Congress, NASA

House and Senate NASA FY14 appropriations comparison

With the passage on Thursday of the Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) appropriations bill by the full Senate Appropriations Committee, it’s possible now to compare that bill’s funding levels for various NASA accounts with the House version of the same bill and the administration’s original fiscal year 2014 budget request (amounts below in millions of dollars):

Account White House House CJS Senate CJS
SCIENCE $5,017.8 $4,781.0 $5,154.2
- Earth Science $1,846.0 $1,659.0 $1,846.2
- Planetary Science $1,218.0 $1,315.0 $1,317.6
- Astrophysics $642.0 $622.0 $678.4
- JWST $658.0 $584.0 $658.2
- Heliophysics $654.0 $601.0 $653.8
SPACE TECHNOLOGY $742.6 $576.0 $670.1
AERONAUTICS $565.7 $566.0 $558.7
EXPLORATION SYSTEMS $3,915.5 $3,612.0 $4,209.3
- SLS/Orion $2,730.0 $2,825.0 $3,118.2
- Commercial Spaceflight $821.0 $500.0 $775.0
- Exploration R&D $364.0 $287.0 $316.1
SPACE OPERATIONS $3,882.9 $3,670.0 $3,882.9
- ISS $3,049.0 $2,860.0 $3,049.1
- Space and Flight Support $834.0 $810.0 $833.8
EDUCATION $94.2 $122.0 $116.6
CROSS AGENCY SUPPORT $2,850.3 $2,711.0 $2,793.6
CONSTRUCTION $609.4 $525.0 $586.9
INSPECTOR GENERAL $37.0 $35.3 $38.0
TOTAL $17,715.4 $16,598.3 $18,010.3

The Senate’s bill, notably, offers more money overall for NASA than what the administration requested, and $1.4 billion more than the House bill. The biggest differences between the House and Senate are in exploration ($600 million more in the Senate bill) and science ($370 million more), while space operations (principally the ISS) and space technology got smaller increases; aeronautics and education get slightly less in the Senate bill than the House.

In the text of the Senate CJS report on the bill, the committee goes into additional detail on many issues. For planetary science, funded at roughly the same level as the House version but higher than the administration’s request, the committee calls for greater use of the smaller Discovery and New Frontiers programs of planetary missions. “Given the severe fiscal constraints which NASA faces going forward, the Committee believes more robust utilization of the Discovery and New Frontiers program will result in a more robust planetary science program because of its lower cost alternative to expensive, over-budget observatory class missions,” the report states, calling on NASA to select an additional Discovery mission for further study from one submitted in the most recent round.

The report contains strong language about funding for the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. “Despite numerous directives to provide an updated cost assessment for the SLS, which supports the lower funding levels proposed, NASA has never provided the Committee any verifiable documentation supporting the amount reflected in the agency’s budget request,” the report states. “Such blatant disregard for the direction provided by the Committee and for NASA’s own independent cost assess- ment for the SLS is inappropriate and calls into question NASA’s ability to appropriately manage and oversee its ongoing projects.” The committee uses that to justify requesting $1.6 billion for SLS, plus $318 million for exploration ground systems (folded into the “SLS/Orion” line item in the table above); the House bill offers $1.476 billion for SLS and $299 million for ground systems.

The Senate is more generous than the House with the commercial crew program, proposing $775 million versus the House’s $500 million, but has its own concerns with the program as well. “The Committee believes that NASA must balance its mission needs with its support for the development of emerging capabilities with true commercial applicability,” the report states, expressing concern that NASA has provided the bulk of the funding for development of these systems to date but may only use them for a few years, assuming the vehicles enter service in 2017 but with a currently-planned ISS retirement date of 2020. “Such a schedule does not justify the current spending levels,” the Senate report concludes, directing NASA to “clearly define and plan for the operational longevity of the ISS” to support its investment in commercial crew systems.

Unlike the House bill, the Senate bill is silent on one key issue: NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) proposal. The word “asteroid,” in fact, is not found at all in the Senate report, unlike the House bill that blocks spending on the ARM concept. The House and Senate bills are in agreement on another controversial issue, though: both block the planned restructuring of NASA’s education program proposed by the administration as part of a broader reorganization of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education programs among government agencies.

93 comments to House and Senate NASA FY14 appropriations comparison

  • Robert G Oler

    rocket. “Despite numerous directives to provide an updated cost assessment for the SLS, which supports the lower funding levels proposed, NASA has never provided the Committee any verifiable documentation supporting the amount reflected in the agency’s budget request,” the report states.

