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The “naysayers” respond

Unlike the launch of Dragon two weeks ago, or its berthing with the International Space Station three days later, the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) did not issue a statement about the successful splashdown of the Dragon last Thursday. However, speaking last Thursday morning at the World Science Festival in New York—a few hours after Dragon left the ISS and a few hours before its reentry and splashdown—OSTP director John Holdren did mention the mission as an example of innovation and public-private partnerships that the administration is trying to support. “This represents an entirely new model for the American space program,” he said in comments starting at the 15:15 mark of the video, “one initiated by this administration and one that, despite the handwringing of naysayers who said it would never work, now promises to change forever the nature of US space exploration and human spaceflight.”

Although one can quibble with Holdren’s claim that this model was initiated by the current administration—the SpaceX mission is part of the COTS program, which NASA started in 2005 during the George W. Bush Administration—the mission did appear to disprove Holdren’s unnamed “naysayers” who may have been skeptical about the capabilities of commercial operators. Then, on Sunday, CBS’s “60 Minutes” reaired a segment about SpaceX that the show first broadcast in March. “60 Minutes” did include an update about the Dragon flight to the ISS, but the core of the segment was the same, including an interview with Elon Musk where he regretted that “American heroes” had been critical of the company. “You know, those guys are heroes of mine, so it’s really tough. You know, I wish they would come and visit, and see the hard work that we’re doing here. And I think that would change their mind,” Musk said.

One of “those guys”, former NASA flight director and JSC director Chris Kraft, objected to the characterization of himself as well as former astronauts Neil Armstrong and Gene Cernan in the “60 Minutes” segment. In a statement Kraft provided to the Houston Chronicle on the behalf of all three, Kraft said that “60 Minutes” presented “a distortion of the facts and the truth regarding SpaceX and people such as Neil Armstrong, Eugene Cernan and those of us that have been criticizing the present game plan of the U.S. Space Program.” Kraft said they “commend” SpaceX on their recent achievement and their concerns are instead “the lack of recognition that unless the U.S. continues to advance the state of the art and invest the taxpayers money in a rational and affordable Space Program we will become a second rate nation and be left behind by those who recognize what is required.” The statement doesn’t indicate why they waited until the second airing of the “60 Minutes” segment—after the SpaceX flight—to complain about that mischaracterization.

78 comments to The “naysayers” respond

  • Malmesbury

    That sound is the sound of back pedalling.

    Politically, the icebergs are moving.

    The next big event will be the Commercial Crew announcement – who is in and who is out. Watch for the squealing when ATK doesn’t make the cut.

  • Florida Tech is hosting the 25th annual Space Studies Program by the International Space University. The idea is to bring together the world’s best space students in one place for an intensive summer program to jump-start their careers.

    The program began yesterday with opening remarks by Lori Garver. As reported by Florida Today:

    The U.S. human spaceflight program is undergoing a monumental transformation that will usher in a new era of low-cost commercial space exploration, a senior NASA official said Monday.

    More than a half-century after the world’s first human space missions, NASA is preparing to shift U.S. operations in low-Earth orbit to commercial companies.

    “We are loosening our grip and working with the private sector in new ways so that we can reduce the cost of getting to and from low-Earth orbit,” NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver told young aerospace students and professionals at the opening of International Space University’s 25th Space Studies Program.

    The move is enabling NASA to develop the launch system and spacecraft required for human expeditions to deep space destinations, Garver said. And it will be the young students and professionals who will orchestrate space exploration in the future.

    “We are going to have a very bright future with your leadership,” Garver said.

    With all the “naysayers” and backbiting that seems to be par for the course these days, it’s nice to see a program that focuses on the future and takes a positive approach to the next generation of space exploration.

    The above Florida Today link includes a video (but doesn’t have Lori’s remarks).

  • tom hancock

    The success of this mission only proves Griffin was right when he started COTS

  • Egad

    “the lack of recognition that unless the U.S. continues to advance the state of the art and invest the taxpayers money in a rational and affordable Space Program we will become a second rate nation and be left behind by those who recognize what is required.”

    State of the art in what? Rational and affordable as in SLS, the BFR with a big price tag and no BEO mission?

  • common sense

    I think it’d be wise to welcome “back” those heroes of ours.

    It is perfectly normal to have doubts when you are used to a certain way of working and thinking. If they are willing to come to the new way then we should embrace them not blame them for whatever they did or said in the past.

    For one I am happy if they are changing their minds and as Elon said they ought to go visit, they might not believe their eyes.

  • Malmesbury

    The success of this mission only proves Griffin was right when he started COTS

    Grin – but he went ballistic at the suggestion of Commercial Crew. That was about protecting Ares I.

    COTS was fine as a backup to his prime idea – Ares I & V. Now COTS and CC are in the way, from his point of view.

  • Ferris Valyn

    Egad – I’ll wait until I see something from Cernan, Lovell, and Armstrong, but Kraft isn’t a supporter of the SLS. His op-ed with Tom Moser was no endorsement of SLS

    http://www.chron.com/opinion/outlook/article/Space-Launch-System-is-a-threat-to-JSC-Texas-jobs-3498836.php

  • Vladislaw

    Griffin started COTS?

    Did he just come up with this idea out of the blue and pulled funding allocated for other projects to start it?

    Or had President Bush already told NASA to aquire commercial crew and cargo to the ISS and Congress had already appropriated funds for the program?

  • Egad

    Egad – I’ll wait until I see something from Cernan, Lovell, and Armstrong, but Kraft isn’t a supporter of the SLS. His op-ed with Tom Moser was no endorsement of SLS.

    Details would indeed help. I’m finding it very hard to figure out just what, if anything, Kraft is talking about in that passage.

  • Egad

    Thanks for pointing out
    http://www.chron.com/opinion/outlook/article/Space-Launch-System-is-a-threat-to-JSC-Texas-jobs-3498836.php

    It may contain a clue as to what Kraft means:

    We are wasting billions of dollars per year on SLS. There are cheaper and nearer term approaches for human space exploration that use existing launch vehicles. A multicenter NASA team has completed a study on how we can return humans to the surface of the moon in the next decade with existing launch vehicles and within the existing budget. This NASA plan, which NASA leadership is trying to hide, would save JSC and create thousands of jobs in Texas.

  • At least in the case of Cernan, it appears he is as adamant for the wrong side as ever. Emily Lakdawalla tweeted the following while riding on an airport shuttle bus with Aldrin and Cernan several days after the return of Dragon:
    “Now Gene and Buzz are fighting about commercial crew and Orion.”
    http://hobbyspace.com/nucleus/index.php?itemid=38457

  • MrEarl

    Contrary to the popular belief of many on this site, and I’m guessing this administration also, wanting to see someone prove their claims before endorsing them does not make them naysayers. This was not an easy undertaking that SpaceX took on, evidenced by the company wanting to cross all the T’s and dot all the I’s before the launch and leading to delays. In my opinion that only makes their achievement all the more impressive. As I said in an earlier post the only thing left for them to prove is consistency and costs.

    What everyone also must realize is that they only proved that commercial enterprises can carry out tasks that Russia has been doing for the past 30 years but it does make me more hopeful for future successes in commercial crew to LEO. That is still a far cry from delivering crews and enough supplies beyond Earth orbit to make meaningful advances and discoveries on the moon, asteroids and Mars.

