Campaign '12

White paper outlines “key accomplishments” of Obama Administration in space

The Obama campaign in Florida released earlier today a three-page white paper detailing what the Obama Administration has accomplished in space policy during its first term. The paper itemizes those accomplishments in several areas: extending the life of existing space efforts (such as the ISS), supporting the growth of commercial spaceflight, continued investments in science (principally in earth science, as opposed to astronomy and planetary science), and building support for the next generation of human spaceflight.

The white paper also includes an introductory quote from President Obama:

I am 100 percent committed to the mission of NASA and its future. Because broadening our capabilities in space will continue to serve our society in ways that we can scarcely imagine. Because exploration will once more inspire wonder in a new generation sparking passions and launching careers. And because, ultimately, if we fail to press forward in the pursuit of discovery, we are ceding our future and we are ceding that essential element of the American character.

One item at the end of the white paper might raise a few eyebrows. In the section on “Supporting Development Of The Next-Generation Space Vehicle”, the paper states: “Under President Obama, NASA is developing a new vehicle, the Space Launch System, which will serve as the backbone of its human space exploration program in the post-Shuttle era.” The SLS, though, was not an original Obama Administration proposal but instead the result of a congressional compromise, and until about a year ago supporters of the SLS in Congress were claiming the administration was slow-rolling the design of the SLS.

59 comments to White paper outlines “key accomplishments” of Obama Administration in space

  • DougSpace

    “The SLS, though, was not an original Obama Administration proposal”

    Yes, but since he appears to be embracing it, it seems likely that he’ll continue it through his second term.

    Given that Griffin was a strong supporter of a heavy lift vehicle, then, I’m guessing that probably Romney will continue the SLS. However, if his blue-ribbon panel recommends otherwise, I could imagine him going another direction.

  • @DougSpace
    I disagree with you on that one. If Obama wins a second term, I think he will cancel SLS at some point. After all the only reason why he went along with it in the first place was because that was the price a few space state Senators demanded before they would back Commercial Crew. CC is already pretty much irreversibly established, and once actual crews start going up, Obama won’t really have a reason anymore to continue to go along with the wasteful farce that is SLS.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Yes, but since he appears to be embracing it, it seems likely that he’ll continue it through his second term.”

    If the Obama Administration doesn’t want to waste more political capital with Congress on NASA, then they might as well embrace SLS to garner whatever marginal votes that program might deliver.

    That said, if you believe the figures in the 2010 NASA Authorization Act, MPCV/SLS is not executable at current budget levels. According to the Act, MPCV/SLS needed about $4 billion per year, but in FY12 and the pending FY13 appropriations bills, only $2.7-2.9 billion per year is provided. No program can survive one-third budget cut and stay on budget or remain technically coherent.

    The outyears in the last President’s Budget remain similarly reduced compared to the Act. The problem will only get worse with sequestration (further 8% cut) or Simpson-Bowles-like deficit agreement (further 4% cut).

    If Obama wins re-election, at some point OMB and maybe even NASA leadership will point out this reality to the White House. Whether they do anything with it or simply ignore budget reality in favor of political expendiency in their last term remains to be seen.

    “However, if his blue-ribbon panel recommends otherwise, I could imagine him going another direction.”

    Ryan’s budget prescriptions would cut the part of the budget that NASA belongs to by 6%. That will happen, and force a conversation on MPCV/SLS, long before a blue-ribbon panel can be assembled, deliberate, and deliver recommendations.

  • SpaceColonizer

    @DB9

    With regards to what happens to budgets if politicians do what they say: If Romney wants to reduce debt as much as he claims, while not touching medicare and ss as he claims, and increasing defense spending as he claims than all non-defense discretionary spending will have to be cut 40%.

    @doug

    He’ll continue it if it stays on track with no significant schedule slips or budget overages… which means he’ll cancel it.

  • 1. NASA didn’t need the life of the ISS extended beyond 2016. NASA’s focus is supposed to be on manned beyond LEO efforts– not LEO on steroids. NASA has already been stuck at LEO for the last 40 years.

    2. Obama terminated NASA’s return to the Moon while other nations like China, Russia, Japan and Europe are focusing on placing men and permanent outpost on the lunar surface.

    3. The Obama administration was against the SLS before it was for it and tried everything possible to delay its development and was consistently criticized by both Democrats and Republicans Congress for it delay tactics.

    4. Obama’s lack of specific near term goals for NASA and its anti-SLS tactics actually undermined full support and funding for NASA and for Commercial Crew development by Congress.

    Marcel F. Williams

  • yg1968

    Ryan will not be in charge of the budget.

  • @Dark Blue Nine
    I don’t see SLS making through a second Obama term for the reasons I stated in my previous comment. Add to those reasons the launch of Falcon Heavy and I think the handwriting is on the wall. But only assuming Obama wins does it appear that certain, nobody can currently make hide nor hair out of which way Romney is actually leaning.

  • Vladislaw

    “CC is already pretty much irreversibly established, and once actual crews start going up, Obama won’t really have a reason anymore to continue to go along with the wasteful farce that is SLS.”

