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Europe plots its space future this week

It’s a quiet week for space policy in the US because of the Thanksgiving holiday, but across the Atlantic it’s a very big week for space. Today and tomorrow ministers from ESA’s member states (now 20 with the accession of Poland this week) are meeting in Naples to make decisions on the future of the agency’s major programs. The stakes are high: even ESA calls the meeting “Two days that decide Europe’s space future.”

A wide range of issues are expected to be up for consideration during the ministerial meeting. They include whether to cooperate with NASA on development of the Orion spacecraft by developing the vehicle’s service module. The future of the workhorse Ariane 5 launch vehicle will also be up for debate: should ESA support upgrades to the vehicle, or start work on a next-generation Ariane 6? (Elon Musk offered his thoughts on the debate to the BBC recently, claiming that the “Ariane 5 has no chance” to compete against his Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets, and that ESA should instead focus on Ariane 6.) Earth and space science programs will also be up for discussion, including perhaps the future of the ExoMars program. Off the table, though, is a proposed lunar lander mission: German media reported this weekend that the project, supported by the German space agency, was unable to win promises of funding from other major ESA member states.

174 comments to Europe plots its space future this week

  • Dark Blue Nine

    To be clear, even if ESA agrees to fund an ATV-derived service module for Orion, the agreement is for only one service module in 2017 (probably later given that SLS is slipping at least another year):

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-19920265

    There’s no production to support multiple flights. ESA’s service module won’t sustain an ongoing human space exploration program. After a single, Apollo 8-type, unmanned flight of MPCV around the Moon, Orion will be stuck in LEO again.

    • Ben Russell-Gough

      Interesting bit of precognition there. It amazes me that you know what’s going to happen so very clearly over five years in advance! Let’s wait and see how things develop; Orion may yet turn out to be a joint ESA/NASA spacecraft after all.

      • Dark Blue Nine

        “It amazes me that you know what’s going to happen so very clearly over five years in advance!”

        I’m just repeating what has already been reported in the press:

        “The technology would only be used for one test flight in 2017 that has no crew.

        It will be part of Orion’s service module, which provides propulsion, life support and other functions.

        The European technology would be developed from Esa’s Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) cargo spacecraft.”

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-19920265

        “Orion may yet turn out to be a joint ESA/NASA spacecraft after all.”

        One unmanned mission, at best. That’s the only agreement on the table.

      • joe

        Sage advice, do not expect it to be taken.

      • Vladislaw

        It actually takes precognition to make a prediction that NASA will blow the budget and schedule and it will be for naught? That funding is not forth coming from congress and NASA is looking to europe to fund elements of the system to keep it floating …. well .. I will go with Dark’s precognitive abilities.

        • joe

          Perhaps you should start using Ouija boards.

        • Googaw

          I gotta agree with you here. When they do these slow projects anybody who debates their merits is forced to make a prophecy, regardless of how uncertain that future is. The burden of proof on such prophecy is on those spending the money to show that there will actually be funded projects to use what they are developing, and that those projects will accomplish things of value (in this case great value) that justify the costs (in this case high costs). They haven’t come anywhere close to showing either of these things.

  • common sense

    Orion will not ne built, no one can ensure any such thing considering the budget. Europe is not an HSF player and will certainly not agree to build one single Service Module. Investing 100s millions of euros??? Anyone heard about Greece? Spain? Italy? Even France possibly now?

    Get real people…

  • E.P. Grondine

    Musk had better remember the old venture capitalist’s saying “6 Months. That’s why I’m investing in you, you have a six month lead on your competitors.”

    Others will also create re-usable fly back first stages. They’ll be his competitors, and they have national resources and lots of bright young engineers.

    The EU faces the same problems the US does: climate and impact, so you can expect they’ll make their own analysis and come up with their own answers.

    • Vladislaw

      Just about every member of the EU could afford a COTS style, commercial, start up. The problem is … what can they each launch 6-12 times a year?

      Gosh .. if there was only something … really cheap to launch into LEO … something any country could supply … hhmmm

      • common sense

        “really cheap to launch into LEO”

        “something any country could supply ”

        In Europe? Hmmm… Cheese? Wine? Social Security? Healthcare? 5 week vacations? Bankruptcy?

        Okay they cannot launch all of that to LEO unless… They send a european astronaut!!!! That’s it!

        • Googaw

          Yea that’s really cheap.

        • vulture4

          Looking at the European comments to the original article on the service module, not one single comment was favorable to the idea.

          Although Ariane is subsidized, the total subsidy is modest by comparison with the commercial business it generates. Europe is much more likely to put its money there, and on a new generation Ariane.

          So how will NASA pay for the service module in an era of declining budgets? And for a lunar lander? And for all the SLS vehicles and launches needed to support a lunar base for an indefinite period? If anyone can explain exactly how we can pay for a program that includes permanently manned bases on the moon and Mars supported by SLS/Orion please speak up.

          • Ben Russell-Gough

            Exclusively SLS-supported? Forget it; it can’t be done. The only possible means to support it for an extended period is to develop a cis-Lunar equivalent of CRS so you have the load distributed amongst many providers.

            I guess that’s another good possible outcome from the proposed EML-2 gateway – it would give starting destination point for commercial companies to target without the up-front cost of a lander.

          • Googaw

            it would give starting destination point for commercial companies to target

            Now we’re back to fantasy markets-of-the-future as supposed reasons for funding doll-house “infrastructure”, instead of actually observing the real world and what real commerce actually does there and what they actually need.

            News flash: real commerce already has desinations to target. In fact they have destinations they’ve been going to for many decades. Of course these don’t involve cult dogmas such as the heavenly halos or the cosmic pilgrims.

      • Vladislaw

        Fuel was the answer …. smiles

    • Neil Shipley

      And exactly who are these competitors? Really, if they were going to do something, they would already be doing it. Fact is no-one is concerned and they don’t believe SpaceX can really do it. Bit like not believing SpaceX could actually get an lv to orbit or build a returnable (possible reusable) capsule.

    • DCSCA

      Musk is irrelevant to long term space ops planning. Space exploitation is not space exploration.

      • You keep repeating that mantra as if it mattered…

        Especially to launch providers, who don’t care about the payload’s purpose, once it’s in the customer’s desired orbit or escape trajectory.

  • I’m with DBN on this, I don’t see the Europeans building any more service modules between what the present treaty calls for.

    They are in worse shape than the U.S. is. And we might be joining them soon.

    • Neil Shipley

      Agreed, it’s a fantasy.

    • DCSCA

      Europe never leads and always follows.

      The next giant leap in space sxploration will be made from the Far East.

      Luna awaits the PRC. The path is wide open.

      • I firmly agree with DCSCA! European countries have a vast, long history of announcing some big manned spacecraft plan, and then quietly dissolving it, after it only existed on paper. Sadly, the United States space program is DOOMED with the re-election of the Low Earth Orbit President! So yeah, let us keep a close eye & ear out for what China eventually does. I pray that they don’t waste & squander any further decades in LEO, toying around with dumb, petty, copycat space stations in LEO; that they instead see the logic & wisdom in pushing the human space frontier Moonward, and begin with renewed sortie missions to Lunar orbit & surface. 40 years trapped in LEO has been plenty long enough!!!

  • Neil Shipley

    I see Musk recently warned ESA to go with Arienne 6 not 5ME since there was simply no way that 5ME could compete with him on cost. Just an observation.

    Also of note is the fact that SpaceX have now been in the business for about 10 years. Plenty of time for other competitors to come on the scene and even for governments to see the writing on the wall. But they haven’t done anything. Simply stood by, like the U.S. ‘old’ space organisations (excluding Boeing re: CiCap to a minor extent) in the belief that no newbie could do it better.

    2013-14 will be interesting for the space industry as SpaceX ramps up. Multiple F9, F9 v1.1 and Dragon flights, DragonRider tests, Grasshopper tests, FH tests/commercial flights, new large engine development, and ‘MCT’!!??. And what size is the workforce? Even if it grows by 100% it’s still only 4,000 odd people. And all of it designed to underpin the founder’s wish to go to Mars. It’s going to be really interesting.

    Fancy one company doing all that. Can anyone really expect SLS and MPCV to survive?

    • Robert G. Oler

      This is the year for SpaceX, they either do it and start pushing the broom while everyone else simply complains…or they fold. I am betting on them making it…but they do have a lot on their plate.

      The big pivot is the new rocket.

      If they pull this off there are a lot of people in other non western countries looking at how they did it…

      Good luck folks RGO

      • Vladislaw

        i believe Musk is still in a position to toss a lot of money at any problem that more arms and elbows can take care of because he still has an IPO option.

      • DCSCA

        Musk is the champion of those who embrace the Magnified Imporatance of Diminised Vision. Going in circles, no place fast is pretty old school for newspacers. Space X is pretty much the epilogue to LEO ops to the ISS. anything bewond delivering the groceries a la Soyuz is just typical PR hype. The next giant leap in space exploration will come from the Far East. PRC– Luna awaits; the path is wide open.

        • Vladislaw

          at their current launch rate of 3 or 4 times per decade… I can see we should be really worried.

          • DCSCA

            American space policy has always been esentially reactive, not proactive. Any ‘worry’ will spike when they launch out on an expedition to Luna. and theitr current launch rates have little bearing; their centuries of history being one of marching to a different drummer. The focus really be on how the U.S. reacts. Given the climate of current times, indifference seems the likely response.

  • Neil Shipley

    Sorry didn’t quote the source for the above Musk warning: BBC News video interview.

    • Dave Hall

      I reckon that was Elom Musk’s most confident interview so far … no ummms. I especially like the way the interview ends with a 12-15-year Mars timeline to fit into his own personal ambition of making the trip to Mars. His confidence is probably boosted by Tesla winning 3 signifcant Car of the Year awards for their Model S. Success and experience in one enterprise is likely cross-feeding into the other.

      I’m one of 106,256 Elon cult followers of Twitter. Based on interviews and profiles I’ve watched online over the years I choose to believe in his vision of making life multi-planetary with a focus on Mars … and my faith in him pulling it off in my life-time is growing continually, with each incremental success in both SpaceX and Tesla. I’d be rather surprised if SpaceX doesn’t have a “Mars Skunkworks” team working on detailed designs for an end-to-end transport system 1.0

    • Vladislaw

      I watched that interview also. To me, it sounded exactly like a guy who says he is going to climb mount everst, no matter the cost.

      I believe he is going to Mars … and he can do it at cost…

  • red

    “There’s no production to support multiple flights. ESA’s service module won’t sustain an ongoing human space exploration program. After a single, Apollo 8-type, unmanned flight of MPCV around the Moon, Orion will be stuck in LEO again.”

    So if there is going to be an Orion mission with the ESA service module, I assume they will expect NASA to pay for it (i.e. U.S. taxpayer money going overseas) or they will barter for additional items beyond the potential agreement at hand (more ISS support, ESA crew on Orion missions, etc). Of course for the barters, ESA will need to come up with the funding for their side of the barter, and some here seem to think they will have a hard time doing that. Also, ESA will have to be interested in producing more of them (it seems they’ve lost interest in ISS ATV support…)

    Overall, it seems like a terrible deal for the U.S., especially given additional upheaval and expense to adjust to the new service module. There are plenty of contributions ESA could make that would have value. Perhaps the hab module the article mentioned would work, or a tug service. Maybe ESA could provide a spacecraft to house NASA robotic precursor instruments or technology demonstrations. etc…

    It’s just one more example of why Orion should be shut down …

    • Ben Russell-Gough

      Personally, I have no problem with, say at least one Mission Specialist on every Orion flight being an ESA astronaut in exchange for the SMs. Of course, as a Brit and a space fan, I could be said to have a vested interest in the deal. ;-)

      That aside, it has been confirmed that the ATV/Ariane-5 US-derived SM for EM-1 (the 2017 uncrewed lunar flyby) has been approved and funded by the Council of Ministers. I’m waiting for those with more knowledge and understanding French to translate the resulting policy document to confirm if this will include options for further units thereafter. However, the already released details suggest that the Orion SM is considered part of the ISS project’s barter agreement.

