Congress, NASA

Posey: “Going to the moon should be a goal”

Sunday’s edition of Florida Today features excerpts of an interview with Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL), including some discussion of space policy issues. Posey doesn’t break much new ground here, defending his vote on an appropriations bill that included language calling on NASA to immediately downselect to one or two commercial crew providers. He compares it to building a house on a $100,000 budget: “Do you hire one contractor to build your $100,000 house? Or do you hire four contractors and say, see how far you can go for $25,000 each?” (The language calling for that immediate downselect has been superseded, at least for now, by an agreement between NASA and key House appropriator Frank Wolf that will allow NASA to make “two and a half” awards using Space Act Agreements.)

Posey also reiterated hie belief that the Moon should be a space exploration goal, primarily because of perceived military implications. “The moon, first and primarily, is the military high ground,” he said. “We know the Russians want to colonize the moon. The Chinese are going to colonize the moon — they’ve said so.” In the excerpts, at least, he doesn’t elaborate on the military advantage of colonizing the Moon versus other space activities Earth orbit or elsewhere in cislunar space.

114 comments to Posey: “Going to the moon should be a goal”

  • SpaceColonizer

    “Do you hire one contractor to build your $100,000 house? Or do you hire four contractors and say, see how far you can go for $25,000 each?” – Posey

    OR…. do you blow $600,000 on a summer home that you don’t need and have given no good reason that you’re ever going to use (SLS), leaving behind on $100,000 for the house you DO have a need for so you can stop sleeping on your Russian fiends couch? (CCP).

    My other problem with this analogy is that in the world of contractors there already exists a healthy competition. Selecting one contractor is fine because you already have plenty of contractors to choose from and selecting the one with the cost and experience that suits your needs is not a hard decision. But in the commercial crew program there is not a pre-established competitive market or a record of experience in routine commercial transportation to orbit. Without that foundation in place down-selecting to one company as quickly as possible would be reckless.

    Also it is to our advantage to bring as many companies as we can as far along as we can, even if we only contract with just one company (would love to be able to contract with two like CRS), because if we can create a healthy enough competition to bring the price down to a point where it brings in sufficient non government contracts, than that will keep the prices lower with whoever we do contract with. If we down-select to one provider too quickly and the rest of the competition fizzles out before they got a fair shot than we’re stuck with our single source provider and like a typical monopoly situation the price with be higher than with competition and we’ll have nobody to turn to when they fail us.

  • common sense

    Wow, Florida, you’re in good hands!

  • vulture4

    I agree with Colonizer. We need both Dragon and CST operational, for redundancy in the event of a problem, and for competition. Those who wonder what happens to price of a commodity when competition is eliminated need look no further than Soyuz when Shuttle shut down or ELV launch costs when the Boeing and Lockheed programs were merged into ULA.

    We have to remember the context. Posey isn’t concerned about the effectiveness of the commercial crew and cargo program (I can’t resist calling it the CCCP). Don’t forget that Posey introduced a bill to eliminate NASA climate research because he sees it as a leftist plot.

    Posey’s primary goal is to attack President Obama, not just as someone he disagrees with on policy, but as an actual force of evil, responsible for everything that is wrong in the world. I have personally seen these vicious attacks, something that his Democratic opponents, such as former NASA Deputy Associate Director Dr. Shannon Roberts, would not dream of.

    Posey sees commercial as the work of Obama and therefore bad and something to be attacked. Its actual characteristics are irrelevant. He sees Constellation as the work of Republicans and therefore virtuous.

    Posey’s second goal is to take credit himself for everything that is good in the world, so when there is an obvious commercial success he has no problem claiming he is responsible for it while simultaneously fighting against Administration funding and attacking the administration for not spending enough on Constellation.

    This polarization bothers me for two reasons. First, I could be wrong, but I don’t really think Mr. Obama represents the forces of evil incarnate.

    More important, this polarization has permiated both Congress and NASA itself and poisons debate. There are people who will tell you in confidence that every failure is the fault of “the leadership” and that getting rid of it is the solution to everything. Consequently they see Commercial as something to be attacked because Obama supports it. They cannot accept the idea that their management may be the real problem, that Constellation/SLS/Orion is not productive or even affordable for a nation heavily in debt.

  • Coastal Ron

    And people wonder why Congress can fix anything these days – they have ignorant yahoo’s like Posey not understanding the issues and trying to fix imaginary problems that don’t exist.

    Next he’ll be recommending the Navy station battleships off the Florida coast to protect Floridians from polar bears floating down on icebergs from the North Pole… ;-)

  • Mark R. Whittington

    Posey addresses a real problem. ISS is not a big enough market to sustain more than one or maybe two service providers.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Posey addresses a real problem. ISS is not a big enough market to sustain more than one or maybe two service providers.”

    It’s not a problem, real or otherwise. The competing launchers (Atlas V and Falcon 9) have other markets (DOD and commercial comsats) that are much bigger than the ISS market.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “The moon, first and primarily, is the military high ground.”

    Sure, why base your long-range missiles 30 minutes from their targets when you can put them 3 days from their targets? And why route your lightspeed communications through satellites only a quarter of a second away when you can put your transponders on a planetary body with a three-second round-trip delay?

    Yeah, massively slower reaction times are a good thing in military operations. We’ll win for sure now!

    What a flaming idiot…

    And even if Posey is technically and militarily illiterate, isn’t there someone on his staff who passed high school physics? Or served somewhere in the military?

    What’s he paying his staff to do? Get him into Guiness as the world’s dumbest legislator?

    Cripes…

  • amightywind

    Bill Posey is right. I do not want to go to sleep by the light of a communist moon! Grab the high ground!

  • Coastal Ron

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ July 22nd, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    Posey addresses a real problem.

    Unlikely. He doesn’t even know how to construct a relevant analogy. The only problem Posey is highlighting is the lack of informed representatives in Congress.

    ISS is not a big enough market to sustain more than one or maybe two service providers.

    Golly gosh. You mean businesses should not enter a market until it’s fully developed and can sustain multiple suppliers?

    You can tell that you’re not a business owner, or have never worked for a company that has entered a market before it fully matured.

    I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if the Commercial Crew providers don’t make any money on just the ISS crew transportation business, but you apparently have forgotten that both Boeing and SpaceX have signed agreements with Bigelow to provide transportation services to them once they get going.

    I’m also sure all of the Commercial Crew providers see the ISS as just the first of many customers for crew transportation to LEO. Boeing said years ago that they plan to be one of the dominant transportation providers in space, and they know a little about how to do that in other markets, so I don’t doubt them.

    The ISS crew transportation effort is just the beginning. Once the capability is in place, anyone can use it to get to LEO – NASA, DoD, other sovereign nations, businesses and private citizens. How much and how quickly the market will develop is unknown, but it really doesn’t matter – once two or more companies are certified for transporting crew, the capability won’t go away like the Shuttle did since Commercial Crew uses multiple commercial rockets and the capsules can be reused. NASA will permanently be out of the transportation business to LEO, which will turn out to be a huge cost savings for the U.S. Taxpayer.

    Businesses risking money on a market should be encouraged, especially in these hard economic times, so hearing you and Posey diss American entrepreneurism seems pretty odd. Ignorant even.

  • Heinrich Monroe

    Many people talk about the Chinese intent to colonize the Moon but, I have to say, I’ve never seen a formal statement from the Chinese government saying anything like that. Did I miss something? It is kind of amusing how China’s announcement of its plans to think about putting a human on the Moon, and perhaps even send a few people there, magically metamorphose into “colonization”. What does Bill Posey know about Chinese lunar colonization plans when he tells us “they’ve said so”.

    High ground? What a joke. That’s defense policy from the ballistic generation. It must really piss off Posey that the highest ground around is under a potted plant in a skyscraper over the Muslim city of Dubai.

  • Malmesbury

    “ISS is not a big enough market to sustain more than one or maybe two service providers.”

    You may not be aware that the potential availability of excess seats from Commercial Crew at a lower cost than current arrangements has already got people (NASA included) looking at increasing the ISS crew. Seriously looking. Even some studies about doubling life support capability…..

    Hmmmmm…. Price reductions lead to increase in unit demand. What was that concept again??? Ah yes. Markets.

  • Mark R. Whittington wrote @ July 22nd, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    Posey addresses a real problem. ISS is not a big enough market to sustain more than one or maybe two service providers.>>

    EXCEPT that is not what Posey says…

    Posey’s interview is the sort of right wing babble we have become acustomed to…but no where does he make the point that you are making.

    Poseys’ argument on a down select is well lets use his own words ” “Do you hire one contractor to build your $100,000 house? Or do you hire four contractors and say, see how far you can go for $25,000 each?”

    there are several problems with this analogy; the biggest one is that frequently houses are built by hiring this or that contractor to do a specialized job…for instance the guy who poured the foundation for our house, did not install the septic tank (now the guy who did the septic did refurbish the 300 foot well and drill the 1200 foot one, but he is a “septic and well” contractor.

    Anyway to your point; Posey is not arguing that ISS does not present enough of a market for more then 1 or 2 suppliers of lift and cargo (apiece or separate). I dont think Posey is smart enough to make that argument (and you seem to flounder on it as well). Anyone who starts off with “The Moon is the high ground” is just arguing from rhetoric not any sense of reality.

    The entire notion of excess capability is a tried and true one in federal government procurement. The Airmail contract worked that way, the wagon supplies to the various forts in the old west worked that way…as Dale Grey would have lectured you (and probably did although you were less then a right wing shill then) on the Cserve forum, excess capability is the stuff of not only expanded “settlement” but also the stuff of super profits (heck you dont have to have much history just watch “Deadwood” or Firefly) …excess capability is the stuff of markets.

    Besides for two commercial crew and cargo providers we are not spending more total then SLS/Orion consumes in one year.

    Posey does one function, he makes old Pete from TX 22 look smart.

    RGO

  • Coastal Ron

    amightywind wrote @ July 22nd, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    I do not want to go to sleep by the light of a communist moon!

    I don’t want to be attacked and eaten by a polar bear in the middle of the night, but luckily neither of our concerns is statistically likely in the near future.

    But since the high cost of mounting lunar expeditions is what has kept us from going back to the Moon for 42 years (and kept everyone else from going there), if you really want the U.S. to get back to the Moon you should be supporting the efforts of companies that are lowering the costs to access space (a significant cost driver). If we don’t lower the cost barrier, no one is going to the Moon, especially if the Republicans keep control of the House next election.

  • James

    Posey should push for colonizing the Sun. It is even higher ground!

    Politicians , little piggies.

  • common sense wrote:

    Wow, Florida, you’re in good hands!

    Tell me about it. Thanks to redistricting, starting in January we swap one lunatic (Sandy Adams) for another (Bill Posey). Both are embarrassments.

  • Fred Willett

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ July 22nd, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    Posey addresses a real problem. ISS is not a big enough market to sustain more than one or maybe two service providers.

    Actually the ISS by itself constitutes a market that can support 2-3 companies.
    Consider. CRS is 20 flights over 5 years for Orbital and SpaceX. That’s 4 flights a year on average.
    Commercial crew is projected to be 2 flights a year. That gives a total of 6 flights a year.
    Now Boeing said they’d need 2 flights a year to make money out of CST-100 and presumably SpaceX and Orbital think they can make money out of their 2 flights a year – Why else would they have signed contracts to do just that?
    So, come 2015 when CRS ends NASA will be looking at signing up 3 companies to fly (probably) a mix of cargo and crew for a total of 6 flights a year through 2020.
    Here’s a notional breakdown.
    30 flights 2015 to 2020 of 20 cargo and 10 crew.
    broken up as
    10x SpaceX flights of a mix of cargo and crew
    10x SNC flights of a mix of cargo and crew
    10x Boeing flights of a mix of cargo and crew
    Why?
    All 3 can do up mass, down mass and crew. Where as Orbital can do up mass but not down mass or crew.
    It’s worth noting Orbital are working on adding down mass capability which may keep them in the game at the expense of one of the 3 crew capable vehicles.
    But the bottom line is; expect to see 3 companies flying to ISS after 2015 even if Bigelow doesn’t get off the ground.

  • common sense

    @ Stephen C. Smith wrote @ July 22nd, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    I would feel sorry for you guys but you know… We have the democracy we deserve right?

    What should that tell people? If he does a similar job for more pressing and important issues don’t expect to feel better anytime soon. Sorry.

    Is it possible it is just a theater? And this guy actually has some value? Don’t know just asking.

  • josh

    what a clown. it’s amazing what people you elect to congress, us americans. amazing and pretty sad.

  • adastramike

    Maybe some in Congress know something we don’t. But I suppose if even a handful know with some confidence of a Chinese plan to send people to the Moon, and even colonize it, that more would be pushing for the Moon. So who really knows what China’s plans are. However, I don’t think they are publicly ready to say they want to send their citizens to the Moon, as they are still only testing the waters in LEO. China clearly does plan to do more in the final frontier. With sufficient advancement, building a space station, etc., why wouldn’t they strive to land humans on the Moon at some point? They’re gearing up for something with unmanned lunar probes. And they seem to have the money.