    Which brings me to another article written by Jeff in this week’s edition of The Space Review. In, Human Space Exploration: Asteroids Versus the Moon?, Jeff touches on what I think is the biggest failing of this administration and that is the shift in focus from returning to the moon to random asteroid encounters. While Russia, Europe and Japan would welcome the chance to partner with the US in a return to the moon I see a real lack of enthusiasm for one-off asteroid encounters. To me and many others, it’s these kinds of missions that are wasteful of tax dollars.
    A better plan being given serious consideration by NASA now is to build a Gateway out of spares and leftovers from the ISS and shuttle programs, to be fitted out and tested at the ISS, then stationed at the EML2. This Gateway can support almost constant access to most of the moon’s surface while also supporting the ability to take advantage of close encounters by NEO’s. International participation could include development of reusable landers and parts for the Gateway and any permanent bases on the lunar surface. Commercial entities can be contracted to supply the Gateway and eventually the lunar bases. This will provide the needed capabilities while keeping costs manageable by the independent partners. To start this type of exploration would require heavy lift in the 100mT range and craft capable of supporting 4 people in BEO operations. Right now the United States is the only country capable of supplying these two components through the SLS and MPCV. Lessons learned through these activities on the moon and the Gateway will be what advances Mars exploration in the future.

  • MrEarl

    “A multicenter NASA team has completed a study on how we can return humans to the surface of the moon in the next decade with existing launch vehicles and within the existing budget.”
    I don’t think NASA is trying to hide this plan. but what that plan really is, is just the Apollo Program without the big, hulking rocket. Apollo was great for what it was, proof of American technological superiority while allowing limited exploration of the moon. A plan like the one I outlined above is the next logical step in manned exploration/exploitation of the solor system.

  • common sense

    @MrEarl wrote @ June 5th, 2012 at 11:45 am

    I am glad to see you are coming to the real space program now. ;)

    “What everyone also must realize is that they only proved that commercial enterprises can carry out tasks that Russia has been doing for the past 30 years”

    Irrelevant. Russia Soyuz is state sponsored. Just like Shuttle except it works.

    “That is still a far cry from delivering crews and enough supplies beyond Earth orbit to make meaningful advances and discoveries on the moon, asteroids and Mars.”

    This though is absolutely wrong. It is not a “far cry”. The only thing needed is the LAS to please NASA. Bear in mind Shuttle was launched for 30 years without a LAS. If NASA were to say “no LAS required” I bet that SpaceX can launch tomorrow with humans. Risky? Yes. And so was Mercury, Gemini and Apollo. So what? As for the BEO mission, how about a little patience? You seem to accept a SLS/MPCV combo to fly some day in the future, vehicles that have neither been built nor flown… And will not do either. Just in case I did not say it in the past.

  • @MrEarl
    I like the idea of the EML2 gateway a lot. But the following comment is something else entirely.
    “Right now the United States is the only country capable of supplying these two components through the SLS and MPCV.
    Right now? Are you kidding?
    It won’t even happen later because of the way the thing is being built. And I don’t just mean because of shuttle-derived tech, but the procedure they are using to do it. Even if we need a 100mt range heavy lifter to accomplish such a project, why build that heavy lifter in the most inefficient, impractical and uneconomic way?

    A commenter here of whom I have great respect told me that he didn’t think you are as delusional as Marcel and Chris. He got me to thinking that maybe that was so; however, now my doubts are as strong as ever.

  • Vladislaw wrote:

    Or had President Bush already told NASA to aquire commercial crew and cargo to the ISS and Congress had already appropriated funds for the program?

    Here’s a basic overview of the sequence of events.

    You can references to commercial flight in the paperwork that accompanied Bush’s Vision for Space Exploration speech.

    Here’s a Wiki listing on COTS.

    Here’s a Wiki listing on commercial crew.

    Both began under the Bush administration, although the current administration has given them greater importance and priority.

  • “A plan like the one I outlined above is the next logical step in manned exploration/exploitation of the solor system.
    It would be except for your insistance on SLS/MPCV.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Kraft said they “commend” SpaceX on their recent achievement and their concerns are instead “the lack of recognition that unless the U.S. continues to advance the state of the art and invest the taxpayers money in a rational and affordable Space Program we will become a second rate nation and be left behind by those who recognize what is required.”

    even this backpeddle is a load of crap.

    First off The First or Second or third rate status of the US is not dependent at all on “anything” that is done in space. The US is a great nation as long as it recognizes the basis of its birth; that all men (people) are endowed with certain unalienable rights by their creator…to whatever extent we forget that then we stop being a great nation. When the US had no real military no real foreign power…we were a great nation.

    The concentration on “things that show we are great” are simply reminiscent of what Black Jack Pershing told Clemenceau…”Nations that continually seek to prove that they are great, are not”.

    What we have today are people who are like middle aged fat men who drive sports cars andhire escorts who could be their daughters to prove that they are young. Wind, Whittington and Kraft fall into that trap.

    Second Apollo was a singular accomplishment which proved nothing “great” about the nation; other then a command economy with unlimited amount of funds can do great things.

    Despite the heroic talk of spinoffs the boney hand fact remains that NOT A SINGLE PIECE of major technology from the lunar effort remained active in spaceflight. Not a single large engine survived as a functional piece of hardware; not a single spacecraft…oddly the only things that survive from the Apollo era as functional hardware are some of the uncrewed platforms that came along for the ride.

    Third…not a single thing NASA HSF has done since Apollo has been much better. The shuttle failed to affect the US economy other then as a money engine…and the station is a sort of 100 to 200 billion depending on how you count sort of “thing” that NASA has no real idea/ideal what to do with.

    SLS/Orion are simply a jobs program. IF all you did was employ the people who work on SLS/Orion you would 1) save money (at least some) and 2) accomplish nothing less then what is being accomplished today.

    Human spaceflight has to people like Kraft and Griffin and other testosterone people become Griffin’s “cathedrals in the sky”…ie there is no way to justify them other then the tired “we are a great nation because we do these things”…

    SpaceX and others are the first things to come along in 50 years in human spaceflight that really stand a chance of changing the American economy for the better. Kraft’s comments are simply an explanation of how badly his generation failed. RGO

  • Ben Joshua

    The miracle of SpaceX is not its technical or economic achievements (now and yet to come). It is its political achievement, making a place for itself in a market entirely dominated by an insiders’ club of government contractors. That is worth celebrating, along with the break in the insiders’ logjam that SpaceX is managing.

    Years from now, supposing at that point SpaceX (and others?) are offering lower cost access to LEO, GEO and beyond, to customers which could not have dreamt of such access, there will still be sour grapes from those who would have preferred the ‘forever, never’ monopoly approach of SLS, et al.

    PILWIVIGs (people in love with view graphs) could enjoy life so much more if they would simply celebrate SpaceX’s accomplishment, and all the potential it represents.

  • vulture4

    “What everyone also must realize is that they only proved that commercial enterprises can carry out tasks that Russia has been doing for the past 30 years”

    Russia can launch three people with at most two Americans at $60M each with no down mass and almost no up mass. SpaceX will soon be able to launch seven, all US if needed, at about $20M a seat.

    I hope we have all stopped ignoring cost. Cost sank Apollo and Shuttle and has hobbled ISS. SpaceX has beaten Russia by 3 to 1 on per seat cost to LEO and has a reasonable chance of beating Chinese costs as well, with the only operational man-rated launch vehicle made entirely in America.

    My Republican friends are now simultaneously belittling Musk’s accomplishments and claiming that everything he did was thought up and paid for by George W. Bush. At some point we have to get back to all being on the same team or we are going to lose.

  • MrEarl

    CS I expected better from you. ;-)
    The point of my first statement that you reference is that commercial capabilities has now reached where state sponsored capabilities were 30 years ago. As for the comparison of Soyuz/Progress to that of the shuttle, there is none. The shuttle might have been a “leap too far” for our technology at the time but I don’t think we’ll see anything match the capabilities of the shuttle in our lifetime.
    My second statement you reference talks about BEO requirements, which is much more than Launch Abort System requirements but let’s start there. An LAS is not just a push motor or tractor to remove the capsule from the vicinity of an exploding rocket. It’s sensors to predict a malfunction before it happens and software to guide that capsule away while keeping G forces to a minimum. While I believe that we sometimes are too risk adverse, do we really want safety to step back in time 40 to 50 years?
    Then there’s also the capabilities and capacities to make exploration practical and that goes far beyond putting 7 people in LEO safely when they get the LAS in order.
    As for SLS and MPCV; is there anyone else, state or private, that can provide those capabilities in the foreseeable future? Not a chance. Right now the SLS has already made more progress coming to fruition than Constellation did up to the time it was canceled and there is many reasons for that. SLS is a true derivative of the shuttle stack. It’s so close that the SLS uses fuel lines taken out of the shuttles while they were being decommissioned. There is a new cost conciseness at NASA . It’s different than a private company like Boeing and much different than SpaceX, but also much different than how they did things in the past where money was a very secondary concern.
    Will SpaceX and/or other companies be able to provide cheaper capabilities to the Gateway and lunar bases in the future? Of course they will! The one thing most seem to forget is that they need a reason to and a technology base on which they can build.

