Congress, NASA

One more round of Congressional kudos for SpaceX

Some members of Congress cheered when SpaceX successfully launched its Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon spacecraft last Tuesday. Some members offered congratulations when the Dragon berthed with the station last Friday. And, yesterday, some praised SpaceX and NASA when the Dragon splashed down successfully in the Pacific off the California coast, completing a test flight widely regarded as a major success for the company as well as for commercial spaceflight.

One member who had not commented on earlier phases of the flight was Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL), whose district currently includes the Kennedy Space Center. “I want to congratulate SpaceX on their leap into the history books today,” she said in a statement issued by her office just minutes after the splashdown. Adams saw the mission as an endorsement of the commercial crew model as well. “With the completion of this demonstration mission, we can once again look forward to American astronauts launching on American rockets built by an American workforce.”

In the district adjacent to Adams, Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) also praised the flight, adding to comments he made after both the launch and berthing. “This is an important achievement for both SpaceX and the commercial space industry and I’m excited about what the future will hold for space flight.”

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), a staunch proponent of commercial spaceflight, called the flight a “victory for SpaceX, NASA and America” in a statement. “SpaceX’s success represents a bold step toward a future where the free market is unleashed to move humanity beyond the constraints of gravity away from government owned and operated vehicles.”

Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) emphasized NASA’s role in the mission in his congratulatory statement, referring to the “NASA/SpaceX Team” in it. “NASA’s support was essential for this mission. I look forward to watching SpaceX complete future missions as a part of its contract with NASA to deliver cargo to the International Space Station.”

The chairman of the House Science Committee, Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), also issued a statement about the successful conclusion of the mission. “This was a complex mission and represents an important milestone for NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program that will hopefully result in a reliable capability to deliver supplies to our space station.”

215 comments to One more round of Congressional kudos for SpaceX

  • DCSCA

    “Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), a staunch proponent of commercial spaceflight, called the flight a “victory for SpaceX, NASA and America” in a statement. “SpaceX’s success represents a bold step toward a future where the free market is unleashed to move humanity beyond the constraints of gravity away from government owned and operated vehicles.”

    Except it’s not.

    This isn’t a ‘victory’ but a straightforward business transaction w/a ciontractual obligation belatedly and finally fulfilled. And very retro, circa 1966, too. Dana the Dinosaur should have learned by now that Reaganomics- the failed trickle down economics- is not going to fuel the human expansion out into space. As history has shown, the ‘free market’ has never led the way in in this field over the 80-plus years of rocketry, but always been a follow along, cashing in where it could. Which is precisely what Space X did– it lofted an unmanned satellite in the wake of thousands of others launched from the Cape for over half a century.

    Dana, Dana, Dana. Space exploitation is not spce exploration. LEO is a ticket to no place, going in circles, no where fast.

  • vulture4

    Let the record show that both Posey and Adams repeatedly voted to slash the funds Obama requested for commercial crew while pouring hundreds of millions more into the current iteration of Constellation.

    However Posey has no problem claiming Obama is responsible for all the ills of society, canceling the Space Shuttle, creating the financial collapse, and making your cow go dry, while in the same breath taking credit himself for the success of SpaceX. It is all fantasy, but simple hatred is easier to sell to his supporters than complex critical thinking. Posey’s education is limited to two years of community college, and he is proud of it.

    Adams knows almost nothing about space so she waits till every Republican is saying something and then says the same thing.

    Nelson is happy to talk about how more support for commercial is needed — as long as it isn’t taken from “the big rocket” who’s name he cannot quite remember.

    A fair number of KSC ‘rocket scientists” who are themselves government employees will look both ways and then confidentially tell you how the “national leadership” is responsible for all their ills.

    This is all in a county where AM radio spends hours saying Obama is “evil incarnate” even though the federal government is responsible for most of the well-paying jobs. Only in America!

  • But will any of them act now to support the Administration’s request for $835 million to accelerate commercial crew so we can get off the Russian Soyuz?

    With the exception of Rohrabacher … No.

    Adams released a letter a couple months ago calling for the request to be cut from $835 million to $500 million.

  • MrEarl

    It’s a great day for America everybody!

    SpaceX has taken a huge step.
    They have shown:
    A) They are a truly a legitimate player in the LEO space exploitation business.
    B) Commercial companies are ready to take on many tasks that were traditionally done by government agencies in LEO.
    C) Opens up new possibilities and markets in LEO.
    The workers at SpaceX and Elon Musk are rightfully proud of their accomplishments.

    The only things that are still to be demonstrated are, can they sustain a flight rate that will support their government and commercial commitments and can they do it at the prices they are quoting. I wouldn’t bet against them for either of those.

  • common sense

    @ MrEarl wrote @ June 1st, 2012 at 8:32 am

    “The only things that are still to be demonstrated are, can they sustain a flight rate that will support their government and commercial commitments and can they do it at the prices they are quoting. I wouldn’t bet against them for either of those.”

    Not the only things left to demonstrate but are we finally getting at legitimate questions? And btw the two go hand in hand.

    It will be a great challenge. Here is a clue: One of the cost savings is the reduced overhead in part by horizontal management. How flat an organization can you stay vs. the number of employees? Can it be done? I will venture that it can be done well to some extent but it takes risks. Hint: Kelly johnson Skunk Works… Yet how long did they stay as Kelly made them?…

  • amightywind

    More like one more round of kudos from the publisher, who cannot resist an end zone dance. America is more concerned about the dismal employment numbers announced this morning, and even those are doctored.

  • ArtieT

    A truly commercial private endeavor does not need congressionally appropriated funds to close it’s business model. Musk is no dummy, and while he’ll take what he can get, I don’t think in the end he’ll need it.

    By consolidating all his efforts in California and Texas, Musk leaves out the other 48 states, and their congressional support. He knows how Congress works, and is not going to depend on them for any of his success.

    There are many folks now cheering that NASA is saving monies via COTS, and can use saved funds for doing the exciting BEO stuff.

    History shows that when NASA saves money, Congress takes it back. Don’t look for NASA to keep any savings. NASA will be perpetually starved for monies no matter what it wants to do, or where it wants to do it – robotic or manned flight.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    With this grand slam from SpaceX, I’d argue that three key questions are outstanding:

    The first question is whether SpaceX will be able to ramp up and maintain steady, reliable operations and low prices. Given the Falcon 9 and Dragon vehicles in the queue, the unprecedented testing that the Merlin engines and Falcon stack are subjected to before launch, the ability of their operators and models to turn around anomalies in hours, and SpaceX’s control over its own component supply, it’s hard to see these vehicles having a bad day or year. As Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s human space flight administrator stated in one of the press Q&A, right now, “there is none better” than the SpaceX team. They will have a failure or substantial price increase someday, but SpaceX has directly addressed the usual Achilles’ heels that come with this business. Betting against SpaceX at this point is probably a losing proposition.

    The second question is whether other commercial organizations will deliver as SpaceX has. Only time will tell. Currently, ULA is clearly in trouble, with their costs out of control. Once Boeing and LockMart have soaked the military launch market for all they can, we may see them exit the launch business in the next 5-10 years. They don’t appear to be serious about making ULA a going concern over the long-term. Other domestic competitors either compete only on the small end (OSC) or are years behind SpaceX (Blue Origin). The lowest cost foreign competition (e.g., China) is crying uncle on SpaceX’s pricing, forget the higher priced foreign alternatives (e.g., Ariane). Even in emergent launch capabilities, SpaceX either has no competition (heavy lift) or is going full-scale long before their competition (reusability). If SpaceX does not experience a major setback over the next few years and another strong competitor does not emerge, most to nearly all routes to orbit and beyond may go through SpaceX by sometime in the 2020s.

    The third question is what do policymakers do now, looking at this probable scenario. SpaceX will have a bad day, somday. Their internal supply chain or operators will get lax and experience a series of failures. Or Musk will willingly or forcibly exit the company, potentially removing SpaceX’s altruistic spirit with accompanying price hikes. Or major fiscal mismanagement or some act of god may put the entire business at risk. How do policymakers ensure that there are real, affordable, and capable alternatives to SpaceX for domestic (commercial and government) and even foreign commercial payloads and crews when SpaceX does have a bad day?

    So far, the usual approach of reducing funding for NASA’s commercial programs and propping up government alternatives is not working and just cutting off the government’s nose to spite its face. MPCV and SLS aren’t serious competition, being even farther behind than SpaceX’s commercial competitors, not scheduled to come online for another decade (at best), and priced and legislated out of the commercial and military markets, anyway. And cuts to commercial cargo and crew aren’t appreciably slowing down SpaceX — they’re just slowing down or removing SpaceX’s domestic commercial competitors and accelerating the likelihood of a near monopoly situation down the road.

    My 2 cents is that the answer is not less, but more commercial space transportation development programs, at NASA and in the military.

    First and foremost, full funding should be restored to and even increased for NASA’s commercial crew efforts. By attempting to force a downselect to one provider now, idiot legislators and advisors in the House like Ralph Hall and Shana Dale are just playing into SpaceX’s hand. If they put a gun to Charlie Bolden’s head and forced him to pick a commercial crew provider, he’d have no choice but to pick SpaceX at this point as they’re the only competitor to have proven their vehicle in orbit (twice), their prox ops, and their entry and landing (twice). Commercial crew needs to have multiple, well funded competitors so that real alternatives to Dragon are developed soon.

    And beyond commercial crew, there need to be real alternatives to the Falcon Heavy and Grasshopper.

    Falcon Heavy is scheduled to launch next year, commercial payload operators like Intelsat are already signing up for launches, and SLS is unlikely to survive a decade’s worth of development under a flat to slightly declining funding profile, looming big cuts to the federal discretionary budget, and multiple changes in the White House and Congress. If we seriously believe that heavy lift is vital to future GEO platforms and deep space activities, then SLS funding should be reduced and redirected to a COTS program for heavy lift. This may be critical to getting Boeing and LockMart interested enough in the long-term to actually manage ULA’s cost problems, and the military has an interest in that company and in moderate heavy lift as well.

    Similarly, if the Grasshopper full-scale test program produces a working reusable stage in the next few years and both Blue Origin and the Air Force’s RBS program remain years from fielding operational reusable stages, the launch market will implode around SpaceX’s order of magnitude cost advantage and SpaceX will have unprecedented pricing power and ability to run competitors out of business. Great for SpaceX, but no so good for payload developers and operators or the government. If we don’t want this to happen, there needs to be a COTS program for reusability. NASA could play a part, but given NASA’s poor history in reusability and military interest in responsiveness, this should probably be a DOD program, probably at DARPA given their OTA legislation.

    FWIW, I’m not the only individual thinking in these terms. There’s a very good presentation by Stewart Money to the Future in Space Operations (FISO) Working Group here:

    https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:xNY_a1vqQS8J:spirit.as.utexas.edu/~fiso/telecon/Money_5-9-12/Money_5-9-12.pptx+&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESgH7UpZggEgvHeELjGnGy_4WIpBiNn6v8Iit6i04tknt1WzJXKeLHBnUGf4ZNTLWSaSPDZNFsf32y6KlhGWX1a8D8eKH8iGdAuctLf76NGjLfSzWLwT3oH7LoVm8An7aD-zc5HI&sig=AHIEtbSRevuqtO0irT54dHWhgCyMcbqfiw&pli=1

    It does a good job laying out what’s wrong with the launch biz, what’s working, and what programs the government could invest in to change the situation.

  • Robert G. Oler

    MrEarl wrote @ June 1st, 2012 at 8:32 am

    The only things that are still to be demonstrated are, can they sustain a flight rate that will support their government and commercial commitments and can they do it at the prices they are quoting. I wouldn’t bet against them for either of those.>>

    Yes…that is what is left…and if they do that, then its over; at least as far as Musk and SpaceX being a viable company are concerned.

    A lot of people have concentrated on the Dragon part of the flight; but the real (in my view) issue is the rocket. When Kolker and I Put together our piece which was published in TWS (and Whittington asked to have his name on it) it was written in the shadow of the Beal failure (or still borne take your pick) and the collapse of the Delta Clipper effort.

    What at least I (Rich can speak for himself here because I am not sure he agrees with this) was concerned with is that in my mind the “window” had closed on the notion of reducing launch cost much more then whatever the EELV’s could do…in the immediate future. The paper we wrote must be viewed in the light of that belief; because what we were trying to do is use the station build/resupply/crew change out as the lever to up launch rates and then to start “evolving” change in launch vehicles which would fundamentally lower prices.

    I still have some significant doubts that in the immediate future (ie the next 5-10 years) that launch vehicle cost can evolve (grin) much lower then the Falcon9 (D with the upgraded Merlins) or the Falcon heavy…but the fact that SpaceX has (at least so far) been able to take a clean sheet of paper and put some thought into it…and develop technologies/structure which seem so far to have lowered launch cost dramatically (at least in terms of the Atlas/Delta frame) has given me hope that being wrong (or pessimistic) on the notion of a significantly lower cost then Atlas/Delta I might be sadly (grin) to pessimistic on the rest of it.

    BUT even if the savings from the Grasshopper etc are long in coming, or never come. If Musk and SpaceX can keep launch prices on the 9d and the heavy “near” where they say that they are now…and keep production/quality up…

    then at this point almost all current STATEMENTS by politicans are in my view irrelevant.

    SpaceX if it can do those things will slowly but surely take more and more of the launch industry and that will eventually cause the federal government as a launch purcherser to move to SpaceX particularly in terms of the “real payloads”.

    Worse for the other launch providers…the ability to launch at a far cheaper price will start to influence payload design.

    Dragon is impressive AND it comes from the same design mind that got a clear sheet of paper out on the rocket…but the change point the one that has a “profit center” with it is Falcon.

    If Musk cannot make the price and reliability numbers he wont suceed…but if he can…and I think he can…the other launch providers are Brannif facing a newly minted Southwest. RGO

  • Gregori

    If DCSCA is so interested in purely space exploration and not exploitation, there is no reason to send humans or to have an SLS to do that job. Science doesn’t need it. Constellation rehashed represents an even bigger exploitation of society than SpaceX could manage. Billions are being shoveled into older aerospace contractors to do something that is totally unproductive.

    In the so called “age of austerity”, overpriced fireworks displays deserve to take a cut before more socially beneficial programs are effected. Doing the same job, but for cheaper is less exploitative than the alternative as it will save money. This model can now be applied to crew, propellant and beyond low earth orbit deliveries and save NASA a ton of money in an era of declining budgets. What is needed is not Apollo on Steroids, but Apollo done on a budget.

    The status quo is just unsustainable and won’t make it affordable to send humans deep into space.

    If the goal is to expand human civilization, exploitation is a necessary part of that. You can whine all you like about it, but its reality.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Dark Blue Nine wrote @ June 1st, 2012 at 10:06 am

    well reasoned comments RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    http://pjmedia.com/blog/what-does-the-success-of-the-dragon-mean/

    Along with Dark Blue Nine these are good solid comments. Simberg and I, as anyone who reads this forum regularly disagree on many things; but on space things Rand is pretty much able to go to the issue (grin) and he does here.

    Whittington’s usual chain jumping rebuttal on his blog are without merit.

    Remember this…People could have been on the Dragon. RGO

  • common sense

    @ Dark Blue Nine wrote @ June 1st, 2012 at 10:06 am

    “if they put a gun to Charlie Bolden’s head and forced him to pick a commercial crew provider, he’d have no choice but to pick SpaceX ”

    I would not bet the house on that. Suffice to see that Congress is pushing hard down NASA’s throat the stupid SRB based SLS and mostly futile MPCV. They can just impose a sole source bs argument to another competitor of their choice. Again it was done for ATK for Constellation. Never underestimate the power of idiocy and selfish interests.

    However the only result would be that SpaceX go it alone and bury these idiots for decades to come instead of appropriately using SpaceX.

    Do you really have trust ion our Congress wisdom??? Only a rhetorical question…

  • common sense

    “Currently, ULA is clearly in trouble, with their costs out of control.”

    The curse of the defense contractor. Their managers and bean counters only know one way to work… And it is not commercial.

    ” are years behind SpaceX (Blue Origin).”

    Blue is not even set up to make any kind of significant advances in the short term at least. They are not aggressive enough. And it seems to me they do not operate in a real business fashion, more like a mini NASA. But hey I’d love to be wrong.

  • Coastal Ron

    ArtieT wrote @ June 1st, 2012 at 9:49 am

    A truly commercial private endeavor does not need congressionally appropriated funds to close it’s business model.

    Piffle. You yahoos that say that really have no idea how the real commercial world works. The government made a pre-paid type of investment in COTS just like Apple does with it’s supply chain. Are you saying that Apple is not a commercial private endeavor? Weird.

    By consolidating all his efforts in California and Texas, Musk leaves out the other 48 states, and their congressional support.

    Yes, I’m sure locating your plants and test facilities in places where existing plants and test facilities are inexpensive to buy had nothing to do with it.

    I suppose you also enjoy finding images of famous people in burnt pieces of toast?

    History shows that when NASA saves money, Congress takes it back.

    Not really. Have you looked at NASA’s budget over history? Fairly flat over long periods of time, and even today it’s funding is pretty steady (considering the rest of the budget). Congress just redistributes the funds within NASA, and not always where the current administration wants them either.

  • @Dark Blue Nine wrote @ June 1st, 2012 at 10:06 am
    Great Post! You covered most if not all of the important remaining issues and ramifications thereof.

  • Robert G. Oler

    common sense wrote @ June 1st, 2012 at 11:13 am

    @ Dark Blue Nine wrote @ June 1st, 2012 at 10:06 am

    “if they put a gun to Charlie Bolden’s head and forced him to pick a commercial crew provider, he’d have no choice but to pick SpaceX ”

    you replied:

    I would not bet the house on that.”

    I dont disagree actually with either of you on this…but having said that I would say this…IT WONT MATTER TO SPACEX.

    Unless there is just enormous political tomfoolory SpaceX will continue the commercial cargo…and if they succeed at that (and the other things) probably the rest of the companies are irrelevant….as are the political statements.

    The onus now is on Orbital to succeed. RGO

  • Doug Lassiter

    DCSCA wrote @ June 1st, 2012 at 7:01 am
    “Dana, Dana, Dana. Space exploitation is not spce exploration.”

    So what is space exploration? Sitting on flames? Doing somersaults in mid-air with bad hair? Leaving footprints and building fences on other worlds? Flexing muscles by bench pressing rocks? Spitting dust in peoples faces? Or maybe just dumping dollars on corporate barrels? “Exploitation” at least connotes some measure of return. The problem with at least human space exploration is that no one has ever quite figured out what it is.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Do you really have trust ion our Congress wisdom???”

    No, Congress and wisdom, at least on a national scale, is an oxymoron. As Tip O’Neill was quoted, “all politics is local”, and as our founding fathers set things up, that’s the only thing that matters in terms of getting congressmen elected/re-elected.

    Rereading it now, my post is really directed at a second-term Obama Administration or a first-term Romney Administration, not Congress. It’s an op-ed along the lines of, “Okay, you’ve inherited this thing called the NASA human space flight program, most of which doesn’t work, and you’re going to be forced to sink something like $10B/yr. into it. Here’s what you could do with it on the margins that could make big improvements down the road.”

    “Suffice to see that Congress is pushing hard down NASA’s throat the stupid SRB based SLS and mostly futile MPCV… Again it was done for ATK for Constellation.”

    Actually, Congress had nothing to do with the design of and contractor selection for Constellation. (At least publicly. Maybe there were backroom deals between Griffin and certain members of Congress, but beyond his $300K/yr. appointment to UAH appearing to have been arranged by Sen. Shelby’s office, we’ll probably never know.) Griffin “selected” ATK by jury-rigging the ESAS study against EELVs and by moving from a 4-segment to a 5-segment SRB first-stage for Ares I even when ESAS’s recommendations didn’t pan out in the first year.

    You are right that when Constellation imploded that Congress mandated in the 2010 NASA Authorization Act that NASA maximize use of Shuttle and Constellation workforce and contracts in SLS and MPCV. However, the language was conditioned by “practical” considerations that you could have driven a truck through (it would be nice if Bolden and the Administration would show some spine, push back on this in a second term, reduce workforce, and introduce some competition into HLV and BEO needs), and never called out any contractor specifically.

    “I would not bet the house on that. They can just impose a sole source bs argument to another competitor of their choice.”

    Although I’m sure there are some in Congress who would like to do so, I doubt they could go that far and require in legislation that commercial crew has to be sole-sourced to, say, Boeing. They didn’t in the much more important case of SLS/MPCV (just “maximize” existing workforce/contracts), they’d lose political donations from everyone in the industry except the company being sole-sourced to, and the Administration would likely veto such a blatant and all-consuming earmark on one of their priorities, anyway.

    “Never underestimate the power of idiocy and selfish interests.”

    No worries there. I’ve been working in this sector going on two decades now…

  • common sense

    @ Robert G. Oler wrote @ June 1st, 2012 at 11:49 am

    “IT WONT MATTER TO SPACEX.”

    I agree with you and I said so. SpaceX has a pretty nice launch manifest, a couple of vehicles coming and none need government investment. SpaceX, if they can survive, WILL go it alone if need be.

    “Unless there is just enormous political tomfoolory SpaceX will continue the commercial cargo…and if they succeed at that (and the other things) probably the rest of the companies are irrelevant….as are the political statements.”

    They don’t even need NASA commercial cargo. They just sped up their development with this one flight. More commercial partners will most likely come out soon… And then the IPO… ;)

    Poor DCSCA all this space around us being exploited. Could not resist, sorry.

  • common sense

    @ Doug Lassiter wrote @ June 1st, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    “So what is space exploration?”

    Per Google:

    – exploration: The action of traveling in or through an unfamiliar area in order to learn about it.

    – space: A continuous area or expanse that is free, available, or unoccupied

    “Sitting on flames?”

    May be required but not necessary, depends what space we talk about. Now of course if you want to explore your own fire place you may have to.

    “Doing somersaults in mid-air with bad hair?”

    No, that is definitely not “space exploration”! Come on. It may be the ongoing consequence of exploration though.

    “Leaving footprints and building fences on other worlds?”

    It’s part of it and if you don’t trust me well just ask Colombus! Note that we are building a fence not that far but I am not sure it is relevant even though it is aimed at stopping explorer coming our way… Oh well…

    “Flexing muscles by bench pressing rocks?”

    No that is an activity by ancient body builders, not really anything to do with exploration. Unless… Terminator maybe?

    “Spitting dust in peoples faces?”

    No, that is more like well I don’t know. “Spitting dust in people’s faces”??? What the heck does that have anything to do with exploration????

    “Or maybe just dumping dollars on corporate barrels?”

    No. I am afraid not that either. It is more like corporate welfare for the 1%.

    ““Exploitation” at least connotes some measure of return.”

    Sorry we cannot have “exploitation” of the Moon. We are already exploiting the heck out of the people here on Earth and now you want to exploit the lunatics??? Are you a “capitalist gone wild” or something? Hmm. Wait. Sounds like a video to make… Anywho.

    “The problem with at least human space exploration is that no one has ever quite figured out what it is.”

    UNTRUE. Just ask DCSCA, amightywind and they will all tell you. It is about a big rocket standing erect on a pad with a few US flags tatooed on it. And when the rocket is launched then it is about having another big one ready to go, you know, standing erect, and so on and so forth. It’s about big cylindrical thingy standing erect and then gone in a few minutes in a giant firework…

    Oh well…

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Along with Dark Blue Nine these are good solid comments. Simberg and I…”

    Rand’s piece actually brings up another area that would be ripe for a COTS- or CRS-type competition, and that’s crew rescue. As Rand has pointed out before, it would be great if such a competition could be opened up to solutions that don’t bring astronauts all the way back to Earth (e.g., a detachable, backup, independent Bigelow module) in the event of, say, fire/smoke on the station.

