Congress

Palazzo to remain space subcommittee chair; Shelby to be top Republican in Senate Appropriations

Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS) will return as chairman of the space and aeronautics subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, the full committee announced Tuesday. Palazzo chaired the subcommittee in the last Congress as well. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) will serve as the vice-chair of the subcommittee. On the full committee, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), who lost out on the committee chairmanship to Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), will serve as vice-chairman. Democrats have not announced their leadership selections beyond Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), who will return as ranking member of the full committee. Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL), who was the top Democrat on the space subcommittee in the last Congress, has retired.

In the Senate, it appears that another senator with an interest in space issues will take a leadership position on the Senate Appropriations Committee. Although there’s been no formal announcement by the committee, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) announced via Twitter several days ago he will be the ranking member of the full committee:

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) has already been picked as the chairwoman of the full committee, succeeding the late Daniel Inouye last month. Both Mikulski and Shelby have shown an interest in space issues, and also have a record of working together despite their different political affiliations: Shelby even helped support a fundraiser for Mikulski in Huntsville in 2009.

46 comments to Palazzo to remain space subcommittee chair; Shelby to be top Republican in Senate Appropriations

  • amightywind

    I’m satisfied with Shelby and Mikulski. I’d be more enthusiastic if they were more outspoken about the areas in NASA that need reform.

  • Guest

    Space Pork is a bipartisan meal, apparently.

  • Oh man. Shameless Shelby as ranking member. Let the pork fest begin.

  • Coastal Ron

    Until the SLS is announced publicly to be over budget and schedule, Shelby will continue to push for it’s continued funding, and being on the Appropriations committee allows him lots of leverage.

    However one of the ways of being able to cancel the SLS before that point is if Shelby feels that the space-related interests in his state are virtually assured continued NASA business for whatever would come after the SLS. That would require a proposal from NASA that identifies what the alternative would be – the opportunity cost so to speak.

    For instance, if NASA were to outline a plan that showed they would be pursuing fuel depots and tankers with the freed up funding from an SLS cancellation, and ULA thought they had a good chance to win with their ACES family, Shelby might be amenable to that. If NASA’s MFSC in Alabama was also assured of participation, that would help sway him too.

    So I don’t think it’s impossible to get Shelby’s support for a change to the SLS, but it will need the right incentives – which is the challenge with any politician.

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “Until the SLS is announced publicly to be over budget and schedule, Shelby will continue to push for it’s continued funding”

      Even when MPCV/SLS are officially way over budget and schedule, Shelby will continue shoveling tax dollars towards them. Orion/Ares I wound up half a decade behind schedule with a projected development cost about four times the original estimate and that never stopped Shelby.

      And it’s not just Shelby. JWST has gone from a half-billion dollar cost estimate and 2007 launch to an $8.7 billion cost estimate and a 2018 launch. What did Mikulski do after receiving Casani’s independent report? She released a statement in support of JWST.

      The only things that get cancelled at NASA are small satellite and technology development efforts, like GEMS or the Nanosat Launcher Prize. (And the latter was terminated under false pretenses.) Everything else is too big — in terms of jobs, votes, and campaign contributions — to fail.

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “However one of the ways of being able to cancel the SLS before that point is if Shelby feels that the space-related interests in his state are virtually assured continued NASA business for whatever would come after the SLS. That would require a proposal from NASA that identifies what the alternative would be – the opportunity cost so to speak.”

      This is absolutely right. A (The?) fundamental mistake in both ESAS/Constellation and the 2010 NASA Authorization Act is the misallocation of roles and responsibilities between public and private sector developers and operators. Government is grossly inefficient, but it can absorb the risks of doing things no one has done before. Competitive industries relentlessly seek efficiencies, but they can rarely take on the risks of true firsts and then only when backed by deep pockets.