  • Frank

    From SpaceX press release.
    That was in August 2003, that SpaceX started to make wave! Wasnt it before the COTS program started? Remember that before starting SpaceX, Elon made a study group directed by Griffin and the result was the creation of SpaceX !
    Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) will unveil its Falcon orbital launch vehicle in Washington, DC tomorrow Thursday, December 4th. SpaceX will bring the entire seven-story high rocket and its mobile launch system to the nation’s capital as part of the celebrations marking the hundred-year anniversary of manned flight. The company will host an unveiling ceremony and press conference on 600 Independence Avenue (in front of the FAA Headquarters) at 8:00PM

  • common sense

    “What we have today are people who are like middle aged fat men who drive sports cars and hire escorts who could be their daughters to prove that they are young.”

    No. Wait! I haven’t been in Houston in a long time! It was not me and I swear I never hired any escort and, no, I don’t work for the GSA.

  • Vladislaw

    “do we really want safety to step back in time 40 to 50 years?”

    No actually we want to step back about 100 years. When the government allowed those willing to take the risk, like Orville and Wilber, to actually take it without a mandate.

  • MrEarl

    “A plan like the one I outlined above is the next logical step in manned exploration/exploitation of the solor system.”
    It would be except for your insistance on SLS/MPCV.”

    Well Rick let’s take a look at operations once the Gateway is complete. For a 6 month expedition to the moon you’re going to need a few things:
    Fuel for the assent stage of the lander. As envisioned now the descent stage will also be brought up for each mission plus that will have to be fueled. Next we’ll need the supplies for 4 people for 6 months and finally get a crew of 4 out to the gateway. As envisioned now that will require one SLS launch.
    To do it with existing LV’s would require a fuel depot in LEO, so there is the expense of the depot plus at least one launch per-mission to fuel it. At best it would require 2 launches for the lander assent stage fuel, descent stage, supplies and crew. Most likely it would require 3 launches, one for fueled decent stage and accent fuel, one for supplies and the third for the crew. Would the depot be large enough to fuel all three Earth departure stages? If not that’s at least one more, possibly 2 more launches. So using existing LV’s the minimum is three launches with as many as 6 launches being needed to do the work of one SLS.

  • Vladislaw

    6 launches X 54 million = a damn sight cheaper than one launch of the Shelby Launch System.

  • Martijn Meijering

    To do it with existing LV’s would require a fuel depot in LEO, so there is the expense of the depot plus at least one launch per-mission to fuel it.

    No it wouldn’t, storable propellant transfer at L1/L2 would do, no dedicated depot just a refuelable spacecraft.

    So using existing LV’s the minimum is three launches with as many as 6 launches being needed to do the work of one SLS.

    That’s a good thing. Economics require higher launch rates.

  • common sense

    @ MrEarl wrote @ June 5th, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    “CS I expected better from you. ”

    Ah expectations, expectations… I know. Always been a problem. But I DID try. At least.

    Now.

    “The point of my first statement that you reference is that commercial capabilities has now reached where state sponsored capabilities were 30 years ago.”

    I say it is a weak point. What is important here are the cost and the fact that it is a private entity. And I’d like you don’t take the route of DCSCA and other experts. You know you are better than that. ;)

    “As for the comparison of Soyuz/Progress to that of the shuttle, there is none.”

    Oh but you’re wrong. I would compare it to the 747/Concorde strategies. The Russians by will or otherwise kept a single, simple, safe program going for many years. We on the other hand went all out for Shuttle and some partial reusability. The result is that Shuttle was not safe and cost gazillions to operate. And the Soyuz is still flying. Capsule are better at “safe” and “cost”. C’est la vie.

    “The shuttle might have been a “leap too far” for our technology at the time but I don’t think we’ll see anything match the capabilities of the shuttle in our lifetime.”

    So what? We probably won’t see a new Concorde either. Not because we cannot build one but because it does not make any commercial sense. Shuttle was great but pointless without a station. The station came late and is complete. Hopefully the next generation of stations, e.g. Bigelow, won’t require a Shuttle but rather economical and safe taxis, you know, just like Dragon.

    “My second statement you reference talks about BEO requirements, which is much more than Launch Abort System requirements but let’s start there.”

    Agreed. yet to launch a crew, a NASA crew, we need a LAS. A requirement that came out of the astronaut office in the early stages of CEV. And as I have said multiple times is in no way an assurance of safety due in part to the increased level of complexity and in the case of Ares I might just kill the crew on abort while saving Orion. Safety with a LAS is like asking every passenger of an airliner to sit on an ejection seat. The point is to eventually do away with a LAS. BTW and especially for a lifting body a LAS is very difficult to design. See for example:
    -http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19940030181_1994030181.pdf
    -http://archive.org/details/nasa_techdoc_20040090517

    “An LAS is not just a push motor or tractor to remove the capsule from the vicinity of an exploding rocket. It’s sensors to predict a malfunction before it happens and software to guide that capsule away while keeping G forces to a minimum.”

    Okay.

    “While I believe that we sometimes are too risk adverse, do we really want safety to step back in time 40 to 50 years?”

    Well using a LAS as envisioned for Orion is precisely that. No if you talk about abort maneuvers based on sensors, etc, it is a totally different thing.

    “Then there’s also the capabilities and capacities to make exploration practical and that goes far beyond putting 7 people in LEO safely when they get the LAS in order.”

    You have to start somewhere. So? The necessary design changes to go from a LEO capsule itself to a Moon capsule are small. You need a more effective service module of some sort, proper guidance and adapted ECLSS. The TPS is already there, at least in theory. We would need to check how badly cooked Dragon was on this return. Since it was quite a bit cooked on the edges.

    “As for SLS and MPCV; is there anyone else, state or private, that can provide those capabilities in the foreseeable future? Not a chance.”

    BUT come on they just do NOT exist. I mean SLS and MPCV. Neither actually exists and considering the timeline Dragon v2.0 will be there way before either is being built.

    “Right now the SLS [sic] concern.”

    This is all speculation from you. Show me the vehicles. Until then this is well wishing. And that’s it.

    “Will SpaceX and/or other companies be able to provide cheaper capabilities to the Gateway and lunar bases in the future? Of course they will! The one thing most seem to forget is that they need a reason to and a technology base on which they can build.”

    Not sure about this statement. Are you saying they need NASA? The answer is YES BUT. You better believe that if (it’s a fairly big if) a market develops then the current NASA way will no longer be necessary. SLS and MPCV will disappear soon anyway. NASA will become leaner and meaner or will just plain become irrelevant in HSF. Now if the market fails to develop then all of this is moot. Since as I may have said in the past SLS/MPCV will not see the day of light.

    I still think you are better than DCSCA, Marcel, Chris and our other bewildered friends but please stop feeding them this nonsense ;)

  • Coastal Ron

    MrEarl wrote @ June 5th, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    As for SLS and MPCV; is there anyone else, state or private, that can provide those capabilities in the foreseeable future?

    Yes, and you’ve been provided the link to ULA’s version of that solution many times. It doesn’t call out for a new $30B HLV, and we don’t have to wait 10 years to find out if the darn thing will actually fly.

