Congress, Other, White House

Briefly: HR 6586 signed, budget delays, and petitions

Yesterday, President Obama signed into law HR 6586, one of a number of bills from the end of the last Congress he signed. The bill started out as a simple two-year extension of commercial launch indemnification but was transformed in the Senate into the “Space Exploration Sustainability Act,” with a one-year indemnification extension. The additional provisions included extending NASA’s waiver to provisions of the Iran North Korea Syria Nonproliferation Act (INKSNA) from mid-2016 to the end of 2020, allowing it to continue buying goods and services from Russia to support ISS operations; and a resolution calling for balanced support for both the SLS/Orion and commercial crew programs.

In a normal budget environment, we would be less than a month away from the release of the fiscal year 2014 budget proposal, wich would be released on the first Monday in February. But we’re not in a typical budget environment, and Space News reports NASA and other federal agencies have yet to receive “passbacks” from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) regarding their FY14 budget proposals. This suggests that the release f the FY14 budget proposal will be delayed, perhaps into March. The White House has since confirmed that they will miss the early February deadline for providing the budget proposal, but offered no revised date other than that they are “working diligently” on it.

Yes, that White House petition demanding the government build a Death Star was pretty goofy, but give the administration credit for a clever response that highlighted some more realistic aspects of space policy. As noted here before, such petitions are not an effective tool of space advocacy, but it doesn’t seem to stop people from starting new ones (or the media from covering them), such as one calling for development of nuclear thermal rockets: it’s garnered fewer than 2,000 signatures since its introduction on January 3.

76 comments to Briefly: HR 6586 signed, budget delays, and petitions

  • amightywind

    and a resolution calling for balanced support for both the SLS/Orion and commercial crew programs.

    The word ‘balance’ has become a euphemism in Washington for higher taxes and spending and avoiding hard choices. ‘Commercial crew’ should be killed dead. Space policy has effectively been kicked down the road. This decade is lost.

    • Coastal Ron

      amightywind mumbled:

      ‘Commercial crew’ should be killed dead.

      Yes, your preference for the crony capitalism of the SLS has been pretty obvious.

      Space policy has effectively been kicked down the road.

      “Space policy” has never been a priority, and until E.P.’s planet killer shows up or aliens from another planet, there is unlikely to be “National Imperative” to do much in space.

      For that reason, “science” missions are likely to stay the norm, which is what the ISS is – the public understands the need for science. On the other hand, massive exploration specific missions like Constellation can’t stay on budget, and lack the perception and reality of being disconnected from what we really need to be doing to expand out presence out into space.

      For instance, if you look at the work of the NASA Future In-Space Operations (FISO) Working Group, specifically their March 7, 2012 report called “NASA Space Technology Roadmaps and Priorities“, nowhere does it say that the lack of a 70-130mt launcher is what’s holding us back from leaving LEO. Spending $30B – 1/6th of NASA’s yearly budget – on something that isn’t needed is the reason we haven’t been able to leave LEO, not the lack of overall budget or desire.

      This decade is lost.

      Does that mean we won’t be hearing from you for the rest of the decade? ;-)

      • E. P. Grondine

        Hi CR

        “On the other hand, massive exploration specific missions like Constellation can’t stay on budget, and lack the perception and reality of being disconnected from what we really need to be doing to expand out presence out into space.”

        Like I said before, Mars is too expensive right now, and Zubrin’s Mars Direct architecture does not work. At those prices, the rest of the nation does not support manned Mars.

        In regard to the impact hazard,
        unless it all turns into magic comet dust, and even if it does all turn into magic comet dust, we appear to be facing a real near term (2022) hazard from Comet Schwassmann Wachmann 3.

        When you have a debris field that large, with some pieces outgassing… even the effects of an atmospheric dust load have not been looked at.

        I’m still trying to find out who at NASA has the Hubble SW3 images from its most recent pass through the inner solar system.

    • wodun

      “‘Commercial crew’ should be killed dead. Space policy has effectively been kicked down the road. This decade is lost.”

      There is some merit to the preference for a SHLV but there currently is not one in existence. Any predictions about cost, flight rate, time to develop, or anything else are just that predictions. We don’t know how accurate those predictions are.

      Contrast that with commercial crew and commercial cargo. Some of the participants are doing their test flights right now with others getting closer every day.

      In some ways, the arguments over which costs more SLS or COTS/CCDEV are irrelevant. The key issue is what we can do right now and what gets us back into space the quickest. The commercial programs will see us launching our own astronauts and supplies right now or in the near future while SLS is at least a decade away.

      A 10-30 year pause in our space program just to wait for a SHLV which may or may not be cheaper than the current class of EELV’s is unacceptable.