      The situation in human space exploration is reversed today. Private companies like Bigelow, Golden Spike, SpaceX, and the Google Lunar X-Prize competitors are taking on the risks associated with firsts like inflatable habitats, the first Moon landings in decades, and reusable first-stages while NASA dicks around with 60s-era HLV and capsule designs employing 70s-era Shuttle technologies.

      It will be okay if/when NASA’s first flying nuclear transfer stage winds up over budget and behind schedule. No one will have built such a beast before and there will be no comparison.

      It’s a gross misuse of careers and taxpayer dollars when NASA’s scaled-up Apollo-era capsule starts out 10% in the mass hole instead of having robust margins at PDR. Even more so when industry is building and flying modern capsules for a fraction of NASA’s cost.

  • DCSCA

    Steven Palazzo (R-MS) is the ideologically driven fool recently lampooned on ‘The Daily Show’ for very vocally opposing and voting against *along with 66 others) aid to the Northeast for Sandy storm victims in the midst of a miserably cold winter yet years back actively sought aid for Katrina storm victims in Mississippi where the temperatures were more moderate.

    It is disturbing that such an ideologically driven partisan like Palazzo, a part of the GOP fringe displaying such disdain for Americans in need, to have any sway over the House space and aeronautics subcommittee. But then, he’s part of the obstructionist mind set that inhibits America from moving forward.

    • amightywind

      The problem is that ‘aid’ was combined with $50 billion in pork. Boehner rightly withheld the bill. The $60 billion Sandy Pork Bill equals about 10% of the total discretionary budget for 2012! That’s a lot of money to replace a roller coaster and some beach side mansions.

      • DCSCA

        Wrong, Windy. The House bill was clean and BTW, after being lampooned by Jon Stewart, Palazzo has recanted ans will support aid to the Northeast.

  • DCSCA

    Without a vigorous, active, HSF program, NASA is all but dead to average Americans paying the freight- and ripe for more budget cutting in these lean times. They’re victims of decades of their own PR.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Meanwhile in the real world

    Commercial crew keeps rolling along on less money then SLS/Orion go through in two months…

    SpaceX has a “snappy” design for a new space outfit (Lorelei will look great in it one day if she wants to)

    and the GOP Congress is into more abortion legislation.

    And for EP

    99942 Apophis makes a close approach..

    RGO

    • E. P. Grondine

      Hi RGO –

      If Apophis takes out any com sats, that will boost the market for replacements.

      NASA PAO always ballyhoos the ones that they have found.

      They don’t talk to much about the ones that narrowly missed us, and were only seen after they had passed by.

      Comet ISON is coming in later this year, but as comets can fizzle, that provides is no guarantee of winning this PR battle this year.

      What does is the hard data coming in on recent catastrophic impacts.

    • DCSCA

      “Meanwhile in the real world” of dreamers; of press releases hyping ‘things to come’ which never arrive…

      “Commercial crew keeps rolling along…”
      LOL going no place, fast. For as we all know, “Commercial crew” has not launched, orbited and safely returned anyone from LEO in th near fifty-two years of HSF ops. Tock-tock, tick-tock.

      • Fred Willett

        Orion carries 4 & is 6,000lb over weight. Meanwhile 3 commercial crew vehicles are all on track to carry 7 persons each on a fraction of the budget.
        Any bets on who will fly first?
        Tick tock.

  • It will be very interesting to see what reaction the porkers have to this breaking story.

    “NASA To Review SLS Core Stage, Orion Weight Issues*rdquo;

    Specifications call for the Orion capsule and its service module to weigh 73,500 lb. at liftoff. Lately the capsule has been running “something like 4,000” lb. over its allotted weight, Dumbacher says. The service module is about 1,200 lb. too heavy.

    While the baseline SLS probably can handle the extra weight, the parachutes that will bring the capsule back to a water landing after re-entry cannot, Dumbacher says. Going into the integrated review, design teams have been wringing out the extra weight on the capsule, he says, and an upcoming flight test atop a Delta IV heavy may allow engineers to cut their margins to save more weight.

