Congress, NASA

Wolf announces deal with NASA on commercial crew awards

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), chairman of the Commerce, Justice, and Science subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, has been critical of NASA’s commercial crew program, expressing his concerns about the program during hearings about the administration’s fiscal year 2013 budget proposal. In his role as subcommittee chairman, he incorporated language into the report accompanying the House version of his spending bill that would require NASA to use FAR-based contracts for future awards, rather than the Space Act Agreements (SAAs) NASA was planning to use for the next phase, called Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap), and also require NASA to select either a single company in that next phase or two companies in a “leader-follower” relationship where one company got the bulk of the funding. That language was criticized by both industry and the Obama Administration as being too limiting.

However, Wolf is now backing away from those provisions, announcing on Tuesday an agreement with NASA on the future administration of the commercial crew program. Wolf said NASA agreed to make no more than “2.5″ awards under CCiCap (two “full” awards and one “partial” one), which can be done as SAAs. NASA agreed to vet the companies’ “financial health and viability” before making the CCiCap awards, and to ensure it has a “first right of refusal” for property developed under those awards. Future phases of the commercial crew program would be done as FAR-based contracts and not SAAs. Funding for the program would be “at or near” the $525 million in the current Senate version of the appropriations bill, up from the $500 million in the House bill.

Wolf said he reached this understanding with NASA administrator Charles Bolden “to prevent any disruption in the development of crew vehicles to return U.S. astronauts to ISS as quickly as possible”. However, this deal is clearly a win for NASA: it seemed unlikely NASA would make more than three CCiCap awards regardless of report language given the available funding, and it had already planned to transition from SAAs to FAR-based contracts in future phases of the program. The additional funding is also helpful, but as Bolden notes in a letter to Wolf on Monday confirming their understanding, funding for the program should be “as robust as possible” and closer to the administration’s request of nearly $830 million for FY13.

Bolden added a handwritten note to the end of his letter to Wolf: “Thanks for your willingness to take a risk in trusting our team. We have to maintain open lines of communication to move the nation forward. Your staff has been superb!” Those lines will likely remain open: Wolf says in his statement he will “continue to follow up with NASA to monitor the implementation of these understandings” for the remainder of this fiscal year and beyond.

64 comments to Wolf announces deal with NASA on commercial crew awards

  • Dark Blue Nine

    A lot of sound and fury (and waste of taxpayer dollars on Wolf’s and his staff’s salaries) signifying nothing. Wolf’s language never had the force of law to begin with, and despite all the chest-beating from Wolf in recent months, we’re back to the same downselect plan NASA had all along, even in report language.

    Although little more than worthless polistical philosophy, conservatives should take Wolf to task for the strong anti-U.S. industry stance — “not the creation of a commercial crew industry” — in his announcement. So much for our belief in market forces and private sector capabilities.

  • Robert Oler's IPAD

    GO commercial space the end of cost plus is coming

    Watching the transit of Venus from the aoler observatory on 4th street. RGO

  • LOL

    If ISS is so important then why does commercial crew get less funding than Orion?

  • Coastal Ron

    Chalk up a win for NASA, and you can attribute it to the success NASA and SpaceX had with the now completed COTS mission to the ISS.

    Since NASA is likely agreeing to do everything that they would have done anyways, this is just a graceful way for Wolf to say that “he’s making sure” that these are the conditions.

    And the extra $25M without quibbling is just another sign that he’s done with this issue and wants to move on to something else… whatever that may be, NASA or otherwise.

    Good job Bolden, and good job SpaceX.

  • For Jeff …

    Isn’t all this on paper for now? It really doesn’t matter until the FY13 budget becomes law. That might not be until after the November election, and perhaps not until the new Congress is seated.

    NASA has intended all along to select the CCiCap winners this August, under the FY12 budget. So it seems to me that what’s in the FY13 budget language shouldn’t matter.

    Another consideration … If the Republicans lose the House majority in the November election, then Wolf won’t be chair any more and this “agreement” will be irrelevant.

    So it seems to me this is just a short-term means for Charlie to get more than $500 million once the FY13 budget gets to conference committee, if ever.

    Jeff, am I missing something?

  • well

    Still trying to short the commercial crew development budget. Why? Oh, we all know why.

  • common sense

    “If ISS is so important then why does commercial crew get less funding than Orion?”

    Simply? Because Orion employs more people. Heard this on NPR today “employment is currency for the politicians”. Or something like this. But then to understand you have to grow up and all these sort of things. And of course you have to switch from Fox News to NPR. Not sure what is more difficult. Growing up or listening to news with content? Dunno. You tell us.

  • SpaceColonizer

    2.5 awards

    So the half is going to be ULA to man rate the Atlas V and the other two are SpaceX and “_____”? That’s my guess anyways. Probably going to be Boeing.

  • Robert G. Oler

    SpaceColonizer wrote @ June 5th, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    if the choice were mine..

    the two full would be SpaceX and Dream Chaser…and the 1/2 would be Boeings capsule.

    reason?