    LOL cost estimates for SLS Are they joking? Might as well consult Whittington on 2012 predictions or Simberg on his theories for 16 They are lost in space Robert G Oler

    Sent from my IPAD on the Indian subcontinent

  • amightywind

    NASA has never provided the Committee any verifiable documentation supporting the amount reflected in the agency’s budget request,

    The NASA leadership has been and will continue to slow walk the SLS/Orion program. At this point what more do we expect? Asking NASA for a shuttle replacement is like asking DHS to enforce our borders. Neither is acting in good faith.

    • Coastal Ron

      amightywind said:

      The NASA leadership has been and will continue to slow walk the SLS/Orion program.

      Get some perspective here. NASA and Obama did not ask for either the SLS nor the Orion, since they knew NASA could not afford them. However Congress wanted them, and that’s how our democracy works.

      But Congress has shown no interest in HOW MUCH the SLS and Orion are costing, now have they? No hearings demanding cost estimates – it’s like they don’t care how much money is being flung at these two turkeys.

      And why is that? Because they DON’T care how much money is going towards the SLS and Orion, since they are jobs programs primarily benefiting just a few states, and are not being built to serve a known and acknowledged challenge that only the government can solve.

      • amightywind

        Let me remind you, congress makes laws. The President signs them and is supposed to carry them out. He has been part of the budget process (such as it is) for 5 years. He owns NASA’s budget and lack of performance on SLS. The new phenomenon is that he feels that enforcement is optional.

        • Coastal Ron

          amightywind said:

          He [Obama] owns NASA’s budget and lack of performance on SLS.

          Obama doesn’t “own” NASA’s budget. The President requests particular funding levels, but Congress sets the budget, and Congress can also mandate specific priorities within the budget.

          You also keep forgetting that NASA was not consulted about the design of the SLS prior to Congress defining it, so I think you are under the misunderstanding that the SLS is able to be built and operated within the confines of the budget provided and the schedule requested. It appears it isn’t.

          So who is to blame? The entity that is not composed of rocket experts (i.e. Congress), or the entity that is composed of rocket experts (i.e. NASA).

          Congress can ask for whatever they want, but unless they ask for something realistic, AND provide enough funding for it, it ain’t going to happen they way they want.

          And let’s all remember that there are NO known customers waiting for the SLS. NONE. And that NASA is now planning to only launch the SLS every 4 years or so, mainly because it doesn’t get enough money from Congress to launch at a faster pace. Plus, since Congress hasn’t funded any mission payloads that are big enough to mandate the use of the SLS, the only thing the SLS has to launch is the too-heavy-to-carry-humans Orion/MPCV.

          I challenge anyone to find a government program that has a worse justification, and worse future, than the SLS & MPCV.

          • Coastal Ron wrote:

            I challenge anyone to find a government program that has a worse justification, and worse future, than the SLS & MPCV.

            Oh, how about The War on Drugs? Or the TSA? Which some people call Thousands Standing Around. Or perhaps the entire Department of Homeland Security? Those programs have lots of defenders, but the true worth of them is being challenged by quite a few people across the political spectrum.

            Finding big waste in the Federal Government is too easy for words….

            • Coastal Ron

              Chuck Divine said:

              Oh, how about The War on Drugs? Or the TSA?

              The topic is NASA programs, and neither of those is either a program, or NASA related.

    • Asking NASA for a shuttle replacement is like asking DHS to enforce our borders.

      SLS/Orion is not a Shuttle replacement.

      • amightywind

        SLS is a large rocket built primarily of shuttle parts that will launch from pad 39-B, but yeah, besides that there is nothing in common. (Rolls eyes.)

        • Dark Blue Nine

          Don’t be an idiot. Commonality is not the same as functionality. A subcompact doesn’t replace an SUV. SLS/Orion doesn’t have Shuttle’s cargo space, experiment space, return mass, robotic arm, etc.

        • josh

          sls is a useless, waseteful pork project and nothing else. ofc that’s exactly why you like it so much.

        • Matt McClanahan

          I can take a Corvette and turn it into a gas barbecue, does that mean it’s a replacement?

          SLS was never intended to be a Shuttle replacement by Congress (The ones who designed it, not NASA). Only those in the peanut gallery with teary-eyed memories of a spacecraft that can’t make it out of LEO are trying to pretend SLS is the new Shuttle.