    I know Robert Oler is out there with a pithy comment …

    • Coastal Ron

      Here NASA is again, creating a “cutting-edge” spacecraft that will be pushing the safety envelope, and for no reason.

      The Orion has already hit the evolutionary end of it’s design, so why should we continue with it? This is the perfect time to abandon over-weight exploration capsules, and to move to space-only exploration vehicles like the Nautilus-X.

      • Dark Blue Nine

        I dunno about the ~$3B+ cost estimate on Nautilus-X. But you’re right that there should be a line of demarcation forcing all future, major NASA human space development and operations beyond GEO.

        • Robert G. Oler

          Dark Blue Nine…

          What do you think a real cost is for Nautilus? I sort of think 8 billion is more likely RGO

          • Dark Blue Nine

            Speaking professionally, I’d refuse to offer a cost estimate because Nautilus-X incorporates several unproven (but very desirable) technologies, including: human-scale inflatables, a human-scale centrifuge (including a liquid and tensioned metal seal), long-duration LH2 storage (for radiation protection), ECLSS with active membranes, replaceable/reusable high-power electric propulsion and/or low-power chemical propulsion, and even aerobraking in some versions. Until those technologies are demonstrated in space, their R&D costs are behind them, and there is some basis from which to project the DDT&E for these elements on Nautilus-X, there are just way too many unknowns to offer a credible independent cost estimate for the overall Nautilus-X project.

            This is not a knock against Nautilus-X or its team. It’s a thought-provoking concept, the team has to put some cost figure to their concept, and we need more deep space concepts like this to help define and drive our technology investments. But I would not use the team’s cost estimate as the basis for a go-ahead decision on Nautilus-X. Instead, I would use Nautilus-X and related deep-space concepts to define a technology program that would drive a go/no-go decision on these concepts a few years down the road.

            The remarkable thing is that we keep coming back to the same handful or two of technologies almost regardless of which human deep space exploration architecture/system we look at. We want (probably need) long-duration H2 storage for propulsion and/or radiation protection. We need high-power electric propulsion for split-sprint architectures and probably for efficient human transport, too. We need inflatables for reasonably sized but lightweight volumes. We need efficient life support to bring down the mass of our consumables. We want (probably need) some kind of artificial-g so that we’re adequately conditioned to do research in high-g environments after long trips in micro-g. And we want (probably need) aerobraking to get propulsion mass down when entering large gravity wells.

            The sad thing is that we’re only going to attack one, maybe two, of these technologies for the forseeable future — inflatables and maybe centrifuges — and that depends on what NASA and Bigelow announce next week. Everything else in the civil human space exploration budget is going to another overweight iteration of the Orion/MPCV design or another iteration of the SLS heavy lift design that’s estimated to cost at least four times what ULA or SpaceX could deliver. (But I digress and repeat myself…).

            Again, I wouldn’t believe anyone’s cost estimate for Nautilus-X with all these technology unknowns hanging over the design. But that’s the very reason why NASA should be investing in these technologies instead of regurgitating Apollo-era capsules and Shuttle-era HLVs — so that professionals and policymakers can make responsible decisions about future deep space human exploration efforts, whether those efforts fly on Nautilus-X or some other concept.

            • Coastal Ron

              Dark Blue Nine said:

              Again, I wouldn’t believe anyone’s cost estimate for Nautilus-X with all these technology unknowns hanging over the design. But that’s the very reason why NASA should be investing in these technologies instead of regurgitating Apollo-era capsules and Shuttle-era HLVs — so that professionals and policymakers can make responsible decisions about future deep space human exploration efforts, whether those efforts fly on Nautilus-X or some other concept.

              A nice summation, and very much on point.

            • Robert G. Oler

              Thank you RGO

            • common sense

              “Again, I wouldn’t believe anyone’s cost estimate for Nautilus-X with all these technology unknowns hanging over the design.”

