon, how much would it cost to build a reusable lunar lander? ULA has a concept based on their ACES-41 architecture, which I had already included using as tankers for my L1 station.

    So now getting to and from the surface of the Moon becomes a function of fuel and supplies, and that’s where the “Game Changing” technology comes in. Perfect autonomous in-space refueling and now you cut down on the number of disposable Apollo-style spacecraft you need. Perfect aerocapture and then you can do crew transfers in LEO and reuse the LEO-to-L1 transport. Perfect “advanced propulsion” systems and now you can resupply both the L1 station and the lunar outpost using less fuel.

    I think we could create a reusable transportation system to the surface of the Moon for far less than $30B, IF we concentrate on doing it in the most cost-effective way, and NOT using the most expedient way.

    And that’s really the choice here. A capabilities-based approach is more likely to be cost-effective than the mission-based approach that you advocate for. And since there is likely never going to be a huge increase in NASA budget, this is the only way we’ll be able to sustain a beyond-LEO exploration program – by being very cost efficient.

  • Googaw

    I don’t get your point about preposterously cheap payloads.

    You are advocating new government spending to embark on a speculative enterprise that the private market has not, is not now, and shows no signs of doing. I.e., for NASA to buy bulk propellant, launched when and where they don’t need it, rather than doing what both they and commercial entities do now, which is get it launched when and where they actually need it, on the spacecraft themselves. Regardless of the economic merits of such an idea, this is not anywhere close to being a case of money they were “already going to spend” — you have been and are vociferously lobbying for new NASA spending on new programs to achieve economic goals outside the private market. You are blatantly violating the principles you claim to stand for.

  • pathfinder_01

    “, orbital propellant depots are hardly what I would call new technology… Simply new mission and logistical planning, and vehicle application.”
    When combined with commercial spaceflight they are game changing.

    Let’s say in ten years someone can find a lower cost way to send propellant to the depot. If NASA owned the rocket, you are stuck with whatever costs it has. If instead it contracts filling the depot out, then it becomes possible for the price to send propellant into space to decline. As for new technology, at the moment there is no fuel depot in orbit.
    .

    “And electronic propulsion??? Perhaps for long-term deep-space missions, but hardly the stuff that is going to enable the efficiency and speed that is going to “change the game” of human spaceflight.”

    Ah, electric propusion can indeed increase the speed of spaceflight. An electrically propelled spacecraft could thrust all the way from earth to mars gaining more and more delta v in the process. Where it bites is if you attempt to go into orbit, then the low thrust becomes a curse, but then again there are ways to deal with that(i.e. Land on mars before going into Orbit or use aero capture).

    It also enables efficiency, an electrically propelled spacecraft might take say 3-6 months to reach the moon, but it could make round trips between LEO and say l1/L2. That would make it possible to supply a lunar base or a cis lunar space station with smaller cheaper rockets. Electric propulsion gets more mass to the destination per mass of propellant. Imagine being able to supply a moon base with say a Falcon 9 or Atlas instead of at least a Delta Heavy. You could also do the same to Mars

    It also enables reuse. An electrically propelled NEO, Venus, or Mars mission could return to earth orbit given enough time. Again the crew could depart early via direct reentry if needed.

    Even when electric propulsion is not the main propulsion, say you still want chemical to mars. You can use electric propulsion to reduce the amount of mass of propellant needed for the mission. Let your mars ship spiral out unmanned into a high earth orbit over say months or even a year which in turn reduces the amount of mass the chemical propulsion system needs.

    “And aero-braking??? Again, like propellant depots, not much of a technological leap, just a new application with known physical principles.”
    Aero braking at the scale of a manned mission would be a leap. Aero capture even more so of one.

    “All the “game-changers” are viable concepts, but what Holdren and Garver ignored is how they will be applied???”