    • “Asking NASA for a shuttle replacement…”

      ‘Replacement’ implies something that takes over the functions of its predecessor. And presumably, in this case, doing so in some improved or superior way.

      Now, I know you’re not the first to describe the Space Launch System as such, but in what way is this heavy-lift expendable launcher, a Shuttle ‘replacement?’

      It’s merely the Next Big Program. And that’s not the same, except perhaps to the contractors.

      Oh, wait…

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “‘Despite numerous directives to provide an updated cost assessment for the SLS, which supports the lower funding levels proposed, NASA has never provided the Committee any verifiable documentation supporting the amount reflected in the agency’s budget request,’ the report states. ‘Such blatant disregard for the direction provided by the Committee and for NASA’s own independent cost assess- ment for the SLS is inappropriate and calls into question NASA’s ability to appropriately manage and oversee its ongoing projects.’”

    This is idiotic. NASA can’t produce a cost estimate for SLS, so instead of terminating SLS or reducing/deferring funding until the agency can produce a cost estimate, the Senate increases funding above the Administration’s request. Talk about throwing good money after bad. You don’t write a bigger check to the used car salesman when he can’t tell you the price of the lemon on his lot. Cripes…

    “Unlike the House bill, the Senate bill is silent on one key issue: NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) proposal. The word ‘asteroid,’ in fact, is not found at all in the Senate report, unlike the House bill that blocks spending on the ARM concept.”

    Hopefully the Senate authorization bill goes nowhere and that’s the end of the ARM stupidity.

    • amightywind

      This is idiotic. NASA can’t produce a cost estimate for SLS, so instead of terminating SLS or reducing/deferring funding until the agency can produce a cost estimate, the Senate increases funding above the Administration’s request.

      I think this is the Senate’s way of saying that SLS should be a high priority for NASA, and NASA should not be using funding as an excuse. What irony that we have a space agency that doesn’t want to develop a launch vehicle for the next 40 years!

      • Gregori

        There is nothing in NASA’s charter about developing launch vehicles. The US Navy doesn’t have an agency dedicated to developing aircraft carriers, they source them from the private sector.

      • The irony is the fools who think it’s the space agency’s job to develop a launch vehicle at all in the 21st century.

        • Joe

          That would be as opposed to the “fools” who think it is the governments job to give money to “private” companies to develop launch vehicles that the government (the tax payers who funded them) has no control over.

          • Coastal Ron

            Joe said:

            That would be as opposed to the “fools” who think it is the governments job to give money to “private” companies to develop launch vehicles that the government (the tax payers who funded them) has no control over.

            More theoretical suppositions Joe?

            No doubt you are talking about the “the private sector”, but your lack of experience with government contracting is showing.

            For instance, today Boeing is being paid to develop the SLS, but it does not suffer when the program goes over budget. Since the SLS is not well defined, Boeing essentially has a Cost-Plus contract, especially since NASA has not set a budget ceiling for the program.

            Now if you think that is wonderful thing for the U.S. Taxpayer, then please show us the “bad” examples that you imagine are out there for non-SLS launch vehicles.

            • Joe

              No Ron, no “theoretical suppositions” at all. In fact I was referring to your post to a previous article on this website titled: House appropriators propose $16.6 billion for NASA

              The key point reads:”

              Coastal Ron July 10, 2013 at 3:36 pm • Reply

              “I think the President and the Congress should state that the next goal for the U.S. in space is to be a spacefaring nation. And the initial phase of that would be to create a reusable transportation system to the region of the Moon (EM-L, LLO, etc.).

              As part of that the government may decide to fund destinations too, like an EML Gateway, but the focus is on developing the transportation system itself. NASA and the government would not own any part of the transportation system, but NASA would be the agency in charge of spending government funds as needed to put such a system in place.”

              Key points: (1) “NASA and the government would not own any part of the transportation system”, (2) “NASA would be the agency in charge of spending government funds as needed to put such a system in place”.

              Any other questions?

              • Coastal Ron

                Joe said:

                no “theoretical suppositions” at all. In fact I was referring to your post to a previous article on this website titled…

                Considering that you were responding to a comment from Rand, who was responding to a comment from Gregori, who was responding to a comment from amightywind, who was responding to a comment from Dark Blue Nine – and I had not commented on that thread – why in the world would anyone think that you were responding to a post I made two weeks ago?

                Weird.

                Any other questions?