  • Scott Bass

    Although it was not much, I find it interesting the senate inserted language in the bill to keep SLS on the front burner….perhaps just a shot across the bow to ensure the President knows they will fight for it should the new budget propose any changes…. True space politics ;)

  • common sense

    Those petition examples are so… I don’t even know how to qualify them. Death Star? NTR? Okay maybe the Death Star was a joke but it goes to show all those nice people have a lot of time on their hands to waste. NTR? A Petition to the WH for NTR? I wonder what is wrong with people, I guess I will never (really) know. How about a petition to formally ban chewing gum on the ISS? In case it is allowed. Or one to ban astronaut from urinating next to Soyuz? I mean something important you know.

    As for SLS/MPCV. Once upon a time they only wanted SLS/MPCV. Now they are asking for balanced support. Soon they will let go.

    BTW, balanced? In what way? Based on results? Does that mean that commercial will see its budget increased to the level of SLS/MPCV and SLS/MPCV conversely redcued? Does that mean they get “equal” budget? What dos it really mean, balanced? What?

    Whatever.

    • mike shupp

      Point missed, I think. The Deathstar petition and the White House response is amusing enough to have caught the attention of liberal and conservative web sites and television commenters across the nation.

      “Ho ho. This is funny. The White House promises to answer petitions from citizens, and this is one…..”

      Odds are, the White House will be looking at petitions from citizens, and trying to figure whether significant issues are being raised or whether the petition can be rejected with a joke, for the next several dozen years.

      In other words, the way the USA is governed will have changed. Read your Constitution carefully. Admire that fine 18th century prose. Take out your highlighter and paint in tyellow every reference to the Internet.

      Go on, guy! See? That didn’t take you long.

      Now, here’s the funny part. Imagine history had gone along the route it should have gone, and Mitt Romney had become our Fearless Leader, and after 8 wonderful years Paul Ryan had followed him for another 8 wonderful years, and a whole batch of wonderful conservative leaders after that, until the end of the century and beyond, until no one was left alive to remember the strange period when Americans elected liberals to high office. Gives you a warm happy feeling, right?

      Does the White House look at citizen petitions in this wonderful Republican world? Does it give the sort of answers that show a living, breathing human being looked at that petition and understood the emotions behind it and responded accordingly? Is citizen petitioning a form of political activity not mentioned in the Constitution but which must be attened to regardless?

      So. Think ahead a couple of decades. Is signing a petition at a White House website and having that petition considered something that ought to continue or not? And if your answer is “Yes” don’t you think there should be a significant prominent response early on that makes people aware of the petition-signing process?

      Don’t laugh at the Deathstar.

      • common sense

        Are you a teacher or something? Thanks for the lecture anyway.

        Ah I almost forgot. I too enjoy my occasional margarita, guy. Guy?

      • wodun

        “The Deathstar petition and the White House response is amusing enough to have caught the attention of liberal and conservative web sites and television commenters across the nation.”

        I don’t know about you but I read that response and cringed. To think that guy makes $300k a year to plagiarize other people’s writing.

        The petition system is kind of interesting. They keep upping the requirements because they don’t like responding to the petitions even if all the response they give is a short paragraph that took a few minutes to write or copy/paste.

        It would be cool if some of the space cadets could get a petition going for something achievable, like a Nautilus. But I guess space cadets disagree about everything anyway :)

    • As for SLS/MPCV. Once upon a time they only wanted SLS/MPCV. Now they are asking for balanced support. Soon they will let go.

      We all must have our dreams. With respect to what Congress does in space, yours and those of most anti-NASA fanatics, fortunately, have a pattern of not coming true.

      The nightmare that is more likely to happen is consistent budgetary shortfalls for the commercial crew program. And that means stretching-out the IOC date for all of the CCDev participants. Why do you think NASA hedged by going to Congress and asking for and extension of the INKSA waiver to 2020? The Agency knows fully that none of the commercial crew selectees will be ready to fly crews by 2016 and, based on past history, likely not in 2017.

      At some point, an alternative to both the Russians and the commercial crew companies will need to be put into effect. I’ll leave it to you an exercise to figure out what that alternative will be.

      • Coastal Ron

        FakeMikeGriffin said:

        Why do you think NASA hedged by going to Congress and asking for and extension of the INKSA waiver to 2020?

        Because they plan to use them as back, of course. Since it is still unknown how much funding Congress will be providing, and how many companies ultimately will be able to provide service, it is common sense and good business sense to keep all options open. And since the lead time for ordering more Soyuz trips is years in advance, the overlap for INKSA and Commercial Crew does not line up neatly. I don’t see a conspiracy here…

        The Agency knows fully that none of the commercial crew selectees will be ready to fly crews by 2016 and, based on past history, likely not in 2017.

        I guess that depends on your definition of the word “knows”, since SpaceX recently stated that they plan to fly a crewed test flight to the ISS by the end of 2015, and Boeing is planning a similar flight in 2016. You sound like you’re about 1 year behind on updates…

        At some point, an alternative to both the Russians and the commercial crew companies will need to be put into effect. I’ll leave it to you an exercise to figure out what that alternative will be.

