Congress, NASA

NASA reauthorization not likely to make major policy changes

Key members of Congress and their staffs indicated this week that reauthorization of NASA is one of their priorities for the coming year. However, in comments at FAA’s annual Commercial Space Transportation Conference in Washington, they indicated that these efforts would be more along the lines of adjustments to existing policies than major revisions of them.

A NASA reauthorization bill has been a priority for members of both the House Science Committee and Senate Commerce Committee for some time, as the most recent NASA authorization act, passed in 2010, runs through fiscal year 2013. A key challenge, though, will be reconciling goals for the agency laid out in the authorization with available money, particularly as funding has fallen far short of authorized levels in 2012 and likely again in 2013. “Even in a constrained fiscal environment,” said Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD), ranking member of the House Science Committee’s space subcommittee, “I believe it’s possible to cement an authorization” that can be funded.

That mismatch between authorization and appropriations—appropriations for fiscal year 2013 will fall far short of the $19.96 billion authorized for NASA in the 2010 act—will be a key challenge in the next authorization bill. “We realize that the appropriation has not kept pace with the authorization overall, making the next authorization much more of a challenge,” said Ann Zulkosky, senior professional staff on the Senate Commerce Committee, during a panel at the FAA conference Wednesday.

However, it’s unlikely the next authorization act will make major policy changes, at least compared to 2010. “The reauthorization this year will build off the 2010 act and make the necessary policy updates,” Zulkosky said, noting that the policy language in the 2010 act remains in effect even after the end of the current fiscal year. Tony Detora, senior policy advisor for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), concurred. “This process will be less contentious than the 2010 process,” he said, noting he was speaking for himself. “That policy direction is generally agreed upon.”

One area of discussion will be on NASA’s commercial crew program, including both funding levels and implementation. “We need to ensure an appropriate balance between the government’s investment and that of participating companies,” Zulkosky said, adding that the FY12 funding level of $406 million for commercial crew “would certainly be challenging against the backdrop of sequestration.” She said there’s likely to be discussion of contracting methods and maintaining competition.

Jeff Bingham, a veteran Senate staffer speaking for himself, defended previous efforts by the now-retired Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) to force NASA to downselect to a single commercial crew provider as soon as possible. “What she wanted to do was to try and make it possible for NASA to do a good job with commercial crew development in light of the lack of available resources,” he said. NASA needs both a commercial crew program as well as the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft, he said, something challenging in the current budget environment. “We need to have both,” he said. “You can’t really do both on a flatline budget.”

The commercial crew program did get support from a key appropriator, though. “We fought to increase the commercial line,” said Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA), ranking member of the Commerce, Justice, and Science subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, in a speech at the conference Thursday. “It is something I am committed to, and I pledge to continue to work with you on this as we go forward.”

That budget and policy situation hasn’t stopped some members from thinking about bigger changes, however. “We must have a better defined US mission going forward,” said Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS), chairman of the House Science Committee’s space subcommittee, in a speech at the conference Wednesday afternoon. “I believe we should go back to the Moon, so let’s create blueprints, dates, put the money forward, and set our boots on the regolith once again.”

“Astronauts have inspired generations of Americans, but, with no clear mission, NASA needs decisive leadership from Congress,” wrote Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), chairman of the full House Science Committee, in an op-ed this week in Roll Call. “As we move beyond the space shuttle era, the committee will help keep our space program moving forward. We will work on a NASA reauthorization bill that promotes the commercialization of space and advances space exploration to expand our knowledge of the universe and inspire our nation.”

151 comments to NASA reauthorization not likely to make major policy changes

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “That mismatch between authorization and appropriations—appropriations for fiscal year 2013 will fall far short of the $19.96 billion authorized for NASA in the 2010 act—will be a key challenge in the next authorization bill. ‘We realize that the appropriation has not kept pace with the authorization overall, making the next authorization much more of a challenge,’ said Ann Zulkosky, senior professional staff on the Senate Commerce Committee…

    However, it’s unlikely the next authorization act will make major policy changes, at least compared to 2010. “The reauthorization this year will build off the 2010 act and make the necessary policy updates,” Zulkosky said… Tony Detora, senior policy advisor for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), concurred. ‘This process will be less contentious than the 2010 process,’ he said, noting he was speaking for himself. ‘That policy direction is generally agreed upon.’”

    So… NASA’s actual budget is out of bed with its authorization by almost $3 billion, approaching 20% of the total. But these two authorization staffers see no need to change direction in the new authorization bills.

    Right…

    I can’t believe that my tax dollars are paying the salaries of these two lazy idiots.

    • James

      “So… NASA’s actual budget is out of bed with its authorization by almost $3 billion, approaching 20% of the total. But these two authorization staffers see no need to change direction in the new authorization bills.”

      Indeed, the more things change the more they stay the same. The Future of NASA is very predictable. Never enough money to do what Congress demands. A losing game if there ever was one.

  • amightywind

    Jeff Bingham, a veteran Senate staffer speaking for himself, defended previous efforts by the now-retired Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) to force NASA to downselect to a single commercial crew provider as soon as possible.

    If the downselect doesn’t occur now, then when? NASA has had years to make the decision. We simply do not need redundant vehicles for access to ISS for 3 short years. I am glad to hear Lockmart is now partnering with Sierra Nevada.

    “I believe we should go back to the Moon, so let’s create blueprints, dates, put the money forward, and set our boots on the regolith once again.”

    Agreed. We have many critics of Constellation here, but at least the NASA management had proposed a detailed architecture and mission profile. What do we have now. SLS has done neither. SLS is too small for the lunar landing (Altair) mission and too large for manned LEO transport. Bring back the 10m Ares core!

    • E. P. Grondine

      Hi AW –

      “What do we have now?”

      8$ billion wasted on a crummy rocket from a crummy company. A large part of our nation’s launcher tech base in disarray.

      I don’t know how to break this to you, but Griffin’s architectures and mission profiles were just as bad as the Ares 1.

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “If the downselect doesn’t occur now, then when?”

      You’re as ignorant as Hutchison and her staffer.

      To date, the CCDev Program has performed three (3) downselects resulting in the rejection of 43 proposals from:

      Ad Astra Rocket Company
      AlphaSpaces
      Andrews Space
      ARES Corporation
      Alliant Techsystems
      Ball Aerospace
      Bigelow Aerospace
      Blue Origin
      Blue Smoke
      Boeing
      Dii Aerospace Laboratories
      Exploration Partners
      Firestar Engineering
      Global Outpost
      HMX, Inc.
      IE Group
      KT Engineering
      Oceaneering Space Systems
      Odyssey Space Research
      Orbital Outfitters
      Orbital Technologies
      Paragon Space Development
      Planetspace
      S.T.A.R. Systems
      Sierra Nevada Corporation
      SpaceED – UC Davis
      SpaceX
      Stone Aerospace
      Expanding Universe
      Thomas Lee Elifritz
      United Launch Alliance
      Universal Space Lines
      Universal Transport Systems
      Vivace
      XCOR Aerospace
      Orbital Sciences Corporation
      Paragon Space Development Corporation
      t/Space
      United Space Alliance
      Space Operations
      American Aerospace
      Spacedesign Corporation

      Another three proposals have been accepted but awarded no funding:

      United Launch Alliance
      ATK/Astrium
      Excalibur Almaz Inc

      The next and final phase of CCDev competition, the Certification Products Contract Phase 2, begins in mid-2014.

      “We simply do not need redundant vehicles”

      Yeah, it’s not like we’ve ever had a Space Shuttle disintegrate during reentry, making the country dependent on Russian vehicles for human space access.

      Yeah, that’s never happened.

      And will never happen again.

      Right.

      How dumb can you be?

  • Scott Bass

    Almightywind, can you elaborate on your comment about SLS and Altair …. Obviously the ARESV architecture is different but I have not read many articles on SLS capabilities other than the evolved vehicle capacity.

    In answering lets make some assumptions… SLS will get built and Fly, SLS will be upgraded to a 130mt vehicle, future leaders will decideonce again that a lunar return is the best interim destination to use SLS

    I know that’s a lot of ifs but you gotta assume all of that to make it worth discussing ;) looking forward to your thoughts on future SLS architecture for moon landings.

    • amightywind

      I assume that some requirement is driving the 130mt specification. I’d like to understand what it is. My point is Ares V was a 200mt launcher tasked with the EDS/Altair lander mission profile. SLS cannot do that, nor can it accomplish the Plymouth Rock mission profile (Obama’s stated goal). So what is it for? Launching Orions into very high orbits?

      • common sense

        So basically you vociferously support an architecture for which you have no understanding that cost tens of billions of dollars. But you are against commercial space that only costs hundreds of millions with a purpose (whether you like it or not) and provides money to US companies to innovate and to provide services at a lower cost to the US government.

        Great. Real smart.

        Is this typical of ultra-conservative GOP?

        • amightywind

          I know America needs a large rocket. But I am looking for more ideas about how it will be used. We had that with Constellation. I want a space program with some technological continuity in launch vehicles. You have to start somewhere. SLS is a great start.

          • common sense

            America does not need a large rocket except to satisfy the delusion of grandeur of some. that are associated with big phallic symbols.

          • I want a space program with some technological continuity in launch vehicles.

            Why would you want technological continuity with unaffordable and unsafe launch vehicles?

            • amightywind

              The Ares V is launched unmanned. We already have lots of experience launching humans on H2 upper stages. I don’t see how that is unsafe. Unaffordable, compared to what? NASA can afford SLS on steroids if it would reprioritize and reform.

          • Coastal Ron

            amightywind said:

            I know America needs a large rocket.

            We already have large rockets. Atlas V and Delta IV can both lift over 20mt to LEO, and SpaceX is close to adding a 53mt option for getting mass to LEO.

            Where is the demonstrated need for anything larger?

            Who are the customers, with money, that need to put payloads larger than 5m in diameter and 20mt in mass into LEO?

            And though maybe you might be able to identify one such customer or payload, is there enough demand to justify a unique, non-redundant, expensive transportation system? Years and years of continuous use?

            Where is the need for anything bigger than our commercial operators already have?

            • amightywind

              I guess our definitions of large rockets is only off by a factor of 10. The world’s current rocket fleet is sized to launch satellites, not manned exploration missions. Micro launch mission concepts, such as what you propose, are too complex to take seriously.

              • common sense

                All right let’s follow your reasoning then. I was going to write logic but hey…

                We need rockets 10 times bigger than what we have today to explore. Of course no one really knows to explore what but let’s assume Mars to make it simple. I am sure you like simple.