    SpaceX is near term and has almost no technical risk. They have demonstrated that they are competent in the field; there is a certainty there…and the craft has enormous growth potential.

    Dream Chaser…well they are more speculative but a useful alternative and takes a different design track.

    Boeing would be the 1/2. If Dream Chaser falters they could easily have the contract swapped and the boeing craft really is of limited utility.

    RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Stephen you are right on RGO

  • Vladislaw

    I was thinking Boeing, SpaceX and the half going to Dream Chaser, with the military paying to take it the rest the way.

  • common sense

    Here is a scenario I already formulated in the past. Congress goes for the kill on commercial crew and award 1 to Boeing, 1 to LMT/ATK and .5 to Sierra Nevada since in their superb wisdom it can happen.

    The consequence is actually more fun.

    Boeing needs an EELV to launch and even though ULA can make it, since they don’t have the cash, Boeing launches with Falcon 9.

    ATK/LMT eventually launch a suborbital capsule directly competing with Blue, VG, XCOR, etc. They use Liberty-X if you see what I mean. And of course at $2B a pop even in 2030 dollars it is still expensive and useless.

    Sierra Nevada finishes DreamChaser and unfortunately there is no launcher available until Falcon Heavy.

    And of course SpaceX sends a Dragon v2.0 around the Moon with a crew on their own money that they made through all the contracts they are getting.

    Well then what happens to NASA HSF? More PowerPoints you say? Oh well…

  • Ferris Valyn

    SpaceColonizer – CCiCap doesn’t allow for individual pieces to be funded. Your proposal has to be all inclusive. The awards are issued to a spacecraft & a rocket together (Dragon and Falcon 9, CST-100 and Atlas V). That is why Liberty HAD to have a spacecraft to go with their rocket. Without it, they couldn’t win any money. So Atlas V will only be human-rated because its on one of the winning teams

    Stephen – this absolutely mattered. The report language was very harsh. In fact, a strict reading of it would’ve meant that the current CCiCap plans would’ve needed to be scrapped. Having to reset CCiCap would’ve been very dangerous. And even allowing that it didn’t require that, the amount and specificity of the language could’ve really spelled the death knell of commercial space. Ignoring report language that was as specific as this was is potentially very risky.

    And your points are predicated on the assumption that a spending law doesn’t happen before the CCiCap award, or even before the end of this Congress. Once upon a time I would’ve thought that was a save assumption.

    But then, I also thought that the 2010 NASA authorization law was never going to pass the Senate.

  • Coastal Ron

    Vladislaw wrote @ June 5th, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    I was thinking Boeing, SpaceX and the half going to Dream Chaser, with the military paying to take it the rest the way.

    I agree with those three. There could be a chance that NASA decides to award the .5 to SpaceX, since they are much further along and wouldn’t need as much funding. Then NASA can say they are fully funding CST-100 and Dream Chaser.

    To make that work, I think SpaceX would have needed to make a proposal that indicated they didn’t need as much funding as Boeing or SNC. Then NASA can just “interpret” the meaning of “2.5″ in their favor.

    Just wanted to put that out there as a possibility.

  • BeanCounterfromDownunder

    Is the next award FAR or SAA? Thought they had to go SAA due to reduced funding but anyone confirm?

  • BeanCounterfromDownunder

    Sorry found it is a SAA contract. I wonder if there will be enough money going forward after this round to revert to FAR as Wolf seems to want to?

  • BeanCounterfromDownunder

    In terms of maturity of flight systems, SpaceX is in the lead, with Boeing 2nd and then DreamChaser maybe since hard to know where BO is at.
    Based on that, I’d punt SpaceX, Boeing and DreamChaser simply because it’s a lifting body vehicle (not true wing).
    I wonder if at the end of this phase, whether SpaceX will be in the position to do an FAA crew development as opposed to meeting NASA requirements?

  • DCSCA

    And what will a Romney Administration do with space…. as the Walker win; a stalled economy; high unemployment figures, the looming unconstitutionality of healthcare; tone deaf campaigning against Bain; SJP raffled dinners w/a an inarticulate Obama, saved by a crisply articulate clinton, no less. The chances for a Romney victory in five months are increasingly possible.

  • GClark

    This part is the killer (IMNSHO):

    “NASA agreed to vet the companies’ “financial health and viability” before making the CCiCap awards, and to ensure it has a “first right of refusal” for property developed under those awards.”

    I can see SpaceX and BO walking away because of the IP restrictions.

  • Larson

    Since everyone else is giving their award predictions, I might as well chime in.

    If the traditional special interests throw their weight around and manage to influence the outcome (especially with the “financial health and viability” aspect), then I wouldn’t be surprised to see ATK and Boeing chosen, with the 0.5 to Sierra Nevada.

    On the other hand, if it goes the “newspace” way, SpaceX and Sierra Nevada could win, with perhaps Boeing as the 0.5

    And on the gripping hand, the result will likely be a mixture of these. Something like Boeing and Sierra Nevada, with SpaceX as the 0.5. (Boeing satisfies congress and the traditional aerospace boosters, Sierra Nevada gets NASA a nice lifting body non-capsule vehicle, and SpaceX gets the smaller award, since they are likely the closest to fly humans and won’t need as much funding. SpaceX also helps give redundant access, since Boeing and Sierra Nevada use Atlas V.)