                Yes. Do you go out of your way to be unclear and obtuse, or is just how you are naturally? ;-)

            • Go4TLI

              Costal Ron said,

              “For instance, today Boeing is being paid to develop the SLS, but it does not suffer when the program goes over budget. Since the SLS is not well defined, Boeing essentially has a Cost-Plus contract, especially since NASA has not set a budget ceiling for the program.”

              I believe it is you who has no understanding. While a cost-plus contract it is largely because it is a development contract. I can comfortably assure you that many corporations use this type contract with suppliers when developing new hardware unless the work is very straight forward.

              That said, there are many contract checks and balances that do not allow Boeing, or anyone else under a cost-plus contract, to just run up the tab as you seemingly wish to apply. There are award fee periods and incentives where the customer, NASA in this case, can certainly exercise its customer authority if a problem has been caused by the supplier, Boeing in this case, that drives cost or schedule. The supplier, Boeing in this case, is also required to develop corrective actions that must be approved by the customer, NASA in this case, to keep it from happening again.

              In summary, I can comfortably assure you that EVERYONE is very concious of cost and schedule. Too say otherwise is just being ignorant and trying to bait.

              • Dark Blue Nine

                “In summary, I can comfortably assure you that EVERYONE is very concious [sic] of cost and schedule.”

                It’s impossible to be “conscious [sic] of cost” if you can’t produce a cost estimate or a contract.

                Per the report language accompanying the Senate appropriations bill, NASA hasn’t produced a cost estimate for SLS under the current budget, despite repeated requests from the Senate appropriators (or their staffs).

                Per the April GAO report on NASA large projects, NASA hasn’t produced a cost estimate for SLS beyond its first, uncrewed test flight in 2017.

                Also, per the April GAO report on NASA large projects, all the large contracts for SLS remain undefinitized and unfinalized.

                This is pathetic for a program beyond its third year and represents a huge exposure for the agency and taxpayer. Until NASA can produce cost estimates to guide the program and tie contract deliverables to them, SLS is a giant, blank check for the U.S. aerospace industry.

              • Coastal Ron

                Go4TLI said:

                I believe it is you who has no understanding. While a cost-plus contract it is largely because it is a development contract. I can comfortably assure you…

                No, I’ve worked for government contractors, and I know how the contract game is played. And Dark Blue Nine outlined the opportunity that Boeing is exploiting very well.

                That said, there are many contract checks and balances that do not allow Boeing, or anyone else under a cost-plus contract, to just run up the tab as you seemingly wish to apply.

                If you’ve never worked in the industry, then you wouldn’t understand how a Cost-Plus contract can be expanded. In fact, that is one of the responsibilities of the Program Manager, to up-sell the customer any way they can. And since the product in question (i.e. the SLS) is not yet well defined, it is very easy to expand the scope of work.

                Now Boeing knows very well how much the yearly budget is for the SLS, but since the need dates are not set in stone, the overall amount that can be spent is effectively limitless – it’s already going to stretch out for decades, since they won’t have the 130mt version ready until the 2030′s.

                In summary, I can comfortably assure you that EVERYONE is very concious of cost and schedule.

                And what position are YOU in to know what EVERYONE does?

                No, that statement shows me that either you don’t work in the government contracting space, or if you do you have no part in bidding or program management. I have firsthand experience in both.

                And regardless, the fact remains that there is no demonstrated need for the SLS, so it’s a waste of money at this point.

          • pathfinder-01

            “That would be as opposed to the “fools” who think it is the governments job to give money to “private” companies to develop launch vehicles that the government (the tax payers who funded them) has no control over.”

            Boeing and Lockheed Martin both developed Atlas and Delta that way. ULA currently controls Atlas and Delta. ULA is free to do pretty much whatever it wants within the context of its contracts with the DOD and NASA.
            Space X and Orbital developed Falcon 9 and Antares this way via COTS contracts. Space X and Orbital control their own rockets.

            The only thing NASA controlled since the deregulation of space was the shuttle, and only because there was no political support for replacing the thing so soon after Challenger even if it was a lousy vehicle for lifting commercial or military payloads.

            An HLV could be developed by the private Sector and could share systems and workforce yielding efficiency. Something like Atlas Phase 3 would equal SLS at it’s max. Atlas Phase 2 would equal SLS in it’s 70MT and all of this would be capable of lifting anything from 10MT to 130MT. FH is another rocket that shares systems with Falcon 9 to yeild efficiency.