    You continue to ignore the main reason we have never returned to the Moon – money. Your SLS/MPCV solution ignores what could be done with the $30B it’s taking to build those systems, and your solution ignores the built-in costs required for building SLS-only payloads.

    What happens if the SLS developed a problem that required it being taken offline for two or more years? Your Moon program would be offline for two or more years. Tough luck, huh?

    If your Moon program uses existing rockets, and payloads are sized so that they can fit on Delta IV Heavy, Proton, Ariane V or Falcon Heavy, then one of those systems going offline doesn’t affect the program.

    And as far as international participation goes, no one is going to commit to an exploration program with NASA if the success of the whole program depends on our Congress funding a $30B rocket with no other future need. No one.

    Which means the SLS will only be able to count on the U.S. Government for use, and NASA doesn’t get enough funding to spend $10B per launch every year for SLS-sized payloads.

    Not acknowledging the many flaws the SLS has in comparison to existing alternatives is sad to see. The EML2 idea, though not original, was a good idea to promote, but just not as a justification for the SLS.

  • @MrEarl
    “As for SLS and MPCV; is there anyone else, state or private, that can provide those capabilities in the foreseeable future?”
    ULA has proposed the super Atlas billions less than the SLS.
    Also, see here http://www.nss.org/articles/falconheavy.html where I got these two citations:
    Gwynn Shotwell of SpaceX said that they can “develop a heavy-lift launch vehicle with a 150 metric ton to orbit capability. We can do so for no more than $2.5 billion, within five years, on a firm, fixed price basis with payment made only on achieving hardware milestones.”
    Elon Musk backed that up:
    “We’re confident we could get a fully operational vehicle to the pad for $2.5 billion — and not only that, I will personally guarantee it,” Musk says. In addition, the final product would be a fully accounted cost per flight of $300 million, he asserts. “I’ll also guarantee that.

    “To start this type of exploration would require heavy lift in the 100mT range and craft capable of supporting 4 people in BEO operations.”
    Assertions by you with NO foundation. There is no reason that multiple launches of a 50mt payload Falcon Heavy or Super Atlas launch vehicle wouldn’t accomplish the job. This is just another excuse for building your hyper-expensive impractical BMF Rocket.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Brian Altmeyer wrote @ June 4th, 2012 at 11:43 pm

    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.>>

    this is an exceedingly well done post.

    RGO

  • MrEarl

    Vlad,
    You quote prices for the Falcon9 and 6 launches would only be approx. 60mT. To take into account additional support structures to accommodate the multiple launches you would need to launch approx. 120mT to the SLS 100mT, that would require 12 launches. That would be approx. $600 million, a little more than half the price of an SLS launch.
    I was thinking about the Delta IV Heavy at 22mT. That would require 6 launches at approx. $200 each (according to estimates made by Edger Zapata for NASA in 2008) which is $1.2 billion , about the same price for an SLS launch.
    There are other factors besides cost like flight rate. A reasonable assumption of one month between launches means one year for SpaceX to just launch the mission and 6 months for the Delta IV heavy. Accounting for unforeseen delays from LV’s in the mission plus other delays from unrelated flights could cause a mission to take up to two years just to be staged! At the very least that would mean more expensive zero boil-off tanks for the assent and decent stages of the lander. Studies would have to be done as to how much of an impact such long loiter times would have on a mission.

    Martijn;
    While it is usually more economical at higher capacities that has not proven to be the case with launch vehicles. SpaxeX does mention “modest discounts” multi-launch purchases so I discounted the above SpaceX price by about 8% and the Delta IV Heavy by 10%.

  • Robert G. Oler

    MrEarl wrote @ June 5th, 2012 at 2:26 pm
    So using existing LV’s the minimum is three launches with as many as 6 launches being needed to do the work of one SLS.>>

    there are in no particular order so many problems with that analysis…but I will just toss out three.

    First there is ZERO political support for any goal such as the one you mention…none.

    I find the talk by you, Griffin, almost anyone who talks about “we could do this with SLS” about on par with the people in my FFA group as I was growing up who were all for this or that conservation measure…all while the area behind the meeting house decayed away from erosion of the Twakoni River.

    What do you (or Mike G or anyone) think is going to happen? FINALLY in some decade not this one we get a functioning SLS and all of a sudden someone says “wow we have to go back to the Moon with it so here is a ton of money to operate it” (and somehow build a lander etc)?

    That dork Griffin was agreeing with the Russian that the Moon should be the next goal…as if the Russians are really going. It is just a bunch of people babbling on in the absence of reality.

    Second…Assuming that some political support could be found…there is far more hardware needed to get to the Moon then just SLS in some form and an Orion. NASA has not even thought about a lander after the Cx mega effort..

    Third and this is enormously important. If there was political support to do this, the money used to build SLS could start doing something NOW…and would do it with launch vehicles that are dual use…ie when one of them doesnt work; you can recrank up somewhat quickly.

    Anyway number 1 itself is a show stopper…so the rest are just tossed in…but the entire build SLS/Orion discussion is goofy RGO

  • vulture4

    “a single, simple, safe program”

    To be realistic, Soyuz has had problems with QC leading to near-fatal failures of the critical descent module-service module separation pyrobolts, failure of procedures leading o overpressurization of the capsule, and has poorly-defined orbital lifetime limitations. Cost has skyrocketed to $60M for each of only two available seats. There is essentially no downmass. Dragon provides seven seats at about $20M each with substantial downmass. The all-liquid LAS i safer than the giant rocket on top of the Orion or the Soyuz LAS, which caused a fatal accident early in the program in which one technician was killed and several injured. To say Soyuz is acceptable is reasonable. But for US human spaceflight it is clearly inferior to Dragon.

  • common sense

    @ Robert G. Oler wrote @ June 5th, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    “When the US had no real military no real foreign power…we were a great nation.”

    Probably even greater then than now, especially since “the US had no real military no real foreign power”.

    So true but how many do actually know why???

  • Martijn Meijering

    A reasonable assumption of one month between launches means one year for SpaceX to just launch the mission and 6 months for the Delta IV heavy.

    EELVs were designed for 20-40 launches a year each. Production capacity has since been consolidated, but could be expanded if necessary. Yearly launch volume is not going to be a real constraint any time soon, even with an ambitious exploration program.

    At the very least that would mean more expensive zero boil-off tanks for the assent and decent stages of the lander.

    You would have zero boil-off and an easier time overall if you used hypergolics like Apollo did. Cryogenic landers are an innovation that is best left to commercial endeavours, likely far in the future.

    While it is usually more economical at higher capacities that has not proven to be the case with launch vehicles.

    That’s because we haven’t seen such launch rates. Right now EELV costs are dominated by fixed costs. From that you can see that costs per launch would drop dramatically with higher flight rates, even without new technology.

  • Vladislaw

    Actually, the Delta IV would be a tad more expensive .. closer to 400 million, if the Air Force numbers are correct.

    So it would take 12 launches and still be 1/2 the cost of the SLS and that still is not a point in favor of going low cost? If the SLS could only afford to launch twice a year, but you could save over a billion a year to spend on more hardware, that still is not a favorable point?

    According to Griffin, he crunched the numbers and reported to congress, China could get to the moon with only four launches of a rocket equal to our Atlas V/Delta IV.

    So if not utilizing smaller rockets, it would still be cheaper to use the Falcon Heavy, even if you had to toss a couple billion at it.

    You either want to maximize funding for hardware for lunar operations or you want America to have the biggest phallic system and damn the costs.

    Choose wisely grasshopper.

  • common sense

    Intersting and sad http://spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=37323

    So 2.5 participants. Speculation?

    Safe: SpaceX and Boeing (may be redundant tech but safe nonetheless)
    Less safe: SpaceX and Sierra Nevada
    Not safe: Blue Origin and Sierra Nevada

    porky: ATK/LMT and Boeing

    Who will be the 0.5 participant?