  • Zanderdad

    Just watched the final ESA press conference and they have confirmed that they will build the Orion Service Module for the first lunar mission though no mention of anything beyond that. The Director General seemed pretty pleased about it, thinking it was a ground-breaking step for the agency. The also decided to continue developing the Arian 5 ME rather than to go straight for Ariane 6 (a decision on that to be made in 2014, though preparatory studies commence straight away with aim of maximising the commonalities between the two launches). UK has agreed to donate 20m euros to ISS maintenance in return for access to station research facilities for experiments on the aging process and has increased its overall ESA contribution by 25%. Overall 3 year budget for the agency was approx 10bn Euros (they had wanted 12bn).

    • Ben Russell-Gough

      It’s tough all round as far as discretionary budgets go. I’m expecting NASA to get a curt “work smarter, not costlier” note from Congress too. IMO, the only way forward for the current ISS coalition will be together.

  • Zanderdad

    Also, Ariane 6 won’t be available until at least 2021. So Ariane 5 will have to compete against Falcon for at least 9 years.

    • Paul

      Ariane still has the edge in demonstrated reliability, but that won’t last forever. It also will become less important if satellite costs decline.

      • Robert G. Oler

        both of you grasp the reality of it. Any booster development will likely take 4-5 years by “anyone” so SpaceX is going to have the field for a bit…if they can make access work at the cost they are pushing it then that will start to change satellite design and the time period will be about right for those designs to be driven by Falcon capabilities vrs market reaction RGO

    • josh

      arianespace is finished, they just don’t know it yet.

  • amightywind

    They include whether to cooperate with NASA on development of the Orion spacecraft by developing the vehicle’s service module.

    Why offer them a gratuity? Lockmart is performing ably. Keep foreigners off of the critical path for SLS!

    claiming that the “Ariane 5 has no chance” to compete against his Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets

    This from a man whose rocket left a trail of big parts on its last flight. LOL!

  • amightywind

    I’m expecting NASA to get a curt “work smarter, not costlier” note from Congress too. IMO, the only way forward for the current ISS coalition will be together.

    Of course. The ISS Consortium will soon be out of work and they know it, so they will try to hijack America’s return to the moon.

    • Vladislaw

      ya .. only eight years to go … with a possible 8 year extension .. time to start shutting off the lights.

    • josh

      nasa is not going back to the moon. maybe a private consortium but not nasa. constellation was cancelled almost three years ago, guess you didn’t get the memo.

      btw, windy, how did you stomach the election results? still in shock?

    • The Augustine commitee & the “Flexible Path” movement, were all conspiracies designed to keep the LEO merry-go-round flying: dull business-as-usual, beyond 2015, beyond 2020. You can bet your life, that when 2020 comes close, the LEO-centrics will find some way to thwart any further renewed Lunar expedition plans, and siphon all NASA budget money & astronautic attention to an ISS-2. Hence trapping America in LEO for yet another decade. The entire charade, played on the space program, decade after decade, has been so, so pitiful!!

  • MrEarl

    CS:
    “Orion will not ne built, no one can ensure any such thing considering the budget. Europe is not an HSF player and will certainly not agree to build one single Service Module. Investing 100s millions of euros??? Anyone heard about Greece? Spain? Italy? Even France possibly now?

    Get real people…”

    LOL

    Europe just did.

    http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2012/11/uk-steps-up-esa-commit-atv-service-module-orion/

  • MrEarl

    What should have everyone salivating on this site are the rumors about a privet initiative that includes “plans for a “game-changing” announcement as early as December that a new commercial space company intends to send commercial astronauts to the moon by 2020.” Ofcource SpaceX and Bigalow figure prominently in these rumors.
    NASA is also expected to announce their plans for an L2 gateway in the Dec/early-Jan time frame, so things should get interesting very soon.

    Have a delicious holiday!

    • Googaw

      plans for a “game-changing” announcement as early as December that a new commercial space company intends to send commercial astronauts to the moon by 2020.”

      Wow, look at you, aren’t you so excited!!! Doubling down on the PowerPoint sci-fi. It’s a kind of Overton window of lobbying for NASA contracts: if you want to convince Congress of your extreme fantasy, tout something even more extreme to make the original fantasy look realistic by comparison. In this case, get a “commercial” company to tout astronauts to the moon — at least three orders of magnitude short of being able to cover the costs with non-NASA revenue — and the “commercial” LaGrangian fantasy, only two orders of magnitude short, looks downright realistic by comparison.

      In other words, this is the same old strategy for lobbying for NASA contracts, just that part of the sci-fi story is now to call itself “commercial.”

      As I’ve observed before, all you need is sci-fi PowerPoint slides to keep the cult lobbying for more. Add to that meaningless “memoranda of understanding” with third parties who aren’t actually putting up any significant money, to try to distract us from the fact that the only actual potential source of significant revenue is NASA itself. And you’ve again rallied the suckers with 100% vacuumware.

      You don’t need to actually build or fly anything useful. You don’t need to figure out what people in the real world beyond NASA would actually want to buy. The sci-fi stories are what you need for winning NASA contracts and cost orders of magnitude less than actually building useful things. Apparently a great source of savings in our budget-conscious times.

      • Ben Russell-Gough

        If Golden Spike only get as far as proving orbital cryogenic propellent storage and transfer then that will be enough for me. If proven, that technology could open up the Earth/Moon system to crewed activity without needing an HLV. That would be the real game-changer and would radically change the cost equation to resuming human lunar exploration.

        Rendering giants like SLS and the SpaceX “MCT” (likely what they used to call the Falcon-XX) unnecessary for cis-Lunar and maybe even Lunar surface will be a huge step forwards. Googaw and Neil are right to point out that this is only a proposal and business plan right now and not all the details are public domain. However, I, for one, think it has a lot of potential, assuming that they can persuade the commercial launch companies and spacecraft makers (particularly SpaceX, Boeing-Bigelow and OSC) to get on-side.

        • Vladislaw

          I do not believe the MCT is about Luna, at all, that is for Mars. For Musk to try and sell it to congress for use on the lunar program was just a smart thing to do. Congress would have to cut about 40 billion of pork out of the NASA budget if the Musk proposal was used so that was a non starter.

          • Googaw

            What 40 billion is that? 40 billion out of the future fantasy budget?

            Yet another example of “my extremely costly and unlikely proposal looks better than the other guy’s astronomically improbable and extravagant proposal.” Along with the good old-fashioned cosmic lowball in order to make it look only extremely costly rather than astronomically extravagant.

          • Vladislaw

            Congress wants to spend 38 billion building the SLS .. Booze Allen said that figure was light. Musk said he could build a HLLV for under 3 billion. Congress would have to forego all that pork if they only spent 2.5 billion.

    • Neil Shipley

      Yep that’s the NASA we know now. Plans, powerpoints, more plans. LOL

  • common sense

    Mr Earl

    Laugh all you want I stick by my comments. And Europe for Orion SM all the while possibly competing with Soyuz from Guyana? Are you sure?

    Good to hear from you. Where have you been?!

    Happy Thanksgiving

  • Neil Shipley

    As I said before, everyone else is talking, SpaceX is actually doing. There’s a difference folks.

    • DCSCA

      SpaceX is actually doing.

      Very little. But then, going in circles, no place fast can mean a lot to Newspacers hung up on the glories of the Magnified Importance of Diminished Vision. Rather sad.

      • Neil Shipley

        Oh you’re still around?! Time to clean your glasses along with Windy or perhaps some new ones. You know, properly specified lenses does wonders.
        Cheers.

    • Googaw

      But the vast majority of what people in these parts talk about wrt SpaceX is indeed SpaceX just talking. Or the people just talking about SpaceX, suggesting or implying that they are doing things that they aren’t actually doing, or wishing for same.

      The only thing they’re doing that’s actually useful for space industry and the economy as a whole — and admittedly it’s a big thing, by itself well worth having a company to do — is launching satellites.

      And they have the NASA Dragon cargo contract which so far seems to have been useful for their own bottom line, if not for the taxpayer. Alas, they are at extreme risk of distracting themselves to death with the bells, whistles, and safety dances of that contract and even worse of Commercial Crew. And as if NASA safety obsessions aren’t enough distraction, on top of that we have Grasshopper, reusable this and that, Falcon Heavy, greenhouses on Mars, retiring on Mars, etc.

      The good news, or at least not-as-bad-as-it-looks news, is that 90% of this is just good old fashioned PowerPoint sci-fi to keep the cult footsoldiers out there lobbying for their NASA contracts. In other words, the vast majority of what people talk about when they talk about SpaceX is indeed just talk. And that doesn’t even count the astronomically unlikely scenarios dreamed up by their fans, such as teaming up the SpaceX with the PowerPoint sci-fi of Bigelow/Golden Spike/Planetary Resources/heavenly halo depot/[insert the latest NewSpace economic fantasy here] to produce yet another entertaining but useless prophecy. Yet another daydream that could easily take yet another SpaceX engineer’s eyes off the ball — namely their job of reliably getting their paying customers’ satellites to orbit. If they don’t succeed in that, they won’t succeed with any of it.

  • vulture4

    The “L2 gateway” will be a viable strategy when we have a viable plan for BEO spaceflight. Unfortunately, we don’t. SLS/Orion is completely unaffordable, and claims that we need a human on L2 to drive a vehicle on the moon are simply laughable when almost a decade ago DARPA demonstrated autonomous cars that could drive at speed over off-road terrain with no teleoperator at all. As to Europe, they are still getting over Bush’s unilateral decision to cancel Shuttle and ISS after they had invested billions.

    I suggest we start with a gateway in LEO, i.e. tanks for stockpiling propellants on the ISS and a second-generation RLV for getting there from the ground without breaking the budget, and finally a reusable space tug that can be refueled rather than thrown away, the three elements which actually were the plan back in 1980.

    • Neil Shipley

      Yep and that’s probably not going to be government. They can’t get past their powerpoint experts or their current SLS/MPCV. Oh by the way, Orion/MPCV didn’t even pass it’s first pressure test. Cracks! Sound familiar?!

      • vulture4

        That is a bit funny. Still, I would guess that eventually they will produce a metal pressure vessel that does not leak. The emphasis on powerpoint may be a larger problem; every time I try criticize an arbitrary requirement as not being realistic or appropriate I am told that we have to deal with the requirements we are given. Somehow the cost of these arbitrary requirements never comes up.

    • MrEarl

      The key word Vulture is “gateway”. L2 is the a perfect place to station reusable exploration vehicles because of the very low DeltaV needed to get them on their way. It’s also the perfect place to station reusable lunar landers so that you can access to all areas of the moon. As a bonus it could be used as a place to tele opreate lunar robots and serves as a communications relay.