    In his FISO presentation, Stewart Money names in-space servicing as another potential COTS-type development. I agree. There’s actually substantial interest in this area from the likes of Loral, who see more and more bandwidth running through ever more limited GEO slots, and thus ever bigger and more expensive GEO comm platforms that would benefit from careful refueling/tending/upgrading in the coming years and decades. NASA’s Space Technology Program (STP), which has been a pretty big disappointment in terms of resources and management, has been railroaded into a minor, civil servant-led demonstration on ISS, when what is needed is a more significant, industry-led demonstration that is platform-agnostic. The military has also been little help, with X-37B too secretive a program (if it is capable of any servicing), and DARPA pursuing goofy stunts like clipping and reattaching old antennas in orbit. The HST servicing folks at GSFC aren’t going to service Loral satellites, and neither is any highly classified X-37B team. But having that capability resident in industry would benefit the likes of Loral, and be a big benefit to the government when it comes to assembling exploration missions and space control. And if the likes of Planetary Resources are ever going to move beyond asteroid reconnaissance, that capability will also need to be highly developed and resident at reasonable cost in industry.

    Finally, another area that is ripe for a COTS-type development is large planetary landers. This is another area that SpaceX threatens to run away with soon using the integrated LES technology they’re currently developing under their existing CCDev contract. Dragon’s PICA-X TPS can already do Mars return (or lunar return) trajectories in Earth’s atmosphere. Now, it’s just a question of getting down to the surface of Mars (or the Moon) which the integrated LES would allow. It would be nice if another competitor or two in this area could be pulled forward from the suborbital efforts of Blue Origin, Armadillo, and Masten.

    More food for thought. Another key question, though, is if an administration had industry off doing all these things, then what would the bulk of the NASA human space flight workforce (those not running ISS or overseeing these industry developments) be assigned to developing? Congress won’t let an administration fire them, so they have to be given one or more useful jobs that don’t conflict with what the administration is having industry develop.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Dark Blue Nine wrote @ June 1st, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    curious about your opinion on this proposition.

    Assuming that there is no real NASA budget until the election is decided…

    how would you game either an OSC “failure” or “success” in terms of their rocket test flight and then their first attempt at a space station resupply. RGO

  • Martijn Meijering

    introduce some competition into HLV and BEO needs

    Good post, but I’d like to emphasise there’s no such thing as an “HLV need”, even if you believe there is a BEO, or even just beyond LEO need. HLVs, like depots, tethers, ISRU and other infrastructure should be left to the market, they should be exclusively privately financed whenever total traffic levels (including traffic supporting various government programs) make the business case close. Only once the capability is available commercially should NASA incorporate them into its plans.

  • Coastal Ron

    I hope Rohrabacher is able to take over from Hall next year. That would definitely change the tone of any future Congressional hearings (likely no more Armstrong & Cernan “testimony”, and maybe no more from Griffin either).

    And if Nelson were to somehow get re-elected to the Senate, then that could form the basis for better support in Congress on Commercial Crew.

    Who knows, maybe Nelson will change his mind on SLS too now that Florida doesn’t really get anything out of it.

    Guess we’ll have to wait and see what happens in November…

  • Vladislaw

    space exploration, for me, is exactly that, exploring SPACE. If you want to land on Luna, that is not exploring space, that is lunar exploration, same with a Mars landing, that is Martian exploration.

    Most of the commenters here are not actually for space exploration, no matter how hard they try and hammer that point. They want to travel THROUGH space as fast as possible then immediately drop into another gravity well.

    Another point, space exploration is not space exploitation. Well the only way to actually exploit space is by traveling in circles in a SPACE station.

    A lunar base is not space exploitation, it is lunar exploitation, lets just be clear and no this is not semantics. They are very different with different objectives.

    What is there to explore in space?

    * Low Earth Orbit
    * GEO
    * Lunar Orbit
    * EM L1 (Earth – Moon lagrange point 1 )
    * EM L2
    * EM L3
    * EM L4
    * EM L5
    * ES L1 (Earth – Sun lagrange point 1 )
    * ES L2
    * ES L3
    * ES L4
    * ES L5
    * Mars Orbit
    * MS L1 ( Mars – Sun Lagrange point 1 )
    * MS L2
    * MS L3
    * MS L4
    * MS L5
    * Phobos Orbit (landing possible because of low landing costs)
    * Deimos Orbit (landing possible because of low landing costs)
    * Venus Orbit
    * VS L1 Venus – Sun Lagrange point 1
    * VS L2
    * VS L3
    * VS L4
    * VS L5
    * Near Earth Objects
    * Asteroids

    Is there any I missed?

    So it is not like there is not places to explore in space, and I would be willing to bet, that over time, we will find trojens in a lot of those L points.

    It is cheaper to explore space also because we are not going to get bogged down with the high costs associated with diving into a gravity well and setting up a base.

    For me we should be focused on SPACE exploration for right now, build the vehicles we will need and the fuel stations and take road trips so that we can build up a fierce competitive commercial fuel resupply infrastructure then worry about getting bogged down in a gravity well.

  • It is very interesting to see our friends in Florida support this commercial Endevour while they voted to cut spending for commercial crew. This is kind of interesting and I think we will see more of this as people try to jump on the right side of history.

    http://youtu.be/VlKph_uYJ2Y

    We put something together (quickly) to express our support to the SpaceX and NASA team. This was a team effort after all and SpaceX could not have accomplished what it did without the good trench engineers at NASA.

    Respectfully,
    Andrew Gasser
    TEA Party in Space

  • Vladislaw

    Andrew, is your group informing the locals in florida of this seeming contridiction of their legislators? Praising while cutting? What is their reactions if any?

  • common sense

    “if an administration had industry off doing all these things, then what would the bulk of the NASA human space flight workforce (those not running ISS or overseeing these industry developments) be assigned to developing?”

    You mean except for sitting and thinking about space? ;)

    I don’t think we have enough room here to solve this problem. But 1) attrition will solve a pretty large problem since I believe the workforce is pretty old and 2) recycling. If these people are so good then they can probably do anything they want.

    So. Let’s make them address our national needs at large. Transfer as necessary to other agencies and or other work. Provide education program and the likes. Of course Florida will oppose it and the guys who vote for those who oppose this will end up with no job. For those does it really matter? Sorry to be blunt but if someone is stupid enough to reject work then well they do not need work on ideology basis or any other basis.

    Put simply.

  • common sense

    “I doubt they could go that far and require in legislation that commercial crew has to be sole-sourced ”

    So let me ask you. How come ATK can propose Liberty and possibly Lockheed a capsule for Commercial Crew when they were mostly funded under the CEV/Constellation program?

    I know Congress makes the law(s) but is that legal in any way????…

    Odd.

  • common sense

    “Maybe there were backroom deals between Griffin and certain members of Congress, but beyond his $300K/yr. appointment to UAH appearing to have been arranged by Sen. Shelby’s office, we’ll probably never know. ”

    Is that not called circumstential evidence? May not be receivable in court and Shelby is not Congress… Or is he?…

    Oh well.

  • libs0n

    Dark Blue Nine,

    “You are right that when Constellation imploded that Congress mandated in the 2010 NASA Authorization Act that NASA maximize use of Shuttle and Constellation workforce and contracts in SLS and MPCV. However, the language was conditioned by “practical” considerations that you could have driven a truck through (it would be nice if Bolden and the Administration would show some spine, push back on this in a second term, reduce workforce, and introduce some competition into HLV and BEO needs), and never called out any contractor specifically.”

    Not true. The word used was “practicable”, which means to the extent it could be put into practice, not practical. The worded conditions were laid out to bind the administration’s hands to build a SDHLV using the expected contractors. “Congress” in this instance being the legislation originators.

  • Googaw

    Do you really have trust in our Congress wisdom??? Only a rhetorical question…

    If you are depending on NASA contracts, you have no choice but to trust them.

  • Googaw

    the only way to actually exploit space is by traveling in circles in a SPACE station.

    I guess all those comsats, recon sats, etc. are now called “space stations.” :-)

  • Googaw

    A lot of people have concentrated on the Dragon part of the flight; but the real (in my view) issue is the rocket….If Musk cannot make the price and reliability numbers he wont succeed…but if he can…and I think he can…the other launch providers are Brannif facing a newly minted Southwest.

    Well said, RGO. Their potential ability to lower the prices for launching useful machines into a variety of orbits is indeed what is important about SpaceX, not their silly and distracting NASA ISS servicing contracts.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Assuming that there is no real NASA budget until the election is decided… how would you game either an OSC ‘failure’ or ‘success’ in terms of their rocket test flight and then their first attempt at a space station resupply.”

    I’m not sure what you mean by “game” (or whose side I’m playing for in the game). But if the “game” is funding for commercial crew and I’m just an honest referee, then I’d say that OSC performance should have little or no impact either way. OSC’s commercial crew proposal was turned down, so OSC is not a commercial crew competitor. Thus, an Antares/Cygnus commercial cargo demo failure/success should have no impact on whether or not to fund Blue Origin’s Space Vehicle, Boeing’s CST-100, Sierra Nevada’s Dreamchaser, or SpaceX’s crewed Dragon for commercial crew. None of those organizations have anything to do with OSC, and none of those vehicles have anything to do with Cygnus or Antares.

    Even if OSC were to re-enter the commercial crew competition (for all I know they’re trying in the current round), the connection between Cygnus/Antares and their old HL-20 derivative/Atlas V proposal is tenuous. They didn’t use the same launch vehicle, and the Cygnus capsule has little in common with an HL-20-derived lifting body aside from using the same pressure vessel supplier (Thales Alenia). Of course, you could argue that an OSC failure on cargo is indicative of problems that OSC as an organization (or its suppliers as organizations) would have on crew. But unlike SpaceX, which uses the same capsule and launcher, there’s little connective tissue at the technical level between OSC’s cargo solution and OSC’s crew proposal.

    Hope this helps.

  • ArtieT

    @ Coastal Ron
    “Piffle. You yahoos that say that really have no idea how the real commercial world works. The government made a pre-paid type of investment in COTS just like Apple does with it’s supply chain. Are you saying that Apple is not a commercial private endeavor? Weird.”

    In your example, Apples suppliers are analogous to Space X, and Apple analogous to the gov’ment. Are you saying then that Apples suppliers require congressional appropriates to close their business model with Apple? I doubt it.

    Yes, companies often hold local and state government’s for ransom, holding out for tax breaks, before moving their plants to those faciliites, but I bet Space X/Elon ever said to himself “Gee, my plans are screwed if I dont get some Money for NASA for development costs”

    He gets paid for services rendered. Good for him and NASA.

    “Yes, I’m sure locating your plants and test facilities in places where existing plants and test facilities are inexpensive to buy had nothing to do with it.?

    I am not saying Musk purposely ignored the other 48 states. By being as vertically integrated as he is, doing as much in house as he can, he is driving his costs down. Yeah for him. The impact of that is his ‘wealth’ isn’t spread around the 50 states, in much the same way large NASA programs operate. NASA programs are inefficient, but they are buying political capital in doing so. I applaud Musk for not being concerned about spreading his wealth around the country, and putting his facilities where it is cheaper to do so, and makes sense.

    “I suppose you also enjoy finding images of famous people in burnt pieces of toast?”

    you are proving to me you are making inaccurate assumptions about what I wrote. How much else do you miss by doing so?

    “Not really. Have you looked at NASA’s budget over history? Fairly flat over long periods of time, and even today it’s funding is pretty steady (considering the rest of the budget). Congress just redistributes the funds within NASA, and not always where the current administration wants them either.”

    Sigh. A flat budget means less buying power. Combine less buying power with it’s more costly to build missions today than 10 years ago, and you have an Agency that is slowly being starved for cash.

    NASA is doing less now than it did 10 years ago because of a flat budget, and more expensive ways of doing business.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Good post, but I’d like to emphasise there’s no such thing as an ‘HLV need’,”

    I’m not a big believer in heavy lift, either. But the fact that Intelsat has signed up for a Falcon Heavy launch indicates that commercial demand is emerging. (It’s also consistent with what I’ve seen/heard from Loral/others regarding large GEO platforms, although Intelsat may just be double/triple/quadruple manifesting existing GEO birds.)

    “HLVs, like depots, tethers, ISRU and other infrastructure should be left to the market”

    Maybe we’d want to wait for a couple more Falcon Heavy customers to sign up, but I think it’s hard to ignore the signal that the market is now sending on heavy lift with the Intelsat announcement.

    (Having worked rotating electrodynamic tether upper stages, I’d also argue that they, along with cryo depots and ISRU, are in need of further government funding for technology development. There are technological uncertainties associated with each — and even scientific in the case of ISRU if you exempt Planetary Resources — that need nailing down before private companies will adopt/invest in them.)

    “Only once the capability is available commercially should NASA incorporate them into its plans.”

    I disagree to a degree. In an ideal world, NASA, and the government in general, should not allow themselves to become beholden to a single supplier, for heavy lift or anything else. Falcon Heavy is happening, regardless of what we heavy launch detractors believe. The question now is whether there will be a competitive heavy launch environment. SLS has no chance of making that happen, but a COTS competition for heavy lift could.

    My 2 cents…

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “You mean except for sitting and thinking about space?”

    Yes. I mean substantial research, technology, and/or systems development.

    “I don’t think we have enough room here to solve this problem.”

    I’m just looking for a few sentences on what the NASA human space flight workforce should be working on besides running ISS, assuming things like heavy lift and landers become led by industry.

    An example would be in-space propulsion. How do we move large payloads and crews around the solar system reliably, timely, and efficiently?

    Another would be human space environment countermeasures. How do we keep humans in the high radiation, low gravity environments of space for more than a year without substantially shortening their lifetimes or quality of life?

    Great, Elon Musk wants to go to Mars. He’s even building the heavy launcher and capsule lander necessary to do so. But what’s the in-space system to get the lander to Mars orbit and how are people going to productively stay there for years and years? To me, these are the problems that NASA’s human space flight workforce should be working on — not how to build yet another heavy lifter a decade later than and for 100x times the cost of Falcon Heavy.

    I’d be interested if folks have other ideas.

    “But 1) attrition will solve a pretty large problem since I believe the workforce is pretty old and 2) recycling. If these people are so good then they can probably do anything they want.”

    I’d agree, but Congress won’t. They’ll want to see the same employment numbers at the same NASA field center ad infinitum, regardless of baby boomer retirements and whether those workforces are world class or not. So we’re stuck with them. What do we tell the next Administration to do with them that’s not useless busywork and doesn’t get in the way of industry?

    That’s what I’m trying to get at. Hope it’s clear.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “How come ATK can propose Liberty and possibly Lockheed a capsule for Commercial Crew when they were mostly funded under the CEV/Constellation program?

    I know Congress makes the law(s) but is that legal in any way????…”

    Yes, corporations sell government funded work products back to the government all the time. ATK developing elements of Liberty under Ares I funding, and then selling crew launch services to NASA using those same elements (assuming Liberty was selected for commercial crew) is fundamentally the same thing as SpaceX developing elements of Falcon 9 and Dragon under COTS and CCDev and then selling cargo and crew transport services to NASA using the same elements under CRS and whatever the commercial crew service is going to be called. The significant difference is that ATK risked little to no capital on Ares I while SpaceX was required to put a lot of its own skin into Falcon 9 and Dragon. NASA could rule out the former in the interest of “fairness” in its commercial crew competitions — nothing in legislation prevents them from doing so. But I wouldn’t advise them to do so — you want the widest and most open competition possible to get the best solutions. And NASA is obviously not limiting competition out of any sense of fairness. So what if one guy got more government $ in a previous round? The government manager’s job isn’t to make the world perfectly fair. It’s to get the best solutions possible.

    That said, I’d note that Liberty has actually been turned down once for funding by commercial crew, and I’d be very surprised if it gets any funding going forward. It repeats the mistake that Griffin and Horowitz made of trying to make an air-startable, second-stage, LH2 engine out of a ground-started, first-stage, LH2 engine. There’s a reason that Griffin/Horowitz dumped SSME for J-2X on the Ares I second stage within the first year, and ATK partnering with a foreign, ground-started, first-stage LH2 engine doesn’t solve that problem. I don’t know if the ATK leadership is really that clueless or just craven enough to try to suck a few more taxpayer dollars out of an Ares I configuration that failed in the first year. But the folks remaining at NASA know better, and with Griffin and Horowitz long gone, they can exercise good technical judgement, as they’ve already done in turning down Liberty for funding once.

    Even if ATK could convince NASA that it has licked the air-start issue (among other Ares I problems), there are no commercial buyers for the Liberty launcher, which is the whole point of NASA’s commercial programs. NASA will probably disqualify Liberty from funding again on those grounds, or on the argument that NASA doesn’t need to spread its funding too thin on a fourth launch given that Atlas V, Falcon 9, and Antares provide adequate competition.

    ATK has a broken hammer that doesn’t fit any of nails that NASA needs pounded down, even if the hammer did work. That’s what is going to keep Liberty out of the running. There’s no need to disqualify ATK out of some sense of competitive fairness. If they want to tilt at windmills, let them tilt.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Not true. The word used was ‘practicable’, which means to the extent it could be put into practice, not practical.”

    That’s for the correction. But I’d still argue that you could drive a truck through that language, if the Administration got the balls to push back on building a “practicable” SLS. At the decade-plus rate it’s going under the flat to slightly declining budget it’s getting, SLS will never “be put into practice”. That becomes even more apparent with Falcon Heavy getting commercial traction.

  • @Vlad

    Some get it Vlad. Some realize that the plan proposed by some in the Senate is not helping NASA and the Space Coast. Sadly, what you are seeing is the “business end” of Apollo and Shuttle being removed while the bureaucracy preserves itself.

    Lots of out of work shuttle workers with nothing to do until 2018 at the soonest. Meanwhile, you have companies like ULA and SpaceX “rattling windows”.

    We can always use more members at TEA Party in Space. Feel free to sign up for our newsletter. We have had excellent impact in Washington.

    Respectfully,
    Andrew Gasser
    TEA Party in Space

  • Vladislaw

    Googaw wrote:

    “I guess all those comsats, recon sats, etc. are now called “space stations.” “

    You’re right, I also forgot to mention unmanned weather bouys in the atlantic ocean and …

    oh wait, I was talking about manned space systems not unmanned systems… space based or earth based.

    Try to stay on track, you do this often, try to spin a conversation about one thing into another. Since it was clear I was refering to human presence it is silly to bring in something that was not even a part of the conservation.

    I also am still waiting for a link showing there has been 400,000 peer reveiwed publications from WMAP data.

  • Martijn Meijering

    But the fact that Intelsat has signed up for a Falcon Heavy launch indicates that commercial demand is emerging.

    Then again, the fact that Ariane 5 flies with dual payloads and ESA had to subsidise Alphabus / Alphasat indicates there is no such demand. And is FH really an HLV when it comes to GTO payloads? The numbers on the SpaceX website and the recent press release contradict each other. The SpaceX website speaks of 6.8mt to GTO or “higher”, the press release says 12mt and other sources say 19mt. It’s also unclear if this includes a plane change or not. If it’s 12mt it’s only slightly larger than Ariane 5.

    Having worked rotating electrodynamic tether upper stages, I’d also argue that they, along with cryo depots and ISRU, are in need of further government funding for technology development.

    I’d argue that such funding would have to come from private sources and the fact that it currently doesn’t indicates the idea isn’t commercially viable at present levels of traffic. Of course, I’m all for NASA raising the level of traffic substantially (mostly easy to launch, relatively cheap and easily divisible propellant) through exploration. That could close the business case for a lot of those technologies and infrastructure. I think it is crucial to leave allocation of resources to the market if we are to have an economic breakthrough in spaceflight, rather than just technical ones.

    This is basically the New Space recipe for RLVS through use of propellant depots, though applied to technology development and infrastructure in general. I think it is illogical to restrict the argument to RLVs, it applies just as well to depots themselves.

    The question now is whether there will be a competitive heavy launch environment. SLS has no chance of making that happen, but a COTS competition for heavy lift could.

    I don’t care about slightly more affordable heavy lift, as I think heavy lift is utterly unimportant. The real obstacle is the absence of cheap and reliable access to space, and money spent on currently non-crucial other stuff (depots, ISRU, L1/L2 stations, HLVs, NTR etc etc) is money wasted. We have bigger fish to fry than those.

  • Martijn Meijering

    He’s even building the heavy launcher and capsule lander necessary to do so.

    The heavy launcher is NOT necessary…

    But what’s the in-space system to get the lander to Mars orbit and how are people going to productively stay there for years and years?

    I’d like to see NASA focus on missions, not R&D. Maintain an astronaut corps, make sure there is an MTV or a lunar / Mars lander and surface hardware, preferably using as much commercially available systems (Bigelow for instance) as possible.

    In the short term I’d like them to focus on stuff that is propellant-intensive and light on space hardware. We need cheap lift more than anything else, more than landers, rovers, or an MTV. Let’s start with unmanned probes launched from L1/L2 with the help of a refuelable storable propellant transfer stage based on the Orion SM and the Delta 2 upper stage, or perhaps a commercial competitor. Buy at least $1B/yr worth of propellant launches for the next ten to twenty years through some kind of highly competitive auction mechanism.

    Gradually develop manned systems as budgets allow.

  • DCSCA

    @common sense wrote @ June 1st, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    “common sense” should be telling you that LEO is a ticket to no place, going in circles, no where fast, and diverting dwindling resources- particularly government resources- to same condemns another generation of engineers to LEO ops, tallying American HSF ops and supportive functions since Skylab in 1973 to nearly half a century of hugging thr planet. Space exploitation is no space exploration.

    @Dark Blue Nine wrote @ June 1st, 2012 at 10:06 am

    “With this grand slam from SpaceX…”

    WTF? such are the pronouncemnts of the purveyors of the Magnified Importance of Diminished Vision. Space X delivered 1,000 pounds on a ‘test flight’ to LEO. Late. Welcome to 1966. Progress, has delivered tons of groceries to LEO space platforms for over 34 years- including operational, reliable, routine runs to the ISS.

    “The first question is whether SpaceX will be able to ramp up and maintain steady, reliable operations and low prices.”

    Replace ‘Space X’ w/’Walmart’ and the issue is the same. As Miles O’Brien rightly noted, we pretty much understand LEO ops after half a century and this is less a space story and more a busnness story. And the place to source capital for investment for private enterprised firms in business is the private sector, not the government. Advocates of subsidizing private industry, which has successfully demonstrated itself ot the private capital markets, w/tax dollars seek to socialize the risk on the many to benefit an elite few.

    “First and foremost, full funding should be restored to and even increased for NASA’s commercial crew efforts.”

    No. Absolutely not. If anything, Space X’s success merits cutting it to zero, as the success of the cargo flight should bolster confidence in the private capital markets of Space X’s technical skill set.

    The place for Space X or any other commercial firm to source financing is the private capital markets, not the U.S. government, which has to borrow 42 cents of every dollar it spends. Musk has only invested $100 million of his estimated $2 billion worth into the firm. That’s a paltry sum in his circle and events over the past week show he should invest more w/confidence. The average film, something Musk knows about, costs roughly $300 million t produce; Raptor fighter planes, $400 million or so a piece; Romney set up $100 million trust funds for his kids with ease; Jamie Dimon’s Morgan/Chase lost $2-$3 billion in a few weeks; Facebook’s IPO multiples of that as well. $100 million isn’t a lot of money these days in that universe.

    “If they put a gun to Charlie Bolden’s head and forced him to pick a commercial crew provider, he’d have no choice but to pick SpaceX at this point as they’re the only competitor to have proven their vehicle in orbit (twice), their prox ops, and their entry and landing (twice).”

    Nonsense. Space X has demonstrated on two late ‘test flights,’ 17 months apart, it can launch, orbit and return an unmanned statellite w/a wheel of cheese aboard and rendezvous for grapple to deliver 1,000 pounds of sundries. Hardly a qualifying paramenters for HSF nor for the Falcon/Dragon stack to carry crews up around and get them back down safely. Space X has failed to fly anybody to date. And if down selected out, probably never will.

    “My 2 cents is that the answer is not less, but more commercial space transportation development programs, at NASA and in the military.”

    No. The place for commercial transportation development is the provate sector, not through the deep pockets of the government agencies. And as you mostly likely know, your ’2 cents’ already cost American taxpayers 6 cents to manufacture– three cents for every penny, to the endless financial glee of suppliers to the U.S. Mint.

    “SpaceX does not experience a major setback over the next few years and another strong competitor does not emerge, most to nearly all routes to orbit and beyond may go through SpaceX by sometime in the 2020s.”