    Oh there are lots of applications of these ideas. Heck Von Braun would know about all these technologies. It is just when NASA valued shuttle operations over technological advance did manned spaceflight suffer. If it were the late 19th century, it would be as if NASA were tasked with operating an horse stable(and frankly not a good one at that–as competing stables are cheaper), instead of working on things like better technology for trains, automobiles, better telegraph/telephone systems, and radio heck even better horse carriages.

  • Martijn Meijering

    After a few questions along those lines from Congress, it was obvious that there was not nearly enough thought put into the original 2010 budget request.

    As if that is any different from the SLS / Orion plans which don’t have enough money left to develop a spacecraft and actually do something useful. At least the technology development program could have led to raising the TRL level of some important technologies. It would likely not have amounted to much (what the hell is the point of an ARD when we have Soyuz, ATV, HTV, Dragon and soon Cygnus to tell us it can be done and why do we need to demonstrate storable propellant transfer which has seen operational use since 1978?), but it would have had some limited value.

  • Martijn Meijering

    You are advocating new government spending to embark on a speculative enterprise that the private market has not, is not now, and shows no signs of doing.

    No, I’m not advocating new government spending, I’m advocating redirecting existing spending, principally SLS / Orion, but most everything else is fair game too, including ISS. And I’d be perfectly happy if the spending were cut altogether, as long as it also includes canceling SLS / Orion.

    I agree the private sector shows no signs of launching vast quantities of propellant, although there are signs they are considering launching small quantities. And of noncryogenic propellant, just as I’m proposing.

    I.e., for NASA to buy bulk propellant, launched when and where they don’t need it,

    No, not when and where they don’t need it, always in support of existing exploration plans, either manned or unmanned. Manned exploration is inherently propellant-intensive (even with ISRU, that just changes where the propellant comes from), barring some breakthrough in ultra-high Isp propulsion.

    rather than doing what both they and commercial entities do now, which is get it launched when and where they actually need it, on the spacecraft themselves.

    You can’t do that for manned exploration, unless you have a preposterously large and expensive HLV for which there are no commercial customers. So you could either abandon manned exploration (fine with me), or you could use propellant transfer. Using propellant transfer allows that propellant to be launched on existing launchers, and could finance competitive development of cheap lift, which would make manned spaceflight commercially viable.

    Maybe that’s something you don’t want your government to spend your hard-earned money on. That’s fine with me, I’m not saying governments should fund manned spaceflight. As soon as the goal of exploration is abandoned, the case for the propellant market evaporates – at least until some time in the distant future when it will become commercially viable.

    I’m not saying NASA should create such a market ex-nihilo, all I’m saying is that if they are planning to do exploration (and they are), they should do it in a way that seeks the maximal synergy with commercial spaceflight, both manned and unmanned.

    you have been and are vociferously lobbying for new NASA spending on new programs to achieve economic goals outside the private market. You are blatantly violating the principles you claim to stand for.

    Again, not true. I’m sure you sincerely believe that’s what I’ve done, but if you look at my past postings you’ll see that they’ve always been in the context of redirecting existing spending, not increasing total spending. I’ve argued against SLS and Orion, not in favour of commercial crew or propellant launches as a goal in itself, but always in the context of exploration plans. And I haven’t even advocated exploration itself, it just so happens that there has been a budget for it for many years. In fact I’ve said many times that I know of no compelling justification for government funded manned spaceflight, exciting though it is.

  • Daddy

    @Coastal and @Pathfinder,
    You both, again, bring up good points… For the record, I don’t advocate a long-term, money sucking SLS-like program. We have been muddled in a Congressionally designed program that symbolizes the lack of space policy leadership out of the Executive Branch. I advocate an evolving long-term strategy aimed at building a space-based infrastructure that sustains and extends the bounds of human exploration. Which coincidentally looks a lot like what VSE looked like in a optimal crystal ball back in 2004. It was a coherent vision, with perhaps not enough attention given to budgetary forecasting or realities. But that does not take away from the fact that it could have been adjusted, both technically and schedule-wise to achieve many of the same objectives over a longer timeframe.