        Ooh, ooh, me, me!!! I know, I know!!! ;-)

      • common sense

        “We all must have our dreams. With respect to what Congress does in space, yours and those of most anti-NASA fanatics, fortunately, have a pattern of not coming true.”

        You’re funny. A fake but funny.

        “At some point, an alternative to both the Russians and the commercial crew companies will need to be put into effect. I’ll leave it to you an exercise to figure out what that alternative will be.”

        Here is an answer though. FakeAres rocket?

        I like it when we can have an intelligent exchange. Great. Really. Do you have fakedegrees too? Just askin’ mine are real.

  • Robert G. Oler

    How is Whittington’s petition doing? Lost track at 8 people who had signed it RGO

    • Mark R. Whittington

      It’s all the way up to 12, which means that claiming the moon is far less popular than building a death star or an interplanetary version of the USS Enterprise. What that tells us is something that should be mulled over.

      • amightywind

        I’m glad there is at least one other space nationalist on this forum. Where has America’s sense of competitiveness? The hand wringing defeatism of the others baffles me.

        • DCSCA

          “I’m glad there is at least one other space nationalist on this forum. Where has America’s sense of competitiveness [gone]?” said Windy.

          “Our Germans were better than their Germans,” eh Windy? It’s as American as apple pie. Or was it really apple strudel all along.

          If you’re going to use ‘nationalism’ as an emotion-fueled motivator for space efforts then you’re cloaking it with the short-term immediacy of geo-politics to project power and influence on Earth that inevitably leads to starts and stops. And gaps. It doesn’t take you very far– six lunar landings to win a Cold War battle 40 years ago. And no further.

          As much as we wished it did, the ‘flags and footprints’ model doesn’t inspire Americans much anymore. NASCAR does, not NASA. The spectacle of televised competition, ‘going in ciecles, no place, fast.’ Americans paid the price and the ‘been there, done that’ line comes from presidents of today and astronauts of yesterday who made the trip. China and Russia have not. Their nationalism still seeks to plant a flag in this field.

          You need a more substantitive rationale than flag waving to persuade Americans today that HSF is human destiny. U.S. space efforts have always been fits and starts; reactive, not proactive. And there is little evidence that mind set will change any time soon.

      • common sense

        Yeah. Well. What it tells us – no need to mull over, not really you know – is that there are petitions even more ludicrous than the Death Star or NTR.

        But you can claim the Moon I think. Wolves do it all the time. No need for a petition.

        Let’s claim then.

        I hereby claim the Moon. Darn with those wolves.

        Thanks, I feel better now.

        • amightywind

          You jest, but we already lost Antarctica to the internationalists. Do you propose we do the same for the moon? The Russians and Chinese won’t share your silly sentiments.

          • common sense

            We lost what? Ice? Frozen earth? As for the Moon what is there to lose? Make a case, bring it forth and see how it goes. So far the case has been pretty weak. Even those with something almost valuable like ISRU cannot make a case worth pursuing.

            Let’s see what you got. In the mean time I stick with the wolves.

  • Guest

    How about a petition to convert the SLS core stage to an unmanned lunar base lander using reusable liquid SpaceX boosters and Aerojet (P&W) legacy hydrolox engines? I’m hoping to get half a dozen to sign at least. Do you think that’s too technical for them? I guess it’s up to who actually signs.

    We all know who signed off on this rocket.

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “How about a petition to convert the SLS core stage to an unmanned lunar base lander using reusable liquid SpaceX boosters and Aerojet (P&W) legacy hydrolox engines?”

      Actually, turning some of the old Shuttle/Ares/SLS and Orion/MPCV workforce loose on a heavy and/or reusable lander (or transit stages or a NEO proximity vehicle) isn’t the craziest idea in the world. These are people who have experience with refurbishable (if not reusable) LH2 engines, manned systems, and highly redundant/reliable systems. I’d rather have them pushing the boundaries on these in-space systems than competely poorly with industry on reinventing ETO launchers and capsules.

      • Guest

        If the SLS core stage can’t even make a stable LEO or deep space orbit with $500 million dollars worth of legacy hydrolox engines on board, then it’s overweight.

        By a lot.

  • Coastal Ron

    Guest wrote:

    We all know who signed off on this rocket.

    Yes, and being the “good” politicians that they are means they know that once you allow changes, all hell can break loose, even cancellation. They don’t want anyone peeking behind the curtain to see that the Emperor has no clothes, so the best thing is to hope that no adverse attention is drawn when budgets are being determined.

  • common sense

    How about a petition to ban idiotic petitions. Yeah I will be the one Selection Committee Member. So here goes.

    Ban on idiotic petition.

    Dear Mr. President,

    My name is common sense. I hereby offer my services to be used in order to keep off idiotic petition from your organization website.