    I didn’t pick Blue Origin for any of these because it is so hard to tell how far along they really are (and therefore how realistic a choice they would be).

    Another interesting idea would be awards to SpaceX, Sierra Nevada, and ATK. The biggest reason to do this would be that NASA maximizes the number of “man rated” launch vehicles (Falcon 9, Atlas V, and Liberty). This would pretty well guarantee NASA human access to space since with Russia, you’d have 4 (completely unrelated) ways of getting to ISS and LEO.

  • Vladislaw

    Astronauts want a stick, so I believe NASA would not give up on dream chaser, in maybe the hope of getting the funding to buy a lower cost commercial system, turn key, or a lease arrangement later down the line.

  • But of course we must all remember that little thing called sequestration coming up on Jan 1.

  • Coastal Ron

    Larson wrote @ June 5th, 2012 at 11:06 pm

    And on the gripping hand…

    Ah, what an Engineer and a couple of Watchmakers could do at NASA, huh?

    Something like Boeing and Sierra Nevada, with SpaceX as the 0.5. (Boeing satisfies congress and the traditional aerospace boosters…

    CCiCap is not a mega-government contract where competing teams go out and “spread the wealth” across as many states as possible. Contractors do that to dot the “i” and cross the “t” in case it makes a difference. CCiCap is too small for that level of influence.

    So far NASA has been awarding CCDev on technical merits, and I think they will with CCiCap too. I think the big question is how much everyone will be requesting in their bids, as NASA has a very tight budget, and that will play into whether it’s two or 2.5 winners.

    Bolden may already know which way they are leaning, since the bids were submitted back in March (IIRC), hence the “no more than 2.5 awards” vow.

    Regarding ATK’s Liberty, I would say that it falls under the heading of “questionable financial health and viability” since there are no other customers for either it’s rocket or the capsule. And unlike Falcon 9 and Atlas V, the Liberty rocket is unproven both technically and operationally. I’d be surprised if ATK is one of the winners.

    Cargo now. Crew next.

  • Googaw

    Astronauts want a stick

    And singers want a microphone. Taxpayers, cough it up for microphones now!

  • Fred Willett

    GClark wrote @ June 5th, 2012 at 10:55 pm
    “NASA agreed to vet the companies’ “financial health and viability” before making the CCiCap awards, and to ensure it has a “first right of refusal” for property developed under those awards.”
    I can see SpaceX and BO walking away because of the IP restrictions.

    This was part of the CCDev (and COTS) SAA’s and just means that if the SAA company goes broke then NASA gets first dibs on taking the intellectual property rights.
    None of the companies has objected to these provisions because they don’t plan on going broke.

  • vulture4

    Congressman Wolf continues to plague NASA, and OSTP as well. His motivations are unclear. The SAAs have proven vastly superior to FARs. If there is any motivation to change to FARs, it may be to increase congressional influence.

    The Dragon has been test flown twice and will obviously go forward. There is risk associated with the concept for powered landing on land, but this should be tested soon. The CST-100 really had only one element with any risk, the air bags, which have now been drop-tested. Both require LAS testing but no new tech is really needed for this.

    Dreamchaser is a peculiar case. NASA has tried to build a wingless airplane for 50 years. It might be just barely possible, but who would want to? The X-37C with a relatively conventional wing/fuselage/tail configuration has better crossrange during entry and much better lift to drag ratio during the critical final approach. It also has better pitch trim control due to the greater separation between the center of pressure and the control surfaces. All this makes it a LOT safer to land, particularly when the wind is not perfect, which is most of the time. No one who has watched the Shuttle touch down in marginal weather would want to make the job even harder.

    The X-37′s round fuselage has better cargo capacity and lower weight than the DC’s flattened elliptical body. Because a circular fuselage cross-section is not subject to bending loads under pressurization, it can be pressurized without the complex internal structural bracing the DC requires. Moreover, the X-37C has already been tested in subscale prototype form as the X-37B, in fact the prototype is now in orbit on its second flight, so design risk is also lower.

  • vulture4

    Just a minor correction. I meant that SAAs are superior to FARs for research and development, since conventional contracts require prediction of every new advance you will make, what you will do, how you will do it, and how many hours it will take, whereas any meaningful research involves uncertainty. If you are just getting a new fire truck or having an office building constructed a conventional FAR contract is OK.

  • If the Republicans lose the House majority in the November election

    This seems quite unlikely in light of yesterday’s results in Wisconsin.

  • common sense

    @ vulture4 wrote @ June 6th, 2012 at 7:53 am

    Interesting heh that X-37 is successful since it essentially is a Shuttle derived design! Oh irony.

    Without getting into the aero details yet again. X-37 is a classified military program and you can forget it at NASA. No matter how much you dream about it.