    If China does return humanity to the moon in 15 or so years, I suppose it will be something like another Sputnik moment. I personally believe we should be aiming back toward the Moon, at the very least sending unmanned probes to the poles. It’s our nearest neighbor, beneficial for returning humans quickly in the event of some spacecraft problem, beneficial for learning how to live on another celestial body’s surface, which is applicable to a Mars mission, and in my opinion would be a visible symbol in the night sky to young people to study science, math and engineering. Sure there could be other inspirational things to court young minds, but nothing does it like space can — to the right minds that is (not all will be interested).

    A crewed asteroid mission, while a first in itself, in my view would just be another stunt — unless we plan on visiting multiple asteroids. The argument that we should not to go back to the Moon because “we’ve been there before” is just beyond short sighted. And this from president many say is one of our smartest? I would have expected more. There are many reasons to visit an unknown place more than once, or even just more than 6 times. Commercial practices should be used to help get us back to the Moon — perhaps the old NASA-controls-all model in HSF has surpassed it’s political usefulness, at least right now. But the Moon may hold some type of strategic advantage that we don’t foresee yet. Just like airplanes and rockets were once seen to have no practical use, I believe the Moon will be found to have practical uses — maybe not for our generation (if the view remains that the Moon is passe), but mabe for some future generation. I’d really like to be part of THAT generation.

  • The ISS is one gigantic dead end! Really, now—NASA is just going to do grocery delivery trips to the ISS for the rest of the decade? I mean, is THAT it? Is THAT all that we are going to get out of commercial space? I swear, I long for the years when government would lead the way, and the nation would solemnly commit itself to acheiving astonishing manned deep space goals, again! With the space entrepreneurs, we get nothing but more grocery runs to an already flatly obsolete space station! If the government takes the reins, and leads the way—as darn well it should—we get renewed manned Lunar exploration, with more extensive operations plus bases, as in Antarctica. The choice could not be more stark & contrasting, with these competing visions. Project Constellation must be revived!

  • niksus

    Coastal Ron wrote @ July 22nd, 2012 at 6:12 pm
    “But since the high cost of mounting lunar expeditions is what has kept us from going back to the Moon for 42 years (and kept everyone else from going there), if you really want the U.S. to get back to the Moon you should be supporting the efforts of companies that are lowering the costs to access space (a significant cost driver).”
    No it’s not that easy, the real reason is not cost only but profit as well. What profit any commercial company can bring out of the Moon operation? In comparison with spice trade of 15-16 century, expeditions cost very high but profit was much higher. The problem with space exploitation was not the cost of mass of payload but lack of considerable usefull return, except in earth bound activity of satellites – earth observation(recoinassance), telecomm and some research – all of each benefit is information. And it’s the same today – space production of special materials are much less effective than innovative on earth approaches, space tourism of millionaires is too thin a market, space solar power requires different payload capacity in thousands of tons per year.
    Without self-sustaining commercial model of operation (not based on goverments BEO activity) there is no need for Moon’s “highground” nor even HSF in LEO. I just don’t see the profit – it can possibly emerge if mining operation, solar power and manufacturing of goods will be for space colonies themselves (not for Earth). That means – whole space economy, full circle, exploitation oriented, with production of all usefull inspace materials – food, construction, energy, transportation, telecomm.
    That means whole space/planetary infrastructure in small/medium scale with ability to quickly expand to new zones/resources. And you must develop it using robotic precursors/teleoperations first, than human presence will be possible.
    So NEO is much more effective source of raw materials than Moon (cause of deltav for descending to it), and the space junk is the easiest source cause it’s already on orbit, already processed, have electronics/rare elements on it. Any company capable to construct effective robotic/human space shipyard based on space junk and raw material from Earth/NEO will have tremendous lead in space exploitation. Space shipyards possibly will be a center of space economy as well as plant factories that can produce some very concentrated/unusual weed/bacteries/plant for Earth consumption. For capitalism oriented trade there is a need of special goods not found/rare on Earth – to make a profit&settle a colony. Planetary Resources’s platinum/rare metals idea is good, but not big enough for full circle economy – too much Earth consumer oriented.

  • Posey isn’t the only one still spreading unfounded opinions vis-a-vis commercial efforts and lunar expeditions. Spudis’ latest blathering is full of inaccuracies:
    http://blogs.airspacemag.com/moon/2012/07/the-tale-of-falcon-1/

    As Clark Lindsey points out here (any boldfacing was added by me for emphasis, not by Clark): http://hobbyspace.com/nucleus/index.php?itemid=39635

    “Paul Spudis, a leading lunar scientist, is relentlessly negative about commercial spaceflight. He alternates interesting entries on scientific aspects of the Moon on his blog at Air & Space Magazine with attacks on commercial spaceflight and NASA’s support for it. He especially likes to attack SpaceX, which he often portrays as the only firm in NASA’s commercial crew and cargo program. Unable to find any flaw to criticize in the recent Falcon 9/Dragon ISS mission, his latest post reaches back to concoct a tall tale about the SpaceX Falcon 1 project: The Tale of Falcon 1 – The Once and Future Moon/Air & Space Mag.

    I’ve given up any hope that he will listen to reason, but I’ll respond to several of his points anyway for this one last time:
    /– “a company like SpaceX” that has over $3B in commercial contracts and that sells launch services to NASA at a fraction of what the agency could obtain them for otherwise is commercial in every sense of the word.

    /– His implication that a review panel after the third flight got the F1 project on track is wrong. SpaceX made major improvements to the vehicle after the first test and again after the second test. The failure on the third (and first operational) flight was due to a small mis-timing in the staging. Making only this small fix led to the successful 4th flight just 57 days later.

    /– There was no “pretext” involved in the F1 project. Elon always said from the start that their main goal was development of large rockets capable of orbiting people and big spacecraft. The Falcon 1 was their first project. They had planned to start the Falcon 5 project as well but when SpaceX got the COTS contract in 2006 they began developing the F9 in parallel with the F1. The Merlin engine, which has worked every time after the first F1 flight, was one of the F1 components that helped to make the F9 missions successful. How that is not a good thing is beyond me.

    /– There is zero mystery as to why SpaceX focused on the F9 after the fifth F1 flight. It was a small company (and still is relatively) and had to focus its limited manpower and resources on the development of a large rocket and a sophisticated spacecraft that would both dock with the ISS and return to earth. Furthermore, SpaceX discovered what Lockheed, Orbital Sciences and others have discovered, the smallsat market is still very limited and embryonic.

    /– To depict the ORS program as the poor victim of a SpaceX bait and switch is ludicrous. If there had been a line of ORS sats waiting to be launched, SpaceX would gladly have offered them rides on F1s or F9s.

    /– Orbcomm initially was going to launch its new constellation on the F1 but they chose to move their spacecraft to the F9. SpaceX is offering secondary payload rides to any company or govt. agency at prices comparable to the F1 prices.

    /– No, it is not “a New Space article of faith is that heavy lift is a boondoggle”. It is an article of faith and an economic fact that any vehicle – small, medium or heavy – that consumes gigantic amounts of money to develop and to operate and flies only once every year or two is not cost-effective and has a huge opportunity cost.

    /– The SpaceX “template” seems to have worked for NASA in a spectacular fashion. Compare NASA’s $500M paid to SpaceX with, for example, the $375M just for the cost of the launch of the Orion on the Delta IV or the $425M for the suborbital test of the Ares I-X rocket, which had no actual components in common with the Ares I despite many billions of dollars spent on the program.

    Only three giant government programs with expenditures of many, many billions of dollars (or their equivalent) have accomplished what SpaceX has done with the Falcon 9 and the flights and safe returns of the Dragons. Most reasonable people would see $500M for those capabilities as easily the greatest bargain that NASA or any govt space agency has ever obtained.

    Dr. Spudis advocates cislunar development but such grand schemes will remain fantasies if costs to LEO are not drastically reduced. It is simply bizarre to ignore the $3B+ per year going down the SLS/Orion drain and instead attack commercial spaceflight development, which offers the only realistic chance for such cost reductions. Thankfully, Alan Stern and others understand this very well and are providing productive leadership and direct involvement in making it happen.”

    It’s sad to see such a competent scientist not apply the dilligence that he uses in his main scientific research to other issues.

  • @Chris Castro
    “The ISS is one gigantic dead end! Really, now—NASA is just going to do grocery delivery trips to the ISS for the rest of the decade?”
    Should read
    “The SLS is one gigantic dead end! Really, now—NASA is just going to build a Shuttle derived HLV within budget and on schedule when they couldn’t build the much smaller Ares I within budget and on schedule?”
    There! Fixed that for you! ;)

  • Coastal Ron

    niksus wrote @ July 23rd, 2012 at 7:29 am

    No it’s not that easy, the real reason is not cost only but profit as well.

    Governments don’t look at “profit” in the same way businesses do. For the U.S., the original goal of going to the Moon was political in nature, and the “profit” was political too (and we continue to reap that profit even today).

    Today there is no governmental “profit” incentive for going back to the Moon, and as you correctly point out, little business incentive to go there for monetary profit. That may change in the future, but that’s what has kept us from returning so far.

  • Robert G. Oler

    adastramike wrote @ July 23rd, 2012 at 2:59 am

    If China does return humanity to the moon in 15 or so years, I suppose it will be something like another Sputnik moment>>

    Sputnik was something that had never been done before…humanity has been to the Moon. RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Fred Willett wrote @ July 23rd, 2012 at 12:28 am

    As the European ATV and Japanese HTV fade commercial cargo will become more important RGO

  • reader

    Many people talk about the Chinese intent to colonize the Moon but, I have to say, I’ve never seen a formal statement from the Chinese government saying anything like that. Did I miss something?

    Colonization is a clown target, bro. Chinese officials have not stated colonization goals, that would be ridiculous. However they have openly spoken about utilizing lunar resources, whatever they might turn out to be long term. I.e. they have stated serious long term future ambitions of actually expanding their economic sphere outward in cislunar space. And thats what matters, colonization for its own sake is as pointless as exploration for explorations sake.

    ( It’s not just the Moon by the way, Chinese have also actively working on deep sea mining, and have expressed interest in Antarctic mineral resources )

  • Robert G. Oler

    http://spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=37874

    this is great…what NASA should be doing RGO

  • @Robert Oler
    “this is great…what NASA should be doing RGO.”
    Yes indeed. They should be doing cutting-edge tech development like this, instead of building a giant anachronism that’s a mixture of 80′s space shuttle tech and a 60′s Saturn V on steroids. Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein’s monster was assembled from modified pieces of deceased persons. Similarly, we truly have a Frankenstein monster being assembled with tech that came from two great American space vehicles of yesteryear. What a shame that certain politicians are forcing NASA to tarnish the legacy of those two great predecessors with a project that is not worthy of its heritage.

  • adastramike

    Sputnik was something that had never been done before…humanity has been to the Moon
    =====

    If I were to use your same logic, I suppose I could say, “we’ve delivered cargo to ISS before, so SpaceX’s recent mission is not historic.”

    Humans on the Moon again would be a big deal. And the news would note the decades long hiatus.

    The point is, if any nation, or private entity, returned humans to the Moon in the near future, it would be historic–considering it would be half a century after the first Moon landing. And it would be particularly significant for a communist regime.Iit would be a first for them, which I’m sure they would tout, similar to SpaceX’s achievement. We should not continue to rest on our laurels from 40+ years ago. That’s like Portugal still clinging on to their seafaring prowess and saying “we id that” as a measure of their prowess today. Clearly we (the US) have forgotten how to send people to the Moon in a suitable manner, even with our 50 years of space experience and improvements in computing technology. That knowledge has been lost to history. So for any group or people to achieve the again would be momentous. And notice I said “like” a Sputnik moment, not exact. I used that word on purpose, since I believe it would cause a realization or be a rude awakening, if the US were not already doing something equally as great in space. We might still be the trailblazers now, but I fear if we begin to slow down thinking we are ahead, we will fall behind from where we could be while others push forward at faster rate. If this were to continue for the long term, someone else could overtake us on the space front. Who says the US will be the indefinite space leader, or even world leader, by default just based on what we have achieved or where we currently are? We have to continuously exercise excellence to maintain it or remain ahead. In any case, I sure hope someone returns us to the Moon soon. It was a mistake to ever leave, regardless of who was in power at the time.