    • Googaw

      I suggest we start with a gateway in LEO

      Wow, we’re back to this. Back to the original economic fantasies of von Braun and company. We’ve had Skylab, Salyut, Mir, and ISS, and at the same time many dozens of missions BEO, to the moon and to dozens of different places in the solar system, and never has any space station ever been used as a gateway for any deep space mission. Not even once. Every single one of the many dozens of engineering teams that have actually had to build a space station or actually fly a deep space mission has rejected the idea, including those led by von Braun himself when he actually had to get something done beyond slideware sci-fi. And yet back before von Braun actually flew anything in space this is what he prophecied. Depots in LEO. So here we go again.

      Per these pre-space-age economic fantasies of von Braun and company, providing such a gateway was indeed the original motivation for the idea of a space station. Thus the very name, “space station”. A kind of cross between a gas station and a bus station, but out there in the vacuum. Infrastructure to nowhere — the opposite of how new frontiers have actually been developed. But to a government-funded bureaucrat, or an innocent wee lad inspired by same, surely the only way to open up the cosmos.

      But as with other dogmas and prophecies of the doll house infrastructure cult, reality has turned out radically different. The “space laboratory” label we now use was cooked up to describe the supposed function of space stations when the gateway idea proved to be a big fail, but the dogmatic architecture just had to be built anyway. And built again. And again. And yet again. The same useless architecture, the same useless strategy, consuming astronomical amounts of taxpayer dollars over and over again. And yet this is the very same strategy still propounded after all these years, like nothing at all has happened in the last five decades that we can learn from.

      So now the undying dogma has brought us right back to the original fantasies, dreamed up back in the 1940s and 50s when von Braun and others figured launch costs would be ultra-cheap: before Sputnik, before solar cells and microelectronics, before control software, and before many other innovations that have radically changed the economics of space development.

      Ideas as obsolete as the coal-powered battleship. But when you have a cult bad ideas never die, they just get fossilized as dogma to which believers obsessively return.

      I will say this in favor of the idea, relatively speaking — at least it’s cheaper than the more dominant dogma of depots out at the heavenly halos. It may have already been dismissed by every engineering team that had to actually build a space station or a deep space mission from the beginning of space travel until now. But at least it actually makes more sense than putting these way stations to nowhere way out at the heavenly halos, and costs less.

      (Not that NASA could not easily figuring out how to make this idea cost taxpayers and our indebted children many tens of billions of dollars, but that would be even easier out at L-[1-5]).

      • You are so very correct, Mr.! All this LEO-as-a-staging-point gets us NOWHERE! If NASA would only have just gone ahead with building the Ares 5 rocket! It consisted of an earth departure stage. The old tried-and-true earth escape stage concept, is precisely what got humankind to Deep Space & the Moon. The enormous distances involved with cislunar space, and the need to out-muscle earthian gravity, spell out the need for a viable heavy lift, multiple-stage rocket, with which to launch the lunar lander vehicle.

  • Robert G. Oler

    http://www.spacenews.com/article/cracks-discovered-in-first-space-bound-orion-capsule#.UK3WB2f4JLk

    Happy thanksgiving everyone. Our current Turkey (or at least one of them) has cracked during its pressure test…not to worry all is well, schedule budget remain intact blah blah blah

    stupid people cannot even build a pressure vessel…

    Robert G. Oler

  • With the coming 1.7 Billion dollar/yr budget cuts and flat funding after that, the EML-2 gateway will be hard-pressed to happen, without it SLS/MPCV has very little reason to exist and feed the Red State pork-feast.

    Space exploitation may not be space exploration, but it follows U.S. history. It behooves folks like DCSCA while they might not like it, it’s best to remember it.

    • With the coming 1.7 Billion dollar/yr budget cuts and flat funding after that, the EML-2 gateway will be hard-pressed to happen, without it SLS/MPCV has very little reason to exist, and I don’t see the economically depressed Europeans helping much.

      Space exploitation may not be space exploration, but it follows U.S. transportation historically.

    • Even if an EML-2 gateway was a serious consideration, it is not a sane reason for SLS/MPCV (as various studies by NASA, industry and universities indicate). But I agree that with the present political attitude toward budgets, that project ain’t gonna happen; therefore, discussion of preferred hardware for that use is currently irrelevant.

  • vulture4

    Well I was wrong, looks like ESA actually has committed to building a service module for the Orion capsule. All it took was 20M euros from the UK. I must admit I still do not follow their logic, but I cannot help but admire their enthusiasm.

    http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2012/11/uk-steps-up-esa-commit-atv-service-module-orion/

    • MrEarl

      International co-operation will also be a part of the plan from providing parts of the gateway to building pieces of the exploration craft to providing the SM for Orion.

    • common sense

      Europe committed? I have a one word answer:

      Hermes.

      • vulture4

        Point taken, but in this case ESA apparently has an agreement to actually provide hardware to the US. This might (was intended to?) make it hard for either side to back out, even when it might be prudent to do so.

        • common sense

          Well. Until funds are actively allocated and used for the SM I will give almost no value to whatever agreement was signed. Especially considering the more than uncertain nature of SLS/MPCV.

          Governments sign agreements all the time on the spur-of-the-moment.

          Maybe we can talk again sometime after January.

          See what happens then.

  • Martin Curry

    Interesting to see that the Service module will be compatible with a Ariane V.

    Perhaps the cunning plan is to launch Orion to the ISS on an upgraded Ariane V?

  • E.P. Grondine

    Anyone here:

    Did Don Quixote survive?
    Money for the NEO ground observing segment?

    Aside from that, if Musk’s rocket does not work, then B612′s launch costs go up.

    The news: The PR campaign to raise the rest of the money for B612 sat starts soon. I see no problem next year with a comet tail filling 1/3 of the sky.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Pay attention to what happens if you ally yourself to the SLS crowd. The people at Glenn who made a deal with the devil are now finding out that their friends at MSFC are throwing them under the bus. I hope ESA doesn’t tie the SM to closely to Orion so it could be used with CST-100 or Dragon instead. It looks as if the existing ATV already has many of the systems that would be needed.

    SLS and Orion were intended to let NASA go it alone. SLS is now ensuring they are going to have to hitch a ride from ESA while ESA would be free to use Ariane 5 and to do business with Boeing and / or SpaceX for a crew module. And note that Boeing mooted the possibility of using CST-100 on Ariane 5 more than a year ago.

  • Martijn Meijering

    I forgot to mention Boeing mooted the possibility of using an existing ATV as a tug several years ago. It would be launched first, with its normal payload, and after it had delivered that cargo to the ISS it would undock, then rendez-vous with a cargo carrier launched on a Delta-IV Heavy and ferry it to the ISS. It could do this two or three times before running out of fuel. And of course, ESA has refueling technology that it normally carries on ATV for refueling the ISS. Similar systems could be used to refuel the tug.

  • pathfinder_01

    “without it SLS/MPCV has very little reason to exist and feed the Red State pork-feast.”

    Even without it you could build and travel to get to a L2 gateway via FH and an upper stage(or 16MT ish capsule) or two launches of the EELV. However SLS consumes so much budget that NASA cannot afford to develop the hardware to go with the rocket at the same time not to mention Orion appears to be not quite all that is cracked up to be.

  • @pathfinder_01
    Even without it you could build and travel to get to a L2 gateway via FH and an upper stage(or 16MT ish capsule) or two launches of the EELV. However SLS consumes so much budget that NASA cannot afford to develop the hardware to go with the rocket at the same time not to mention Orion appears to be not quite all that is cracked up to be.

    True, but possibly eliminating SLS/MPCV might be politically untenable given this fiscal cliff business and the need for compromise.

    But CxP was a budgetary and political victim too, so anything goes maybe.

    • dad2059 wrote:

      But CxP was a budgetary and political victim too, so anything goes maybe.

      It wasn’t that simple.

      Constellation received a number of bad audits from the GAO between 2005 and 2009. The last one, in August 2009, said that Constellation “lacked a sound business case.” This was around the same time that the Augustine committee concluded that Constellation would have to double its budget just to stay on the current schedule, which was to launch the first crewed Ares I to the ISS in 2017 — two years after the ISS would be defunded in 2015, ergo Ares I had nowhere to go.

      Constellation was a dog program. Congress knew that. The problem was that it preserved obsolete jobs in the states and districts of certain members of Congress. The political compromise was to replace Constellation with SLS, in exchange for saving ISS and boosting the commercial programs.

      • Orion did NOT have to ever go to the ISS!! I am so sick & tired of THAT ridiculous argument: that if the ISS had been de-orbited prior to the Orion space craft’s flight debut, then it would “have no place to go”. I suppose that when Apollo 7 flew on its maiden crewed flight, in October 1968, that the lack of a Skylab station to park up in, put a deadly cramp on its reason-to-fly…?! This ISS-centric/ LEO-centric way of thinking really irks me to the core! Why can’t we just abandon LEO altogether, and reclaim to Lunar high ground, once more—–like back in the good old days, of Apollo & Saturn 5?

  • Martijn Meijering

    Orion appears to be not quite all that is cracked up to be.

    Heheh.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Last night I spent some time looking for Uranus with the naked eye, it was near the half moon and some good guide stars…a pair of good binocs helped of course…the Moon was pretty bright…and while waiting for night adaption I puzzled about the Europeans and what they are doing with their service module.

    It actually is pretty clever.

    IF SLS/Orion go then they have bought themselves a seat at the table…..but they must read the monetary/politics here so what were they planning on if SLS/ORion “cracks up” LOL

    I have wondered how Boeing affords the CST-100 launch on the Atlas…and really they cannot unless they can get Atlas rockets for a lot then the price the US military is getting them

    Plus in the commercial lift/resupply era the Europeans are out of a like kind contribution system to keep people on ISS…

    But if they provide a service module AND the A-V launch for the Boeing CST 100 then not only do they stay in the ISS game but they probably get a chunk of the seats as well ie the temp ISS seats driven by excess CST capability which they can either use internally or well sale.

    All Boeing has to provide in the CST world now is the capsule…and the CST/Service Module combination is a very expensive but technically competent device.

    I would have to check the mass but I bet the AV can lift the combined service module/CST…

    anyone have any comments/ Robert Oler

    • Coastal Ron

      Robert G. Oler said:

      I have wondered how Boeing affords the CST-100 launch on the Atlas…and really they cannot unless they can get Atlas rockets for a lot then the price the US military is getting them

      I think NASA understands the “a la carte” model for crew and launch vehicles, where they could buy/rent/lease the crew vehicle, and the launch vehicle is accounted for separately. NASA could contract for just the crew delivery service, and the service provider would provide pricing to NASA that reflects launching a CST-100 (or Dream Chaser, or Dragon) on an Atlas V, or on other approved launch vehicles.

      Regardless the contracting mechanism, initially NASA would tolerate the (much) higher price for an Atlas V versus the Falcon 9 because it provides NASA redundancy. They already do this today with the CRS contract, where Orbital Sciences is much higher in price for less capability than what SpaceX provides, but OSC provides redundancy at a price that is still reasonable when compared to what the Space Shuttle cost.

      IF SLS/Orion go then they have bought themselves a seat at the table…..but they must read the monetary/politics here so what were they planning on if SLS/ORion “cracks up”

      Hard to tell what ESA is thinking in private, but I have been advocating that the ATV derived SM, if built to handle a variety of vehicles, could be a standalone service that ESA provides regardless the vehicle.