  • common sense

    @ vulture4 wrote @ June 5th, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    “To be realistic, Soyuz has had problems with QC leading to near-fatal failures”

    True but near fatal are not fatal and therefore I will say it is a safe simple reliable system. Unlike you know… Shuttle.

    “Cost has skyrocketed to $60M for each of only two available seats.”

    Well it is a free market for everyone not just the US, is it?

    “There is essentially no downmass.”

    Sure but how often did Shuttle use its downmass capability?

    “Dragon provides seven seats at about $20M each with substantial downmass.”

    Yep.

    “The all-liquid LAS i safer than the giant rocket on top of the Orion or the Soyuz LAS, which caused a fatal accident early in the program in which one technician was killed and several injured.”

    Yep but there are issues with aerostability for a pusher that will need to be solved as well.

    “To say Soyuz is acceptable is reasonable. But for US human spaceflight it is clearly inferior to Dragon.”

    Yep but I was comparing it to Shuttle. Not Dragon.Yet Soyuz is better than acceptable even if our pride has to take a backseat. It is even safer than Apollo or Orion and possibly safer than Dragon: Soyuz is monostable on entry by design hence the near fatal that did not become fatal…

  • @Coastal Ron
    “You continue to ignore the main reason we have never returned to the Moon – money.”
    That its it in a nutshell. I just don’t get what passes for thought processes in these people. If there is something that is certain to prevent them from getting their precious shuttle-derived monstrosity, they just ignore it and pretend the problem doesn’t exist. They think SLS will be built merely because they want it badly — money be damned. They further reinforce this irrational belief by telling themselves all of the wonderful things their ultimately ethereal rocket will accomplish. They won’t even allow themselves to even consider that it is not affordable in the long run. Weird.

  • this is an exceedingly well done post.

    I suppose, if by “well done” you mean toasted (and ignorant). He doesn’t even know the difference between COTS and commercial crew.

  • MrEarl

    Ok, where to start……….
    CS….
    Shuttle vs Soyuz is most like the difference between sandpaper and toilet paper. Both are highly useful items but hardly interchangeable. ;-)
    Yes, in space, for the long foreseeable future, commercial enterprises will need NASA. Even if a market develops on the moon then NASA is needed to push the boundaries to Mars, asteroids and the moons of Saturn and Jupiter. And until other means of lifting large payloads off planet are developed, NASA will need an evolvable system like SLS.
    .p.s I think you doth protest too much about the escorts. ;-)

    Ron:
    I probably read that ULA document before you and I like it but this proposal is not without it’s own challenges. It requires a huge jump in manufacturing capacity and launch capacity from the eastern range. Your figures for SLS are not anywhere near accurate. Projected development costs are closer to $17 billion not $30 billion. The initial launch is slated for 2017, only 5 years away. The first manned flight has slipped, to the left, moving from 2021 to 2019. Your cost estimates per launch are off by almost a factor of 10. Launches are projected to be approximately $1.2 billion per.
    “What happens if the SLS developed a problem that required it being taken offline for two or more years? Your Moon program would be offline for two or more years. Tough luck, huh?”
    Since that’s how long it would realistically take to launch all the components for the ULS’s missions that’s about a wash if the SLS develops a problem. If it doesn’t, I’m way ahead of the game. :-0

    Rick:
    “ULA has proposed the super Atlas billions less than the SLS.”
    And ULA/Boeing/Lockmart are known for keeping on time and on budget. :-0
    As for SpaceX, I have a lot of respect for what they have done so far but they are 3 years late so I have my doubts about the 5 year promise and while I know they can beat the $17 billion NASA will spend to develop SLS I really have my doubts about the $2.5 billion price tag to develop and $300 million per launch.
    As for the multiple launches; this ain’t throwing like throwing Lego into orbit. There are other “costs” to spreading out deployment launches over 6 months to a year and I mentioned them in a previous post.

  • MrEarl

    “…but the entire build SLS/Orion discussion is goofy RGO”

    Sorry to wake you. You can go back to 1926 and the NACA and tell us about the start of AirMail service and how some obscure person, invention or idea saved the day.

    :-)

  • ghowardharris

    I tend to be in agreement with Kraft and his statement: “the lack of recognition that unless the U.S. continues to advance the state of the art and invest the taxpayers money in a rational and affordable Space Program”.

    I am hopeful that Mr. Musk and his small organization can get their rockets and capsules functioning, but I do not really anticipate they will move forward without any problems. Their big rockets with all those engines have lots that can go wrong. Until Musk’s rockets and capsules start flying routinely, regularly and frequently, NASA really does not have an ISS utilization program.

    Orion/SLS are a long ways away from flying, and even once they start flying, what is anyone going to do with them? Orion, on its own, is not a particularly safe vehicle for lunar flight. Its small, withou added modules or landers you cannot do much with it.

    Big problems for extended flights whether to asteriods or planets, is a rotating artificial G habitat and an active system for countering radiation. That is where the state of the art requires advancement for long duration planetary flight. This means that new systems that are not the MPCV/Orion are required. I’ve not seen any signs of work in this direction. I have not even seen any studies identifying the major areas that require attention if we are to advance the state of the art.

    I think this outlines lays out the paths forward. For commercial, the plan is to develop routine LEO capability up and down for people and cargo. I am hopeful we might see this within about 5 years. NASA’s beyond LEO plan does not exist, and with the current leadership I doubt we will see a plan. If they keep on with Orion/MPCV, with or without SLS, then we ought to see a high earth orbit or even a circumlunar flight in about 10 years. So what ? Its a dead end. It doesn’t get you to an asteroid or to Mars. Its not extending the state of the art.

    I’m with Kraft. We need a plan that makes sense. Then we need to develop the hardware that gets us there. So far we are not even working on it.

  • Robert Oler's IPAD

    Rand you can persist in believing in your own fantasy but the various industrial complexes that are sapping the life’s blood out of our government are mostly supported by the GOP and their performance on commercial cargo and crew has been pathetic

    THEY SHOULD BE LEADING THE EFFORT. RGO

  • common sense

    @ MrEarl wrote @ June 5th, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    “Shuttle vs Soyuz is most like the difference between sandpaper and toilet paper. Both are highly useful items but hardly interchangeable. ”

    Don’t have a problem with sandpaper, do you?

    “Yes, in space, for the long foreseeable future, commercial enterprises will need NASA. Even if a market develops on the moon then NASA is needed to push the boundaries to Mars, asteroids and the moons of Saturn and Jupiter. And until other means of lifting large payloads off planet are developed, NASA will need an evolvable system like SLS.”

    You mixing up stuff. If there is a market and NASA still tries to go with the grandson of SLS/MPCV since this one will be canceled eventually, they will fall into oblivion. I know because I use sandpaper to polish my crystal ball. Ever tried with toilet paper? Works but it takes longer.

    “I think you doth protest too much about the escorts. ”

    The only escort I ever got next to me was a Ford and it wasn’t that great. One might argue it’d be the only one I could afford but it’s a different story. Should have been a lawyer… Rockets are being designed by lawyers anyway these days. And sadly you like them. I prefer rockets designed with a purpose such a making cash, space exploitation. Oh here I go again, ranting. Oh well…

  • Vladislaw

    “while I know they can beat the $17 billion NASA will spend to develop SLS I really have my doubts about the $2.5 billion price tag to develop”

    ya ,, but just think .. if they came in at 500% above what they said they could do it for… It would still be cheaper than the So Long Sucker launcher.

  • Task Master

    I am hopeful that Mr. Musk and his small organization can get their rockets and capsules functioning

    I’m pretty sure all segments of their recent flight are available on youtube.

    That should be sufficient for most people.

  • @MrEarl
    “And ULA/Boeing/Lockmart are known for keeping on time and on budget. :-0
    As for SpaceX, I have a lot of respect for what they have done so far but they are 3 years late so I have my doubts about the 5 year promise and while I know they can beat the $17 billion NASA will spend to develop SLS I really have my doubts about the $2.5 billion price tag to develop and $300 million per launch.
    As for the multiple launches; this ain’t throwing like throwing Lego into orbit. There are other “costs” to spreading out deployment launches over 6 months to a year and I mentioned them in a previous post.