  • niksus

    Rick Boozer wrote @ July 23rd, 2012 at 8:44 am
    “/– The SpaceX “template” seems to have worked for NASA in a spectacular fashion. Compare NASA’s $500M paid to SpaceX with, for example, the $375M just for the cost of the launch of the Orion on the Delta IV or the $425M for the suborbital test of the Ares I-X rocket”
    Again as always you made same mistakes in comparing apples and oranges. People always say – look they manage to get to ISS for a mere 400-500M$ of initial COTS contract. That’s great – but don’t forget about real cost of Commercial Resupply(CRS) – 1.6 billion $ for 12 flights – 133M$/flight -> 22,2 thousand $/kg (6000kg payload). And the payload cost for Space Shuttle was near that point – 25000kg for 500M$/launch.
    Thats exactly same prices as most other commercial companies provide. WHY NASA gives them so much? (And 1.9billion to Orbital for even less capacity). Better compare these costs for NASA with SpaceX prices for simple commercial sattelite launch – 50M$/10000kg ~ 5000$/kg. Why addition of Dragon capsule and ISS as destination quadriple(4x) the cost? I just don’t get it. Looks like enourmous overpayment.
    Besides where are cost reductions people on forums always give to SpaceX? Same prices Russian space providers gave in 90x-early 200x on Proton/Progress launches. It was the market that rose the prices, and same 20M$/seat was on early Souz flight. That doesn’t look like much improvement/reduction – just inflation + 2000x economic buble. If America has other option – it will never pay 65M$/seat overpriced (and that doesn’t allow our agency to make any new program – they’re just lured in that BS situation – constanly waste resources/energy for ISS missions)

  • Vladislaw

    “That knowledge has been lost to history”

    That is like saying since we do not start fires anymore with a bow and drill we can’t do it because that knowledge has been “lost”.

    There is a difference between not having knowledge and not utilizing knowledge.

    There isn’t any knowledge gaps for a return to the moon. It just a question of bringing people up to speed to create the systems.

  • common sense

    “And the payload cost for Space Shuttle was near that point –25000kg for 500M$/launch.”

    Yeah really impressive.

    And actually since per John Shannon himself the cost for the people only is $200M per month, so on the month Shuttle was launched it cost a mere $300M. I wonder where people got the idea it was expensive to launch Shuttle!

    Yeah impressive. We should have added 8 or 9 orbiters to the fleet and launch one every month!

  • common sense

    “Who says the US will be the indefinite space leader, or even world leader, by default just based on what we have achieved or where we currently are?”

    People who cannot face reality. I think.

    As for a return to the Moon, yeah it would definitely put us in the next century of space exploration. And China on the Moon “like” a Sputnik moment? Of course! And then we would rush and build a reusable Spaceship to Mars by the end of that Sputnik-moment-like decade.

    I too (used to) like SciFi. Seriously!

  • Vladislaw

    “Why addition of Dragon capsule and ISS as destination quadriple(4x) the cost? I just don’t get it. Looks like enourmous overpayment.”

    You are taking the minimum amount that SpaceX is contracted for. The dragon can transport 13228 pounds, times 12 flights = 158736 pounds or 79 tons. Also the Dragon has down capability, you are not including that cargo. So combined potential cargo moved is closer to 100 tons not the 20 ton minimum.

    NASA did not want to reuse any of the Dragon capsules, but they paid for a new dragon for each flight.

    Do you honestly believe that SpaceX, with their 12 dragon capsules, are going to charge Bigelow Aerospace 133 million for a cargo run? I highly doubt it, it will more than likely be in the 70 million a flight.

  • DCSCA

    Off topic, but worthy…

    Condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Sally K. Ride, the first American woman in space, who passed away from cancer this day. Sally, you were, are and will always be an inspiration to young women.

    Ad Astra, Dr. Ride. Ad Astra… :-(

  • Robert G. Oler

    niksus wrote @ July 23rd, 2012 at 4:44 pm
    ” That’s great – but don’t forget about real cost of Commercial Resupply(CRS) – 1.6 billion $ for 12 flights – 133M$/flight -> 22,2 thousand $/kg (6000kg payload). And the payload cost for Space Shuttle was near that point – 25000kg for 500M$/launch.
    Thats exactly same prices as most other commercial companies provide. WHY NASA gives them so much? ”

    good grief.

    Shuttles dont launch at 500 million a launch. Toward the end they were far more then that if total shuttle cost (ie what we stopped spending on the shuttle was divided by the number of shuttle flights…

    And second the fee for SpaceX and OSC is end to end, meaning a pound of cargo dropped off to SpaceX and then eventually handed back to NASA…and its far lower then the throughput for the shuttle.

    move on. The shuttle era is over RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    adastramike wrote @ July 23rd, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    “If I were to use your same logic, I suppose I could say, “we’ve delivered cargo to ISS before, so SpaceX’s recent mission is not historic.”

    And you would be correct. What is HISTORIC about hte SpaceX cargo delivery and eventually the crew…is that in the good old USA that never had a national airline…it is done commercially.

    You wrote:

    “Humans on the Moon again would be a big deal. And the news would note the decades long hiatus.

    The point is, if any nation, or private entity, returned humans to the Moon in the near future, it would be historic–considering it would be half a century after the first Moon landing. And it would be particularly significant for a communist regime.Iit would be a first for them, which I’m sure they would tout, similar to SpaceX’s achievement.”

    I agree that whoever is next with people on the Moon is going have an historic moment; however I am not sure it changes the course of history any more then the first historic moment did…unless they can make something out of it more then just “we went, we went a few more times and then we couldnt afford it anymore because well it was just to damn expensive”.

    The PRC would get some kudo’s as being the first “in this century” and the “first communist country” and doubtless it would be a big deal internally…but it was all those things here in the 60′s and we stopped for good reasons.

    If someone can go back to the Moon and do it in an affordable manner which lets things actually occur there which have some value…well that is a different story RGO

  • @niksus
    I’m having a little problem following everything you wrote because it appears that English is not your primary language.
    “Thats exactly same prices as most other commercial companies provide.”
    Those prices are just an incentive to get things started. After those first 12 flights, prices will be competively renegotiated, hopefully downward to win more business from the competition.

    “If America has other option – it will never pay 65M$/seat overpriced (and that doesn’t allow our agency to make any new program – they’re just lured in that BS situation – constanly waste resources/energy for ISS missions)”
    I will say $65M per astronaut from the Russians is indeed due to market forces (as you say) because the Russians are the sole provider and thus have the advantage of raising the price to get more profit. That’s capitalism. They would be fools not too. So maybe the Russians will go back down to $20M to compete. The main point is that we want to launch our own astronauts and not have someone else do it. Who has the lowest price is important, but if we have to choose between an American and a Russian vehicle and the American vehicle flight service costs a little more than the Russian one (maybe or maybe not), guess which one we will choose?

    However to show he is on the level, Elon Musk explicitly asked that it be put into the Congressional record that he guarantees SpaceX will not charge more than $20M per astronaut. I know talk is cheap, but as the Zen master said, “We shall see.”

  • Coastal Ron

    niksus wrote @ July 23rd, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    And the payload cost for Space Shuttle was near that point – 25000kg for 500M$/launch.

    The figure is closer to $1.5B/flight, not $500M/flight. Here is an article that shows both an independent auditor and NASA are pretty close to agreement with that number.

    Also, while it is true that NASA is paying SpaceX $133M/flight for CRS deliveries, you have to remember that NASA was likely very conservative in it’s expectations when they awarded the COTS & CRS contracts, since no commercial companies had every built and flown ISS supply missions. That is likely part of the reason that they require new spacecraft for each delivery, which means after they get comfortable with the performance of SpaceX and the Dragon vehicle, the costs could be reduced by using previously flown Dragons. The same will be true with the Commercial Crew vehicles, which can also be used for cargo.

    The capabilities the commercial transportation companies bring to the market will take some time for government entities to adjust to, but they will, and when they do it will likely lead to a significant increase in activity in space by NASA (and even other government agencies) without a commensurate need for more U.S. Taxpayer money. The same can’t be said for MPCV & SLS.

  • Coastal Ron

    adastramike wrote @ July 23rd, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    That knowledge [sending humans to the Moon and returning them safely] has been lost to history. So for any group or people to achieve the again would be momentous.

    Rubbish. The Apollo plans were retained by NASA, and if we wanted to forgo 40 years of technological advancement we could still go to the Moon and return safely. USING the technological advancements since the Apollo era we could do it even quicker and less costly, IF WE DIDN’T HAVE TO BUILD UNNEEDED ROCKETS.

    I mean really. What part of Griffin’s $100B Moon plan sounds affordable? He must have spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to create the most expensive Moon program possible and still get it approved by Congress. Too bad it’s costs went even higher, which essentially became the straw that broke the camels back.

    We don’t lack the capability to go back to the Moon, we lack both the need and the matching money for that need. Sure the Moon would be a neat place to bounce around, but nothing there really excites the imagination of the average U.S. Taxpayer, which means our representatives in Congress aren’t too excited about it either.

    Without a big reason to go, the only way we’ll go back is by lowering the cost of going back so much that one day we’ll look around at our capabilities and say “hey, all we need to build is X & Y, and we can be back on the surface of the Moon in 5 years and within our existing NASA exploration budget“. THAT’S something Congress would fund, and THAT is something that is close enough in time (and low enough in budget) that the public would get behind it.

    Think Different.

  • common sense wrote:

    I would feel sorry for you guys but you know… We have the democracy we deserve right?

    What should that tell people? If he does a similar job for more pressing and important issues don’t expect to feel better anytime soon. Sorry.

    Is it possible it is just a theater? And this guy actually has some value? Don’t know just asking.

    Bill Posey reflects the local electorate, ’nuff said.

    For example … A couple years ago, a lady told me she hated Obama because Obama cancelled Constellation, which was “a weapons program to protect us from the Russians.” !!! I kid you not. She claimed the Russians were now going to attack the U.S. because Constellation had been cancelled.

    When he was first elected, Posey got himself national notoreity by introducing the infamous “birther bill” in Congress. He claimed that Obama hadn’t proven he was an American.

    Posey has made these ridiculous claims many times about China conquering the Moon. This isn’t anything new. The local loon-balls eat it up.

    He claims to be a fiscal conservative but he wants the federal government to break the bank building a fortress on the Moon to protect it from the Chinese.

  • That’s great – but don’t forget about real cost of Commercial Resupply(CRS) – 1.6 billion $ for 12 flights – 133M$/flight -> 22,2 thousand $/kg (6000kg payload). And the payload cost for Space Shuttle was near that point – 25000kg for 500M$/launch.

    Dollars per mass of payload is a completely useless metric for this mission.

  • DCSCA

    Dark Blue Nine wrote @ July 22nd, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    “What a flaming idiot…”

    Except he’s not. But then you may be speaking for yourself, as ‘missiles’ are a bit passe in the age of ‘lasers’ and other disruptive electeromagnetic cloak and dagger toys and ciompurer viruses the black budget boys like to play with. And, of course, more importantly, there’s the matter or political perception. Missiles in Cuba were no more a threat to the Continental United States in 1962 than those aboard Soviet subs cruising beneath the waves off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. But the geopolitical perceptions were very real, hence the crisis and resolve to remove them. Whether Americans like it or not, the moon will rise again as a targeted focus for geopolitical and economic competition. Whether the U.S. will rise to the competition again remains to be seen,. But the last ime, it was dragged into the space race, kcking and screaming. A ‘Red Moon’ may seem irrelevant to Americans in 2010′s, but it is not Americans the PRC (or the Russians, for that matter) they’re aiming to impress– it is the new world of emerging economies; nations decidely unimpressed with the successes of the United States in space four decaes and two generations past.

  • DCSCA

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ July 23rd, 2012 at 6:07 pm

    “I agree that whoever is next with people on the Moon is going have an historic moment; however I am not sure it changes the course of history any more then the first historic moment did…”

    Except it will- at least in terms of geopolitical perceptions for commerce and power on Earth. It will hallmark the new century for the nation that returns to stay as theirs and it will be a visible symbol in the skies around the planet. Much more visible than the ISS, doomed to a Pacific splash. Space X is utterly irrelevant in this. A diverson for NewSpace dweebs obsessed w/t Magnified Importance of Diminished Vision.

  • DougSpace

    I’m not that concerned about China on the Moon. If they claim it, no one else will respect their claim. Even if they pursue a “Rods From God” approach, they would still have to deal with the massive unacceptable losses of conventional nukes.

    “Humans on the Moon again would be a big deal”.

    Depending on how it was done, it could be a very big deal. If the Chinese make it back first, then it would all be about China’s rise as compared to America’s relative fall. It could well be Sputnik 2.0 but I think with more of a defeatist rather than a fighting spirit. If China sought to do Anerica one better (I think it would be too tempting) then they would go “to stay”, something the US didn’t do and something with obvious significance (and anxiety and reaction-producing).

    But if the US were to be the first back to the Moon then I think that the big deals would be:
    – this generation’s Moon Shot
    – watched by more people than the first time
    – going back to stay (ISRU & permanent base)
    – the first woman on the Moon (the big one)
    – the first couple permanently off-Earth (start of colonization)
    Plus other smaller firsts (Robonaut, production of water, habitat established, first plant, first delivery of product to depots, first pet, newborn pups, etc)

  • DougSpace

    Ron, I think you’re last paragraph is exactly right. And the good news is that I think we’re nearly there. The Falcon Heavy, lunar ice, telerobotics, and a reusable OTV are our Xs and Ys. And these pieces are coming together. The big reasons to go will be in-space fuel production followed shortly by permanent basing/settlement.

  • pathfinder_01

    “1.6 billion $ for 12 flights – 133M$/flight -> 22,2 thousand $/kg (6000kg payload). And the payload cost for Space Shuttle was near that point – 25000kg for 500M$/launch.”