    Both Boeing and SpaceX should be flying crews by the time Hillary becomes President.

  • @Marcel Williams
    You never answered my question posed to you in other threads.
    You want ISS cancelled so that there will be enough money for beyond LEO exploration to be done with SLS. But if we do beyond LEO exploration with already existing vehicles and depots instead of SLS (as a number of NASA and industry studies say we can) we will still have the money left over to keep ISS as well.
    Why do what you want with to do using SLS and throw away ISS, when we can do what you say you want to do AND keep ISS without using SLS?

    You still don’t get how illogical your position is.

  • @SpaceColonizer
    A second term Obama would probably kill SLS whether it is on budget or not, because even if it was on budget it would still cost much more than alternatives. But even if your assumption was correct, according to the Booz-Allen-Hamilton report, SLS being within budget and on schedule has about as much chance of happening as the existence of a snowball in Hell.

  • Typo in my question to Marcel. Here is the correction:
    Why do what you want to do using SLS and throw away ISS, when we can do what you say you want to do AND keep ISS without using SLS?

  • Coastal Ron

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ September 6th, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    NASA’s focus is supposed to be on manned beyond LEO efforts

    Nope. And from a historical standpoint it never has been, since Apollo was really just a political response channeled thru NASA, not part of it’s charter.

    Obama terminated NASA’s return to the Moon while other nations like China, Russia, Japan and Europe are focusing on placing men and permanent outpost on the lunar surface.

    Russia has been targeting the Moon for decades, and China has already stated that they won’t even have a simple space station in LEO until the end of the decade. No one else has the money or the capability. You should change your name to Chicken Little on this one.

    The Obama administration was against the SLS before it was for it

    Yep. But Obama can point to his signing of the NASA Authorization bill that started the SLS, regardless how much he fought to create it. That’s just politics.

    Obama’s lack of specific near term goals for NASA

    It’s amazing what you can hear if you just listen, which apparently you don’t do.

    Obama has stated that he wants to send people to an asteroid by 2025, and Mars by 2035. Considering that the SLS won’t even be ready for human transport until at least 2022, it’s hard to see how this could be any quicker if the SLS is mandated.

    …actually undermined full support and funding for NASA and for Commercial Crew development by Congress.

    The SLS supporters in Congress want the SLS fully funded, but there is not enough money to fully fund SLS and fully fund CCiCap, so your statement is pure fiction.

    However Congress has ceded the point to NASA about awarding 2.5 CCiCap contracts, so little by little the real results from Commercial Crew are going to merit continued funding – if not eventual full funding. Can’t say the same for SLS, which won’t have any visible results until at least 2017 (likely longer because of schedule slips and too little funding), and by then it will be clear that no one can afford to use it.

  • amightywind

    This document is what we have come to expect about Obama, a dramatic, breathless recount of a dying program. Two cheers for America!

  • Vladislaw

    Marcel F. Williams wrote:

    “1. NASA didn’t need the life of the ISS extended beyond 2016. NASA’s focus is supposed to be on manned beyond LEO efforts– not LEO on steroids. NASA has already been stuck at LEO for the last 40 years.”

    Congress and congressional pork has been stuck in LEO for 40 years.

    “2. Obama terminated NASA’s return to the Moon while other nations like China, Russia, Japan and Europe are focusing on placing men and permanent outpost on the lunar surface.”

    Congress terminated Constellation and congressional pork has kept us stuck in LEO for 40 years.

    “3. The Obama administration was against the SLS before it was for it and tried everything possible to delay its development and was consistently criticized by both Democrats and Republicans Congress for it delay tactics.”

    Congress voted for SLS funding.

    When President Nixon refused to spend money congress authorized and appropriated, congress passed a law forcing any Administration to spend money where and when they appropriated it to be spent.

    President Obama was against the SLS but since congress authorized and appropriated funding for it the Executive branch has to excute the Acts of congress that authorized and appropriated the spending.

    It doesn’t matter what the President proposes, supports or doesn’t support, congress controls the checkbook and passes the Acts (or laws) determining what funds are spent on what, where and when, the executive branch excutes the laws.

    Congress cut appropriations for the SLS. If there is any slow walking, congress is doing it because:

    Congressional pork has been and is keeping us stuck in LEO for the past 40 years.

    You continually blame the wrong people.

  • President Obama’s plan always included a heavy-lift successor to the Shuttle, but it would have begun later, with a near-term focus on developing other prerequisite technologies for exploration. The Senate forced an accelerated focus on heavy-lift development.

  • The only thing missing from the position paper I wanted to see is a reference to the Center for Advancement of Science in Space, or CASIS.

    The policy paper closely embraces using the ISS for scientific research, but CASIS is a critical component for making that work.

  • @Ellegood
    “President Obama’s plan always included a heavy-lift successor to the Shuttle, but it would have begun later, with a near-term focus on developing other prerequisite technologies for exploration. The Senate forced an accelerated focus on heavy-lift development.”
    You are 100% correct. But since then there have been a virtual plethora of studies that show that HLVs aren’t needed for ambitious beyond LEO missions for well into the future.