    LOL The PRC , the Russians, the French, etc.,… just smiled.

    “As Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s human space flight administrator stated in one of the press Q&A, right now, “there is none better” than the SpaceX team. They will have a failure or substantial price increase someday, but SpaceX has directly addressed the usual Achilles’ heels that come with this business. Betting against SpaceX at this point is probably a losing proposition.”

    Space X’s business aplumb remains muddy, given its failure to meet announced schedules and deliver goods and services as contracted w/its customer in a timely fashion, even w/favorable contractual modifications. And Congress should be looking into this. But that is likely a managerial issue. The 57 year old Gerstenmaier, a shuttle management left over, likes his job and likes keeping tyhe ISS up and running– and he’s part of the overall problem, intoxicated w/t ol’euphoria from shuttle times of “it doesn’t matter how late or how much it costs as long as the mission is successful.’ Mike Suffredini, who replaced Gerstenmaier as the ISS program manager a while back was talking publcly of splashing the station by mid-decade before Constellation was scuttled. The Cold War relic that is the ISS remains a massive waste of dwindling resources; a $100-plus billion aerospace WPA project as Deke Slayton called it, w/a $2 billion operations budget born out of Reagan’s rhetoric in his 1984 SOTU speech, nearly three decade ago. When it’s splashed by the end of the decade or so, U.S. HSF space ops will be right where it is now and another generation will be condemned to LEO. That’s rought 50 years of hugging the planet, post Skylab. LEO is a ticket to no place, going in circles, no place fast. Space exploitation is not space exploration.

    @Vladislaw wrote @ June 1st, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    “space exploration, for me, is exactly that, exploring SPACE. If you want to land on Luna, that is not exploring space, that is lunar exploration, same with a Mars landing, that is Martian exploration.”

    Except it is, in contemporary parlance. And by your value set, the potential for exploitating the resources found from exploring those worlds in space present a rich potential.

  • Coastal Ron

    ArtieT wrote @ June 1st, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    Are you saying then that Apples suppliers require congressional appropriates to close their business model with Apple?

    You don’t do very well with analogies, do you?

    What I am pointing out is that Apple regularly provides large sums of money ahead of product delivery to various suppliers in order to make sure that they can adequately meet Apples needs. Sometimes that is an investment, sometimes Apple buys equipment for them to use, and sometimes Apple is providing prepayment with guarantees of exclusive initial supply. It depends.

    Apple also provides technical help to their suppliers to ensure that they don’t have supply issues during production (I have a friend who almost took a job with them doing this, but it would have required too much time abroad).

    And Apple is not unique in doing any of this. One DoD contractor I worked for employed similar techniques. For companies that have unique requirements that push the limits of technology or the fiscal limits of the suppliers – or if they want more control over what the supplier does – this is not unusual.

    NASA is doing less now than it did 10 years ago because of a flat budget, and more expensive ways of doing business.

    Maybe so, but your original assertion was:

    History shows that when NASA saves money, Congress takes it back.“.

    So far you haven’t provided anything to back that up, and what I provided showed that overall that pattern was not visible.

    Do you have any examples?

  • @Dark Blue Nine wrote @ June 1st, 2012 at 4:21 pm
    @Dark Blue Nine wrote @ June 1st, 2012 at 4:33 pm
    Your long term views on Heavy Lift and what NASA personnel should be working on pretty much match my own thinking (and also jibe with the the thoughts of some others who comment here as well), but you probably said it much better than I could have. Kudos. It’s just simple common sense and it’s surprising how some just don’t get it. I look forward to reading more such comments from you.

    “Yes. I mean substantial research, technology, and/or systems development.”
    And as you know, that was what was originally planned in the first iteration of the administration’s plan for human spaceflight. But the addition of SLS by certain politicians pretty much sucked the blood out of that. Pork is more important to those guys than a practical way to go beyond LEO, even if it means mandating a rocket that can never be finished (because of the way that they demand it be built), even if it has the side effect of keeping us stuck in LEO for a longer period of time than other more rational alternatives.

  • Googaw

    I’m just looking for a few sentences on what the NASA human space flight workforce should be working on besides running ISS,

    Some policy recommendations:

    (1) Hiring freeze — don’t make the problem worse.

    (2) Early retirement bonus.

    (3) Where feasible, job transfer or placement to an unmanned spaceflight program (either inside or preferably outside NASA).

    (4) Obviously silly make-work programs like the Senior Life Support rocket, as long as nobody takes them seriously (oh wait…)

  • Googaw

    oh wait, I was talking about manned space systems not unmanned systems

    That’s funny, I thought you were talking about space exploitation. You know, actually doing productive things in space. It turns out you’re just talking about how the astronaut cult exploits taxpayers.

  • Rhyolite

    “I’m not a big believer in heavy lift, either. But the fact that Intelsat has signed up for a Falcon Heavy launch indicates that commercial demand is emerging. (It’s also consistent with what I’ve seen/heard from Loral/others regarding large GEO platforms, although Intelsat may just be double/triple/quadruple manifesting existing GEO birds.)”

    I am fairly sure they are dual manifesting. The FH payload at 19 mt is nearly double the largest commercial GEO todate. No one has a bus design that big. It will take some time for manufacturers to fully utilize the FH capabilities (at least with a single satellite).

  • Vladislaw

    googaw wrote:

    “That’s funny, I thought you were talking about space exploitation. You know, actually doing productive things in space. It turns out you’re just talking about how the astronaut cult exploits taxpayers.”

    Obviously you thought wrong. When I am talking about unmanned system I am as clear I am when I am refering to human systems. As you were the only one to make that leap it must have been clear to everyone but you.

    Where is the link for the 400,000 published papers for the WMAP? You stated that paper production for that unmanned system produced 2000 times more papers than papers relating to experiments on the ISS.

    I would interested to see there is 400,000 papers on WMAP data.

  • Googaw

    condemns another generation of engineers to LEO ops

    Tell that to the engineers who work on GPS, comsats, spy sats, lunar and cometary impactors, deep space probes, Mars rovers, etc.

    Although I suppose somebody will tell me that, per astronaut cult-speak, I should have inserted “astronaut” or “HSF” into the above sentence to obtain its cult meaning — i.e. “condemns another generation of HSF engineers to LEO ops”, since that is the only kind of engineer they care to think about. Of, by, and for astronauts (with the occasional highly subsidized billionaire tourist sometimes thrown in), being the default understanding among worshippers of the heavenly pilgrims, but certainly not among most space engineers, about what they are talking about when talking generically about space.

  • Vladislaw

    DCSCA wrote:

    “And by your value set, the potential for exploitating the resources found from exploring those worlds in space present a rich potential.”

    I agree with that assetment. But as many on here know, I have dragged out that dead horse and beat it so many times people just groan when I mention it.

    I believe the property rights issue really has to be settled first. A lot disagree with me, but I don’t really see capital taking that risk without a piece of paper giving them property rights.

    With a property rights regime and with the mineral and water rights we could already have a Lunar speculative market dealing in those rights.

    That is one of the reasons I switched to avocating for exploring space and staying away from the gravity wells until there is a robust transportation system and refueling infrastructure in place.

    Once there is actually traffic to orbits it is not a big stretch for stations to follow and commercial transportation for orbit to surface travel.

    I believe if we create the high traffic rate that the property rights will finally have to be delt with. Just having one tiny base with a couple government workers, in my opinion, with not be enough.

  • Coastal Ron

    Rhyolite wrote @ June 1st, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    I am fairly sure they are dual manifesting. The FH payload at 19 mt is nearly double the largest commercial GEO todate. No one has a bus design that big. It will take some time for manufacturers to fully utilize the FH capabilities (at least with a single satellite).

    Who cares about double manifesting when your single payload launch price on Falcon Heavy is well below what it costs to double manifest on Ariane V?

    I think multi-payload launches will happen with Falcon Heavy, but I think it’s likely that Intelsat would be happy to book the savings it gets by just launching one satellite on Falcon Heavy (the capacity for their $83M is just below Intelsat’s SS/L-1300 6,000kg satellite size). At least for this first launch.

  • DCSCA

    ‘How do policymakers ensure that there are real, affordable, and capable alternatives to SpaceX for domestic (commercial and government) and even foreign commercial payloads and crews when SpaceX does have a bad day?’

    Why should they- that’s a matter for the free market, not policy makers. Post Challenger, the DoD fitrmed its contingencies accordngly. competitors i/t ‘free market’ will adapt to any change in the marketplace..

  • Vladislaw

    Googaw wrote:

    “how the astronaut cult exploits taxpayers”

    If anyone is in a cult, it is yourself, the Our Lady of the Robot cult.

    Yes, currently I push human presence, but I have 180 blog articles I did that shows I have pushed for unmanned as well.

    I have advocated for:

    Hubble
    Spitzer
    New Horizens
    James Webb ( early have switched options)
    Dawn
    AMS
    WMAP
    The terrestrial planet finder ( The early one that used 5 scopes)
    Kepler

    To name just a few. So I advocate for all forms of off world exploration.

    You are the one note charlie in the cult of ‘machines are better than humans’.

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ June 1st, 2012 at 6:01 pm

    Progress, has delivered tons of groceries to LEO space platforms for over 34 years- including operational, reliable, routine runs to the ISS.

    Progress is not U.S. made, U.S. owned, or U.S. operated. I know you’re a Putin fanboi, but you’ll have to trust me on this – Americans would rather depend on an American company for our access to space than a foreign country.

    As Miles O’Brien rightly noted, we pretty much understand LEO ops after half a century and this is less a space story and more a busnness story.

    Yep. You just figured this out, eh? But it’s an American business succeeding where only countries have succeeded before.

    The place for Space X or any other commercial firm to source financing is the private capital markets, not the U.S. government, which has to borrow 42 cents of every dollar it spends.

    Yet you advocate for a $30B unneeded rocket in order for you to relive the glories of your youth.

    Your fake concern for the deficit is noted, and ignored.

    LOL The PRC , the Russians, the French, etc.,… just smiled.

    That was a grimace, since each of them has publicly stated that they can’t compete with SpaceX.

    The Chinese, who run their space program as an extension of the military, have said they can’t match SpaceX on price.

    The Russians keep saying they are going to upgrade their rockets (i.e. Angara), but unless one or more of the 78 $Billionaires in Moscow chip in, Russia can’t afford to build anything new, much less cost-competitive with SpaceX.

    The French and Germans can’t decide whether to build bigger or smaller for the successor to Ariane V, or to government subsidize or not. All they know is that Ariane V just lost a launch contract to SpaceX (as did Russia), and there is nothing they currently have that can compete with SpaceX.

    As to your ramblings on COTS, apparently no one shares your views inside of government, so SpaceX will transition to the CRS contract, and Orbital will eventually transition too. Go Orbital!

    —> Cargo now. Crew next. <— ;-)

  • DCSCA

    Vladislaw wrote @ June 1st, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    “I believe the property rights issue really has to be settled first. A lot disagree with me, but I don’t really see capital taking that risk without a piece of paper giving them property rights.”

    Well, mineral/water rights, at least. DCSCA tends to agree w/you. Clarke’s assessment was that governmnt should carry the load of the exploration aspects and leave development and exploitation to comemrcial both in LEO and BEO ops. You know, NASA finds water on the moon and a commercial exploits it as a resource. That seems quite viable and acceptable. The mess comes when commercial uses government as a crutch for financing that exploitation as we see today w/t faux market of ISS ops- which is inevitably doomed to splash anyway in, by spacial standards, very short term. Had it been firmly anchored to the floor of the Ocean of Storms instead, the rationale might be an easier sell now to finance a join exploration/exploitation hub. Clarke urged that LEO commercial exploitation press on independent from government exploration and leave government to do the ‘heavy lifting’ of exploration. Unfortunately, commercial is trying to tap government resources instead and this inhibits expansion outward in the long term. But your ‘property rights’ pitch makes good sense. .

  • DCSCA

    @Googaw wrote @ June 1st, 2012 at 8:04 pm

    “Tell that to the engineers who work on GPS, comsats, spy sats, lunar and cometary impactors, deep space probes, Mars rovers, etc”

    They know. GPS, comsats, spy sats, are LEO ops, Googaw. And the BEO unmanned ops you cite, cometary, DSPs and Mars rovers are few and far beween– and given the $1.2 billion cost of Curiosity, due to attempt a Mars landing in August, may grow fewer in the Age of Austerity. But as far as HSF ops go, yes, it condemns another generation to LEO ops- which by 2020 or so, when the ISS splashes, will leave U.S. HSF ops right where it is now, roughly half a century after Skylab, hugging the planet.

  • Bennett

    Rhyolite wrote @ June 1st, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    “I am fairly sure they are dual manifesting.”

    This may indeed be true, but if the demand is there and both parties are happy with the arrangement, then that’s their business. In the mean time, here’s this heavy lift vehicle that NASA could utilize, yet they have no payloads for, but they insist that they need a HLV…

    Just making the FH available may cause the Emperor to admit that he has no clothes*, and we can get on with developing the technologies we need to expand human settlement of space and appropriate gravity wells.

    Elon may have thought of this.

    * Some questions will have to be asked, publicly.

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ June 1st, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    GPS, comsats, spy sats, are LEO ops, Googaw.

    GPS satellites are in Medium Earth Orbits (MEO), about 18,000 km above LEO, and 20,000 km above the ISS.

    Not that anyone believes what you write, but I just thought you ought to know…

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “’With this grand slam from SpaceX…’

    WTF?”

    You’re swearing at another poster, unprovoked, in your very first post.

    Really?

    Well, to avoid looking like a fucking idiot, you might want to at least read the headlines of a few articles before you start spewing expletives:

    SpaceX Dragon Landing Caps “Grand Slam” Mission to Space Station
    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/05/120531-spacex-dragon-lands-international-space-station-nasa/

    SpaceX scores ‘grand slam’ with successful mission to ISS
    http://www.floridatoday.com/article/20120601/SPACE/306010017/1086/rss07/SpaceX-scores-grand-slam-successful-mission-ISS

    Dragon returns to Earth after ‘grand slam’ space mission
    http://articles.cnn.com/2012-05-31/us/us_spacex_1_spacex-dragon-alan-lindenmoyer-spacex-falcon?_s=PM:US

    The rest of your naseously repetitive, incoherent, and ever wrong posts don’t merit responses. I’m hitting the ignore button.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Bennett wrote @ June 1st, 2012 at 10:30 pm

    “Elon may have thought of this.

    * Some questions will have to be asked, publicly.”

    I have enjoyed this thread and have done some pondering…awhile back I asked another thread regular where “Bigelow” was going…and got a thought inspiring answer.

    I would note this.

    I am a James Burke kind of guy a “Connections” person. there is a synergy of events which inspire people with innovation (and Money) to take advantage of them to create a new future…and new markets…and so…what do we know so far.

    1. If SpaceX Falcon9 and heavy can launch at or near the current price schedule AND meet some kind of schedule…they will take the comsat launch market.

    2. That will quickly morph into the US government launch market for military and other special payloads.

    3. If they take the comsat launch market then the comsat payloads will morph to take advantage of that capability. That will I predict include some capabilities for on orbit servicing by remote craft (rumor is that some of the excess space on the INtelsat launch will go to a test of an uncrewed repair vehicle.)

    after those things we start to kind of diverge into more speculation.

    First…what will happen with US government payloads? There is something going on here with X-37 that “might” be in play. ie the refurbishment of vehicles…Will they morph; ie get smaller but more diverse constellations? Or will we finally see the mythic 1 meter resolution from near GEO?

    Second is there a role for humans in craft refurbishing or assembly? The drawback here with Hubble was the cost of a shuttle launch…but might this be a market for a Bigelow space station?

    …These are more sort of speculate…but in the end for Bigelow to prosper in my view he has to come up with a market for his stations that are more then “rich guys/gals in orbit”. It might work for a bunch of “private but government payloads”. When I was in an African country they were speaking quite highly of the notion of flying to a Bigelow station…

    But you wonder if some sort of assembly point might be the Bigelow market.

    It is an interesting time…to see how (assuming again he makes it) Musk’s price to orbit changes things.

    RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ June 1st, 2012 at 9:43 pm
    You know, NASA finds water on the moon and a commercial exploits it as a resource.”

    I’ve sort of started reading you and Wind and Whittington for entertainment only…but I am peaked here.

    “commercial exploits it as a resource”? Who would be the customer? RGO

  • A M Swallow

    @Andrew Gasser

    Comments on your video

    1. I enjoyed it.

    2. Forget the public personnel attacks on Mike Griffin – he is no longer NASA’s Administrator so Congress can no longer fire him.

    3. Space Act Agreements (SAA) will need a different name when used by other government agencies for their Research & Development projects.

    4. The milestone ever 2 or 3 months is an important part of the process. Missed deadlines allows the agency to quickly determine when things are going wrong. The agency can then send their people in to get the problem sorted out or cancel the agreement or possibly estimate a new completion date.

    Andrew Swallow

  • Das Boese

    It’s interesteing to watch NASA TV’s COTS coverage, interspersed with SLS/Orion videos every couple minutes.

    When Falcon Heavy launches sometime next year, it will be the death of SLS. It can’t come soon enough.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Doug Lassiter wrote @ June 1st, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    “So what is space exploration?”

    common sense wrote @ June 1st, 2012 at 1:14 pm
    “– exploration: The action of traveling in or through an unfamiliar area in order to learn about it.”

    Ah yes. Let’s throw dictionaries at each other. So that’s why we’ve sent hundreds of explorers into LEO? To learn about it? They can open the door and sniff space, I guess, or gaze out the window at it.

    As to bench pressing rocks and spitting dust, you just don’t get it. That’s how our space explorers could assert SOFT POWER. Show ‘dem muscles.
    To many, soft power is what space exploration is about. It has nothing to do with traveling through an unfamiliar area in order to learn about it. Nothing. It’s about showing up your competition. That’s what Apollo was about. My golf ball can go farther than your golf ball.

    The vast majority of what we’ve learned about space, we haven’t learned by sending people there.

    But yes, you’re right. To many people space exploration is a big shiny cylinder sitting on a launch pad. Ideally with flames coming out of the bottom, and flags plastered on the side. Or heads encased in glass balls. Inspiring, no?

  • Rhyolite

    “Who cares about double manifesting when your single payload launch price on Falcon Heavy is well below what it costs to double manifest on Ariane V?”

    FH is a deal but it’s unlikely that they would fly half empty. Too much revenue lost. It’s worth pointing out that SpaceX already has two dual manifest flights on the books:

    http://www.spacenews.com/satellite_telecom/120313-abs-satmex-banding-together-buy-boeing-all-electric-satellites.html

    In Intelsat’s case, they fly enough satellites a year that they could fill both slots.

    “This may indeed be true, but if the demand is there and both parties are happy with the arrangement, then that’s their business.”

    Dual manifesting of mid sized satellites is pretty typical. The curious thing about FH is that it can dual manifest two of the largest GEO sats out there today.

    No one is building sats large enough to fully use FH – it’s going to take time to design new buses and (possibly) new satellite factories to fully exploit FH.

  • Googaw

    GPS, comsats, spy sats, are LEO ops, Googaw.

    You learn something new every day. :-)

  • Martijn Meijering

    Who cares about double manifesting when your single payload launch price on Falcon Heavy is well below what it costs to double manifest on Ariane V?

    It means that Intelsat isn’t looking for an HLV, but for cheaper lift.

  • Googaw

    BTW, there is a very sound criticism of ISS’s orbit that doesn’t confuse it with other earth orbits: namely, that it is useless for almost all practical purposes. It was chosen because it is the easiest orbit that one can get to from the U.S. and Russia and still put on astronaut shows. The Shuttle was stuck in similar earth-hugging orbits. Basically, LEO (low earth orbit, although usually distinguished from low polar orbits), is the orbit of the slightly less whacko sect of the astronaut cult. The denomination that actually gets their beloved sojourners launched into the heavens, albeit just barely. The other sect just daydreams about “exploration”, i.e. pilgrimages to more distant and challenging parts of the heavens that can’t be afforded even on the multi-billion dollar NASA budgets, but can almost routinely be reached by much smaller yet far more useful machines.

    Chief among the actually useful orbits are as follows, in rough order of utility:

    (1) GEO: chiefly because fixed receivers and transmitters placed there can talk continuously with fixed trasmitters and receivers at the earth’s surface. Communications between different parts of our only home planet (until at least our granchildrens’ time) was, is, and will long remain the most productive use of space. A real market rather than a market-of-the-future “vision”. Also, recon there can examine a fixed part of the earth’s surface at leisure. For both recon and communications, you only need three machines to cover nearly all the earth’s surfaces at reasonable angles (the poles get the short shrift).

    (2) Certain polar orbits are best for most recon purposes, because they will eventually pass within view of every part of our planet’s surface, even though they are far closer to our surface than GEO. Polar orbits are the favorite orbits for spysats and earth science platforms. Google Earth was made from polar orbit.

    (3) Molniya orbits: these provide much better coverage of very high lattitudes and the poles than GEO.

    (4) Certain LaGrange halo orbits can be useful for parking machines like telescopes that you want to maintain a fairly constant relationship to the two gravitational bodies that create these regions.

    Some applications can use other orbits: GPS with an intermediate orbit uses more spacecraft than a GEO constellation but is closer to its (usually mobile and undirected) ground stations. LEO communications like Iridium also have such ground stations and get even closer to them by increasing much further still the number of satellites in the constellation, but the economics of this is still dubious (both Iridium and Globalstar went bankrupt, and Teledesic never got off the ground). In LEO constellations there are several (often nearly a dozen) distinct low orbits in order to achieve full ground coverage, so that even a single constellation constitutes a variety of destinations.

    In short, there are a wide variety of useful orbits, and none of them is the ISS orbit. A commercial rocket to be successful has to be capable of reaching any of these various destinations with minimal customizations. Any other proposed infrastructure, to be anything more than a figment of the sci-fi imagination, or a make-work NASA white elephant, also has to be capable of serving a wide variety of orbits, or at least the most useful one, GEO.

    A lot of this is Astronautics 101, understood by any sophomore aerospace engineer, but when the cult of the heavenly pilgrims dominates a disucssion, obsessing over their holy places of LEO, the moon, and Mars, these basics tend to get lost in the ecstatic noise.

  • DCSCA

    @Coastal Ron wrote @ June 1st, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    “Progress is not U.S. made, U.S. owned, or U.S. operated…. ”

    The ISS is an international space platform, Ron. You’re advocating an expensive redundancy in the Age of Austerity to service a doomed LEO space platform.

    “…you’ll have to trust me on this – Americans would rather depend on an American company for our access to space than a foreign country.” Corporations owe no loyalties to any nation-state, Ron. Ask Exxon. Or Anheiser-Busch. ‘American’ cars are loaded w/foreign manufactured parts, Ron.

    “But it’s an American business succeeding where only countries have succeeded before.” Except it’s not, Ron. In fact, as O’Brien pointed out, corporations built the space vehicles that succeeded before. They were o/o by NASA, not the contractor.. Again, corporations owe no loyalities to any nation-state, Ron, and NASA subcontracting is no different than, say, the DoD subcontrating to Halliburton (or the then Blackwater) w/all the consequences that entails. It’s bad policy. And you advocate subsidizing it with dwindling resources from a government which has to borrow 42 cents of every dollar it spends. THe place to source financing is the private capital markets, not the U.S. Treasury.

    “apparently no one shares your views inside of government.” In fact, some do. Governments change, Ron– and given the trend of lousy economic numbers, its increasingly possible there will be a change. And a Romney administration would not be space friendly.

    “Yet you advocate for a $30B unneeded rocket in order for you to relive the glories of your youth… Your fake concern for the deficit is noted, and ignored.”

    Except it’s not. No, DCSCA advocates BEO government financed space exploration over government subsidized LEO space exploitation. LEO is a ticket to no place, headed no where fast, going in circles. Commercial space- HSF- can and should develop all it wants- just not w/government financing, siphoning off dwindling resources from BEO planning and development. The place for private firms to tap investors is the private capital markets– and after the technical success of Space X this past week, that should be easier.