    The shuttle cost about 3-4 billion a year to use. Space X does not charge NASA 3 billion a year to keep the capacity to launch. At 3 billion a year you could afford almost double the number of Falcon 9 flights.
    Also payload to the station is usually volume limited not mass limited. Food, water, and clothing take up more space than mass.

    In addition you don’t want to deliver all cargo at once. It would be about as useful as buying a year’s worth of groceries to your house (i.e. where do you store it? Shelf life issuses? What if you want a steak in December but ate them all by July?). The most the shuttle ever delivered via MPLM was around 8 tons and that was to a station under construction. Those 12 flights are spaced over years.

    Using the Shuttle to stock the station is like doing grocery shopping for a family of 4 in a flat bed semi truck. Russia has been able to sustain a crew of 3 with Progress and it only lifts 2kg at a time. I know we Americans are wasteful and want everything big, but ah does that mean we need 20,000KG at a time? If we don’t need to lift 20,000 tons why are you using a 20MT lifter(a.k.a) the shuttle to lift 8MT? Dragon can lift 6MT at a time and Cygnus can lift 2MT. And each plans multiple launches per year.

  • Heinrich Monroe

    Chinese officials have not stated colonization goals, that would be ridiculous. However they have openly spoken about utilizing lunar resources, whatever they might turn out to be long term.

    Eh, developing and utilizing lunar resources has value for one thing only. That is MASSIVE exportation of human beings from the Earth outward into the solar system. Call it colonization if you want. But sending humans to the Moon to bring back resources to the Earth is economically stupid. The Chinese understand that very well. Humans on the Moon, to them, is a matter of demonstrating technological competitiveness, and not a matter of mining. Yep, colonization for the sake of colonization is stupid. Remarkable how many stupid people are out there who revere the concept of off-world colonization.

  • pathfinder_01

    Oh forgot to add, there were flights of the MPLM that only lifted as little as 4MT and the MPLM didn’t fly for 3 years between 2002 and 2005. Didn’t fly at all during the shuttle down period of 2006-2008 and flew roughly once a year from 2008 till the end in 2011(not counting the one flight for the PMM).

  • reader

    if we wanted to forgo 40 years of technological advancement we could still go to the Moon and return safely.

    You’d have to rewind the clock on the definition of “safely” too. Apollo dodged quite a few bullets, and there would be a lot more safety nannies around these days.

  • adastramike

    Coastal, I suppose “think different” means to think like you, and agree with every point you made. Well fortunately there is no thought police that will force me to think like you. And I’m glad I am free to have my own views and express them without being burned at the stake for it.

    You may not think the moon is a worthwhile goal, but I do and I’m sticking with it. And there are others who agree so my view is not off the wall. I don’t see a limit to potential activities, resources, technology, and science on the moon, even if others can’t or won’t see it. It’s the most obvious celestial destination, apart from Mars, and duh we went there first. We should never have left. And while Constellation may have been a failed architecture, the Moon as a destination was right in my view. It’s sad that we set it as a goal again only to then cancel it.

    Human missions to Mars are at least several decades away, if not half a century or more. A Lagrange point station would be something new, but only have real purpose if it helped create cis-lunar infrastructure, in my view. The Moon is a logical step, as we’ve only scratched it’s surface. Its the nearest object where we can learn to live on another celestial surface. Next Perhaps an asteroid at some point to learn about surviving interplanetary space. Then at some point the journey to Mars. Then perhaps the outer planets or initial colonization plans. Just my musings on destinations, which of course require the right technology to enable them.

    And we don’t have the capability now to send people to the Moon. We don’t have the human-rated launch vehicles, we don’t have the departure stages, or landers, or rovers or habs. All that IS lost to history, for now. Do we have the skill sets and capacity to repeat it? Yes, but that’s a far cry from capability, which I use to mean technology we currently have. If you thought I meant America didn’t have the capacity to repeat a lunar landing, well then you misinterpreted what I wrote.

  • adastramike

    Coastal, I suppose “think different” means to think like you, and agree with every point you made. Well fortunately there is no thought police that will force me to think like you. And I’m glad I am free to have my own views and express them without being burned at the stake for it.

    You may not think the moon is a worthwhile goal, but I do and I’m sticking with it. And there are others who agree so my view is not off the wall. I don’t see a limit to potential activities, resources, technology, and science on the moon, even if others can’t or won’t see it. It’s the most obvious celestial destination, apart from Mars, and duh we went there first. We should never have left. And while Constellation may have been a failed architecture, the Moon as a destination was right in my view. It’s sad that we set it as a goal again only to then cancel it.

    Human missions to Mars are at least several decades away, if not half a century or more. A Lagrange point station would be something new, but only have real purpose if it helped create cis-lunar infrastructure, in my view. The Moon is a logical step, as we’ve only scratched it’s surface. Its the nearest object where we can learn to live on another celestial surface. Next Perhaps an asteroid at some point to learn about surviving interplanetary space. Then at some point the journey to Mars. Then perhaps the outer planets or initial colonization plans. Just my musings on destinations, which of course require the right technology to enable them.

    And we don’t have the capability now to send people to the Moon. We don’t have the human-rated launch vehicles, we don’t have the departure stages, or landers, or rovers or habs. All that IS lost to history, for now. Do we have the skill sets and capacity to repeat it? Yes, but that’s a far cry from capability, which I use to mean technology we currently have. If you thought I meant America didn’t have the capacity to repeat a lunar landing, well then you misinterpreted what I wrote.

  • Curtis Quick

    Speaking of going back to the moon…

    Could SpaceX do it on the cheap to showcase the Falcon Heavy? Would it be worth the risk for SpaceX to launch a Dragon capsule around the moon and back on it’s first flight in 2013? The retail cost of a Falcon Heavy is listed at $95 million. I bet SpaceX can do if for less in-house.

    Would it be worth the risk if when the Dragon is crewed (in say, 2015) that SpaceX would send a crewed Dragon around the Moon like Apollo 8?

    Would it be worth the risk to send a crewed Dragon to land on the moon and return on or before the 50th anniversary in 2019? They seem to have plenty of time to figure this out. I suppose they could launch a Falcon Heavey to land a fuel supply on the moon then launch another Falcon Heavy with a crewed Dragon to land, refuel, and return. I guess that could cost around $300 million.

    But would this be worth the cost? It would certainly help SpaceX look like the mature and capable commercial space company that it would like to be seen as (although by this point, 2019, it may not need the helpful moon landing stunt to prove this).

    Of course, there would not be much profit in it (unless they took along some paying passengers). And if it did not work it would not cast a favorable light on the company. But it would be bold. That counts for something!

  • niksus

    “I know talk is cheap, but as the Zen master said, “We shall see.” You may think that I somehow prefer Shuttle vs Falcon. No, I just said that only after SpaceX manage to complete fully reusable Falcon Heavy, Falcon 9 and Dragon the real cost reduction will appear. Until that happens we’ll possibly see good competitive prices from them.
    “Who has the lowest price is important, but if we have to choose between an American and a Russian vehicle and the American vehicle flight service costs a little more than the Russian one (maybe or maybe not), guess which one we will choose?” You’ll certainly choose American and we’ll select the Russian one. Two sets of vehicles, but who will fly on 7 seats of Dragon? Seems you need to increase capacity of American/Japanese/European sector of ISS, cause Roskosmos will never put anyone on unproven Dragon constantly.
    “Dollars per mass of payload is a completely useless metric for this mission.” But it’s the profit/cost rules any commercial mission(not CRS), and profit must >cost for any useful project. Give another useful metric.
    Moon is not a good destination, near earth asteroids are much better, and imho space exploitation is affordable and sustainable if solar power used to get out of gravity wells once without the need to return. I think Tsiolkovsky already provided big enough insight on those topics in his works. Why do people always return to discussion of Mars/Moon/other planets as homes for colonies, when there is no real need for those bodies except as a materials extraction points and only after all Sun system’s asteroids/comets etc will be mined? Every big gravitational well is a loss of energy(solar, temperature potential, kinetic), freedom (from 3D to 2D), construction simplicity(in space any form of space station/craft is possible) and useless fight with hazardous environment(winds, cold, hot, unusual chemistry etc). And those difficulties emerge for a research possibility in geology/biology and high cost materials useful only on that planet/moon. Imho it’s much easier to create full cycle economy near rich asteroid/belt where robots can be very small and agile(flying/hopping), and gravitation is created artificially by rotation/acceleration. Maybe I played X-Tension/X2/X3 too much. ;0 But really what is the reason to bind yourself to surface of planet/moon/asteroid, if you can inflate/create any type of surface/volume fully illuminated by sun, with any desirable temperature, air composition and gravity potential from 0.01 to 10000g? Only one emerges – near Earth proximity of Moon.

  • Everybody talks about the heavy-lift vehicle to go to the Moon. What about the lunar lander? What about the colony? Nobody is spending money for anything like that. SLS sends us to circle the Moon, not land on it. What’s the point?

  • @niksus
    “No, I just said that only after SpaceX manage to complete fully reusable Falcon Heavy, Falcon 9 and Dragon the real cost reduction will appear.”

    If by “real cost reduction” you mean passenger costs significantly below $20M, then I totally agree with you.

    “Seems you need to increase capacity of American/Japanese/European sector of ISS, cause Roskosmos will never put anyone on unproven Dragon constantly.”

    First, by the time Dragon flies a regular passenger schedule to ISS, it will not be “unproven”. A number of test flights both with and without passengers will occur. Second, as far as “increase capacity of American/Japanese/European sector of ISS” is concerned, expansion via attachment of one or more Bigelow modules to ISS is already being considered. See: http://www.space.com/10686-nasa-bigelow-module-international-space-station.html Third, remember that Shuttle also carried 7 passengers, just because 7 go up doesn’t mean they all have to become ISS crew. There are other missions those extra astronauts can perform that won’t necessarily have anything to do with ISS.

    Furthermore, the 7 passenger capacity will also be an advantage to SpaceX for taking passengers to nonNASA Bigelow stations.

  • Vladislaw

    DC society for creative anachronisms wrote:

    “Whether Americans like it or not, the moon will rise again as a targeted focus for geopolitical and economic competition. Whether the U.S. will rise to the competition again remains to be seen”

    Except … you are wrong.

    How many other countries have their own private companies offering lunar space prizes like the american company google?

    How many other countries have companies, led by Stone, wanting to create gas stations on the moon?
    http://www.space.com/3567-texas-firm-draws-plans-orbital-gas-station.html

    How many other countries have businesses using their own funds and are considering Bases or space stations around the moon like Bigelow Aerospace?

    how many other other countries, barring Russia in the 1960′s and the recent lunar mappers by China, India and Japan, have did the most launches to Luna? America has did more research of the moon with spacecraft then all other countries combined.

    Even when the U.S. is showing little interest in the moon we are still outpacing the rest of the planet by leaps and bounds on lunar activities.

    So you are, once again, being silly. The evidence is right in front of you but you refuse to open your eyes and instead write nonsense.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “… cost of Commercial Resupply(CRS) – 1.6 billion $ for 12 flights – 133M$/flight -> 22,2 thousand $/kg (6000kg payload). And the payload cost for Space Shuttle was near that point – 25000kg for 500M$/launch.”

    Your Shuttle numbers are off. The Space Shuttle’s average launch cost over the life of the program was $1.5 billion:

    http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/space/ss/Cost-Of-Space-Shuttle-Launch.htm

    So Shuttle’s cost per kilogram of payload was $60,000. That’s nowhere close to your $/kg figure for Dragon ISS flights. In fact, it’s ten times (10x) higher.

    And it should be 10x higher. SpaceX’s CRS contract is only $1.6 billion over about five years. Shuttle cost NASA $4-5 billion per year, regardless of how many times it flew. Over five years, that would be $20-35 billion for Shuttle flights, which is more than an order of magnitude (10x) higher than the SpaceX CRS contract.

    “Why addition of Dragon capsule and ISS as destination quadriple(4x) the cost?”

    Several reasons:

    1) The price of the Dragon capsule. SpaceX has stated that the cost of an unmanned, reused Dragon capsule is roughly equivalent to Falcon 9′s price, or about $55 million. So the Falcon 9 plus the Dragon start at $110 million. That means that under CRS, NASA is only paying a $23 million premium over the bare bones prices for a Falcon 9/Dragon mission

    2) Under the CRS contract, NASA wants new, not reused, Dragons. That’s part of the $23 million premium to the $110 million bare bones price for a Falcon 9/Dragon mission.

    3) To help protect ISS, NASA wants certain additions to operations for each CRS mission. That’s another part of the $23 million premium to the $110 million bare bones price for a Falcon 9/Dragon mission.

    4) To help protect ISS, NASA wants certain analyses completed for each CRS mission. That’s another part of the $23 million premium to the $110 million bare bones price for a Falcon 9/Dragon mission.

    5) NASA wants downmass from ISS. Those recovery operations are another part of the $23 million premium to the $110 million bare bones price for a Falcon 9/Dragon mission.

    “Besides where are cost reductions people on forums always give to SpaceX? Same prices Russian space providers gave in 90x-early 200x on Proton/Progress launches. It was the market that rose the prices, and same 20M$/seat was on early Souz flight.”