    You just give one baseless rationalization after another.

    People said they didn’t believe SpaceX could develop Falcon 9/Dragon for less than a billiion, but an Air Force and NASA study proved it was hundreds of millions less than that.

    Yes, there are “costs” to spreading out deployment launches over 6 months to a year, but even with those added, we would still come out ahead.

    At least you are honest enough with us (and yourself) to admit that ULA and SpaceX can beat your stated cost estimate for SLS. $17 billion may be what’s budgeted, but it’s obviously unrealistic for SLS to actually be completed given the cost-plus contracting and the lack of competion.

    At least, unlike Marcel, you have enough sense to realize that just because I am anti-SLS that it doesn’t mean I think only Elon Musk can make rockets. But that’s about your only plus.

  • common sense

    @ Rick Boozer wrote @ June 5th, 2012 at 8:00 pm

    “At least, unlike Marcel, you have enough sense”

    And considering the sensational stupidity displayed by others this makes a big plus for MrEarl.

    I think MrEarl is slowly coming to the realization, albeit kicking and screaming, that SLS/MPCV may just be the possible famous spade through the heart of NASA.

    He is still dreaming though that Congress is supportive of it when Congress is only supportive of the jobs and of the voters. Design of SLS/MPCV was based only on those jobs and voters and that’s it.

    One more word: Sequestration.

  • Mr Earl

    Actually Ron, Rick and CS, unlike most in this debate I believe that both government and commercial play a necessary part in this. Neither can move forward without the other.
    Government can not and should not be the exclusive provider of what should be by now routine access to LEO. Government’s role is trail blazer/explorer. Taking the risks that the private sector can’t. Expanding our knowledge in the the process and making way for the commercial sector to take advantage of that.
    The real evolution to my thinking over the last few years was my belief that the US should go it alone to a more partnership based plan similar to the ISS.
    One thing I noticed is that most only know, or think they know, their side of the issue and have no idea of what is really happening on the other sides. I really do try to gather as much information as I can on all aspects of what is happening in NASA, SpaceX, SN, Boeing, and the other entities working on space utilization.
    I also can’t believe all the misconceptions about SLS. It’s designed to be an evolvable launch system. Right now NASA is looking to develop the SLS to the 100mT Block 1B stage. That’s what it needs to build and support an EML2 Gateway and carry out missions to the lunar surface. To get it there is estimated to cost $17billion and it will be ready in 2019. Next step is to evolve to 130 to 150mT for another $15 billion, stretch the core, new boosters, new second stage using the J-2X, but that won’t happen til it’s needed, most likely for missions to Mars.
    Now lets take a look at the Falcon 9 Heavy. That’s really a Falcon 9 stretched to it’s limits. 50 mT to low Earth orbit. Three stretched cores, 27 engines is the maximum you can reasonably control. Anything over that would require new tanks, new more powerful engines, basically a new design completely. So when I hear statement’s like SpacX can design and build a 150mt super heavy in 5 years for $2 billion I’m a little skeptical because I know they have to start with a clean sheet for everything.
    Super Atlas, sounds great but this is the first I heard of it. How much can a super Atlas lift and how is it going to do it? If it’s three stretched cores we’re back to a design that has reached it limits.

  • Mr Earl

    .p.s, Sequestration; won’t happen because Congress will either ignore it or find or create some fancy loophole big enough to dive the ISS through.

  • reader

    —the SpaceX mission is part of the COTS program, which NASA started in 2005 during the George W. Bush Administration—

    Once again. COTS got formally announced under Griffin in 2005, but from what i gather it was VSE and O’Keefe and especially Steidle that actually put things in motion. Can someone set the record straight ?

  • reader

    tom hancock wrote @ June 5th, 2012 at 8:49 am
    The success of this mission only proves Griffin was right when he started COTS

    AFAIK, he didn’t.

  • DCSCA

    Mr Earl wrote @ June 5th, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    “Actually Ron, Rick and CS, unlike most in this debate I believe that both government and commercial play a necessary part in this. Neither can move forward without the other.”

    A dilemma Clarke saw as a problematic. He was correct.

    “Government can not and should not be the exclusive provider of what should be by now routine access to LEO.”

    Clarke was a proponent of leaving LEO exploitation to privae industry and let government forge on ahead w/BEO exploration ops.

    “Government’s role is trail blazer/explorer. Taking the risks that the private sector can’t. Expanding our knowledge in the the process and making way for the commercial sector to take advantage of that.”

    Yep— but on their own dime, not subsidized w/t crutch of tax dollars, and that’s the problem.

    “I also can’t believe all the misconceptions about SLS. It’s designed to be an evolvable launch system.”

    Yep. But the purveyors of the Magnified Importance of Diminished Vision only see that they got their Atlas/Agena off- albeit late. Welcome to 1966.

  • @MrEarl
    “Actually Ron, Rick and CS, unlike most in this debate I believe that both government and commercial play a necessary part in this.”
    I (and I think Ron and CS as well) also believe that both government and commercial play a necessary part. It has been explained to you over and over again that the idea is for NASA to be designing and developing the cutting edge technologies we need, not wasting it’s talent and resources on an Apolloesque anachronistic heavy lifter. And NO I’m not going to state what those alternate technologies are for the umpteenth time.
    Some on this blog do want to kill NASA. Quit trying to make the false argument that most of us on this blog want to kill NASA. What you say about MOST in this debate is NOT true. Think before you post. Otherwise, you just make yourself sound stupid.

    “Super Atlas, sounds great but this is the first I heard of it. How much can a super Atlas lift and how is it going to do it? If it’s three stretched cores we’re back to a design that has reached it limits.”
    It has been mentioned here numerous times by people other than I.
    http://www.ulalaunch.com/site/docs/publications/EELVPhase2_2010.pdf
    Note it says, “Lockheed Martin created a vision for performance evolution of the Atlas V family focused on NASA growth missions, with performance options ranging up to 140t.”

    “I also can’t believe all the misconceptions about SLS.”
    It is not a misconception that it can’t be built for $17 billion. That’s the long and the short it.
    Please MrEarl, stop the dumb rationalization. Quit asking the same inane questions over and over again, pretending that you haven’t heard the answers many times before. I think it’s a shame that your misplaced loyalty to an old way of doing things is causing you to take a position with a group of people who are doing damage your country’s future in the important area of human spaceflight.

  • Fred Willett

    tom hancock wrote @ June 5th, 2012 at 8:49 am
    The success of this mission only proves Griffin was right when he started COTS
    I still recon that Griffin set up COTS to fail.
    It was under funded. DOD had just allocated $1B to build the EELVs and both went well over their allocated $500M. One cost closer to $3B from all accounts. So just half the amount ($500M) for COTS to build two new LVs AND two new space craft was clearly massively under funded.
    As well NASA chose two untried companies. SpaceX had launched just once and their Falcon 1 had blown up meters off the launch pad. As well their larger rocket design involved multiple engines (9) something that had never been done, and many considered impossible. (witness the N1) The Kistler rocket was equally chancy and their financing equally risky.
    Eventually Kistler failed.
    It was only when Contellation failed leaving COTS as the only game in town that NASA pumped more money into COTS in the form of $300M “risk reduction” funding ensuring COTS success.
    By the time a replacement was being sought for Kistler it was obvious that Constellation was going and that the success of COTS was necessary so this time an experienced company, Orbital, was chosen as Kistlers replacement.
    Orbital had a proven bus to build their cargo carrier around. Proven engines for the Antares (Taurus 2). Proven docking software. Proven subcontractors for body work. Proven upper stage engines from ATK. Unlike SpaceX and Kistler the choice of Orbital was definately low risk.
    So COTS succeeded in spite of NASA.
    This is not to denigrate the work of NASA’s COTS engineers who worked their little tail feathers off to shepherd SpaceX and Orbital through the development process. The success of SpaceX and hopefully Orbital is in no little measure due to their efforts. They must have known when the project started that they were pushing manure up hill, but they did it anyway.
    And they won.