                All this to say that I am looking forward to the day when we will plan to explore any of those http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/02/06/closest-earth-like-planet-stroll-across-park/1896697/

                How big of an Earth launched rocket are we going to build??? I am sure you have a plan. Right? You must know we need even bigger rockets. Big ones with fires and sounds, shock and awe rockets, right?

              • Coastal Ron

                amightywind wheezed:

                The world’s current rocket fleet is sized to launch satellites, not manned exploration missions.

                There is a 450mt manned space station in LEO that invalidates that theory.

                Micro launch mission concepts, such as what you propose, are too complex to take seriously.

                You have the burden of proof here, bub, to justify why we need to launch mission elements bigger than 5m in diameter and 20mt in mass. The whole aerospace industry as shown how we can do HSF exploration with current rockets, and you have failed to provide any specific examples to support your claims.

                Beside, no matter how big the rocket is you want to build, it will be the wrong size for every use. That’s why our terrestrial transportation systems have evolved to move “big enough” payload sizes, which so far has been able to take care of more than 99% of our needs.

                The other problem you run into with mega-rockets is that there are no factories to build the payloads for them. None. All the factories for building the current generation of 5m diameter space hardware are not near transportation systems that can handle the SLS 8.4m diameter payloads (and certainly not 10m diameter payloads you advocate for).

                Sure new factories can be built, but who pays for that? The American Taxpayer, since only the U.S. Government will be using them. So is the U.S. Government going to commit to using that factory for a decades worth of production? Nope. Congress won’t even commit to ONE SLS-specific payload outside of the MPCV.

                You need to be smarter about this.

      • I assume that some requirement is driving the 130mt specification.

        That would be a stupid assumption, given the history.

        I’d like to understand what it is.

        So would we all. The most likely explanation is that Jeff Bingham pulled it out of his fundament.

      • pathfinder_01

        Ah hate to even justify SLS or CXP, but you don’t need a 200MT rocket to get to the moon. Saturn V was about 120MT and yes it did land on the moon. CXP wanted to land at the poles, did not preposition anything, attempted to land a lander that could double as a moon base for 2 weeks and did not use L1/L2. When you do all of that then you need a 200MT rocket if you want to lift it all at once. Now if that is a good thing or not is very debatable….. I mean I think the idea of attempting to launch 2 different rockets in short order was not a good idea cost wise.

        Now if we use 21st century methods to get to the moon then you could preposition the lander to l1/l2 using WSB trajectories and either SEP or a storable chemical propellant. You could even preposition propellant if you need to. A FH could do this in one launch.

        Now all you need to push through TLI is the capsule towards L1/L2 or the lander but not both at the same time. For Apollo with lander it was 45MT (and near the limit of the Saturn V) but for an Apollo CM alone that would be 30MT and Orion was planning on about 21MT. Sure it takes 2 or more launches but much more manageable. FH might be able to lift Orion (or other capsule) plus EDS stage at once-grand total 2 launches.
        If FH is a bit too weak, you can lift your capsule to orbit to a space station unmanned (hey we have one of those! Or can get one via bigleow or maybe even rent one from him) then you don’t need to worry about needing to launch 2 rockets 48 hours apart.

        Orion and Dragon are both designed to spend months in space (and in the case of dragon 2 years) and the space station can support the crew without using up resources on the capsule. Between the ISS and L1/L2 there is a window that opens every ten days. You could lift up to 7 people via commercial crew that is enough to both man a space station and a lunar mission. You also don’t need that heavy and pesky LAS system for the lunar capsule. Then lift an EDS stage (about 20MT would be enough to push Orion through TLI within the capacities of Delta Heavy and FH.)

        Granted this could take 3-4 launches total but that would be cheaper and faster than SLS to get up and these 3-4 different launches don’t have to be the same system(i.e. Greater ability to work in parallel–i.e. Delta Heavy lifts Orion, Atlas lifts CST100, FH or Delta lifts the EDS stage) nor be done in short amounts of time(the lander and Orion are lifted months before hand. Only crew and lox/loh stage need to be lifted near each other and the crew can wait in space for a little while.)

      • josh

        it’s for keeping people like you in your jobs. no other purpose.

  • common sense

    ““Astronauts have inspired generations of Americans,”

    Generations of Americans? Like how many generations? 1? 2 at most? Sure 2 makes “generations”. Great. We are saved.

    ” but, with no clear mission, NASA needs decisive leadership from Congress,”

    No clear mission? I thought Congress was already giving the direction. Who decided the SLS? Was it the WH? Nah. NASA? Nope. Hmmm…

    “Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX)”

    Ha Lamar, Lamar, I always wonder how hypocritical one can get but your are pushing the envelope, I’d say. Thank you.

  • vulture4

    Given that appropriations are falling well behind authorizations, it isn’t at all clear that Congress is willing (or able, given pressure to cut the budget) to “put the money forward” that would be needed for a return to the moon using the SLS/Orion architecture.

  • Scott Bass

    Staying Curious if The SpaceX MCT is fantasy… That vehicle would shut down SLS if he actually built one

    • Coastal Ron

      Scott Bass mused:

      That vehicle would shut down SLS if he actually built one

      Scott, since the SLS was never intended to address a known requirement, no competing solution can be shown to be better than the SLS.

      The same companies that are already building the SLS and Orion have already publicly stated that they have an upgrade path for their existing rockets to provide the same capability as the SLS – and Congress could care less.

      Senators Nelson and Shelby stated that the SLS is a jobs program, so they could care less if there was a competing technology that could do what the SLS is supposed to do. That is not a incentive for them.

      This is really pretty simple to comprehend once you understand “WHY” the SLS is being built, and that it has nothing to do with a “real need”.

  • Scott Bass

    I understand Ron…. And understand paper designs and cost estimates would probably have no impact…. Just saying if SpaceX actually built a 200mt Rocket…. … That would change my mind about SLS lol…… Hard to imagine SpaceX doing that without a contract though, although Elon seems bent on going to mars with or without NASA… As long as its a private company I guess he could do it …. Financed by his falcon business

    • Coastal Ron

      Scott Bass mused again:

      Just saying if SpaceX actually built a 200mt Rocket…

      Why do you wonder things that have no basis in reality? We could all sit around and talk about why pigs don’t have wings to fly, but what good would that do? It’s the same with you wondering why SpaceX doesn’t build a 500mt reusable SSTO rocket powered by fairy dust.

      That would change my mind about SLS lol

      I have my doubts about that “lol”

  • Scott Bass

    Does anyone here personally know Elon? Just curious if he is the type person that would spend that type of money on something that will surely be non profit for a very long time, obviously he is not risk averse but so far he has been about making money in his endeavors

    • common sense

      You have to be able to understand and separate the hype from the business. Elon is a businessman. He is a businessman with a vision. He will spend whatever amount of money is reasonable in his (and his investors) eyes to accomplish a goal. But the purpose of the company is to reduce launch cost to orbit. Not to send humans to Mars or anywhere. However Elon’s goal is to send humans to space. There is a difference.

      FWIW.

      • JimNobles

        .
        But the purpose of the company is to reduce launch cost to orbit. Not to send humans to Mars or anywhere.

        Elon has said several times that his intention is to make human life multi-planetary. Are we not understanding him correctly?

        • common sense

          “Elon has said several times that his intention is to make human life multi-planetary. Are we not understanding him correctly?”

          Jim, as I said already multiple times. Make the difference between SpaceX, a commercial company with investors who want to make money and Elon, the founder who has his own personal goals some we know and some we don’t.

          Those two things are different.

          How many investors do you think you can attract to spend tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars in a company that will “make human life multi-planetary”? What do you think?

          Now if you have answered this question maybe you can ponder where the effort and the company resources are put at SpaceX. But hey, I am just speculating. Right?

          • JimNobles

            .
            How many investors do you think you can attract to spend tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars in a company that will “make human life multi-planetary”? What do you think?

            I hear what you’re saying but Musk has already addressed this. Whenever he’s asked when SpaceX is going to have an IPO he gives basically the same answer. He’d prefer not to do it anytime soon as he doesn’t feel it is really necessary like it was with his other companies and he worries that if he brought in public investment their short-term profit-oriented goals might not mesh with his long term goal of making human life multi-planetary. He recognizes this problem and is not interested in going that route unless it is unavoidable.

            This is not something that’s just come up recently. It’s been being talked about for at least a couple of years. Ever since Falcon 9 started to look For Real. He’s serious about his SpaceX goals and won’t bring in short-term profit-seeking investors if he can help it.

            • common sense

              “Whenever he’s asked when SpaceX is going to have an IPO he gives basically the same answer. He’d prefer not to do it anytime soon as he doesn’t feel it is really necessary like it was with his other companies and he worries that if he brought in public investment their short-term profit-oriented goals might not mesh with his long term goal of making human life multi-planetary. He recognizes this problem and is not interested in going that route unless it is unavoidable.”

              But Jim, this is what he feeds the public. Do you think he has the same language with his investors? Something like please invest your millions but you have little hope you’ll see a return any time soon? Really? If so I need to know all his investors because I have a project for a super duper hypersonic reentry vehicle. Someday. Better than Shuttle and better than Dragon! Elon is a business man, so are his investors. They may be called Angel investors some times but there is nothing angelic about money. Just for the sake of it. Can you imagine a situation where SpaceX spawns another entity, call it MarsX or the Skunk WorX dedicated to multiplanetary travel? Can you imagine this entity would be funded with whatever profits Elon makes with SpaceX? I don’t know, just askin’ Why is everyone going crazy about a business and its somewhat charismatic leader? Northrop dreams was to make a big flying wing, right? How long did it take him to achieve the goal? What was happing at Northrop in the mean time. All right. I know my speculation. So you make whatever you want of it.

              “This is not something that’s just come up recently. It’s been being talked about for at least a couple of years. Ever since Falcon 9 started to look For Real. He’s serious about his SpaceX goals and won’t bring in short-term profit-seeking investors if he can help it.”

              Going public has always been the plan of SpaceX. Always. Was it the plan of Elon’s??? That much I don’t know. I know he had said he would not go beyond three failures of F-1. So? Words are only that. Words. Until the time you see some actual document related to SpaceX and its declared goals to the investors you can only do as I do: Speculate.

              Which is which???? We’ll see. Soon.

              • Something like please invest your millions but you have little hope you’ll see a return any time soon?

                He doesn’t tell his investors that, nor has he made any public statements to that effect.

              • common sense

                “He doesn’t tell his investors that, nor has he made any public statements to that effect.”

                Precisely.

                I was only refuting Jim’s assertion that “Whenever he’s asked when SpaceX is going to have an IPO he gives basically the same answer. He’d prefer not to do it anytime soon

                One way or another investors expect returns so I will speculate they would not be satisfied with “not any time soon”.