            SLS is a monolithic booster that needs a payload, where as thoose rockets already have payloads in their smaller forms. Even if you feel an HLV is needed contracting it out is a lot more effcient than building it just for your own use.

          • “…give money to “private” companies to develop launch vehicles that the government (the tax payers who funded them) has no control over.”

            Developmental milestones that must be met, that all concerned understand, agree on, and sign off on.

            No meet, no more money. The ultimate control.

            • A_M_Swallow

              So NASA has strategic control of the program rather than tactical control. Providing the contractor does what has been agreed NASA keeps out of the way. If things go badly wrong NASA can step in and take action, such as cancelling the Space Agreement.

              Congress has high level control of both the development program and NASA. Regular reports on completing milestones show things are progressing in an independently checkable fashion. Keeping the stages/Agreements under two years means that Congress can change the direction and destination of the overall program through its annual allocation of money.

      • Dark Blue Nine

        “I think this is the Senate’s way of saying that SLS should be a high priority for NASA”

        Adding hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to a project that can’t produce a cost estimate after three years of existence is a dumb, stupid, idiotic way to “say” anything.

        “NASA should not be using funding as an excuse.”

        NASA has never asked Congress for higher SLS funding; it’s ridiculous for Congress to fix a low budget problem that doesn’t exist. SLS’s primary problem is not budget; it’s performance. Per the April GAO report on NASA large projects, NASA has yet to close on human rating requirements or definitize contracts for SLS, despite three years and billions of taxpayers spent on the project. That’s pathetic performance and the project should be terminated for it, not rewarded with a bigger budget.

        “What irony that we have a space agency that doesn’t want to develop a launch vehicle for the next 40 years!”

        No one will be successful developing a launch vehicle designed by the Senate, regardless of desire.

      • Coastal Ron

        amightywind said:

        What irony that we have a space agency that doesn’t want to develop a launch vehicle for the next 40 years!

        For someone that purports to be a “conservative”, you sure like the government doing things the private sector does better. Ronald Reagan would not be happy with you.

        To me, the government should only do those things that individuals and companies can’t or won’t do. Moving mass to space is not one of those, as ULA, SpaceX, Orbital Sciences and other U.S. companies have shown.

        And since most people would agree that the government is never the lowest cost choice, what is your justification for keeping NASA locked into doing something it has no current experience in doing (i.e. space transportation)?

        Before you use the Shuttle as an example of NASA having transportation system experience, remember that NASA did not build the Shuttle, and NASA did not operate it – the private sector did. So what experience does NASA have in running a transportation system? No current institutional experience, and far less than what the industry has.

        So it is you Windy, and Congress, that need to justify why NASA should be forced to do something that it is clearly not chartered or staffed to do.

        • josh

          windy thinks of himself as a conservative when he actually is a fan of cronyism, plain and simple. he will say anything to keep his paychecks coming.

        • amightywind

          Before you use the Shuttle as an example of NASA having transportation system experience, remember that NASA did not build the Shuttle, and NASA did not operate it – the private sector did.

          I only propose that NASA use the same model they did for Apollo and the Shuttle program. NASA designs and operates the vehicles, employing contractors where it is logical. Nothing very controversial about that. What is controversial is paying SpaceX to develop a vehicle, then paying them again to haul potato chips and underwear to those astronauts marooned with the Russians on the space station.

          • Coastal Ron

            amightywind said:

            What is controversial is paying SpaceX to develop a vehicle, then paying them again to haul potato chips and underwear to those astronauts marooned with the Russians on the space station.

            Since SpaceX is performing a transportation function that is well defined, and if Congress is any indication, it’s not controversial at all.

            Where are the equivalent “potato chips and underwear” that the SLS is supposed to haul? You know, the HLV-sized mission hardware that no current launcher can match?

            That’s the issue here – there is no known need for the SLS. And to date, Congress hasn’t even asked NASA for cost estimates for future missions that require the SLS. Pretty damning.

          • Matt McClanahan

            Much of the Apollo program wasn’t actually designed by NASA. The lander, while NASA had an initial design in mind, was almost completely redesigned by Tom Kelly and co. at Grumman. Outside contractors (particularly Mieczyslaw Bekker and Ferenc Pavlics) also designed and built the rover.

          • josh

            yeah, it’s controversial because all those underperforming freeloaders (i’m looking at you, windy) would be out of a job if spacex got a bigger role. they developed the falcon 9 for one tenth of what it would have cost nasa. nasa themselves admitted as much.
            btw: people don’t eat potato chips in space. too messy.