      In the whole scheme of things, the crew vehicle interface is not the big challenge, it’s modifying the ATV to become the Service Module. But once they have that, they could “market” it to whoever wants to leave LEO. I think it has a lot of growth potential, so I’m glad to see that they are going to do it, and once they test the first unit with the MPCV, the second can be used for any vehicle.

      • Robert G. Oler

        Doastal Ron

        “In the whole scheme of things, the crew vehicle interface is not the big challenge, it’s modifying the ATV to become the Service Module. But once they have that, they could “market” it to whoever wants to leave LEO.”

        that market will be very very really really small. like no one

        The notion that humans are going to leave LEO and do anything but a very very temporary thing (and even that is a stretch) is the product of to much Star Trek.

        So far the “end of the road” in terms of marketing large space human programs is ISS. ISS was marketed in 1984 and latter of the end all to be all of human spaceflight…and right now we have according to AV Week the heroes on ISS getting at best 35 people hours A WEEK of science the rest taking pictures, singing songs and making the space station run…and its usually more like 25.

        Now that reality could be ignored in terms of other programs (“whats an L2 station to do? Simply marvelous things” none of which will happen according to ISS history)
        but the spending on things which are little value for the cost is going to come to an end…and thats the end of a lot of things

        So we are “stuck” with ISS which is the one “low value high cost” thing that is already here.

        So what is ESA doing here? they are trying to keep their hand in the game. NASA may put up with high cost redundancy right up until they have no money to do that…but “in kind” contributions are different…and in my view it is the service module/rocket aspect that keeps Boeing in the game

        When Orion/SLS flounders they can use the first one for almost anything…and thats where they are going. in my view

        RGO

    • Fred Willett

      I have a lot of fun pointing out that the AF is paying $466.6M a flight (av) for EELV’s but to be fair George Sowers did point out that there’s a lot of elasticity in ULA’s launch prices.
      If volumes go up prices come down, and the big thing about commercial crew and commercial cargo to ISS is that it has the potential to dramatically lift launch rates and that would have a very good effect on ULA’s prices.
      CRS expires in 2015.
      New contracts will need to be let for the period 2016 – 2020 (and let soon) but ATV is to cease flying in 2014 so in stead of just 4 flights a year as we have under the current CRS the contracts for 2016-2020 is going to be at lest 6 cargo flights a year plus 2 crew.
      ULA is likely to pick up a fair bite of these. Up goes flight rate for atlas.
      Down comes costs.

    • MrEarl

      One thing you didn’t consider is that the CTS 100 is being designed to have a pusher crew escape system. I doubt the ATV/SM could be modified to do that . At least not economicly.

      • Robert G. Oler

        MrEarl…good point I dont know I asked a friend here in Houston who works on the CTS100 and the reply was that the vehicle was being designed for A V as well as Atlas and he didnt think that the service module would change the pusher escape system…but he/she is not a structures person. RGO

      • Coastal Ron

        MrEarl said:

        One thing you didn’t consider is that the CTS 100 is being designed to have a pusher crew escape system. I doubt the ATV/SM could be modified to do that .

        I think you are mistaken. The current effort for the ATV is as a Service Module for the MPCV – not to be a crew vehicle itself.

        However once it’s built for the MPCV, it shouldn’t take as much to modify it to be an SM for any crew vehicle – as long as the other crew vehicles are modified to be replenished while in flight.

        • MrEarl

          Oler was talking about using the ATV as the SM for the Boeing CTS 100.
          The problem is that the CTS 100 capsule is dependent on its SM for crew escape during launch. To use the ATV as the SM Boeing would also need to develop a different crew escape system.
          Oler also speculates that the A V could be used as the launch vehicle. Who’s going to pay to have the vehicle “man rated”, building in redundancy and instramentation to make it safe enough to carry a crew?

          • Coastal Ron

            MrEarl said:

            Oler was talking about using the ATV as the SM for the Boeing CTS 100.

            The CST-100 was not designed for use beyond LEO, so no one is seriously going to consider this a possibility. In any case, capsules have a limited usefulness beyond LEO, and the CST-100 is especially limited.

            Oler also speculates that the A V could be used as the launch vehicle. Who’s going to pay to have the vehicle “man rated”, building in redundancy and instramentation to make it safe enough to carry a crew?

            While his question may have been serious, the likelihood of that happening is beyond serious consideration.

          • Robert G. Oler

            ” Who’s going to pay to have the vehicle “man rated”, building in redundancy and instramentation to make it safe enough to carry a crew?”

            the A V was going to carry Hermes…likes the 9 I think it was built that way and besides it has a reliability number that is “real”. RGO

    • Vladislaw

      what is the actual cost of an Atlas V … Does anyone even know? The industry average is a 12% return so are they selling them with that number in mind or does the Atlas sell on an even bigger margin .. 30% 40%? is there any real transparency in how they come up with the cost?

      • Coastal Ron

        Vladislaw said:

        what is the actual cost of an Atlas V … Does anyone even know?

        No, no one outside of ULA knows, and that has been very frustrating for the U.S. Government, despite the audits they have done.

        I’ve worked at defense contractors, so I know a little about how costs can be manipulated so the government auditors use the higher cost estimates instead of the more realistic costs. That’s just the game that is played. However ULA doesn’t have a big parts count – one Russian rocket engine should be pretty easy to find the internal carrying cost – so Boeing and LM must be throwing their best people at the task of obfuscating their internal costs.

        is there any real transparency in how they come up with the cost?

        None. One of the chief complaints has been that they change their pricing for each contract, which while legal is extremely difficult to benchmark, even though the U.S. Government is pretty much the only customer for ULA. Lack of competition allows this situation to exist, as the ability to choose another provider is going to be the only way ULA is going to be forced to both lower prices and be more transparent.

        Though real price information is hard to come by, here are two articles to look at:

        A Review of Costs of US Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles (EELV)

        NASA chooses Atlas 5 rocket to launch MAVEN to Mars

        I have more references from SpaceNews, but they have recently put them behind a pay wall.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Fred Willett
    November 23, 2012 at 5:47 pm · Reply

    this is if there was anymore reason for it yet another reason that SLS is useless. IF one was going to do an EML station (and we are not) the notion that it cannot be done on Atlas/Falcon heavy sized vehicles is absurd and flying them more as you point out lowers the launch cost.

    It is in my view well done that the ATV’s end because again as you point out the flight rate for commercial resupply will go up on that…it will be interesting to see where the Japanese go with HTV…I dont know how many more of those there are RGO

    • Coastal Ron

      Robert G. Oler said:

      It is in my view well done that the ATV’s end because again as you point out the flight rate for commercial resupply will go up on that…it will be interesting to see where the Japanese go with HTV…I dont know how many more of those there are

      There are two more ATV and two more HTV left to fly under the current agreement. Both will fly one flight each in 2013 and 2014.

      Just as a point of clarification, the number of CRS cargo flights has no effect on the price of Atlas V, since neither SpaceX nor OSC use the Atlas V. That means the only supply & demand forces for ULA pricing is going to have to come from CST-100 and Dream Chaser flights, plus whatever Air Force and NASA flights SpaceX hasn’t stolen from ULA.

      By the time 2016 rolls around, SpaceX will have had plenty of time to prove out Falcon 9, so any crew flight demand might be cancelled out by less orders from the U.S. Government – ULA’s strategy of sticking their head in the sand about competition means they don’t have a competitive response to SpaceX taking customers from them. LM and Boeing are smart enough to see this trend, so the only reason I can see for their lack of competitive innovation is that they plan to sell off ULA at some point, so why invest? The only other alternative is that they are hoping for SpaceX to falter, or somehow be excluded from future government work…

      Bottom line, I don’t see Atlas V pricing going down because of increased demand.

      • Robert G. Oler

        Coastal Ron
        November 23, 2012 at 10:28 pm · Reply

        “Bottom line, I don’t see Atlas V pricing going down because of increased demand.”

        I would be surprised if anything brings Atlas prices (or Delta for that matter) down. (Or Ariane V)

        Look we are right now in a bimodal prediction mode…ie either SpaceX is a failure in their launch business and then the entire world goes back to “normal” in terms of governments being heavily invested in the launch business…(and if SpaceX fails then no one for quite sometime will try again)…or SpaceX succeeds, the Falcon series of launch vehicles meet their cost/reliability numbers and if that happens the entire world changes and Atlas/Delta and Ariane slowly move the way of the Ford Trimotor.

        If this is the path then several other groups will try again…several private groups and probably a government or two that is not now in or heavily in spaceflight…and they will try to match SpaceX’s success.

        2013 will I think give the answer (more or less)

        The prize for a bit will be access to ISS…but in the end if SpaceX works then that will open the door for Bigelow to see if he can recreate the SpaceX magic in terms of “what to do on orbit”…

        and waiting in the wings with this will be the serious space players in the US (and to some extent Europe)…ie the military(s) who (Particularly the US) are becoming dependent on space based assets but can really no longer afford the price of these assets.

        What Europe is in my view trying to do is keep chips in the game until they see where SpaceX/SLS/Orion/ISS are going.

        Robert

      • vulture4

        Nor do I. Increased demand raises cost according to the classic curves of supply and demand, it does not lower cost. Competition, on the other hand, can lower cost. SpaceX needs to compete to take market share from existing providers, so is pricing very aggressively, and if ULA starts to lose business it may do the same.

        • Coastal Ron

          vulture4 said:

          Increased demand raises cost according to the classic curves of supply and demand, it does not lower cost.

          Actually costs usually do go down given higher demand, especially when higher volume allows fixed costs to be spread across more sales. Competition (i.e. the ability to have choice) does not automatically lead to lower costs, since consumers may decide a higher priced product is more desirable than a lower cost one. Apple products are a good example of this, and that seems to be the marketing tact that ULA is trying to use – they want to be perceived as the highest quality choice for customers that have high-priority payloads.

          What I didn’t state very well was that I don’t really see Atlas V demand going up at all, since I think that the most ULA can hope for is that Commercial Crew flight demand will replace some of the demand SpaceX will be siphoning off in 2016 and beyond. Hard to lower costs when your volume decreases.

        • Vladislaw

          When to much demand is chasing to little of supply, manufacturers raise prices to match demand, almost like an auction. This creates extra normal profits above the industry/sector norm. It is a situation you want to see at the start of a new sector (commercial cargo and crew to LEO services).

          It is these higher than normal profits that automatically starts drawing capital. Actually, it is the enviroment you want to develop because this is also the speculation phase. Toss in a commercial destination into that mix and all the parts are starting to come together with just fuel handling left.

          You want an environment that as demand increases, with more countries playing keeping up with the Jones (especially asia, japan, south korea, china, india) and putting up astronaut representatives.

          You want future capacity investments to run ahead of projected demand (every firm believes they will be the one to capture the market share needed) so that cut throat competition sets in and innovation is moving at it’s fastest pace in the cycle.

  • pathfinder_01

    Japan wants to contiue HTV and evolve it into having a return capsule circa 2020. It is really ESA that is the tricky part. I don’t think you could swicth service modules easy. I think the move is an attempt to move Orion away from SLS without ticking too many people off.

    In the case of the CST-100 the pusher escape system is built into the CST-100′s service module, so that would change things quite a bit.