    However since common sense seems to be dearly lacking nowadays – which gives me a de-facto monopoly – I can only offer my services at an hourly rate of $1,000,000. I know it seems a lot but if common sense helps you get rid of idiotic petitions for useless project, laws and otherwise whose cost have been estimated at near $850,000,000,000,000,000 such as the Death Star petition I think it still is a bargain for the government.

    Finally my offer is clearly a fixed cost contract and fits well with the current trend in your government to rein in out-of-control spiraling costs.

    • Eh, you kinda stole my idea … What if we started a We the People petition to end the We the People petition program?

      • common sense

        Nah. I think there may be good ones. Just not from the space advocacy community. On the other hand those herein quoted petitions clearly show we are a band of loonies not to be taken seriously. At least it reinforces perception which is a good thing. Right?

  • Gregori

    Why does Mars Direct not work?

    • E. P. Grondine

      Hi Gregori –

      This is the short list; the longer list takes about a book.

      1) Uses and requires the launch of nuclear powered components – a non-starter period, even on the Space Coast. As Soviet system studies done many years ago showed, to drop the price, you use re-usable non nuclear powered components.

      2) Radiation loads in Zubrin’s architecture are not do-able, and the technology required for their solution will likely require a different architecture than his.

      3) Zubrin’s architecture requires the use of large launchers not used for other purposes. See
      Ares 5, SLS.

      4) We do not know the effects of zero gravity, followed by 1/3 Earth gravity, followed by zero gravity. For that matter, we do not know now if humans can function in 1/3 Earth’s gravity for any length of time.

      5) In terms of the public’s desires: they don’t think its worth the money, and that was seen after the Apollo landings. The nation has more pressing business than spending billions flying a few men to Mars.

      In short, the price has to be far lower; while some “manned Mars flight enthusiasts” are committed to idea of what they call “commercial” launches as a solution to this, it is pretty clear that even at that price the public does not think it’s worth it, at least now.

      6) Back contamination is a real issue, and if the “manned Mars flight enthusiasts” here actually r get anywhere close to putting the pieces in place, then they will face serious, unanimous, and vocal objections from the community of real working biologists.

      7) If Mars is alive, work on manned Mars flight programs will come to a dead end, so be careful what you ask for. That’s why the “Powell” mission is a high priority in terms of the nation’s long term research spending.

    • Dark Blue Nine

      Although the core ideas are sound (e.g., CH4 production at Mars before crew arrival) and much needed, the specifics of Mars Direct always left me with a high pucker factor regarding radiation protection, microgravity countermeasures, and crew space (and probably some other things I’ve forgotten). Unless you’re comfortable with a high likelihood of a two-way trip becoming a one-way trip, I think some of the sytems in the architecture would need beefing up.

      My 2 cents… YMMV.

  • DCSCA

    “…allowing it to continue buying goods and services from Russia to support ISS operations; and a resolution calling for balanced support for both the SLS/Orion and commercial crew programs.”

    aka- free drift.

  • DCSCA

    “Commercial crew’ should be killed dead.” breezed Windy.

    Nah. Just purged from all government financing and subsidies and forced to seek full financing in the private capital markets. Let Musk pump his entire fortune into Space X, if he truly believes in it, not a mere $100 million. If commercial can fly w/o government burdening the taxpayers in providing both the destination and significant financing (thereby socializing the risk on the many to benefit a select few), let’em go for it. At best they’ll only replicate what Glenn, Gagarin and the Gemini program accomplished half a century ago. Anything further out, like Luna, is as far away from them now as it was in 1969- when Apollo landed. Except for Elon, of course, who boastws of retiring to Mars. Mars, Pennsylvania, is more realistic. Remember, it is 2013, and they’ve not launched orbited and safely returned anybody.

    But commerical HSF faces the same question government HSF faces today- why put people into space in the first place. For profit-driven commecialists, its to try and make a buck, but the capital markets remain wary of the limited market w/a low to no ROI.

    For government-financed HSF, it was more a matter of geo-politics. The Soviets didnt orbit Gagarin to make a buck, but to project political power on Earth. And American reaction followed suit. Private commercial interests balked at the expense then. So government financed it as a political reaction to a political action in the Cold War.

    The rationale is lacking today. There’s no competition. Or confrontation. So rather than lament the potential of a ‘lost decade’- why not find a solid rationale for HSF ops, and fuse it into the American character. Because as of 2013, flying ‘because it is there’ doesn’t sell. The robots sell as long as they don’t get too expensive. And who knows, soon the cry may be why should the DoD incur the expense and risk of training and using Naval aviators, Army, Marine and Air Force pilots in combat when drones- robots- can do it cheaper and safer. And soon you’ll have have taxis w/o drivers in major cities as well. Where does it end, Windy.

    Find a rationale for HSF. And make it fly.

    • Malmesbury

      Why shouldn’t the government pay to develop rockets and space vehicles from the companies which meet their cost and performance targets?

      Instead of paying to develop rockets and space vehicles from the companies which can’t?

