NASA

NASA still not worried about sequestration

A top NASA official said Thursday that the agency remained confident that budget sequestration could be avoided, even though they were starting to think about the potential effects should those automatic budget cuts take effect. “If you talk to the leadership in the administration or Congress, most people believe it’s not going to happen,” said NASA chief of staff David Radzanowski in response to a question on the subject after his keynote address at the NewSpace 2012 Conference in Santa Clara, California, Thursday morning. “They’re confident because the alternative is not good policy.”

He did say, though, that the agency was starting to examine what might happen if those across-the-board cuts did take effect in January. “We’ve started thinking about what it woud mean, in general,” he said, adding that he expected at some point there would be some guidance from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on planning for sequestration. “A lot of the significant planning is going to be happening in maybe September or October.”

On one other NASA hot topic, the impending awards for the agency’s Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) program, Radzanowski said that announcement would come “real soon” but didn’t offer more specifics. “I’m not going to make any news by saying when,” he said. The announcement is widely expected for any time between now and the end of August.

94 comments to NASA still not worried about sequestration

  • MrEarl

    I’m down with the Alfred E. Newman approach to sequestration.

    “What, me worry?” :-)

  • “They’re confident because the alternative is not good policy.”

    Well now I’m reassured. Because as we all know, Congress never comes up with bad policy.

  • James

    “They’re confident because the alternative is not good policy.”

    If you look close at this statement , it really says:

    They’re confident sequestration will happen because the alternative is not good policy.

    Congress: Piggies and porkers.

  • amightywind

    They’re confident because the alternative is not good policy.

    Neither is raising taxes during a recession. Good policy will take a backseat to the socialist con, while the Takers desperately loot the economy before their democrat agents are thrown out of office.

  • DCSCA

    “NASA still not worried about sequestration”

    Publicly, perhaps. Privately, it should be. As a high profile, stand-alone civilian agency, it’s a sitting duck.

  • common sense

    “Neither is raising taxes during a recession.”

    And we will insure revenue to the nation doing what?

    Maybe we should ask bankers to help us out? No wait…

    Whatever.

  • Aberwys

    Wow. So, is this the end of NASA? Ending in a whimper of sequestration without preparation and not a bang? A cut of $1.5-1.8B in an already tight budget–what happens to JWST? To SLS? To the upcoming Orion test flight? To everything?

  • common sense

    @ Aberwys wrote @ July 27th, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    Well this has been in the making for several years. It may, just may, be the end of NASA as we know it. Not the end of NASA.

    If all goes well SLS and Orion are gone. Way too expensive with no mission, no budget, no everything. If the money for these two programs go then it is most likely it will NOT be reallocated elsewhere. So HSF is probably due for a market adjustment. If commercial fails then there will most likely not be any HSF for the foreseeable future.

    So with all those “ifs” NASA may revert to a NACA org. It will hurt.

    Or nothing will change and it will become irrelevant, especially if commercial succeeds.

    JWST may still happen since it has some value. Unlike SLS/MPCV.

    There are several paths. They are all opportunities.

    My crystal ball.

  • vulture4

    NASA needs to seriously think about its priorities. This is not a one-time cut. Even the most enthusiastic space supporters will not pay higher taxes, so the NASA budget faces a long-term reduction. Mr. Romney has expressed strong skepticism about human lunar flight and I suspect SLS/Orion will be cancelled more quickly if he is elected.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePcJhoF4ATM

  • If you were a business owner or CEO and you were informed that your organization may loose anywhere from 5 to 10 percent of your operating budget, you would take notice.

    Privately you would be planning and letting your team (employees) know what the situation is. You would be devising plans for a worst case scenario.

    Publicly you would be letting your customers know that you take the threat seriously and that you are developing contingency plans if the worst were come to fruition.

    People who, you know, know, know that there isn’t a real plan for cuts should sequestration come to pass. Most people think its not going to happen… and then you have the whole “spend until apprehended” comment coming out of MSFC.

    Respectfully,
    Andrew Gasser
    TEA Party in Space

  • red

    ” A cut of $1.5-1.8B in an already tight budget–what happens to JWST? To SLS? To the upcoming Orion test flight?”

    NASA and the country would be much better off without JWST, SLS, and Orion, even if those removals came with a $1.5-1.8B budget cut. Ignoring closing costs, just picture the budgets those things are taking. It’s something like $3B/year for just SLS and Orion, and that doesn’t count their ground system budget or associated cross-agency support. Add JWST to that and you’ll see that even with that big of a cut, the rest of NASA would get a nice boost, maybe around $2.5B/year.

    If spent wisely, that’s enough to run a focused robotic precursor line, fly some serious exploration technology demonstrations by adding dollars to the existing NASA effort, fund lots of general space technology developments and demonstrations, put commercial crew on solid footing, revive Planetary Science, strengthen capabilities and use of the ISS, bring back a serious Aeronautics program, establish some modest new COTS-like efforts, give Astrophysics some small missions to replace JWST, and build the foundation for sustainable and affordable BLEO astronaut missions based on some of these (e.g.: ISS, commercial crew, exploration technology demos, robotic precursors).

  • If sequestration happens, the real question is … Who decides where the cuts will be?

    Anyone know what the law said?

    If Congress has its way, SLS/Orion will be saved while everything else gets whacked. SLS/Orion = Congressional pork.

    I did find this in a sequestration FAQ:

    11. Will sequestration cuts be at the program level, or at the budget account level?

    The upcoming deficit reduction sequestration occurs at the program-by-program level, with every non-exempt program cut by the percentage required to reach the calculated deficit reduction target for that year. There may be budgetary accounts within agencies that have some programs exempt from sequestration or where the size of the sequestration is limited by statute, whereas other programs are not exempt and are subject to the full cut required.

    So it looks like the cuts will be even across the board to all eligible programs by the same percentage.

  • Aberwys

    Thanks, Common Sense. Over the years, I have consistently appreciated your POV. I hope that the lack of structure associated with sequestration leads to better things for NASA. I still dream of a NASA where invention and innovation are rewarded and still work in my quiet ways to help.

  • josh

    “Neither is raising taxes during a recession. Good policy will take a backseat to the socialist con, while the Takers desperately loot the economy before their democrat agents are thrown out of office.”

    raising taxes on the superrich is sound policy. tax breaks for the poor and the middle class stay in place.
    also, you’re a taker, windy. you work for a company that feeds on the public trough (tax dollars), a company that gets its contracts through lobbying, not based on merit (if the latter was the case atk would have gone under long ago). i know you like to think of youself as a hard working ‘murican. you’re not though..

  • vulture4

    If the NASA budgett is cut, are all NASA programs cut by the same percentage? That would strangle everything. Are some programs abandoned and others preserved? If so, who makes the decisions?

  • Fred Willett

    The govt may escape sequestration, but only if some serious budgetary control measures are put in place. i.e. planned cuts in place of forced cuts.
    But it’s not going to happen till after the election.
    And that leaves very little time to work out a plan.
    Just an opinion.

  • KS

    Josh,

    Your job (whatever it is, doesn’t matter) is dependent on government spending, too. It’s just not necessarily DIRECTLY dependent on it. You may not be feeding directly from the trough, but you’re feeding off of the guy who is feeding off of the trough.

    Your comment tells me that you do not understand how our money system works. I recommend you rectify that before you post on that topic again.

  • josh

    @KS

    the point is that atk is an *undeserving* recipient of public funds when you consider their price performance. they’re a parasite if you will. i have no problem at all with spacex receiving tax dollars because they offer good value for money.

  • Robert G. Oler

    KS wrote @ July 27th, 2012 at 11:22 pm

    you get a A minus for trying and a B minus for the actual effort…although to be fair it might be that I am not interpreting some of what you are trying to say well..

    “Your job (whatever it is, doesn’t matter) is dependent on government spending, too. It’s just not necessarily DIRECTLY dependent on it.”

    That is an accurate statement. In any civilized society almost everyone’s “job” depends in some manner on government spending. The GOP has a hard time with that reality until it comes to some aspect of the government that “they like” or their politicans feed directly at the trough of…but its a fact.