  • Heinrich Monroe

    NASA’s focus is supposed to be on manned beyond LEO efforts

    This has been given a hoot earlier, but I can’t resist. Whatever leads you to believe this is the case? That’s absolutely, astonishingly, incredibly wrong. Where in Authorization bills or the NASA charter do you read those words? Ah, this is in the how-to-be-Marcel charter, eh? Don’t make stuff up, Marcel.

    But let’s continue

    Obama terminated NASA’s return to the Moon while other nations like China, Russia, Japan and Europe are focusing on placing men and permanent outpost on the lunar surface.

    China said they would think about it. That’s pretty much what their vaunted space strategy document said. Japan and Europe have no focus on putting humans on the Moon. Our robotic lunar efforts far and away outpace theirs. Constellation was built to keep them from being able to put humans on the Moon. Russia? Who knows? Obama terminated Constellation, which was an unexecutable path to the Moon, but the Moon is still considered a possible destination. Just read the budget proposal, for goodness sakes.

    “NASA’s plan calls for the initial destination for human spaceflight beyond LEO to target an asteroid by the middle of the next decade. Other destinations could include cis-lunar space (the region between the Earth’s atmosphere and the Moon) such as the Earth-Moon Lagrange points, the lunar surface, and eventually Mars and its moons. All of these destinations are scientifically compelling and rich in data that will provide continuous expansion of human knowledge of the universe and inspire humankind.”
    FY13 NASA priority goals

    The Obama administration was against the SLS before it was for it

    The Obama administration didn’t originally have SLS in it’s budget proposal for NASA. It didn’t, because it didn’t want it. But the budget is a proposal. To who? To Congress. Congress decided to do SLS, and NASA was forced to incorporate it into their planning. The administration doesn’t get to tell Congress what not to do. If you’re wondering what the administration doesn’t really want to do that shows up in their budget, well … it’s a long story, and goes well beyond SLS.

    Obama’s lack of specific near term goals for NASA and its anti-SLS tactics actually undermined full support and funding for NASA and for Commercial Crew development by Congress.

    Can you point me to any words from Congress saying that? Thought not.
    Congressional authorizations almost always exceed the administration budget.

  • Ryan will not be in charge of the budget.

    Ultimately, he will be, if Romney wins, for the administration. That’s one of the reasons Romney hired him. Even if Obama wins, Ryan will remain Chairman of the Budget Committee in the House, where budgets originate. So I don’t know what the basis of your statement is.

  • DCSCA

    More free drift. Treadung water vs. drowning.

    President Hillary Clinton will revitalize our space program.

  • E.P, Grondine

    IMO,

    DIRECT from ULA would have been a shoe-in. But it was the ATK 5 segs and their vain hopes to bring back Ares1 that screwed it up. Greedy b****rds. Jut my opinion, but just saying…

  • josh

    obama should cancel the damn thing once reelected. the sls is a complete waste of time and resources. commercial crew all the way.

  • josh

    @rand

    and that will be a catastrophe. ryan will double down on the failed economic policies on gwb. romney/ryan would greatly accelerate the downfall of the us.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “@Dark Blue Nine
    I don’t see SLS making through a second Obama term for the reasons I stated in my previous comment.”

    I think a second-term Obama White House will expend the political capital with Congress necessary to terminate SLS only if they have to. NASA is just too low a priority for the Obama Administration to torque off members of a narrowly divided Congress that the Administration will need on their side to fix everything from near-term economic growth/job creation to long-term Medicare/Medicaid/Social Security/deficits.

    That could change if SLS becomes so publicly broken and unachievable that the Obama Administration has no choice but to cancel it and try to right NASA again. I’d argue that the SLS budget is already broken. Getting the MPCV/SLS budget back up to the level of funding in the 2010 NASA Authorization Act will require an $8-9 billion infusion over the FY13 appropriations marks for NASA and the existing FY14-17 President’s budget runout. That size of NASA budget increase hasn’t happened since Apollo, and it’s certainly not going to happen in this budget environment. So it’s only a matter of time before technical issues start metastizing and the schedule gets blown by years. Whether that knowledge becomes public enough and shameful enough to force the Administration to make SLS termination a priority — or whether the Administration remains complicit in Congress’s denial on SLS budget viability — won’t be known for another year or two.

    “Add to those reasons the launch of Falcon Heavy and I think the handwriting is on the wall.”

    I don’t think Falcon Heavy really figures into the political equation. EELV Phase 2 plans have existed for years and could deliver 70-ton SLS-equivalent performance for a small fraction of SLS costs. That option didn’t matter to Congress when the 2010 NASA Authorization Act was written, and I can’t imagine having another such option will change anything with Congress when old Shuttle pork, workforce, and votes are on the line.

    A flying Falcon Heavy only gives the next White House an alternative to point to if/when they are forced to deal with a broken SLS program. But the SLS program will have to break first.

    “nobody can currently make hide nor hair out of which way Romney is actually leaning.”