                But hey maybe I am wrong. After all not long ago a lot of people invested in valueless real estate… So…

    • Coastal Ron

      Scott Bass said:

      Does anyone here personally know Elon?

      I don’t know why you feel you have to talk with someone that is good friends with Musk. If anything, Musk has been very open about what his goals are, both for SpaceX and for his Mars desires.

      Couple that with the public history of what he has done in business, and that gives you all you need to know about what Musk is capable of doing. But above all he has shown that he is very practical, and very grounded in doing things that are sustainable in the long run, and I would expect that pattern to continue.

      What that means for you is don’t expect SpaceX to commit to building a competitor to the SLS anytime soon. What YOU should be doing is either A) advocating that Congress increase NASA’s budget dramatically so it can fund uses for the SLS, or B) advocate that Congress should cancel the SLS so that NASA has the money to spend on building exploration hardware that fits on existing rockets.

      It’s that simple Scott, A or B.

      • common sense

        And by the way, knowing or not Elon is not going to let anyone in through his mind and desires.

        He is very versatile at changing his mind on any given subject at any given time he so chooses.

        FWIW.

    • JimNobles

      .
      Does anyone here personally know Elon?

      I don’t know Elon Musk personally but I have tried to read every article in which he’s talked about SpaceX and I’ve tried to view every video in which he’s talked about SpaceX and his ideas. That’s how I ended up being one of his fans. And started taking human progress into space seriously again after having basically given up on it.

      From what I can tell Elon is a)somewhat a genius (really) and b)a total full-on Space Cadet. He most certainly does think the U.S. needs a heavy-lifter and he believes SpaceX can deliver one in a way that makes space access affordable. He also believes human life MUST become multiplanetary to help its chances for survival.

      I reapeat. The man is smart, rich, a space cadet, and is for real. A lot of people have a hard time believing this. I know I did before I made the effort to find out all I could about him. He’s not in this for the money but he knows it’s going take a lot of money to do what he wants to do. He does indeed want to build a lifter big enough to make taking large masses of supplies and people to Mars. He’s quite serious. I have to say that I am not a Mars fan like he is but that doesn’t matter, it’s his money. Elon said, “Mars is a fixer-upper of a planet.” I think he’s being quite generous. I think Mars is a dump. But, like I said, it’s his money.

      But I would advise anyone to check him out before trying to determine what his motivations and plans are. He’s not one of those secretive type individuals. He generally says exactly what he wants to do and why he wants to do it. There seems to be little guile in him.

      I began my search on Google and YouTube. The search terms “ELON MUSK”, “SPACEX”, and “NASA” are where I got started. There is plenty there. But be careful, if you are really interested in getting humans off-planet and into space there is the danger of becoming an Elon Musk fan. You have been warned.

      • common sense

        “He generally says exactly what he wants to do and why he wants to do it. ”

        Very true.

        But he does not tell everything. Just like any one. And he can change his mind on a moment notice based on a hunch. Don’t ask him. Ask his designers…

        FWIW.

    • Fred Willett

      Elon has hinted that he will unveil a mars architecture this year.
      There have been hints about a MCT from SpaceX. Whatever MCT is.
      I know not the great and glorious Musk but looking at what his plans might be I think the 200t rocket is a non starter.
      His Mars plan is likely to be a methane upper stage boosting FH to 70t. This would give him more margin for reusability on Falcon second stages and at the same time give him a good basic reusable in space stage.

      • JimNobles

        .
        His Mars plan is likely to be a methane upper stage boosting FH to 70t.

        Making SLS Phase 1 look just lovely, considering the taxpayer’s costs for each vehicle.

        • Fred Willett

          70t sounds a lot but by the time you add on mass penalties for reusability Musk will consider humself very luckiy indeed if the final reusable FH gets 30t to LEO. Even at just a 20t final reusable FH Elon would be more than happy.
          If he achieves reusability then prices will fall.
          If prices fall then (and only then) will a 200t MCT move from the “wish list” to the “in active development list”

          • Coastal Ron

            Fred Willett said:

            If he achieves reusability then prices will fall.
            If prices fall then (and only then) will a 200t MCT move from the “wish list” to the “in active development list”

            That wouldn’t make sense. The market is going to respond to the lower prices by sizing their products for that low priced service – in fact, likely they won’t have to change their products at all.

            A 200mt rocket, of any kind, would need to provide an advantage over the reusable (and very low cost) Falcon 9/Heavy. For the commercial market, I can’t think of any. Government customers too.

            I think what SpaceX would do after perfecting reusability is to further evolve their reusability technology to keep boosting the payloads they can carry. It’s the same pattern they have already been using, plus it’s the smartest business move too. And Musk is a smart businessman.

          • Dave Klingler

            Fred, I don’t think the current goal for FH is reusability. Just maximum payload to LEO. And if by some chance SpaceX does move up to 70mt from 53mt, at least within the next few years, then yes, that’s probably enough to kill SLS.

            Even 53mt is dangerous for SLS.

            http://www.change.org/en-CA/petitions/spacex-elon-musk-make-the-first-demo-flight-of-the-falcon-heavy-a-lunar-flyby-mission#share

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “Does anyone here personally know Elon? Just curious if he is the type person that would spend that type of money on something that will surely be non profit for a very long time, obviously he is not risk averse but so far he has been about making money in his endeavors”

      Musk has stated that he will retain a controlling share of SpaceX after it goes public to ensure that the company stays focused on his long-term goals rather than meeting Wall Street’s quarter-to-quarter earnings estimates. He’s not going to drive the company into bankruptcy to get to Mars, but his decisions about SpaceX are going to be driven by his space exploration/settlement goals, not by what makes the most profit.

      I did have a one-on-one business meeting with Musk years ago (late Falcon 1 era). He is driven to the point that he is offputting or awkward in personal conversation. (I think this comes across in his public presentations/interviews, too.) Although I wouldn’t want to work with him on a day-to-day basis, his drive probably serves the goal of space exploration/settlement well as long as he stays focused on that goal. But if Musk ever grows tired of that goal or becomes distracted by something else (or gets run over by a bus), then I’d say that all bets are off on SpaceX’s long-range vision.

  • Scott Bass

    SLS cannot do that, nor can it accomplish the Plymouth Rock mission profile (Obama’s stated goal). So what is it for? Launching Orions into very high orbits?

    Yep… I think we are all waiting for a mission…. As stated many times here, The Presidents heart is not in this and he seems to be content letting this drift…. It all seems so sad with out some vision going forward

    • JimNobles

      .
      It all seems so sad with out some vision going forward

      We’ve got some people with vision but unfortunately they are not in powerful positions in government. They are mainly in the private sector.

      But hasn’t it nearly always been that way in America?

  • Scott Bass

    Ron… That is based on what Elon Musk has said in interviews… Quote expect announcement in 1 to three years….not making stuff up or delving in to fantasy…. You can google various interviews regarding his 200mt rocket

  • common sense

    America does not need a large rocket except to satisfy the delusion of grandeur of some. that are associated with big phallic symbols.

    • JimNobles

      .
      America does not need a large rocket except to satisfy the delusion of grandeur of some. that are associated with big phallic symbols.

      I’m an American and I believe we can make good use of large rocket if it is affordable. Sometimes a rocket is just a rocket.

      • Coastal Ron

        JimNobles said:

        I’m an American and I believe we can make good use of large rocket if it is affordable.

        Well the SLS fails miserably at that. Not taking into account the $30B of DDT&E, the 130mt SLS is projected to 8X more expensive than the Falcon Heavy for putting mass into LEO. Even Delta IV Heavy, purchased on a one-by-one basis (i.e. no volume discount) is less expensive for putting mass to LEO. The SLS is unaffordable in many ways.

        Sometimes a rocket is just a rocket.

        It still needs to address a defined need, otherwise why spend money on it?

  • Scott Bass

    Common Sense, if that was directed at me then you have me all wrong… … My support for SLS is deeply rooted in hope… I am very aware of all the issues and cost…. However I don’t believe for a second in today’s environment that money will be diverted to commercial space or any other NASA program. It will just go away as part of deficit reduction. I don’t want to see SLS fly just for the hell of it….just hoping leadership will emerge to make it worthwhile with real goals and missions. That is no more far fetched than to think congress is just going to divy up that money to other NASA programs. Not conservative btw…. Not for quite a while

    • common sense

      No it was directed at amightywind but it stands alone as well. I am having problem coordinating my thoughts and typing apparently… One goes faster than the other at times. Darn.

      The smart thing to do would be to procure that money as fixed price contracts to develop the rest of the architecture, lunar lander, departure stage, etc. And you would probably not need as much as needed for SLS/MPCV only. But that would cut a lot of jobs so it probably won’t happen but we’ll see.

  • Scott Bass

    Almighty wrote I know America needs a large rocket. But I am looking for more ideas about how it will be used. We had that with Constellation. I want a space program with some technological continuity in launch vehicles. You have to start somewhere. SLS is a great start.

    That’s pretty much where I’m at too…. Willing to support SLS for a while to see what if anything shakes out….. Odds 50/50 or less but see it better than the alternative

    • josh

      sls is a terrible start. it will either get cancelled before it gets to the launch pad or it will make its first flight years late and billions over budget. cancel it and give the money to people who actually have the expertise to design a new launcher, like spacex. nasa lost it years ago.

  • Scott Bass

    Common Sense….. I would be wide open to they revamping the whole thing with fixed contracts… Vision, mission… Rocket redesigns etc…. Just realistically know Obama is not going to go there…. But 2017? Maybe….

    • common sense

      Scott.

      Really you need to make an extra effort. The first thing before you support whatever is to determine what you want to see for HSF since I assume that it is what we are talking about and not “exploration” since exploration takes many different forms, including but not limited to robots, observatories of multiple kinds, etc.

      So what are you looking for?

      For example when you support SLS what you actually support is Congress underfunding a program by billions whose only purpose is to keep the current workforce doing something. That is the truth. It was even written in the Augustine Committee report (easy to find).

      You say elsewhere you are willing to support it for a while. How long? This has been around for 9 years and has nothing to show. NOTHING.

      Obama is not responsible for SLS or even MPCV or even the way this program is a total failure. Congress and NASA are both responsible for a reason or another.

      So what do you want? Figure this one out then come up with your own requirements and then support or not something.

      Yes it requires some work on your part and not the usual soundbite approach that many SLS supporters use. It means you need to really think about it.

      Good luck!