  • Robert G. Oler

    pathfinder_01
    November 23, 2012 at 11:23 pm · Reply

    Japan wants to contiue HTV and evolve it into having a return capsule circa 2020. It is really ESA that is the tricky part. I don’t think you could swicth service modules easy. I think the move is an attempt to move Orion away from SLS without ticking too many people off. ”

    that might be what is in work I’ll think about that. RGO

    • E.P. Grondine

      Perhaps Europe has decided not to fall behind China in a manned Moon effort for reasons of national prestige – Essentially laying the basis for an international effort with the Arianne 5+ and Orion. Anyone here work the numbers for that yet?

  • Martijn Meijering

    Oler was talking about using the ATV as the SM for the Boeing CTS 100.
    The problem is that the CTS 100 capsule is dependent on its SM for crew escape during launch. To use the ATV as the SM Boeing would also need to develop a different crew escape system.

    CST-100 has its own “integrated service module”. Using an ATV-derived SM would only be useful in addition to that existing module, not as a replacement, but then it would be very useful. It would basically be the beyond LEO SM, which could dock with the CST-100 in orbit, thus avoiding any problems with the escape system. The ATV-derived system could be fairly universal, so it could serve CST-100, Dragon and an Orion Light.

    • Robert G. Oler

      Martijn Meijering
      November 24, 2012 at 3:42 am · Reply

      “CST-100 has its own “integrated service module”. Using an ATV-derived SM would only be useful in addition to that existing module, not as a replacement, but then it would be very useful.”

      Yeah exactly that is what I came to the conclusion of this morning while jogging…I would have to check the mass numbers to see what the top end of a service module could be if the CST 100 and its service module were attached to it and boosted by an AV…

      For what it is worth (grin) my suspicion is that SpaceX will soon start on a service module for the Dragon and a “semi third” stage for everything else. They are going to have a lot of problems fitting in the fuel for the SuperDraco’s in the Dragon if they use more then fuel for abort and landing…

      and they lose the cosine losses if they use say four super dracos in an extended trunk for on orbit maneuvering. RGO

      • Martijn Meijering

        The ATV-derived SM and the capsule could be launched on separate launch vehicles. Orion was initially to have docked with the Ares V upper stage, CST-100 and Dragon could do something similar with either an existing upper stage (possibly partially or wholly cryogenic) or a new ATV-derived SM. The former would be more useful for LEO to L1/L2, the latter for L1/L2 to beyond and back. I’d be in favour of doing both. Note that both would be steps towards depots.

        • Vladislaw

          You have swung me over to your side of the fence on this. Fuel handling that is moving the chains towards the goal line of space based, gas n’ go, vehicles is really what the focus should be. Once we have that, as a duel use (commercial/civil) transporation system, luna will be the pearl in an oyster.

  • Martijn Meijering

    The CST-100 was not designed for use beyond LEO, so no one is seriously going to consider this a possibility.

    I’m not so sure about that. CST-100 would be an excellent starting point for development of a beyond-LEO successor. Not quite as good as Dragon, but still excellent.

    In any case, capsules have a limited usefulness beyond LEO, and the CST-100 is especially limited.

    Limited usefulness? You pretty much need them to return. You may need additional spacecraft as well, but I do think you’ll want a capsule capable of at least lunar return.

    • Coastal Ron

      Martijn Meijering said:

      Limited usefulness? You pretty much need them to return. You may need additional spacecraft as well, but I do think you’ll want a capsule capable of at least lunar return.

      In my view, multi-purpose vehicles are necessary, but only until more efficient transportation systems are developed. There is no hard and fast rule as to when such transitions should be made, but certainly it does affect how quickly we can expand our presence beyond Earth. For instance, if we have to rely on the MPCV/ATV/SLS to get to an EML-1/2 outpost, then we’re not going to be able to afford to get there very often.

      The ability to get cargo and crew to LEO should be fully in place by 2016. I hope the CST-100 is part of that, but trying to evolve it into a beyond-LEO vehicle doesn’t make much sense. Instead we should be focused on developing reusable vehicles that can travel between LEO and EML. That way providers for the Earth-to-LEO route can focus on reducing costs and improving service separate from transportation beyond LEO.

      A reusable LEO-EML vehicle is likely to look more like a Bigelow module with an ATV as the propulsion and SM. While SpaceX has made design choices that enable the Dragon to venture and return beyond LEO (solar panels, heatshield, etc), that doesn’t mean that type of design is what the CST-100 should evolve towards – that would be like putting a jet engine on a Cessna 172 to make it go faster and higher…

      Besides, who really wants to spend six days in a capsule when they could have the room of a Bigelow module? A little planning for the future will help us expand faster beyond LEO, so let’s drop our Apollo-style preconceptions for how we’re supposed to be traveling in space.

      • Martijn Meijering

        For instance, if we have to rely on the MPCV/ATV/SLS to get to an EML-1/2 outpost, then we’re not going to be able to afford to get there very often.

        Sure, but I didn’t claim you were. None of these is in fact needed.

        I hope the CST-100 is part of that, but trying to evolve it into a beyond-LEO vehicle doesn’t make much sense.

        Why not? Especially if you use a universal SM, something I thought you supported.

        A reusable LEO-EML vehicle is likely to look more like a Bigelow module with an ATV as the propulsion and SM.

        Perhaps, but for return to LEO it is needlessly wasteful. And starting with a capsule is also more incremental.

        A little planning for the future will help us expand faster beyond LEO, so let’s drop our Apollo-style preconceptions for how we’re supposed to be traveling in space.

        Now now, no need to use fighting words. But as far as I’m concerned our top concern should be getting into LEO affordably, not going beyond it, although exploration beyond LEO would be an excellent way to create the demand that would lead to affordable access to space.

        • Coastal Ron

          Martijn Meijering said:

          Why not? Especially if you use a universal SM, something I thought you supported.

          I do support a universal SM, but the CST-100 is not designed to return from beyond LEO. Could Boeing modify it? Sure, but they barely see a market for travel to/from LEO, and I doubt they would see a market for a modified CST-100 beyond LEO. I think Boeing would be more likely to offer up a modified ISS module to be used as a the living space for travel between Earth and EML, since they have experience with that already from the ISS.

          Perhaps, but for return to LEO it is needlessly wasteful. And starting with a capsule is also more incremental.

          Incremental, but the increments go beyond capsules pretty fast. Right now the only near-term choices we have in the U.S. for leaving LEO are the MPCV and potentially the Dragon. The MPCV is not reusable at this point, so what I advocate for is skipping the capsule stage for beyond LEO travel and moving directly to a reusable in-space only transportation design. I think the ATV could be the basis for part of that, so I’m not advocating a completely new design, just the smart reuse of existing technology.

          But as far as I’m concerned our top concern should be getting into LEO affordably, not going beyond it, although exploration beyond LEO would be an excellent way to create the demand that would lead to affordable access to space.

          For now, yes, the focus should be on getting to LEO affordably. But decisions are already being made about leaving LEO, so we can’t turn a blind eye to this topic. If anything the continued funding of the MPCV and SLS are setting us up for future failure, even if we are able to get to LEO affordably (which the MPCV and SLS don’t leverage or support).

          There is too little money to waste on dead end transportation modes, and that is exactly what the MPCV and SLS are.

  • pathfinder_01

    For a trip to EML-1 a capsule (or a vehicle capable of reentry) would be preferred. In case of emergency a capsule could return to earth. An in space craft could not. There is no reason so suppose that a reusable craft capable of reentry could not be developed. If the MPCV were capable of reuse, it would have my support but an expensive dispsolable capsule on top of an HLV both of which government produced sounds like going backwards in technology and reliving the 60ies. IMHO not worth the money spent on it.

    • Coastal Ron

      pathfinder_01 said:

      For a trip to EML-1 a capsule (or a vehicle capable of reentry) would be preferred. In case of emergency a capsule could return to earth. An in space craft could not.

      A lifeboat spacecraft capable of returning to Earth from lunar orbit could be attached to an EML transport, but that is a lot of mass to be dragging around “just in case”.

      And what is the justification for so much mass? That someone that has gone through rigorous physical exams and has demonstrated good health suddenly needs medical attention within a short time span? It could happen of course, just as people are occasionally needed to be evacuated from our Antarctic bases during their winter.

      But is it worth the cost to reduce the time back to Earth by just a couple of days? I think we could find plenty of people that would accept that level of risk, just as we found hundreds of people to accept the risk of flying on the Shuttle without a Launch Escape System (LES).

      I think an EML transport returning to LEO, matching orbit with the ISS and docking, and then transferring passengers to a Commercial Crew vehicle for travel down to Earth would be an acceptable transportation itinerary. Heck, I’ve had more complicated itineraries just traveling here on Earth… ;-)

      • Martijn Meijering

        Return to LEO would be awesome, but that is quite a lot more capability than a Dragon + ATV would have. You would either need aerobraking, which we don’t have yet, or insane amounts of propellant. Even just LEO to L1/L2 would be very expensive with hypergolics, and both ways would be very expensive even with LOX/LH2. Return to Earth is much easier and the capsule could still be reusable. Is it throwing away the service module that you are concerned about?

        • Coastal Ron

          Martijn Meijering said:

          Return to LEO would be awesome, but that is quite a lot more capability than a Dragon + ATV would have. You would either need aerobraking, which we don’t have yet, or insane amounts of propellant.

          You (and pathfinder_01) are correct, and I admit that aerobraking is not yet perfected for human transportation purposes. However I see aerobraking on the same level as in-space refueling, both in importance and difficulty.

          Resigning us to flying back directly to Earth from lunar orbit – bypassing LEO destinations – seems like it will lock out a lot of reasons for being in LEO. Sure we can do it for a short while, but what I am suggesting is that we define the transportation we really want, and start filling it in piece by piece as we can afford it. But unless we have a plan, we’ll keep thinking that over-built vehicles like the MPCV are going to be really useful, when in fact they will quickly be obsoleted.

          • Martijn Meijering

            Resigning us to flying back directly to Earth from lunar orbit – bypassing LEO destinations – seems like it will lock out a lot of reasons for being in LEO.

            I’m not so sure about that. Even with a mature infrastructure, why would you want to stop in LEO before returning to Earth? Unlike a stop on the way out it isn’t easier, it just makes things harder. It does have some advantages, such as roomier accomodations on your way to L1/L2, and more comfort on your way down if you use a spaceplane, but those aren’t urgently needed.

            If we make sure NASA doesn’t spend money on infrastructure, we won’t be locking ourselves into anything. We can use demand-pull to create a sustainable space transportation infrastructure simply by buying transportation of crew, cargo and especially propellant, intially storable propellant, to L1/L2. As the infrastructure evolves we can start buying transportation to different locations.

          • Coastal Ron

            Martijn Meijering said:

            I’m not so sure about that. Even with a mature infrastructure, why would you want to stop in LEO before returning to Earth? Unlike a stop on the way out it isn’t easier, it just makes things harder.

            You have no need to stop on the way out of LEO if you aren’t going to use the same transportation segment on the way back to Earth.

            For instance, if you are going to LEO, then you can hitch a ride back to Earth on a Dragon, CST-100 or Dream Chaser.

            However if you are going to EML-1/2, then a justification could be made that it has to be done with an MPCV on top of an SLS that has an EDS. Sure that is the least number of steps/vehicles engineering solution, but it’s not the least expensive one, nor one that can is optimized for expanding our presence into space. And it’s not a very fault-tolerant one either, since a problem with one of the vehicles means you are SOL.

            By breaking down our transportation into individual segments, it may be more expensive initially to set up, but it will be far less expensive to operate, be competitive, and it will provide far more redundancy.