              Yes and this the prototypical scenario for a cost-plus investment.

        • Coastal Ron

          Dark Blue Nine said:

          I dunno about the ~$3B+ cost estimate on Nautilus-X.

          If NASA builds it, I would agree. If it’s put out for competitive bid, I’d be OK with $6B or so. Especially since the Orion is going to be coming in somewhere around $8B…

          • The original estimate from NASA of $3.7 billion for Nautilus included expensive SLS block I flights mixed in with commercial launchers to deliver modules. Given NASA’s propensity to be overly optimistic about cost estimates, maybe that value is closer to what it would really be with just commercial launchers. I’m not saying that is the case, but just a possible outcome.

    • Robert G. Oler

      Stephen C. Smith

      well how about “why are we building these two damn things?” RGO

      • Somehow I expected more. :-)

        I’m no engineer, but I don’t know how they could possibly shed 4,000 lbs.

        According to this NASA document, the crew module weighs 21,650 lbs. We’re talking about shaving off about 20% of the weight.

        This is what happens when politicans design a spacecraft.

        • Robert G. Oler

          Stephen C. Smith
          January 10, 2013 at 7:34 am · Reply

          Somehow I expected more. :-)

          It is a family forum

          LOL

          “I’m no engineer, but I don’t know how they could possibly shed 4,000 lbs.”

          well they need to learn a lot more about engineering and systems design then they know now…and probably figure out what they think that they want “Orion” to do

          A chum who is an engineer but only a “private” pilot and his wife (who is also an engineer) love Mooney Mites…well Mooneys in general but love the Mite…they have two of them…and at some point they both set about to do two things to the Mite; put a larger engine in it (they live in NM) and eventually they wanted to build a “slightly bigger Mite”

          Mooney had thought of that and had actually built a 25 percent “larger” Mite with a larger engine…no one knows where “it” (the flying example) is but the plans exist…and my friends set out to essentially build a version of that.

          They didnt want to use wood instead they used composites…and anyway to cut to the chase they were able to do “it” with only a modest 35 percent in weight, in large measure that was driven by the 145 HP engine they put in the thing…otherwise they would have pushed increase to pound ratio pretty close to 1 to 1.25…but they worked at it.

          If you look at a 20K to 13K (Orion to Apollo) weight gain for about a meter of diameter and 2.75 m3 of volume and one person…with a fairly simple metric of dividing the weight by people…well what they have somehow managed to do, even with modern electrics etc to add another person and fairly modest volume increases come close to an add on weight that IS ALMOST THE WEIGHT OF THE ENTIRE CM.

          That is just engineering incompetence. RGO

          • pathfinder_01

            “If you look at a 20K to 13K (Orion to Apollo) weight gain for about a meter of diameter and 2.75 m3 of volume and one person…with a fairly simple metric of dividing the weight by people…well what they have somehow managed to do, even with modern electrics etc to add another person and fairly modest volume increases come close to an add on weight that IS ALMOST THE WEIGHT OF THE ENTIRE CM.”

            The problem is a little more tricky that. Apollo had certain requirements: support a crew of 3 for 14 days using a 3psi atmosphere.

            They shoe horned CXP requirements: Support a crew of 4 for 21 days, 14psi atmosphere, support it unmanned 6 months into that shape. Without considering how it would affect the whole system.
            In the case of Apollo the 3psi atmosphere allowed a lighter structure. Apollo used fuel cells saving the mass of separate oxygen tanks for the crew, water tanks, solar panels, and batteries. There was enough space in the capsule to store everything including LIOH cartages for C02 scrubbing.

            Orion has none of those elegant solutions. The 6 month duration ruled out fuel cells for power, there was not enough space to store enough LIOH cartages requiring development of regenerative C02 scrubbers (and esp. one small enough to fit in the capsule).