          • Dark Blue Nine

            “What is controversial is paying SpaceX to develop a vehicle, then paying them again to haul potato chips and underwear”

            But that’s exactly what’s happening with SLS/MPCV (and every other NASA program). Boeing, LockMart, ATK, and P&WR are being paid to develop these vehicles, and these same companies will be paid to operate them. They earn taxpayer dollars coming and going, just like SpaceX and the other commercial cargo/crew contractors.

            The only controversy is why, in the 21st century, aerospace primes and majors should earn tens of billions of taxpayer dollars on undefined, no-risk, cost-plus contracts for rearranging 40-year-old Shuttle technology into 50-year-old HLV and capsule configurations.

            Even if the primes and majors can’t do what SpaceX does and develop new engines, vehicles, and capsules from whole cloth using modern technologies on a fixed price basis, they could at least do what OSC is doing and rearrange foreign components into new LVs and capsules on a fixed price basis.

    • Fred Willett

      ARM stupidity
      A trip to the moon is what? 7-14 days tops.
      A trip to mars is what? 500 or so days?
      It seems to me that an asteroid trip of 40-50 days followed by an asteroid trip of 100-150 days are necessary precursors to an Mars trip, or like congress, don’t you really want to go to Mars?

      • Hiram

        By this reckoning, a long trip to nowhere in empty space is a necessary precursor to a Mars trip. Such a trip would have no constrained launch windows either! It would test life support, comm, nav, and propulsion. But it would accomplish about the same thing as visit to a small, random rock (or pile of dust, perhaps).

        The idea that wanting to go to Mars justifies a trip to a small rock is nuts.

      • Dark Blue Nine

        “It seems to me that an asteroid trip of 40-50 days followed by an asteroid trip of 100-150 days”

        The crewed follow-up to ARM would be neither of those. It would repeat Apollo rendezvous and docking in lunar orbit.

        “are necessary precursors to an Mars trip”

        They’re not. Something like this is:

        http://www.inspirationmars.org/

        “don’t you really want to go to Mars?”

        My desires don’t matter. Technical reality does.

  • Go4TLI

    “Before you use the Shuttle as an example of NASA having transportation system experience, remember that NASA did not build the Shuttle, and NASA did not operate it – the private sector did. So what experience does NASA have in running a transportation system? No current institutional experience, and far less than what the industry has.”

    And the difference with SLS and Orion is what exactly? Please be specific

    • Coastal Ron

      Go4TLI said:

      And the difference with SLS and Orion is what exactly? Please be specific

      The Orion at least has a function that is not yet already being performed by existing commercial companies, although it’s unimaginative design means that it will have a short useful lifetime.

      The SLS is a mass mover, and an expensive one at that. If there was a need for larger than 5m diameter payloads, or payloads weighing more than 53mt, then at least there could be a debate about whether such a need should be satisfied by an agency of the U.S. Government or contracted out to the private sector. But the government doesn’t have such a need.

      When the Shuttle was conceived, there was no private sector launch capability, and the government was trying to create transportation infrastructure for both government and commercial use. Today we have a very good private sector launch capability, and numerous companies have outlined roadmaps for larger capacity launch systems when they are needed. But so far they haven’t been needed, and no one has laid out a compelling reason for why NASA should be operating a transportation system that they didn’t ask for, and which there are no funded demand for.

      Is that specific enough? If not, be more specific.

      • Go4TLI

        No, because you totally avoided the question to go on an uninformed rant.

        Orion and SLS are exactly like STS and all other NASA programs. Design and operations will be performed by the private sector with NASA oversight given NASA owns the systems.

        There are many things in this contracting arrangement that NASA has no control over and it is up to the private companies responsible for a particular task to manage.

        • Coastal Ron

          Go4TLI said:

          No, because you totally avoided the question to go on an uninformed rant.

          Or you weren’t clear enough when you asked the question – you know, poor requirements? And notice how I did ask you to be more specific, and you ignored that request.

          Orion and SLS are exactly like STS and all other NASA programs.

          OK, question time for you.

          I think an argument can be made why the STS program was government run (which I did above), but I see no valid reason why the government should build an HLV, especially since ULA and others have proposed HLV’s for far less money.

          So the question to you is why should government be building an HLV when they could be buying launch services thru existing contracting mechanisms like the NASA’s Launch Services II (NLS II) contract for all their future large-mass launch needs?