    Ah and for those who think stick-time for astronauts. Even in the case of a lifting body you can forget about it. At most you’ll get an emergency stick but even that is unclear. The only real stick they may really get is for space maneuvers.

    We can fly airliners today with computers, Shuttle was essentially able to fly without a pilot and Buran did it on its first flight. People are getting “licenses” for automobiles without a driver.

    Whether you like it or not. Welcome to the future.

  • Robert G. Oler

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

    If the Republicans lose the House majority in the November election

    This seems quite unlikely in light of yesterday’s results in Wisconsin.>>

    that is almost as politically sophisticated as the idiots who put together the recall. gee partisan hacks RGO

  • Mars guy

    Oh, please tell me Boeing will not be funded under “commercial crew award”. They’re military, charging NASA the maximum they can get away with. And they’re spacecraft will carry 6 astronauts while massing 22.25 metric tonnes! Dragon by SpaceX carries 7 while massing 8.0 metric tonnes. The venerable Russian Soyuz carries 3 while massing 7.25 metric tonnes. Dragon is the first one that is more efficient than the Russians in terms of spacecraft mass per astroanut. And Orion/MPCV has the same side angle as the Apollo command module, which used a stainless steel outer hull. The sides had to be angled away from hot air flowing around from the heat shield to ensure the steel doesn’t melt. Dragon has the same design as the Apollo D2 descent module, a competing proposal for Apollo in 1960. And the same side angle as Mercury or Gemini, possible because the hull is titanium alloy. Apollo was a marvelous achievement for the 1960s, but it’s obsolete. I consider Orion/MPCV to be a model T Ford with an iPad strapped to its dashboard.

    Meanwhile Sierra Nevada is developing DreamChaser based on HL-20. That was a far better lifting body than X-38, based on X-24A. The latter is slightly lighter, but has handling problems at low speed including landing. X-38 dealt with that with a giant parafoil, defeating the mass advantage. DreamChaser will land on wheels like Shuttle, but be small and lean. Please tell me DreamChaser is the other fully funded Commercial Crew Award. I always considered HL-20 to be far better than X-38, and with DreamChaser we get the good one.

    And what about Atlas V 402? That’s what DreamChaser was designed to be launched upon. Atlas V was always much better as a human launch vehicle than “The Stick”/Ares 1/Liberty Rocket. In fact I argue that Liberty Rocket is still not safe for humans, and never will be. But Atlas V is perfectly fine.

  • @Rand
    “This seems quite unlikely in light of yesterday’s results in Wisconsin.”
    I’m not saying I have a preferred dog in this race, but an exit poll of people who voted in the Wisconsin recall showed that the majority of those who voted in the recall said they still prefer Obama to Romney 51% to 44%.
    http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/06/politics/wisconsin-recall-analysis/index.html?hpt=hp_t2
    Your conclusion that an Obama defeat is likely in Wisconsin appears to be premature.

  • vulture4

    “Without getting into the aero details yet again. X-37 is a classified military program and you can forget it at NASA. No matter how much you dream about it. ”

    Until budget realities hit the DOD. Then projects that don’t directly support the warfighters may have a hard time. Keep in mind that X-37 was originally a NASA project, dropped in 2004 because we were going to Mars and NASA had no need of reusable spaceplanes. Obviously NASA, if it wanted, could just issue an RFP and Boeing could propose the same design it previously submitted to NASA for the Orbital Space Plane solicitation. The basic aerostructure predated the DOD program and is unclassified. Most of the classified details have to do with the payload which isn’t relevant to NASA.

    Although NASA has pursued wingless lifting bodies for decades, the DC is a hopeless design. With enough power, or a parachute, it could land intact, but will be inferior to a capsule in volume, cost and weight. Peculiarly, it appears that vehicle aerodynamic performance was not a selection criteria in the CCCP selection.

  • mr. mark

    I think some of us are missing a key component of Wolf’s agreement with NASA. One word…Quickly. There are only two companies that can fulfill that request Boeing and SpaceX.

  • Mars guy

    Boeing does do anything quickly.

  • common sense

    @ vulture4 wrote @ June 6th, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    I know about OSP.

    As you may know the world of classified programs can be silly and well obscure. It all depends on how they wrote the various classification and what classified thingy touched what in the vehicle….

    I think they chose the DreamChaser since it had mostly been reverse engineered at Langley and they did quite a bit of work. So they want to give it a try.

    There other possible designs that *I* prefer but well… What can you do? For example I believe/know that landing a lifting body, any lifting body, on a runway is difficult and I suspect (need trade studies though) that parachutes would do better. Then you could do away with wings and for the same mass really have a lifting *body*. Etc… The rest will have to be billed ;)

    The one other advantage of capsule is that they can “easily” be extended to beyond LEO reentry. Unlike a wingy thingy… And even DreamChaser has “wings”. Unless it flies at a significant AoA and the wings are “hidden” from the flow field. But then you end up possibly with a huge body tab for pitch in the back to make it fly at reasonable AoA when aero takes over since at hypersonic velocity you essentially use CG location and RCS.