    At a minimum, we know that Romney will not add funding to NASA’s budget:

    “A strong and successful NASA does not require more funding…”

    http://www.sciencedebate.org/debate12/

    If a Romney Administration adopts Ryan’s budget, then the part of the budget that NASA belongs to will be cut 6%:

    http://www.spacepolicyonline.com/news/ryan-budget-would-cut-more-from-nasa-noaa-budget-functions

    Either way, NASA is no more likely to get the $8-9 billion boost it needs to restore MPCV/SLS to a viable budget under a Romney Administration than it is an Obama Administration.

    The difference between a Romney White House and an Obama White House is that a Romney Administration has yet to go to battle with Congress on the jobs and votes involved in terminating a broken, multi-billion dollar, post-Shuttle human space flight program. Having wasted their efforts once on Constellation, I doubt an Obama Administration is going to go there again unless they have to. But a Romney Administration will want to put its own mark on NASA. Not having run the congressional gauntlet on NASA, a first-term Romney White House is more likely to go to battle on SLS termination than a second-term Obama White House.

    My 2 cents… YMMV.

  • Googaw

    a dramatic, breathless recount of a dying program

    That’s what we’ve gotten from all sides in this election, excepting Newt’s losing grandiosities. And frankly, compared to the stillborn retro-futurism we usually get, this past-tense view of the cosmic Cold War fantasies is very refreshing.

    We’re headed for big changes. Forget about a flat NASA budget. Think about a NASA with half of its budget, or a third. Or if it doesn’t adapt to the new millenium, with none, some of its essential functions being taken over by other agencies.

    What we did and dreamed about during the Cold War, and since then by transmogrifying these long-obsolete architectures into cult fetishes, is over after this election. NASA after this election will either be (1) morphing into being what it has never been before — an agency with normal, practical projects. Or if it does not so adapt, it will be (2) dead.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “@DB9

    With regards to what happens to budgets if politicians do what they say: If Romney wants to reduce debt as much as he claims, while not touching medicare and ss as he claims, and increasing defense spending as he claims than all non-defense discretionary spending will have to be cut 40%.”

    You may be right about a true Romney budget. Who knows, since his campaign hasn’t produced one.

    My statement was based on Ryan’s budget proposal, which does exist in print and would cut Function 250 (the part of the federal budget in which NASA resides) by 6% compared to the runout in the President’s Budget.

    http://www.spacepolicyonline.com/news/ryan-budget-would-cut-more-from-nasa-noaa-budget-functions

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Ryan will not be in charge of the budget.”

    I’m no big fan of Ryan’s, but I can’t imagine that a Vice-President who was the former Chairman of the House Budget Committee wouldn’t have a heavy hand in White House budget deliberations.

    Regardless, the Romney campaign hasn’t produced a budget, so Ryan’s budget proposals are all that we have to go on.

  • Das Boese

    Rick Boozer wrote @ September 6th, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    @Dark Blue Nine
    I don’t see SLS making through a second Obama term for the reasons I stated in my previous comment. Add to those reasons the launch of Falcon Heavy and I think the handwriting is on the wall. But only assuming Obama wins does it appear that certain, nobody can currently make hide nor hair out of which way Romney is actually leaning.

    Romney is an opportunistic plutocrat, he’ll do nothing as long as the money from the established contractors flows. Ryan is much more unpredictable due to his fundamentalism and cognitive dissonance.

    In the long term it doesn’t really matter though, seeing as NASA and SLS are unlikely to survive the economic collapse a Republican administration would bring about after a couple of years.

    Fun fact: A recent poll here in Germany shows about 85% preference for Obama’s reelection. Not necessarily because people approve of Obama so much, but because Romney and current Republican policies in general are almost universally reviled.

  • Coastal Ron

    Dark Blue Nine wrote @ September 6th, 2012 at 9:53 pm

    I think a second-term Obama White House will expend the political capital with Congress necessary to terminate SLS only if they have to.

    I’ll agree with that. But if the new leadership in Congress (like Rohrabacher) decides to try to kill the SLS, I think the Obama White House won’t fight it, or they won’t as long as NASA still stays funded at the same level with it or without it.

    A flying Falcon Heavy only gives the next White House an alternative to point to if/when they are forced to deal with a broken SLS program. But the SLS program will have to break first.

    I think Falcon Heavy helps to push the SLS towards being reviewed for cancellation by being so visible, especially if it flies successfully.

    Whereas part of the reason for building the SLS was because we had no big rockets, Falcon Heavy – the largest U.S. rocket since the Saturn V – should ease that concern for two reasons:

    1. Falcon Heavy will be flying far before the SLS.

    2. There are no funded payloads for the SLS – why do we need it?

    My $0.02

  • Curtis Quick

    The manner in which SLS is cancelled could be as follows:

    One of the political parties would gain enough of a majority in either of the houses so that individual votes don’t matter as much on key issues. At this point legislators who are beholding to entrenched aerospace interests would no longer be able to use their votes on key issues as bargaining power to keep the money flowing to their aerospace supporters. Without that bargaining power the votes would not be there for SLS and it would be cancelled for being too far over budget in the fiscally constrained environment for which the nation is headed.

    or

    Aerospace-supporting legislators retire or are defeated in the November elections in sufficient quantity to render SLS vulnerable to cancellation when other much cheaper alternatives become more attractive.

    or

    Falcon Heavy works as advertised, Commercial Crew gets going earlier than expected, and SpaceX pulls off a manned lunar mission in the next five to seven years before SLS gets off the ground, making SLS look like the bloated-jobs-program-without-a-space-mission that it is.