            • Robert G. Oler

              pathfinder_01

              I considered that, but so did the agency….if you go look at the weight change from “takeoff” to landing…the bulk of the consumables etc are clearly in the service module…and I would be surprised if the issues on mass/weight (sorry to mix here I know the difference) are probably not the issues that you bring up. RGO

  • pathfinder_01

    I am amazed that the weight problem is still there. It has been know for a couple of years now.

  • pathfinder_01

    Yikes a little worse than I thought: 4,000lb. That is going to be a whole lot of weight to lose.

    • Dark Blue Nine

      It’s ridiculously backwards. Orion PDR was in 2009. CDR for MPCV isn’t until 2015. The project should have mass margins of at least 10% (preferably 20-25% for a project of this scale) at this point so that managers can absorb (and absorb intelligently) the inevitable mass growth through CDR. Instead, not only does MPCV have no mass margins, it’s actually almost 10% in the hole years before CDR. It’s Bizarro World engineering. There are high school students applying to college-level A&A programs who know better.

      Cripes…

      • You are getting your Orions mixed-up. The Orion PDR in 2009 was for Block I, not the Block II. MPCV is more or less Orion Block II, which wasn’t slated for development for years after Orion Block I started flying.

        As for the timing of Orion MPCV CDR in 2015, I think that is driven more by NASA HQ than the Orion MPCV project office at JSC. One hint is scheduling ETF-1, currently set for 2014, before CDR. It is clear to any objective observer that those at NASA HQ who tried to kill Orion do not want to see Orion MPCV ready to fly years before any of the CCDev participants, even though that looks likely, so they have deliberately slow-rolled Orion MPCV

        Orion weight reduction will be along the some of the same lines as of upgrades used to make the Saturn V capable of supporting the later J missions, e.g. eduction or removal of TO mitigation hardware if flight data supports it. The AvWeek article references these and other possible changes based on EFT-1 and other test data.

        • Coastal Ron

          FakeMikeGriffin said:

          It is clear to any objective observer that those at NASA HQ who tried to kill Orion do not want to see Orion MPCV ready to fly years before any of the CCDev participants, even though that looks likely, so they have deliberately slow-rolled Orion MPCV.

          Kind of an ignorant statement, isn’t it?

          I mean, even if the Orion were flight ready today, the human-rated SLS rocket it needs for flying crew won’t be ready until the SLS is human rated, and that isn’t scheduled for quite a while (2019 or later). While the Orion is waiting for a ride to space, SpaceX and Boeing plan to be flying paying passengers to the ISS by the end of 2016.

          Wouldn’t you agree?

        • Robert G. Oler

          There is zero chance that Orion could be ready to fly before 2015. with people on it. RGO

        • Dark Blue Nine

          “You are getting your Orions mixed-up. The Orion PDR in 2009 was for Block I, not the Block II.”

          I didn’t get anything “mixed-up”. NASA puts the PDR for MPCV in 2009:

          http://www.nasa.gov/exploration/systems/mpcv/foundation.html

          There is no other Orion or MPCV PDR, for “Block II” or anything else.

          “As for the timing of Orion MPCV CDR in 2015, I think that is driven more by NASA HQ than the Orion MPCV project office at JSC. One hint is scheduling ETF-1, currently set for 2014, before CDR. It is clear to any objective observer that those at NASA HQ who tried to kill Orion do not want to see Orion MPCV ready to fly years before any of the CCDev participants, even though that looks likely, so they have deliberately slow-rolled Orion MPCV”

          This is a contradictory statement. NASA HQ pushed EFT-1 specifically to give MPCV an opportunity to fly and demonstrate progress while the project waited for SLS to catch up. NASA HQ is not slow-rolling anything — they’re trying to give the project a chance to show its stuff at the same time that COTS and CCDev partners are flying. Without EFT-1 and Delta IV, MPCV won’t fly until at least 2017 and probably later as existing and coming budget shortfalls drive further schedule slips on SLS.