    In any case first comes requirements and then trade studies…

  • Mars guy

    Correction, typo: “Boeing doesn’t do anything quickly.
    Same applies to all military contractors. The new space companies are able to control costs.

  • Mars guy

    @comon sense
    If you’re concerned with landing a lifting body, they why not consider swing wings (variable dihedral) like the original Russian Spiral? Instead of the two outer wings having fixed angle, Spiral was designed to fold them in during launch, part way out during hypersonic flight (same angle as HL-20 and DreamChaser), then fold flat like an airplane for subsonic flight and landing. More detail is available on the manufacturer’s website. (Warning: they have lots of technical detail on Spiral, but will play the Russian anthem. You may want to turn off your speakers.)
    http://buran.ru/htm/molniya.htm

  • common sense

    @ Mars guy wrote @ June 6th, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    “If you’re concerned with landing a lifting body, they why not consider swing wings (variable dihedral) like the original Russian Spiral?”

    I know about Spiral and I did not say I would not consider… It is all about trade studies… Additional weight of the swing mechanism, reliability after reentry may necessitate special hinges/joints/TPS… What reentry velocity are we talking about? Etc…

    And there are possibly other ways to deploy lifting/control surfaces as well.

    It could be so much fun but considering the funding I’ll be happy with an infrastructure based on capsules first.

  • Your conclusion that an Obama defeat is likely in Wisconsin appears to be premature.

    I said nothing about Obama. The topic was the Dems taking over the House. And that exit poll is the same one that had Walker winning by only four points, when he won by eight, so I wouldn’t rely on it much.

  • Malmesbury

    Commercial Crew needs to work.

    ATK are proposing version 1.1 of a booster that ended up as a failed engineering project. Back to proposing to air start a first stage engine, yet! No actual metal bent on the upper stage or the capsule.

    SpaceX are proposing a a manned capsule based on a cargo capsule that has completed it’s test program. And which is already partially man-rated – had to be to be attached to the ISS. The booster has flow 3 times and will fly a dozen more times before the first (unmaned probably) crew capsule flight.Test articles and LAS in progress.

    Boeing is proposing a simple capsule on a booster that has flow 30 times without failure. Test articles and LAS in progress.

    SNC is proposing to use the same booster as Boeing – but in its simplest version (no solids). They are building a simple update of a NASA design for a lifting body. Drop test shortly, and then LAS tests.

    The reason that the down select to one didn’t go ahead was the probability that NASA would go with SpaceX. Remember the hearing where a Congresscriter asked Bolden why he didn’t just down select to Atlas 5 as the booster? His reply was that they *might* not select Atlas 5. That was a pretty sharp shot across the bows.

    ATK need time to catch up. So their sponsors will want some time – probably for an ARES IY flight. 5 seg and a dummy upper stage. To “prove” the concept.

  • Mars guy

    One thing I particularly like about Sprial is it’s turbine jet engine for a powered landing. Yes, I would also be happy with capsules first, but Dragon does that. Go Dragon!

  • common sense

    @ Mars guy wrote @ June 6th, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    “One thing I particularly like about Sprial is it’s turbine jet engine for a powered landing.”

    I believe that Buran (beyond the prototype) also had planned for jet engines. Problem is the added mass, CG possible nightmare on a small vehicle such as Spiral, and the limited use of these engines during flight and all the added complexity.

    Now of course they had Energia…

    Oh well.

  • Mars guy

    Before April 25, 2002, they could still re-activate Energia. I’m the one who asked them. I got written confirmation from the director of the international division of the corporation Energia that their big rocket is available. He didn’t confirm cost, but in year 2000 an employee told me that “a few years ago” NASA had asked if they could use launch vehicle Energia for a human mission to the Moon. They determined the cost to restore infrastructure, but didn’t get paid for the study. They were upset they didn’t get paid. I also found a NASA website that lists international launch vehicles, they list Energia at $120 million US dollars per launch, including the upper stage, in 1994 dollars. Ah hah! So that’s when “a few years ago” was. So I had the cost for both restoration of infrastructure and per-launch cost, and the year it was based upon. Unfortunately there was an accident on April 25, 2002. Kazakh workmen decided to re-roof the vehicle assembly building. They had theft from the site ever since Kazakhstan took ownership on January 1, 2000. So they stored 10 metric tonnes of roofing material on the flat roof, and there was a major rain storm. The roof collapsed, destroying all Energia launch vehicles in storage, as well as the Buran space shuttle orbiter.

    But Russia ordered 5 orbiters: Buran was the first, it flew once unmanned, on autopilot only. The third was sold to a German museum. The 4th was dismantled and sold on eBay. (Seriously) And the 5th was never completed, just a loose collection of parts stored in the factory where they were made. Some Russians have tried to find those parts, they aren’t there any more. Their best guess is they were recycled into other projects. But the second shuttle: Ptichka. That one still exists, and I have a picture from 2005 of it in the Russian orbiter processing building (Baikonur building #240).

    Russia and Kazakhstan argued over who would repair the vehicle assembly building, consequently it was never repaired. Now after 10 years without a roof, that steel building will be in really bad shape. That would be the greatest cost to restore infrastructure now. But Energia could be restored.