      Neither SLS or Orion has flown.

    • Coastal Ron

      DCSCA wheezed:

      Just purged from all government financing and subsidies and forced to seek full financing in the private capital markets.

      Too bad you never worked for a real services company, as then you wouldn’t spout such nonsense.

      As you’re been schooled about before, NASA has a unique requirement, one in which they want control over all aspects of how it is performed. For instance, NASA can’t tell American airlines how they run their flights when NASA personnel are passengers, but since there is no established market for transporting NASA personnel to the ISS, and no public standards, NASA has to take on the responsibility for developing this service. This happens in the commercial world all the time, but since you have never worked in the commercial world, you are ignorant on this matter.

      Find a rationale for HSF. And make it fly.

      Yes, deficit be damned. Too bad you keep forgetting that we are borrowing 42 cents of every dollar you want to spend on “Projects of Scale” HSF. The bigger the better (for your ego).

      If only you focused on money, because the more lower cost services NASA can utilize, the more money is left over for exploration. That is why the COTS, CCDev and CCiCap programs have been called investments, since by helping to fund these new capabilities, NASA (and the U.S. Taxpayer) spends far less for the same services in the future.

      • DCSCA

        =yawn= Poor Ron. You really can’t see the forest for the trees, can you. This has very little to do w/space, or exploration or exploitation and everything to do with the political philosophies behind privatization of government services. That’s the ‘space politics’ of it, Walker, Dingrich et. al. And the camel’s nose is under the tent. =eyeroll=

        • Coastal Ron

          DCSCA moaned:

          That’s the ‘space politics’ of it, Walker, Dingrich et. al.

          Walker who? Dingrich who?

          Like usual, you don’t provide enough “there” to provide even a simple supposition. All you do is cite other people and state “go read them, and somewhere they made a statement I think is right”.

          I’m still waiting for you to justify your statement that the SLS survives because it’s “geo-political” in some way.

          • DCSCA

            Gingrich. Apologies for the typo. Tf Walker, Gingrich et al., escape you, you simply verify you cannot see the forest for the trees. Poor Ron.

            • Coastal Ron

              DCSCA grudgingly mumbled:

              Gingrich. Apologies for the typo. Tf Walker, Gingrich et al.

              OK, Gingrich I’m aware of, but I could care less what he thinks about space.

              Who the hell is “Tf Walker”. When I Google that, all I get is Ancestry.com results.

              Look, I know you like to pretend that you operate on some “higher plain of existence”, but in reality I think you use such shorthand because you can’t articulate arguments – long diatribes for sure, but not reference supported arguments.

              • DCSCA

                =yawn= Poor Ron. You simply don’t see it. This has very little to do w/space, or exploration or exploitation and everything to do with the political iedologies philosophies behind privatization of government services.

              • Coastal Ron

                DCSCA moaned:

                You simply don’t see it.

                I can’t see what isn’t there – you haven’t made an argument, only vague references.

                This has very little to do w/space, or exploration or exploitation and everything to do with the political iedologies philosophies behind privatization of government services.

                The politics of government and business haven’t changed much over the life of the Republic, regardless what the activity is and where it takes place.

                For instance, the U.S. Government has been contracting for services that take place in space for decades, so all the recent uptick in activity is just an expansion, not anything new.

        • wodun

          COTS and CCDEV are mostly changes in how contracting is done, its not like there were no businesses working for NASA prior to this.

          A benefit is that the companies get to use that technology for other purposes and customers. Helping to develop the industry is part of NASA’s charter and they can’t do that when they don’t let anyone access the technology.

  • Malmesbury

    On the subject of Orion/SLS. Over at nasaspaceflight they found out that SLS core has gained tons in weight. It seems that they have abandoned AlLi and gone for simple Al!

    So both capsule and launcher are massively over weight now. There is talk that the Orion flight on Delta 4 will be totally stripped of life support etc so that it can make the mass limit for the parachutes…..

    Meanwhile CST-100, DreamChaser and Dragon are *inside* their weight budgets…..

    • The Senate Launch System was never about actually accomplishing anything. It was about giving the Standing Army of the space-industrial complex something to do.

      As you noted, with the advances by NewSpace the Standing Army is increasingly irrelevant. I can’t help but think that if 100 years ago the nation had this Congress, they would create a massive government program to give stagecoach makers something to do as the horseless carriage became the vehicle of choice.

    • Neil Shipley

      Thought it was the MPCV that was overweight, not the SLS? But not surprising. And there are still people who believe it will fly. Mind boggles!!

        • Guest

          All the more reason to sign my aluminum lithium alloy for SLS core stages to the moon petition! I’ve upped my signature goal to a dozen. Better late than never!

        • Dark Blue Nine

          Are we sure that SLS is overweight?