          • Go4TLI

            Your logic is circular unfortunately. Here is the quote again from you that started this:

            “remember that NASA did not build the Shuttle, and NASA did not operate it – the private sector did.”

            The above statement is true. As I said, that is how SLS and Orion function as well. That does not mean NASA does not have ultimate authority as they own the vehicle that was designed and built by the private sector. This is how it was with STS and all others as well.

            As for SLS, you are poorly informed. There is no market for an SLS-class launch vehicle and therefore the private sector will not build it unless NASA funds it. Regardless of the ultimate design and what it is made of, it would be to NASA specs and requirements. This puts NASA in the loop for rather obvious reasons. Your desire to have NASA hand a large pot of money over to someone and say “go build me a big rocket, let me know when it’s done” and then pay for each individual launch under a purely service-based contract (again when there is no commercial market for this class vehicle) is naive and unrealistic. If NASA did by it as they do other, smaller rockets, they would still pay the fully burdened cost because, again, there is no market beyond NASA use.

            • Coastal Ron

              Go4TLI said:

              There is no market for an SLS-class launch vehicle and therefore the private sector will not build it unless NASA funds it.

              If there was demand for HLV-sized payloads, then you would see the market responding to that demand, regardless if the demand was from NASA or other sources.

              For instance, NASA has a need for less-than-HLV-sized payloads, and the NASA Launch Services II (NLS II) contract is the mechanism for letting any NASA mission buy pre-negotiated launch services. NASA doesn’t have to define and build a rocket, they just place an order for a rocket through the NLS contract.

              Regardless of the ultimate design and what it is made of, it would be to NASA specs and requirements.

              Not necessarily, no. The government could choose to hold a competition that has high-level specs, and then fund the winner. That’s how COTS worked, and that method has been deemed a success by the Air Force.

              Your desire to have NASA hand a large pot of money over to someone and say “go build me a big rocket, let me know when it’s done” and then pay for each individual launch under a purely service-based contract (again when there is no commercial market for this class vehicle)…

              I hate to tell you this, but what you are describing is essentially what’s happening on the SLS program. Boeing is the prime contractor, is doing the development work, and could even get the contract for operating the SLS.

              And since you keep missing the main point here, there is no demand for this rocket. None. Nada. Zero.

              If NASA did have a sustained need for HLV-sized mass that it needed moved to LEO and beyond, then I would want an open competition to satisfy that demand.

              But here is the kicker. If NASA’s demand is too low, then no one may bid on it, and NASA would have to fund someone to build it’s infrequently-used rocket. But in that situation the question becomes, why wouldn’t NASA just build smaller payload masses and assembly them in space? You know, like the 450mt space station we already built?

              Bottom line here, is that the requirements for the launcher need to come from the demand, and NASA has no demand for an HLV, and Congress has not indicated it will provide enough money to use one.

              So why are we spending $30B on something we don’t need?

              • Go4TLI

                Ron,

                There was a competition for SLS. It happened under Ares 1 and 5 and the contracts were novated when it evolved into SLS. You clearly do not understand things as well as you think you do. This is a waste of time due to your total lack of actually wanting to understand something and substituting it with rants and opinions which you try to propose as facts.

                To your other post above, I do know what I am talking about. I work in the space arena and am associated with project and program management dealing with technical requirements, cost and schedules on a daily basis.

                All the best with your opinions-as-fact mentality. You can rant, while I actually do…..

              • Coastal Ron

                Go4TLI said:

                There was a competition for SLS. It happened under Ares 1 and 5 and the contracts were novated when it evolved into SLS.

                You say you are “associated with project and program management dealing with technical requirements, cost and schedules on a daily basis”, so if you can, can you please point out the basic demand there is for a government HLV?

                Everyone can point to what the requirements were in the law that mandated the development of the SLS, but what are the THEY based on? What is the constraint that the Congress is trying to solve?

                And let me spell it out in even more detail for you. If you say “Congress wants to send 130mt payloads to space”, then you still need to show where that requirement came from, since it’s a fictitious number unless it can be backed up by something real.

                My objection to the SLS program boils down to two issues:

                1. NASA does not, as yet, have a need for an HLV.

                2. The government no longer needs to build and operate rockets.

                Both of those boil down to money, and the lack thereof that NASA has. SLS supporters don’t seem to care about money, SLS detractors do.

                Do you care about money?