    NASA pays $65 million per Soyuz seat. If SpaceX is able to deliver on their $20 million per seat cost for crewed Dragon, they will drop NASA’s crew transport costs by a factor of three (3x) compared to what NASA is currently paying.

    Assuming a crew of seven, Shuttle cost ~$215 million per seat. If SpaceX is able to deliver on their $20 million per seat cost for crewed Dragon, that will drop NASA’s crew transport costs by more than a factor of ten (10x) compared to what NASA paid for Space Shuttle (or what NASA would have paid if the Space Shuttle program continued).

    “and that doesn’t allow our agency to make any new program”

    Wrong. The CRS contracts and Soyuz have freed up about $3 billion per year out of the old $5 billion per year Shuttle budget. (Commercial crew will free up more when it replaces Soyuz.)

    That $3 billion is going to SLS/MPCV, which is a “new program”. It’s a new “exploration” program that is so expensive that it can’t afford to build any actual exploration hardware for another 13+ years. But that’s not the fault of CRS or commercial crew.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Except he’s not.”

    Great, Timmy Tourettes is back.

    “But then you may be speaking for yourself, as ‘missiles’ are a bit passe in the age of ‘lasers’ and other disruptive electeromagnetic cloak and dagger toys and ciompurer viruses the black budget boys like to play with.”

    This is an idiotic statement. Even at the speed of light, it takes six times longer to beam a laser or transmit a computer virus from the Moon to Earth than from a geostationary satellite to Earth. An opponent could launch six attacks in the time it takes a scifi lunar-based weapon to get in one attack.

    “Missiles in Cuba were no more a threat to the Continental United States in 1962 than those aboard Soviet subs cruising beneath the waves off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.”

    This is another idiotic statement. Whether subs or Cuba, the Soviets (and Americans) needed to base their nukes as close as possible to their targets to reduce their flight times as much as possible in the event of war. The evidence you cite disproves your case.

    “the moon will rise again as a targeted focus”

    The Moon hasn’t had any strategic military value in the last 50+ years. If it did, the Defense Department would have mounted a lunar program. They didn’t.

    The Moon is not going to have any strategic military value for the next 50+ years. If it was, the Defense Department would have a lunar program. They don’t.

    It’s always nice when one of the staffers who make Posey look like a flaming idiot stop by.

  • Malmesbury

    Acouple of things -

    To compare like with like – shuttle delivered cargo to the station in the MPLM. Max load used was 8500kg or so – max available was a bit over 9000kg. Shuttle couldn’t reach the station with a 25000kg load. A number of missions to the station had the MPLM carrying less than 6000kg.

    There has already been consideration of what to do with spare seats on commercial vehicles. Near term there are plans to use the seats for astronauts to fly up to the station and leave when the vehicle unlocks – traing and short term work/experiments. Longer term plans include using the reverse capacity of the station life support system and increasing it.

  • DougSpace wrote @ July 23rd, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    it is a perception thing. If the Chinese go to the Moon in 20 years or so and they are already perceived as the leaders of this century; then it will only confirm it. If the US with a free enterprise based program is able to resurge its economy, ditching the economic theories that have made the rich richer and the middle class poorer, sent our industry off shore…then going back to the Moon will be a “the US is back”.

    Both countries have significant issues trying to resolve capitalism to their form of government…the US is trying to deal with a corporate class that is running the government and the Chinese are trying to deal with a corporate class that is running their government…all screwing the people…so its possible there is a third option; ie India or some other nation gathers the right momenteum and heads for world greatness.

    The next five to ten years are critical for both countries. RGO

  • “Missiles in Cuba were no more a threat to the Continental United States in 1962 than those aboard Soviet subs cruising beneath the waves off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.”

    LOL except they were not (tommy t do over).

    The missiles on Soviet Submarines in the 1960′s were a threat but not nearly as much as the missiles on land base.

    Soviet missiles in the 1960′s era were still of the variety where the subs had to surface to fire their missiles…in addition Soviet subs were louder then Sarah Palin on a Fox interview…they were relatively vulnerable and the US was in that era pretty flush with hunter killer sub groups which had the subs under constant observation.

    Land base missiles in a sovereign country were something else. We could not keep a constant eyes on with missiles in Cubur, ie we had no clue when they were being fueled or armed unless we just happened to have a recee flight going over, which was really an act of war.

    and there is no military value to the Moon…kinetic weapons aside all the electromagnetic ones are vulnerable to that old enemy the inverse square law.

    Moving on RGO

  • DougSpace

    Stephen, you are correct. But a lunar lander is not that great a stretch of the imagination once you have the means of delivering it (I.e. the Falcon Heavy). I think the easiest way to achieve a full-sized lunar lander would be something like the modified Centaur concept. Similarly, SpaceX is working on its hydrolox upper stage (Raptor). When we have the Falcon Heavy capability and upper stages, the next obvious thing would be modify them for cis-lunar transport and lunar landing.

    Mike, if lunar operations are producing significant quantities of water, then Mars would be a lot closer. Water shielding sent in an Aldrin Cycler Orbit would greatly reduce the mass that would need to be sent each time. And then there’s the issue of whether going to Phobos is going to Mars. I could imagine several years being spent replicating lunar technologies on Phobos to make the propellant needed for trips between Phobos and the Martian surface while a Mars lander is being developed.

    Chris. I think that the things you mention would be worth the risk because doing those things would force the national conversation to consider SpaceX’s capabilities when looking at the direction of America’s space program. I anticipate that there will come a time when the SLS is scrutinized for affordability due to budget overruns. If SpaceX has demonstrated BEO capability at a fraction of the cost, it will be awfully hard to ignore. And financially, SpaceX can afford to take some risks.

  • New Age

    Everybody talks about the heavy-lift vehicle to go to the Moon. What about the lunar lander?

    This is the reusability era, Stephen. the upper stage IS the lander. F9 V.2 boosters are powerful enough that even SLS core stages could be viable landers with the addition of just five RL10s in the SSME interstitial voids. No upper stages are required. We’ve simmed this thing out already.

    What about the colony?

    Patience grasshopper. I can think of lots of things that robots can do with many giant vertical SLS core stage stacks sitting on the moon.

    Nobody is spending money for anything like that.

    NASA is. They just aren’t doing it in a rational and progressive manner.

  • Coastal Ron

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ July 24th, 2012 at 8:00 am

    Everybody talks about the heavy-lift vehicle to go to the Moon. What about the lunar lander?

    Just like the spacecraft we have visiting the ISS today, the next generation of planetary landers will be automated, meaning that we will only have to find scientists that can be trained to be operators, not scientists that are also test pilots. And we see this already with the increasingly sophisticated missions that land on the surface of Mars, but they need to be come even more dependable for human use.

    However there is already a lot of work being done on the systems that land the lander, and NASA’s Morpheus lander is just one example. Preceding Morpheus has been a number of commercial firms and enthusiast groups working on the problem, and the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge X Prize and Google Lunar X Prize have certainly been big driving forces for testing out the next generation of lunar landers.

    The amount of money involved in the X Prize efforts is pretty small in comparison to anything the government funds to build (like $8B for a 4-person capsule), but it builds up our capabilities so that we are that much closer to going back to the Moon, and going without having to ask U.S. Taxpayers to dig down deep and increase NASA’s budget (like Constellation required).

    What about the colony?

    In the startup world the latest mantra is “Lean”. And part of what that means is not spending money on things you don’t need yet. We don’t need to spend money on how we’ll build a colony yet, since we don’t even have funding to visit for a few days.

    In a way I see this as part of the philosophical difference between the capabilities-based exploration efforts and the “Build A Big Rocket And Then Figure Out If We Need It” method. What is the first barrier keeping us from getting back to the Moon? Getting to LEO in a cost-effective way, and Commercial Crew solves that. Next we need to get to lunar orbit and back in a cost-effective way – how do we do that? Then we need a staging area, and a way to supply that staging area. Incremental steps that are usable on their own but build up a solid foundation for getting back to the Moon in a cost-effective way.

    It will take time, and we need to get Congress to cancel the SLS to free up funds. But it will be far faster and more sustainable than Constellation-type wet dreams.

    Keep up the good work on your blog & outreach.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Speaking of going back to the moon…

    Could SpaceX do it on the cheap to showcase the Falcon Heavy? Would it be worth the risk for SpaceX to launch a Dragon capsule around the moon and back on it’s first flight in 2013?”

    I’ve actually heard rumors that it is SpaceX’s plan to put a Dragon on a lunar free-return flight with the first or second Falcon Heavy test launch. I think the rumors are credible because they come from feds who are interested in hitching rides on the SpaceX-paid launch. But it’s not firsthand info from any SpaceX leadership, so it should be taken with a grain of salt. Even if currently accurate, plans could change.

    “The retail cost of a Falcon Heavy is listed at $95 million. I bet SpaceX can do if for less in-house.”

    An uncrewed Dragon goes for about $55 million, so we’re talking about $150 million total for the lunar free-return demo mission. Dragon’s PICA-X TPS can already survive reentry from lunar return trajectories, so the capability to do this will basically exist, plus or minus comms, once Falcon Heavy flies circa 2013-2014. It would be really slick if the Dragon was reused from one of the COTS or CRS missions to ISS.

    If the next White House (Obama second-term or Romney first-term) felt the need to make such a demonstration (e.g., China announces an actual human lunar program and the White House is under pressure to respond), it’s certainly a quick and affordable way to do it. This option beats the first SLS/MPCV flight by at least several years, and the SLS/MPCV budget by more than an order of magnitude.

    I don’t know if the Boeing Lightweight Ablator (BLA) on the CST-100 is capable of Earth reentry from lunar trajectories, but it would be good for NASA to compete such a lunar demo mission. Of course, if SpaceX does it anyway, then there’s no need for the next President to fund such a mission through NASA, competed or otherwise.

    “Would it be worth the risk if when the Dragon is crewed (in say, 2015) that SpaceX would send a crewed Dragon around the Moon like Apollo 8?”

    I don’t see any reason for SpaceX to take this risk (over an uncrewed Dragon), but there may be “space tourists” interested in such rides. With a reduced crew, DragonRider has enough room for consumables to support the mission, but it would be crowded and some TBD mods would have to be made to the capsule.

    Given the kid gloves that NASA handles its astronauts with, I doubt NASA would bite on such a mission unless the DragonRider capsule was augmented with additional volume for extra consumables, a toilet, etc. — either the unflown ISS hab module or a Bigelow-type inflatable hab. That could drive the mass up to the point that it no longer fits on a single Falcon Heavy, although a 70-ton EELV Phase 2 or some very modest propellant management with two launches could pull it off. The worst-case cost should be ~$2.5B+ for EELV Phase 2, ~1B+ to get the ISS hab module in flying condition, plus something for Dragon mods and integration. Call it $5B total for NASA to field such a worst-case mission. That’s still a small fraction (about 1/6th) of what SLS/MPCV development costs, and it would probably fly at least a couple years before SLS/MPCV’s first crewed flight.

    “Would it be worth the risk to send a crewed Dragon to land on the moon and return on or before the 50th anniversary in 2019?”

    I think a crewed lunar surface mission is out of the question using SpaceX funding alone — there’s too much cost involved in fielding the necessary systems with no obvious, large revenue stream. It would have to be a NASA mission. I’m not aware of any NASA studies that have looked at using Dragon for such missions, but they have looked at using multiple Falcon Heavy launches to support lunar and NEA missions with MPCV. Unlike the SLS/HEFT reference missions, the Falcon Heavy versions actually fit the budget:

    images.spaceref.com/news/2011/21.jul2011.vxs.pdf

    I think the more interesting question is whether an uncrewed DragonRider could be landed on the Moon using just one Falcon Heavy for the launch and the DragonRider’s launch abort system for the lunar descent. I don’t know if DragonRider’s LAS will have enough delta-V to pull this off, but if Red Dragon has enough capability to land on Mars, it’s not out of the question. She won’t be able to take off from the lunar surface and get back to Earth by herself (hence uncrewed). But it would be a big step towards returning humans to the lunar surface, opens up low-cost possibilities for surface rendezvous architectures and ascent modules, and could be fielded as early as 2015 for as cheap as ~$150 million. Again, this could be attractive to a White House that wants to make a statement through NASA’s human space flight program. If Blue Origin stays in the commercial crew game, they have an integrated LAS like DragonRider and could be a competitor for a lunar surface demo mission.

    My 2 cents.

  • Coastal Ron

    reader wrote @ July 24th, 2012 at 1:18 am

    You’d have to rewind the clock on the definition of “safely” too.

    My point is that we haven’t “lost” the ability to go back, and yes, even back then we knew there were big risks, yet we still went. If the desire is high enough, then risks will be tolerated. People risk their lives every day doing recreation, so why wouldn’t we accept risk in the name of exploration?

    Bottom line – we can go back any time we want, but Congress doesn’t want to pay for it. That won’t stop individuals and companies though, which makes it very likely the next person on the Moon won’t be a government representative from a country.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “But a lunar lander is not that great a stretch of the imagination once you have the means of delivering it (I.e. the Falcon Heavy). I think the easiest way to achieve a full-sized lunar lander would be something like the modified Centaur concept. Similarly, SpaceX is working on its hydrolox upper stage (Raptor). When we have the Falcon Heavy capability and upper stages, the next obvious thing would be modify them for cis-lunar transport and lunar landing.”