    However, a far different outcome becomes possible if Mr. Romney wins in the fall. It is not unreasonable to suggest that if SLS is endangered, the president could get a phone call from another president, one Thomas S. Monson, President of the LDS Church (who Mormons hold as God’s living prophet on Earth and who must be obeyed if one is to avoid excommunication) telling former Bishop Romney that God wants him (Romney) to protect his Mormon brothers in Utah working for ATK from losing their jobs by ensuring that SLS survives and even thrives.

    Of course, Romney could refuse, but then he would no longer be in good standing as a Mormon and could lose his opportunity for a better position in the afterlife, or even not make it to Mormon heaven at all. As strange as it sounds, that is, in my opinion, one of the only ways that SLS could survive.

    But OTOH, I am guessing that Romney won’t win in the fall, as most Christian conservatives would prefer a Baptist liberal over a Mormon moderate for this very reason, even if only slightly. I suspect we will have a very low voter turnout amongst conservatives this election, perhaps the lowest on record by percentage.

    Feels strange for me a Christian conservative Republican to be looking for an Obama win in the fall. Oh well, politics and religion make such strange bedfellows.

  • Martijn Meijering

    I think Falcon Heavy helps to push the SLS towards being reviewed for cancellation by being so visible, especially if it flies successfully.

    A manned Dragon going beyond LEO should do the trick, regardless of whether it uses FH or multiple F9 launches.

  • DCSCA

    Off topic, but worth a pause to reflect.

    Per NBC News, in accordance w/family wishes, the remains of the late Neil Armstrong will be buried at sea.

    Ad Astra, Neil. Ad Astra.

  • Ron, Curtis, and Martin
    Together you stated all of the points that I would have made in a reply to Das Boese (except for the Mormon related stuff). Thanks for saving me the time!

  • Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    “NASA didn’t need the life of the ISS extended beyond 2016. … NASA has already been stuck at LEO for the last 40 years.”

    Why do I get the feeling that those who wants to deorbit ISS will be those who cries out most when the russians take their sections to make their stated SS orbit another 4-5 decades? Sure, US may be invited back if the russians wisely decide to leave it an ISS. But it would be sour grapes.

    From where I am standing, a european, NASA has been kept in space for 40 years. (Yes, US payed for most of it. But the result is larger than the national parts.)

    Space launch is not going down in cost as fast as making unilateral interplanetary missions viable, see the SLS costs. By the same token that would cancel SLS, you would think unilateral mission strategies would be canceled, and hope that the cooperative experience gained would be used for translunar missions.

    If nothing else, the ISS modules and comprehensive life support is now the core of translunar mission proposals, as well as in cases ATV/HTV modules. None of that year-long mission technology would have been available from Apollo/Skylab technology.

  • Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    More specifically, the lifetime for ISS modules are decided by the delay time before meteorite puncture, a stochastic process. This means that it doesn’t age under the process as such.

    If a module gets hit you can repair or replace or exclude. Meaning that in principle a modularized station can stay up indefinitely. (In practice some hits will force deorbiting.)

    Your choice, or rather, the russians have already made it for us. Some form of station will stay up, to the detriment of the retire-ISS-soonest crowd.

  • Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    “Payed”? Need more coffee…

  • James

    DB9 Wrote: “According to the Act, MPCV/SLS needed about $4 billion per year, but in FY12 and the pending FY13 appropriations bills, only $2.7-2.9 billion per year is provided. No program can survive one-third budget cut and stay on budget or remain technically coherent.”

    This is also the dynamic that killed Constellation.

    Congress is playing a game with NASA. They outwardly whine about how NASA can’ t deliver on their cost and schedule estimates, and yet undercut full funding of NASA projected budget needs at the same time.

    Dysfunctionalism at its heights!

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “But if the new leadership in Congress (like Rohrabacher) decides to try to kill the SLS, I think the Obama White House won’t fight it”

    I agree that an Obama (or Romney) White House wouldn’t fight SLS termination if it was coming from Congress. But Rohrbacher becoming chair of NASA’s authorization subcommittee in the House isn’t going to change SLS support among other authorizers (like Nelson in the Senate) or, more importantly, among appropriators (like Shelby in the Senate). Rohrbacher will still have to compromise with SLS supporters to get NASA authorization legislation done, and a compromise won’t involve SLS termination. And even if Rohrbacher makes some minor win in that legislation that threatens SLS, like authorizing funding for in-space propellant management technology development and demonstration, the appropriators who hold the real purse strings can just ignore it, like they usually do with authorizations.