  • Martijn Meijering

    so what I advocate for is skipping the capsule stage for beyond LEO travel and moving directly to a reusable in-space only transportation design.

    If you are only talking about spacecraft designed by NASA, then I agree wholeheartedly, they should reusable in-space vehicles. There’s no need for NASA to build its own capsules. It carries the risk of losing an anchor customer for commercial capsules and diverts money away from reusable in-space vehicles and their supporting propellant launches. Indeed, it is not even clear that NASA should be designing all these in-space spacecraft themselves rather than outsourcing them, but for the near term it won’t be a problem if they were to be given that privilege.

    I still disagree with the idea of NASA avoiding capsules altogether beyond LEO, rather than merely not designing any themselves. LEO is a much more challenging base of operations than L1/L2 however. The latter could easily work with propulsive return, even with hypergolics, while the former would be difficult, even with cryogens and depots. It is true that delta-v from Earth to L1/L2 is greater, but on balance L1/L2 is much easier, especially since we already have an ISS that could be used as a staging point.

    This is why I prefer a transfer stage based at L1/L2 as a first step. Preferably it would be reusable, but early versions could be expendable. Both ATV and the Orion SM of earlier plans would be suitable, but ATV is starting to look like an easier sale and its supply chain and political supporters could be less inclined to design it to be specific to SLS and Orion. It is also much closer to being operational than the Orion SM, having flown already and simply needing modifications. If necessary it could use components from EPS, Ariane’s storable upper stage.

    The first missions of such a transfer stage should probably be in support of unmanned missions. Asteroid scouts and ISRU precursors could be good choices that would also underscore the link with manned spaceflight. If we do this, capsules will still be the preferred mode to get into and out of space in the near term.

  • pathfinder_01

    Without aerobraking return to LEO would be very expensive, You would need as much propellant to return as to go and hauling that much chemical propellant with you via chemical propulsion would be impractical. It is the reason why you needed a 100MT rocket to send a tiny capsule and lander to the moon for Apollo but where unable to return anything to LEO.

    Solar Electric propulsion could do it, but the issue is it is too slow to carry humans. Instead of a few days(3 days each way) you would be looking at months(or at least hundreds or near hundreds of days) and such a slow trip through the van allen belts would be leathal.

    NTP could do it, but nuclear reactors tend to be a poltically hot subject.

    In space refueling at EML-1 could do it, but how do you get that much propellant there cheaply and efficiently? You would need as much propellant to return as it took you to go.

    For a short trip around cis-lunar space a capsule(or at least a craft designed to return to earth) would be much more useful. The mass of the heatshield isn’t that great and about the only thing you lose is volumetric efficancy compared to a totally in space craft. To put things in persective a Bigeleow sundancer and the Orion capsule(all by itself-no service module) both mass about 8MT and would take about the same amount of propellant to send to EML-1. The time it takes to travel to EML-1/2 about 4 days each way. Return however is where direct reentry is much cheaper. It would take about 3.43km/s worth of delta V to return to LEO vs. just enough propellant to adjust your orbit such that the perigee intersects with the atmosphere(less than .77km/s).

    In addition a capsule would be capable of aborting and returning at many points in the flight, an in space module would be more limited in it’s return and have to support the crew until they could transfer.

    Where capsules become less suited is for NEO missions and mars missions because you could not fit enough supply in such a little space and these missions are much longer. Even then you either need to lug the capsule with you or go into earth orbit(preferably a high one-if not using aerocapture) and be returned by one. In principal there is no reason why a capsule or spacecraft that reenters from lunar distances must be disposable(however making it reusable could increase it’s mass making for other problems).

    • Robert G. Oler

      “In addition a capsule would be capable of aborting and returning at many points in the flight, an in space module would be more limited in it’s return and have to support the crew until they could transfer. ”

      deep space travel and “aborting and returning at many points in the flight” are not compatible with each other. Its like taking a deep ocean cruise and needing the capability to return to port all the time.

      RGO

      • common sense

        On CEV, initially, NASA wanted a “any time abort” including from the Moon with return to Earth. What it shows is/was a commitment to one shot stunts.

        A decent architecture would have any time abort BUT not necessarily abort-return-to-Earth capability! If you cruise from NYC on the way to LHR you don’t come back to NYC anytime. You have multiple landing sites even if they are few.

        So why don’t we build a REAL infrastructure? Darn. We may need an EML station. Oh well.

        In any case. The reason there is no REAL infrastructure is because nobody knows what to (affordably) do in space, for HSF that is. Until that time…

  • vulture4

    If we think of the ATV-SM as a step toward the 1970′s concept of the “space tug”, a reusable vehicle stored at the Station and refueled there and used indefinitely, which can retrieve satellites and ferry payloads back and forth to co-orbiting locations of maybe GEO, then it makes some sort of sense.

    • Googaw

      Ah, the idea that turned Orbital Sciences from an innovative company (the SpaceX of its day) into just another government contractor zombie. The way SpaceX is going to go if they don’t start paying more attention to their private customers.

      The idea was already obsolete by then, as OSC discovered to its chagrin. Real commerce does not want to take this gratuitously costly and risky side-trip to a white elephant in order to satisfy the hallucinations of the doll-house “infrastructure” cult.

      • Dave Hall

        The private customers lined up in the SpaceX launch manifest probably appreciate the government funded flight testing. I bet Musk has great managers in charge of manufacturing and operations, enabling him to focus on the future. During the last flight his tweets were all about Telsa.

        I think that as long as Elon Musk is alive and involved with SpaceX, they’re going to continue to make incremental innovative steps towards a fully reusable Mars system … he’s made that goal clear on numerous occasions. Grasshopper, Dragon 2 and now the methane engine technology are steps in that direction. He probably has 30-40 working years left, especially if energised by enormous wealth from Tesla and Solar City.

        I belong to the Want-to-See-a-Manned-Landing-on-Mars-in-My-Lifetime sub-cult of the Astronaut Culture.

        • Googaw

          During the last flight his tweets were all about Telsa…I think that as long as Elon Musk is alive and involved with SpaceX…… he’s made that goal clear on numerous occasions.

          But if he’s so uninvolved what do his goals matter? The much more sensible Gwynne Shotwell actually runs the place, thank the stars in the heavens above.

          As for the private customers, I’m sure they appreciate the subsidy but I also know that they very much do not appreciate how NASA-dictated bells, whistles, and safety dances have distorted the design and delayed the schedule of the Falcon 9. And they dread the even greater distortions down the road if SpaceX continues down this schizophrenic path of trying to satisfy both real commerce and the bizarre fantasies of NASA.

          • josh

            you don’t know sh*t. you’re an internet blowhard, plain and simple.

          • Coastal Ron

            Googaw blurted:

            …but I also know that they very much do not appreciate how NASA-dictated bells, whistles, and safety dances have distorted the design and delayed the schedule of the Falcon 9.

            You know? Care to share your “knowledge”?

            Usually when I’ve asked you for details about what specifically the “NASA-dictated bells, whistles, and safety dances” are you have gone silent.

            And now you also claim knowledge that SpaceX customers “do not appreciate” how SpaceX runs it’s business? Considering that no one has to buy launch services from SpaceX, this claim of yours seems specious at best.

            If anything, SpaceX customers must have been impressed with the Falcon 9 design, regardless what influenced it, since they bought so many rides on them before it became operational. In this case, actions do speak louder than words…

          • Googaw

            Yes, I know what is going on. I’m a long-time shareholder in both SpaceX and in one of their customers. More important than that I’m a person who cares very much about the causes of lower launch costs and space development. It’s not like I feel that I can personally ring up Elon or Gwynne any time I like, but I do have some good sources of information. As for you trying to out me, good luck with that.

            Of course this conflict of interest betweem SpaceX’s private customers and NASA isn’t really a closely held secret: anybody who is observing this situation closely rather than obsessing over the latest sci-fi press release knows this too. Indeed, many people who bring common sense to this fantasy-drenched business predicted this years ago, including me.

            Naturally nobody has to buy from SpaceX. Of course SpaceX isn’t entitled to some share of the federal pie either. And if few people except NASA did buy Falcon launches from SpaceX that would make the whole spiel about “commerce” and the idiotic “buying an airplane ticket” analogy that were used to justify their NASA contracts look quite silly even for the Falcon, not just for the Dragon.

            Prospective customers certainly have this full choice (albeit minus the choice to avoid being taxed to fund via NASA these subsidies and fantasies). Current customers don’t have so much of a choice because they are already listed on SpaceX’s manifest. They are relying on SpaceX to come through. And they expect to be treated like customers, not like distractions from the glorious realization of the cult’s sci-fi stories. Or they will go away, and when they drop off the manifest many prospective customers you don’t see that would have appeared on that manifest will quietly decline to be added to it.

            Falcon 9, as y’all once never ceased to regale me, was originally designed independently of NASA requirements. Thus its great potential for providing a reliable service at low launch costs, and thus such private sector customers as have been put on the manifest (albeit with little money so far changing hands — normally customers expect actual delivery on orbit for revenue to accrue).

            Unfortunately, Falcon is now being redesigned to deal with NASA safety paranoia. The latest NASA-induced delay of the Falcon 9 due to the engine failure from which the flight readily recovered is only the latest example.

            And if any of the sci-fi press releases are to be believed, SpaceX is being distracted into paying attention to a wide variety of bizarre econonomic fantasies at the cost of neglecting their actual customers. Of course, as I mentioned before a reasonable presumption is that about 90% of these are mere marketing gimmicks with no significant engineering resources actually involved. Or at least a private customer can only hope this is the case.

            Low launch costs and astronauts don’t mix. They never have. They certainly aren’t now. Nor is there any realistic prospect that these NASA safety obsessions with our glorious cosmic pilgrims, obsessions that can and have (e.g. Shuttle) driven up launch costs to astronomical levels, are going to go away. You lie down with diapered heroes, you get up with fleas, to give that ancient proverb a little twist.

            But SpaceX still has a chance to, as it were, straighten up and fly right — and thus deliver their current customers’ satellites to orbit on schedule, and thus win potentially many new customers, and simultaneously lower launch costs, facilitate real, financially sustainable space development, and be a net national benefit rather than a net national drain. When I no longer believe there is hope for this will be the day that I am no longer a SpaceX shareholder.

          • Dave Hall

            Googaw: I’m a long-time shareholder in both SpaceX and in one of their customers.

            I’d love to hear the story behind that.

            And yet you show disdain for the founder of SpaceX amd his purpose and vision for the company … and dismiss development work on reusability (Grasshopper) as a distraction, whilst claiming to care deeply about lower launch costs. Quite contradictory.

          • Dave Hall

            I said: During the last flight his tweets were all about Tesla

            Googaw: But if he’s so uninvolved what do his goals matter?

            I think he’s deeply involved in both Tesla and SpaceX, his goals provide the purpose and direction for the enterprises … the result of being a self-funding founder. He seems to have struck a balance that’s working for both companies.

            My interpretation of the tweets is that Elon Musk likes to try to equally apportion praise and share attention with both teams. Well, that’s the story I made up at the time.

          • Vladislaw

            goo wrote:

            “Falcon 9, as y’all once never ceased to regale me, was originally designed independently of NASA requirements.”

            Actually that is not what everyone has been saying. Does that illustrate how much attention you place on what people say, or are you so stuck in your own feed back loop you only hear what you want?