    What’s clearly ‘unneeded’ today, aside from another redundancy to Progress, which has been servicing LEO space platforms for over 34 years, is the doomed-to-splash-ISS, a $100-plus billion Cold War relic w/a $2-$3 bil/yr ops expense through 2020 or so; an ‘orbiting zombie’ as Googaw aptly labels it, which has failed to deliver any appreciable ROI for the expense after 11 years on orbit. It’s been a quarter century long ‘aerospace WPA project,’ as Deke Slayton wisely labeled it, born of Reagan rhetoric nearly three decades ago in his ’84 SOTU speech. It’s a liability; a drag; an anchor that keeps U.S. HSF ops trapped in LEO. Space exploitation is not space exploration.

    “The Chinese, who run their space program as an extension of the military, have said they can’t match SpaceX on price.” You miss the point- DBN wrongly tried to spin that ‘most to nearly all routes to orbit and beyond may go through SpaceX by sometime in the 2020s.’ This is just ‘shilly-spin’ as the PRC, Russia and the French have the capacity, as does NASA and the DoD.

    “Cargo now. Crew next.” Hmmmm. How about lofting cargo on time, first.

    As a purveyor of the Magnified Importance of Diminished vision, you best be reminded that this is not a space story, but a business story, and Space X has failed to deliver contracted goods and services on time, even w/contratual modifications in their favor. This failure to meet schedule is something Congress will take into consideration as down select occurs. Space X orbited a wheel of cheese 17 months ago and after numerous delays, .last week made rendezvous w/t ISS and had 1,000 lbs of sundries grappled. Progress has deliver multiple tons of supplies to LEO platforms for over 34 years, including the International Space Station- and automatically docking BTW. Instead of pitching PR woo to fly crew, try meeting a schedule for once, instead.

    @Coastal Ron wrote @ June 1st, 2012 at 11:11 pm

    MEO, LEOs.. you miss the point of the whole discussion w/Googaw. LEO exploitive ops- HSF or geosync, GPS spysats etc., limits another engineering generation to hugging the planet, going in circles, no place fast. If that lights your candle, go for it, but in another decade or so, nearly 50 years post Skylab, when the ISS is splashed, you’ll be no further along than you are now– and if there’s a change in the Executive, which given the increasingly dour economic numbers is a gowing possibility, further austerity practices may be implemented.

    @Dark Blue Nine wrote @ June 1st, 2012 at 11:17 pm

    “’With this grand slam from SpaceX… You’re swearing at another poster?” Apparently you have as it’s the only explicitly spelled out expletive on this thread. Which renders you more profane than profound. More heat than light. Your passion is noted. But if calling you out for parroting Musk’s AP quote rattles your cage, it’s all the more ‘shilling’ it’s exposed. As a purveyor of the Magnified Importance of Diminished Vision, Musketeers are intoxicated by the euphoria of, ‘it doesn’t matter how behind schedule it was or how much it costs as long as the mission is successful.’ It’s quite shuttlesque. ‘Meet the NewSpace. Same as the Old Space,’ as Googaw often says. Elements of his commentary are agreeable. But as Miles O’Brien rightly noted, this is less a space story and more a business story. And the failure of Space X to meet announced schedules and deliver contracted goods and services even w/contractual modifications in their favor, is a troubling aspect of Space X’s business performance. This failure is not nulled by the belated, technical triumph of the Space X flight team. They earned their engineering ‘attaboys’ to be sure. But 17 months between flights, the schedule slippages and accompanying excuses wrapped in hype are factors Congress bears considering though down select. The bottom line is a wheel of cheese was orbited in December, 2010– and 1,000 pounds of sundries lofted last week. Late. Progress has been delivering groceries reliably, timely and routinely to the ISS — and to other previous LEO space platforms for over 34 years. This element of business ops has to be considered by Congress as down select is made. Oler makes a good point that the Falcon may be the most significant development by Space X.

    “First and foremost, full funding should be restored to and even increased for NASA’s commercial crew efforts.” No. Absolutely not. If anything, Space X’s success merits cutting it to zero, as the success of the cargo flight should bolster confidence in the private capital markets of Space X’s technical skill set. The place for Space X or any other commercial firm to source financing is the private capital markets, not the U.S. government, which has to borrow 42 cents of every dollar it spends. Musk has only invested $100 million of his estimated $2 billion worth into the firm. That’s a paltry sum in his circles and events over the past week demonstrate he should lead by example and invest more w/confidence. An average film, something Musk knows about, costs roughly $300 million to produce; Raptor fighter planes around $400 million each; Romney set up $100 million trust funds for his kids with ease; Jamie Dimon’s Morgan/Chase lost $2-$3 billion over six weeks; Facebook’s IPO multiples of that as well. $100 million isn’t a lot of money these days in that universe. The place to source capital for investment for private enterprised firms is the private sector, not the government. Advocates of subsidizing a private industry w/ tax dollars, which has successfully demonstrated itself to the private capital markets, seek to socialize the risk on the many to benefit an elite few. It’s wrong. Espceially in the Age of Austerity. ” I’m hitting the ignore button.” Which is your privilege- you can pick up your ball and glove and go home any time– which is what Congress may very say to Space X post down select.

    @Googaw wrote @ June 1st, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    Certainly w/respect to shuttle era management, clearing out the deadwood makes perfect sense. And if there’s a change in administrations, which w/the increasingly dour economic news, appears increasingly possible, it could come to pass as it falls in line w/their policy leanings.

  • For something that’s supposedly “useless,” the ISS sure is yielding a lot of results.

    “ISS Benefits for Humanity”

    But of course the people who claim it’s “useless” will refuse to read the facts because it will prove them wrong.

  • Vladislaw

    DCSCA wrote:

    “The place to source capital for investment for private enterprised firms is the private sector, not the government.”

    If SpaceX was coming to the government with a new widget and making a cold call to try and sell it, I would agree that SpaceX should rely on their own funding. This isn’t the case.

    It is this little line from the Vision for Space Exploration from President Bush which President Obama is continuing. I believe this is now policy.

    “Acquire crew transportation to and from the International Space Station, as required, after the Space Shuttle is retired from service.”

    This isn’t SpaceX coming to them trying to sell them something out of the blue. This is the federal government saying they want to buy something the currently does not exist.

    Now explain to me, if the government came to you and said build this widget and I MIGHT buy it from you … but you have to buy the land and equipment, build a factory and hire the techical staff. when you are done, I might buy from you .. or not.

    I just fail to understand how you can not see that difference. The government says they want to aquire a product and service and you think a private company would have to finance that themselves.

    The Falcon Heavy, is not being funded by the government, for me, this is an example where SpaceX is building a product they are going to try and sell to the government, so they are financing it themselves. in the other case the government is coming to them to create a product that currently doesn’t exist.

  • Coastal Ron

    Martijn Meijering wrote @ June 2nd, 2012 at 3:49 am

    It means that Intelsat isn’t looking for an HLV, but for cheaper lift.

    Bingo!

    And that’s what I think the initial value proposition of Falcon Heavy is, not “bigger lift”, but less expensive lift for the same size GTO payloads.

    Over time, the market may respond to this much larger capability by building much larger payloads, but at $83-129M/launch, I think price is the initial big driver.

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ June 2nd, 2012 at 6:36 am

    Corporations owe no loyalties to any nation-state, Ron.

    This obsession you have about corporations is really bizarre. The U.S. has a long history of relying on U.S. companies for important things.

    But again and again you refuse to acknowledge the obvious – American’s would rather rely on U.S. companies than your Putiin-led Russia.

    Regarding Progress, it’s a good little spacecraft, but it’s too small to fully support the ISS. This is pretty obvious to anyone that has compared it’s specs to either Dragon or Cygnus. Apparently that doesn’t include you.

    Both Dragon and Cygnus use the Common Berthing Mechanism (the ports on every U.S. module), allowing the maximum size of equipment to be shipped up to the ISS. The Progress is limited to things that can fit through a 1255mm round hole.

    The Progress also can’t take up external cargo. The Dragon can carry externally every LRU the ISS needs to replace, and one of the future items it will be carrying is the new NASA Docking System (NDS) so that future Dragon Crew spacecraft can “dock”, not berth.

    So your little Progress is part of the supply chain we need to keep the ISS running, but it’s too limited on it’s own to fully utilize the ISS.

    No, DCSCA advocates…

    Hmm, change DCSCA to Exxon, and you sound like you’re a corporation, and according to you, corporations can’t be trusted.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Rick Tumlinson has got a nice piece on Huf post…NASA Watch has a link.

    It is interesting and pretty well written…Rick pushes the space settlements thing to hard in an era where jobs are important…

    RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Here is what SpaceX proves…that the GOP HOUSE’s economic theories are load of horse manure.

    SpaceX is an excellent example of well placed federal “investment” creating real industrial might, products and yes jobs.

    This is on par with the airmail contract or FDR through the British funneling money to NAA to build the P-51.

    What the GOP is use to doing is funneling money SLS/Orion style to command industries which are more or less “socialist” in outlook…there is nothing innovative about SLS or Orion (or the F-35 or F-22) they are all projects with clear technology roots in the past which have just been jazzed up…and are far to expensive even for a GOP Congress which is just printing money (or running up debt).

    NASA has spent say 400 million on SpaceX (and SpaceX poured in another 800 million or so) that 400 million would not even buy Ares 1X…

    400 million will barely keep SLS (or Orion) going for 5 months…and what do we get for that?

    In the end the US is in trouble because thanks mostly to the GOP we have far to many SLS type projects and far to little “SpaceX”. RGO

  • well

    Weak congratulations from the Texas crew while they decide where to stick the knife. Why are they so keen on sending US tax dollars to Russia?

  • BTW, there is a very sound criticism of ISS’s orbit that doesn’t confuse it with other earth orbits: namely, that it is useless for almost all practical purposes.

    Nonsense. It is fine for microgravity processing, space science, and excellent for earth observation. Those are the things it was designed for.

    This obsession you have about corporations is really bizarre.

    Find one of the troll’s obsessions that’s not bizarre, and get back to us.

  • Byeman

    The most clueless post on this thread is the one that states that “ULA is in trouble”

  • Robert G. Oler

    well wrote @ June 2nd, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    Weak congratulations from the Texas crew while they decide where to stick the knife. Why are they so keen on sending US tax dollars to Russia?>>

    because that means more tax dollars can be sent to all the SLS/Orion crowd which the GOP is a political sponsor of.

    SLS and Orion are irrelevant in themselves…what they are, are wealth transfer apparatus for the GOP (and some Dems but mostly GOP) to send money from the middle class to the corporations to do things which otherwise they would not even think of doing.

    They get away with this (and a lot of other programs as well) because they have mastered the rhetoric that confuses the low education/low information voters. If you want an example go read Wind and Whittington’s post supporting SLS/Orion.

    “I am proud to be an American because at least I know I am free” kind of flag waving idiocy. RGO

  • vulture4

    If spaceflight does not serve the national interest, then we do not need a NASA program for spaceflight at all, be it ISS, CCDev, Commercial Crew, or BEO. If spaceflight serves the national interest, then some tax dollars should be allocated to it by the most efficient method.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Over time, the market may respond to this much larger capability by building much larger payloads,

    It’s possible, but for the foreseeable future it’s not the way I’d bet. After all, Ariane 5 has no payloads that require its full current payload capacity and that has been available for a while. Also note that an all-SEP satellite would be much lighter, so there are ways to make satellites larger without requiring larger launch vehicles, even without use of propellant transfer.

    It’s possible that Boeing is going down the SEP road so as not to help SpaceX find unique payloads, but I doubt it. Being reliant on a single launch vehicle is not a good business practice, and commercial clients can be expected to be more rational about this than NASA.

    but at $83-129M/launch, I think price is the initial big driver.

    Yep.

  • Googaw

    vulture4, how does what NASA is doing serve the national interest?

  • vulture4

    “the connection between Cygnus/Antares and their old HL-20 derivative/Atlas V proposal is tenuous. They didn’t use the same launch vehicle, and the Cygnus capsule has little in common with an HL-20-derived lifting body aside from using the same pressure vessel supplier (Thales Alenia).”

    Although it was commonly called a “lifting body” and “HL-20″ derived, the OSC Prometheus, a winged spacecraft proposal for the Orbital space Plane program, is unrelated to the HL-20 and was not a lifting body, but rather a wing-and-fuselage space plane, and, like the X-37, it was derived from the Shuttle and has a lift to drag ration of roughly 4.5, adequate for runway landing. The Cygnus, a cargo transport, is unrelated to the Prometheus and not intended for atmospheric entry.

    The Sierra Nevada Dreamchaser is derived from the HL-20 (and ultimately from the Russian BOR-4) but because it has no wings, it has a much lower lift to drag ratio, probably about 3.5 to 1, and is thus much more difficult to land on a runway.

    An entry vehicle without wings is like a canoe made of concrete. Yes, it’s just barely possible to do it. But who would want to?

  • Coastal Ron

    Byeman wrote @ June 2nd, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    The most clueless post on this thread is the one that states that “ULA is in trouble”

    Today, no. Likely not in the very near future either.

    But if you look at the trends by both SpaceX and ULA, then yes, ULA will be in trouble at some point.

    For instance, even if it takes SpaceX 3 years before the DoD/NRO takes a chance on SpaceX for launching one of their satellites, that loss of business will be significant to ULA. And if SpaceX gets approved as being one of the two carriers for DoD/NRO payloads, then ULA’s $1B/year subsidy could be reduced in order to give SpaceX a cut of the same allocation.

    So then you would have ULA getting fewer orders from the U.S. Government, AND they would be losing part of the subsidy they get for being a government launch provider. If they are having to raise prices by 15% every year now, imagine what they will have to do under those conditions? ULA will price themselves out of their prime market.

    Now you may disagree, but this scenario is not only very possible, but very likely too.

    Why don’t you think ULA would be under pressure from changing market conditions?

  • Ferris Valyn

    Coastal Ron – There is another possibility – ULA could do some innovating themselves.

  • What the GOP is use to doing is funneling money SLS/Orion style to command industries which are more or less “socialist” in outlook

    This is stupidly partisan. It is not “the GOP” that is doing this. It is porkers on both sides of the aisle.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Rand Simberg wrote @ June 2nd, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    What the GOP is use to doing is funneling money SLS/Orion style to command industries which are more or less “socialist” in outlook

    you replied:
    This is stupidly partisan. It is not “the GOP” that is doing this. It is porkers on both sides of the aisle.

    my comment…goofy

    For every Democrat who is propping SLS/Orion up I can name you five members of the Grand Old Party who are doing it even harder. And most of the folks who are propping SLS/Orion up who are not in “space districts” are members of the GOP.

    to not see and comprehend that is just not playing in the real world. It is a partisan issue. RGO

  • DCSCA

    @Stephen C. Smith wrote @ June 2nd, 2012 at 8:24 am

    Except it’s not.

    Certainly in terms of ROI for the expense- a factor not lot on the likes of Mitt Romney. And given the increasingly dour economic numbers for the U.S. economy, a change in administrations is a growing possiblilty. And a Romney adminiistration pledged to curb government spending has already telegraphed it’s not particularly space friendly.

  • Martijn Meijering

    There is another possibility – ULA could do some innovating themselves.

    They are actually doing that with the Centaur IVF (Integrated Vehicle Fluids). Their rationale seems contrived (as so often with these things), but their real purpose seems to be to introduce depot technology as part of “ordinary” upper stage upgrades.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Byeman wrote @ June 2nd, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    “The most clueless post on this thread is the one that states that “ULA is in trouble””

    did I say that…well maybe not but I will here. If Mr. Musk and SpaceX can meet their cost, performance, and schedule numbers ULA is in trouble.

    if either of those three collapse then so will SpaceX…

    the statement you make reminds me of when I was a child. A friend at Church and in our neighborhood was one of the Senior VP’s at Branniff…another friend; my next door neighbor; the guy who taught me (after my DAd) primary flight ops…came back from Vietnam to his old job at AA and after about a year left and took one at the upstart SWA.

    Branniff never knew what hit them. First they did not believe that it could be done for the cost SWA was proffering, then when it became apparent that they could, they tried the FAA pressure thing, and finally when that failed they headed for Congress hoping to get legislation that would “box in” SWA.

    in the end the market spoke and Branniff couldnt even stage a SWA like comeback.

    Musk has (at least to this point) shown himself to be not only a bright guy technically or from a management standpoint; but his business sense is amazing. If any of the three things I mentioned stumble then so does he…

    but if they just “hickup” (and they will do that) then slowly but surely he will grab the market and eventually the DoD/national security payloads will come off of ULA birds.

    now they have smart people there and innovation is not a SpaceX monopoly…but I am starting to sense like Branniff they just dont have the talent to do that. RGO

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “The most clueless post on this thread is the one that states that ‘ULA is in trouble’”

    They’re in trouble because 1) their costs are out of control, 2) there’s now an alternative to ULA for domestic medium lift, and 3) there will likely be an alternative to ULA for domestic heavy lift in a couple to few years.

    The average total price for an EELV launch for the military has gone from $72M in 2002 to $420M in 2012. (As an aside, NASA, which gets a break on the price because the military covers the infrastructure and overhead, has seen Atlas V go from $125M to $334M per launch.) That’s nearly 600% cost growth over a decade. If ULA continues that kind of cost growth over the next decade (through 2022), the average total price for an EELV launch will hit $2.5B (with a “b”). That’s about twice as expensive as the worst Titan IV (or Shuttle) total launch cost. Not even the U.S. military can afford that.

    Back when the ULA monopoly was the only medium and heavy lift game in town, Boeing and LockMart could play this game of chicken with the military and be fairly certain that they’d get a price increase. Now that Falcon 9 has survived infant mortality and stands at 3-0, that’s no longer the case in the medium market. In the coming years, the military will increasingly give awards to SpaceX when ULA tries to increase their (or just maintain their high) prices.

    Before Intelsat signed up as the first customer for the Falcon Heavy, we could at least point to the Delta IV Heavy and various military/intel heavy lift needs as a reason for the military to maintain ULA’s existence in one form or another. But with Falcon Heavy now signing up customers and capable of twice the throw weight of a Delta IV Heavy at a fourth the price, that’s no longer a valid argument. It will take longer than in the medium class, but ULA will eventually price itself out of the heavy market.

    I dont’ know if it will take 5, 10, or 20 years, but assuming ULA and its parent compnies do nothing to get their costs and prices under control, they will lose more and more business to SpaceX. Eventually, ULA will have so few flights that it will not make sense for the military to subsidize their infrastructure to the tune of ~$1B/yr. At that point, it will be lights out.

    ULA and its parent companies have seen the writing on the wall for a year or two now, and are currently lobbying the military and Congress hard for a large, bulk buy of cores — more than the military needs and at unprecedentedly high prices (which Sen. McCain, the GAO, and others have criticized). Although it’s probably not their only motivation, I suspect the parent companies are trying to wring every last dollar they can out of this ULA contract, as it may be the last highly lucrative one. After that contract is completed, I think Boeing and LockMart could exit the launch business at any time. Given much larger revenues and higher margins in their civil aircraft, military aircraft, weapons, IT, and spacecraft lines, it wouldn’t be much of a loss for them. Aside from some minor investments in a potential replacement for the RL-10, Boeing and LockMart are not putting substantial investment, or even better accounting controls, into ensuring that ULA remains price competitive over the coming decade or so. I think they’ve already decided to suck what they can out of ULA and the military/NASA while they can and then dissolve the partnership when it becomes more hassle than profit center.

    Disclaimer: I like ULA a lot — even with enormous cost growth, it’s still substantially cheaper to buy a bunch of Delta IV Heavies than develop and operate SLS; Atlas V is clearly a good interim vehicle for commercial crew; and they do a lot of good launch technology and exploration architecture studies. But when I put myself in the military’s shoes, see those price increases, and look at the alternative, I can’t ignore where things are likely headed for ULA. And when I see what ULA’s parent companies are not doing to keep the business competitive, I can’t help but predict that it will no longer be a going concern in another decade or so.

  • DCSCA

    @Rand Simberg wrote @ June 2nd, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    “It is fine…”

    Except it’s not.

    In fact, it’s a fine fiscal mess. it was pitched by Reagan nearly three decades ago as an international platform for partners amidst the Cold War- and ‘designed,’ then redesigned multiple times through changing times as make work for aerospace firms for post-Cold War geopolitical motives then pitched as a ‘research platform,’ an integrated element of a broader HSF vision, now scuttled by cost overruns, and is currently just a one-off, a Cold War relic, in LEO going no place fast. It has little relevance w/the world of today, the Age of Austerity and has more in common with the Berlin Wall. It’s not cost-effective for its $100-plus billion expense nor has it produced anything close to a ROI to merit a $2-$3 billion annual operations budget as it’s doomed to splash by 2020 or so– and was penciled in for splash by 2015 as funding was drying up before Consterllation was finally shelved. . It is, as Googaw rightly labels it, an ‘orbiting zombie.’ It would have better served had it been firmly anchored to the floor of the Ocean of Storms, not doomed to a Pacific splash. That way maitaining an exploration/exploitation hub on Luna would have been an easier rationale to pitch in this era. But then, the aerospace contract loving Garver opposed a return to the moon in her NSS lobbying days, pushing the station instead. Her goal was securing contracts, not securing a future for the space program. More’s the pity.

  • Doug Lassiter

    DCSCA wrote @ June 2nd, 2012 at 5:11 pm
    “In fact, it’s a fine fiscal mess. it was pitched by Reagan nearly three decades ago as an international platform for partners amidst the Cold War- and ‘designed,’ then redesigned multiple times through changing times as make work for aerospace firms for post-Cold War geopolitical motives then pitched as a ‘research platform,’ an integrated element of a broader HSF vision, now scuttled by cost overruns, and is currently just a one-off, a Cold War relic, in LEO going no place fast.”

    I’m hardly a strong supporter of ISS, but this description does it disservice. It is spatially going no where fast, but it has gone far in creating working models for international collaboration and understanding long-term effects of humans working in microgravity. It has, in fact, changed the whole tenor of international partnership possibilities. The ugly thing about “exploration” is that it is simplistically perceived to be all about what rocks you stick your toes into. They should ship some rocks up to ISS for the astronauts to wriggle their toes in! But capabilities in space depend on far more than what rocks you stick your toes into.

    It would be nice if NASA did a better marketing job of how ISS helps pave the way for future work, but since the agency is pretty much tongue tied about future work, that marketing job is hard to pull off. That’s what makes ISS a “zombie”. NASA has been inarticulate about what it’s for.

    The cost effectiveness is arguable. Certainly for science (except for human factors), it has so far accomplished little of real value. But in terms of developing partnerships, and exercising our skills and capabilities in in-space operations, it’s been quite marvelous. Perhaps $100B would have been better spent by putting a few more footprints on the Moon? Ah yes, but you could call that “exploration”, couldn’t you?

  • E.P. Grondine

    US satellite builders now have a launcher that will give them the ability to compete with Chinese and other firms.

    How other launcher manufacturers around the world will react to the Falcon is an open question.

    My guess for a long time has been that after Long March 5, China will work on re-usable launchers instead of a larger launcher, but we’ll see.

    The bottom line here is that Musk saw any approach to making a better product in an industry that interested him, and took the opportunity.

    All that he needs is a level playing field and no obstructions.

    As far as his pockets go, everyone now understands that they are very deep.

    As far as Rep. Rohrabacher’s role in this, after the current debacle the GOP will rebuild, and I think that he will be there for that.

  • ArtieT

    @ Coastal Ron

    I personally managed projects for NASA, have worked to save money, and have my budget reduced the following year.

    Perhaps this isn’t an Agency level issue; I’ll grant you that.

    Personal experience has certainly influence how I perceive things at an Agency level.

  • ArtieT

    @ Doug Lassiter.

    Indeed, the ISS Program has taught the Internationals and NASA how to work together, in partnership, to pull off an amazing design, construction, and maintenance accomplishment (perhaps someday the utilization impact will be as amazing..but for now…we wait)

    Question: given the bailing out of the ExoMars partnership with ESA, the bailing out of the IXO and LISA space science missions with ESA, what does you suppose is the future of international agreements in these austere times?

    Because it seems like for now, partnerships are seen as risky, unless the partner is contributing a very small incidental amount, and there are back up plans if the contributions fall short. Hardly a template to explore the solar system, develop international moon bases, etc. etc.

    Your thoughts?