  • Scott Bass

    As far as SpaceX 200mt vehicle… There are tons of articles and discussions about the MCT , the last interview I saw where he was questioned about it, he said only that the Raptor(methane) would be used to power it…. Would not confirm if the M stood for mars and basically said you only want to show a little bit of your leg at a time lol

    • JimNobles

      .
      As far as SpaceX 200mt vehicle…

      More as a teaser than anything:

      I was just reading a Q&A session today live on Reddit with SpaceX software engineers. The engineers said that Shotwell was in the room with them but I didn’t see them mention Elon. Someone asked a question about the MCT and the person who answered said Elon would be saying more about that probably soon. Not much, I know, but it’s current.

    • Robert G. Oler

      Scott Bass
      February 8, 2013 at 2:35 pm · Reply

      As far as SpaceX 200mt vehicle>>

      Scott: If you want to figure out what SpaceX is going to do with a 200MT (or any for that matter) launch vehicle, then you need to figure out what Elon Musk “master plan” is…Figure that out and you know where and how he is (at least right now) going to get there and what it will look like…

      and when you do let me know.

      I am probably one of the few people who is a geniune expert on the Boeing 737 who has never applied for a job at Southwest Airlines. There are a lot of reasons for that, but one of them is NOT that I dont like Herb K…in fact what little association I have had with him has done nothing everytime but opened my eyes to how people like Herb and well Elon Musk “work”

      What these people do is not envision a “process” better then what is going on today; they envision a whole new future, a whole new world and that is what separates them from other people who do something in the same industry and fail or are at best mediocre (all scales are relative of course) in what they accomplish.

      If Musk is able to make the Falcon series of launch vehicles “work” on an economic scale that gives him the launcher market that would be “enough” for some people but not for him…he has got something else in mind because really the falcon series of launch vehicles is not something that is “unperishable”…if it works someone else will put together the technology and management and do it again.

      NO, there is (and Musk speeches hint at this) something larger

      the last person (and he didnt have Musk money to start with) who had a vision for a space effort that simply redid society was ONeil and his solar power platforms. I doubt ONeil’s plan was executable and certainly had no money behind it…but at least he had a “change the world” plan.

      What is Musk? There are hints for all I know he could be thinking solar power from space (it sure fits with Solar City and a few other things)…but it could also be someething in the asteroid retrieval/materials field or?

      Dennis Wingo and I are frequently at odds with each other and doubtless we grate on each other as well, but Wingo has had several plans to “change the world”…none of them were executable with the resources Dennis has or can get to…but he keeps trying with it.

      There is an Alfred Thayer Mahan (or Steve Jobs or Herb K) aspect to Musk. Dennis Wingo in one of his latest missives takes a swing at Mahan…and I should read it again before commenting (a client of mine passed on me doing his SMS and then the person who got the contract screwed it up so now he asked me to do it when I should have had a month he needs it by the 15th…so…)

      But most people dont understand Mahan and his doctrine; but really what it is, is to find a lever which is not being used by other (appropriate groups); where by getting that lever you can control destinies on the appropriate metric scale.

      Musk has got some notion here…find it and you understand where Musk is going… well let me know. RGO

      • josh

        i think musk is on record stating that space solar power is not economically viable…

        • JimNobles

          Yeah, he definitely thinks space-based solar power is a non-starter. I can’t say I totally agree with him although I’d agree that earth-based solar power technology is advancing fast enough to make the space-based ideas seem non-economical. I think we’ll eventually see large power plants in space but I wouldn’t want to try and predict when or exactly why.

    • Coastal Ron

      Scott Bass said:

      As far as SpaceX 200mt vehicle… There are tons of articles and discussions about the MCT…

      It doesn’t matter what other people say (you included), it only matters what SpaceX says. And so far all they have said:

      Shotwell said a possible payload range of the new rocket is 150-200t to low Earth orbit (LEO)

      Details may be coming later this year, but so far there is no mention of which decade any new hardware would be targeted for.

      So get back your focus, and let’s work on canceling the SLS so that NASA isn’t burdened with a HUGE financial commitment that doesn’t leave room for any space exploration.

      • Malmesbury

        My bet is that MCT will be something like –

        A single stick that will have slightly less throw weight to LEO than Falcon Heavy, but much greater load to GTO. The sales pitch to investors will be that this will be cheaper, simpler and offer more payload for current commercial users.

        With 2 boosters built from first stages (Falcon Heavy style) – well, that will be your super heavy lifter….

    • NeilShipley

      Mars Colonial Transport!

  • Scott Bass

    Common Sense, It seems like I have been posting in here for years so figure most have a general understanding of my views. It would be a little wordy to state them all again but in a nutshell I am a huge Hsf supporter and would triple the NASA budget if I could, I supported the Bush era VSE and although I was not a big fan of Ares1 I still supported the concept and was excited to go back to the moon etc We all know how that turned out…. Just a big tease for people who think like me. What’s going on now is clear as mud and so yeah my views are changing and evolving… But make no mistake…. Given a blank check and power I would have us living on the moon and half way to mars by now. If you can understand that then it makes it pretty clear where I am going to come down on individual issues…. My passion is so High for HSF I founded the Mercury7 Science Center which is a mobile exhibit of space artifacts I use to inspire kids with at elementary schools. Hope that helps you understand me and why I participate here from time to time ;)

    • common sense

      Scoot, I understand this kind of passion. So much so that I worked on the CEV. But then I understood what this was all about and then I grew up. Not too much though. But enough to know that SLS/MPCV is going nowhere. Ever.

      If I am wrong? Great! But I fear I am not wrong.

      Ah there will never be a blank check ever again, unless our friend E.P. Grondine gets his wish and some bad, bad rock heads our way and we know on time. Otherwise… I would rather bet on commercial space.

      • E. P. Grondine

        Hi CS –

        There is a bad bad rock headed out way. But right now we just don’t know where it is, or when its going to hit.

        Aside from that, ESA’s AIDA will be ready by 2022 to deal with any peices of Comet Schwassmann 3 headed our way. Launch on upgraded Ariane.

        B612′s Sentinel telescope will be using SpaceX for its launcher.

        Aside from that, whoever leads in building the CAPS detectors on the Moon will take the leadership role in space, including manned Mars exploration.

  • Scott Bass

    Thanks Jim for your narrative on Musk, I admire him slot and he is doing many things I think I would do given the money…. We are lucky Paypal was a success and we have him leading the way

  • Scott Bass

    RGO… Nice post, I’ll be watching too ;) … And Commonsense… I definitely do support commercial space…. And support government seed money……but there is a point where commercial space companies become self sufficient…. Then the governments responsibility switches to equity in handing out contracts. SpaceX probably does not need anymore seed money to survive, .., some of the others do… Some will fold and some thrive…. Just the nature of the beast.

  • Scott Bass

    I want SpaceX to stay private for obvious reasons…. I think he is enjoying things just the way they are for now….speculation on my part

  • common sense

    Now I really feel confident there will be a European SM for Orion. It definitely is on the right track.

    Oh well…

    “European Union Leaders Agree to Slimmer Budget”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/09/business/global/european-union-budget-talks.html

  • NeilShipley

    Orion’s first launch abort test has been delayed to the first flight of SLS due to lack of budget! What does that tell us about the likelihood that either will actually fly!

    • Robert G. Oler

      NeilShipley
      February 8, 2013 at 7:05 pm · Reply

      Orion’s first launch abort test has been delayed to the first flight of SLS due to lack of budget! What does that tell us about the likelihood that either will actually fly!>>

      The purpose of course (and you know this) is not that they fly; it is that they simply keep funnelling money to mostly right wing red districts while their elected representatives go off and wail at “welfare queens” and the other things which keep their right wing base excited…while the right wing base takes tax money and has their federal health care.

      SLS/Orion should be compared with the last gasp of the Soviet Empire in space, which was Energia/Buran….neither had any real value in itself all it was was to keep the image of the Soviet Union going and to funnel money to their design bureaus. in the end the entire thing collapsed with a whimper.

      Who is sinking the countries economy are the right wing folks who are pushing techno programs (among other things) that we dont need; because they (the pols) get financial contributions from those groups AND they (the pols) also get to pander to an increasingly stupid and ignorant base (there are some examples here)

      The other day on Fox News their business reporter noted that one reason solar does not work in the US but does in Germany is that “Germany is a small country with a lot more sun then the US has”

      The stupids just sit there and lap it up.

      we are in a period of transition and while we are handling it a tad better then the Soviet Union did as their Empire collapsed we have similar issues. SLS and Orion are two of them

      RGO

  • DCSCA

    Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS), chairman of the House Science Committee’s space subcommittee, in a speech at the conference Wednesday afternoon. “I believe we should go back to the Moon…”

    And this: ““Astronauts have inspired generations of Americans, but, with no clear mission, NASA needs decisive leadership from Congress,” wrote Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX)…”

    Hmmm. Well, most space enthusiasts would agree with those sentiments, however, in reviewing network and cable news reports from Jan., – March, 2004- just nine years ago- polls showed the general public in the U.S., althoughly largely supportive of the space program in general– were decidely ‘un-wowed’ in those polls by proposed plans to return to the moon, establish a base, adapt the technology from same and press on to Mars. And this was in the wake of the Spirit and Opportunity landings, a year after Columbia’s loss and GW Bush’s VSE announcement to retire shuttle by 2010, return to Luna and move on eventually to Mars. The numbers floated then: about $400 billion to start which was almost universally regarded as low, particularly as a smiliar proposal by GHWBush in 1989 floated a number of around $500 billion. More interesting, a vocal dissenter in 2003 was John Glenn- who insisted it be better fund and to finish what we started- the ISS before doing a wholly new project of returning to the moon. Even the later Walter Cronkite was quite skeptical of the capacity of the U.S. to fund such a project and sustain public support. This was the ‘way it was’ nearly a decade ago– and the ‘way it is’ today.

    These Congress critters are simply sustaining NASA in a ‘free drift’ mode in the hopes that a CIC will eventually say ‘go’ and pound the pavement to generate public support against current mind set. It’s a pretty tough sell… and that’s simply not going to occur from the Obama Administarion. So NASA and U.S. space policy will be in ‘free drift mode’ for another four years.

    It’s a safe bet that none of the surviving Apollo astronauts will be alive to see the next humnas launched to the moon– from Frorida, that is.