            Musk stated that Falcon 9 was built utlizing ALL of NASA’s known and published reguirements. The strategy was that NASA would be unable to turn around at a later date and say SpaceX had not complided with blah blah blah. It would moot any NASA roadblock put up, at the request of SpaceX’s competition’s lobbying efforts to close them out of future contracts.

            SpaceX was not going against NASA, it was up against the “stakeholders” that provided NASA bloated launch prices. They did not want SpaceX upsetting the good thing they have. So they would lobby congress and NASA and a roadblock would get erected pushing up SpaceX’s costs. A old game. SpaceX decided they would follow all of NASA’s regs to the letter from the very start.

          • @Googaw
            “I’m a long-time shareholder in both SpaceX and in one of their customers.”
            ??????? How could you possibly be a “long-time shareholder” in SpaceX when they have yet to IPO? The only people invested in SpaceX put up millions in stake capital. You trying to tell us you’re some kind of big ass venture capitalist?

          • Coastal Ron

            Googaw pontificated:

            Yes, I know what is going on. I’m a long-time shareholder in both SpaceX and in one of their customers.

            Being a shareholder of either SpaceX or one of it’s customers means you get an annual report of public information, NOT insider information (which is illegal).

            And as others have pointed out, SpaceX is not a public company, so unless you are Elon, one of his investors, or an employee that is part of the stock & option pool, you aren’t a “long-time shareholder” of SpaceX.

            Regardless, I didn’t ask for your bona fides, I asked for your proof. But as usual, you didn’t provide any references or convincing evidence that you know anything about anything. What a surprise…

            Prospective customers certainly have this full choice (albeit minus the choice to avoid being taxed to fund via NASA these subsidies and fantasies).

            What “tax”? If you want a Falcon 9 to launch your payloads, the current price is $54M paid in full. What part of that is the “tax”? The $60M they wouldn’t be paying to someone else? You don’t make sense.

            Current customers don’t have so much of a choice because they are already listed on SpaceX’s manifest.

            Apparently you don’t keep up with the stories in the press. Most launch customers order backup services from other launch providers, and they have opt-out clauses in their contracts. That means they can opt for another launch provider anytime they want – there is no gun to their head, no reason they can’t leave. More figment of your hyperactive imagination.

            Unfortunately, Falcon is now being redesigned to deal with NASA safety paranoia. The latest NASA-induced delay of the Falcon 9 due to the engine failure from which the flight readily recovered is only the latest example.

            Yes, customers don’t care when things go wrong with a transportation provider they plan to use… what a maroon!

            Look, you are free to claim whatever you want, but it’s apparent that you haven’t convinced anyone you know anything yet. So instead of your usual hand waving and Chicken Little zombie routine, how about you provide some verifiable facts, OK?

    • Coastal Ron

      vulture4 said:

      If we think of the ATV-SM as a step toward the 1970′s concept of the “space tug”, a reusable vehicle stored at the Station and refueled there and used indefinitely, which can retrieve satellites and ferry payloads back and forth to co-orbiting locations of maybe GEO, then it makes some sort of sense.

      For cargo and non-human operations, I think OSC’s Cygnus would be a good starting point for doing that type of thing. It would need to be modified to be reused & refueled, but it should less expensive to modify it than for someone else to build one from scratch.

      I kind of see ESA’s ATV architecture as being focused initially on human transport, but maybe it could also be used for moving large structures to EML in a short period (SEL tugs would be used for slower transits).

      I think we have some good building blocks to use to start, and reuse means we can do more with less money. Now we just need to cancel the SLS to free up the money…

  • pathfinder_01

    “deep space travel and “aborting and returning at many points in the flight” are not compatible with each other. Its like taking a deep ocean cruise and needing the capability to return to port all the time.”

    Err not quite. For a trip around cislunar space return is possible. From eml-1/2 you can return to earth at any time, when launching to the moon free return trajectories are available and sometimes turning around mid-flight isn’t out(Apollo 13 for instance had just enough margin to do so but they decided returning to the free return trajectory was much less risky than attempting to return back to earth at the earliest possible moment because it would have consumed almost all the propellant on board and left little room for error.). The return times from that distance are within the capability of a capsule(i.e Apollo had a endurance of 14 days and you only need about 3.5 days to get to and from the moon…plenty of time for an abort.)

    In sea going terms a capsule is like a small boat or helicopter. Very useful for a ship in that it allows the ship to be able to load or off load people or cargo without having to have a port big enough to hold the ship but not big enough to support an ocean crossing. In the case of a cruise for instance you can be med evaced by helicopter when in range, and you can board a tender to take you to and from an large ship. Capsules are sort of that role. For an EMl-1 station, NEO or Mars mission that leaves from high earth orbit they are fine to send the crew to the larger mission spacecraft.

    It is only when you are talking NEO missions and Mars missions that the abort capability gets very weak. In that you say would only be able to return for a few hours or days at the start or end of the trip that took months. You may still be forced to lug the capsule with you as it is a method of return but its mass is much less valuable. If you return to a high earth orbit or to eml 1 or 2 then why bother lugging it? You could leave it behind. It simply would not be able to support a crew long enough to get back home(i.e. Even if you had the delta V to do a free return from mars it still takes months to get back and Orion can only support the crew 21 days max).

    • Coastal Ron

      pathfinder_01 said:

      If you return to a high earth orbit or to eml 1 or 2 then why bother lugging it? You could leave it behind. It simply would not be able to support a crew long enough to get back home(i.e. Even if you had the delta V to do a free return from mars it still takes months to get back and Orion can only support the crew 21 days max).

      This is where looking at the transportation architecture overall really helps.

      If we develop a system that is segmented symmetrically (i.e. the same transportation nodes are used for trips in either direction), then the need for capsule beyond LEO goes away.

      Beyond LEO you either rely on dedicated transports like an EML transport we’ve been theorizing, or for beyond LEO you rely on the fleet concept with smaller transports like the NASA SEV for moving around between the larger vessels.

      Spacecraft with heat shields are reserved for use on only those transportation segments that require heat shields. So on a trip to an asteroid, you wouldn’t need to bring a capsule along, but on a trip to Mars you might bring one if it will be used to transport crew and cargo to the surface of Mars.

      My $0.02

      • Martijn Meijering

        Sure, but that comes at a very high price. We don’t need that yet, what we need is cheap lift. I’d be thrilled to see a LEO-based ATV tug provide demand for propellant launch services, but it would be a very inefficient way to do it. From the point of technology maturity there is no need to avoid use of prefueled cryogenic stages. And if you want to use hypergolics to get started early (as I do), then unmanned L1/L2 based missions are preferable because they give you more bang for your buck.

        I don’t understand why you think needing heat shields beyond LEO is such a big deal.

        • Coastal Ron

          Martijn Meijering said:

          Sure, but that comes at a very high price. We don’t need that yet, what we need is cheap lift.

          I don’t see those two as connected. SpaceX is going to provide cheap lift regardless what happens with transportation beyond LEO.

          I’d be thrilled to see a LEO-based ATV tug provide demand for propellant launch services, but it would be a very inefficient way to do it. From the point of technology maturity there is no need to avoid use of prefueled cryogenic stages.

          Prefueled or not, if we can’t refuel in space, then we’re throwing away a lot of hardware. In order for costs to come down we need reuse, regardless what the fuel is.

          And if you want to use hypergolics to get started early (as I do), then unmanned L1/L2 based missions are preferable because they give you more bang for your buck.

          I view the decision about what fuel to use as a market choice – I don’t have a preference, as long as it ultimately allows for an industry to grow based on refueling in space.

          I don’t understand why you think needing heat shields beyond LEO is such a big deal.

          To be clear, I don’t think they are needed beyond the orbit of a planet with an atmosphere, not unless they are being transported to such a planet. Otherwise they are unoptimized vehicles, and my preference is to move to optimized vehicles as soon as practical. Now that may mean starting out with capsules, but what I advocate for is the definition of a transportation framework that can transition to space-only vehicles beyond LEO as soon as possible.

          • Martijn Meijering

            I don’t see those two as connected. SpaceX is going to provide cheap lift regardless what happens with transportation beyond LEO.

            I hope that’s true, but I do see a strong connection. The more money NASA spends on competitively procured propellant launches, the easier it will be to get commercial funding for cheap lift. The sooner it does this, the sooner we will get results. It is not a given SpaceX will be able to give us cheap lift without this additional funding, and we need all the help we can get.

            Consequently I want to avoid spending money on more in-space hardware and more advanced in-space hardware than is absolutely necessary, at least until we are spending at least $1B a year on propellant launches. For the foreseeable future that would mean just unmanned spacecraft, then manned capsules and then orbital habs.

            I view the decision about what fuel to use as a market choice – I don’t have a preference, as long as it ultimately allows for an industry to grow based on refueling in space.

            Agreed, but you have to start somewhere, and if you choose something that is too ambitious you may inadvertently rule out the choice that would lead to a large and fiercely competitive propellant launch market most quickly. Therefore it makes sense to think of some promisig approaches and to make sure we aren’t ruling any of them out.

            Now, whatever we do, we are going to need a spacecraft. If we make it refuelable, it’s all we need to establish that market. We could safely leave the choice of propellant to the market, but equally it’s a safe bet it would choose hypergolics, possibly augmented by SEP, since those are the two standard propellant types for spacecraft and have been for many years. To the best of my knowledge there has never been a cryogenic spacecraft. That doesn’t mean they couldn’t be very useful, but it does suggest they are not a good bet for our first step.

            The next choice is where to buy the propellant for that spacecraft. Here I think there are two obvious choices: LEO and L1/L2. GEO isn’t ridiculous, but it is an unnecessary detour. On balance I think L1/L2 is superior. While it is harder to reach, it’s not all that hard to reach for unmanned missions. In addition to having all kinds of astrodynamical advantages, L1/L2 has a better thermal environment (good for cryogens) and is closer to all kinds of destinations (good for storables). It is also an obvious staging point as well as a convenient node for changing between chemical and electric propulsion. We’ll need both LEO and L1/L2 eventually, and if you can have only one, L1/L2 is superior.

            So what I think we should do is to develop a refuelable spacecraft (let’s say ATV-derived, although it could be derived from many other systems too: Orion, Delta II upper stage, EPS, Fregat, Dragon, Cygnus) and to buy storable propellant at L1/L2 in support of exploration missions.

            This will lead to demand for launch services (and ultimately cheap lift), transport from LEO to L1/L2 (and consequently depots, SEP tugs, perhaps smallish HLVs and aerobraking) and delivery services at L1/L2 (perhaps L1/L2 depots or even ISRU facilities). Only the cheap lift really matters, because once we have it, everything else will follow, but the others are nice too. Note that the choice of L1/L2 as a destination and propellant (specifically storable propellant) as a payload has no impact on the transport infrastructure, which would be left entirely to the market.

            As soon as additional services became commercially available (cryogenic propellant at L1/L2, or or general transportation services from L1/L2 to all kinds of interesting destinations beyond, you could include those in a competitive procurement process as well, thus extending the infrastructure further and further from Earth.

            We could also procure more ambitious services (crew transport to L1/L2, possibly with a stop at the ISS), and that could also be used to create a transport infrastructure through demand pull. The difference would be that some of the money would be spent on crew transport, which means less money would be left for cheap lift. This need not be a disaster, but since cheap lift is so much more important, I think this would be a bad trade-off. Another difference would be that propellant could be used for an unmanned program too, which could spend that $1B a year with smaller concomitant spending on spacecraft.