  • For every Democrat who is propping SLS/Orion up I can name you five members of the Grand Old Party who are doing it even harder. And most of the folks who are propping SLS/Orion up who are not in “space districts” are members of the GOP.

    It was created by a Democrat Congress, with Democrat majorities on the relevant space committees in both the House and the Senate. Name me a Democrat who opposes SLS. I can at least come up with a Republican who does — Dana Rohrabacher.

    This is bipartisan stupidity. And you remain deranged about “right wingers” and Republicans.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi googaw (and all of you private sector fans) –

    This looks interesting:
    http://astrobotic.net/about/

    we’ll see…

  • Coastal Ron

    Ferris Valyn wrote @ June 2nd, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    There is another possibility – ULA could do some innovating themselves.

    They could, and I hope they do. So far they haven’t shown any significant signs of doing that, and in fact Boeing and Lockheed Martin seem to be squeezing as much profit out of ULA as they can.

    If we don’t see some major investment into ULA soon, I think we can assume that they are just milking profits as long as they can until they decide to fire sale the operation for the assets. That would be a pity.

  • Doug Lassiter

    ArtieT wrote @ June 2nd, 2012 at 6:54 pm
    “Question: given the bailing out of the ExoMars partnership with ESA, the bailing out of the IXO and LISA space science missions with ESA, what does you suppose is the future of international agreements in these austere times?”

    The number one, oft repeated rule in NASA mission management is that international cooperative projects are awesomely hard to start, and once started, they’re awesomely hard to stop. ISS is an excellent example of that.

    Re ExoMars, IXO, and LISA, these were projects that hadn’t really been started. They were advanced concepts, but the monetary commitment to actually start building them had not occurred. In fact, that’s why we broke those partnerships off. Because our pockets weren’t deep enough to really start them. The fact that these were international partnerships really didn’t affect their risk of cancellation. They were big, expensive missions. That’s a big risk in itself.

    For goodness sake. Look at Constellation. We were getting internationals to manage surface operations. (Mike Griffin didn’t trust internationals with transportation infrastructure, much to their dismay.) But those international partnerships were cleanly separate from the transportation infrastructure, so pulling the plug on the latter was cleanly separable from pulling the plug on the former.

    ExoMars, IXO, and LISA are science missions and, quite frankly, JWST and Curiosity broke the bank at SMD.

    Boldin has stated repeatedly that we aren’t going anywhere without international collaboration. That’s true for human space flight, and increasingly true for space science. We can wish that weren’t true, but that’s the functional meaning of austerity. Austerity is dictated by cost to the U.S. taxpayer, not in the total mission cost.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Rand Simberg wrote @ June 2nd, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    “. Name me a Democrat who opposes SLS. I can at least come up with a Republican who does — Dana Rohrabacher.”

    That is a Fox News statement and you know it. Most of the Congress regardless of party doesnt give a fig about space policy; what shapes space policy are the folks on the relevant committees and right now the people who are keeping SLS/Orion alive are far and above GOP members.

    The House just passed a pork loaded defense budget along the same lines. The GOP idiots in the House passed spending that the PEntagon nor the relevant people who run the Pentagon both in and out of the military DID NOT WANT.

    Furthermore the spending violates the spending agreements (such as they are) from the budget deal…

    who pushed all this? The ever increasing zenophonic GOP leadership of the House…and what was the basis for this? Endless statements of confused strategery AND “it will cost jobs” or the best was Stupid Eric Cantor “It could send us into a recession”.

    There is pork in both parties; but the people who are pushing continuing the socialist aspects of the space program are mostly Republicans. Put it another way, if the GOP leadership in the House wanted to kill SLS/Orion they could

    Why dont they? RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    ArtieT wrote @ June 2nd, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    Question: given the bailing out of the ExoMars partnership with ESA, the bailing out of the IXO and LISA space science missions with ESA, what does you suppose is the future of international agreements in these austere times?”

    the future is a ever increasing amount of conferences where every nation gets together and says what it is going to do five or ten years from “now” whenever that date is..

    AVWeek just covered such a conference (Mike Griffin was there speaking “for himself” …nice Mike dont we all do that?)

    and all it was was a lot of “wow we all want to do this” (and “this” is all different) …but none of “this” will happen.

    The Russians want to launch a new module to test technologies for a lunar base in 2014…sure….show me the money. The reason that commercial crew is being slowwalked in large measure is that the Russians need our cash to stay “Partners”…it has been that way since the US rescued Mir…and it is that way now.

    The Europeans? They are trying to figure out how to upgrade Ariane..

    The Japanese? The Canadians.?

    The US? What do you think that the reaction would be if Willard Mitt “I can change my mind on a poll” Romney starts to back a lunar base? Well we saw how that worked when Newton tried it and Willard tore him to shreds…

    Things just end with a whimper. RGO

  • Coastal Ron

    ArtieT wrote @ June 2nd, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    I personally managed projects for NASA, have worked to save money, and have my budget reduced the following year.

    I’ve had that happen too in the private sector, and it’s normal management shuffling of funds. Not that I liked it when it happened to me either…

    Personal experience has certainly influence how I perceive things at an Agency level.

    And that would be natural. My experience in private industry influences how I perceive things, including things within government (which includes NASA).

    But you know, getting your budget cut is not a sign of something bad. If you have figured out how to do a task with less money, why should you keep the same level of budget? It’s human nature to want to keep the extra funds, but that limits the overall organization from being more efficient.

    That’s why an outside perspective is needed sometimes – to remind people what the real goals are.

  • Googaw

    http://astrobotic.net/about/

    Sorry E.P., they’re like Planetary Resources, chasing NASA contracts to do far far less than their sci-fi marcomm seems to promise. And of course calling themselves “commercial” as they line their executive staff with experts on NASA contracting. Ho hum.

    Now if somebody was seriously deploying repair or refueling robots where the private customers actually are — GEO being the most obvious such place — to accomplish actually useful work on the constellations there, that would be an important development. Heck, even just a satellite to give us open source pictures of the wide variety of spacecraft there (including many top secret ones) would be radically interesting. That would certainly put ITAR to the test! All sorts of fun possibilities that we could actually do, but instead we have these idiots chasing NASA contracts with sci-fi cliches.

    (That’s right, I just called a bunch of robot engineers idiots).

  • Rhyolite

    Ferris Valyn wrote @ June 2nd, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    “There is another possibility – ULA could do some innovating themselves.”

    The principle barriers are cultural.

    While there is no technical reason Boeing and Lockheed couldn’t do what SpaceX has done, the cost plus culture so completely permeates the Space and Defense side of Boeing an all of Lockheed that they couldn’t produce a cost effective launch vehicle if they tried.

    The only purely commercial DNA left in ether of those companies is in the Boeing Commercial Aircraft Group. Maybe if they start building launch vehicles in Everett…

  • Googaw

    Here’s the historical significance of the recent Dragon mission: it will be considered day 1 of the “commercial” space bubble.

  • Malmesbury

    Yes, ULA are in trouble. In fact pretty much every launcher out there is in trouble if SpaceX have got their cost calculations right.

    If Falcon 9 starts launching regularly at the current prices and continues to be reliable – why pay more than double?

    If FH does the same, that’s pretty much the entire launch market….

    When discussing FH, the subject of Ariane 5s market failure comes up – “there’s no market for a heavy”. However FH is planned to be cheaper than a medium launch from the other providers. The question is – is there a market for a cheaper heavy?

    Politically this will be interesting. In the US, ULA is only defending the market for government launches. I reckon they can pork away for another five years while F9 builds a record as long as Atlas 5.

    Overseas – Ariane has a big problem. There would be little appetite for subsidising ESA to make them competitive at SpaceX prices. This is not so much due to the financial crisis, but due to politics of space in Europe. Ariane is seen as very French – there are a number of countries that would vote against increased funding that doesn’t come back to their economies. Not far from what happens in Congress, really – think states vs countries. My guess is that the French will try to get a “must use Ariane” law for all EU countries to try and protect ESA. They might get it.

    In Russia – protectionism will be the first instinct. Subsidy will probably happen. Lots of pressure used to try and get people to continue to use their launchers – trade deals and other commercial pressure.

    China – probably straight subsidy.

    All in all, SpaceX will provoke tremendous anger as they take a large chunk of the sat market.

  • Yesterday’s Los Angeles Times has this passage about prime piggie Loren Thompson:

    If SpaceX wants to launch people into orbit and continuing doing business with the government, the company is going to have abide by tighter regulations, which means added cost, said Loren Thompson, SpaceX critic and aerospace policy analyst for the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Va.

    “Washington is a graveyard for lean entrepreneurial enterprises,” he said. “The only path to success in Washington is having a ton of lobbyists, a ton of resources and doing business on the government’s terms. There is no other model.”

  • Martijn Meijering

    When discussing FH, the subject of Ariane 5s market failure comes up – “there’s no market for a heavy”.

    Ariane 5 hasn’t been a market failure at all, it has captured about 50% of the commercial launch market. Depending on whether you believe France / ESA / the EU has a legitimate need for autonomous access to space you could say that this is the case only because of to government subsidies. Either way, even at commercially successful pricing levels Ariane 5 flies with dual payloads, so there is no evidence there is a need for larger launch vehicles.

  • Miles O’Brien has posted the transcript of his recent interview with Elon Musk.

    An excerpt relevant to one discussion in this thread:

    Miles O’Brien: How do you explain that opposition? It’s kind of inside-the- looking-glass stuff, the way I see it. You have Republicans defending government jobs programs…

    Elon Musk: That’s the — I mean, it was like opposite day of — because the biggest challenge we had was in the Republican caucus in the House that was against essentially the privatization of space transport. I think in part they were against it because Obama was for it. I don’t think that’s a very good reason to be against something. I mean, if the President does something that makes sense, then just support it, and not be against just because the President happens to be a Democrat. I’m kind of middle of the road, personally – a little liberal on the social issues and a little conservative on the financial issues – but boy, did I get beaten up quite a bit by the Republicans. And in some cases Democrats, actually. Yeah, that was a tough battle.

  • Malmesbury

    Ariane 5 looses so much money at current pricing that ESA are spending money to develop a smaller rocket to single launch sats.

    A bigger rocket that makes a
    profit lifting more than Ariane 5 for less than their single sat launcher will cost (after subsidy!) is a perfect nightmare for them.

  • Vladislaw

    Malmesbury wrote:

    “Ariane has a big problem. There would be little appetite for subsidising ESA to make them competitive at SpaceX prices. This is not so much due to the financial crisis, but due to politics of space in Europe. Ariane is seen as very French – there are a number of countries that would vote against increased funding that doesn’t come back to their economies.”

    There is an Article in Aviation Week on this subject.

    Europe Seeks Competition For New Launcher

    “With potentially billions of euros in development funding at stake over the coming decade, ESA ministers must weigh the merits of continuing work on an upgrade of Europe’s current Ariane 5 launch vehicle against a French proposal to begin work on a successor to the heavy-lift rocket. The debate will be shaped largely by the cash-strapped circumstances of ESA member governments, most of which are demanding an end to periodic Ariane 5 price supports. In addition, council ministers representing the 19-nation agency will seek to maintain Europe’s technological independence from other space powers, even as ESA embarks on a more competitive approach to launcher procurement that could upend three decades of industrial policy in an effort to lower costs.”

    France wants to build a new rocket instead of upgrading the current system but ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain, is bucking the old way of contracting and is moving towards what NASA did with SAA’s.

  • Malmesbury

    Yes, the ESA Director realises that dealing with low priced competition by building another expensive rocket is not likely to improve the situation.

    He will probably be binned for that kind of thinking, of course.

    It interesting how ESA and ULA are keeping their heads in the sand over this. The comparison of how the major airlines worldwide watched as the low cost outfits ate them alive (mentioned above) is compelling.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ June 3rd, 2012 at 9:35 am

    Miles O’Brien has posted the transcript of his recent interview with Elon Musk.

    An excerpt relevant to one discussion in this thread:

    Miles O’Brien: How do you explain that opposition? It’s kind of inside-the- looking-glass stuff, the way I see it. You have Republicans defending government jobs programs…”

    Yes…this is clearly the issue. What is happening with the GOP is that it has become the party of corporate tagging onto the federal treasury AND they have found clever ways to justify this to a pretty non sophisticated base.

    First they argue that really the issue with the federal budget issue are “social programs”…it is the notion of a “welfare” queen driving around in the Ann Romney mobile (ie a Caddy) with the big screen TV at home…all while the real “queens” are programs like the F-35 and SLS and others which are simply eating the US alive in small nibbles…

    Second they then justify these programs as “American exceptional ism”. Mitt “I can change with any poll” Willard Romney gave a speech the other day at San Diego where if that is all you listened to you would come away with the notion that we as a nation are about to be overrun by (his phrase) “the evil in the world”. So we need more tanks, ships, etc “then this administration thinks we need, so we can be the strongest force in the world, a force for good, a force for America”.

    So many things there, but of course we are the strongest military in the world…but to get there we spend more then half of what the world spends on defense.

    Put another way, the Chinese which even if you doubled their defense spending or tripled it, still spend less then 1/2 of what we are spending now…and that means of course that at the price they are spending…they could simply come up to what we are spending…and we are “toast”. but in the same speech Willard promised to “double defense spending” in his first term.

    and of course all the idiots out there cheer.

    SLS/Orion is an example of where we are literally pricing ourselves out of the space arena…

    What is interesting Stephen is that both SpaceX and The Chinese space program are redoing the ground breaking efforts of Gemini…but at least we are trying to do them (through spaceX) in an affordable manner…

    Robert

  • Robert G. Oler

    Martijn Meijering wrote @ June 3rd, 2012 at 8:22 am
    ” Either way, even at commercially successful pricing levels Ariane 5 flies with dual payloads, so there is no evidence there is a need for larger launch vehicles.”

    I am not sure that is accurate. If a twice larger payload can be had for less then 1/2 of the price of a smaller payload…I suspect that the “need” will develop. RGO

  • Googaw

    “Washington is a graveyard for lean entrepreneurial enterprises…”

    Truer words were never spoken.

  • Robert G. Oler

    The dirty little secret about the House in particular (but the Senate is just as bad) GOP Caucus’ views on space is this:

    1. They support the 60 million a seat paid to the Russians. They do this because they have been told by the people who run the corporatiosn that are feeding at the ISS trough…the Russians cant stay on ISS without the money. This is why they are slow walking commercial crew.

    2. They support government jobs over private industry/free enterprise jobs…because well in SpaceX case Musk is a Democrat and Musk’s companies give 1) good salaries, 2) health care for their people and 3 can do it without a lot of government lobbying, meaning cash changing hands.

    3. They really dont give a darn about what the US does in Space…as a K Street friend of mine told (Whittington has met him) “SLS could be launching to Alpha Centauri in 400 years and it would be OK just spend the money”..

    this election is a very important one…it is between two flawed candidates but one is determined to turn the US into a corporate kleptocracy where the individual no longer matters…and that includes spaceflight RGO

  • Martijn Meijering

    If a twice larger payload can be had for less then 1/2 of the price of a smaller payload…I suspect that the “need” will develop.

    If so it would be a function of price, not size.

  • Malmesbury

    The other point is that 60 million a seat to the Russians can become x100 million on a traditional good ole boy rocket, in time. Once it is 20 million on Commercial Crew, the opportunity is gone for ever.

  • That is a Fox News statement and you know it.

    This is a mindless statement, and you don’t know it.

  • Coastal Ron

    Martijn Meijering wrote @ June 3rd, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    If so it would be a function of price, not size.

    I think the market will also be slow to respond with larger (or more robust) designs, especially if there is only one low-cost launch provider.

    The latest Intelsat satellite problem likely shows the delicate balance between weight and reliability, so would the market respond by making heavier designs that increase reliability?

    Of course the alternative to heavier/more reliable designs could be having tele-robotic repair systems that can fix small problems and refuel (or even upgrade) satellites in orbit. If that case there still wouldn’t be the need for bigger lift capability, or at least not much bigger.

    We’ll have to see which way the market responds, but like any market, they will respond to significantly lower prices.

  • Malmesbury

    FH has the following possibility – get them in on the basis of price. Once the engineers are lest constrained by mass – the days will grow, almost by themselves….

  • Vladislaw

    Robert wrote:

    “but in the same speech Willard promised to “double defense spending” in his first term.

    and of course all the idiots out there cheer.”

    Could this even get through congress? I just can not imagine him cutting taxes, lowering current government revenue, then adding 700 billion to the budge. All the while saying he will balance the budget.

    “What is interesting Stephen is that both SpaceX and The Chinese space program are redoing the ground breaking efforts of Gemini…but at least we are trying to do them (through spaceX) in an affordable manner”

    Do you know, if the Gemini program, ran with as much pork as today’s systems, in relative terms, or was congress not so heavy handed with human spaceflight?

    Makes me curious what it might have cost if there was a lot of it.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Martijn Meijering wrote @ June 3rd, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    I wrote:
    If a twice larger payload can be had for less then 1/2 of the price of a smaller payload…I suspect that the “need” will develop.

    you replied
    If so it would be a function of price, not size.”

    no argument there..price is what they call “a controlling authority” in any product…and this more then explains the European situation with their booster. they built to big a one for the price that it takes to launch it…so their option is one large satellite paired with a smaller one; a smaller one that is almost to small for any real commercial “sell” hence they usually toss it off to governments. But two facts are true.

    If the Europeans had built a booster that would only launch “the large” payload and it cost the same price to fly (ie more expensive per pound) it is likely that they would still sell it to the commercial folks (in part because there is no real alternate) and if someone could sell the same lift (or more) that the V does for a cheaper price then it is likely that the product will evolve to take the lift.

    there is nothing unique there. go look at the RSM (revenue seat miles) of the Boeing 737 series from the 300 on up to the 900 and you can see the obvious trend that I am referring to.

    it is even more true in a “throwaway” rocket where the cost of the rocket are a chunk of the cost of the product…and must be borne by the product.

    Where true economics in launch cost have floundered is the complete abandonment of the commercial launch industry by anyone but the Europeans and the Russians…and the inability of those two (the Russians because of money mostly) to improve dramatically either their product in terms of lift/cost.

    RGO

  • Doug Lassiter

    Googaw wrote @ June 3rd, 2012 at 12:09 am
    http://astrobotic.net/about/
    “but instead we have these idiots chasing NASA contracts with sci-fi cliches.”

    I’ll be a little more diplomatic here. Red Whittaker and his team have been leaders in terrestrial robotic technology, and are looking to expand that capability in space. But so far, aside from the X-Prize, this has mostly been handwaving, like for example David Gump’s many decade old dream of selling rover time to people who want to remotely drive around on the Moon. We can also talk about resource development, mining, and in situ tourism, but those are just figments of their imagination.

    Now, of some importance is that SpaceX is offering relatively low-cost options for putting hardware within reach of at least the lunar surface (and also Mars — e.g. “Red Dragon”). So while Red and his crew are destined to be stymied if they are relying on NASA to do anything interesting, commercial opportunities may make their dreams more real.

    The point that is worth noting here is that when established authorities in terrestrial telerobotics start to get interested in space, things are going to change. Certainly for the Moon, telerobotics is going to be vastly more enabling that human return in the near term, and Red & Co. are on top of that. No, they’re hardly idiots.

  • Do you know, if the Gemini program, ran with as much pork as today’s systems, in relative terms, or was congress not so heavy handed with human spaceflight?

    In the 60s, you didn’t have as much entrenched bureaucracy or contractors (a lot of competition) and the space program was important (though it had little to do with actually opening up space).

  • DCSCA

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ June 3rd, 2012 at 11:46 am

    “Romney gave a speech the other day at San Diego where if that is all you listened to you would come away with the notion that we as a nation are about to be overrun by (his phrase) “the evil in the world”. So we need more tanks, ships, etc “then this administration thinks we need, so we can be the strongest force in the world, a force for good, a force for America”. So many things there, but of course we are the strongest military in the world…but to get there we spend more then half of what the world spends on defense.”

    Hmmm. A presidential candidate w/a beachfront home in La Jolla discussing military policy in San Diego, California- a state w/a 10.3% unemployment rate:

    “San Diego is home to the majority of the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s surface combatants, all of the Navy’s West Coast amphibious ships and a variety of Coast Guard and Military Sealift Command vessels. San Diego hosts the largest naval fleet in the world: it was in 2008 was home to 53 ships, over 120 tenant commands, and more than 35,000 sailors, soldiers, Department of Defense civilian employees and contractors. About 5 percent of all civilian jobs in the county are military-related, and 15,000 businesses in San Diego County rely on Department of Defense contracts. The economy of San Diego is influenced by its deepwater port, which includes the only major submarine and shipbuilding yards on the West Coast. Several major national defense contractors were started and are headquartered in San Diego, including General Atomics, Cubic, and NASSCO.”

    “Military bases in San Diego include US Navy facilities, Marine Corps bases, and Coast Guard stations. Marine Corps institutions in the city of San Diego include Marine Corps Air Station Miramar and Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. The Navy has several institutions in the city, including Naval Base Point Loma, Naval Base San Diego (also known as the 32nd Street Naval Station), Bob Wilson Naval Hospital, the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center San Diego and Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command. Also near San Diego but not within the city limits are Naval Amphibious Base Coronado and Naval Air Station North Island (which operates Naval Auxiliary Landing Facility San Clemente Island, Silver Strand Training Complex, and the Outlying Field Imperial Beach). San Diego is known as the “birthplace of naval aviation” [Which you should well know, RGO.].- source, wikipedia.

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ June 2nd, 2012 at 11:13 pm

    “What do you think that the reaction would be if Willard Mitt “I can change my mind on a poll” Romney starts to back a lunar base?”

    Given his capacity to turn on a dime it would dovetail w/his aggressive military stance. It appeals to the competitive nature of Americans as well- the ‘flags and footprints’ pitch; the “Cernan intangibles,” etc., that they’ll be left behind, sleep under a ‘red moon’ and so on — classicly reactive; totally American. But it would carry more gravitas pitched by the no-nonsense, dollars-and-cents-Bain-Capital-Man than as humorous, grandiose swooning by ‘Newt Gingrich.- Moon President.’ The adult rationale versus the kid with the candy bars laying on the rug reading comicbooks thing.

    @ Robert G. Oler wrote @ June 3rd, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    ” Musk is a Democrat” – RGO. “I’m kind of middle of the road, personally… .”- Elon Musk. Yep, endlessly amusing.

    @Doug Lassiter wrote @ June 2nd, 2012 at 6:03 pm

    “That’s what makes ISS a “zombie”. NASA has been inarticulate about what it’s for.”

    Hmmmm. President Reagan was quite articulate about what it [the ISS] was ‘for’ when he proposed it in his 1984 SOTU–over 28 YEARS ago. President Reagan stated: “A space station will permit quantum leaps in our research in science, communications, in metals, and in lifesaving medicines which could be manufactured only in space. We want our friends to help us meet these challenges and share in their benefits. NASA will invite other countries to participate so we can strengthen peace, build prosperity, and expand freedom for all who share our goals.”

    Three decades and $100-plus billion dollars later, it hasn’t deliveredanthing close to the ROI to justify it. It’s as much a Cold War relic as the Berlin Wall and became, as Slayon wisely said, an ‘aerospace WPA project.’ “The cost effectiveness is arguable.” Except it’s not.

    “Perhaps $100B would have been better spent by putting a few more footprints on the Moon? Ah yes, but you could call that “exploration”, couldn’t you?”

    Hmmm, as DCSCA stated, ‘It would have better served had it been firmly anchored to the floor of the Ocean of Storms, not doomed to a Pacific splash. Maintaining an exploration/exploitation hub on Luna could have been an easier rationale to pitch in this era for advocates of both exploitation and exploration. Lobbyist Garver opposed a return to the moon in her NSS days, pushing station instead. Her mantre was securing contracts, not securing a future for the space program. That hasn’t changed.

    @Stephen C. Smith wrote @ June 3rd, 2012 at 9:35 am

    “Elon Musk: That’s the — I mean, it was like opposite day of — because the biggest challenge we had was in the Republican caucus in the House that was against essentially the privatization of space transport. I think in part they were against it because Obama was for it. I don’t think that’s a very good reason to be against something. I mean, if the President does something that makes sense, then just support it, and not be against just because the President happens to be a Democrat.”