  • Fred Willett

    To generalise from the points above.
    I believe we are seeing the end of a monopoly.
    NASA has acted as the gate keeper to space, rewarding those who accept it’s vision and it’s way of doing things and ignoring and sometimes actively punishing those who get in it’s way.
    Witness the MIR debacle, Ball and others.
    But the failure of Constellation has left the door open to smaller entrepreneurial companies to move into what has formerly been NASA’s territory.
    NASA says it is time to hand over LEO to commercial companies now because that has become routine.
    Bull.
    If NASA had any sort of LV and spacecraft they would never has handed over anything.
    The fact is they have nothing in the way of hardware and won’t have for years. And when they eventually do (if ever) actually have an Orion and an SLS to fly they are, by their own admission, going to find them so expensive they are unsustainable.
    NASA left the door ajar.
    Commercial has kicked it open and is now storming through.
    Expect the future. Coming soon to an orbit near you.

  • MrEarl

    Wow Rick.
    You yelling the same uninformed swill over and over everythime your view is questioned is really getting old.
    This is an outline of the plan that NASA is working with right now.
    http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/604643main_2-Panel%202_Donahue_Final.pdf

    Like it or not, for what ever reason, Congress will not fund your plan. Get over it. It will fund SLS and MPCV. The plan outlined above makes the best use of the funds NASA has been given.

  • Coastal Ron

    MrEarl wrote @ June 6th, 2012 at 9:55 am

    This is an outline of the plan that NASA is working with right now.

    That is a Boeing proposal, not a NASA plan. There is a difference.

    It will fund SLS and MPCV.

    And Congress did fund Constellation too…

    No one has been able to identify how Congress is going to be able to squeeze the $10B/mission funding needed to use the SLS into NASA’s constant-sized budget, so there will come a time when an epiphany will happen. That is likely to be next year, so enjoy your dreams of an unaffordable rocket while you can.

  • Wow Earl. Me putting a few bolded phrases and three capitalized words for emphasis in a whole much larger comment does not constitute yelling. Entire sentences in all capitals is flame yelling.

    And I see nothing in the link you posted that contradicts anything I said. They just included SLS because that is what is currently being funded. As I and others have related to you, even if a super heavy lift were required, it doesn’t have to be SLS. Other studies that are an honest comparison of using super HLVs to existing launchers say it is not required. The link you posted just blythely assumes (and you know what they say when you “assume” :) )that the need for super HLVs is a given; thus, it is not a comparison of the two methods as are the studies to which I refer and tells us nothing about the relative effectiveness of one versus the other. Please stop the bloviating.

  • P.S. I would rather see no plan than one that includes SLS: a launcher that has zero probability of seeing actual implementation because its development costs can’t stay in budget and would not be operationally affordable at reasonable launch rates even if it were. After all, the end effect is the same, except for one thing – in the case of SLS we not only get nothing in the end, but the taxpayer gets screwed out of billions.

  • MrEarl

    Ron,
    That is the proposal being worked right now at NASA. Plans are to release it in November after the election.
    Congress has consistantly shown support for a Shuttle drived vehical for the past 8 years, Constellation and SLS.

    As I told you and Rick before, your mission costs are off by a factor of almost 10.
    Current costs for the SLS are $1.2billion per launch.
    It’s a sign of a weak argument when you have to misrepresent the other side.

  • Coastal Ron

    Mr Earl wrote @ June 5th, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    Actually Ron, Rick and CS, unlike most in this debate I believe that both government and commercial play a necessary part in this. Neither can move forward without the other.

    Rick was right on this, and you are late to the party. Glad you’re here now, but we’ve always been here.

    I also can’t believe all the misconceptions about SLS… 100mT Block 1B stage. That’s what it needs to build and support an EML2 Gateway and carry out missions to the lunar surface.

    You mean according to the Boeing proposal. That’s just a proposal to use the SLS, so of course they size the mission elements to utilize the SLS.

    Remember that Boeing joint venture ULA proposed a end-to-end reusable transportation plan that goes all the way down to the lunar surface and uses the world’s existing rockets. Affordable alternatives exist.

    So when I hear statement’s like SpacX can design and build a 150mt super heavy in 5 years for $2 billion I’m a little skeptical because I know they have to start with a clean sheet for everything.

    I’m worried about your memory MrEarl. SpaceX outlined their growth path for Falcon two years ago, where they showed that they would build a Merlin 2 engine to replace the Merlin 1 cluster, and that they would build a larger diameter body for a larger vehicle. Falcon XX tops out at 140mt to LEO, and at $2B would obviate the need for NASA to waste $15-28B.

    But keep in mind that even Falcon Heavy is bigger than anyone presently needs for getting lots of mass to orbit. Intelsat bought one likely because it’s the least expensive way to get their satellite to GTO, not be cause they are building bigger satellites.

    No one needs anything bigger than 50,000 lbs to LEO. We can do all of our lunar and Mars exploration using that size of payload, and it will be cheaper to build and maintain since it will be modular. We already know how to build 450,000 kg (990,000 lb) structures in space, so why regress back to Single Point of Failure (SPOF) type missions? That would be pretty stupid.

  • Like it or not, for what ever reason, Congress will not fund your plan.

    This Congress won’t. The next one may, particularly if Dana becomes chairman of the full committee.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “This is an outline of the plan that NASA is working with right now.”

    It’s not a NASA plan. It’s not even a plan. It’s a conference pitch by one person at Boeing Phantom Works who ran some numbers on a new 3rd stage, an EML gateway, and reusable lunar lander — none of which NASA could fund even if a human lunar landing was a NASA priority for the Obama Administration (or the Romney campaign) and even if NASA adopted this particular Boeing pitch as the basis for a lunar plan. As long as Congress insists on blowing $41 billion through 2025 on a 70-ton SLS, there’s no money in NASA’s budget to build the Boeing Phatom Works lander or elements you desire.

    http://www.spacepolicyonline.com/news/the-nasa-numbers-behind-that-wsj-article

    SpaceX is scheduled to launch a 53-ton Falcon Heavy next year at no cost to the taxpayer. They claim they can build a 150-ton Falcon Super Heavy in five years at a firm, fixed-price of $2.5 billion.

    http://www.nss.org/articles/falconheavy.html

    ULA priced out their Phase 2 EELV development, which would result in a 75-ton HLV, at $2.3 billion in 2004 dollars.

    http://www.ulalaunch.com/site/docs/publications/EELVPhase2_2010.pdf

    If you like the Boeing pitch, the only way it’s going to happen is to cancel the mostly sole-sourced SLS, compete HLV needs between SpaceX, ULA, and anyone else who shows up, and spend the resulting budget and workforce savings the new exploration elements from the Boeing Phantom Works pitch instead of SLS.

    Hell, you could buy both the Falcon Super Heavy and the EELV Phase 2 for $5 billion, leaving you with more than $35 billion out of the $41 billion SLS budget for the elements in your Boeing Phantom Works presentation. Even if both the Falcon Super Heavy and EELV Phase 2 doubled in cost (100% cost growth), you’d still have $30 billion left for the elements in your Boeing Phantom Works presentation. And two heavy lift vehicles.

    If you want to build actual exploration hardware like the elements in the Boeing Phantom Works presentation, SLS’s costs are dumb, dumb, dumb.

  • common sense

    @ MrEarl wrote @ June 6th, 2012 at 10:56 am

    “Current costs for the SLS are $1.2billion per launch.”

    Which means that every time we launch SLS, if the number holds true, you could finance a SpaceX like company which means about 10 years up to 2000 people (to date), 2 orbital rockets and 1 capsule. Every launch…

    And that is okay with you? Come on I can’t believe this.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Current costs for the SLS are $1.2billion per launch.”