          As for how EFT-1 is scheduled relative to CDR, EFT-1 is a demo flight — it should be scheduled before the final review (CDR) sets the production design in stone.

          Regardless, my criticism isn’t about the schedule. It’s about the poor state of MPCV’s mass margins at this stage of design. Instead of the robust, positive mass margins that should exist between PDR and CDR to accommodate the inevitable mass growth that comes with developing any final, production design, MPCV has large, negative mass margins. Not only can’t MPCV accommodate the coming mass growth, it’s not even a viable design if we want our astronauts safely returning to Earth in one piece vice crash landing under overstrained parachutes.

          “Orion weight reduction will be along the some of the same lines as of upgrades used to make the Saturn V capable of supporting the later J missions, e.g. eduction or removal of TO mitigation hardware if flight data supports it. The AvWeek article references these and other possible changes based on EFT-1 and other test data.”

          The AvWeek article makes no reference to “eduction or removal of TO mitigation hardware”. Deputy AA Dumbacher even states in the article that he doesn’t know whether they’ll need to remove or add mass to the heat shield or structure coming out of EFT-1.

  • red

    “Neither will reform or speak out about SLS or JWST. Mikulski doesn’t touch SLS as long as Shelby leaves JWST alone, and Shelby supports JWST as long as Mikulski leaves SLS alone.”

    It would be nice if Mikulski and Shelby promoted useful things while teaming up.

    Goddard built the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Marshall also did various work on robotic precursor missions. So why not encourage them to put more funding into the tiny amount now going to robotic precursors, with important roles for Goddard and Marshall, and possibly some for others like Ames and commercial vendors? They still might not be able to fund full-scale missions, but they ought to be able to do more cheap jobs than are being done now. For example:

    - build robotic precursor instruments to be hosted on commercial satellites or science missions to the Moon/Mars/NEOs/Mars moons
    - do more NEO investigations using ground-based telescopes like Goldstone
    - do more work with a robotic precursor “mindset” processing the science and robotic precursor mission data we already have and are getting
    - do more technology work on the ground leading to precursor missions should more funding appear later (e.g.: rover work)
    - building small robotic precursor missions (maybe in the style of Ames, GLXP, or Planetary Resources)

    There are other areas that Goddard and Marshall could work on with Mikulski and Shelby backing that could also be useful:

    - both are involved with astrophysics missions. Goddard will want more such work after JWST is built, and so will SSTI when the mission ends. Mikulski and Shelby could team up to get a funding boost in this area to get more serious about future missions. (Now as for avoiding a debacle like JWST with these … some care would be needed …).

    - Goddard works on satellite servicing, so they could form some kind of alliance in that area. Maybe this would be with an astrophysics mission. The servicing could potentially use SLS/Orion capabilities (gaining Shelby support), but maybe there is some way to gain Goddard/Marshall interest while also producing useful results like

    - self-sustaining commercial satellite servicing capability
    - commercial delivery of GSFC servicing assets, possibly using Decatur rockets and/or commercial spacecraft capabilities
    - SLS and/or Orion delivery of commercial servicing assets
    - or at least some good science mission support

    On the other hand, of course there are a lot of ways they could team up to produce “Son of JWST/SLS” …

  • mr. mark

    Party Date 2015 when hopefully I’ll be able to see DCSCA and amightywind eat there words. Coming sooner than they think….

  • mr. mark

    Also funny that the header for this article is topped by a photo of Dragon heading for the ISS. Something that both of them said would not happen either.

    • DCSCA

      Inaccurate. But then, that’s the mantre of comemrcial, isn’t it.

      • Neil Shipley

        Wrong. The mantra of commercial is to ‘provide what the customer requires, wants or what you think they might want and make a profit out of it’. But then, you don’t really understand commercial anyway which is why you continue to spout the nonsense you do.
        I look forward to 2016. Tick tok.

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