    “I think Falcon Heavy helps to push the SLS towards being reviewed for cancellation by being so visible, especially if it flies successfully.”

    I’m not so sanguine about this. I don’t think the trigger for SLS cancellation is Falcon Heavy flying. As long as the White House doesn’t care about SLS cost growth, schedule slippage, and technical problems, Congress will come up with whatever excuse necessary to dismiss a flying alternative to keep the old Shuttle dollars flowing to their workforce/voters. I can make up these excuses now: the Falcon Heavy payload is only 50 tons but we need a 70-ton SLS, Falcon Heavy doesn’t have a growth path to 130 tons like SLS, Falcon Heavy wasn’t designed with the Orion MPCV in mind, NASA must do this because industry has never built or run a super heavy launch vehicle, we just don’t trust the private sector with something this important, etc. None of these excuses are valid or even true, but they’ll be made and keep SLS funding alive within Congress, regardless of whether Falcon Heavy is flying or not.

    Heck, these guys don’t care today whether their exploration launch vehicle has any actual exploration payloads. They’re not going to care if Falcon Heavy has put a Dragon in LLO in 2014-15.

    I think the only way SLS gets cancelled is if the White House takes an interest when the SLS program collapses programmatically. It will take the form of a request for a massive budget increase from a NASA Administrator to cover cost growth that the White House is unwilling to fund. Until that happens, Congress will just keep sweeping the schedule delays and technical concerns under the rug for the sake of money/jobs/votes.

    Heck, these guys didn’t care when Ares I/Orion slipped year-for-year, and they don’t care today that SLS/MPCV is already a year behind the 2016 first flight deadline they put in their own authorization (2010 NASA Authorization Act). As long as the White House doesn’t care, they’re not going to care when we’re looking at the early 2020s for the first, uncrewed SLS/MPCV flight.

    For all the bullcrap about congressional oversight, only White Houses care about actually managing federal programs. And even then, a White House will often decide its not worth the political capital necessary to fix a federal program like SLS/MPCV.

    Major changes in NASA’s direction always start at the White House — Congress is too conflicted to ignore its parochial interests and too divided to develop and agree on which direction to go even if it could subvert its parochial impulses. Congress can screw up a change in direction emanating from the White House — as happened after Augustine with the Constellation termination and NASA’s redirection — but major change at NASA has to start with a White House that cares enough to take some political hits

    My 2 cents… YMMV.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “This is also the dynamic that killed Constellation.”

    Not really. Exploration Systems (the part of the NASA budget that covered Constellation) actually got somewhat more funding over the life of that program than what was in the original budget plan for Constellation. The problem was that Ares I was so unworkable technically that schedule and cost growth got out of control, forcing the then-new Obama White House’s hand.

    That’s different than what’s happening today, where SLS/MPCV are being underfunded by billions compared to their original budget plan, which probably wasn’t a viable one to begin with given SLS size and complexity compared to Ares I.

  • Heinrich Monroe

    But Rohrbacher becoming chair of NASA’s authorization subcommittee in the House

    Not unreasonable, but where does this come from? Sensenbrenner has other interests, but there are other senior subcommittee majority members who might be equally likely as subcommittee chair. Rohrbacher has had his eye on Armed Services for some time.

  • E.P, Grondine

    Hi DCSCA –

    “Off topic, but worth a pause to reflect.

    Per NBC News, in accordance w/family wishes, the remains of the late Neil Armstrong will be buried at sea.

    Ad Astra, Neil. Ad Astra.”

    As were Lucky Lindy’s. And the Armstrong-Lindbergh correspondence is still unavailable to historians. (Too bad our host shut down the Armstrong thread. Collectively, we were just begining to get a deeper understanding of the man.)

  • E.P, Grondine

    Hi Curtis –

    “as most Christian conservatives would prefer a Baptist liberal over a Mormon moderate for this very reason, even if only slightly. I suspect we will have a very low voter turnout amongst conservatives this election, perhaps the lowest on record by percentage.”

    I see you’re not feeling much like a Saint either. I don’t know about the efrfect on turnout, but given that the choice for those voters is between gay marriage versus Joseph Smith being divinely inspired, your analysis seems pretty good. But we’ll see.

  • Coastal Ron

    Dark Blue Nine wrote @ September 7th, 2012 at 10:00 am

    I think the only way SLS gets cancelled is if the White House takes an interest when the SLS program collapses programmatically. It will take the form of a request for a massive budget increase from a NASA Administrator to cover cost growth that the White House is unwilling to fund.

    Interesting political strategy, and one that is likely to come up whether anyone wants it too or not considering how much additional money the SLS needs.

    If Obama wins in November, this strategy could be used when they submit their next NASA budget request. If Romney wins, it depends on who he picks (and which side of the argument he lets win) for NASA Administrator.

    We’ll see if 2013 is when serious discussion about the future of the SLS starts.

  • stuart

    1. pres gets elected
    2. pres CUTS NASA funding
    3. pres declares the current program unsustainable.

    i can see how much this pres is committed to.space, by his first action in office. doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out.

    give NASA’s money back so we can have a REAL program again.