    • Robert G. Oler

      . So NASA and U.S. space policy will be in ‘free drift mode’ for another four years. >

      free drift is far better then “wrong course”. RGO

      • DCSCA

        free drift is far better then “wrong course”. RGO

        Except it facilitates indecision, RGO, which only feeds the Magnified Importance of Diminished Vision

  • Scott Bass

    Posting this because I am not sure a thread will pop up or not discussing it.
    Please chime in if you have any info

    1) are there any advocacy groups dedicated to near earth asteroid threats?
    2) are you aware of any past work by anyone on asteroid mitigation other than the ESA plan to try to blow one up?
    3) in your opinion are we capable of fast action to build and deploy a craft designed to change the orbit of an incomer
    4) do you share my view that hurling explosives at one is generally a bad idea that probably won’t even work?

    I suppose I could come up with a dozen other questions but you get my general concerns…. I have written quite a few comments like this in the past but I think most people glaze over at the thought of being prepared for what is considered a small probability.

    Thanks if anyone has any thoughts or info

    • Coastal Ron

      Scott Bass said:

      I have written quite a few comments like this in the past but I think most people glaze over at the thought of being prepared for what is considered a small probability.

      This is just the wrong forum for any lucid conversation about asteroids, since it is “Space Politics”, not “When Will The Next Asteroid Hit, And What Do We Do?”

      Since few politicians tend to be forward thinkers, and that includes the current committee members of the various NASA oversight committees, the politics of death by an asteroid will continue to be pretty nonexistent – hence the lack of engagement you (and E.P. Grondine too) have had.

    • Fred Willett

      The issue of incoming asteroids is in exactly the same class as SLS. Yes we need to do something about asteroids. Yes we need to do heavy lift.
      But the time is not yet ripe.
      Columbus discovered America in 3 little off-the-shelf caravelles. It would be several hundred years before the rise of large vessels like the China Clippers, and even longer before really large ships e.g. the trans Atlantic steamers.
      The point will come when we need heavy lift. But first we need to actually doing stuff in space.
      ULA published a paper where they showed you could establish, crew and sustain a lunar base entirely with EELV class vehicles.
      it would:
      1/ be way cheaper (actually fit in NASA’s budget)
      2/ be well within the capabilities of ULA to produce the hardware.
      3/ the higher launch rate of Atlas V (and Delta IV and Falcon 9 & FH) would have a beneficial effect on launch prices
      4/ create jobs.
      5/ and as a side benefit you settle the moon.
      Once you’ve done all the above you start to build a case of something bigger.
      Large volumes of cargo going backwards and forwards to your lunar conomy means it’s time to start thinking of … wait for it …
      a heavy lift!!!
      The same pretty well applies to asteroids.
      Yes they are a potential problem.
      And keeping a lookout for the odd problem rock is probably a good idea. But at the moment there’s not a great deal we can do about an incoming rock, and until we are established as a true spacefaring specis there’s little chance we’ll even see a rock heading our way, much less diflect it.
      The real answer is to get established off planet.
      Then we will have plenty of capability to detect and divert any rock we wish. The sooner we get established off planet the sooner we will have the resources to do planetary protection.

      • Guest

        The real answer is to get established off planet.

        Good luck doing that with EELVs. It’s only been in the last year that any traction at all has been made on this problem, almost entirely outside of NASA, and all of those scenarios do not involve any EELV class vehicles.

        You need lots of radiation protection, oxygen generation and carbon dioxide sequestration, and those scenarios involve the poles of the moon, deep cold dark thermal reservoir craters and lots of sunlight, solar panels and plants, a highly non trivial problem this is a lot more expensive than you realize.

        • Coastal Ron

          Guest said:

          Good luck doing that with EELVs. It’s only been in the last year that any traction at all has been made on this problem, almost entirely outside of NASA, and all of those scenarios do not involve any EELV class vehicles.

          It’s kind of hard to determine traction when all people can do is do studies. But maybe you haven’t seen the studies many of us have that shows robust, redundant exploration architectures that utilize existing rockets and 5m diameter payloads.

          You need lots of radiation protection, oxygen generation and carbon dioxide sequestration, and those scenarios involve the poles of the moon…

          When the time comes, the use of the Moon for solving problems will come down to the economics of the situation.

          For instance, I think we all agree that at least initially everything we need in space will be sourced from Earth. But if SpaceX is able to halve their Falcon Heavy $/lb to LEO by utilizing reusable boosters, then that means the economic need to source material from somewhere outside Earth’s gravity well becomes less urgent. Material like propellant from the Moon requires such a large upfront investment ($88B according to Spudis/Lavoie) that the normal economic inertia is to pay the higher incremental costs for sourcing from Earth.

          It’s a Chicken vs Egg economic problem, but since any solution using the Moon comes with such a high initial cost, it’s only likely to be solved only when we have a large a amount of activity going on beyond LEO, and that is a long ways off – too long to worry about today.

          • Guest

            exploration architectures

            Most critical observers are confident ‘exploration architectures’ with five meter form factors are possible, but are not affordable and have very little value to the taxpayer. “Off planet permanent sustained presence’ with a path towards self sufficiency and technology development is an entirely different scenario in which the exploration benefits are merely side effects of the endeavor. This approach has a much better return on investment in terms of technology and promise.

            There is very little to explore out there except the composition of the rocks and dirt, and very little to exploit except the optical and thermal gradients necessary to convert energy and move and bake the rocks and dirt, and hopefully produce oxygen and water and freeze out the carbon dioxide and store it on an industrial basis.

            We’re not even talking rocket fuel here, that comes later.

            • Coastal Ron

              Guest said:

              Most critical observers are confident ‘exploration architectures’ with five meter form factors are possible, but are not affordable and have very little value to the taxpayer.

              Oh you’re going to have to do better than that. Of course “critical observers” would say that 5m form factors are possible, because we have a 450mt example in LEO.

              So let’s focus on the second part of your post – affordability. Since you haven’t said what architecture the “critical observers” feel is more affordable, there is no basis of comparison, but you seem to be implying that it would be at least 8.4m diameter, since that is diameter of the SLS.

              OK, lay out your cost comparisons, and let’s see how much more affordable this undefined space architecture would be, both from a cost to build standpoint, and a launch standpoint. I can provide the costs for most 5m hardware, so just focus on your undefined stuff.

              • Guest

                Course “critical observers” would say that 5m form factors are possible, because we have a 450mt example in LEO.

                Some would argue that the cost of building and maintaining the ISS in LEO is far beyond it’s value to science and technology, but that is the cost of developing space, even with free shielding from the Earth and Miami just 200 miles away. You are completely unable to come to grips with the logistical costs of building and maintaining an ISS like operation in BEO. By many order of magnitudes. And you need to think about value associated with those costs. We’ll need a huge new industry to dig ourselves out of 20 trillion dollar hole we’ve dug. And that’s not even counting the carbon dioxide we’ve created in digging ourselves this twenty trillion dollar hole. The whole situation is inexcusable – malfeasance of the highest order.

                Single shot lunar polar moon bases? Whole new industries. Advanced cryogenic and chemical industries. Condensed matter physics. Robotics. That’s where I’m at with this thing. The three and five meter guys can follow up on that with their own rockets and landers and rovers. They’ll need power, navigation, communications and observations. And what we need to do on the moon can be done from inside the classroom of any educational institution in America. Remotely. In real time.

              • Coastal Ron

                Guest said:

                Some would argue that the cost of building and maintaining the ISS in LEO is far beyond it’s value to science and technology…

                And some would argue that ghosts are real. Come on, how nebulous can you be about “some would argue”, huh?

                You are completely unable to come to grips with the logistical costs of building and maintaining an ISS like operation in BEO.

                My background is in manufacturing operations, and a good part of what I have done in the past dealt with pricing out low & high volume costs for government and commercial products. I have also spent the past couple of years delving into the cost drivers for the Shuttle, ISS and other proposed space-related systems. So yes, I am able to “come to grips” with the logistical costs of building and maintaining an ISS like operation in BEO.

                Let’s see if you are – what are the costs that support your supposition that 5m diameter architectures are unaffordable? Can you point to any published studies, or provide links to relevant information sites?

                Single shot lunar polar moon bases? Whole new industries. Advanced cryogenic and chemical industries. Condensed matter physics. Robotics. That’s where I’m at with this thing.

                Yes, yes, you are not the first to understand that there are vast resources beyond Earth. But as of now you are behind the efforts of Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries, both of which have the advantage that they are commercial endeavors with funding, and they don’t have to rely on politicians to fund their dreams.

              • Guest

                Let’s see if you are – what are the costs that support your supposition that 5m diameter architectures are unaffordable?

                Because they aren’t funded. When Blue Origin comes up with a 100 klbf hydrolox engine as efficient as the SSME I’ll reconsider. The advantages to direct lunar flights are clear if the intent is to employ civil servants, develop industrial cryogenic technology and do near term off world exploration. And you are totally missing the point about the resources, they are secondary to the task of developing technology and saving attitude control fuel on the surface. If that wasn’t a problem then we wouldn’t have hundreds of zombie satellites adrift in geosynchronous orbit, would we?

                No matter how many times and how many ways I explain this to you, it appears you are just not getting it, so I give up.

              • Coastal Ron

                Guest said:

                Because they aren’t funded.

                So in other words, what you said before about 5m architectures being unaffordable was wrong, that it was just said because you are trying to make the case for big rockets like the SLS. Well OK, why didn’t you say that before?

                When Blue Origin comes up with a 100 klbf hydrolox engine as efficient as the SSME I’ll reconsider.

                Sheesh, you pick fights all over the map, don’t you? Is Blue Origin supposed to be the best small rocket engine manufacturer on the planet?

                And really, who cares how efficient an engine is if it turns out to be too expensive to use? For a long time piston engines were more fuel efficient than turbofan engines, yet airlines loved turbofans for their durability and lack of the constant maintenance that piston engines require.

                And how this supports your original argument about 5m architectures being unaffordable is unclear.

                No matter how many times and how many ways I explain this to you, it appears you are just not getting it, so I give up.

                Yes, it is clear you are unfocused in your arguments, bringing up unsupported suppositions and not being able to back them up with any evidence. Maybe you should spend some time reflecting how you can better communicate…

              • Guest

                With a twenty trillion dollar public debt, government funded space exploration architectures are unaffordable in any form factor. Five meter rockets have the DoD as anchor tenant so I’m not particularly worried about their demise. I’m also not trying to make a case for the SLS, I’m just bringing to your attention the obvious lunar industrialization advantages that large form factor reusable launch vehicles bring to the table with clustered high performance core stages, upper stages and landing engines integrated into a single unit, with the payload being fuel and … the launch vehicle! If you are looking for an aerospace jobs program that actually delivers what it promises, this would be it.

                Take it or leave it, I care not. That’s why I publish. If you had something new or original to offer, I’d look at it. But I’ve seen nothing new or original for some time here.