    Agreed. I would just add that you don’t even have to wait on the Raptor engine. There’s lots of RL-10 based and modified-Centaur lunar lander designs out there that would cost a fraction of Constellation’s Altair lander. Here’s a couple:

    https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:TfSAHnv0d0sJ:smartech.gatech.edu/bitstream/handle/1853/8368/AIAA-2005-4010.pdf+RL-10+lunar+lander+georgia+tech&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESgaoanIlQIE9k0NZoF_A02rvZzMGLdEb31F7qr5Qs7xucEfpz_ysTexEbb9hlwZrzMngGvC6SejV0kqr1biu5HpwWO7pjfvjx62cv_x0jah7eu-QEESD0rGXb6xnW8teBqfY1xD&sig=AHIEtbTAtHO6wt11wv0wmoo1XMs3CQEPeQ

    https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:dNi6ntvenQMJ:smartech.gatech.edu/jspui/bitstream/1853/26277/1/aiaa_2007-6169.pdf+RL-10+lunar+lander+georgia+tech&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESiVW7bkSqAHGeibQ_G7prc0DQCqRMGz9BXKPRlzfnfW4cKwY1iSsoOsPkfCBrthSYtR43q8R7OGiII2jgS3JCFK8BKh8l2KZos_Lfif5lWKgxTO8WqfNJ-HPzHPf-N2yTRvVeFV&sig=AHIEtbS_Ixtk5uygql2-_fDcUVfaOD9H8A

    Masten and ULA are even pursuing an RL-10/Centaur demonstrator called XEUS that could put 14 tons on the lunar surface. Dragon is about 6 tons and if its LAS has enough delta-V to get back to LLO or LTO, you’d have a very low-cost, human-capable, lunar lander/ascent module combo. Here’s a couple links:

    http://michaelbelfiore.com/2012/02/moo-landers-advance-at-masten-space.html

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masten_Space_Systems

  • Coastal Ron

    adastramike wrote @ July 24th, 2012 at 3:17 am

    You may not think the moon is a worthwhile goal, but I do and I’m sticking with it.

    Define “worthwhile”.

    And by the way, I want to go everywhere, and I am very annoyed that so many people have wasted so much money and opportunity.

    I came to this forum in 2008 as a DIRECT supporter, but quickly became educated on the costs of things and the money that has gone into various products and programs. Being from the manufacturing world, I focus on cost, and I think I focus on it more than the average space enthusiast. Who knows, maybe money means nothing to you, but NASA doesn’t do anything cheap and Congress does not give them a blank check, so ignore the money side of the equation at your own peril.

    It is money that is the reason we haven’t gone back to the Moon. That and a sufficient national desire (which is money related too). I want to go, and you want to go, but over 300 million other fellow citizens don’t, so get used to disappointment.

    So while you’re wishing for a fairy to sprinkle lunar dust on you and transport you to the Moon, us more rational folks are trying to figure out how we can get back to the Moon within the constraints of reality.

    Do we have the skill sets and capacity to repeat it? Yes, but that’s a far cry from capability, which I use to mean technology we currently have.

    I don’t disagree. The difference between us is likely one of how we get from here to there. In the project management triangle (i.e. Fast, Good and Cheap), I go for Good and Cheap, as I know that NASA’s budget is more likely to be cut than expanded. That’s also why I see the SLS as a gigantic waste of money, as no one (NO ONE) has been able to articulate a funding plan for building it and using it, all within NASA’s current budget profile.

    In a way I use people’s views on the SLS as a test of whether they understand money, and you would be surprised at how many people don’t. Hopefully you appreciate money, and you will also support the Good and Cheap approach, as any other approach is likely doomed to failure and disappointment.

  • DCSCA

    @Vladislaw wrote @ July 24th, 2012 at 11:09 am

    =yawn= Prize structured competitions are not going to compete with government-financed commitments fueled by geopolitical motives. An assault on the moon by the PRC has little to do with exploring points on Luna and everything to do w/establifhing positions on Earth.

    Don’t so naive.

  • Malmesbury

    Dragon (cargo or otherwise) will not fly above ISS orbit until Orion goes BEO. Or dies.

    It’s politics. The latest compromise is that commercial does LEO, and Orion/SLS does BEO. Flying above LEO will be seen as an outright attack on SLS/Orion.

    A Zond style mission round the moon on FH would be wonderful – talk about re-lighting the fire… But it won’t happen until SpaceX have built up a massive political base. When they are deep into COTS, FH is launching regularly, and. they have manned dragon flying (even in unmanned test form) and the Texas launch site is well under way, it might happen.

    The Texas launch site is politically important since it gives them a new base of support in Congress and the Senate… And they can hold out the possibility of build production facilities there as well. If they do that, they are offering Texas a complete competitor to Florida in terms of space dollars, jobs etc…

    But Orion will fly first or die. That is the politics of it.

  • common sense

    @ Stephen C. Smith wrote @ July 23rd, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    “Bill Posey reflects the local electorate, ’nuff said.”

    Do you all have the Internet in FL?

    “For example … A couple years ago, a lady told me she hated Obama because Obama cancelled Constellation, which was “a weapons program to protect us from the Russians.” !!! I kid you not. She claimed the Russians were now going to attack the U.S. because Constellation had been cancelled.”

    The sun must be pretty hot where you are.

    “When he was first elected, Posey got himself national notoreity by introducing the infamous “birther bill” in Congress. He claimed that Obama hadn’t proven he was an American.”

    At least he knows his priorities! And if people support him then we know theirs too.

    “He claims to be a fiscal conservative but he wants the federal government to break the bank building a fortress on the Moon to protect it from the Chinese.”

    Yeah the French had the “Ligne Maginot” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maginot_Line) and we may end up with the Moon. Very helpful.

  • common sense

    @Malmesbury wrote @ July 24th, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    “But Orion will fly first or die. That is the politics of it.”

    Then you know why Dragon will go first ;) Just watch.

  • Coastal Ron

    Malmesbury wrote @ July 24th, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    Dragon (cargo or otherwise) will not fly above ISS orbit until Orion goes BEO. Or dies.

    It’s politics. The latest compromise is that commercial does LEO, and Orion/SLS does BEO. Flying above LEO will be seen as an outright attack on SLS/Orion.

    You mean an attack on the “Old Space” funding stream and the few Congressional districts that are affected? That’s not many people compared to the whole of the U.S.

    If SpaceX gets a license from the FAA to re-enter a Dragon spacecraft, and it just happens to be coming back from a swing around the Moon, what is the beef? If they want to throw a used Dragon around the Moon on an untested Falcon Heavy, who cares? It’s their money. The FAA will vet the safety systems, and if they are happy SpaceX gets the license. They shouldn’t be allowed to do it because someone is jealous? Show me that in the legal code.

    Congress funds NASA, and Congress can chose to ignore whatever they want, as they have with the funding of the SLS. And there are no “agreements” on what is off-limits to commercial companies when they are not doing anything related to a government contract.

    Who knows, if SpaceX did decide to do such a mission, I wouldn’t be surprised if they gave NASA an opportunity to send some instruments along. Maybe NASA has some backup equipment sitting around that they could fly, and if the mission goes as planned, they get it back again. Pretty low risk, and low budget. Win-Win.

    I don’t think the probability is high they will do such a mission, but I think the attempt would send a strong message to not only space enthusiasts in the U.S., but a message to other nations that our companies can do what governments cannot. That would be a pretty powerful statement.

  • Assuming a crew of seven, Shuttle cost ~$215 million per seat.

    Careful–you are allocating all of the cost to delivering crew. How it is allocated between crew and cargo is arbitrary, but it makes no sense to assume that the cargo delivery has zero value.

    Dragon (cargo or otherwise) will not fly above ISS orbit until Orion goes BEO. Or dies.

    Says who?

  • The right-wing deranged wrote:

    in addition Soviet subs were louder then Sarah Palin on a Fox interview

    Robert, neither Sarah Palin or Fox news have any relevance to this discussion. Please get some help with your condition.

  • Rand Simberg wrote @ July 24th, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    Robert, neither Sarah Palin or Fox news have any relevance to this discussion.>> and I didnt say that they did, but a Sarah Palin appearance on Fox News does describe how loud Soviet Subs in teh 1960′s era were…shrieking.

    RGO

  • pathfinder_01

    “Dragon (cargo or otherwise) will not fly above ISS orbit until Orion goes BEO. Or dies.”

    NASA does not have that kind of power. They are not a regulatory agency. They have no say in spaceflight that does not use NASA astronaunts, NASA equipment, or NASA funding.

    “It’s politics. The latest compromise is that commercial does LEO, and Orion/SLS does BEO. Flying above LEO will be seen as an outright attack on SLS/Orion.”

    Perhaps, but it would shake things up. Congress would be near powerless to stop any contract that NASA already has with Space X.

    “A Zond style mission round the moon on FH would be wonderful – talk about re-lighting the fire… But it won’t happen until SpaceX have built up a massive political base. When they are deep into COTS, FH is launching regularly, and. they have manned dragon flying (even in unmanned test form) and the Texas launch site is well under way, it might happen.”

    Err no they don’t need a political base for the mission. Just funding and the will to do so. It is really the funding part that is a short stop not political base.

    “The Texas launch site is politically important since it gives them a new base of support in Congress and the Senate… And they can hold out the possibility of build production facilities there as well. If they do that, they are offering Texas a complete competitor to Florida in terms of space dollars, jobs etc…”

    Err not quite. Texas is also home to mission control and some other NASA stuff. They already have production in California (another space state). Florida, Texas, Alabama, and California all are states with space related activities both commercial and NASA. In fact Shelby was criticized for ignoring ULA in his state. Space X already tests engines in Texas (which K. Hutchison was criticized for ignoring).

    “But Orion will fly first or die. That is the politics of it.”

    For NASA atm that is true but not for anyone else.

  • common sense wrote:

    Do you all have the Internet in FL?

    Yes, but my Tea Bagging neighbors use it to download porn or post Obama conspiracy theories on Space Politics. :-)

    Try reading the Florida Today letters to the editor for a few days. You’ll find many more prime examples of political thinking in this county.

  • A M Swallow

    There is just time during his 4 year term for the next president to send a resource prospecting rover to the Moon on a Morpheus lander.

    Mitt Romney can show that this is a different policy from Obama and since it is unmanned it is not a lunar colony. He can claim a big saving of money by forcing NASA to go unmanned.

    Barack Obama can have a Moon as part of his legacy. Jobs – short term jobs performing the mission, long term job creation through creating a commercial lunar resource industry. Apollo was a reconnaissance, this time the USA is going to the Moon to work.

  • Vladislaw

    DCSCA wrote:

    “=yawn= Prize structured competitions are not going to compete with government-financed commitments fueled by geopolitical motives. An assault on the moon by the PRC has little to do with exploring points on Luna and everything to do w/establifhing positions on Earth. “

    Gosh.. you are the first insider from the communist ruling party I have ever talked to. How much do the PRC have budgeted for the next decade for this lunar assault? Since you are obviously on the inside can you give us the timetable also.

    Since you framed it as a competition, and the US is already competing on levels above what the chinese are doing, give us the scoop, how much are the chinese spending … TODAY on luna?
    money — mouth

  • adastramike

    Coastal:

    You wrote:

    So while you’re wishing for a fairy to sprinkle lunar dust on you and transport you to the Moon, us more rational folks are trying to figure out how we can get back to the Moon within the constraints of reality.

    Really. Where did I even imply I wanted to personally be transported to the Moon? And why would I expect another manned lunar mission to “magically” happen, requiring a fairy to sprinkle lunar dust? Stop projecting your opposition’s views onto me. It’s a little childish.

    I see that you’re really annoyed about SLS. I certaintly didn’t propose it. I don’t know if it is truly better or worse than human-rating EELVs (single launch vs. a multiple launches). I don’t know if fuel depots would really solve the problem — I’ve heard the NASA administrator say it’s more expensive, but maybe he’s tyring not to ruffle any more Congressional feathers. I don’t claim to have those answers. In my view, Bolden is following marching orders, whether it’s right or wrong, whether from the White House or Congress. I don’t agree with it, and it annoys me that the Moon was relegated to “been there before”. If Obama is one of our smartest presidents, that one statement doesn’t say much about smartness.

    I do think some type of HLV is needed for beyond LEO exploration, however. Even SpaceX wants to build an HLV, granted not as payload-capable as Congress wants SLS to be. For a trip to the Antarctic you wouldn’t transport everything on charter jets. You also wouldn’t transfer everything on one gigantic carrier either (what SLS is to you I suppose). There is probably a break even point somewhere. Some optimal combination of smaller-sized LV’s and some level of HLV. If an HLV is so horrible, why didn’t the Augustine committee simply conclude that (as far as I know they didn’t)? Why did Obama initially want to delay the HLV by 5 years? Probably just a stall tactic, as I don’t think he personally is that space savvy. I’d say the same of a Republican.