    ” You may not be feeding directly from the trough, but you’re feeding off of the guy who is feeding off of the trough. ”

    Most people do not either “feed” from direct government spending or the “guy” who is…more correctly most Americans “feed” off the infrastructure that is maintained and developed by the government.

    RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    guest wrote @ July 26th, 2012 at 10:44 pm

    Robert Oler wrote:
    …There is no earth bound analogy (except maybe south pole development) to that in space. I’ve used the transcontinental railroad…but its not really valid. by the time the TR was started there were enormous settlements and wealth being excersized daily in the American west….

    You replied:

    “I agree the transcontinental railroad is not really a good analogy. After all the settler could live off the land and as you say walk across it from one shore to the other.

    I think a more adequate analogy is Juan Terry Trippe’s and Pan Am’s conquest of the Pacific islands.”

    I moved this here to tie it to the commercial crew.

    Trippe and Pan Am’s pre WW2 efforts in the Pacific are probably just as good as any “earth” analogy to spaceflight…its far better then the transcontinetal railroad…but…

    I dont like Earth bound analogies to spaceflight because I dont think any really work well. In the end what Trippe had to do was find some flying boats that could make it out to Hawaii (2500 nm or so) and then island hop to first Manila and then China…OK he had to develop Wake and Midway which were nothing more or less before he started and he did…

    BUT in the end he had Manila and China which were already thriving economies which could support passenger flights .

    Earth bound “infrastructure” always has 1) people/economies at the end of the line and 2) can use technology that is similar to most places on Earth (or modestly adaptable). Space doesnt have people/economies at the end of the line adn the technology is mostly unique.

    What I would argue is a viable comparison is that wherever the federal government (or the Chinese government or whatever government that has excess wealth) decides to stick their noses…there should, at least in the US, be a ready made market to service those efforts…and what excess capability exist in that “servicing” should be something that the private company servicing the “effort” should be able to use to advance its own agenda.

    Whoever wrote the commercial cargo program was a space geek…he/she knew what was at stake here and wrote the contract for excess capability to exist both in the supplies to the station …and due to how Musk at least has designed the Falcon9…in the launch vehicle. That excess capability should allow someone to do something that furthers commercial space related to human flight. Same with commercial crew.

    If NASA needs two or three crewmembers delivered, assuming two pilots (or one) that should leave some excess people space that either can be sold or ?

    Whoever is/was writing these programs either just got smart or lucky or actually did some research into the airmail programs and the Fort delivery programs of the late 1800’s…

    We should move as federal policy quickly to improve ISS, expand the operations of the vehicle, expand the capabilities of the vehicle (ie the Nautilus/inflatable modules) and move to define ISS as a technology “Park”…

    RGO

  • reader

    Josh, how do you measure if they are a parasite or not ? You obviously have some metrics set in mind, would be interesting to hear them.

  • pathfinder_01

    You give NASA too much credit here.

    “Whoever wrote the commercial cargo program was a space geek…he/she knew what was at stake here and wrote the contract for excess capability to exist both in the supplies to the station …and due to how Musk at least has designed the Falcon9…in the launch vehicle. That excess capability should allow someone to do something that furthers commercial space related to human flight. Same with commercial crew.”

    NASA chose 4 different levels of COTS capability. COTS A unpressurized cargo delivery(Not return). COTS B Pressurized cargo devilry), COTS C Pressurized cargo return and delivery, COTS D (ability to carry crew). All the systems could have any combination of the 4(i.e. no ability to deliver or return pressurized goods). They choose systems with B and C. However the risky part is they choose two companies that had no launcher ready. Orbital is working on the Taurus II and Space X built the Falcon 9. By doing so they risked program failure (i.e. they could have chosen a supplier that planned to use an ULA launcher). The good part is that the risk paided off and we have two delta II class launchers that are likely cheaper than delta II. Orbital has no extra orders for its Taurus II, but Space X has some for falcon 9.

    As for commercial crew. The requirement is that they just have to lift 4. However almost all plan to lift 7.

  • Heinrich Monroe

    The generic NASA response to threat of budget cuts is pulling the plug on future missions without contractual development obligations. If you pull the plug on contractual obligations for missions in C/D, Congress will be all over you. There is an identified constituency that is enraged. Hoped-for contractual obligations have no identified constituency. By that token, SLS would be gone. JWST and Orion would limp through, and ISS would be preserved at all costs. Of course any large science mission beyond JWST would be toast, as would any plans for future HSF facilities.

  • vulture4

    @Heinrich
    Interesting point. If SLS is cancelled Orion (on the Delta?) will be limited to ISS support and in that mission would be significantly more expensive than Dragon or CST. Would politics be enough to keep it flying?

  • Coastal Ron

    vulture4 wrote @ July 28th, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    If SLS is cancelled Orion (on the Delta?) will be limited to ISS support and in that mission would be significantly more expensive than Dragon or CST.

    I have no love for the Orion/MPCV, but if SLS is cancelled, the MPCV can still be boosted to the ISS on a Delta IV Heavy (or Falcon Heavy) and take on crew for beyond LEO missions – the crew is taken to the ISS by Commercial Crew vehicles, so the Delta IV Heavy doesn’t need to be upgraded for human transport. That is the least costly and quickest way to use the MPCV anyways, so Win-Win.

  • pathfinder_01

    “I have no love for the Orion/MPCV, but if SLS is cancelled, the MPCV can still be boosted to the ISS on a Delta IV Heavy (or Falcon Heavy) and take on crew for beyond LEO missions – the crew is taken to the ISS by Commercial Crew vehicles, so the Delta IV Heavy doesn’t need to be upgraded for human transport. That is the least costly and quickest way to use the MPCV anyways, so Win-Win.”

    One catch. If using delta heavy you need two launches. FH could lift Orion and an EDS that could take the crew to EML-1 so no ISS needed there(just perhaps man rating).

    For the delta heavy Scenario to work, you need to lift Orion unmanned (a cheaper Atlas might work here as well as FH).Lift the crew via commercial then lift an EDS via FH or Delta Heavy.

    The reason why would use the ISS is due to the limited lifespan of the MPCV(21 days) for supporting crew and the boil off issue with Lox/Loh Stages. In Cxp you need to launch Ares 1 within 48 hours of Ares V or else the propellant would have boiled off. Apollo had only a few hours to decide to go to the moon or not else there would be no propellant. The MPCV can be stored in space up to six months. So it could be sent well ahead of the crew. ISS can support the crew for a short time while you attempt to send the EDS (which could be a modified delta cryogenic, second stage). The window to EML-1 opens every ten days from the ISS, so it is possible to have a couple of tries in in terms of lifting the DCSS.
    However I do agree about least costly.

  • Robert G. Oler

    pathfinder_01 wrote @ July 28th, 2012 at 3:23 am

    Well the trick is that the award was both patterned for and made so that 1) there is some extra capability which can be sold and 2) there was some discussion of price which is what in my view drove launcher development (and will drive some assessment of price if an Atlas comes into the picture with commercial crew)…all of which are good things in terms of trying to max utlize the space station and allow “other things” to occur.

    These two awards on in my view on the verge of completely reshuffling human spaceflight RGO

  • Googaw

    Sequestration could certainly hurt space science, and so I have a question for Heinrich Monroe about space science policy (or at least comments I’d love to hear his response to), and specifically about comparative geology.

    Assume that the prospects of mining the moon, asteroids, etc. are insufficient to justify substantial current investments in extraterrestrial geology. There are however some interesting issues in earth geology that, it seems to me, have far more economically important and nearer-term consequences, and on which comparitive geology could shed substantial light.

    Specifically, such knowledge could shed much needed light on the Malthusian debates about whether or when we will be at peak oil, peak methane, peak phosphorous, peak copper, and so on.

    Mining has, roughly speaking, only scratched the surface of the earth: only a miniscule fraction of the earth’s mass has even been explored much less expoited. However, life itself has only similarly scratched the surface of our planet. So as a general rule of thumb it’s reasonable to suppose that minerals of biotic origin (either in their chemical composition, or their concentration into ores, or both) will reach peak production far sooner than minerals that originated in abiotic processes which will usually operate far further down into the bowels of our own planet.

    I believe space science can shine substantial light on the question of whether various chemical formation and/or ore-forming concentration processes on earth were biological or not, as well as on the question of how deep inside our planet abiotic processes might occur.