    Oh, I also contacted the Russian manufacture of the RD-0120 engines. In 2002 (before the accident) they said they still have plans and jigs, and still had 9 engines with “varying specific impulse” and “varying hot fire lifetimes remaining”. That tells me they were development engines, used for static tests. They said they would have to replace one CNC milling machine, but were willing to swallow the cost on condition they got a solid order for new engines.

    With a lift capacity of 88 tonnes to LEO, not including the upper stage, Energia was about 2/3 the strength of a Saturn V, and more powerful than Falcon 9 Heavy. According Robert Zubrin’s original book “The Case for Mars”, it would take 3 Energias to send a Mars Direct mission to Mars. I still think that’s the cheapest solution. If only congress would go for it.

    Ps. I live in Canada, just north of North Dakota. I’m in the cross-fire between America and Russia. I’m highly motivated to NOT see the cold war come back.

  • Coastal Ron

    Mars guy wrote @ June 6th, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    And they’re [Boeing] spacecraft will carry 6 astronauts while massing 22.25 metric tonnes!

    I don’t know what you’re looking at but Boeings Commercial Crew vehicle, the CST-100, is sized to carry up to seven passengers and would be in the same weight class as Dragon.

    Maybe you’re confusing it with the ATK Liberty capsule that was a composite-body pathfinder for the Orion six passenger vehicle.

    Dragon has the same design as the Apollo D2 descent module, a competing proposal for Apollo in 1960. And the same side angle as Mercury or Gemini, possible because the hull is titanium alloy.

    Wouldn’t be surprised if Dragon is based on an existing design, as that saves a lot of engineering time and buys down risk. Pretty sure their capsule is all aluminum though, not titanium. The Dragon propellant tanks are made out of titanium, and they do make those in house, but I’ve seen pictures of the side panels being made, and they look like aluminum.

  • common sense

    @ Mars guy wrote @ June 6th, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    Fastbackward to 2004. CEV Phase 1 under O’Keefe. Looking at multiple launchers for trade studies. When I mentioned Energia I got blank stares (???). When they figured it was russian I got blank stares. Ariane V was barely being considered and at the time we we encouraged to cooperate with international partners (see LMT and EADS lifting body monstrosity).

    Politics trump everything and anything I am afraid. And today even rocket design…

    “I live in Canada, just north of North Dakota.”

    Might be able to see cool looking rockets and RVs make fly-bys… ;)

  • Robert G. Oler

    Rick Boozer wrote @ June 6th, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    “This seems quite unlikely in light of yesterday’s results in Wisconsin.”
    I’m not saying I have a preferred dog in this race, but an exit poll of people who voted in the Wisconsin recall showed that the majority of those who voted in the recall said they still prefer Obama to Romney 51% to 44%.>>

    All of the people who I label “Obama beloved” meaning the man can do no wrong and who mostly like him because, well let me be kind “his life story”, letting things that he has done that are in fact no different then Bush be excused while beating up on Bush43 all the thile…are taking great comfort in that poll. They are silly

    Simberg is more correct here. The exit polls (as Simberg points out) are stat wrong; they got the vote way off in the Gov race…but even if they were correct it shows Obama at 51 which is 1 point short of 50 and within the “margin” (such as it is) so Obama should feel uncertain there.

    WORSE

    Obama has no message…He could argue for instance that the economic policies which are sinking the nation are those of the GOP…but of course he made deals which kept them in place, and he has done things overseas which the only reason the GOP does not like is that they are simply anti Obama.

    Obama could draw this difference in his space policy. It is the GOP that is sustaining the space industrial complex…Obama is trying to go another direction.

    Anyway I think right now Obama wins this one; but a more clutzy campaign group I have never seen…and I supported the McCain campaign in 08. RGO

  • vulture4

    @common sense
    You make some interesting points. But I’m still not sure I grasp the advantage of the lifting body over the conventional wing/fuselage configuration. Wings and fuselage do such different tasks that it is difficult for one shape to do both jobs well. Making a fuselage with a flattened ellipse cross-section reduces volumetric efficiency and generates bending moments when pressurized, both of which increase weight more than a vehicle with a round fuselage and wings, and the low-speed L/D is between 20% and 30% worse than the Shuttle, which was itself pretty close to the limit. For entry L/D the frontal area at high angle of attack is what counts, and the small delta wing of the X-37 near the CG provides equivalent frontal area at less mass than the widened DC fuselage.

  • common sense

    @ vulture4 wrote @ June 6th, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    I don’t know there is a stand alone “advantage” per se. It all comes down to requirements.

    Now when you look at CEV one requirement was of course to come back at lunar return velocities (Mars had been quickly put on back burner) and to land-landing as they said (down/cross-range).

    Any wing would well disintegrate on reentry unless you use some form of active cooling, hence complexity, mass, etc. There are new TPS today that did not exist then, even though not yet fully tested.