          • Coastal Ron

            Martijn Meijering said:

            It is not a given SpaceX will be able to give us cheap lift without this additional funding [propellant depots], and we need all the help we can get.

            SpaceX isn’t waiting for propellant depots to fund their Grasshopper effort, so I still don’t see the connection. In fact the biggest driver for reducing global launch costs right now is the fear of SpaceX eating everyones lunch, not our hopes for traveling beyond LEO.

            However I do agree that there is a finite amount of funding available for doing anything beyond LEO.

            So what I think we should do is to develop a refuelable spacecraft (let’s say ATV-derived, although it could be derived from many other systems too: Orion, Delta II upper stage, EPS, Fregat, Dragon, Cygnus) and to buy storable propellant at L1/L2 in support of exploration missions.

            Completely agree. I’m not set on any one particular architecture, but just that it needs to be reusable and refuelable. The advantage a vehicle based on the ATV provides is that it is already a fairly complete vehicle, and it’s owner (ESA funded by 20 countries) has fairly deep pockets compared to individual companies. But I’d be fine with a ULA ACES architecture too if the price & schedule was right… ;-)

          • Vladislaw

            I look at fuel handling and supply as more like a relay race, where you hand off the baton to the next vehicle in the supply chain. specialized vehicles for each segment of the supply route.

    • Robert G. Oler

      pathfinder_01
      November 26, 2012 at 3:32 am · Reply

      all experience is not good experience nor is it indicative of teh future…and that includes almost the entire Apollo program.

      They were lucky with 13…had the explosion happened in lunar orbit or almost anyplace else in the entire “affair” the crew would be dead or on a short trip to dead…and yet because they were able to do the entire affair they now think of all sceanrios that go bad as “return to earth”.

      Simberg and I disagree on almost everything but we are in complete agreement on “what is the life of an astronaut worth” or at least in my view…how hard should they fight before they give up in terms of saving the vehicle.

      I think nearly to the death. in fact in the case of the station if it ran into trouble they should pretend they are at Mars and have to save the darn thing or die. and our policy should be that.

      The notion that we are going to haul around heavy earth return equipment or the fuel to make that happen is in my view nuts. RGO

  • Neil Shipley

    SpaceX are going their own way on virtually everything to do with space. They aren’t waiting for anything as the recent lecture by Elon in London indicated. You can view it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=wB3R5Xk2gTY
    Some titbits:
    DragonRider now Dragon 2 operational 3 years – quite different to the CRS Dragon. Didn’t really know what they were doing for Dragon 1 so just followed historical examples.
    New big Methane engine – Raptor
    One large vehicle, bigger than FH, for Mars including trip and landed.
    Reusables a must.
    Prefer gov’t / private partnerships (but get strong feeling not necessary for SpaceX)
    Man on Mars, Elon’s ‘realistic’ 12 years
    etc etc.
    Think they’ve been doing lots more than most thought.
    Cheers.

    • Googaw

      Elon Musk, the new master of PowerPoint sci-fi. Take the old NASA fantasies and rhetorically double down on them. Watch Internet fans eat it up like candy and write their Congressmen to give them more NASA contracts.

      • josh

        master of power point sci-fi? that would be nasa. musk is actually making things happen. so he deserves all the contracts he can get and more.

        • Googaw

          NASA, and his fellow NASA contractors, is certainly where he learned how to spin these fantasies. As for what SpaceX has actually gotten done I give much more credit to Shotwell and their talented engineers than to Musk. Musk’s press fantasies about Martian retirements and Falcon Heavy and reusable rockets and on and on have not contributed to getting any actual spacecraft on orbit. He was busy tweeting about Tesla when Dragon last flew. Let’s see how many actual private customer payloads SpaceX actually delivers to orbit on schedule, instead of worshipping “Iron Man” based on how high you get from seeing Musk go on about his Mars greenhouse visions.

          • E.P. Grondine

            Hi Googaw –

            “NASA, and his fellow NASA contractors, is certainly where he learned how to spin these fantasies.”

            Wrong.
            Musk’s PR folks are way better than theirs.

            PS – I have this nasty keyboard bounce here at Space Politics which will soon go away.

          • Coastal Ron

            Googaw said:

            As for what SpaceX has actually gotten done I give much more credit to Shotwell and their talented engineers than to Musk.

            You obviously don’t know the roles of C-level management. The role of the President is to run the day to day operation of the company, and to prepare for what the plan for the future is. The plan for the future – the strategic direction of the company – is usually set by the CEO, who in the case of SpaceX just happens to also be their Chief Designer. And SpaceX, more than most companies, is defined by what Elon Musk wants the company to do.

            Musk’s press fantasies about Martian retirements and Falcon Heavy and reusable rockets and on and on have not contributed to getting any actual spacecraft on orbit.

            Hard to see anything when you have your eyes closed.

            The Grasshopper testbed has already proven it’s reusable, since it has already flown twice. If you can’t see the trend line on that one, then you are truly blind.

            Falcon Heavy already has a paying customer, and their west coast launch facility for it is getting close to being finished. Again, if you can’t see the trend line on that one, then you are truly blind.

            As to your “have not contributed to getting any actual spacecraft on orbit” comment, each of those two projects are for future customer needs, and both directly focus on lowering the cost to access space in a very significant way.

            You claim to support such goals (i.e. lower costs), but I guess you are against companies actually spending money on trying to achieve them? Not only weird, but bizarre.

            As to his plans for reaching Mars, what Musk is doing is providing a specific goal for the direction of SpaceX. Many companies don’t do this, but you can’t say you don’t know what Elon plans to do in 15-30 years. If they do an IPO, no one is going to be able to say they didn’t know what the ultimate goal of the company was. Like it or not (and I know where you stand on that), it’s pretty gutsy.

      • Neil Shipley

        Normally I don’t answer or question trolls but in this case, I’ll make an exception. So some questions for you Googaw, ‘master of rhetoric’:
        1. Has SpaceX designed, built, fired, Kestral, Merlin, Draco, SuperDraco rocket engines?
        2. Has SpaceX designed, built and launched F1 to leo?
        3. Has SpaceX designed, built and launched F9 to leo?
        4. Has SpaceX designed, built and launched Dragon Cargo to leo?
        5. Has Dragon Cargo docked with ISS and returned intact to Earth?
        6. Has SpaceX designed, build and flown Grasshopper?
        7. Has SpaceX designed and built various electronic and other flight control systems?
        8. Has SpaceX purchased the land, modified infrastructure, and have in operation, a Texas engine test facility?
        9. Has SpaceX purchased an old Boeing facility in Hawthorn and currently use such a facility for design and build of the above hardware?

        Just yes or no is ok. Consider this a test of your sanity?

        • Googaw

          Yes they’ve done these things, and yes they fall orders of magnitude short of what Elon talks about, which in turn falls orders of magnitude away from what many fans impute to or expect of the company.

          • Coastal Ron

            Googaw gushed:

            Yes they’ve done these things, and yes they fall orders of magnitude short of what Elon talks about…

            I don’t know what alternate universe Elon Musk you are listening to, but the one in THIS universe is talking about doing these exact things.

            …which in turn falls orders of magnitude away from what many fans impute to or expect of the company.

            I would be classified as a SpaceX fan, and Musk is doing EXACTLY what I think he should be doing.

            Your problem is that you have no idea how much work is involved in doing something even as small as building the Falcon 1 rocket. There is a reason SpaceX has no competitors is because it is DAMN HARD to not only build a company that can build a rocket that works (and their’s didn’t for the first four launches), but also bring in enough money to evolve to a stable operating level (what they should reach in 2013).

            I would imagine you are also miffed that Musk is not pursuing a “satellite only” strategy that you think is the only viable market in space, so that probably informs your “sour grapes” attitude to what SpaceX is actually accomplishing. Luckily Musk is an accomplished businessman, whereas you are just a Googaw on a space blog… ;-)

          • I’m still waiting to find out how GooGaw could possibly be a shareholder in SpaceX, as he claimed earlier.

    • Coastal Ron

      Neil Shipley said:

      Think they’ve been doing lots more than most thought.

      Well, not if you’ve been following what they have been doing and talking about for the past few years. Musk has been pretty open about what future plans they have been thinking about, and the only really new details from the RAeS interview is about the methane fuel they plan to use for their future Raptor engine.

      Dragonrider is what they proposed for CCDev & CCiCap, and NASA Administrator Bolden has even had his picture taken next to a mockup. The bigger rocket could be Falcon X or Falcon XX, and SpaceX has already been doing public/private partnerships with both COTS and CCDev/CCiCap.

      Musk has been providing more details recently, with more being teased. Maybe because he’s been so consistent over the years, that people are just paying more attention? Or the success SpaceX has had makes him more believable?

  • pathfinder_01

    “I think nearly to the death. in fact in the case of the station if it ran into trouble they should pretend they are at Mars and have to save the darn thing or die. and our policy should be that.”

    Actually they are trained to try to fix/fight the thing first but be smart about it. It is the difference between losing an engine in flight and landing at the first safe opportunity or losing an engine in flight 30 mins after take off from JFK and attempting to fly across the ocean with the bad engine rather than turn around and land. Only in certain situations would escape be a good option (it is sort of like an ejector seat…risky). The situation where they might evac is if a person needs medical care or things have truly gotten untenable onboard(i.e. we have put the fire out, by sealing off a module and now we have no way to access food/water or something vital or we put the fire out but jimmy got some 2nd degree burns ect.).

    “They were lucky with 13…had the explosion happened in lunar orbit or almost anyplace else in the entire “affair” the crew would be dead or on a short trip to dead…and yet because they were able to do the entire affair they now think of all sceanrios that go bad as “return to earth”.”

    In the case of 13 the situation is only fatal in certain places. From the launch pad to launch, they would have been killed instantly by the explosion. The vacuum of space ironically saved their lives as most of the force of the explosion went out into space instead of through the floor.

    LEO was the best place to have the problem they could have returned in hours. Apollo launched to a LEO parking orbit first before heading to the moon to check out the spacecraft. After TLI is when things get hairy. Too early in the mission it would have taken too much time and exhausted their resources (however post 13 CM modules have an extra battery that would give more time). At the time of the accident they were again in a period where they could have been saved(and perhaps for up to half a day previously as they had about that many hours of electrical power left in the LM-also latter LM had slightly longer endurances as part of a planned upgrade) and of course any time after they entered lunar orbit would have been impossible(however the battery in latter CM might allow you to limp back home if you suffered a breakdown on the very last leg of the flight and would be useful for the latter skylab missions).

    The idea is not to protect astronauts from all risk and harm but to make reasonable adjustments so that you do not needlessly turn an bad situation that could have been recovered from into a tragedy. A fire in a building is a problem. A fire in a building built with too few exits, no smoke alarms and other precautions that causes death is a tragedy.

  • E.P. Grondine

    When my keyboard bounce is fixed, I’ll add some very specific observations on some of the hurdles Musk’s Mars’ plan faces.

    In the meantime, I just want to say again that I am happy that US sat manufacturers will have a low launch cost available.

    • Neil Shipley

      We all know that Musk faces plenty of hurdles. His stated preference is for government/private partnerships however in the absence of that (although he’s used COTS, CCiCap, and other gov’t contracts as funding sources) he is tackling them and making progress in a planned and responsive manner unlike the piecemeal approach adopted by NASA and Congress.

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