  • @DB9
    “I’m not so sanguine about this. I don’t think the trigger for SLS cancellation is Falcon Heavy flying. As long as the White House doesn’t care about SLS cost growth, schedule slippage, and technical problems, Congress will come up with whatever excuse necessary to dismiss a flying alternative to keep the old Shuttle dollars flowing to their workforce/voters.
    A couple of things you’re not taking into account. 1) The Obama Admin didn’t want SLS to begin with, 2) the Admin tried to keep SLS from starting for as long as they could while waiting on Booz-Allen to finish their report (hoping the contents of the report would be more of a smoking gun excuse to cancel SLS than it was). Remember all of the complaining that came out of Congress when they didn’t move on SLS as soon as certain committee members thought they should?

    I do agree with you, in one sense, it will probably happen after SLS collapses programmatically through a request for a massive budget increase as Booz-Allen indicates.

    70mt or no, FH still has 75% of the payload capability of SLS block 1 and people will be asking themselves “If they did this with NO taxpayer money, what could they have done with the money thus far spent on SLS?” Also, it can be pointed out that both SpaceX and ULA put forth proposals for 130mt HLVs and that the cost of both combined would be a fraction of the cost of SLS.

    The main reason why they are not moving against SLS now is because Commercial Crew still is not on 100% firm footing. The only reason why they assented to SLS was it was the condition given to them by the key Senators in order to be allowed to have Commercial Crew. Once astronauts start going to ISS via CC, they will have no more reason to go along with a project that they really abhor.

    Get this through your head: the Obama administration does NOT want SLS and NEVER has. They will get rid of it as soon as it is politically expedient to do so. After Astronauts start travelling with CC, the example of Falcon Heavy will be the ideal excuse.

    My 2 cents, based on the administration’s demonstrated past mindset.

  • P.S. My immediately preceding comment only holds true if Obama is reelected; otherwise, I have no idea when SLS is likely to be cancelled. Except according to Booz-Allen it almost certainly will be cancelled at some point regardless of who is in the White House.

  • ryan will double down on the failed economic policies on gwb

    Illiterate nonsense.

  • Coastal Ron

    stuart wrote @ September 7th, 2012 at 11:54 am

    i can see how much this pres is committed to.space, by his first action in office. doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out.

    Let’s hope you’re not a rocket scientist, because you’re not making a lot of sense… ;-)

    give NASA’s money back so we can have a REAL program again.

    Maybe you don’t know this, but Congress decides how much money each part of our government gets – the President can only suggest the amount, and then approve or veto the funding bill. But it is Congress that decides the funding levels.

    As to what constitutes a “REAL program” for NASA, maybe you don’t know what NASA does?

    For instance, does operating a 450mt space station that is also a National Laboratory constitute “real”? Does sending our fourth rover to Mars constitute “real”?

    What is real to you?

  • Gary Warburton

    The way you`ll get out of LEO is if you concentrate on bringing down costs by developing reusable launch vehicles and by concentrating on true spaceships like NautilusX equiped with Ad Astra`s ion engines and artificial gravity. The idea that if you are going to Mars that you must start at the bottom of Earths gravity well, came from 1950`s science fiction and the 1970`s Apollo program. Furthermore, the notion that you need destinations is silly when what you really need is proper planning.

  • Ben Joshua

    The people formulating space policy public statements for President Obama don’t have to oppose SLS. Such opposition would be politically and legislatively counter-productive, triggering congressional opposition and endangering funding for commercial, and support for milestone type contracting.

    Besides, if the SLS schedule continues to slip, SLS advocates may find themselves defending further SLS development in light of, not just Falcon heavy, but Falcon X heavy, and pricing based upon re-use capability for Falcon core stages. SpaceX’ multi-track development pipeline is already on their next generation, however quietly.

    Once SLS came into being (politically, of course, not on the pad), the wise, if expensive call for Obama was to wait and let matters take their course. As SLS proceeds at its own pace, other approaches are not standing still, and SLS does not exist, excuse the expression, in a vacuum.

  • Coastal Ron

    Ben Joshua wrote @ September 7th, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    …SLS advocates may find themselves defending further SLS development in light of, not just Falcon heavy, but Falcon X heavy…

    Falcon X Heavy (as well as the Falcon XX) is more a “vision” of the future than a current reality.

    Sure SpaceX could build it, and it would be far less expensive overall than the SLS, but from a business case perspective it suffers from the same problem the SLS does – there is no demand for that much capability. And since the primary objective of the SLS program was job retention in certain states, Congress has no incentive to change contractors and/or designs.

    It is going to be years before the Falcon Heavy 53mt payload capacity becomes a limiting factor, by which time the fate of the SLS will have long since been determined.

  • DCSCA

    @Rand Simberg wrote @ September 7th, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    “Illiterate nonsense.”

    Which sums up the Reagan, Bush and Dubya years nicely. Keep it up, Rand.

  • Jeff Foust

    A reminder that general political discussion is off-topic here. Please keep your comments aligned to the topic of the post. Thank you for your cooperation.