    The role of space probes here would be to seek out _abiotic_ environments that however otherwise closely as possible resemble earth. (I believe Mars to have always been such an abiotic environment, but I realize my opinion about this is controversial, so I’m open to suggestions about less controversial choices for this comparative comparitive study of geological chemistry and ore formation).

    I suspect this rationale for space science is much more economically important than any of the others.

  • Coastal Ron

    pathfinder_01 wrote @ July 28th, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    One catch. If using delta heavy you need two launches.

    True. Still less costly and more flexible than one SLS launch.

    The reason why would use the ISS is due to the limited lifespan of the MPCV(21 days) for supporting crew and the boil off issue with Lox/Loh Stages.

    Lockheed Martin has proposed two MPCV’s for an asteroid mission – how are they extending the life of the MPCV past the 21 day limitation? Is the limitation because of the service module or the tanks in the capsule?

    If the limitation is in the service module, which is not yet designed, then the solution is clear – make the tanks refillable when they design them. Heck, I could imagine a design that would essentially be a space-only tug that the MPCV would dock with and hitch a ride around on. Could open up local space to some short exploration trips.

  • vulture4

    The service module would need a third Delta launch. And what about the lander and payloads? At least three launches for each lunar mission, and the DIV cost has climbed to somewhere above $150M. I doubt a lunar base could be maintained without at least four landings a year. Total cost? Prospective cuts in NASA budget? Geopolitical advantages? Who will pay more taxes indefinitely? Not the rich.

    I feel NASA needs to focus on new technologies to reduce launch cost. Right now that first step is too expensive to be practical.

  • pathfinder_01

    “Lockheed Martin has proposed two MPCV’s for an asteroid mission – how are they extending the life of the MPCV past the 21 day limitation? Is the limitation because of the service module or the tanks in the capsule?”

    21 days is just how long life support has to last (i.e. need 21 days of food, water, ect.. for 4 people). The capsule is designed to spend 6 months docked to a station or 6 months in space freely(i.e. no crew, just parked waiting for crew). Basically it is designed to take you somewhere (ISS, or moon with Altar) and wait for you. The 6 months was to support a lunar bases.

    Lockheed Martin gets around it by limiting the crew to two(MPCV holds 4) and using the other Orion for storage. Actually one of the more interesting aspects of Orion is that it was forced to use regenerative C02 removal because there wouldn’t be enough space for supplies and LIOH cartages to last 21 days. Anyway a better item would have been a purpose built deep space habitat instead of another Orion, but LM wanted to pitch something quick, dirty and cheap.

  • pathfinder_01

    Vulture the idea would be say a small space station that is only manned part time at EML-1. You are right about launch costs (although they would be more like $400-500mil for delta heavy and Delta heavy could lift Orion and it’s service module to LEO. ). However let’s say 1-2 visits a year to said outpost EELV could support and FH with ease.

    Lunar landings are another kettle of fish. For those you either need a more powerful rocket than delta and possibly FH (as it only sends 16MT to TLI…might need another stage), fuel depots/transfer, or SEP. Or a combination of the three.

    As for bases esp. full time manned, I agree not yet.

  • Heinrich Monroe

    @Googaw

    Interesting questions. What you’re saying, I believe, is that access to important resources may depend on space science less in that you get those resources from other worlds than how the knowledge you get from other worlds applies to our own planet.

    My off-the-cuff response would be that (1) if what you’re after is resources to use IN SPACE, there are good reasons for trying to get those resources out of a more modest gravity well than the Earth and (2) the impact of biotic processes on terrestrial minerology, if important, affects volumes of material so huge that we’ve barely sampled them. So I’m not sure if it would make a big difference to do an existence proof that they might be there, in those huge volumes, at least in the forseeable future. But your questions deserve more thought.

    The first point is a key one. If the purpose of off-planet resource development is for off-planet use, what exactly are we going to be doing off-planet in a big way? Colonization? Settlement? The tired word “exploration” doesn’t apply. There are NO plans, or even long range national policy dreams (formalized in some legislation) for doing such a thing. Space colonization, for better or worse, and Newt Gingrich’s passions aside, is entirely science fiction.

    That all being the case, outside of scientific curiosity, planetary geology probably isn’t that budgetarily defensible, given bad budgets. Of course, human space flight for the sake of “exploration” may not be either.

    The threat of sequestration puts the issue bluntly. What, that NASA does, is “expendable”? The idea that everything the agency does would get whacked evenly is a simple, but policy-uncreative strategy. I find the confidence at HQ that nothing it does is expendable to be laughable.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Iwill be off and on on the blog until Tuesday. My father has gone to heaven and I’ll be in Big D for the services. RGO

  • Martijn Meijering

    Or a combination of the three.

    Nope, just a refuelable (or small) lander. All the rest is optional.

  • Coastal Ron

    pathfinder_01 wrote @ July 29th, 2012 at 10:35 am

    Lunar landings are another kettle of fish. For those you either need a more powerful rocket than delta and possibly FH (as it only sends 16MT to TLI…might need another stage), fuel depots/transfer, or SEP. Or a combination of the three.

    ULA, in their study called “A Commercially Based Lunar Architecture“, relies upon existing EELV’s (up to Delta IV Heavy size) for lifting all the transportation elements down to (and even around on) the lunar surface. Human transport, tankers, fuel depots, landers, etc. – everything in chunks of 50,000 lbs to LEO or less.

    Big stages only seem to be necessary if you don’t want to stage fuel ahead of your mission need, say at LEO and EML1/L2. If you do stage fuel there, then there is no need for launching a fully fueled Earth Departure Stage (EDS) on the same rocket as the crew. Likely it’s safer not to anyways, but it does increase the requirement for in orbit docking. However if we can’t make docking in space routine and a non-issue, then we shouldn’t be in space anyways.

  • vulture4

    @RGO: Our thoughts are once again with you.

    Regarding the asteroid mission, this was just put in by the Obama administration because they were told they needed a mission for Orion but had no lander. I am all for going BEO when it can be sustained, but whether or not we have sequestration it is impossible for me to see where the money would come from with for a BEO mission today’s billion-dollars-a-flight technology. Job one for HSF is cutting launch cost 90% or more.

    I think in the meantime NSF and SMD should be given whatever is available for science. If they decide human spaceflight BEO is the most effective way to do it, great. But that would be unlikely. A human mission to an asteroid would end like Apollo with a few headlines, public loss of interest and decades of stagnation. A robotic mission with some onboard analysis and possible sample return would be far less costly.

    I also think NASA should be putting much more effort into robotic artificial intelligence, being the the only agency with a mission that requires operating robots at distances too great for direct control from earth. Or we could wait for DARPA to do it first and get all the credit.

  • Googaw

    Heinrich, thanks. My comments were about (2), not (1).

    (2) the impact of biotic processes on terrestrial minerology, if important, affects volumes of material so huge that we’ve barely sampled them.

    In both earth and space, we have to learn primarily by observing and scratching surfaces. Then we deduce what goes on undernearth. I can think of a large number of economically important questions such comparative geology data could tackle, for example:

    * How much of the methane under earth’s surface was there when the earth formed, vs. how much later was created biotically? How much has been lost? It greatly helps create and judge such theories to figure out how much methane iwas in other solar system bodies when they formed and now, and why.

    * Why does earth seem to have far higher concentrations of gold than other solar system bodies? Is this (or the reverse) true for any other metals?

    * Are there ores of kind X on any solar system bodies similar to those on earth? If so does that indicate the action of alien biology or a common abiotic formation process?

    In other words, we learn things about earth, especially about the role of biology, by studying geological environments that are similar except for the big difference of having an abiotic history. Rather like comparative climatology, but with implications for even greater amounts of future GDP and less politically controversial. Definitely worth thinking about. I doubt current levels of space science funding are stable based on mere “curiosity” about impractical questions.

  • Coastal Ron

    vulture4 wrote @ July 29th, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    I think in the meantime NSF and SMD should be given whatever is available for science. If they decide human spaceflight BEO is the most effective way to do it, great.