    It is debatable, and has been debated, whether the Obama “plan” actually sustains and extends the bounds of human exploration. SpaceX’s recent success is nothing more than a delayed milestone defined back in 2006 with the COTS program. Commercial Crew is but a chalkboard idea at present with very vague targets for when it will come to reality. SLS, which I don’t think you can actually call it anything but an unintended Obama legacy, is a big albatross waiting for a mission. (Aside: Does that say something about how much support and understanding there is for going to an asteroid????)

    Coastal, your assessment makes as much sense as any I’ve read in a long time. But sadly there isn’t that clarity of thinking going on at the highest levels of NASA or our government…. Much less in Congress.

  • Coastal Ron

    Daddy wrote @ June 3rd, 2012 at 11:59 am

    But sadly there isn’t that clarity of thinking going on at the highest levels of NASA or our government…. Much less in Congress.

    And I think that really gets back to the “need” for doing anything in space. Right now Congress is OK with the science part, and I include the ISS in that.

    But human exploration has historically been a very expensive endeavor, and there is no clear consensus inside and outside of the space community on where to go next. I don’t blame Congress or the President for that, as the lines in the sand for Mars or the Moon are very big, and their advocates very vocal. There is even a huge debate over how we’ll leave LEO – capability based or mission based.

    Until a consensus is reached within the space community, our politicians are just making guesses what will resonant and get supported.

  • What was dramatically VAGUE was when this technology would be ready for some form of practical application.

    Again, there was nothing VAGUE, or even vague about that. To claim that it was is tantamount to claiming that you didn’t even bother to read the technology plans.

  • It is debatable, and has been debated, whether the Obama “plan” actually sustains and extends the bounds of human exploration. SpaceX’s recent success is nothing more than a delayed milestone defined back in 2006 with the COTS program. Commercial Crew is but a chalkboard idea at present with very vague targets for when it will come to reality.

    Again, this is nonsense. There is nothing “vague” about the plans for commercial crew — the plan is to have multiple providers no later than 2017 (it would have been earlier, if Congress had funded it according to the request, and it may still be).

    SLS, which I don’t think you can actually call it anything but an unintended Obama legacy, is a big albatross waiting for a mission. (Aside: Does that say something about how much support and understanding there is for going to an asteroid????)

    SLS is not part of “the Obama plan.” That is a misshapen child of the Senate.

  • Googaw

    I don’t blame Congress or the President for that, as the lines in the sand for Mars or the Moon are very big, and their advocates very vocal. There is even a huge debate over how we’ll leave LEO…

    I bow to your prosaic art — you got all three useless holy places of the astronaut cult into one sentence. And managed to include not a single place in space where the natural market and military with their profane unmanned satellites is actually operating (presuming by LEO you mean ISS, per contemporary cult-speak).

    And it seems there are schisms among the sects about which heavenly destination is holiest. What a shame.

    It’s actually a good thing that the holy and the useful are completely distinct. Keeping the astronaut cult away from useful space development is fine by me — I don’t want the astro-nuts to screw it up.

  • Daddy

    Mr. Simberg,
    I am familiar with the Technology Roadmaps. They are the products of many dedicated NASA people trying to make sense of the policy announcement AFTER the the ludicrous budget was sent to Congress. An agency trying deparately to follow stupid orders from on high.

    As for SLS, Obama started this mess… As far as I can see, he signed the bill so he owns it.

  • jon

    I call BS on all the critics on spacex. Come on the realty is in 11 years a start up company has delivered a totally US space rocket system from the ground up that works. Ok where is lockheed boeing or any other companies cheaper solution today. Elon musk has a cheaper reliable system than any other company. Proof is there other wise the competition would be launching there rockets today. Just shut up and watch Spacex humiliate the big old timers. Check out grasshopper to realize their progress. I am just a pure admirer of logic and functionality. No political agenda. Obama just got lucky but Elon Musk is the real deal.

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