    Does an HLV need to be Shuttle-derived? Probably not, but this is not a game of “what’s the best technology”? I don’t really have to tell you, but it’s mainly political. Politicians are not tech-savvy. What else do you realistically expect?

    Really it doesn’t even matter much what we think — this is a blog, if I must remind you, for expressing views and I suppose venting. We are not in power. If you really want to be one of the “rational” folks with apparently the greatest grasp on reality possible, why don’t you get into NASA HQ? Or mount a massive campaign to kill SLS and replace it with something better? I am only trying to contribute my own insights into the discussion, not forcing people to adopt my view by fiat or attempts to belittle. From what I’ve read on this blog, SLS isn’t loved anyway, so take comfort, your view is prevailing on the blogosphere.

  • Coastal Ron

    adastramike wrote @ July 25th, 2012 at 4:06 am

    I see that you’re really annoyed about SLS. I certaintly didn’t propose it. I don’t know if it is truly better or worse than human-rating EELVs (single launch vs. a multiple launches).

    Annoyed and disappointed that we’ve wasted so much time and money going down the Super-HLV route.

    As I mentioned previously, I have learned a lot since I started participating on this blog. Lots of people have provided information and pointed out alternative ways for us to explore space. I didn’t realize originally how much we were constrained by money, but now I see that money, and the proper & improper spending of it, is the largest single factor in us leaving LEO – not technology. We have the technology.

    With money so important, I have done what others have done – I have “run the numbers” to see if building the SLS and then building SLS-sized payloads to use it makes sense. What lots of people have realized is that the SLS doesn’t fit within any spending scenario. None. And it’s not like it’s just barely too expensive, it’s WAY out of kilter with any rational view of NASA’s future budget.

    So the dislike for the SLS is based in fiscal reality.

    And it’s not like there aren’t alternatives. NASA, ULA and others have proposed exploration architectures that use existing rockets and near-term technology to leave LEO and even go back to the Moon. Using these architectures we don’t need a bigger budget for NASA, and we can start building beyond-LEO missions today, not ten years from now.

    You can validate what I’m saying yourself, and you should.

    SLS supporters don’t have any information that they can point to that supports the need for an SLS, because there are no known or funded payloads for the SLS. It was proposed purely for political reasons, not because there was a real need for it. And so far everything that NASA has been proposing for their near-term missions can fit on existing or near-term commercial rockets. So why are we spending $30B and waiting over a decade for an unneeded rocket?

    Does that help explain the anti-SLS viewpoint?

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Careful–you are allocating all of the cost to delivering crew. How it is allocated between crew and cargo is arbitrary, but it makes no sense to assume that the cargo delivery has zero value.”

    I’d argue that it depends on the specific mission.

    Pre-Challenger, when Shuttle was launching a fair number of satellites, the payload delivered the overriding value and should have been assigned most, if not all, of the cost. These are missions that could have been launched by ELVs, and the presence of a human crew brought little or no added value to the table. Although putting humans in the loop certainly added to the mission’s cost, assigning a portion of the mission’s cost to the crew only masks how egregiously expensive the Shuttle was compared to ELVs for satellite launches.

    But after Challenger, when most Shuttle missions focused on human-tended research or research using human subjects, the crew delivered the overriding value and should have been assigned most, if not all, of the cost. Those missions would not have existed without a human presence, and thus assigning a portion of the mission’s cost to the payload is nonsensical because that equipment would have been been useless without the crew’s presence. (Honestly, in these missions, the best measure would be some unit of research productivity or effectiveness, but in the absence of such a complex measure, crew size versus cost has to suffice.)

    My 2 cents.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Even SpaceX wants to build an HLV, granted not as payload-capable as Congress wants SLS to be.”

    That’s not entirely true. Falcon Heavy is a 53-ton vehicle, but for human Mars missions, SpaceX would like to build a larger HLV than Falcon Heavy with even greater performance than than the final SLS — 150 tons for the Falcon Super Heavy versus 130 tons for the maxed-out SLS.

    “SpaceX is also considering building an even more powerful rocket called a ‘super heavy-lift’ vehicle that would have about three times the capability of a Falcon Heavy, or about 50 percent more power than the Saturn 5.

    Such a vehicle would likely have no trouble reaching the moon, Mars or beyond.

    Musk said SpaceX has a small contract with NASA right now to explore the possibility of building the super heavy-lift rocket.”

    http://www.space.com/11311-spacex-huge-private-rocket-moon-mars.html

    “Does an HLV need to be Shuttle-derived? Probably not, but this is not a game of ‘what’s the best technology’?”

    It not a question of technology, but a question of what’s affordable, cost-effective, and timely.

    To get to the 130-ton version of SLS, NASA will have to spend at least $22-23 billion. See page 8 in this briefing:

    http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=38348

    And the operational cost for the larger SLS launches start at $2.4 billion, including ground ops. See p. 69 in this briefing:

    http://nasawatch.com/archives/2010/09/human-explorati.html

    Compare this with Falcon Super Heavy, which is advertised at $2.5 billion (fixed price) for development and $300 million per launch.

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

    Even though 20-tons more capable, the Falcon Super Heavy is an order of magnitude (10x) less expensive to develop and operate than the 130-ton SLS.

    And if you don’t like SpaceX, the same holds true for other alternatives.

    The 70-ton version of the SLS will cost $15 billion to develop. See page 8 in this briefing:

    http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=38348

    Compare that to the 70-ton EELV Phase 2 launch vehicle that ULA can build for something north of $2.3 billion:

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

    Again, even though both launchers have the same 70-ton performance, the EELV Phase 2 vehicle is an order of magnitude less costly to develop.

    It would be one thing if the difference in costs between SLS and its alternatives was maginal. Then the smart thing to do would be to assume that NASA (or Congress) knows what’s best for NASA, and cough up a few extra dollars to go down the SLS path.

    But we can’t ignore that SLS costs _tens of billions of dollars_ more than its alternatives. It’s obviously a crime to foist a 10x more expensive vehicle on the American taxpayer. But even forgetting the voters who are paying for all this, within NASA’s limited budget, we have to wait so long for SLS develop to get done, that development of landers and other, actual exploration hardware slips into the late 2020s and 2030s. Even when we’re acting as selfish space cadets, it makes no sense to tolerate such multi-decade delays in getting human space exploration restarted.

    It’s not just a question of technology. To get some actual human space exploration going within a reasonable, sustainable timeframe, we simply can’t afford SLS and the Shuttle/Constellation contracts, infrastructure, and workforce that it’s built upon. They’re too expensive for the launch element of the architecture and one or more alternatives must be substituted.

  • Robert G. Oler

    The Moon has had exactly 1 military use over the last half century and that use has now ended.

    from the early 50′s until the late 60′s when the first semi geo military comsat constellation become operations…the Moon was routinely used by the USNavy as a relay platform for RTTY links mostly between Washington (Annapolis) and Hawaii and Hawaii and Guam

    USNavy ships would routinely use the Moon to pass very large amounts of data between themselves and those shore bases…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communication_Moon_Relay

    The USS Liberty was carrying a 30 foot Moonbounce com dish when the IDF attacked her.

    There are no real military uses for the Moon

    RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Curtis Quick wrote @ July 24th, 2012 at 6:02 am

    Speaking of going back to the moon…

    Could SpaceX do it on the cheap to showcase the Falcon Heavy?>>

    I agree with DSN…there is a lot of talk out there about it, I dont know if SpaceX is considering it, but they are certainly on the brink of getting a lot of proposals to tag along if they do it..

    from a technical standpoint the Falcon heavy standpoint has a couple of long tents in the pole all of which either stand or fall by the time the second stage is ignited…ie can they cross feed, what are the aerodynamics of the first stage, and the “thing” of 27 motors burning at once…

    After that…

    a circumlunar flight of a payload (like a Dragon) would certainly be a “eye opener”. the trick is restarting the second stage…but they will have that under their belt by then RGO

  • common sense

    @ Stephen C. Smith wrote @ July 24th, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    “Yes, but my Tea Bagging neighbors use it to download porn or post Obama conspiracy theories on Space Politics. ”

    What’s the big deal with porn??? No wait… How fun would it be to learn that Obama posts here, he?

    “Try reading the Florida Today letters to the editor for a few days. You’ll find many more prime examples of political thinking in this county.”

    I am sure you meant “in this state” ;) But I do not need to make my day more somber than it actually is. Spacepolitics is plenty enough to reach out to our FL friends and neighbors.

  • common sense

    Depending on the political circumstances I think you’ll see a crewed Dragon go around the Moon…

    FWIW.

  • Malmesbury

    “It’s politics. The latest compromise is that commercial does LEO, and Orion/SLS does BEO. Flying above LEO will be seen as an outright attack on SLS/Orion.”

    Perhaps, but it would shake things up. Congress would be near powerless to stop any contract that NASA already has with Space X.

    If SpaceX goes BEO before Orion/SLS gets there, it will be seen as a declaration of war by a number of parties in NASA, Congress and the Senate. Not to mention a few small aerospace companies….

    If you think that having declared war on such a group there will be no consequences, merely because that isn’t “right”…. well, it would have been the Republic that Washington et al wanted. Not the one we have….

    Pretty simple to write the next round of COTS/Commercial Crew/government launch rules so that strangely enough, SpaceX isn’t suitable.

  • Vladislaw

    “I don’t know if fuel depots would really solve the problem — I’ve heard the NASA administrator say it’s more expensive, but maybe he’s tyring not to ruffle any more Congressional feathers. “

    That horse has already left the barn. Dana Rorbacher held NASA’s feet to the fire about the fuel depot comparison when NASA tried to bury the report. Once it was made public it was pretty graphic that utilizing a fuel depot was going to be a lot cheaper. That is why porkonauts in congress didn’t want the concept. it cut into their porktrain.

  • Vladislaw

    “I don’t agree with it, and it annoys me that the Moon was relegated to “been there before”. If Obama is one of our smartest presidents, that one statement doesn’t say much about smartness.”

    For everyone that wanted to see an asteroid mission or a mars mission, that is EXACTLY what they wanted to hear. The only people who were annoyed is those, like yourself, who wanted a lunar return first.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Malmesbury wrote @ July 25th, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    “If SpaceX goes BEO before Orion/SLS gets there, it will be seen as a declaration of war by a number of parties in NASA, Congress and the Senate. Not to mention a few small aerospace companies….”

    On the other hand waiting until Orion/SLS does some lunar activity, or even flies would be like waiting for Sarah Palin to make coherent statements or Willard Romney to release his tax returns…it isnt going to happen.

    There is a war going on and finally the group that represents a different path then SLS/Orion and mindless spending is winning and if that upsets the folks who are losing..well they should be upset. RGO

  • Coastal Ron

    Malmesbury wrote @ July 25th, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    Pretty simple to write the next round of COTS/Commercial Crew/government launch rules so that strangely enough, SpaceX isn’t suitable.

    Political meddling does happen, but it’s not as easy as you think it is. Congress would have needed to put your proposed changes into place last year, and since they didn’t, NASA has a free hand to award the CCiCap this summer the way they want – which includes up to 2.5 awards.

    Under Federal procurement rules losing companies can protest an award to the GAO, but if NASA anoints Boeing, Sierra Nevada and SpaceX as winners I don’t see how any of the other competitors could have a winning protest.

  • Frank Glover

    @ adastramike:

    “If I were to use your same logic, I suppose I could say, “we’ve delivered cargo to ISS before, so SpaceX’s recent mission is not historic.”

    If we returned humans to the Moon, in that same commercially contracted way, it indeed would be…but like anything else, we’d get used to it. The next Dragon to ISS won’t have the same fanfare, either. But it’s not about generating fanfare, is it?

    “Humans on the Moon again would be a big deal. And the news would note the decades long hiatus.”

    To the extent that it had just ended, of course. And like the first times we were there, we’d get jaded again pretty quickly, too. Third mission? Ho-hum. But that’s okay, too. We don’t do it for ratings and entertainment.

    (And the news cycle moves on. No matter how special, there will always be another man-made disaster, natural disaster, war, celebrity death, public scandal, economic crisis, whatever, to bump it off the now-virtual ‘front pages.’)

    DO NOT design a space program around maintaining a high-level of constant public interest. Especially as, like commercial aviation, it’s most successful when it has the ‘boredom’ of everything working exactly as it should. Once the novelty of doing it the first few times wears off, drama comes only when there’s some kind of conflict or problem (as in ‘Houston, we have a…’) We want that in our fiction, but not our real lives…especially if you’re part of the Lunar base personnel or supporting spacecraft crews.

    All the above is essentially true of China or anyone else, as well…

    @ DSCA:
    ““=yawn= Prize structured competitions are not going to compete with government-financed commitments fueled by geopolitical motives.”

    Right. So? That doesn’t make them superior for producing a long-lasting, sustainable transportation infrastructure to the celestial body in question. Not if the *last* geopolitical competition is any example.

  • pathfinder_01

    “If SpaceX goes BEO before Orion/SLS gets there, it will be seen as a declaration of war by a number of parties in NASA, Congress and the Senate. Not to mention a few small aerospace companies….”