          Following the links, I see a very high level Chilton/Boeing presentation stating that the SLS core employs Al instead of AlLi to save bucks. But I don’t see an admission that the IMLEO for SLS has dropped below 70 tons. It’s also not clear when the decision was made to go with Al. SLS may have been baselined this way since SDR or earlier.

          I also see a discussion on nasaspaceflight about the implications of using Al for mass of the core stage. But just because Al weighs more than AlLi doesn’t mean that SLS is now overweight.

          Given what’s happening on MPCV, I wouldn’t be surprised if SLS mass is also out-of-control. And it’s weird that the SLS core is taking a couple steps backwards from Shuttle ET materials. It’s also weird that the explanation for using Al over AlLi is affordability given the small difference in materials and automation costs vice the huge difference in performance. But I don’t see a smoking gun here that SLS is overweight or underperforming.

          What am I missing?

          • Malmesbury

            Original performance calcs were for AlLi – you cant just add double digit % to the mass of the tank and expect no effect. Remember that it is carried to orbit – not dropped off like a first stage would be. So it will have a big effect.

            Going back to AlLi would mean a re-design. Again.

            • Guest

              Another redesign would be great, and then in addition to the alloy weight problem they could address the other issues in my petition, the lack of payload, the lack of mission, the lack of clear feasible destinations, and the need for a heavy payload fairing and big heavy SRBs. They can get rid of the big capsule as well, since that is vastly overweight, over budget and well behind the modern curve too. Since this thing is a jobs program never designed to fly, what could possibly be wrong with another complete redesign? Especially a redesign that solves all of the technical and fiscal problems associated with building a sustainable presence on the lunar pole. This is something that I believe everyone can sign on to, since SpaceX is more or less going to do the exact same thing with methane.

              • Malmesbury

                A redesign would involve a large number of $. SRBs are mandated (for ll intents and purposes) for the first version. Orion is mandated.

                Read up on R101. “We paid for it and it must be used”…..

              • Coastal Ron

                Guest said:

                Another redesign would be great, and then in addition to the alloy weight problem they could address the other issues in my petition, the lack of payload, the lack of mission, the lack of clear feasible destinations, and the need for a heavy payload fairing and big heavy SRBs.

                The first time you suggested this, I thought it was a joke. But you keep repeating it, so now I’m thinking you seriously think spending more money to change material and manufacturing processes somehow means that someone can find a use for something that has never satisfied any identified demand.

                To quote a phrase, “you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”.

                If we were to trace the requirement for the SLS, it originates with Michael Griffin’s architecture choice for returning to the Moon, which was the Constellation program. Griffin did not allow for an open competition of ideas, so architectures that would have relied on existing launchers were ignored. When Constellation was canceled, a few in the Senate were openly concerned about job loses connected with the cancellation, and that was part of the reason for the creation of the SLS.

                Notice in all of this that the aerospace industry, as well as the centers of academia relating to engineering and aerospace, have never been consulted about what they think would satisfy the needs Congress has in mind for the SLS. No doubt that is because Congress has no idea what the SLS would be needed to support, so why open that can of worms.

                So any debate about spending more to change the material for building the SLS is just rearranging deck chairs on the Titantic – the program is going to fold under it’s own weight anyways, and being overweight physically is just part of the process.

              • Guest

                Actually it’s P.L. 111-267 and no, SRBs and SSMEs are not mandated, on the contrary, a stripped down aerodynamic stretched aluminum lithium alloy ET with a thrust structure, four SSMEs and five RL-10s is easily capable of reaching orbit with a reasonable SSME shutdown sequence.

                Add a bunch of reusable Falcon 9 boosters and there you go. This isn’t politics, this is physics and engineering, so I guess congress is exempt.

                Continuously redesign until cancellation. It worked for Constellation.

              • Guest

                These are design exercises. This is how engineering works. You look at things that don’t work, for instance, an expendable shuttle derived heavy lift launch vehicle (SLS) and then try to make them work. The best way to make SLS work is to change the requirements, since the requirements are the root of the problem with the Space Launch System.

                A lot of the information I am using are things that were only known in the last year or so. So either you can navigate change, or you perish.

                The money is spent. It’s already lost. I’m just the salvage guy here.

              • Coastal Ron

                Guest said:

                These are design exercises. This is how engineering works. You look at things that don’t work, for instance, an expendable shuttle derived heavy lift launch vehicle (SLS) and then try to make them work.

                I’m just wondering whether you understand that once the political support for the SLS goes away, there is no need for a launcher the size of the SLS – regardless what it’s made of?

                So trying to improve something that has no need is like trying to improve your hunting technique for catching snipe

              • Guest

                Sorry, but in my vernacular ‘political support’ doesn’t equal ‘need’. But then again, I live in a reality based community. SLS is what we have according to the representative bodies and executive we have elected. A polar lunar lander and/or base is what we need, according to the laws of physics and the dire nature of our planetary and humanly existence.

                I’ve looked very closely at the uses and costs of these things and the laws of physics supporting it, and I can’t find any reasonable way around this specific architecture given what we have, and what we need.