    Whatever gets science-related decisions out of the hands of the politicians, I’m all for. Congress designing the largest rocket since the Saturn V is probably the best example of bone-headed political decisions in the name of “exploration”.

    A human mission to an asteroid would end like Apollo with a few headlines, public loss of interest and decades of stagnation. A robotic mission with some onboard analysis and possible sample return would be far less costly.

    The point of the asteroid mission is not primarily for samples, but to push our technology and capabilities along so we can eventually reach Mars. However if you’re there, you’ll stay a while and do science and bring back samples – just like they did with Apollo.

    A robotic mission with some onboard analysis and possible sample return would be far less costly.

    And if the goal was just to take readings and samples, then I would agree.

    However if the goal is to reach Mars with humans, then reaching an asteroid first is a good way to test out our abilities. If we become competent and confident about reaching asteroids, then continuing on the Mars will be that much easier and safer.

    We have a lot of work to do folks, if we ever want to reach Mars. We need to build spaceships that we can use to travel in local space with impunity – and not the disposable ones like the MPCV, but real space-only ones like the NASA Nautilus-X proposal.

    Removing the detailed decisions from politicians hands would be an immense help. Once the space experts define the mission and mission elements, then Congress would have their rightful say on whether they will fund it. But letting Congress define the mission based on pork-based calculations is lunacy, which the SLS debacle shows.

  • DCSCA

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ July 29th, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    Sincere and deepest condolences to you and your family, RGO.

  • BeanCounterfromDownunder

    RGO my sympathies and thoughts with you and your’s.

    Looking forward to seeing what comes out of the CiCAP. If it’s reasonable, then I agree that it will be the turning point in HSF.
    Either way, I don’t think that SLS will survive more than a couple of years and if SpaceX and Boeing are funded under CiCAP then MPCV not much longer if at all.

  • Heinrich Monroe

    A human mission to an asteroid would end like Apollo with a few headlines, public loss of interest and decades of stagnation.

    Exactly right. It would also end with relatively little science accomplished that could not have been accomplished robotically. Important to understand that an asteroid mission is a dead-end for human space flight. You’d go to an asteroid because it is easy to get to. Very few are, and when one is, it won’t be easy to get back to the same one a second time. So when you go to one in the spirit of resource assessment, and maybe find good stuff there, you can kiss it goodbye for a long time. Humans ain’t going back. If you go to another one, there is absolutely no assurance that what you learned from the first will be applicable to the second. Asteroids are a real mixed bag. It would be like a lunar program where you never get to go back to the same place. Really dumb, and a policy non-starter. Asteroids may be assets for resource exploitation, but not by humans. Of course, if you go instead simply in the spirit of practicing to go to Mars, I suppose that’s another thing.

    If sequestration allowed the Administration to walk back it’s identification of a NEO as a compelling BEO destination, it wouldn’t be a bad thing.

  • Googaw

    We have a lot of work to do folks, if we ever want to reach Mars.

    Here we go with the manic-depressive “ever” business again. Our grandchildren will be able to send your cherished heavenly pilgrims far more easily to Mars than we can. And their grandchildren far more easily still — some of them may even stay to live there. Meanwhile, back here in the 21st century, all the pulp fantasies you read as a child notwithstanding, unmanned machines are orders of magnitude more cost-effective for any practical goal you might set, be it one of discovery, commerce, or security. Any goal that does not involve sending astronauts for the sake of sending astronauts, that is.

  • BeanCounterfromDownunder

    Googaw wrote @ July 30th, 2012 at 2:56 am

    Well yes at the moment however if the current system isn’t changed then no-one’s going anywhere anytime, period.

    Forget that fantasies about it getting easier in the future. That will never happen in the current circumstances and won’t be allowed to happen due to the embedded interests both political and commercial.
    The only change that is allowing for the possibility is that a couple of commercial entities have said that they’d do this without government support. Those being SpaceX and Bigelow. I discount the others not due to lack of intent but more due to lack of resources. SpaceX and Bigelow have the resource backing to allow them to do things in space that only governments and government-backed commercial entities have been able to do in the past.
    SpaceX is developing the launch capability while Bigelow, although on go-slow due to the need for reasonable cost to leo, continues to develop his space habitats. Put them together and you’ve the makings of a system for moving beo. All you need after that is a vehicle for landing and take-off and perhaps SpaceX are in the process of developing that with their current Grasshopper test vehicle together with Red Dragon.
    I look forward to CCiCap. Hopefully some sense will prevail in NASA. It happened once with COTS, so could happen again.

  • vulture4

    The logical point at which to send humans to any location in space depends mainly on the cost of sending them. This is demonstrated in offshore drilling. Down to a certain depth where divers can function at ambient pressure, they do almost everything. That depth has slowly increased with technology but is still only a few hundred feet. Beyond that depth robots are king. Its a matter of cost to get the job done.

    The first step in getting people to Mars is getting them into LEO for less than $1M per seat. The only reason we haven’t done it after 50 years is that we are too easily distracted.

    Most people even in the space biz have no idea how trivial the cost of liquid rocket propellant is. For a reusable system like a 747 it is about 60% of total operating cost. For the Shuttle the cost of all the LOX and LH2 was about 0.1% (1/1000) of launch cost. We spent more on helium than on LOX or LH2. The big cost was what an airline would call the maintenance manhours per flight hour, and the reason it was high was because there were no flying prototypes before the design was cast in stone. Big mistake. Tons of maintenance problems that we did not think of when it was all on paper. When we had the crude sketches of the Shuttle in series or parellel launch stack and chose the parallel, absolutely no one realized this would kill people. When the liquid fuel booster was abandoned and segmented solids were chosen no one expected the joint problems. There are solutions. Just look at the pristine tiles on the X-37 after it touched down.

  • E.P. Grondine

    While all of you are replanning the space program,

    Has anyone here checked for hard dollar amounts “committed” by legislation?

    Would sequestration have to follow those instructions, or would they “go away”?

  • E.P. Grondine

    “the size of sequestration is limited by statute”?

  • Coastal Ron

    Googaw wrote @ July 30th, 2012 at 2:56 am

    Our grandchildren will be able to send your cherished heavenly pilgrims far more easily to Mars than we can. And their grandchildren far more easily still — some of them may even stay to live there.

    Not if we don’t start now. You always think I’m talking about sending people to Mars tomorrow, but I have no illusions about how hard it will be to do in the right way, which is not by sending one small ship, but by sending out a small fleet.

    In order to know what that small fleet needs to be composed of, and what safety and survival systems we need, we’ll need to master travel in local space first. That is why we need to go to an asteroid – not for sampling a passing asteroid we’ll likely never see again (robotic explorers are better for that), but to work out the kinks of getting there and back in a competent fashion.

    And who knows how long that will take. If Congress keeps feeding the pork train SLS, we won’t be able to use any government funds to do that for more than a decade. Already the scale of the effort will require private funds, which isn’t a bad thing, just a recognition that NASA’s puny budget will never sustain big exploration programs ever again – they are too expensive for NASA as we know it today.

    This is going to be a multi-generational effort in any case, and the farther you push it off the longer it will take, and the more expensive it will be (inflation only increases future prices).

    So maybe you’re OK with telling today’s generation they can do tomorrow what they should do today, but that’s not the message I would give.

  • E.P. Grondine

    There’s a few more comments that I need to add concerning planetary defense from impactors. As some of you know, I have concluded that NASA’s impact estimates are between 4 to 10 times too low, on what I consider to be sufficiently good grounds.

    NASA has no established scientific client base to continue to satisfy in this field. The amounts spent by NASA on detection are very minimal, the amounts spent by NASA on refining their impact hazard estimates nil.

    Right now, the two main space based efforts are private: B612 and Planetary Resources; the one dependent on public donations, the other part of a long term company strategy.

    Thus the longer term detection effort is to some extent insulated from hard political fighting, currently that over sequestration. It comes down to the question of covering the gap.

    Diversion depends on which launchers are available.
    Mitigation largely concerns accuracy in forecast and evacuation.

    Both depend on as early detection as possible.

  • Gregori

    @AMW

    Neither is raising taxes during a recession. Good policy will take a backseat to the socialist con, while the Takers desperately loot the economy before their democrat agents are thrown out of office.