    Here is the advantage I was talking about though. If you need volume, more than you do low speed lift, and if you need surface frontal area for hypersonics lift you may be able to do away with wings but landing has to be more thoughtfully worked out.

    You may use parachutes that can help you mitigate the CG location on entry since they are inside the vehicle for most part of the flight.

    A vehicle I like is Kliper as a basis, Russian yet again… Seems like these people can think outside of Soyuz unlike us outside of Apollo.

    http://www.russianspaceweb.com/kliper.html

    the one without the wings

    http://www.russianspaceweb.com/images/kliper_elements_1.jpg and http://www.russianspaceweb.com/images/kliper_chute_1.jpg

    “Wings and fuselage do such different tasks that it is difficult for one shape to do both jobs well.”

    I very much agree but you really need the wings for the flare and nothing much else if you think Shuttle as you aptly noted.

    Again the driver are the requirements and nothing else.

  • Mars guy

    common sense wrote @ June 6th, 2012 at 4:09 pm
    “Might be able to see cool looking rockets and RVs make fly-bys…”

    Actually, in the 1970s I talked to a Canadian military officer and raised a concern about a Russian bomb. She said most likely Russia is not targetting Winnipeg with a big one, instead 3 small ones. One at the airport, which shares runways with a Canadian air force base with CF-18 Hornet fighter jets intended to intercept Russian Bear bombers heading for North Dakota, another bomb at downtown Winnipeg, and a third at Simington Yark railway yard. The CN mainline connecting eastern Canada to western passes through that yard, and the CP mainline passes so close it would be severed too. The CN rail link to the US would be severed, and the CP link to the US is close to the airport. The connection of the Winnipeg permeter highway (beltway) to the Trans-Canada highway is close enough to the rail yard that the intersection bridge would be destroyed, and debris would block both highways. This would sever all connections rail and highway connections between eastern and western Canada. My house is close to downtown; it wouldn’t be vapourized but would be blown apart by the blast wave. Meanwhile in the 1970s the US built an ABM installation in North Dakota. Those missiles were even less accurate than the once George W. had deployed in Alaska, so the 1970s ones have a small nuclear bomb. They don’t have to hit Russian RVs, just get close. They are designed to detonate 30 miles outside my city. It doesn’t matter if I’m blown up by a Russian bomb, or irradiated by an American one, either way I’m dead.

    Oh, the cost I was told was between $60 million and $100 million US dollars to restore infrastructure, and the NASA website lists $120 million US dollars per launch. That’s in 1994 dollars. I tried to estimate the cost to repair the vehicle assembly building roof in 2002, but now the bridge crane is problably rusted, etc. It would be really, really nice to build a western spacecraft to launch on Energia. The fastest and cheapest way to get to Mars. But as you say, congress won’t have it. SLS will cost a lot, but will be able to get us there. Will it happen? Congress probably needs a serious kick in the pants.

  • Malmesbury

    Congress probably needs a serious kick in the pants.

    Well, the fact that SpaceX built their system for the cost (to the government) of the ARES I launch tower seems to have got their attention.

  • Fred

    Typical Republican. He raised his finger in the policial wind then etch a sketched his position.

  • @MarsGuy
    “The fastest and cheapest way to get to Mars. But as you say, congress won’t have it. SLS will cost a lot, but will be able to get us there.”
    Pure fantasy. Again, why spend billions more on SLS for deep space transportation when there are safe, cheaper and more practical alternatives that can be implemented sooner than the projected completion date of SLS?

  • @Mars Guy
    Clarification. I meant to post only the sentence, “SLS will cost a lot, but will be able to get us there.”

    SLS won’t get us there if it can’t be completed and it won’t be completed even if its budget is not cut. By “safe, cheaper and practical alternatives”, I mean existing American made hardware, not Energia. Look at what some of the other commenters such as Coastal Ron, Dark Blue Nine, and Pathfinder_01 have written in the thread on this blog titled “The “naysayers” respond” for examples.

    Sorry for the carelessness on my last post, I’m in a hurry to leave on a trip to a gathering where I will be doing a presentation on my research.

  • Mars guy

    @Rick Boozer
    I have said Energia is a “safe, cheaper and more practical alternatives that can be implemented sooner”. Falcon 9 Heavy can only life Dragon to Mars. Dragon is a wonderful spacecraft, but too small for a 6 month trip to Mars. I could give you my architecture, which can be done with existing launch vehicles, and Dragon is one component. But Congress isn’t listening. What do you propose?

  • common sense

    @ Mars guy wrote @ June 7th, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    But you can use multiple launches rather than SLS to build a spacecraft to go to Mars. If ever.

    “But Congress isn’t listening. What do you propose?”

    To go commercial all the way. Remove Congress from the decision loop.

  • Coastal Ron

    Mars guy wrote @ June 7th, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    I have said Energia is a “safe, cheaper and more practical alternatives that can be implemented sooner”. Falcon 9 Heavy can only life Dragon to Mars.

    You are falling into the same trap that others have – you think serially instead of in parallel.

    The Apollo Moon missions were an example of serial thinking. One 119mt HLV launch to lift everything needed for the mission.