              • Coastal Ron

                Guest said:

                With a twenty trillion dollar public debt, government funded space exploration architectures are unaffordable in any form factor.

                Again, that’s not what you originally said, but maybe that’s just you having a hard time communicating your concepts. Regardless, the amount of public debt is not related to government spending – if politicians want to spend money on something, they will. However for space related stuff, politicians have not been convinced to stay focused on spending much money beyond LEO – Constellation collapsed pretty quickly and easily, and there is no evidence that any politician wants to fund any activity on the Moon.

                Five meter rockets have the DoD as anchor tenant so I’m not particularly worried about their demise.

                The DoD doesn’t control Ariane 5, Proton, H-IIB or Falcon Heavy, so there is quite a bit of 5m capability outside of what ULA offers. In any case, you haven’t explained what this has to do with non-DoD space exploration.

                I’m just bringing to your attention the obvious lunar industrialization advantages that large form factor reusable launch vehicles bring to the table with clustered high performance core stages, upper stages and landing engines integrated into a single unit, with the payload being fuel and … the launch vehicle!

                I know you think it is, but since there is no requirement or demand for such a need, it remains to be seen whether what you propose truly is “the right way”. By the time the need arises (which could be decades) the technology and infrastructure of that time may be biased towards a different solution that you haven’t yet considered.

                If you are looking for an aerospace jobs program that actually delivers what it promises, this would be it.

                I’m not. I don’t want my tax dollars going towards make-work programs, I want my tax dollars spent wisely – don’t you?

                Look, in my mind the only big change that needs to happen with NASA is that the SLS program needs to be cancelled. Once that’s done, NASA should be able to focus on developing the technologies and techniques that will allow the U.S. to leave LEO in a sustainable fashion. And when I say the U.S., what I mean is NASA is on the leading edge, and commercial companies are following close behind supporting what NASA is doing.

                I believe a capabilities-based exploration effort is the fastest, and least costly way for the U.S. to become a space-faring nation, and if companies want to go to the Moon and do ISRU, great, let them test the market and see if they can make a business of it. But pushing NASA to be not only a transportation provider but a mining operation, that is like trying to teach a dolphin to roller skate…

              • Coastal Ron

                Of interest, NASA has released their Strategic Space Technology Investment Plan (pdf version). On page 21, which deals with Launch and In-Space Propulsion, they say:

                The overall goal is to make access to space more reliable, routine, and cost-effective, by reducing launch costs 25 to 50 percent over the next 20 years, followed by a greater reduction (>50 percent) as concepts that are currently non-conventional and at a low TRL are fully developed. Improvements in these systems will help maintain the Nation’s leadership role in space capability.

                Maybe I missed it, but I haven’t found any mention of the SLS. Which makes sense, since this is coming from NASA’s Office of Chief Technologist, and they don’t have to be political.

                I also encourage everyone to look at the chart on page 19, because that shows what NASA feels it needs to invest in to get ready for future exploration. Or as they put it:

                The Core technologies represent focused areas of technology investment that are indispensable for NASA’s present and planned future missions. Core technologies are the central focus of technology investment and will comprise approximately 70 percent of the Agency’s technology investment over the next four years.

              • Guest

                I apologize for not reading your post, as I believe that government funded human space exploration is a farce and a complete waste of taxpayer funds and government resources, and thus any acute observer can see where our opinions diverge.

                On the other hand, I believe the poles of the moon and large form factor unmanned launch vehicles are particularly suited for the large scale industrial development of near earth space.

              • Coastal Ron

                Guest said:

                …as I believe that government funded human space exploration is a farce and a complete waste of taxpayer funds and government resources…

                Yet advocating that Congress should spend more money to modify the SLS so it can go to the Moon is not a “farce and a complete waste of taxpayer funds and government resources”?

                You my friend are very inconsistent.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “1) are there any advocacy groups dedicated to near earth asteroid threats?”

    Yes, the B612 Foundation:

    http://b612foundation.org/

    “2) are you aware of any past work by anyone on asteroid mitigation other than the ESA plan to try to blow one up?”

    This is the National Research Council’s latest review of strategies:

    http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12842

    Scroll down a bit to the “Download Free PDF” link. They’ll ask you for an email, but that’s all that you need to provide to get the download.

    “3) in your opinion are we capable of fast action to build and deploy a craft designed to change the orbit of an incomer”

    It’s less an issue of “fast action” and more an issue of how much lead time you’ve been given before impact. If you detect the threat a few decades from impact, then you only have to nudge the asteroid a little bit to miss the Earth. But if you’re down to years/months/weeks, then you have to alter the asteroid’s trajectory by a lot to make it miss the Earth. At some point, it requires more energy than what we can deliver with our current understanding of physics and available technologies.

    Compared to other massive, crash, science/engineering projects like Apollo or the Manhattan Project, putting some nukes on a spacecraft bus or modifying some buses to act as gravity tractors is a much smaller and more manageable proposition with fewer unknowns. It’s not a slam dunk, but it’s easier and less costly that our other big, “wartime”, engineering projects. But you need years to decades of leadtime; otherwise these techniques are useless. Early detection and characterization of the asteroid threat is the key.

    “4) do you share my view that hurling explosives at one is generally a bad idea that probably won’t even work?”

    There are different types of asteroids, and it depends on the composition of the asteroid. Nukes might make the damage from a rubble-pile asteroid worse. But carefully targeted nukes that could ablate a carbonaceous layer on one side of a stony or iron asteroid could substantially alter the trajectory of that asteroid without breaking it up.

    • E. P. Grondine

      Thanks, DBN. I have keyboard bounce here, and your easy summary is excellent.

      The most important item is warning times, the earlier the better.

      If the warning time is early enough, we can handle anything. The myth that there’s nothing we can do is just that, an intentionally fabricated myth.

      Aside from the use of laser’s to ablate material from an impactors surface to modify its trajectory,

      I would add that operationally, we need at least 45 minutes warning of any small impactor to put out an alert and get people into shelter, and 3 to 4 days warning for medium impactors to get people off of coasts or several hundred miles away from impact epicenters.

      • E. P. Grondine

        The ESA plan is not to blow one up, but rather a test of diversion technologies. But if necessary, those technologies could be used to blow one up.

  • Scott Bass

    Awesome reply, thank you…. This helps a lot in my attempt to educate myself

  • Scott Bass

    Posting the mitigation summary for anyone interested in the read… I admit I am surprised… I think I always thought if we were ever taken out then it would be our own fault for not spending the funds to stop it…. But the summary pretty much says we don’t have the technology to stop a big one.

    MITIGATION
    “Mitigation” refers to all means of defending Earth and its inhabitants from the effects of an impending impact by an NEO. Four main types of defense are discussed in this report. The choice of which one(s) to use depends primarily on the warning time available and on the mass and speed of the impactor. The types of mitigation are these:
    1. Civil defense. This option may be the only one feasible for warning times shorter than perhaps a year or two, and depending on the state of readiness for applying an active defense, civil defense may be the only choice for even longer times.
    2. “Slow-push” or “slow-pull” methods. For these options the orbit of the target object would be changed so that it avoided collision with Earth. The most effective way to change the orbit, given a constraint on the energy that would be available, is to change the velocity of the object, either in or opposite to the direction in which it is moving (direct deflection—that is, moving the object sideways—is much less efficient). These options take considerable time, on the order of decades, to be effective, and even then they would be useful only for objects whose diameters are no larger than 100 meters or so.
    3. Kinetic impactors. In these mitigation scenarios, the target’s orbit would be changed by the sending of one or more spacecraft with very massive payload(s) to impact directly on the target at high speed in its direction, or opposite to its direction, of motion. The effectiveness of this option depends not only on the mass of the target but also on any net enhancement resulting from material being thrown out of the target, in the direction opposite to that of the payload, upon impact.
    4. Nuclear explosions. For nontechnical reasons, this would likely be a last resort, but it is also the most powerful technique and could take several different forms, as discussed in the report. The nuclear option would be usable for objects up to a few kilometers in diameter.
    For larger NEOs (more than a few kilometers in diameter), which would be on the scale that would inflict serious global damage and, perhaps, mass extinctions, there is at present no feasible defense. Luckily such events are exceedingly rare, the last known being about 65 million years ago.
    Of the foregoing options, only kinetic impact has been demonstrated (by way of the very successful Deep Impact spacecraft that collided with comet Tempel-1 in July 2006). The other options have not advanced past the conceptual stage. Even Deep Impact, a 10-kilometer-per-second impact on a 6-kilometer-diameter body, was on a scale far lower than would be required for Earth defense for an NEO on the order of 100 meters in diameter, and it impacted on a relatively large—and therefore easier to hit—object.
    Although the committee was charged in its statement of task with determining the “optimal approach to devel- oping a deflection capability,” it concluded that work in this area is relatively new and immature. The committee therefore concluded that the “optimal approach” starts with a research program.

  • Scott Bass

    Btw…. What I was thinking was basically an upside down rocket…. Land,attach,fire…. Just figured million of pounds of thrust would move something pretty big in space

  • Scott Bass

    It must have been the right place Ron because Dark Blue sent me to the right places to answer my questions…. Anyway sounds like a mission for SLS haha…. Sounds like we really will need some big rockets….. A lot of em ;)

    • Coastal Ron

      Scott Bass said:

      It must have been the right place Ron because Dark Blue sent me to the right places to answer my questions…

      Yes, and to my point, away from Space Politics.

      Anyway sounds like a mission for SLS

      Apparently you are oblivious to the whole concept of “defining a need” before determining what the solution is supposed to be. In the case of changing the trajectory of an asteroid that is endangering Earth, since we don’t how we will eliminate the threat, we don’t know if we need rockets larger than what we already have.

      And in any case, the world is not going to bet all our lives on an unproven Single-Point-Of-Failure (SPOF) rocket that can only launch once or twice a year – not with a huge number of existing (and proven) rockets that could throw far more weight at an asteroid than an SLS.

      You my friend are living in Cloud Cuckoo Land.

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “Anyway sounds like a mission for SLS haha…. Sounds like we really will need some big rockets….. A lot of em”

      Not for the most likely impact threats, which are smaller. The kinetic impactor cited in the report (Deep Impact) launched on a Delta II, not even a Delta IV (nevertheless a Delta IV Heavy). Nukes fly on even smaller missiles. Slow pull/push techniques utilize electric propulsion so there’s no huge propellant mass to launch.

      Big impact threats are very rare. It makes no sense to make today’s taxpayers cough up tens of billions of dollars for a superheavy launcher to address a threat millions of years into the future. It will never be used.

      • E. P. Grondine

        Hi DBN –

        Some people try to limit the impact threat to ELE class, and then claim that there is nothing we can do about them. Others try to limit the impact hazard to asteroids.