    They actually cut taxes for the majority of people. Allowing tax cuts for the super wealthy expire is not suddenly raising them. They were designed to be temporary in the first place.

    It is funny that you complain about socialism since all of what NASA does is dependent on government spending. If NASA was run as a business it would be closed down tomorrow. When it’s your favorite corporations looting the public purse, you are all too much sanguine about it.

  • Googaw

    My condolences RGO.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Big stages only seem to be necessary if you don’t want to stage fuel ahead of your mission need, say at LEO and EML1/L2.

    Or for pushing 100mT payloads to Mars from a Lagrange point, depending on how propulsively you want to do it.

  • DCSCA

    “A human mission to an asteroid would end like Apollo with a few headlines, public loss of interest and decades of stagnation.”

    Asteroids are destinations on the cheap for any HSF plans in thie era and are the province for unmanned deep space probes, not manned space exploration at thisp oint in human history… unless some wag has discovered they’re loaded with gold, silver or petroleum. It’s a ‘bargain-basement’ pitch for a trip to no place. Low gravity, no real hardware for landing/long duration stay necessary, etc., etc. The smart stepping stone to target for progressing HSF onward and outward is Luna. If humans didn’t have a moon as a destination to develop such a plan, they’d invent one.

  • pathfinder_01

    Sorry to hear that RGO. My condolences.

  • Coastal Ron

    Martijn Meijering wrote @ July 30th, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    Or for pushing 100mT payloads to Mars from a Lagrange point, depending on how propulsively you want to do it.

    Once you have mass in space, you can gang together as many propulsion units as you want. In fact, it would be better to use many propulsion stages instead of one big one, as it’s more efficient – just like multi-stage rockets are more capable at getting mass to orbit than SSTO systems.

    Thinking ahead on this topic, they would probably try to reuse the propulsion stages in a similar way as Musk is trying to reuse Falcon 9 stages, by staging before all the booster fuel is gone and turning around the stage for recovery.

  • pathfinder_01

    “Not if we don’t start now.” Costal Ron.
    So true. I mean if we had waited for the microwave, furnaces, and light bubs to be invented before inventing cooking, heating, and lighting devices, we might not have discovered fire. Only by doing do you know what is and is not expensive or difficult and thus what needs to be addressed.

    “The first step in getting people to Mars is getting them into LEO for less than $1M per seat. The only reason we haven’t done it after 50 years is that we are too easily distracted.”

    This problem is slowly being worked on. It won’t be solved in one step, but in several I think. I don’t think you need to go that low unless you are talking about colonizing mars. One off trips could be afforded well before then.

  • Heinrich Monroe

    @ E.P. Grondine

    We probably shouldn’t assume that NASA will be responsible for protecting the U.S., and perhaps even the world from a major impactor. If it’s a threat to national security, it’s a DOD responsibility. Their job is to make bad things go away, and they’re pretty good at it. If we’re faced with having a big hole in our country, and millions of deaths, we’re not going to assign NASA to mitigate it. NASA is wholly inexperienced at dealing with national threats. In fact, it really isn’t even clear to me that asteroid threat detection should be a NASA responsibility. It isn’t as if DOD doesn’t have acquisition and tracking expertise up the kazoo.

    The technologies that DOD has for both asteroid detection and mitigation are far superior to anything that NASA has.

    To the extent that NASA has been chartered with these responsibilities, that’s just stupid.

    Not sure what this has to do with sequestration, though.

  • vulture4

    I’ve worked with both DOD and NASA for over 25 years. I’ve seen both do amazing things, and I’ve seen both screw up.

    NASA has responsibility for all current US spacecraft beyond high earth orbit and I think NASA could handle the mission. Remember that Armageddon aside, this obviously calls for an unmanned mission so would be primarily JPL, Goddard, etc. not the HSF people. If time is available would use a low-thrust diversion. Might need DOD team to detonate the nuke if one is required.

  • vulture4

    “The first step in getting people to Mars is getting them into LEO for less than $1M per seat. The only reason we haven’t done it after 50 years is that we are too easily distracted.”

    “This problem is slowly being worked on. It won’t be solved in one step, but in several I think. I don’t think you need to go that low unless you are talking about colonizing mars. One off trips could be afforded well before then.”

    Not unless you have half a trillion dollars you want to contribute. The nation is in debt. Even the richest taxpayers will not pay a penny more in taxes. If we spend $400B on a trip to Mars with Constellation technology (a reasonable unbiased estimate) we will be deeper in debt and there will be no money at all to make spaceflight practical. There is nothing physiologic about the trip that can’t be simulated on ISS and nothing technological that can’t be simulated unmanned.

  • Googaw

    BeanCounter, if you have to invoke Bigelow as an authority, you’ve lost the argument. As for SpaceX, they are at least in part doing the right thing to lower launch costs — pursuing the real commercial market of launching satellites. Real commercial business with private customers solving practical problems is the key to lowering launch costs going forward. Getting gummed up in NASA’s astronaut fantasies puts that at risk.

  • Googaw

    Coastal, your problem is that you subscribe to a voodoo doll theory of progress — launch astronauts today, and that will lead to launching a bunch more astronauts tomorrow.

    Technological and economic progress doesn’t work like that. As you have observed elsewhere, the main kind of progress we need right now is lowering launch costs. Government contracts are a bad way to do that. Government contracts that require bells and whistles and safety dances to protect our beloved astronauts are far worse still. Real commerce launching practical unmanned payloads for paying private customers — that’s the way to go. And that’s how SpaceX will succeed in the first round of lowering launch costs, if they don’t get distracted by NASA astronaut fantasies into the spiralling cost world of government contract culture and astronaut safety bureaucracy.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi HM –

    IMO, DOD should be kept focused on DOD tasks.

    Your own private individual confusion and ignorance in this field are not my problem.

    When you attempt to share that ignorance and confusion with others,
    that is not my problem either.

    Why?

    Because most people are not that stupid mow, and most of them expect NASA to do its part in handling this problem, as they have been instructed to do so. Aside from that, if you can get anyone else to agree with you, then they’re pretty retarded as well. Like I said, its not my problem.

    So I have to ask, do you really believe all that nonsense you wrote, or are you just trying to construct some rationalization to keep NASA focused on what you consider “more important” tasks?

    PS – It is interesting, but when the Discovery telescope was announced, it was $25 million and devoted to the NEO search. It’s now $54 million and in the first light press releases there was no mention of NEO detection or studies.

  • BeanCounterfromDownunder

    Googaw wrote @ July 31st, 2012 at 12:15 am
    Never mentioned astronaut fantasies – you did!

    If you’re referring to SpaceX involvement in CCiCap then you’re missing the point which is: that they are using NASA as a funding and experience vehicle in addition to pursuing what will eventually be a contract for crew transportation.
    This doesn’t preclude them from other commercial business. And NASA is a commercial relationship so far as SpaceX is concerned.
    Wrt Bigelow, they have developed and launched 2 space habitats which are still operational and have proved up some of their systems for use in future vehicles. So, what’s your point?

  • Googaw

    There is nothing physiologic about the trip that can’t be simulated on ISS and nothing technological that can’t be simulated unmanned.

    Quite right.

    Indeed, we can tell how unserious the Mars astronaut fantasies are in that, despite more than a decade of having astronauts in the ISS, neither NASA nor any of the other partners have left any up there for anything close to Mars mission durations. In the astronaut cult the safety of our beloved heavenly pilgrims trumps all other concerns, even steps towards realizing their even more ambitious aspirations. Far better, it seems, to keep the holy pilgrimages to Mars the enticing myths they are than to demonstrate for all the world to see the health consequences of same. Apparently muscle wasting, blindness, and other permanent disabilities aren’t great qualities for our heavenly heroes. Not “the right stuff”. So they have to stick with the sci-fi when hyping our wonderful future of astronauts on Mars and forego the real experiments.

  • vulture4

    What is the goal of the telescope now?

  • Coastal Ron

    Googaw wrote @ July 31st, 2012 at 12:32 am

    Government contracts that require bells and whistles and safety dances to protect our beloved astronauts are far worse still.

    So you think, but you haven’t shown any facts to back up your assertion. In the area of human travel to LEO, what “bells and whistles and safety dances” is NASA doing that SpaceX, Boeing, Bigelow and others wouldn’t have done?