    The 450mt ISS is an example of thinking in parallel. Many rockets and spacecraft were used to assemble the station and to keep it operating.

    So it will be with any vehicle we build for going to Mars – it will be built out of modular components, and it will be moved on it’s way by reusable boosters that were lifted individually.

    What do you propose?

    Energia was too small to do everything in one launch for a full-up Mars mission, as was the Ares V, and as is the SLS. Modular construction using many low-cost & existing rockets is the way to go.

    Our Congress will come around soon, just as they came to their senses with the over-budget, behind-schedule Constellation program.

  • DCSCA

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ June 6th, 2012 at 11:23 am

    that is almost as politically sophisticated as the idiots who put together the recall.

    Hmmm. Recalls can work. Ask the ‘idiots’ aka your fellow Americans who successfully recalled Gov. Davis in California. A sophisticated view should tell you that this cycle is shaping up to be Obama’s to lose rather than Romney’s to win– and Obama isn’t helping him self much of late. The sloppy messaging, unfavorable economic data and the looming unconstitutionality ruling of Obamacare are dominos falling and failing the incumbant just five months out. Romney’s VP selection will be his next benchmark. But his space policy remains nebulous at best and far down his agenda at worst. WE only know he’d fire anybody who’d come to him with talk of moonbases.

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ June 7th, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    A sophisticated view should tell you that this cycle is shaping up to be Obama’s to lose rather than Romney’s to win

    Not that you are sophisticated, but historically because of the recession it’s been Romney’s election to lose, and nothing has changed about that.

  • @Mars Guy
    “Falcon 9 Heavy can only life Dragon to Mars. Dragon is a wonderful spacecraft, but too small for a 6 month trip to Mars. I could give you my architecture, which can be done with existing launch vehicles, and Dragon is one component. But Congress isn’t listening. What do you propose?
    A NASA study proposes something entirely different from what you outline. The assembly in orbit (using the experience in orbital assembly we acquired through ISS) of a “true” space ship that never lands for deep space missions such as one to Mars.
    http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=36068

  • Oh, forgot to add. As far as cost, this is what the study concludes.
    “$3.7 B DCT & Implementation 64 months”
    That’s about a couple of years funding for SLS with part of the savings coming from use of Bigelow modules.

  • DCSCA

    @Coastal Ron wrote @ June 7th, 2012 at 8:27 pm

    “….but historically because of the recession it’s been Romney’s election to lose, and nothing has changed about that.”

    Except it isn’t.

    Romney is not in office and this is clearly Obama’s election to lose, as the President, aka ‘Mr. Spock’ has positioned himself as a logical defender of his record by prefacing nearly every pitch with, look what we inherited, things could be worse’ while Romney has to say as little as possible, and has advanced through attrition and has firmed up support in the GOP base. The revenue raised reinforces this. This is why, with respect to space policy, Romney has avoided articulating anything more than reitereated the nebulous ‘let’s form a committee and study the problem.’ The moonbase slapdown of Newt served its purpose and is old news already. His space advisors, such as they are, advocate NASA ops as an element of national security and he has reiterated a strong defense stance recently in a nicely timed speech over Memorial Day in San Diego, home of multiple DoD contractors and installations, down the coast from his LaJolla beachfront home. The next potential slapdpwn will be the unconstitutional ruling of Obamacare. If Obama wants to win, he’d better firm up his messaging and torpedo Romney as another laisse-faire minded Hoover against all things FDR. The nation needs a Captain Kirk. It has a Mr. Spock. And the alternative is looking more and more like a Commadore Decker w/an elevator for his cars in his home.

    “A sophisticated view should tell you that this cycle is shaping up to be Obama’s to lose rather than Romney’s to win” “Not that you are sophisticated”

    Except, of course, DCSCA is.

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ June 10th, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    Except it isn’t.

    Except it is.

    There, I’ve used the DCSCA standard of sufficient argument.

  • Mars guy

    Here si a description of Orion/MPCV from Wikipedia
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multi-Purpose_Crew_Vehicle

    And here is NASA’s website for Orion/MPCV. It’s the same, but units are in pounds instead of kg.
    http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/617408main_fs_2011-12-058-jsc_orion_quickfacts.pdf

    You have to include total launch mass: capsule, service module, launch abort system, including propellant. Dragon has draco thrusters built into the capsule for launch abort, so they don’t have a separate abort system.

    Here is the Wikipedia article for Dragon
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragon_(spacecraft)

    And the SpaceX web page
    http://www.spacex.com/dragon.php

    Notice the masses I gave are correct. The SpaceX Dragon has a double hull, just like the Apollo command module and Orion/MPCV. The inner hull for all of them is aluminum, but the outer hull, aka back shell, is different. The SpaceX page just claims their back shell is covered in SpaceX Proprietary Ablative Material. It’s designed to be reusable, so whatever they’re using has to be cleaned so it can be launched again. I still suspect the outer hull (aka back shell) is titanium alloy. Whatever they paint it with will have to be cleaned off and re-painted before another launch.

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