        None of them know what they are talking about, period, and their statements are politically motivated, with the intention of mis-informing others.

  • Scott Bass

    I don’t have my program handy to draw up designs but was curious
    How long would one segment from a solid rocket booster burn? Imagining 3 of those segments bundled together with a lander motor in the center …. Any issues igniting solid rockets in space? And I suppose most importantly would they have a shelf life

    • amightywind

      They have worked excellently in the past. Indeed, the Antares rocket will soon service the ISS using one as the second stage.

      • pathfinder_01

        Shuttle uses a much larger SRB and uses it for much longer. Antares is not designed to carry people(which is where the inability to shutdown the SRB becomes problematic.) Delta and Atlas use the smaller GEM and for much shorter periods of time.

  • Scott Bass

    “Anyway sounds like a mission for SLS”

    That was a joke Ron… U missed the haha at the end ;) .. Chill lol

  • Scott Bass

    .
    His Mars plan is likely to be a methane upper stage boosting FH to 70t.

    Yes, he confirmed the Mct will use raptor engines and be methane

  • Scott Bass

    I don’t think wasting $30B is funny, do you?

    Well regardless that money will be spent on it for 5 more years unless something unforeseen takes place so don’t fret too much. It is keeping some good people employed for a while and maybe some engineering break throughs will result.
    Or might be a total waste…. Either way there is nothing me and you can do about it so just hope for the best…. I am

  • Coastal Ron

    Scott Bass said:

    It is keeping some good people employed for a while and maybe some engineering break throughs will result.

    I don’t think you understand how this works. NASA is mainly a contracting organization, so given the same amount of money with or without the SLS, NASA would be employing “good people”.

    The question is whether the money is being spent on something usable, durable and sustainable – i.e. that provides the most value for the American Taxpayer. In that regard, the SLS is a very poor investment.

    For instance if the SLS program were cancelled today, and NASA was able to redirect that part of the budget towards the technology issues it has already identified as gating items for human exploration beyond LEO (a mega rocket is not one of them), then NASA would be contracting work to a lot of commercial aerospace firms for solving those issues – likely employing pretty close to the same number currently employed on the SLS, and possibly even more.

    …and maybe some engineering break throughs will result.

    The challenges with the SLS are mainly architectural – how do you build such a massive structure so it will not fail during flight. From that standpoint almost nothing being done on the SLS translates to what NASA has already identified as our greatest needs before we can send humans permanently beyond LEO. Solar Electric Propulsion, in-space refueling, radiation mitigation, artificial gravity, and on and on. The SLS is a couple of giant tanks, held together by massive metal structures – there are better ways to create engineering breakthroughs, and that’s by focusing on them specifically, not hoping they “fall out” of the SLS engineering process.

    Either way there is nothing me and you can do about it so just hope for the best

    I advocate and educate far and wide about how the SLS is a poor use of U.S. Taxpayer money. If you agree, I suggest you do the same.

  • Scott Bass

    Ron… I certainly respect your right to advocate cancelation of SLS…. I even think some of your ideas are good ones, however that ship appears to have sailed. It might get cancelled one day but not until the majority of the money you would like redirected has already been spent. Just suggesting you try to make some lemonade out of those lemons ;) I wouldn’t want to see you so unhappy for the next 5 years

    • Coastal Ron

      Scott Bass said:

      …however that ship appears to have sailed. It might get cancelled one day but not until the majority of the money you would like redirected has already been spent.

      You seem to think that once the SLS has become operational, that won’t consume anymore money? No wonder you are so blasé about whether it continues or not.

      No, the development portion of the SLS program is just the beginning of NASA’s financial commitment to an unaffordable transportation system. Once it is built, then NASA has to allocate a significant portion of it’s budget for keeping a standing army of trained personnel on-hand in case Congress decides to pony up money to use it.

      And in order to justify using the SLS versus a far less expensive rocket like the 53mt-capable Falcon Heavy ($128M vs $1.5B or more), Congress will have to force other NASA programs to be downsized so NASA can afford the $10B or more it will take for each SLS-sized mission payload (and that likely won’t even be enough). Remember the JWST is planned to cost $8B, as is the Orion/MPCV, and those are relatively simple payloads compared to 70-130mt SLS-sized ones.

      The SLS will consume so much of NASA’s budget, that NASA won’t have enough money to work on the real technology issues that NASA has identified need to be addressed before we can leave LEO and stay beyond LEO. Ironically the SLS is going to keep us trapped in LEO, which is the unintended consequence of building a mega-rocket before you know you need one.

      • RockyMtnSpace

        “And in order to justify using the SLS versus a far less expensive rocket like the 53mt-capable Falcon Heavy ($128M vs $1.5B or more), Congress will have to force other NASA programs to be downsized so NASA can afford the $10B or more it will take for each SLS-sized mission payload (and that likely won’t even be enough).”

        First point – SLS is a waste of NASA’s meager budget, no argument there. But, Falcon Heavy doesn’t exist either nor do the payloads that might require it. In this respect, it is no different than SLS. Second, sources for your quote of $10B+ for payloads? Even cancelling SLS won’t result in $10B+ in payloads on a regular basis. $10B payloads come once every decade when economic times are good and once every score when we have conditions similar to what exist now. The SLS funds, in all likelihood, get parsed out to the “10 healthy centers” to maintain civil servant jobs (a la SLS and MPCV). The chances that something useful comes out of that are pretty slim. Just my opinion though.

        • Coastal Ron

          RockyMtnSpace said:

          But, Falcon Heavy doesn’t exist either nor do the payloads that might require it.

          Look, we could engage in metaphysical arguments about when something “exists”, or we can look at how potential customers of the Falcon Heavy (the only people that matter) perceive it:

          - SpaceX has already tested the Falcon 9, which is what the Falcon Heavy is composed of, so though the Falcon Heavy hasn’t been tested as a whole, the major components it is made of are already flight proven.

          - SpaceX offers the Falcon Heavy for sale, and has public pricing.

          - Intelsat and the DoD have both bought Falcon Heavy launches, so apparently they believe the Falcon Heavy is not mythical, but a real product that will be available in the near future.

          - Intelsat does have a payload that they need placed in GTO, so yes, payloads for Falcon Heavy do exist. In fact, every satellite requiring an Ariane 5, Proton, Delta IV Heavy and other rockets of that class are potential payloads for a Falcon Heavy, since it’s market innovation is not it’s 53mt to LEO capability, but that it only costs $128M to put greater than 6.4 ton to GTO.

          So to summarize, there are customers for the Falcon Heavy, and there are payloads. Unfortunately neither can be said for the SLS.

          • RockyMtnSpace

            “- SpaceX has already tested the Falcon 9, which is what the Falcon Heavy is composed of, so though the Falcon Heavy hasn’t been tested as a whole, the major components it is made of are already flight proven”

            Which doesn’t mean squat. Flight loads are different, thermal loads are different, control software is different, fault management is different, etc, etc. ARES I/ARES V made the same arguments as you are making now.

            “- SpaceX offers the Falcon Heavy for sale, and has public pricing.”

            So what’s your point? ULA advertises an ATLAS V 5×2 for sale and will negotiate a price, but that version has never flown either. They exist on paper, have common hardware to other offerings but aren’t demonstrated flying platforms. You clearly don’t have an appreciation for “heritage” or what it means/takes to be “flight proven”.

            “- Intelsat and the DoD have both bought Falcon Heavy launches, so apparently they believe the Falcon Heavy is not mythical, but a real product that will be available in the near future.”

            Or may not. History has shown that SpaceX has never met advertised schedules. F1 and F9 have both suffered significant schedule delays. And no, the tax-payer isn’t footing the cost of those delays, at least not yet. But if either Intelsat or DoD are hard over on their launch schedules, delays would force them to a second vehicle at added cost (which for DoD, the taxpayers do pay for) or require the flight hardware to suffer launch/operational delays which also adds cost given the standing army that goes with the DoD bird or delays revenue to Intelsat which impacts every investor.

            You also didn’t address the second part of my question which is the real crux of the discussion. Sources for your $10B+ payloads claim and justification that anything like that arises out of cancellation of SLS.

            • Coastal Ron

              RockyMtnSpace said:

              Flight loads are different, thermal loads are different, control software is different, fault management is different, etc, etc. ARES I/ARES V made the same arguments as you are making now.

              and

              You clearly don’t have an appreciation for “heritage” or what it means/takes to be “flight proven”.

              The original question you raised was whether Falcon Heavy “exists”, not whether there is a difference between Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy. Try to stay on topic.

              And again, regardless what you or I think, Intelsat and the DoD think the Falcon Heavy is real enough that they have signed contracts to use it. In the commercial world, that’s all that matters.

              Or may not. History has shown that SpaceX has never met advertised schedules. F1 and F9 have both suffered significant schedule delays.

              Again, you are moving the goal posts. The question was not whether Falcon Heavy would meet customer commitment dates, it was whether it “exists”. Regarding Falcon 1 and Falcon 9, regardless that they were late becoming operational, you do agree that they “exist”, right?

              But if either Intelsat or DoD are hard over on their launch schedules, delays would force them to a second vehicle at added cost

              All commercial satellite operators buy back up launches, and I’m sure Intelsat has done the same with the satellite they would like to launch on Falcon Heavy. The DoD can fall back on ULA, which I’m sure ULA would give them a discount just so they could crow about it in the trade media.

              But let’s remember WHY Intelsat and the DoD are buying Falcon Heavy – they want to try and significantly lower their launch costs, and they want to use Falcon Heavy to see if it will do that. These are “test” launches, even though they are carrying real payloads. The risks may be higher than using their normal launch service companies, but the rewards would be significant – more than $100M per launch.

              So yes, there is risk, but the Falcon Heavy is a real product, with real customers, and SpaceX is by all indications committed to the success of Falcon Heavy. Whether you feel this rises to the level of existence is immaterial.

        • Robert G. Oler

          RockyMtnSpace and Coastal Ron

          I am in general agreement with both of you.

          The problem with SLS in an operational standpoint is as many fold as its “build” problems

          From a purely government perspective the operational cost of it are simply to high AND there is nothing else to keep it afloat as things go on. The Science community has been down this road before; in the 70′s they saw one program after another go away as they were told “wait till the shuttle”…so what things they built, the built to the shuttle and when the shuttle started sputtering their programs were heavily impacted.

          From a commercial standpoint well its the shuttle all over again…

          In the end the difference between the Falcon heavy and SLS is two fold. First if FH doesnt fly a lot then it doesnt consume a lot of infrastructure just sitting but the collolary is true as well, when it needs to fly it can…and second the pricing at least now seems reasonable.