    Or answer the question in this way – if they didn’t have to worry about NASA as a customer, how much less would it have cost companies to provide human transport for Bigelow?

    I think Bigelow is quite happy with the safety standards NASA has, especially since the CCDev process has turned out to be a pretty good public/private relationship.

    …if they don’t get distracted by NASA astronaut fantasies into the spiralling cost world of government contract culture and astronaut safety bureaucracy.

    Talk about “voodoo doll” theories.

    A majority of the costs are baked in at the beginning of the design process. SpaceX designed for low cost manufacturing and operations, and NASA doesn’t do much to affect that. Even the Dragon was pretty much already designed by the time NASA had a chance to affect the cargo version, and they will have even less influence with the crew version.

    Where are your facts to back up your voodoo suppositions?

  • Heinrich Monroe

    So I have to ask, do you really believe all that nonsense you wrote, or are you just trying to construct some rationalization to keep NASA focused on what you consider “more important” tasks?

    Not sure where the vindictiveness comes from here. I didn’t call you stupid. I called Congress stupid for assuming that NASA should necessarily be responsible for defense. In my view defense against asteroidal impactors could well be understood as a DOD task. If one is serious about mitigating the problem, why would one hand the effort to an agency with a very limited budget, and whose expertise in national defense is nill. Oh yes, it is your problem. And mine.

    This is still entirely OT, but if you’d like to argue about “nonsense that I wrote” here, then go ahead and argue with it maturely. Don’t just fling insults. Why shouldn’t asteroid impact mitigation be a DOD responsibility?

  • Heinrich Monroe

    NASA has responsibility for all current US spacecraft beyond high earth orbit and I think NASA could handle the mission.

    That NASA has responsibility for science missions beyond HEO has nothing to do with who should handle an asteroid impact mitigation mission. NOAA has responsibility for science missions undersea, but DOD is pretty good at using undersea operations to ensure national security. We’d be daft to assign that responsibility to NOAA. To the extent that DOD needs to use DSN to do the mitigation, I’m sure that can be seamlessly arranged for. In fact, with regard to space qualified technology, DOD is significantly more capable than NASA is.

    So you want JPL and Goddard to save the world? Heh. Of course, GISS is trying to save the world, but Congress won’t listen.

    The DOD is interested. There was a major symposium — “Natural Impact Event Interagency Planning Exercise” a few years ago, sponsored by USAF, but with content experts from many agencies. It focused on both disaster response and mitigation. See also this nice piece from the USAF Air and Space Power Journal. They take the question of the role of DOD in asteroid impact mitigation seriously.

    http://www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/airchronicles/apj/apj08/fal08/garretson.html

    I’m just saying that it may be simplistic to assume that this critical national defense capability should be left to NASA. That’s less a criticism of NASA, but much more an acknowledgement of the potential severity of the problem.

  • Googaw

    In the area of human travel to LEO…

    Wow. You only missed the point by a few thousand light years. You just can’t imagine progress without your voodoo dolls can you? My point of course being that the best strategy to lower launch costs is to take the highly prized passengers _out_ of the launch manifest and focus on actually commercial unmanned payloads — i.e. satellites.

    As for how HSF can screw up real space commerce and increase launch costs, the Space Shuttle is prime exhibit A of what happens when you add bells, whistles, and safety dances for our precious heavenly pilgrims to what was supposed to be a viable commercial satellite launcher.

    And by invoking the UFO-hunting hotel baron as an authority on the future of commercial space, a guy who has never had any serious prospects of private customers for his “private space stations”, you too have badly lost the argument. If you have to invoke a crackpot to prove your point, your point itself is probably crackpottery. And trying to privatize NASA economic fantasies is, indeed, quite disrupted ceramic.

  • Vladislaw

    Coastal Ron wrote:

    “In order to know what that small fleet needs to be composed of, and what safety and survival systems we need, we’ll need to master travel in local space first.”

    Good points.

    I always get a chuckle about people who talk about a base on Luna or Mars and it will magically have routine transportation to and fro when we do not even have consistant, reliable domestic transportation for the first 200 miles.

    Human cargo is not that much different than other cargo for those first 200 miles. The Dragon has a minimal support system for carrying experiments. The idea that SpaceX has to go out and buy a whistle, and or a bell for the Dragon is silly.

    Look to the gold plated, gem encrusted Orion and compare it cost wise to Dragon … IF there is going to be any bells and whistles it is plain where they are going. Certainly not with anything SpaceX or Bigelow are designing. 10 billion for a disposable capsule …

    as the song goes .. “insane in the membrane, insane in the brain”

  • Vladislaw

    Googaw wrote:

    “Technological and economic progress doesn’t work like that.”

    Gosh professor gas can .. can you teach us ignorant heathens how economic progress REALLY works? You still have never explained to us what a “natural” market is. Considering that in the eight years I studied economics I never heard that term before.

    So your saying… with ALL other forms of transportation the technological and economic progress of those transportation systems did NOT involve transporting humans today to transport more humans tomorrow?

    Can you give me some examples of past transportation systems .. like the automobile, the airplane, passanger liners, trains… where they forbid humans to travel on them, today, because it would be cheaper for them to travel on them in a couple decades when the grandkids figured out how to build and operate them cheaper.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Once you have mass in space, you can gang together as many propulsion units as you want.

    That’s true. So even for very large masses you may not strictly need a larger stage, although it could be useful.

  • Call me Ishmael

    In the area of human travel to LEO, what “bells and whistles and safety dances” is NASA doing that SpaceX, Boeing, Bigelow and others wouldn’t have done?

    Insisting on a brand spanking-new capsule for every single flight, for one thing. (Not that this hurts SpaceX any, but it does drive up the cost to NASA.)

    And only time will tell, but I’m not yet convinced that NASA won’t end up imposing a significant paperwork/certification/”safety dance” burden on anyone who wants to fly their precious astronauts, before any flights even take place. It’s just what the NASA bureaucracy does.

  • kayawanee

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ July 29th, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    Iwill be off and on on the blog until Tuesday. My father has gone to heaven and I’ll be in Big D for the services. RGO

    My condolences to you and your family.

  • Coastal Ron

    Googaw wrote @ July 31st, 2012 at 11:02 am

    My point of course being that the best strategy to lower launch costs is to take the highly prized passengers _out_ of the launch manifest and focus on actually commercial unmanned payloads — i.e. satellites.

    So you think by removing launches (i.e. reducing revenue), that prices will drop? I don’t think you understand how business works.

    And Vladislaw has a very valid point – most forms of transportation became commonplace specifically because they carried humans – boats, ships, bicycles, cars, airplanes, etc.

    As for how HSF can screw up real space commerce and increase launch costs, the Space Shuttle is prime exhibit A…

    The Shuttle was built by government to be a national transportation system, so it has nothing to do with transportation systems that are built by companies with the goal of being profitable. Try again.

    And since you claim that SpaceX is being corrupted by doing business with NASA, please show us how that affects their already low pricing, or how it affects their internal goal to master reusability? How much lower would their prices be if they didn’t have NASA as a customer?

    You’re great on conspiracy theories, but you lack an iota of evidence or facts. None.

    …a guy [Bigelow] who has never had any serious prospects of private customers for his “private space stations”

    Unlike companies like ATK, which focus on convincing people they are real by buying lots of advertising, Bigelow has launched two test stations and has signed MOU’s with seven nations for future activity in space. Oh, and he has a production facility that he’s already built.

    Regardless his personal hobbies, he is doing all the right things for starting a business that offers leased space stations. And if you don’t think that’s a worthy thing to spend his personal fortune on, then you’re not a supporter of space.

    Other than claims of voodoo dolls and zombies, do you have any hard evidence to support anything you say?

  • Coastal Ron

    Call me Ishmael wrote @ July 31st, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    Insisting on a brand spanking-new capsule for every single flight, for one thing. (Not that this hurts SpaceX any, but it does drive up the cost to NASA.)

    Let’s remember that there had never been a reusable commercial spacecraft before, so when NASA awarded the CRS contract back in 2008, they had no idea what they were really getting, and neither did SpaceX.