    “Makes sense?” Except it doesn’t. And on the surface, naive. What House GOP grunts oppose is the expense of playing at venture capitalist and financing it w/tax dollars. And they’re correct. Forget the Solyndra pitch, which has both Bush and Obama fingerprints on it. If you caught the Saturday CBS News report on the failing electric car industry, a ‘chosen industry’ for investment and development by the Obama Administration, and the millions of government dollars lost on ‘investments’ in same- you’ll note Musk’s Tesla, among other others, made the report in the crawl of companies with government monies underperforming. =eyeroll= The place for Space X or any other commercial firm to source financing is the private capital markets, not the U.S. government– a government which has to borrow 42 cents of every dollar it spends.

    By his own words, Musk has only invested $100 million of his estimated $2 billion worth into Space X. That’s a paltry sum in his circles and events over the past week demonstrate ‘Elon’ should lead by example and invest more of his own ‘private fortune; w/confidence rather than chasing government subsidies. An average film, something Musk knows about, costs roughly $300 million to produce; Romney set up $100 million trust funds for his kids with ease; Jamie Dimon’s Morgan/Chase lost $2-$3 billion in a few weeks; Facebook’s IPO multiples of that. $100 million isn’t a lot of money these days in that universe. The place to source capital for investment for private enterprise firms is the private sector, not the government- a government which has to borrow 42 cents of every dollar it spends. Advocates of subsidizing a private industry w/ tax dollars, which has successfully demonstrated itself to the private capital markets as Space X has, seek to socialize the risk on the many to benefit an elite few.

  • Googaw

    David Gump’s many decade old dream of selling rover time to people who want to remotely drive around on the Moon. We can also talk about resource development, mining, and in situ tourism, but those are just figments of their imagination.

    All of these are figments of the imagination. And why target your business at the imaginary when there are real markets in space where real private customers actually operate? When a company studiously ignores real markets in favor of the holy places of the astronaut cult, that’s a very good sign that all they are doing is chasing NASA contracts. Looking at the CVs of their team with all its NASA contracting experience confirms this reality.

    (Bigelow and the Dragon portion of SpaceX are obviously in the same category — in sharp contrast to Falcon 9 which is genuinely quite beneficial to the natural market).

    Not that Gump’s idea is completely whacko, it’s just premature. They have to design and build an upper stage and lunar lander to get their robot to the lunar surface from an orbit with similar energy to GTO (so that they don’t have to customize a launcher), and make this all small enough that it will fit on a Falcon 9 or similar. In a natural market (or even with today’s NASA politics), nobody is going to do this stuff for them. And they have to build and install the entertainment machines or Internet distributiion system to get the rides to the customers.

    And this whole end-to-end business has to cost less than $50m, because that is the most optimistic estimate one can make about selling rides on the moon and still maintain a modicum of business sanity. (Romney would probably fire you if you projected more than $20m, the expected revenue for a good carnival ride). But SpaceX, as low as they’ve quoted their price, is still charging at least $50m, leaving no budget for all the rest of it (which in normal space economics will cost 4-16 times as much as the launch).

    With another decade or two of advances in miniaturization and space-hardening technology, one may be able to launch a Gump scheme as a piggyback on a larger GEO satellite, in which case the launch costs can go down to a more feasible $10m. So we are still at least a decade or two away from the economic feasibility of Gump’s plan. In the real here and now all they can actually do is chase NASA contracts. The Google Lunar X-Prize, Gump, and the other imaginary figments are marcomm they use to delude libertarian space fans (and quite possibly to delude themselves, as the best hype is the stuff you believe yourself) into thinking they’re “commercial”.

  • vulture4

    “if there is only one low-cost launch provider.”

    There have to be at least two. If there is only one low-cost provider (even SpaceX) it would eventually have no choice but to raise prices to the market level. My guess is that if SpaceX makes a go of it at low cost, evenually DOD will be forced to open up bidding on government launches and ULA will have to lower costs to compete.

    As to robotics, I think it unlikely that tourists will pay to drive remotely. But what about all the lunar geology NASA is proposing for human flight? Why not at least get started with robots?

  • Googaw

    The companies of the space “commerce” bubble are starting to take shape. Among them:

    * SpaceX (Hype: astronauts to LEO and Mars, the latter via heavy lift reusable rockets. Reality: a sound business launching actually useful satellites on mostly or entirely expendible rockets to actually useful orbits, if they don’t get distracted by their own hype and their silly NASA contracts. A genuine benefit that gives us the potential of lowering the costs of real space commerce and security).

    * Planetary Resources (Hype: asteroid mining. Reality: NASA contracts to make space science and communications instruments)

    * Astrobotic (Hype: sci-fi robotics on the moon. Reality: NASA contracts to do studies).

    * Bigelow (Hype: space hotels and foregin governments outsourcing their national prestige projects. Reality: chasing NASA (sub-) contracts).

    Start pounding the pavement to bring in your investors now. The bubble is still on the way up, but you only have a few months to a few years — more likely on the shorter end of this scale — until it bursts. And burst it will, because even the Internet bubble itself never had such a preposterously yawning chasm between hype and reality.

    Out of these, only SpaceX currently stands a chance of emerging as an astronautical Google, or at least an astronautical CSX, and only then if they can avoid being distracted by Dragon and the NASA safety dances and deliver actually useful commercial and military payloads to actually useful orbits like GEO and polar orbit in an inexpensive and reliable fashion. I’m still betting that they can, but there are plenty of risks. And as with any bubble I don’t doubt that the value of their securities will be inflated , until the bubble burstts, by all the imaginary markets they claim to be chasing or that people impute to them.

    Almost all other companies of the space “commerce” bubble will either evolve, as Orbital Sciences did, into government contracting zombies, or go bankrupt. But not before early investors make fortunes and still more later investors lose them pursuing sci-fi markets-of-the-future. The few exceptions will be those few companies that pursue small but fruitful niches that focus on what real private customers actually want or need in the real present.

  • Googaw

    …the alternative to heavier/more reliable designs could be having tele-robotic repair systems that can fix small problems and refuel (or even upgrade) satellites in orbit.

    Occam’s Razor provides the best way to pose the question: what is more complicated, the logistics of trying to move around an HLV on earth (or trying to assemble it on the pad, if moved in pieces), or all this largely untried robotics technology.

    It could be of course be that they are both too complicated to be accomplished at reasonable costs in this decade — for all but the most crucial military payloads, the money for which is currently shrinking.

  • Das Boese

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ June 3rd, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    because well in SpaceX case Musk is a Democrat

    Are you sure about that?
    From what I’ve seen he doesn’t seem overly fond of the Republicans, but I haven’t seen him call himself a democrat.

    The need to fit everything and everyone into this lopsided binary political spectrum is one of the great problems I see in US politics.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Googaw wrote @ June 3rd, 2012 at 6:13 pm
    “And why target your business at the imaginary when there are real markets in space where real private customers actually operate?”

    Re “real market in space”, you mean GEO? Well, it’s easy to understand. GEO isn’t “exploration”. Astronauts are “explorers”. They aren’t service agents. So if you mean human space flight, that’s why humans aren’t going to GEO. Not that there isn’t a lot of stuff for them to do there, but it’s not “exploration”. It’s also not “far away” and it’s not a rock. Those are things that define “exploration” for us. In fact, our human space flight program suffers grotesquely under these definitions of exploration.

    As to why robotics people aren’t focusing on GEO, it would be a mistake to think they aren’t. There are many robotic-savvy industries (MDA, for example) that are committed to a business proposition involving telerobotic or autonomous robotic servicing of GEO spacecraft. Red’s business is rovers. Rovers that drive around on surfaces. He doesn’t do in-space stuff, because there is no terrestrial counterpart to zero-grav rendezvous and docking. So that’s why he targets your business at surface opportunities. Because that’s what his business is about. It’s imaginary just because no one has done it yet.

  • Googaw

    If there is only one low-cost provider (even SpaceX) it would eventually have no choice but to raise prices to the market level.

    Technically they’d have a choice, but who’d choose to forego such a huge profit? They would indeed raise their prices to just below their competitors’ and pocket the difference.

    And good for them, too, because that profit would attract competitors to enter the business. Even if the incumbenents are incapable of it, some other entrepreneurs probably are.

    And SpaceX does have some competitive weaknesses. In particular, all the ways they make themselves distracted with NASA politics, pressurized capsules, astronaut capsules, NASA safety dances, heavy lift projects, reusable projects, and so on. They are unfocused. Possibly, of course, it’s just their hype that’s unfocused, but they genuinely seem to believe their own hype.

    If SpaceX with Falcon 9 has a created a good formula for lowering launch costs, and I’m fairly confident they have, then it’s quite likely that a competitor will copy that formula, focus on it, avoid all the distractions, and become a quite sturdy competitor to SpaceX. That’s the kind of investment opportunity I’m looking for right now.

  • Vladislaw

    googaw wrote:

    “The bubble is still on the way up, but you only have a few months to a few years — more likely on the shorter end of this scale — until it bursts.”

    What are the tell tales that a bubble is forming?

    What phase has to be present?

    What is the effect of the bubble?

    What does that effect lead to?

  • DCSCA

    @Vladislaw wrote @ June 3rd, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    “Do you know, if the Gemini program, ran with as much pork as today’s systems, in relative terms, or was congress not so heavy handed with human spaceflight?Makes me curious what it might have cost if there was a lot of it.”

    http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4002/contents.htm

    See Appendix 7. Simberg’s “In the 60s, you didn’t have as much entrenched bureaucracy or contractors (a lot of competition) and the space program was important (though it had little to do with actually opening up space)” is just ‘free drift’ speculation. The contractors – at the $100K level and up are all there- the whole piece is a great read on the Gemini program and its development as well as procurment methodology.

    @Das Boese wrote @ June 3rd, 2012 at 7:11 pm
    Robert G. Oler wrote @ June 3rd, 2012 at 12:07 pm
    “because well in SpaceX case Musk is a Democrat”
    Are you sure about that?””

    No, he’s not. In fact, he’s wrong. On this very thread, in a posted interview w/Miles O’Brien, Musk’s ptroclaims himself ““I’m kind of middle of the road, personally… .”

    “From what I’ve seen he doesn’t seem overly fond of the Republicans, but I haven’t seen him call himself a democrat.”

    Follow the money. He’ll pal up w/any pol who’ll subsidies him, be it cars or rockets.

  • Googaw

    Astronauts are “explorers”. They aren’t service agents.

    What do astronauts have to do with any of this? We were talking about a company that wants to put robots on the moon and calls itself “commercial”.

    So if you mean human space flight

    Why would I mean that? I speak and write in normal English, not in cult-speak. I don’t mean HSF unless I say HSF. I don’t mean astronaut unless I say astronaut. Indeed, since productive commercial and military operations in space are practically 100% unmanned, if I just say “space” it’s with overwhelming probablity the latter that I mean.

  • Googaw

    What are the tell tales that a bubble is forming?

    What I described in my post — especially the large and widening gap between hype and reality. Also important is the growing acceptance of this hype by mainstream media and investors. (That doesn’t make it any less hype, it makes it more bubble). There’s always been a big gap between sci-fi market-of-the-future hype and NASA contract reality in the NewSpace community, but until that hype started attracting the large doses of mainstream attention and money it is currently attracting (and probably for at least the next few months will keep attracting), it wasn’t a bubble.

    Granted, this bubble can’t be measured by stock prices yet, since none of most famous NewSpace companies are yet listed on public exchanges. (Orbital Science is on the NASAQ, but I’d count them as OldSpace, as they long ago settled into being a government contractor zombie and couldn’t hope to fool anybody by pretending otherwise. In any case, their stock price has been flat, so they aren’t benefiting from the NewSpace or space “commerce” bubble).

  • Frank

    For those who think there is no market for falcon heavy, take a look at what viasat ceo think about SpaceX and Falcon Heavy
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-hyhO9fmk0

  • Coastal Ron

    Googaw wrote @ June 3rd, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    And SpaceX does have some competitive weaknesses. In particular, all the ways they make themselves distracted with NASA politics, pressurized capsules, astronaut capsules, NASA safety dances, heavy lift projects, reusable projects, and so on.

    So you think SpaceX should stick to Falcon 9 v1.0 rockets and only launch satellite payloads? You would be a timid business person.

    And in case you haven’t noticed, sticking with the same product offering for too long without working on future innovation is what got ULA into the mess they’re in now.

    Lastly, you have yet to show any evidence of the supposed “NASA safety dances”, or how what SpaceX did for Dragon cargo would be anything different than what they would do for supporting Bigelow stations.

    To put it simply, you’re all goo and no gaw.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Vladislaw wrote @ June 3rd, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    a few points.

    the Gemini program (and the entire lunar effort) were a shining example of how cost plus contracts (and that is what the argument will come down to) are suppose to work.

    (there are others) the project was easily defined, the entire effort was exploratory (in the sense of technology ie they didnt even know when the lunar goal let go “what” the lunar surface would support, and there was a metric of success or failure…and when that was done the project went away. This had several affects; it kept the issue focused and allowed little room for BS in terms of side tracks…and things had to perform to meet that goal.

    Gemini was “born” to an agency that was going straight from Mercury to Apollo because the lunar goal dictated something to prove several techniques which were essential to the lunar effort…when it did that it was done.

    the entire program (Gemini) cost 5.3 billion dollars in 2011 constant dollars…that was everything.

    What this well focused goal allowed managers at NASA to do was to keep everyone’s eye on the prize, measure risk/reward, and the politicians could figure out when to start shutting the program down. That is why well before the Apollo 11 flight the project was winding down.

    Shuttle was an example of a cost plus that “kind of worked”. In this case there was not an unlimited pile of money so the managers who were building it pushed the design to accommodate the money available. What they (the managers) however did recognize is that there was a finite time that the effort could be in R&D in large part because there was not a lot of political support for the program.

    Station was the last cost plus at NASA that has even come close to working, but it shows what happens when there is no real goal. The only goal Ronaldus the Great set for it was to deploy by the anniversary of Columbus sailing. NASA managers quickly figured out that Reagan would not be in office any longer then 88 so meeting that goal was not to terribly important…and the Challenger going into oblivion gave them a pretty good excuse as to why they would not make it.

    They almost overplayed their hand however. Support for the years of endless delay almost killed the program (1 vote) and it was only Goldin getting the Russians on board that gave the station “a reason” for being.

    SLS/Orion is just pork. It has no mission; no real “thing” it must accomplish; even if they built it (or both of them) then they really couldnt afford to fly them AND build anything else that makes Orion/SLS functional. All it is is a gift to the “stakeholders” who found themselves high and dry as Cx floundered from poor management; sloth; and greed on the part of the contractors.

    So no, while there was bureaucracy and a lot of spending in the lunar effort; it was not like today where the number of people involved just grows almost every year and not a lot gets done. (an example of Bureaucracy is the Gemini 9 mission when the angry alligator happened because one contractor would not let one of its employees work on another contractors equipment) .

    today these cost plus failures are across the board. We really dont need F-35 (or the 22) if we did we certainly would not let a management process build the darn things where the deploy date on the F-35 is “to be determined”. We have weapons building that started at the commencement of the “Iraqi liberation” and were suppose to address issues raised in that conflict…and are still being designed.

    These have all become gifts for the contractors…they are sucking the life out of the federal government more then any social program ever did. But the GOP has mastered the rhetoric which keeps them going

    “I just can not imagine him cutting taxes, lowering current government revenue, then adding 700 billion to the budge. All the while saying he will balance the budget.”

    they have no intention of balancing the budget…and if Willard had a GOP Congress they would raise the defense budget themselves. The GOP talks a lot about balancing the budget but they have not done it since well maybe Nixon…Bush 43 took a good economy and unbalanced it. First it was because the Federal government was collecting to much (we were on track to pay off the debt), and when the economy started slowing it was to stimulate it and then well now its some goofy “fairness”.

    All the GOP is for today is funneling money to the well off and the corporations. That is their real base…the people like Wind are just to use Colin Powells words “a wind dummy”. RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Das Boese wrote @ June 3rd, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ June 3rd, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    because well in SpaceX case Musk is a Democrat

    you replied:
    Are you sure about that?
    From what I’ve seen he doesn’t seem overly fond of the Republicans, but I haven’t seen him call himself a democrat.”

    He would be foolish to call himself anything; but I would bet he is.

    Musk and the GOP have almost nothing in common. He treats his employees well…he took a barrel of cash and instead of simply investing it the “Willad way” ie in complicated financial instruments designed to make money for a single person (or a very small number)…he has risk it now in two business which could infact revolutionize American industry and life or take a lot of his cash and lose it.

    Plus he knows something that the GOP long ago left behind; we only get out of this mess if we innovate our way out of it in actually producing something. …other then weapons

    RGO

  • Googaw

    Red’s business is rovers. Rovers that drive around on surfaces. He doesn’t do in-space stuff, because there is no terrestrial counterpart to zero-grav rendezvous and docking. So that’s why he targets [his] business at surface opportunities.

    But the only surface opportunities for businesss in this decade are NASA contracts. Even the most promising idea, Gump’s, is at least a decade and probably closer to two or three away from being feasible for the reasons I described. Even the NASA work is not terribly promising: so far it’s only been tiny contracts to do studies. And neither they nor anybody else is going to win the Google X-Prize unless they change the rules, and even if they did the prize wouldn’t come anywhere close to covering their costs. To the extent they or their investors believe otherwise, they’re idiots when it comes to business. There are plenty of business opportunities for surface rovers on earth but instead they’ve deluded themselves and their investors into pursuing NASA- and sci-fi- inspired economic fantasies. You’ve helped me make my point.

  • Vladislaw

    Googaw wrote:

    “What I described in my post — especially the large and widening gap between hype and reality. Also important is the growing acceptance of this hype by mainstream media and investors.”

    In almost every classic bubble you see uncertainty in the market and the rise of speculation, betting into that uncertainty.

    As a rule, bubbles do not start when the market is at or near all time highs like now. You also see P/E ratios, that have lowered as the market is dropping, start to rise in the area of speculation.

    Also, depending on the sector or industry, there isn’t any dedicated angel venture capitalists yet or very very few. New Space just recently saw the number of angel VC’s double, to two.

    Risk takers:

    Entrepreneurs
    Speculators
    Angel VC’s
    VC’s
    Brokerage Houses
    Investment Banks
    Commercial banks.

    Mainstreet VC’s don’t seem to be making many investments and brokerage houses are not doing many IPO’s and Investment banks are pretty much non existant right now. So I do not see the capital flows needed for a bubble.

    When a bubble is going toward the top, like you say is just a couple months to years away has to see investments from all levels of risk takers.

    Regardless of what we may think, as investments, new space is still pretty much under the radar. You are not seeing new IPO’s or P/E’s anywhere near that would indicate large capital flows are taking place.

    Space has been growing at about 12% a year, you would have to see an explosion of growth, not just meeting the average.

    Personally I believe you are wrong about a bubble in progress and moving towards the top.

    You will see speculation taking place in the market with stock prices rising on anything with space in it’s name. The excess in capital leads to over production as new plant and equipments comes online.

    Cut throat price cutting comes as companies try to stay afloat and the weakest, most unproductive companies go belly up and the assets are bought up by the strongest companies and a new equilbrium prices are set.

    We are seeing none of this being played out yet.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Googaw wrote @ June 3rd, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    your point 1.
    If there is only one low-cost provider (even SpaceX) it would eventually have no choice but to raise prices to the market level.

    your point 2
    And SpaceX does have some competitive weaknesses. In particular, all the ….

    your point 3
    If SpaceX with Falcon 9 has a created a good formula for lowering launch costs, and I’m fairly confident they have, then it’s quite likely that a competitor will copy that formula, focus on it, avoid all the distractions, and become a quite sturdy competitor to SpaceX.”

    those are interesting points and I have for the most part enjoyed reading the back and forth on this…I would step in here to mildly disagree.

    I know Herb Kelleher but he is mostly a family friend of my parents…my father did some legal work for his superb organization some years ago (some landmark stuff actually), he was on my Eagle Scout committee but I have never applied for nor have worked at SWA. I have however read his book and more or less take it as gospel in terms of start up business. I have participated in many start up airlines (my business does flight training in large airplanes)…

    My standard “piece” here…Musk must make his product work reliably, dependable and above all on a schedule; but if he does…what has happened here should be viewed more as SWA then say oh Frontier in its latest reincarnation.

    I would find it very unlikely that Musk would raise his prices to that near the “current” competition. If he did then he would simply be encouraging someone to come in and try and recreate “his” success…at a lower price point that is unlikely to occur. A basic rule of thumb in most business operations is that to take business away from an established competitor you simply cannot come in at a “lower price”; it has to be substantially lower. Just making up numbers here but if Ariane flies at 4000 dollars a pound and Musk is at 1000…if he raised his price a some point to 3000 a pound he would still take the business but he would encourage someone to try the 1000 mark again…and then he (Musk) would have issues coming back down to it.

    There is nothing that says someone could not find the 1000 a pound mark…but it will take them some time and by that time Musk will (if he succeeds) be the standard dejure AND for a small period of time Musk will be able to spot lower the price; to drive a new entrant out of business.

    This is for instance one reason no airline will challenge SWA at say Hobby or DAL; and one reason SWA was able to “take” Phoenix even with Startup Amwest. Amwest after it dumped Ed quickly moved on to a business model where it knew SWA was not going to compete.

    This is one reason Musk is moving even while still working on Dragon to try and keep ahead in the cost department with experiments such as Grasshopper. It is in my view (based on my airline experience) a wise move.

    SpaceX has some competitive issues; but assuming he doesnt have an issue lurking with the basic design of the Falcon; they are more production then anything else. The number of engines alone that he would need to turn out to make 12 Falcon9 and 12 Falcon heavy launches a year…is staggering. It is not a space thing to do it; but it has been done before in airplanes and other places …and I know SpaceX is looking at people in the industry who have managed such efforts even though they are non space industry people.

    I dont view the NASA stuff as a distraction. Flying Dragon to the station; particularly at this stage of the program and doing it more or less flawlessly was the equivalent of “the gold cup roll” for the Dash 80.

    What in my view a successful Falcon9/heavy campaign over the next year will in my view do is for a bit “freeze the field” in terms of lift competitors. The established folks (Ariane and ULA) will be hoping for a catastrophic fumble; a sort of ValueJet plane into the swamps sort of thing. Meanwhile no one with reasonably deep pockets will try and reinvent Musk success because if he fails; well then they will assume it cannot be done; and if he succeeds then they have wasted money.

    OSC even if they make their launcher work cannot compete with FAlcon9 much less evolve into a heavy. If they have the same teething issues with thier new rocket…well that might alone take them out of the game. Remember Musk on his own dime did a bit of learning on the 1 and all that was applicable to the 9.

    ULA might have the talent but probably not the management to try a fresh sheet of paper rocket. And neither Boeing nor Lockmart is willing to put large amounts of their money at risk.

    My prediction for the Europeans is that before long they will be striking some deal with Ivan on a launcher. Where I predict they will feel some pressure (as may Musk) is from the folks in India. and that brings me full circle…

    Anyway…it is going to be a fun year or two to watch how this rolls out. Now I can go back to sleep…was up with a phone call from a client in “Inja”…

    Robert G. Oler

  • BeanCounterfromDownunder

    I think perhaps the major observation I can make on the posts on this thread is that they are getting longer while the quality is diminishing. Inverse relationship if you will.
    Try to be succinct please, it’s much easier that wading through pages of blurb and let’s face it, if you can’t make your point in a short paragraph, you never will.
    Cheers.

  • @DCSCA”

    This isn’t a ‘victory’…

    I’m sure you’re the only guy in five states who thinks finishing off a deck is a ‘defeat.’

    …but a straightforward business transaction w/a ciontractual obligation belatedly and finally fulfilled.

    There was nothing “belated” about it.

  • @ArtieT:

    A truly commercial private endeavor does not need congressionally appropriated funds to close it’s business model.

    A truly commercial private endeavor that counts the federal government as a customer certainly does. Or do you think SpaceX should be offering NASA flights for free?