                Your mileage may vary. If something changes, I’ll let you know.

              • Coastal Ron

                Guest said:

                I’ve looked very closely at the uses and costs of these things and the laws of physics supporting it, and I can’t find any reasonable way around this specific architecture given what we have, and what we need.

                Ah, you see a need? And where does that need come from?

                Not the President, and certainly not the Congress. And I would say that if ask those few of us that care about space exploration, you would hear “Mars” and “Asteroid” as well as “Moon”, so there is no consensus there either.

                But this gets back to the basic question of “need” that you think a government-built, government-run transportation system somehow satisfies. This incorporates not only “Apollo cargo cult” thinking (i.e. gigantic rockets are needed, and only the government can build and operate gigantic rockets), but “Shuttle cargo cult” thinking too (the government didn’t learn that operating an expensive transportation system is not a good idea).

                You can look at the “laws of physics” all you want, but without a perceived need, Congress is not going to allocate enough funds to build and use any gigantic rocket – the Senates or yours.

                Just sayin…

              • Guest

                Need for ACTUAL rover and astronaut friendly lunar polar bases capable of supporting a solar and lunar Lagrange point transportation system?

                You have got to be kidding. Well just for starters off the top of my head – overpopulation, agriculture and budget busting global warming, international conflicts (take your pick) nuclear capable rogue nations building launch vehicles, global unemployment approaching 20 percent.

                Let’s see your plan to deal with all of these in your face problems.

                Let’s start with insolvency and fiscal collapse. Is that close enough?

              • Coastal Ron

                Guest said:

                Well just for starters off the top of my head – overpopulation, agriculture and budget busting global warming, international conflicts (take your pick) nuclear capable rogue nations building launch vehicles, global unemployment approaching 20 percent.

                I have been around a long time, and today’s world is a lot safer and better off than it was when I was a young adult. Remain calm. I don’t see any of today’s problems as a reason to abandon Earth. The 70′s, now there was a pretty challenging decade.

                Let’s start with insolvency and fiscal collapse. Is that close enough?

                How are people/companies/nations going to be able to afford to do all the things you want to do off-Earth if they can’t afford to do anything to fix their problems here on Earth?

                I don’t think you understand how things work…

              • Guest

                I don’t think you understand how things work…

                Right. Got it. Thanks for telling it like it is.

                I think I’ll stick with math and physics and peer review if you don’t mind. When I think you are one of my peers, I’ll get back to you.

                And of course, if anything changes on the scientific and technological front, I’ll be sure to let you know. In the meantime, I’ll continue to focus on solving the problems that you claim don’t exist, without offering any actual science and technology to back that claim up.

                In deference to Mr. Foust, this conversation is obviously over.

              • Coastal Ron

                Guest said:

                Thanks for telling it like it is.

                You’re welcome.

                And of course, if anything changes on the scientific and technological front, I’ll be sure to let you know.

                Thanks, but no need.

                In the meantime, I’ll continue to focus on solving the problems that you claim don’t exist, without offering any actual science and technology to back that claim up.

                Hey, you were the one that wanted to go live on the Moon to avoid the problems here on Earth, so which one of us is delusional? You don’t think there is scarcity on the Moon? Lack of food? Lack of living space?

                Space for the foreseeable future will be an extension of our civilization, not a replacement.

              • Guest

                Hey, you were the one that wanted to go live on the Moon to avoid the problems here on Earth, so which one of us is delusional?

                I think the term you are looking for is ‘solve’, not ‘avoid’.

                Space for the foreseeable future will be an extension of our civilization, not a replacement.

                Then you are going to need a new civilization because contrary to what you have been told by your handlers, the one you have isn’t working, and you are ‘avoiding’ the problems that need to be solved, most of them so severe that only space can solve them now. I’m not sure where you are getting your science from, but if it’s from unsigned op-eds in British pulp newspapers, then that’s yet another problem.

              • Coastal Ron

                Guest said:

                Then you are going to need a new civilization because contrary to what you have been told by your handlers, the one you have isn’t working…

                Funny how there is no panic in the streets.

                How old are you? I’m in my 6th decade here on Earth in human form, and though there are challenges we all face, none are so bad I feel like I need to go live on an airless body in space to avoid them.

                I’m not sure where you are getting your science from…

                Scientists. I even know a few. But you don’t need to be a scientist, or even know one, to be knowledgeable. For instance I know a lot about manufacturing and the functions supporting manufacturing, yet I don’t have a Phd in any of them.

                …but if it’s from unsigned op-eds in British pulp newspapers, then that’s yet another problem.