    I’ve never heard it addressed in public, but SpaceX may have submitted their bid intending not to reuse the Dragon’s for the initial CRS contract. Or they may have given NASA the option and NASA chose new vehicles for each flight, just to be on the safe side. Besides, the SpaceX price with new Dragons is still far less than OSC’s disposable Cygnus, so let’s have some perspective here.

    The true test of whether NASA fully embraces commercial reusable spacecraft is when the next CRS contract comes up for bid. SpaceX will have a small fleet of once-used Dragons that they can bid for the contract (maybe just bid a few designated for CRS flights), and I have no doubt that NASA will decide that they will be safe.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi HM –

    When you read that much misinformation in one post, then it takes an essay to straighten it out. Too long an essay for this blog, and your own personal confusion is not my problem.

    How you came by that misinformation is not my problem either.

    Rep. Rohrabacher once suggested that a separate agency needed to be set up separate from NASA to handle the hazard, and he proposed that on well informed grounds.

    But in the end, through a bi-partisan effort the NASA charter was amended instead.

  • Vladislaw

    Coastal Ron wrote:

    “So you think by removing launches (i.e. reducing revenue), that prices will drop? I don’t think you understand how business works.”

    It would also reduce the flight rate, which reduces reliablity and ground crews readiness levels. Along with that it reduce the size of the production runs, which goes against the effort of trying to achieve economies of scale. SpaceX wants to build rocket engines like how auto engines are mass produced, every extra flight they can squeeze into the launch manifest the lower their internal costs.

    I believe you will see a crew launch contract much like the CRS contract. SpaceX will get more launches at a lower cost and Boeing will get fewer launches at a higher price. Just like SpaceX and Orbital in their CRS.

  • Googaw

    offers leased space stations. And if you don’t think that’s a worthy thing to spend his personal fortune on, then you’re not a supporter of space.

    Not being a crackpot makes me a heretic. Oh noes!!!!

  • Coastal Ron

    Googaw wrote @ July 31st, 2012 at 2:56 am

    …despite more than a decade of having astronauts in the ISS, neither NASA nor any of the other partners have left any up there for anything close to Mars mission durations.

    While testing to failure hardware is a good idea, doing the same with humans is not.

    Googaw, maybe you should do a little research to see what has and hasn’t been done on the ISS. We already know about bone loss, so testing for longer periods doesn’t change that fact until we need to test long-term solutions to bone loss. Same with all the other deleterious effects – no need to do a test for two years if you know you don’t have a solution for 6-months.

    However, if we didn’t have the ISS, we wouldn’t have a platform to do multiple types of testing concurrently over a long period of time.

    Apparently muscle wasting, blindness, and other permanent disabilities aren’t great qualities for our heavenly heroes. Not “the right stuff”.

    Why send people on a trip if they can’t do anything when they get there? The point of going to Mars is to eventually live there, not to be a one-way trip to a slow death.

    Sometimes you truly show a lack of thinking…

  • Heinrich Monroe

    How you came by that misinformation is not my problem either.

    Let me get this straight. I present information clearly showing that DOD is interested in asteroidal impact threats, and pointing to DOD personnel speculating positively about whether DOD/Stratcom should be responsible for mitigating them. I suggested that the DOD might well bring more experience than NASA to bear in both detection and mitigation and was more oriented to respond to “threats” than NASA. That was my question, whether DOD should be responsible for those things, a question which you curiously brand as “misinformation”.

    There is no question that NASA has been assigned that detection responsibility, and the presumption is that mitigation would be up to them as well. The question is whether that’s the right thing for them to do. For Rohrbacher, it was the easy thing to have them do. That’s why he did it. Rohrbacher doesn’t have the Congressional heft to suggest new missions for DOD. Fortunately, it doesn’t take an essay to straighten you out. Misinformation my foot.

    I presented this question as one for discussion. The tone of your response suggests that you not only don’t want to discuss it, but that you have an iron in this fire that you’re not telling us about. When it comes to asteroidal impacts, I know that you have irons laying all over the place, so it comes as no great surprise.

  • Coastal Ron

    Googaw wrote @ July 31st, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    Not being a crackpot makes me a heretic.

    Who says you’re not a crackpot? ;-)

    From a business standpoint you don’t make any sense, and since that seems to be the basis for your “voodoo doll” perspectives, why should anyone believe what you say?

  • Googaw

    Sometimes you truly show a lack of thinking…

    In other words, I show a disturbing lack of conformance to the dogmatic hallucinations of the astronaut cult. The way I’m really supposed to “think” is to silently recognize the fact that our beloved heavenly pilgrims can’t get to Mars without permanent disability, and then feverishly lobby for billions of taxpayer money to try to take only the first halting steps towards solving this supposedly imperative national problem. And meanwhile pretend that the glorious pilgrimages to Mars are right around the corner and shut up about those health problems because it’s discouraging the fanboys from lobbying for the astronomical sums needed to keep funding this insanity.

    This from a sect which invokes a UFO hunter with no significant space commerce revenues as their chief authority on the future of space commerce, while ignoring the many businessmen and businesses actually doing billions of dollars of real space commerce with real private customers. This state-funded religion’s “thinking” never manages to stretch very far beyond their wondrous daydreams of astral travels, and when confronted with the reality of useless diaper-clad astronauts sharply contrasting with productive unmanned machines, quickly bounces right back to Bigelow’s fantasy markets-of-the-future. To justify their dogmatic fictions they invoke the supposed authority of crackpots and “commercial” NASA contractors who help the cult extol these addled expectations while in fact merely chasing NASA contracts.

  • pathfinder_01

    “As for how HSF can screw up real space commerce and increase launch costs, the Space Shuttle is prime exhibit A of what happens when you add bells, whistles, and safety dances for our precious heavenly pilgrims to what was supposed to be a viable commercial satellite launcher.”

    Ah the shuttle was attempting to be a reusable, manned launcher that required people in the first place. It wasn’t as it were designed as a commercial launcher that was also capable of launching people. It needed its crew to function. The shuttle was also attempting to replace all other ELV launchers. Oh, and do all of that in one great step without a developmental program. That was too much to do. Also what drives the shuttle’s cost is the fact that it needed 10,000 people to keep the system going (i.e. It was more refurbish able than reusable).

    Atlas V, Falcon 9 are designed first and foremost to be commercial launcher. There are not that many huge changes between something capable of launching a person or a satellite (see the R-7, Long March 2F). Mostly things like sensors and abort modes.

    In addition humanity learns by doing. For instance dream chaser and X-37 sit at the top of the rocket (this should eliminate damage to the tiles via ice or foam). All CCDEV craft have an abort system (i.e. Challenger).

    Other cost reductions can be seen. For instance dream chaser plans to have a heat shield that is replaced in sections (instead of individual tiles like the shuttle) and being smaller should mean less time inspecting the heat shield.

    Also, by not attempting to be all in one spacecraft\launch system (shuttle) you can get some savings. Like using water tanks and batteries for power and crew instead of fuel cells. The shuttle needed to support its crew for around 12 days, the ccdev craft only need to support for about 2.5-3 days, but store for 6 months.

  • Coastal Ron

    Googaw wrote @ July 31st, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    In other words, I show a disturbing lack of conformance to the dogmatic hallucinations of the astronaut cult.

    Only your psychologist would know for sure. All I know is that you lack understanding of simple business principles.

    This from a sect which invokes a UFO hunter with no significant space commerce revenues as their chief authority on the future of space commerce, while ignoring the many businessmen and businesses actually doing billions of dollars of real space commerce with real private customers.

    If Bigelow was only showing slideshows to people, then maybe you could invoke the image of a dreamer.

    However he has launched two prototype inflatable stations, built a factory, signed agreements with two companies for crew transportation services, and has signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU’s) with seven nations. Oh, and he has a significant amount of money.

    Bigelow may not ultimately succeed, but he has a pretty straightforward business plan, and he certainly has more going for him than most new businesses.

    If you think back, SpaceX didn’t get a launch contract until they were 3 years old, and no one in the launch business took them seriously. They too had a pretty straightforward business plan, and they still do. And that business plan includes launching whatever payloads customers want to pay them to stick on top of their rockets.