    That the unamortized cost, and it’s only for the 70-ton version ($1.3 billion per launch), not the 130-ton version ($2.5 billion per launch).

    http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1979/1

    Moreover, the SLS per launch costs are still nuttily expensive compared to the alternative. Falcon Heavy, for example, is coming in a $300 million unamortized. Even if that figure doubled to $600M, it would still be less than half as expensive as the least expensive SLS figure of $1.3 billion.

    Crazy, crazy, crazy…

  • @Mr Earl
    “It’s a sign of a weak argument when you have to misrepresent the other side.”
    There is an old saying about a pot, a kettle and a dense dark layer of carbon. In other words, hypocrisy on your part. The weak arguments and misrepresentation are yours. And if you don’t realize it based on a preponderance of existing objective evidence from third parties comparing the two rival methods, then that is very scary.

  • @common sense
    “And that is okay with you? Come on I can’t believe this.”
    You can’t change someone’s religion, even with logical arguments and soundly substantiated evidence. For decades I myself was absolutely convinced a NASA developed super HLV was a requirement and was sure that was the case. But as much as I believed it at the time, the concept was never sacred to me. The difference is suspension of belief long enough to do critical thinking and not filtering it by what you want to see.

  • common sense

    @ Rick Boozer wrote @ June 6th, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    I think we need to be more patient. I know it is long coming but still. Just like you, others thought and some are still thinking in terms of NASA mega projects. But this era ended a while ago. Heck I worked on CEV and thought it was the ultimate approach. Might have been under O’Keefe (even thoug I did not quite understand it then) but it soon changed. And I was part of this. So you need to give people time to realize it is no longer workable. AND worse they have to deal with our laughable Congress. Who do you trust????

    You are trained as a scientist so by education you have to work out things that others cannot. Critical thinking is lacking in our country but MUST be of any scientist. And I mean scientist, not engineer. Not the same job. I have been both I know.

    I still think that MrEarl will come, possibly late, to the side of reality. Unlike some.

  • DCSCA

    Slightly off topic, but noteworthy–

    Ray Bradbury has died.

    RIP, Ray. Ad Astra.

  • For once I agree with you, DCSCA.

  • pathfinder_01

    “Well Rick let’s take a look at operations once the Gateway is complete. For a 6 month expedition to the moon you’re going to need a few things:”

    “Fuel for the assent stage of the lander. As envisioned now the descent stage will also be brought up for each mission plus that will have to be fueled. “
    Depends on the size of your lander. Apollo massed 14MT.

    This proposal: http://history.nasa.gov/DPT/Architectures/Moon%20-%20L1-Moon%20Lander%20Design%20JSC%20DPT%20Nov%2001.pdf masses about 30MT, is launched on Delta Heavy and uses SEP to get to the moon.

    “Next we’ll need the supplies for 4 people for 6 months and finally get a crew of 4 out to the gateway. As envisioned now that will require one SLS launch.”

    Well if you are willing to allow your people to get some fresh(or fresher foods, some unexpected replacement equipement, and new experiments) then both Cygnus and Dragon can hold enough to supply a crew of 3 for more than 3 months and are volume limited not mass limited. A version of each could be launched on FH and Delta Heavy. Or develop an SEP tug and perhaps save costs.

    http://futureinspaceoperations.com/papers/HumanOps_Beyond_LEO_11_2010.pdf

    “Most likely it would require 3 launches, one for fueled decent stage and accent fuel, one for supplies and the third for the crew.”

    The depot requires no launches for supplies. FH and Delta could do the job directly.

    Getting a crew out to l1/l2 does not need a depot either. Just an upper stage with enough kick(about 25mt) and a capsule that isn’t too heavy(Orion or Dragon). You could even use the ISS or other space station as a staging point. This might take up to 3 launches, but only one is critical. Meaning you could launch Orion unamanned months before the mission on Atlas . Launch crew on a ccdev craft to the ISS(sharing the cost of this launch with an ISS crew rotation) on a ccrew launch. Launch the upper stage with Delta Heavy or Falcon Heavy. A window to l1/l2 opens every ten days from the ISS.

    The lander is the part that either needs a depot\propellant transfer or SEP.

  • Fred

    It was pretty obvious what they were up to. They repeatedly said they were upset what “this administration” was doing. I have zero doubt they are die hard republicans and that was what a lot of it was about. No doubt betting on failure as well since they waited till the successful Dragon mission and the second airing to say that it was all 60minutes fault

  • Paul

    Kraft comes out swinging against SLS (and Mars before Moon):

    http://www.voanews.com/content/space-program-us-mars/1211331.html

    But many veterans of NASA’s glory years, such as former Johnson Space Center Director Chris Kraft, are critics of the agency’s plan to send astronauts to Mars.

    “That objective is ludicrous. It cannot be done. It cannot be done technically and, more importantly, it cannot be done financially,” Kraft said.

    Kraft says the new Space Launch System proposed by NASA at a cost of around $5 billion is too expensive and that it would be better to utilize existing rocket systems for exploration beyond earth’s orbit. He also says an ambitious goal like sending humans to Mars requires a detailed plan with intermediate, preliminary steps, like establishing bases on the moon.

    “We know how to go back to the moon; it is a reasonable program; it is a feasible program; it can be done with today’s capabilities.”

  • niksus

    SLS indeed is a enourmous waste of money, and there is just no way to go on Mars and return back with a chemical rocket with mass less than 200t. So instead of wasting resources and time on big dumb LH+LOX rocket, it will be much more wisdom in creating high trust electric/nuclear rocket engine for space propulsion and using Bigelow BA-2100 space module with water radiation shield. In that way they can do Mars/asteroid missions even with 100t vehicle with in situ CO2-CH4 utilization on Mars.

    On the other hand – where is the enourmous reduction in lauch cost per kg/pound that SpaceX proposed some time ago. 5000$/kg at Falcon9, 2000$ on F Heavy is not enough for common people to fly to orbit in foreseable future. 20M$/seat – can you afford it? How many millionaires they need to have a descent customer base for 1 private space station? And technology – what’s new in that field – same open cycle turbomachinery, same LOX-RP1 fuel, same Souz/Jemini like capsule, same Cape Canaveral high cost infrastructure. That’s just commercial optimization of old 60x technique. Some people thinks with reusability they can change cost. Maybe it will bring down cost twice.
    But if someone manages to create Merlin-1C class engine for 100000$, that means without turbopumps, regen cooling(ablative), high salary personnel and land infrastracture – or call it really innovative – there will be no need for reusability at all. With 1-3M$ per 10t payload rocket you can throw it away everytime, and that’s big dumb booster concept. If local wielder company can produce it from thin steel, using LOX+LNG as fuel and fully robotic assembly/launch of cheap payload twice a day, launch company of 20 personnel can do the same without vertical integration of SpaceX on the Africa’s east coast. It’s easier to have 3 companies in partnership – rocket engine manufacturer, simple booster assembler, and launch/range provider (possibly integration of payload goes to payload user). Musk’s Mars ambitions and low cost space access don’t match perfectly. Do rocketry primitive, labor low/cheap, basic machinery and as stupid as possible. And payload can be manufactured the same way.

  • Coastal Ron

    niksus wrote @ June 25th, 2012 at 9:53 am

    5000$/kg at Falcon9, 2000$ on F Heavy is not enough for common people to fly to orbit in foreseable future.

    This is a false way at looking at travel to space – most “common people” don’t fly around the country in corporate jets, yet there is a large and thriving market for corporate jets. And “common people” wouldn’t have anything to do in space, so why would they go? Space is a place of work, and will be for the foreseeable future, which means the entities paying for the tickets will be countries and companies.

    To encourage more traffic to space the key is to be constantly lowering costs, because as you do that you gain additional use, and additional use encourages innovation and lower cost. It’s a virtuous cycle, although there are limits to how low travel to LEO can go based on the amount of energy it takes to get there and the complexity of the systems and vehicles.

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