    Nope. How musk spends his own money is up to him. Now if you try to stop SLS or Orion then you may get a reaction. If a politician is seen as punishing a successful company it will not play well in the press. NASA could quietly deny some future work but even then there are limits and space X can sue if it feels it is being treated unfairly.

    “Pretty simple to write the next round of COTS/Commercial Crew/government launch rules so that strangely enough, SpaceX isn’t suitable”

    That actually would be hard. It would be easier to just not pick Space x again. Even then Space X offers both launch service and spacecraft. Space X’s launch service would be very attractive to any company looking to serve a cots contract. Also you can sue over that too.

  • pathfinder_01

    “ a circumlunar flight of a payload (like a Dragon) would certainly be a “eye opener”. the trick is restarting the second stage…but they will have that under their belt by then RGO”

    They have done this already with Falcon 9(i.e restarted the 2nd stage) .

  • Robert G. Oler

    pathfinder_01 wrote @ July 26th, 2012 at 1:12 am

    Yeah…there is some work left there. I still track the Falcon9 second that they burned to completion but ah…they need a little more testing on that. I dont think that they did anything with the second from the recent dragon launch…its orbital elements have stayed pretty “samo” RGO

  • A M Swallow

    If SpaceX wants a useful unmanned lunar mission put a communications satellite in HALO orbit around EML-2. Being on the far side of the Moon a comsat at Earth-Moon Lagrange point 2 (EML-2) will allow probes and rovers on the far side of the Moon to communicate with each other and the Earth.

    Using a Dragon to deliver the comsat will put down a marker for future human flights to a spacestation at EML-2 and EML-1. This will also tell the general public that NASA can go the the Moon and Mars.

  • @AM Swallow
    I like your idea.

  • pathfinder_01

    “If SpaceX wants a useful unmanned lunar mission put a communications satellite in HALO orbit around EML-2. Being on the far side of the Moon a comsat at Earth-Moon Lagrange point 2 (EML-2) will allow probes and rovers on the far side of the Moon to communicate with each other and the Earth.”

    Nah. You could just use a probe orbiting the moon to act as a relay (like we do at mars). Plus unless space X gets into the communications business, NASA pays for it or someone else does no revenue stream.
    However a loop around the moon is the perfect tourist type trip of sorts. FH can push 16MT to TLI. If dragon could carry 3 tourists plus a pilot with a launch cost of 128mil and the cost of dragon roughly 54 mil, you could sell seats for roughly 60million.

    If say you could carry more people (maybe with a small module then there would be an opertunity for a price drop depending on the cost of it). Say the module costs 70-100 mil but allowed you to get three extra people in then you could sell seats as low as 42-47 million a seat. Currently the price of the space adventure’s voyage is $150 million a seat. I don’t think Space X will offer it directly but I do think it is possible that someone like space adventures just might.

    As for space station at EML-1 or EML-2. All you need it for someone to build and launch one.

  • Vladislaw

    SpaceX is still part owner of Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd ?

    SURREY SATELLITE TECHNOLOGY LIMITED SELLS STAKE TO SPACEX

    They could probably get a bare bones microsat on the cheap and it would be a great promotional item, for both companies, as well.

  • A M Swallow

    Vladislaw wrote @ July 26th, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    SpaceX is still part owner of Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd ?

    Unfortunately that press release is out of date. From Wikipedia “Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd, or SSTL, is a spin-off company of the University of Surrey, now fully owned by EADS Astrium, …”

  • A M Swallow

    pathfinder_01 wrote @ July 26th, 2012 at 11:32 am

    Nah. You could just use a probe orbiting the moon to act as a relay (like we do at mars). Plus unless space X gets into the communications business, NASA pays for it or someone else does no revenue stream.
    However a loop around the moon is the perfect tourist type trip of sorts. FH can push 16MT to TLI. If dragon could carry 3 tourists plus a pilot with a launch cost of 128mil and the cost of dragon roughly 54 mil, you could sell seats for roughly 60million.

    A single communication satellite orbiting the Moon cannot replay back to Earth from the far side unless it is a long way out. To see both the far side and Earth continuously a EML-2 HALO orbit is needed.

    The Dragon is not man rated yet so people cannot be sent on a loop around the Moon. However a cargo loop can go near EML-2.

    As for space station at EML-1 or EML-2. All you need it for someone to build and launch one.

    Before EML-1 or EML-2 spacestation gets built we need to get someone to agree to pay for it. A communication satellite there shows that it is a useful piece of real estate.

  • pathfinder_01

    “A single communication satellite orbiting the Moon cannot replay back to Earth from the far side unless it is a long way out.”

    Ah the way they do it at mars is they send the data from surface missions like MER and Phoenix to either Mars Odysseys or Mars Reconnaissance orbiter, even Mars express once. The data is then stored and relayed back to earth when those probes have a view to earth. Granted MER and Phoenix could send data directly back to earth if there were a need but that is a different story.

    “The Dragon is not man rated yet so people cannot be sent on a loop around the Moon. However a cargo loop can go near EML-2.”

    Err not quite. NASA plays no role in non NASA spaceflight, only the FAA. Dragon may not yet be able to carry a crew, but it soon will be (circa 2014). If Space X flew a lunar mission before Orion, it could cause a deep reevaluation of the way spaceflight is done and perhaps even if NASA is needed anymore. They certainly would be able to test an unmanned one around the moon very quickly if they wanted to.

    “Before EML-1 or EML-2 spacestation gets built we need to get someone to agree to pay for it. A communication satellite there shows that it is a useful piece of real estate.”

    The people who would be interested in doing it NASA, Bigleow, Excalibur Almaz, ect already know that. An communications satellite needs something to communicate with and I really don’t see a massive program to pepper the far side with probes happing that would justify it.

    “This will also tell the general public that NASA can go the Moon and Mars.”

    The general public knows that. They don’t want to pay taxes to NASA to send someone to the moon or mars without very good reason. Unlike roads, education, heck even the military, HSF makes little to no impact in the everyday lives of people. That is why many see it as a waste. IMHO that must change. By doing it privately you start doing things without (or with as little as possible) their taxes. You can develop missions and systems with less political bantering.

  • niksus

    Coastal Ron wrote @ July 25th, 2012 at 10:41 am
    “So the dislike for the SLS is based in fiscal reality.”
    You’re right, but we don’t need even multiple EELV launches for deep space exploration even with humans. What’s the rush to go to the moon in 3 days? When with powerful enough vasimir/ionic propulsion you can create a space tug to go there within 2-3 weeks.
    There is no difference in flight time between fast exausted hydrolox spaceship and constantly accelerated one with electic/solar sail/laser sail propulsion. It’s much better to install infrastructure like space fuel depo(Argon/Xenon/Hydrogen) and space tug, or laser sail+laser in LEO/GSO than to create big silly booster like SLS. And pork is the same – jobs in the district being it adastra/spacex or boeing/atk, except for some guys on payment of last companies. But they must compete for $, not just have them politically.
    Imho, earthlings don’t need chemical rockets for deep space missions. And there is no need for Moon/NEA water as fuel as well. Solar/nuclear power is enough for anything especially fission-fragment rocketry or laser sails.
    But I don’t agree to your opinion that technology already exist. No – really cheap techno is not matured. That means technologies like hydrogen gas cannon/mass driver, space loop or elevator(even for the Moon), suborbital ejector-ramjet, high power electric propulsion of direct nuclear (not thermonuclear)/nuclear isomer aren’t matured or implemented. Now we stuck on chemical rocketry with very low efficiency (Isp~450sec at max), and not only that – almost all companies use weight optimization for launcher not cost optimization so we’re far away from big dumb booster as well.
    Killing the SLS is not only thing that must been done, NASA need to invest some money in competitions for commercial companies to produce new systems of propulsion/life support/radiation shielding/ISRU in cheap&reliable manner. Fast&Cheap for robotics, Good&Cheap for HSF.

  • niksus

    Frank Glover wrote @ July 25th, 2012 at 7:13 pm
    “DO NOT design a space program around maintaining a high-level of constant public interest”.
    I disagree. You always keep in mind commercial companies, that make money on sales – they need high enough level of constant public interest – to produce enough PR for new investors, job applicants, local goverments and other stakeholders.
    But there are non-profits like ARCA or Copenhagen Suborbitals – they live on contributions by the public. Their lifeblood is on the line – space program must be exciting, innovative, thrilling – cause mostly they produce not goods/services but entartainment and glory for their respective countries and communities. And they need good PR for their sponsors – success of efforts provides them more resources.

  • A M Swallow

    The people who would be interested in doing it NASA, Bigleow, Excalibur Almaz, ect already know that. An communications satellite needs something to communicate with and I really don’t see a massive program to pepper the far side with probes happing that would justify it.

    They only need one far side probe.

    As for a store and forward satellite in low lunar orbit it is not significantly different in cost compared with an ordinary communications satellite at EML-2.

  • Coastal Ron

    niksus wrote @ July 27th, 2012 at 11:40 am

    Imho, earthlings don’t need chemical rockets for deep space missions.

    But chemical engines and technology is what we know, and we could do deep space missions with chemical engines today if we had to. Electric engines could lower the overall cost of the transportation segment, but they raise the cost of the human payload portion (longer mission = more supplies/weight).

    But we shouldn’t jump directly to Mars without testing our ability to roam around in local space, which is why I think a mission to an asteroid is so important – to test out our theories on what are the best combinations of technology and technique to travel long distances safely and least expensively.

  • Vladislaw

    Ron, don’t know if you caught this.

    VX-200 VASIMR Prototype Increases High Power Performance, Demonstrates Efficient Constant Power Throttling

    “The June 2012 campaign successfully accomplished this task, producing a new optimized performance model that shows approximately a 10% improvement in engine efficiency over a wide Isp range.”

    The second part is interesting also:

    “2. Demonstration of efficient Constant Power Throttling (CPT)

    The throttling that makes VASIMR (R) uniquely distinctive from other in-space propulsion designs is its ability to vary the plasma exhaust parameters (thrust and Isp) while operating at a fixed total power level. This technique, called “Constant Power Throttling (CPT),” is similar to the function of a transmission in an automobile. Using optimal CPT for different phases of a mission, VASIMR(R) is capable of increased payload mass and decreased trip times compared to other technologies.”

    Increased performance and increased payloads. Can’t wait to see the test results when they put this on the ISS.

  • Coastal Ron

    Vladislaw wrote @ July 27th, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    Ron, don’t know if you caught this.

    I hadn’t, so thanks for the update.

    I’ve long been a fan of VASIMR, and I too can’t wait to get the test engine up to the ISS and do some real-world operations.

    My only point to “niksus” was that we don’t need to wait for newer engine technologies to explore, just like the Wright Brothers didn’t need to perfect heavier-than-air flying to start flying.

    The best way to know what the technologies we need to improve is to gather real-world experience on what is holding us back (or costing us too much), which is part of what the goal of the ISS is. So too when we get our first beyond-LEO exploration vehicles going, we’ll find out what mix of technologies work and which ones we want or need to improve upon.

  • pathfinder_01

    “You’re right, but we don’t need even multiple EELV launches for deep space exploration even with humans. What’s the rush to go to the moon in 3 days? When with powerful enough vasimir/ionic propulsion you can create a space tug to go there within 2-3 weeks.”

    Another reason is the Van Allen belts. This zone of radiation is best crossed quickly as spending too much time in it can kill the crew. That being said you could send something like Orion to a High earth orbit or EML-1/2 with 2 delta heavy launches (one for Orion, one for a stage). Or one FH launch (Orion plus stage lifted together). Once there it could meet another craft that was moved via electric propulsion from LEO.

    You need chemical propulsion, and you may need heavy lift. However the amount of heavy lift needed depends on both technology and mission. Apollo needed its Saturn V because it didn’t use depots and needed to send both crew and lander at the same time fully fueled. If you change that equation, then smaller launchers can work that is where things like fuel depots and electric propulsion help.

    There is really no other user for a 100MT+ rocket at this time. Only NASA could use it (and they can’t afford it). If your heavy lift is designed in a way that others can use it like say the FH, then NASA isn’t bearing all of the costs to keep the capability around. If you only doing 1-2 BEO mission a year, then EELV or EELV derived heavy lift(Delta phase I, Atlas Phase I or II) make much more sense.

    A good example would be Apollo. For Apollo you needed to lift a 30MT CSM and a 14MT lander at the same time.

    If you had an SEP tug, you could send the lander ahead to EML-1, now you only need to send the capsule to EML-1. That could be done via a 70MT heavy lift (if you restrained yourself to one launch). Orion actually masses 21MT or so and with a 25MT or so upper stage could go to EML-

    A FH could lift that much at once or it could be done in two launches of Delta Heavy. To be fair lunar lander departing EML-1would need to mass more say 20MT but that is another story.

    If you had a Fuel depot at EML-1, it becomes possible to reuse the lander. Instead of sending a new lander every time you send cheap propellant and supplies via the SEP tug. You can lift 20MT via Atlas, Delta or FH.

    You now can do a lunar mission with 2-3 launches of existing rockets that don’t cost NASA 3 billion a year just to have the capability. The focus shifts to spacecraft not rocket, which is where it needs to be.

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