    Bigelow has money, and if he wants to pay SpaceX to launch people to his stations, why shouldn’t SpaceX take their money?

    That’s the thing Googaw, you don’t understand business.

  • Googaw

    There are many laughable things in this thread, but nothing more belly juggling than being accused, by a brain possessed by the most bizarre economic fantasies, of not understanding business. :-) :-) :-) Gee, I wonder who Mitt Romney would fire here? :-)

    However he has launched two prototype inflatable stations, built a factory, signed agreements with two companies for crew transportation services, and has signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU’s) with seven nations. Oh, and he has a significant amount of money.

    All meaningless, since the two prototypes are very tenuous and partial in nature, being quite sub-scale and lacking most of the needed equipment. And since all the UFO hunter has done on these projects is spend that money; he hasn’t made any significant amounts of it back. The MOUs and agreements are mere bits and pixels: practically no actual money has changed hands. In other words, it’s pure marketing hype which succeeds in gulling only the acolytes of the cult.

    In over ten years of pursuing this quixotic attempt to privatize the most grandiose of NASA’s economic fantasies, Bigelow hasn’t made any significant commercial revenues, much less profits. He makes more money from UFO hunting. His organization has practically folded in the towel on these balloon space station efforts, laying off workforce and pursuing instead what you always have to pursue when you yearn to achieve NASA’s commercially preposterous visions, namely NASA (sub-)contracts. Yet the cult of the heavenly pilgrims continues to obsesss over these hallucinations of “private space stations” as if Bigelow is the next coming of Christ, because he’s all you’ve got to keep these addled fantasies alive. God forbid that the path to the future could lie in actual space commerce and those disturbing machines that work quite well without a single bit of help from your beloved astronauts.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi HM –

    The problem is cometary impact, not asteroid impact.

    You need to get current. And bringing you current is not my job.

    It is also not my job to discuss DOD assets with you.
    Nor is it my job to discuss with you the history of DOD interest.
    Nor it is my job to discuss with you the history of DOE interest.

    However, I can spare a few key strokes this morning as I get my body and brain working to point out to you that DOD has no experience with deep space navigation, while NASA is operating DAWN around an asteroid right now.

    Aside from that, NASA’s SMD has a report due shortly which I’m sure will make fascinating reading. After all, its their job.

  • Call me Ishmael

    Coastal Ron wrote @ July 31st, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    The true test of whether NASA fully embraces commer-cial reusable spacecraft is when the next CRS contract comes up for bid. SpaceX will have a small fleet of once-used Dragons that they can bid for the contract (maybe just bid a few designated for CRS flights), and I have no doubt that NASA will decide that they will be safe.

    No doubt? That sounds like the basis for a bet. I can easily imagine whoever is negotiating the contract for NASA deciding to cover his/her ass by insisting on “the way we’ve always done it”. Safety Über Alles, and none of NASA’s precious astronauts will ever be subjected to the unknown hazards of a used car^H^H^Hcapsule. Alternatively, NASA might accept reusing Dragons in the same way they reused SRB’s—by demanding such a degree of disassembly, inspection, certification, and rebuilding that a new Dragon would actually be cheaper.

  • Call me Ishmael

    Call me Ishmael wrote @ August 1st, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    none of NASA’s precious astronauts will ever be subjected to the unknown hazards of a used car^H^H^Hcapsule.

    My mistake. We’re discussing cargo flights here, so “precious astronauts” are involved only if the capsule smashes a hole in ISS. The specific argument I was making won’t come up until Commercial Crew.

  • Coastal Ron

    Googaw wrote @ August 1st, 2012 at 3:29 am

    All meaningless, since the two prototypes are very tenuous and partial in nature, being quite sub-scale and lacking most of the needed equipment.

    In other words, prototypes for testing out their product and features.

    So now you are against testing, and against anyone making prototypes before fielding full-up systems? As pathfinder_01 pointed out, that’s one of the reasons why the Shuttle failed in it’s goals, which you used as an example of something not to do.

    So make up your mind – test, not test? Fly prototypes, or don’t fly prototypes?

    You are like a backseat driver that has severe dementia (i.e. can’t remember the last thing they yelled out). You also appear to be against entrepreneurs trying to create new businesses, which means you are against the thing that would stop the other thing you are against (government money being spent on human exploration). The arguments in your mind must be spectacular…

    Bottom line, you are all hysteria and no facts. Until that changes I think we’re done.

  • Vladislaw

    Having a lot of money is meaningless? He was smart enough to create that much wealth .. yourself?

    The two test craft are hardly meaningless. The first one proved the material will hold up. The second one:

    Genesis II
    “In February 2011, Bigelow reported that the vehicle had “performed flawlessly in terms of pressure maintenance and thermal control-environmental containment”

    You sound as moronic as DCSCA who believes labs should be producing results before they are built.

    You say Bigelow should be producing revenue before his factory is completed, before the prototypes are done testing, before there is even a domestic transport system in place to deliver customers to a future facility, which his business is PREDICATED ON. gawd…

    I guess what he should have did was forget testing all together .. just launch one – ready or not – and let it sit there in space .. unattended…

    Go earn a 1/2 billion dollars and put YOUR money were your mouth is, since you are such a financial guru with a deep understanding how “natural” markets work it should be no problem

    Pretty easy to sit in a nickel seat in the peanut gallery and lob your crap never having did it yourself.

    It isn’t your money. Why are you always about the hate?

  • Coastal Ron

    OT for this blog topic, but related to the topic of space exploration and who will or should be funding it.

    Elon Musk is interviewed in the L.A. Times (via Clark Lindsey at NewSpace Watch) and he had this that caught my eye:

    L.A. Times: Shouldn’t government be doing projects like this [going to Mars]?

    Elon Musk: Government isn’t that good at rapid advancement of technology. It tends to be better at funding basic research. To have things take off, you’ve got to have commercial companies do it. The government was good at getting the basics of the Internet going, but it languished. Commercial companies took a hand around 1995, and then it accelerated. We need something like that in space.

    I think this is the best analogy I’ve heard for what we need to do if we want to expand our presence into space. NASA can’t do it on $17.5B per year, and if we want a space economy the government can’t be the sole source of funding.

    Even though only some of the companies trying to do things in space will ultimately be successful, that is no different than any other segment of our economy, like restaurants or manufacturing. In the NASA COTS program, SpaceX succeeded, RpK failed, and it looks like Orbital Sciences will ultimately succeed – two out of three ain’t bad.

    So when I see Bigelow Aerospace funded internally and spending money on proving out their products and services, and I see countries signing MOU’s when they don’t have to (they could wait until Bigelow was further developed), that shows me that non-traditional space economies are starting to emerge. Too early to know which will eventually succeed, but none will succeed until each one tries – as the old saying goes, you’ll never hit a home run if you don’t swing the bat.

  • Coastal Ron

    Call me Ishmael wrote @ August 1st, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    My mistake. We’re discussing cargo flights here…

    No worries.

    The thing with the Shuttle SRB refurbishment though, is that NASA was doing that because they thought it would be less expensive, so it was a cost assumption, not safety. Of course no one ever went back to check that cost assumption, and ATK didn’t mind having NASA pay them extra, so that just reinforces the point that government isn’t that good at doing things in a low-cost way.

    For reusing spacecraft, NASA could insist on new spacecraft for both cargo and crew, but the difference in price will be so big, and the safety considerations pretty much non-existent, that NASA will gladly go along with reusability. Everyone has already been conditioned to reusability anyways, since there were only five Shuttles built for space travel.

    Regarding what NASA will or won’t tell commercial service providers, NASA has already proved that they won’t be overbearing with the new spacecraft development, so I doubt that will change with the service plans for reusing them.

  • vulture4

    Whether a reusable system is less or more expensive depends on optimization of the design and processing flow though adequate industrial engineering analysis and realistic testing at the prototype level. The DOD is doing this in its RLV program. Elon Musk is making some efforts to explore reusability on his own. NASA unfortunately has not even made any serious attempt to assess the reasons for the high cost of Shuttle operations, let alone doing the level of prototype testing that would allow design for efficient reuse. Consequently it is unclear whether the next generation of NASA spacecraft would even benefit from reusability.

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