  • vulture4

    Posey refuses to fund Commercial Crew simply because it is President Obama’s program. Technical issues are irrelevant. If Obama is for it, Posey is against it, and his constituents, happy to have someone to blame for their supposed troubles, eat it up. Posey’s job is made easier by local radio stations that broadcast Glenn Beck for hours every day calling Mr. Obama “evil incarnate”. Democracy requires objectivity and critical thinking. I don’t see much of it on the Space Coast.

  • joe

    Prez Cannady wrote @ June 4th, 2012 at 6:55 am
    “There was nothing “belated” about it.”

    Space X originally promised to be flying operational cargo missions by November 2009.

    If their current schedule holds they will fly their first operational cargo mission September 24, 2012,

    That will be (if it happens) 2 years 10 months late. You must be using some new definition of “belated” never encountered before.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Googaw wrote @ June 4th, 2012 at 12:57 am
    “But the only surface opportunities for businesss in this decade are NASA contracts. … There are plenty of business opportunities for surface rovers on earth but instead they’ve deluded themselves and their investors into pursuing NASA- and sci-fi- inspired economic fantasies.”

    No, there’s no “instead” here. That’s wrong. Red Whittaker is hardly giving us his terrestrial telerobotics enterprise. Now THAT would be idiotic. What they’re doing is reaching for new business opportunities which may or may not come to pass. You’ve already decided that they won’t because you’re assessing business opportunities as markets that already exist. Please don’t confuse “business opportunity” with “market”. Facebook was a business opportunity that had no market when it was first developed. That market developed spectacularly fast.

    Now, I’m certainly not arguing that this business opportunity will be successful and generate a market, but I’m just defending their right to try it. As to “delusion”, investors aren’t dumb. You think these investors are grannies trying to decide where to stash their nest egg?

  • Doug Lassiter

    Googaw wrote @ June 3rd, 2012 at 8:47 pm
    “What do astronauts have to do with any of this? We were talking about a company that wants to put robots on the moon and calls itself “commercial”.”

    Your “normal English” was talking about “When a company studiously ignores real markets in favor of the holy places of the astronaut cult, that’s a very good sign that all they are doing is chasing NASA contracts.” I was just pointing out why GEO isn’t a holy place of the astronaut cult. (That’s a nice normal English phrase!) That’s what astronauts have to do with this.

    But if you’re talking about servicing satellites in GEO telerobotically, that too is a business proposition with no established market. Even as some kind of a proto-market, the parameters of the business proposition haven’t been completely spelled out. Very little of the hardware up there has easily replaceable parts, and there isn’t even a lot of commonality in those parts. There is some reason to believe that such sats can be refueled, but many telecom companies are looking to higher capacity architectures, rather than pumping new life into old architectures. It is true that in terms of cost effectiveness, disposal of debris in GEO may be the most enabling business proposition for GEO satellite operators. That is, extending the lifetime of your most important sats may best come down to getting the other ones out of the way.

    “I speak and write in normal English, not in cult-speak.”

    Yeah, that’s what they all say. But do keep trying. The established markets in space come down to putting things in space, and getting money to do it. That’s where SpaceX is going. They have checks written out to them. Market-cult is a new bandwagon, where people point to markets that are really totally imaginary, though may have future potential as business propositions.

  • Blessed Relief

    Space X originally promised to be flying operational cargo missions by

    Cargo was delivered and returned on this mission, joe.

    SpaceX is flying, joe, I guess you’ll just have to find it in your heart to forgive them for taking some of your valuable time and money to develop a more powerful, efficient and lightweight main engine, a crew escape engine and a system that can double as an abort to orbit and landing system, and then a cross fed triple core heavy lift version of their primary launch vehicle.

  • Robert G. Oler

    joe wrote @ June 4th, 2012 at 11:35 am

    That will be (if it happens) 2 years 10 months late. You must be using some new definition of “belated” never encountered before.”

    and in the scheme of things no one will really care…no one.

    If the space shuttle had done 1/10th of what was promised …say flown 10-12 times a year at a lower cost then any expendable…no one would have cared much about what was said about it before or that it was late or whatever…failure is contagious RGO

  • @joe:

    Space X originally promised to be flying operational cargo missions by November 2009.

    And to whom did SpaceX make this promise? Unless you own a piece of the company and were given certain assurances or you’re paying for the service–the scheduling of which depends on both parties–I don’t see how you can talk about promises kept or broken.

  • Vladislaw

    Robert wrote:

    “I would find it very unlikely that Musk would raise his prices to that near the “current” competition. If he did then he would simply be encouraging someone to come in and try and recreate “his” success…at a lower price point that is unlikely to occur.”

    It doesn’t look like China is that big of risk as a competitor if what the Pentagon is reporting is true on the Chinese launch industry.

    Pentagon Warns Of China Failure Risks

    “China’s aggressive satellite production and launch pace is threatening launch vehicle failures and the malfunction in orbit of important spacecraft, according to a largely classified Defense Dept. report to Congress.

    The report comes as China is poised for an extremely high profile mission, the launch into space of China’s first woman astronaut as early as mid June.

    Examples of failures stemming from the growing risk factors are cited in an unclassified summary of the 2012 Pentagon report titled “Military and Security Developments of the People’s Republic of China”.”

    When they were talking about the Chinese ‘clean rooms’ it was almost laughable that they could even be called that.

  • Vladislaw

    Joe wrote:

    “Space X originally promised to be flying operational cargo missions by November 2009.”

    Was that before or after NASA added additional “risk mitigation” milestones? With additional worked added shouldn’t some of the delay not be atributed to SpaceX

  • joe

    Prez Cannady wrote @ June 4th, 2012 at 1:19 pm
    “And to whom did SpaceX make this promise? Unless you own a piece of the company and were given certain assurances or you’re paying for the service–the scheduling of which depends on both parties–I don’t see how you can talk about promises kept or broken.”

    It was in the original COTS documentation (and the government – and the US taxpayer are certainly paying for COTS). I do not know if there is a link to it on line. Nevertheless it was a part of the original agreements.

    Schedule slips (all though this one is about 70%) are not unusual in this sort of development program. But they are real in this case and pretending that Space X is (somehow) magic and immune to them is counterproductive.

  • joe

    Vladislaw wrote @ June 4th, 2012 at 2:00 pm
    “Was that before or after NASA added additional “risk mitigation” milestones? With additional worked added shouldn’t some of the delay not be atributed to SpaceX”

    I am not sure to what additional risk mitigation milestones you are referring, but given there was a six month delay in the recent Falcon 9/Dragon test flight due to the fact that the Space X flight control software did not work and had to be redone (with extensive help from NASA and other non-Space X personnel) that additional work should certainly be accounted for by Space X.

  • Dave Hall

    @Dark Blue Nine wrote:
    “Or Musk will willingly or forcibly exit the company, potentially removing SpaceX’s altruistic spirit with accompanying price hike.”

    Thanks for your 3 questions post. I’m a sometimes lurker on this list and it caught my eye as the most sensible thing written during and after SpaceX’s special week. I looked up Stewart Money’s presentation, then read all his articles, then listened to his interview with David Livingston. Thanks for the introduction.

    You write clearly and well … and I’d be really interested in your take on what is possible in the next decade with regard to SpaceX if all goes positively nominal with regard to your 3 questions. i.e what happens if Musk exits Tesla Motors a multi-billionaire in 5-8 years leaving him in the position to focus all his energy on getting to Mars.

    FWIW I’m doing background research for a sci-fi shorty story (or longer) about a first few Mars missions … where it simply makes sense to start with Elon Musk as the larger than life protoganist and change his name in the story. So I’ve been reviewing all his interviews that I can find online and reading a lot. My idea is to write a short story about how a few moguls co-operate to put in a few billion and contrive to have that figure matched by NASA/ESA/etc.

    Dave from Africa

  • DCSCA

    @Prez Cannady wrote @ June 4th, 2012 at 6:55 am

    “There was nothing “belated” about it.”

    Except there was.

    @Blessed Relief wrote @ June 4th, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    “Cargo was delivered and returned on this mission, joe.”

    Late.

    Musketeers are intoxicated by the ‘ol shuttle era euphoria of, ‘it doesn’t matter how behind schedule it was or how much it costs as long as the mission is successful.’

    But as Miles O’Brien rightly noted, this is essentially a business story. And the failure of Space X to meet announced schedules and deliver contracted goods and services on time even w/contractual modifications in their favor, is a troubling aspect of Space X’s business performance. This failure is not nulled by the belated, technical triumph of the Space X flight team, either. They earned their kudos. But 17 months between flights, the schedule slippages and accompanying excuses wrapped in hype must be weighed though down select. The bottom line is a wheel of cheese was orbited in December, 2010– and 1,000 pounds of sundries lofted last week. Late. The sloppy business ops will be a factor as down select is made.

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ June 4th, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    “and in the scheme of things no one will really care…no one.”

    Except you’re wrong.

    You do, for starts. You posted on this very thread: “Musk must make his product work reliably, dependable and above all on a schedule…” But then, you may consider yourself just a ‘no one.’ But as a Purveyor of the Magnified Importance of Diminished Vision, you’re intoxicated by the ‘ol shuttle era euphoria of, ‘it doesn’t matter how behind schedule it was or how much it costs as long as the mission is successful.’ Except in business, it does. Sober up.

  • vulture4

    “It doesn’t look like China is that big of risk as a competitor if what the Pentagon is reporting is true on the Chinese launch industry.”

    The report is in my opinion a little biased. The “Long March” series includes numerous variants and missions with different levels of criticality. The vehicle used for human spaceflight, the CZ-2F, has a good track record and there have been no failures associated with it. The SLS-1 pad at Jiuquan demonstrates serious regard for ground safety. The Chinese recently carried out launch of a station module and an unmanned Shenzou, with a successful remote docking, their first attempt at anything of the kind; they have a higher rate of initial success than did the Soviets, or even the US program in their day. This just isn’t possible for a program that cannot maintain quality control. The CZ-5 next-gen LV is a solid design comparable to the Delta IV-H that eliminates use of toxic propellants.

    The Chinese program started out decades after the US and Russia, but it has demonstrated learning and improvement and recorded some impressive accomplishments.

  • Dave Hall

    @DCSCA

    Is there any chance of you adopting a new mantra different from “except it’s not”? It’s soooooooo irritating … especially as you’re then seem committed to negatively ripping apart the bone you’ve picked on.

    I’d read more of your stuff if I knew what you were positive about within the context of the grander US space game that most people are familiar with, so I’d suggest that we don’t need the repetitive bombardment that the ISS is going nowhere fast, it’s obvious.

    Just sayin’ .. by choice you’re a frequent part of this blogs’ soap opera.

    Avid Reader,
    Dave in Africa

  • Coastal Ron

    joe wrote @ June 4th, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    But they are real in this case and pretending that Space X is (somehow) magic and immune to them is counterproductive.

    Another one of your straw-man arguments.

    I’m not aware of anyone arguing that SpaceX is immune to schedule slips, but if you want to argue what costs the government more – traditional cost-plus NASA contractors slipping schedule or commercial service vendors slipping schedule – then SpaceX is saving NASA money compared to traditional cost-plus contractors. And all things being equal, that’s really what the innovation is that SpaceX and Orbital are doing, which is lowering the cost to resupply a NASA facility in space.

    Also, your assumption that SpaceX is “late” kind of overlooks the fact that NASA didn’t originally want to set firm dates for the COTS program. So the dates referenced are in reality not “firm” or “must have” dates, but more like “company goals”.

    The whole COTS issue is soon to be academic when NASA officially approves the completion of the COTS milestones and gives SpaceX approval to start CRS deliveries. Then you can turn your wrath to Orbital Sciences (unless it’s just SpaceX that you like to rag on).

  • Vladislaw

    Joe wrote:

    “I am not sure to what additional risk mitigation milestones you are referring,”

    Bill Gerstenmaier testified about it in a congressional committee meeting. In the original plans, Ares 1 was going to be plan A for getting crew and cargo to the ISS and COTS was going to be plan B. The Ares 1 would only be utilized in this role until such time as the COTS teams were operational.

    When Constellation kept falling farther and farther behind schedule and was finally canceled by Congress there suddenly was no longer a Plan A and the COTS teams would now be moved into that role and there no longer would be a plan B.

    Because of that NASA gave them each like 120 million, I believe it was, for risk mitigation. He said NASA wanted to retire as much risk as possible to make sure the first flights were successful.

    This is from his written testimony:

    “For SpaceX, the augmentation milestones and associated funding will improve the chance of mission success by adding ground and flight testing, accelerating development of enhanced cargo capabilities, or further developing the ground infrastructure needed for commercial cargo capabilities. More specifically, the additional SpaceX milestones include rendezvous and proximity operations sensor testing, system level spacecraft testing (thermal vacuum electromagnetic interference, and acoustic testing), and infrastructure improvements at the launch, production and test sites.”

    http://science.house.gov/sites/republicans.science.house.gov/files/documents/hearings/052611_Gerstenmaier%20Testimony.pdf

    I believe there was seven additional milestones for SpaceX. If I am not mistaken some of the recent delays were related to some of those new milestones that were added.

  • John Malkin

    This was part of a development cycle (public $411M) with the final milestone to prove that SpaceX had the technology and skills to successfully complete the required missions. They passed with flying colors. The delays cost the tax payers nothing excluding the added milestones plus NASA made sure they had slack (smart). You can’t say that for any other program. There is no guarantee of success or reliability for future SpaceX missions that can only be proven by execution. Risk will never be 0 not even in 1000 years. Also Companies that refuse to innovate will always see entrepreneurs from the back. There is a difference between working hard and working smart.

  • joe

    Blessed Relief wrote @ June 4th, 2012 at 12:43 pm
    “Cargo was delivered and returned on this mission, joe.”

    This mission was a test mission, their first operational mission is still scheduled for September 24, 2012, 2 years 10 months behind schedule.

    “SpaceX is flying, joe, I guess you’ll just have to find it in your heart to forgive them for taking some of your valuable time and money to develop a more powerful, efficient and lightweight main engine, a crew escape engine and a system that can double as an abort to orbit and landing system, and then a cross fed triple core heavy lift version of their primary launch vehicle.”

    - “a more powerful, efficient and lightweight main engine”. More powerful, efficient, and light weight than what specifically? Seriously what performance parameters are you comparing to what other engine?

    - “a crew escape engine”. Not yet developed.

    - “a system that can double as an abort to orbit and landing system”. Not yet developed.

    - “a cross fed triple core heavy lift version of their primary launch vehicle.” Not yet developed.

  • joe

    Vladislaw wrote @ June 4th, 2012 at 4:15 pm
    “When Constellation kept falling farther and farther behind schedule and was finally canceled by Congress …”

    I do not want to get bogged down in an argument about history, but you are aware that Constellation Systems was cancelled by the Obama Administration over rather strenuous bipartisan objections from the Congress, right? If not we need discuss this no further as I am not into talking about alternate realities. Seriously, you can think the decision a good one (or not), but it was Obama’s decision not that of the Congress.

    “This is from his written testimony:
    “For SpaceX, the augmentation milestones and associated funding will improve the chance of mission success by adding ground and flight testing, accelerating development of enhanced cargo capabilities, or further developing the ground infrastructure needed for commercial cargo capabilities. More specifically, the additional SpaceX milestones include rendezvous and proximity operations sensor testing, system level spacecraft testing (thermal vacuum electromagnetic interference, and acoustic testing), and infrastructure improvements at the launch, production and test sites.””

    That is really interesting. They added two milestones “rendezvous and proximity operations sensor testing” aimed at avoiding the exact sort of fiasco that happened anyway last November at the dry run of the FRR for the recently completed test flight. Those problems caused an additional six months delay in the schedule. So now I can answer your original question: “With additional worked added shouldn’t some of the delay not be atributed to SpaceX”. You will not like the answer because it is no. If the FRR went as badly as it did even with the additional work then the delays would have been even longer had they not been required. At best the time delays would have been a wash.

  • common sense

    @ Dave Hall wrote @ June 4th, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    “I’d read more of your stuff if I knew what you were positive about within the context of the grander US space game”

    Except he can’t.

  • common sense

    @ Vladislaw wrote @ June 4th, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    “Ares 1 was going to be plan A for getting crew and cargo to the ISS and COTS was going to be plan B”

    Except it wasn’t. Sorry couldn’t resist.

    CEV main mission was the Moon. And as far I can remember the CEV was not even supposed to go to ISS. And I am talking pre-Constellation.

    FWIW.

  • common sense

    Looks like “joe” is a SpaceX insider. Obviously he knows what is developed or not over there. And possibly the development stages as well. You know like the LAS for Orion *is* developed. Right? Okay may not be finished since the LAS for Ares-I cannot be the LAS for SLS but hey they put together engines and a tower. Right? Or they may go for a LAS. Anyway alway enlightening comments from our GN&C expert who does not comment on things he is not an expert at.

    Now do you know when they plan to go public? Some of us may want to invest in this late coming company.

  • Coastal Ron

    joe wrote @ June 4th, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    - “a crew escape engine”. Not yet developed.

    Not true Joe. Not only has it been developed, it’s completed a full-duration, full-thrust firing.

  • Doug Lassiter

    joe wrote @ June 4th, 2012 at 4:58 pm
    “I do not want to get bogged down in an argument about history, but you are aware that Constellation Systems was cancelled by the Obama Administration over rather strenuous bipartisan objections from the Congress, right? ”

    I don’t want to get bogged down in an argument about federal appropriations, but of course the President is the only one who would dare propose to cancel it. Congress is far too beholden to the JOBS and MONEY IN MY DISTRICT crowd to dare pull the plug on it on their own. In Congress’ mind, yeah, it’ll take a bit longer, but even if we can’t spend enough to do it responsibly, let’s keep spending them gobs of money. That is how Congress works.

    Obama, armed with the recommendation of an astute group of aerospace leaders, decided that Constellation was unaffordable, given the amount that Congress would appropriate for it. He made a hard decision that had to be made. Constellation would have been marvelous if we could do it, but I thank him for that hard decision. He was guided by fiscal reality rather than by fiscal illusion.

    By the way, Congress approved the President’s proposed budget, which cancelled Constellation (in fact, they postponed cancelling it because of Shelby, but finally they did). The President proposes, and Congress disposes. Call it what you want, but Congress disposed of Constellation.

  • Robert G. Oler

    joe wrote @ June 4th, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    laughing out loud. most ridiculous post this thread…and that says a lot

    Ares 1 and 5 not developed, SLS not developed Orion not developed…worse none of them anywhere close.

    you obviously are not an engineer or project manager or if you are you are NASA. RGO

  • Vladislaw

    Joe, the President’s budget carries no authority. Are you saying President Obama could cancel the entire military just by not including any funding?

    The congress routinely ignores a President’s Budget, they add more and take more than Presidents recommend.

    Congress could have, over the President’s objection, fully funded Constellation. They could have tripled NASA’s budget if they had the votes.

    Then and only then could the President veto that spending bill and cancel the program. Even then the senate could over ride the veto and still get the funding.

    The President didn’t want Orion, congress managed to fund it over what the President proposed, SLS program got funded when the President ddn’t want it, he just refused to veto that spending bill.

    You can try and paint it anyway you want, but congress refused to fund Constellation, Senator Shelby even got that ammedment added that cost the taxpayer millions to try and keep Constellation going when Congress didn’t provide any funding.

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ June 4th, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    “But as Miles O’Brien rightly noted, this is essentially a business story. And the failure of Space X to meet announced schedules and deliver contracted goods and services on time even w/contractual modifications in their favor, is a troubling aspect of Space X’s business performance.”

    goofy…and your post are starting to take on a Whittington like ranting.

    If a “year” from now SpaceX is still having teething issues like the last year…well that is a problem and it could sink them.

    But it is essentially a business story and “late” startups are not unusual. Boeing has been late in every airplane since the B-17 (when it was a new launch)…Boeing even lost a few along the way.

    start up airlines routinely go late. I have done far more of these then everyone here put together; at the full manager level…one of my clients these days is a “startup” in the west…they are about 18 months late and counting. When asked by the President of the airline what my guess was as to a start date (“Since you have nailed every date so far”) my line was; you should be flying summer 2013.

    I recall a scintillating session with Ed B of Amwest fame when he cranked up Commercial Air which after three more name changes became Western Pacific. I was interviewing for the training contract and he told me what date the airline would start and my reply was “I will be ready but you wont”…he then made some quip about making a small fortune in the airline and I muttered “do you have a large one now”…still got the contract and made a ton of money off of it.

    646 outside my house is 18 months behind schedule…our move to 4th street is about 7 months…we iwll move in July.

    but you are at least entertaining RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Vladislaw wrote @ June 4th, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    It doesn’t look like China is that big of risk as a competitor if what the Pentagon is reporting is true on the Chinese launch industry.”

    really the only danger the Chinese pose for the US is self imflicted. The Willard Mitt Romney group of CEO’s who are more then happy to move the US manufactoring base to China so that they can make a few extra bucks…and the proclivity of the GOP to spend the US to destruction.

    But for actual products or a functioning “state system”. dont make me laugh (grin)

    The Chinese have no chance really of developing a launch vehicle that is on par with what the US free enterprise system fully working as a free enterprise system could develop. The “profit” Motive coupled with the basics of capitalism is the motivator for a better mouse trap.

    The problem has become that what is left of American industry; particularly in aerospace has become more and more like Soviet (or Chinese) era design bureaus…coupled with the cash infusion of deficit spending.

    I wish OSC all the best in the world…but in the end they are not really “building” a rocket (or anything. What they are doing is mostly “integrating” a bunch of foreign systems (engines, pressure vessels) together…the Chinese are doing this as well EXCEPT all the parts are based in China…there is nothing free enterprise about it.

    Musk is the FIRST rocket built as a free enterprise profit making product. This is why the engines are like they are etc…

    The Chinese only have a chance against us if we continue the socialistic aspects of the aerospace industry…which most good Republicans on this forum are all for. RGO

  • common sense

    “This mission was a test mission, their first operational mission is still scheduled for September 24, 2012, 2 years 10 months behind schedule.”

    W.O.W. 2 years 10 months behind schedule?!?!?

    Of course it does poorly compare with the CEV that is going to fly this year in 2012 since it was the original plan back in 2004. Okay we also had push toward 2011 for a first flight which would put it a year behind but it was not the official date. So to be fair let’s pick 2012. I am looking forward for the CEV first flight this year on Ares I. Okay maybe not Ares I but on the EELV of your choice.

    Now how cool would it be if it ever flew on a… Falcon… Not that it will fly but just the thought of it. I think it’d be grand.

    I love it when people talk dirty.

  • Das Boese

    joe wrote @ June 4th, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    I do not want to get bogged down in an argument about history

    Well you’re gonna, because you’re talking nonsense complete and utter bullshit.

    but you are aware that Constellation Systems was cancelled by the Obama Administration over rather strenuous bipartisan objections from the Congress, right?

    Dude, do you not even know how your own bloody system of government works? Hello, separation of powers, ring a bell? Anyone? Bueller?

    If the Obama administration had cancelled Constellation without the approval of congress, he would have broken the law. I’m fairly sure that in your country, that is reason for a speedy investigation and removal from office, considering that another president has faced prosecution for the somewhat less criminal act of cheating on his wife.

    Obama, after receiving a devastating verdict on Constellation from a panel comprised of some of the most respected names in spaceflight, proposed cancelling Constellation, and your Congress obliged, albeit not without securing other means to keep the pork flowing.

    If not we need discuss this no further as I am not into talking about alternate realities.

    You’ve got to be kidding.

    Seriously, you can think the decision a good one (or not), but it was Obama’s decision not that of the Congress.

    It was never his decision to make.

  • Is there any chance of you adopting a new mantra different from “except it’s not”? It’s soooooooo irritating … especially as you’re then seem committed to negatively ripping apart the bone you’ve picked on.

    This and other Tourettes-like features (e.g., “tick tock”) are a sign that the creature is a troll, and why it is worth neither reading or responding to.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi googaw –

    I am pretty certain that your analysis of Planetary Resources is way off.

    As far as your analysis of Astrobotics goes, my guess is that it is way off as well. For several people, its going to be a question of in-house with control or outside purchase, whether Astrobotics has enough of a technical and skill set lock (patents?), and politics.

    malmesbury –

    Nice set of possibilities. The important part is that US sat manufacturers will now have both lower cost launch and the possibility of larger more capable sats.