                So I guess you’re OK with signed op-eds in British pulp newspapers? I’ll keep that in mind if I ever decide to read one… ;-)

            • Dark Blue Nine

              This paper (p. 6) claims that there was a 3 ton hit from the decision to go with Al, and that this hit was within the mass reserves held at the program level:

              “In the area of robust margins, the SLS Program holds reserves to be able to trade performance for cost and schedule. As one example, the decision to use Aluminum (Al) 2219 instead of Aluminum-Lithium (Al-Li) 2195 for the core stage was based on a trade study that reduced payload mass by 3 t, but that will result in approximately $30 million per flight savings.”

              http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=space%20launch%20system%20aluminum%20lithium&source=web&cd=12&ved=0CDUQFjABOAo&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.opsjournal.org%2Fassets%2FSecureDocumentLibrary%2FDocumentLibraryManager%2Fdocuments%2Fid1272937-Paper-001-reduced.pdf&ei=um33UPCdAuLu0gGTi4CADA&usg=AFQjCNE1kqMbXnCkvMHNG4OYu2gFWmB_0A&bvm=bv.41018144,d.dmQ

              So SLS, unlike MPCV, is not overweight, at least not yet.

            • E. P. Grondine

              Hi Guest –

              “Need for ACTUAL rover and astronaut friendly lunar polar bases capable of supporting a solar and lunar Lagrange point transportation system?”

              The only “need” lunar activities can solve is NEO detection.

              The rest of your plan is based on the assumption of an Earth-like Mars. But Mars is Mars-like.

              And even with lunar propellants, the transportation costs are still likely to be too high, in my view.

              Musk thinks otherwise, and he is no dummy, but then its his money.

              • Guest

                I didn’t mention Mars. Mars is too cold and distant. I agree – NEO detection is a priority, but that doesn’t need the moon. The moon is more less a humanity scale make work project in order to develop the necessary survival strategies and technologies in the very near term.

                And get this. It doesn’t need boots in the dirt. So the transportation costs can in theory be much less. But it is boots in the dirt friendly.

                I have overstayed my welcome here, but I will be writing this all up for the NIAC, probably in the next day, so I can move on to greener pastures.

              • E. P. Grondine

                Hi Guest –

                Once you understand that the bulk of the impact hazard comes from Long Period Comets and comet fragments,

                the instruments needed for timely detection change.

                See the CAPS report.

  • JimNobles

    I just noticed they raised the We The People petition signature threshold to 100,000 signatures. That’s still a very small percentage of the population so I guess that’s not unreasonable. I take it they were getting too many petitions. Many or most that could be taken as silly or even ridiculous.

    Maybe, like KickStarter, they’ll eventually go with a more restrictive time limit as well. Everyone’s trying to learn how to deal with this new Internet thing I guess.

    • common sense

      The petition idea is a good-feel one but it is going to require a lot of staff or some AI software to sort through the junk. Maybe they should start by categorizing the petitions, e.g. science, social, military… But I fear it will essentially be futile so long that Congress makes the decision when it comes to budget anything. And supposedly Congress represent the people locally.

      However in essence it is a reflection of the disfunction of our “We the People” government. It says we are your government but we are not sure what you want so tell us again, we did not get it with the election brouhaha. Unfortunately elections are the means to convey what the people want.

      Further, 25,000 or 100,000 people is nice but certainly far from significant to change policies…

      So now what? Back to DeathStar? See what I mean?

  • Until Jeff comes up with another thread … Click here for my blog post of all articles, video and photos so far about today’s NASA/Bigelow announcement.

    The local Las Vegas media seems to have the most detailed coverage. Some interesting photos and concept images I haven’t seen elsewhere.

  • wodun

    “In a normal budget environment, we would be less than a month away from the release of the fiscal year 2014 budget proposal, wich would be released on the first Monday in February. But we’re not in a typical budget environment,”

    Been a long time since the Senate passed a budget. What has it been four years? It bad for NASA and bad for the country. I realize the a lot of the posters here are Democrats and would rather loose a testicle than vote Republican but I hope you are giving your politicians an earful over this.

    • Neil Shipley

      Thought it was the Tea Party crowd that were not prepared to negotiate?
      Either way, with the lowest taxes in history, and more and more reliance on government spending, and the propensity to involve itself in unwinnable wars (along with it’s allies), the Republic is heading down the fiscal cliff for sure.
      It seems that along with gun control, fiscal control is also out of reach for Congress.

      • wodun

        Negotiate on what? The Republicans gave Obama his tax increases on the rich. It didn’t magically solve our fiscal problems.

        In return for the tax increases Obama was supposed to agree to making cuts, so where are those cuts? Remember the “agreement” was tax now cut later.

        It has been four years since the Democrats in the Senate passed a budget. Meanwhile, we have been running deficits ranging from $1.2-1.6t and our interest payments on debt exceed $400b a year.

        • NeilShipley

          Sorry, must have missed those. When did they happen or was that just the Bush tax cuts ending and rates returning to previous levels? Did that actually happen? And believe the current situation is only temporary up to March. Sequestration could still happen couldn’t it? Either way, fiscal control is still a fantasy for Congress.

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