  • William Mellberg

    E.P. Grondine wrote:

    “As were Lucky Lindy’s.”

    Wrong. Charles Lindbergh was not buried at sea. For the record, his remains were laid to rest in a church yard on Maui per his expressed wishes.

  • DCSCA

    William Mellberg wrote @ September 7th, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    You beat me to it.

  • Malmesbury

    Falcon X Heavy (as well as the Falcon XX) is more a “vision” of the future than a current reality.

    Sure SpaceX could build it, and it would be far less expensive overall than the SLS, but from a business case perspective it suffers from the same problem the SLS does – there is no demand for that much capability.

    The route to a bigger launcher might be -

    1) FH is a success – customers lining up to launch big loads to GTO. Some customers for enormous loads to LEO.
    2) SpaceX goes public after getting F9, FH and Dragon running on a steady basis.
    3) Use the money from the floatation to develop a single stick replacement for FH – more GTO performance (possibly) and lower part count. Call it FX.
    4) FX can pay for itself launching commercial loads. The commercial plan is to encourage customers towards bigger sats at no extra launch cost (already the plan for FH).
    5) Offer FXH – think FH, but using FX as the basis. Cross feed etc. 150 tons to LEO?

  • Coastal Ron

    Malmesbury wrote @ September 8th, 2012 at 9:47 am

    1) FH is a success – customers lining up to launch big loads to GTO. Some customers for enormous loads to LEO.

    The value proposition for Falcon Heavy right now is because it costs less to get a standard communications satellite to GTO, not that it can lift a larger payload.

    The satellite industry is pretty standards based too, since most satellites are made from standard satellite designs offered by satellite manufacturers. In order to build “enormous loads”, someone has to be paid to design/build/test such a massive satellite, and then the owner has to test it out in orbit to make sure that it does what they hope it will do (i.e. make even more money than previous smaller versions). That takes a while – years.

    I also don’t see the market moving towards larger satellites until more launch providers than just SpaceX can also carry these larger satellites for a reasonable price, because otherwise there is too great a risk in relying on a monopoly (pricing, going out of business, etc.).

    Sure satellite payload size has been growing up over time, but unless the supply of GEO parking spots gets really tight, and at the same time the demand for satellite bandwidth goes way up, I don’t see the need for anyone to risk building 2-3X sized telecom satellites.

    As far as double launches (i.e. two or more payloads on the same flight), Ariane 5 does that today, but it is a logistical challenge to get both payloads ready at the same time (they may be built by different manufacturers).

    Instead, I think SpaceX will focus Falcon Heavy launches on reusability, at least for the two side boosters. That gives them a low-cost way to perfect reusability before moving on to Falcon 9 payloads.

    3) Use the money from the floatation to develop a single stick replacement for FH – more GTO performance (possibly) and lower part count. Call it FX.

    SpaceX calls it Falcon X. Have you seen their proposed family tree?

    There is no reason to build Falcon X until the market tells them that Falcon 9/Heavy are too small, and that won’t happen for a very long time.

    Also, since Falcon X uses a much larger diameter core, it will be a completely new product for them. That means new manufacturing facilities, new core transportation system (larger cores won’t fit on the freeway), new launch pads – it’s a HUGE step up from their current product, and companies don’t usually do that unless there is a clear market need. I don’t see any anytime soon.

    SpaceX has made it clear that reusability is their next big focus, and lowering costs to get to orbit has more demand than the need for bigger payloads.

    My $0.02

  • E.P, Grondine

    Hello Bill, DCSCA –

    Thanks for pointing that out, though I tstill think that Lindbergh wanted his ashes scattered in the ocean off Hawaii. I’ll go back and check his current biogrqaphy again at some point. Hopefully Jeff will indulge me one last question on Dr. Armstrong, which is what was the effect of Houston’s SEI architecture fiasco in 1989 on his personal life? Given that Adm.Truly was a Naval Aviator, the question intrigues.

  • Vladislaw

    stuart wrote:

    “1. pres gets elected
    2. pres CUTS NASA funding
    3. pres declares the current program unsustainable.

    i can see how much this pres is committed to.space, by his first action in office. doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out.

    give NASA’s money back so we can have a REAL program again.”

    President Obama called for 1 billion extra for NASA twice, congress was not interested. President Obama asked for 400 million for NASA in the stimulus including 150 million to start commercial crew. Lead by Republican Senator Richard Shelby, commercial crew was chopped to only 50 million.

    Can you show me proof that the 2010 budget for NASA by the Obama adimistration cut total funding for the agency?

    President Obama asked for 6 billion over 5 years to fully fund mulitple firms to compete for commercial crew.

    Led by republicans in the house it was chopped to a one year 270 million appropraition? Can you tell me how that is President Obama cutting NASA?

    President Obama then in the next budget request wanted a one year 850 million funding for commercial crew, that was chopped down to 406 million. Can you explain to me how that is President Obama cutting NASA?

    Can you show me the original budget requests for President Obama’s first NASA budget request that called for cutting NASA funding?

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