    All –

    It is interesting that SpaceX became Plan B, instead of Boeing- Lockmart

    There was originally plan C, with NLS and two manned launch systems.
    How ATK killed that is both a great story and a history yet to be written by some journalist or historian.

    By the way “Amercia” is not one of my typos.

  • joe

    Coastal Ron wrote @ June 4th, 2012 at 5:58 pm
    “Not true Joe. Not only has it been developed, it’s completed a full-duration, full-thrust firing.”

    Breaking (this one occasion only) the rule not to reply to any of your drivel, according to your own link (in the first paragraph no less) the test firing was of a “prototype” “in preparation” for completing a milestone. Not of the actual engine itself, much less an integrated ALAS.

    It would be a good idea if you actually read the things you link to, but what would be the fun in that?

  • joe

    Vladislaw wrote @ June 4th, 2012 at 6:30 pm
    “The congress routinely ignores a President’s Budget, they add more and take more than Presidents recommend.
    Congress could have, over the President’s objection, fully funded Constellation. They could have tripled NASA’s budget if they had the votes.”

    Vladislaw, the Congress cannot in reality stop a President from cancelling a major program, it is like expecting them to push a rope. They can try and they did, but it is just not practical. The fact that they were able to carve out funding for the (around here) much hated SLS/MPCV is a testament to just how hard they tried.

    The argument you are making is analogous to a mugger stabbing someone on the street, the beat cop tries to stop it but (in spite of his best efforts fails). Therefore the beat cop stabbed the victim.

    I do not mind going through this with you (this far but no farther), but I see the other members of the local mob are checking in (completer with the requisite scatological references – stay classy guys) and I refuse to waste my time on morons.

  • Blessed Relief

    But they are real in this case and pretending that Space X is (somehow) magic and immune to them is counterproductive.

    Pretending that SLS and Orion will be able to compete with anything that SpaceX does over the next ten years is a waste of valuable time, money and resources, joe.

    If you really cared about the SLS, you would be frantic to get a fifth engine in the center of that thing – one that has a positive engine thrust to vehicle mass ratio. And some thermal protection. I can suggest a SpaceX Merlin 1D. It’s over. NASA and congress are unable to cope with this new reality.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Today is the anniversary of Falcon9′s first flight RGO

  • Brian Altmeyer

    Republicans are such two-faced rodents on this and every other issue. The only reason they ever funded COTS in the first place was because they never expected it to succeed. Then when it looked poised to succeed, they panicked, cut the funding in half in an attempt to kill the program, and demanded the Obama administration immediately just shut it down and give the money to Boeing. Now that SpaceX has succeeded despite their attempted sabotage and constant negative propaganda in places like the Wall Street Journal, they issue belated congratulations. How big of them. And they still blame the Obama administration for their own shenanigans.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “your take on what is possible in the next decade with regard to SpaceX if all goes positively nominal with regard to your 3 questions. i.e what happens if Musk exits Tesla Motors a multi-billionaire in 5-8 years leaving him in the position to focus all his energy on getting to Mars.”

    If SpaceX executes on commercial crew and Falcon Heavy (and/or Grasshopper) _and_ effectively manages all the resulting work that comes their way _and_ governments and primes make no effort to ensure that there is serious competition for SpaceX, then SpaceX will come to dominate the world launch and space transport market over the next decade or two. Whether SpaceX uses that power for good (they charge low prices that encourage the development and exploration of space) or ill (they run the remaining competition out of business, charge through the roof, and hinder space development and exploration) probably depends on the degree to which Musk himself remains involved in SpaceX and committed to his cause.

    That said, while low-cost, reliable space transport certainly helps the cause of Mars settlement (or colonization or homesteading or whatever Musk calls it), it’s not the tall pole in the tent. The biggest problem isn’t how to get there, but how to maintain human health and reproduce in that environment for decades and generations to come. Today, we’re not sure that we could send most astronauts on a ~2-year round-trip to Mars and not substantially shorten their lives with radiation-induced cancers. (Some segment of the population is naturally more resistant to radiation damage, and if we identified the associated genes, we might be able to screen astronauts for them.) And that’s just male astronauts. Last I knew, NASA was projecting that it could not send female astronauts of childbearing age on a ~2-year Mars round-trip at all without endangering their eggs. (Of course, they could choose to forgo children, but that kind of defeats the purpose of settlement.) Again, those are the kinds of radiation issues projected with a ~2-year Mars round-trip. Imagine spending a decade there. or reproducing.

    It would result in a lot of very short lives and nasty deaths with little or no healthy progeny to follow.

    And that’s just radiation. We have little clue as to what happens to basic cellular and tissue functions between 0g and 1g, and Mars sits at 1/3g. And the surface of Mars is coated in hexavalent chromium, which, if breathed in sufficient amounts, will slowly starve the body of oxygen by blocking its uptake in hemoglobin. And Mars may have native micro-/nanobiology, with potential forward- and back-contamination issues that could put Mars off-limits for decades to come.

    If you want to delve into some of these details, I recommend the “Safe on Mars” report from the National Research Council. You can read it for free here:

    http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309084261

    This was an expert report commissioned by NASA to identify the measurements to be taken in advance of designing a human Mars mission. It’s just the measurements — not the countermeasures necessary to keep astronauts healthy once you have a strong handle on the threats. And it’s just for a ~2-year round trip mission — not for long-term settlement. But it will give you a strong flavor of how far away we are from seriously considering such possibilities.

    So to get back to your original question…

    If SpaceX comes to dominate world space transport, that’s not going to enable Mars settlement by itself, not by a long shot. And even if Musk acquires bazillions of dollars tomorrow and dedicates them to overcoming the issues outlined above, it’s going to take a lot longer than just a decade or two.

    Could Musk “retire” to Mars, live out a few of his last years, and die (likely painfully) there? As long as no one cares about the potential forward-contamination issues, sure. Will individuals be able to live on Mars for decades and have children there? No, not based on what SpaceX is currently doing and publicly plans to do. Even with unlimited resources, the actual settlement of Mars (or anywhere else off Earth) will require decades of research and countermeasures development, at least.

    I think it’s reasonable to extrapolate that people will be living and vacationing in space for weeks and months at a time during our or our children/grandchildren’s lifetimes. But I don’t think anyone can extrapolate when we’ll truly “settle” space, i.e., live out decades of our lives there and have children there. The challenges to staying healthy and reproduction are either too great to address with known technology or too uncertain to project solutions.

    Personally, I doubt that we — our species homo sapiens — can settle any known natural space environments. (Artificial ones being terraformed planets or O’Neill-scale space stations — more science fiction.) Even with more knowledge, I think the challenges to true space settlement are too great to overcome without making fundamental changes to our genome and/or undergoing a lot of cyberization, at which point we’re no long us — we’re no longer homo sapiens. Here’s one book that more or less agrees with this conclusion:

    http://www.amazon.com/Robots-Space-Technology-Evolution-Interplanetary/dp/0801887089

    Our diaspora into the solar system will probably mark the end of humanity as one, distinct species. Our humanity will come to be defined by our shared heritage, no longer by our biology.

    Hope this helps.

  • Googaw

    Vladislaw, while you make up some preposterously narrow definition of “bubble” as an excuse to ignore the NewSpace bubble, I’m using the broad meaning English speakers actually use, which includes:

    dictionary.reference.com:
    4. anything that lacks firmness, substance, or permanence; an illusion or delusion.
    5. an inflated speculation, especially if fraudulent: The real-estate bubble ruined many investors.

    or let’s try thefreediciotnary.com, American Heritage Dictionary:

    5. Something insubstantial, groundless, or ephemeral, especially:
    a. A fantastic or impracticable idea or belief; an illusion: didn’t want to burst the new volunteers’ bubble.
    b. A speculative scheme that comes to nothing: lost money in the real estate bubble.

    Or Collins English Dictionary:
    4. something lacking substance, stability, or seriousness
    5. an unreliable scheme or enterprise

    Bursting bubbles: kinda describes my mission here. :-)

    A bubble is still a bubble even if it is quite small compared to the Internet bubble or the real estate bubble. It’s the gap between expectations and reality that makes a bubble.

  • Googaw

    FWIW I’m doing background research for a sci-fi shorty story (or longer) about a first few Mars missions …

    You’ll get paid much better writing marcomm for NewSpace companies, and it’s basically the same skill set. Create some spacy economic fantasy, the only rules being (1) it can’t blatantly violate the laws of physics, and (2) your market-of-the-future has to be astronomical enough to raise the dopamine levels of naive young engineering students (cheap labor) and self-appointed Internet lobbyists (free labor) alike.

    Unless SpaceX kills some astronauts on their next cargo run, or I get published in the Wall Street Journal, or some other such disaster occurs, you’ve probably got plenty of time to rake in the dough before the bubble bursts.

  • Googaw

    Gemini

    The early NASA programs had a great deal going in their favor, some of which they have in common with the SpaceX of today. First, the managers and senior engineers had gone through WWII, often fought in WWII, and witnessed hundreds of thousands of their fellow Americans get killed in deadly competition. This made them very serious and dedicated when working on the missiles of the 1950s, and they carried these habits (as well as the technology) over into the early NASA projects.

    Second, there were many young engineers fresh out of college, lured and motivated by the promise of turning sci-fi into reality (not economic reality, but only an ephmerial physical reality, as they discovered to their chagrin when they got laid off in the 1970s).

    Third, and probably most importantly, there were large numbers of employees being hired from the private sector, and bringing their private sector habits with them.

    And BTW, the vast majority of people who designed and built these rockets and capsules were still working in the private sector, albeit as contractors, not for NASA itself. The idea that private sector involvement in space is something novel is pure horsepucky. Of course, as with Dragon, the long-suffering U.S. taxpayer was their only source of revenue, these projects as with HSF today being preposterous sci-fi fantasies. “We do these things because they are hard” is just about the last kind of motto you will get from real commerce. Real commerce does things because they are more useful than they are difficult, and not otherwise. That’s what rational people do.

    Nobody can take advantage of the first advantage these days — then life was cheap and labor intense, and now the converse is true. But SpaceX has taken advantage of the second and third factors. With their sci-fi hype they lure cheap young engineers and they bring in the management expertise of entrepreurial Silicon Valley. The Senior Life Support rocket, by contrast, doesn’t have any of these advantages. It just has all the disadvantages of an entrenched, parasitical bureaucracy, which is what the massive government spending on the sci-fi dreams of the 1960s leads to in the long run, even if the short run reasults were very exciting. The 1960s space race was, one could with perfectly good English say, a government bubble.

    Individual companies that deal with NASA are hardly immune to the same process of zombification that crept over NASA itself after the excitement of the 60s was over. Orbital Sciences was the exciting space commerce startup of the 1980s. Like the NewSpace companies of today, they hyped an exciting market-of-the-future, in their case their Orbcomm micro-satellites. at first projected to form a early Globalstar/Irdium type LEO constellation, and to be launched by their air-dropped Pegasus micro-launcher. Very exciting, cutting edge, and seemingly lucrative stuff. But their market-of-the-future remained in the future, as such markets usually do, and they have been decreasingly innovative government contractors with a flatlined stock price ever since. Such is the future of SpaceX, if they continue to be so dependent on the NASA dole. Fortunately, by sizing their Falcon 9 to fit a real and natural launch market, rather than trying to innovate both a new rocket and a new market at the same time, SpaceX has given themselve another road to travel, should they choose it, that doesn’t lead to the contrator crypt.

  • Vladislaw

    When President Nixon refused to spend funds that congress had allocated congress passed the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974. If congress wanted to fund constellation, the President would have had no choice.

    Congress did not fund constellation. What part of that is so difficult?

  • Vladislaw

    So you were really saying is “I don’t mean to burst your bubble but newspace is done in a couple months/years”

    You were not refering to an economic bubble, thanks for clearing that up.

    Well then my apologies, and I don’t mean to burst YOUR “bubble” but newspace is not going anywhere.

  • DCSCA

    @Brian Altmeyer wrote @ June 4th, 2012 at 11:43 pm

    There was a Brian Altmeyer who worked on the ABC News piece, Infinite Horizons, Space Beyond Apollo, aired back on 7/20/79.

  • DCSCA

    @Googaw wrote @ June 5th, 2012 at 2:28 am

    Gemini:

    http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4002/contents.htm

    Good read. Excellent context. Document decisions and thinking process for the program from inception through flight ops. Virtually a daily log on the whole program from soup to nuts. Contractor section is quite an interesting list, too.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi DBN –

    “But I don’t think anyone can extrapolate when we’ll truly “settle” space, i.e., live out decades of our lives there and have children there.”

    The planet Earth is in space.
    We all live on the planet Earth.
    Therefore, we have already truly settled space.

    The NRO just freed up 2 telescopes.
    One is going to be used to look at dark energy.
    How about using the other to get spectra of asteroids and comets?

  • common sense

    I did not see any “requisite scatological references” from anyone commenting here.

    Now of course it is difficult to “stay classy” when one steps into one of those profoundly stinking posts…

  • joe

    Blessed Relief wrote @ June 4th, 2012 at 11:05 pm
    “If you really cared about the SLS, you would be frantic to get a fifth engine in the center of that thing – one that has a positive engine thrust to vehicle mass ratio. And some thermal protection. I can suggest a SpaceX Merlin 1D.”

    Yes, a great idea install an engine that uses RP-1 and liquid oxygen as propellants on a vehicle that uses (and tankage that provides) Liquid Hydrogen/Liquid Oxygen as propellants.

    Thanks for sharing your deep insight and expertise. I am sure the SLS people will get right on it.

  • Blessed Relief

    Yes, a great idea install an engine that uses RP-1 and liquid oxygen as propellants on a vehicle that uses (and tankage that provides) Liquid Hydrogen/Liquid Oxygen as propellants.

    I guess you missed the 70 to 130 ton payload capacity, joey.

    Thanks for sharing your deep insight and expertise. I am sure the SLS people will get right on it.

    Post COTS 2/3, I would expect so. But NASA never lives up to my expectations. I’d like that to change, which keeps me slamming you with facts and innovations. It never seems to work, though – Elon does it better.

  • John Malkin

    joe wrote @ June 5th, 2012 at 11:34 am

    Thanks for sharing your deep insight and expertise. I am sure the SLS people will get right on it.

    Don’t they need a law from congress to make changes to SLS? Joking… kind of…

  • joe

    Blessed Relief wrote @ June 5th, 2012 at 12:32 pm
    “I guess you missed the 70 to 130 ton payload capacity, joey.”

    I suppose that is supposed to get me to be equally childish and refer to you as “Reliefy”, but I will pass.

    The iterations of the SLS have nothing to do with trying to put a hydrocarbon engine “a fifth engine in the center of that thing” on a vehicle that uses liquid hydrogen? You might as well offer the “innovation” of putting a propeller on “that thing”.

    While there have been proposals to use liquid fuel strap on boosters for the 130 ton version of the SLS (a good idea I believe – not that you would care about that kind of detail), the fact that you used the phrase “a fifth engine” (singular as opposed to plural) is proof that is not what you were talking about (however you might want to spin it now – and that makes the big assumption you know enough to be trying to do that).

    You clearly do not know what you are talking about and therefore responding to you is useless.

    Have a nice day.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Googaw wrote @ June 5th, 2012 at 2:28 am
    ” The idea that private sector involvement in space is something novel is pure horsepucky.”

    Again I find your post (and this one in specific) entertaining…but in the case of this post I dont agree with “much” of what you say…OK we can quibble on the affect/effect WW2 had on the space effort…but the above is well your word is “horsepucky” and I’ll be kinder and call it “Naive”.

    (plus your comment about Dragon is wrong)

    The Apollo effort should be looked at the same way one looked at the development of the atomic bomb…the programs are almost lockstep in comparison (the products are different)…

    There is a difference and it is not subtle in government using private industry as a reservoir of experts to develop a product which it more or less defines completely and then operates…and private industry developing and operating a product that the federal government (or any government group) then utilizes to achieve some sort of mission.

    A major difference is that the “cost” of operation falls completely out of the equation.

    This has become even more apparent as the process of government doing the former has boiled down to an “early selection” of the company that is going to be the “expert pool” and the goals of the project become essentially “elastic”.

    SLS is an excellent example of this. Compare SLS development with Saturn. The Saturn V development with the 15 vehicles built cost in 2011 dollars about 51 billion…that is starting from scratch designing the engines etc…and then building the vehicles…51 billion. SLS would if it were to fly never get there ie total development cost with 15 flights…and it is purely a derivative.

    Understand that and you will understand why most of what you are talking about concerning WW2 is not valid. RGO

  • Blessed Relief

    You might as well offer the “innovation” of putting a propeller on “that thing”

    Gary Hudson already tried that, so I don’t think that qualifies as innovation.

    You clearly do not know what you are talking about and therefore responding to you is useless.

    Sure I do, it’s call reusability. As opposed to the insanity of tossing a 75 ton core stage with four irreplaceable SSMEs into the ocean, after nearly achieving orbital velocity with two vastly overpowered five segment SRBs.

    I would think a Merlin 1D and four super Dracos could adequately hover and land the thing. Nothing innovative there, considering Grasshopper and all the little RLVs that preceded it. Anything else would be pure folly now.

    But continue on, I’ve got better things to do than design spruce gooses.

  • Dave Hall

    @Dark Blue Nine

    Thanks for the detailed response. I share your reservations regarding major health issues. I do however reckon that a first flags and footprints return mission is something that may happen in the 2020s if Elon Musk gets his way. I find the prospect exciting to contemplate.

  • DCSCA

    @joe wrote @ June 4th, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    “… but given there was a six month delay in the recent Falcon 9/Dragon test flight due to the fact that the Space X flight control software did not work and had to be redone (with extensive help from NASA and other non-Space X personnel) that additional work should certainly be accounted for by Space X.”

    Yep.

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ June 4th, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    “goofy…”

    Except it’s not.

    But as a you’re a Purveyor of the Magnified Imporatance of Diminished Vision it’s an easy call. Let us know when you figured out why Romney spoke of miltary matters w/aviator ‘Crash’ McCain by his aide in San Diego. =eyeroll= Amusing, indeed.

    ““late” startups are not unusual.”

    Except it’s not a start up.

    Space X was founded in 2002- a decade ago.

    “But it is essentially a business story…. start up airlines routinely go late. ” Except Space X is not an airline. It has been in business for a decade and has entred into a business contract w/NASA, a government organization operating for nearly 54 years, to deliver goods and services on time– which its management has failed to do so far. =eyeroll=

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ June 4th, 2012 at 11:33 pm

    “Today is the anniversary of Falcon9′s first flight RGO”

    Of much more historical significance, of course, is that June 3-7 is the 47th anniversary of Gemini IV, McDivitt & White’s U.S. manned spaceflight. Imagery from White’s famed spacewalk- still and film- remains vivid and often go-to ‘stock’ used today by various media outlets– the Falcon launch, not so much. Ever the Everett Dasher Breed, and endlessly amusing.

  • DCSCA

    @Googaw wrote @ June 5th, 2012 at 2:28 am

    “The early NASA programs had a great deal going in their favor…”

    The STG was key– and vital.

    “The idea that private sector involvement in space is something novel is pure horsepucky.”

    Yep. As O’Brien reiterated last week on PBS in his report.

    “The 1960s space race was, one could with perfectly good English say, a government bubble.”

    Only from the American persepective, really. U.S. civil space efforts have always been chiefly reactive, not pro-active, subject to fits and starts, and HSF ops never incorporated as part of the ‘national character’ as it is in Russian society- the chief protagonist of that era. Their people celebrate it and maintained it through some wretchingly harsh political and economic upheavals.

  • Googaw

    There is a difference and it is not subtle in government using private industry as a reservoir of experts to develop a product which it more or less defines completely and then operates…and private industry developing and operating a product that the federal government (or any government group) then utilizes to achieve some sort of mission.

    In the case of Falcon 9, there’s a good case to be made that this distinction makes a difference. Because Falcon 9 has a natural market (satellite launch), analogous to the airline ticket analogy (many other people want rides on airplanes besides NASA). As long as you design Dragon to fit the form factor of the natural market payload, and not vice versa, and as long as e.g. safety concerns don’t lead to greater costs or reduced capabilities for the rocket, NASA can share the costs of the same rocket, analogously (even if not literally) like their employees share airline rides with non-NASA passengers. The market distortion is not too terrible.

    In the case of Dragon, though, it’s a distinction that doesn’t make much of a difference. The “market” for cargo to ISS is completely artificial, completely political, defined by NASA, Congress, to some extent the President (don’t drag me into that debate…), etc. — because the ISS was and is. It can be a preposterous distortion of economic reality, and the “commercial” contracting model needn’t make any difference in this regard.

    Since the alleged utility of ISS muddles the issue, think of something completely useless and hypothesize that NASA funds it — say, a probe that is designed to crash into the far side of the sun without anybody being able to watch it hit. Indeed, after this Sun Transportation System is operational we’re going to crash probes into the far side of the sun every six months for the next ten years and have the U.S. taxpayer pay for it. NASA can define this mission, Congress can fund it, and NASA can let out “Space Act”/”COTS” contracts that pay for development milestones and then operational deliveries: for various ground tests, first test launch by crashing into the moon, first test crash into the sun, and then pay for regular operational crashes into the sun, each with a fixed dollar amount, all per current “commercial” contract practice. Private investors could throw in their own money earlier on, recouping their investment during the operational phase.

    This “commercial” contracting system could also be used to fund: building a tunnel from New Zealand to Antarctica, building a tourist bridge from San Fransisco to Alcatraz (no more pesky ferries), digging a colossal hole and filling it in again, or any other silly idea you care to come up with, no matter how silly — as long as you can convince the political system to fund it. Any pre-existing or potential market can be arbitrarily distorted, and indeed there doesn’t even need to be a pre-existing or even potential market. You’ve completely substituted the governments judgment about the viability of such “markets” for the private sectors’, even though under NewSpace rhetoric the whole operation can be called “commercial”.

    Now perhaps the economic fantasies funded under COTS-like contracts might on average come in at less cost over this “commercial” contracting system. The COTS contractor can dig that big hole and fill it up for say half the cost of a cost-plus contractor. But they’re still just digging a hole and filling it back up again. It doesn’t change the basic problem of NASA funding absurd economic fantasies.

  • Coastal Ron

    Googaw wrote @ June 5th, 2012 at 9:00 pm

    Because Falcon 9 has a natural market (satellite launch), analogous to the airline ticket analogy (many other people want rides on airplanes besides NASA).

    OK good. Although you started using the word “Dragon” when I think you meant “Falcon 9″ in the rest of the paragraph.

    The “market” for cargo to ISS is completely artificial, completely political, defined by NASA, Congress, to some extent the President (don’t drag me into that debate…), etc. — because the ISS was and is.

    Just so you know, the term “artificial market” is real, and it does not mean anything related to what you’re talking about.

    Nonetheless, a market, whether there is only one customer or one hundred, is still a market. We have demand and supply, and the supply is competitive (two initially). Just so you know, that market competition could get bigger when the Commercial Crew providers start coming online. I have no doubt that Boeing and Sierra Nevada have their sights on offering cargo capability as well as crew.

    And maybe you are unaware that SpaceX is marketing Dragon as DragonLab, and Bigelow has signed an agreement with SpaceX to use Dragon for crew transport. SpaceX clearly feels there is a market for a vehicle like Dragon, and getting it certified for carrying crew to the ISS will open up the possibility for other business. Having one customer pay for part of the development you can use for opening up a new market is not such a bad thing either.

  • Vladislaw

    “Because Falcon 9 has a natural market”

    could you provide a link for the definition of a “natural market”?

  • Googaw

    Bigelow has signed an agreement with SpaceX

    Paper is cheap. Bits are even cheaper. How much money has actually changed hands between these two companies?

    Of such agreements, and the mindless hyping of same, are bubbles made.

  • Googaw

    you started using the word “Dragon” when I think you meant “Falcon 9″

    Typical. When somebody demonstrates the idiocy of a cult belief, instead of trying to understand their argument start hallucinating that they meant what the cultists’ dopamine rush dependency requires that they must mean.

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