          SLS has become a “Male reproductive organ” or “female chest organ” comparison; its just being done to be done. RGO

        • Coastal Ron

          RockyMtnSpace said:

          Second, sources for your quote of $10B+ for payloads?

          Purely my estimate of what a SLS-sized NASA payload would cost. I base this on looking at what it currently costs for EELV-sized payloads like the JWST ($8B) and MSL ($2.5B), and extrapolating what it would cost to up-size such payloads to be worthy of needing an SLS. Keep in mind that part of that cost is time related, since JWST is taking about 24 years from conception to launch.

          So while I think $10B and 10 years is a little conservative, I think it’s a realistic estimate to use for now.

          Even cancelling SLS won’t result in $10B+ in payloads on a regular basis.

          You are going in the wrong direction with this. I advocate that by using existing rockets we can lower the payload and missions costs significantly compared to what would happen with a SLS-centric ecosystem.

          If NASA’s budget stays about the same (~$18B/year) after the SLS is cancelled, then that provides NASA with enough money to work on the technology they say they need in order to leave LEO in a sustainable fashion. We don’t need more money for NASA, we just need to spend it more wisely.

  • vulture4

    I agree that even though it has no strategic value, at this point SLS/Orion will be politically very difficult to cancel before most of the money is spent. No one with any power is willing to debate it openly.

    • Coastal Ron

      vulture4 said:

      …at this point SLS/Orion will be politically very difficult to cancel before most of the money is spent.

      Since the SLS program is not planning to become operational until 2022 or so, there is plenty of time for the program to go significantly over budget & schedule, which is what will trigger Congressional attention. Once that happens, then we’ll see how much Obama wants to fight for the SLS.

      If by that time SpaceX has successfully flown their Falcon Heavy, and flown a company crew on the crew version of their Dragon (as well as other commercial aerospace accomplishments), I think it would be hard for anyone to advocate that the SLS is what the government should be spending tens of $Billions of taxpayer money on for the next couple of decades.

      Remember, it’s not like the SLS solves any known NASA constraint, so imitating what happened to the Constellation program (i.e. going over budget & schedule) should result in the same outcome (i.e. cancellation). It’s pretty much preordained – the only unknown is how soon.

      • Bennett In Vermont

        While I agree with you completely, I fear that the combination of massive sunk costs plus a pitch that goes something like “This massive penis is 95% finished, and then we’ll rule the world in launch capability!” will be too much to overcome.

        Personally? I think it will end up with at least one launch, maybe two. Our representatives are thinking with their Swiss bank accounts.

        • Coastal Ron

          Bennett In Vermont said:

          While I agree with you completely, I fear that the combination of massive sunk costs…

          No doubt how far along it is will be part of the equation, but so will how much more money will be needed, and how that affects NASA’s remaining programs.

          I think the program going way over schedule & budget will be enough to do it, but what would really make it a lot easier is if someone is able to communicate to the various NASA oversight committees an exploration vision that shows how much better it will be without the SLS than with. That should be fairly easy (plenty exist), but since Nelson & Shelby in the Senate don’t want to hear from anyone that would stop the gravy train that is the SLS, it will have to be someone like Rohrabacher that will have to let NASA talk about less costly exploration architectures that don’t require the SLS.

          I’m thinking 2014 or 2015 is when everything should line up to force a review.

        • Bennett in Vermont wrote:

          I fear that the combination of massive sunk costs plus a pitch that goes something like “This massive penis is 95% finished, and then we’ll rule the world in launch capability!” will be too much to overcome.

          It is kinda creepy how Bill Nelson keeps referring to SLS as “the monster rocket,” boasting about its size.

          • Coastal Ron

            It’s funny, but I bet when the CEO of Maersk (the shipping company) looks at one of their E-class container ships, which are now the largest ships in the world, he sees dollar signs for all the additional revenue he can generate with each trip.

            Nelson looking at the SLS just sees a “monster rocket” with some future, but undefined need.

            And notice how the largest terrestrial ship in the world transports cargo in small increments, making it easy to scale the transportation based on the destination. That is the model for our future expansion into space, not the “every payload is a new program” the SLS encourages.

            In order to use the SLS effectively, new factories and transportation systems need to be built to build the 8.4m diameter payloads – that is even more money out of NASA future budgets. If we were to use existing rockets, and their current 5m diameter capabilities (used for the 450mt ISS), we can use existing aerospace factories and existing transportation systems, and NASA’s budget can be focused on building the technology it has already identified we need before leaving LEO in a sustainable way.

            • DCSCA

              “Nelson looking at the SLS just sees a “monster rocket” with some future, but undefined need.” opined Ron.

              In fact, he’s a politician and looks at SLS through geo-political glasses. Get a pair and things will come into focus– you’ll see what he sees. It’s a geo-political signal to the international community– friend and foe alike– and as a by-product, a works program which happens to be a space project odf scale. And if you want to press the silliness of ‘mission’ it’s quite a surprise that you’ve suddenly become a destination advocate. If you want to question ‘need’ you only have to look at the wasted expense of government money on Dragon service to a doomed space platform thaat’s a relic of Cold War planning from the last century– an era long over. It’s a weak redundancy to the decades of successful Progress vehicles.

              • JimNobles

                There’s probably always going to be a space station. Most of the planners think it’s a necessary part of infrastructure for moving into space.

                ISS cost too much to build but it’s up there now. They’ll keep using it as long as they can.

              • Coastal Ron

                DCSCA opined:

                In fact, he’s a politician and looks at SLS through geo-political glasses.

                You can say that all you want, but you have failed to explain and support it with any facts. In fact Nelson stated when they created the SLS that it was to save jobs.

  • Scott Bass

    That’s pretty much been my line of thought all week Vulture…. Every since The President seemed to embrace it in his Columbia speech…. Of course we still have to see the budget and see how the sequestering thing plays out but it is becoming more clear…,, I think it will just take some time for it to sink in for some. I really do not expect any major review of SLS until Summer 2017….. So very possible we may get to see the test flight if the schedule does not slip too much. I read they had a 6 month buffer to make the 2017 date which they have used 2 months of on the baffling redesign….. Others here say there is no way to make the 2017 date…. Just have to wait and see I guess….I will definitely go down to see it…. I missed all the saturnV launches

  • Scott Bass

    Dark Blue…. Not really saying NASA should be doing it…. Seems more like a United Nations directive… Shared cost…. But realistically I know your correct…. One would have to slip through and destroy a city or two before anything would happen

  • Scott Bass

    Sorry dark Blue….I misread your post…. Thought you were speaking of my idea of a larger push pull vehicle to land on a asteroid.

    So let me state again…that was a joke, I do not advocate SLS for asteroid mitigation lol ;) I am almost certain a Delta or falcon heavy could lift anything I had in mind. Like I said earlier…. Not a fan of the idea of impacts to mitigate…. I think specialized spacecraft are the answer … In some cases we might want to change orbits to come closer to earth for harvesting and so the tech is not just for mitigation.

  • Scott Bass

    Fred, there is some truth to what you say about the future….. I am just having a hard time getting my arms around the reasons we can’t mitigate fairly cheaply….. As always I guess a degree in orbital mechanics and rocketry would help but I am simply talking attaching a rocket or several to a rock and nudging it a little… On the surface that sounds feasible and cheap(cheap for space x lol)
    I guess I need an engineer to state how many pounds of thrust it would take to substantially move a 300yd rock… That would tell me a lot on whether this is really science fiction or just something no one cares about doing…..

  • Scott Bass

    Just to follow up on that question, I guess I am looking for a standard model for a known mass and speed asteroid …. Simply an academic exercise which surely must have been done by the folks on that committee ….as they stated… You don’t even have to move it, only speed it up or slow it down to give earth a chance to get out of the way

    • RockyMtnSpace

      That is actually a pretty straight-forward answer but one must make a few assumptions up front. Let’s say the asteroid is a 3D ellipsoid with minor radii of 300 m and a major radii of 600 m. The volume is then 0.226 cubic km. If we assume a basaltic asteroid, density is 2700 kg/m3 thus the asteroid mass is 610725611785 kg. If we use 4 Atlas V CCB’s (wet mass each is 284450 kg, vacuum thrust is 933400 lbf each, realized vacuum Isp is 314 sec) that burn for 270 sec (and produce peak numbers for that entire burn duration which doesn’t really happen), the total delta-V imparted to the asteroid is ~3.15 mm/sec. Assume then that we either slow the asteroid down or speed it up such that the end effect is to change its position when it gets to earth by one earth radii (6378 km) to give us a fighting chance to avoid it. To accomplish the above, you would have to apply the force 65 years before the expected impact at a range of roughly 25 trillion km. Double the number of cores, halve the time at which you have to apply it and halve the range at which it needs to be applied. Of course, you still need time to actually get that set of cores out to the asteroid which is longer than the time to impact calculated.

      • RockyMtnSpace

        To follow that up from a “space politics” perspective, you would need to convince the current crop of DC critters to pony up dollars now for an event that may occur nearly 150 years in the future and for which you have a high certainty factor on its occurrence. Given that the current DC crowd knows their is a fiscal cliff in the next year, that there is a high certainty that Soc. Security will fall off its cliff in a few years to perhaps a decade; and nothing is being accomplished to stave off either, the argument for asteroid impact mitigation now becomes ludicrous from a national imperative point of view. This is just my opinion though.

  • Scott Bass

    Also think that model should be based on months not years…… You have to account for intercept time, preparation etc so even if we detected one over a year out we are probably going to be down a lot just to get to it

  • Scott Bass

    Thanks for that answer Rockymtn , It sounds like it is much harder than I would have though

  • E. P. Grondine

    Hi Scott –

    A backgrounder on this exceeds the scope of a post here.

    Last year, one of the scientists from Los Alamos threw over the
    transom a summary of their current work on this, including the use of
    stand off nuclear charges on the biggest ones.

    Non-nuclear means are available for the smaller ones, but their use depends on early warning.

    The key is as early a warning as possible.

    Ron – The current estimate is that the Earth will be in Comet Schwassmann-Wachmann 3′s debris stream in 2022.

  • Derek

    I recently created a petition on Whitehouse.gov asking to direct NASA’s funding towards building commercial infrastructure in cis-lunar space, making access to space more sustainable and (eventually) making more money available in the US economy for funding bolder scientific missions. If you agree, sign the petition. It needs 150 signatures to get off the ground, and 100,000 to garner a response.

    https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/focus-nasa-making-utilization-cis-lunar-space-profitable/4bc2LxlS

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>