                If you do, then please provide your estimate of how much NASA’s budget needs to be increased up to in order to fly the SLS at a safe operational rate of 2-3 launches per year, including the cost of building and operating the mission payloads.

                And based on that estimate and the funding trend for NASA, and the lack of any “National Imperative” to do anything in space, what do you think the likelihood is that Congress will actually give NASA that amount of money?

                Just so you know, I think NASA’s budget would have to triple in order to fully utilize the SLS. Am I too high or too low? And why?

        • Guest

          Orion and SLS are exactly like STS and all other NASA programs.

          And you don’t see a problem with that in the post-SpaceX world? Let me give you a few examples. Apollo and the Saturn V, expensive, dangerous, cancelled. SLS, expensive, deadly, cancelled. ISS, expensive, difficult to maintain, no US indigenous transport. Dangerous? Not so much, less dangerous with a US crew escape capability that has yet to be demonstrated and implemented. SLS can’t compete in the new reusable launch vehicle world. I just wrote a new paper on this.

          Read it and weep. There is only one way to salvage SLS. Orion is beyond salvage.

  • The table here has already inspired more math on a German blog by space enthusiasts.

    • josh

      yup, the most successful and efficient progam, commercial crew, gets cut the most.

      • DCSCA

        “yup, the most successful and efficient progam, commercial crew, gets cut the most.” spins Josh.

        Hmmmm. CC has flown nobody.

        Flying nobody isn’t much of a metric of ‘success’ in humna spaceflight– unless, of course, you’re championing the false equivalency of NewSpace HSF. America has NASA. NewSpace has nada.

        • josh

          it doesn’t surprise me that you’re not concerned with things like cost performance ratio, development speed, accountability etc. all of which are suitable metrics of success.
          also not surprised that you continue to ignore the fact that nobody, neither nasa nor any of the cc companies have made claims of flying someone in 2013 since you repeating this bs ‘argument’ is pretty much all you have left. lol…

          • DCSCA

            It will be news to the NASA astronauts flying aboard the ISS in 2013 that they are, in fact, not.

            • Hiram

              I guess it will be news to many of our partner space agencies, not including the Russians, that they too can “fly” humans. Who would have guessed that the Canadian Space Agency and the Agenzia Spaziale Italiana could “fly” humans! Maybe we could buy seats from them?

            • josh

              nasa didn’t fly anybody. the russians did. nasa doesn’t have hsf capability atm. guess that’s news to you. no wait, you’re just playing dumb since you don’t have any actual arguments, as usual…

  • josh

    aaand congress f*cks it up again, the house especially. they really can’t help themselves, gotta keep the pork coming in.

    • Hiram

      Well, to be perfectly honest, the most porkified item in this list is SLS, and the Senate wants to pump lots more money into that bird than the House does. Or are you referring to Aeronautics or Education, perhaps?

      Not quite pork, but somewhat stained money nonetheless, I can’t help but wonder what a $74M cut to JWST, from the House budget, would do to that program with a hard line-in-the-sand for cost and schedule. Nothing else on that list has such a constraint on cost and schedule. JWST could take it out of contingency, but not if it’s a sign of things to come in subsequent years.

  • red

    In Space Operations section of the Senate CJS report linked above is

    “Satellite Servicing. – Within Space Operations and Space Technology, the Committee provides $125,000,000 for satellite servicing, including carryover funding from fiscal year 2013. Funds shall be used to establish Restore, which shall be conducted as a public-private partnership where a competitively selected commercial entity will provide the mission’s spacecraft and launch vehicle to complement NASA’s supply of the key instruments necessary to operationalize a robotic servicing system for refueling satellites on orbit. This is an extension of satellite servicing work this Committee has funded since fiscal year 2010. In addition, funds may be used to continue advanced technology development to refuel, repair, and reposition satellites on orbit and to test satellite serving technologies aboard the ISS.”

    There is more about the demo being mainly for GEO servicing, and it should demonstrate capability to service government satellites (DOD, NOAA, etc).

    If this is funded and a public-private partnership mission actually happens, I wonder what the chances are of it resulting in commercial satellite servicing capability. It seems like the core servicing capability would be supplied by NASA, so would the capability find its way where it’s needed after the mission?

    • Neil Shipley

      red: “If this is funded and a public-private partnership mission actually happens, I wonder what the chances are of it resulting in commercial satellite servicing capability.”
      It won’t result in any capability useful to the commercial sector since it will cost too much. NASA program, enough said. UNLESS it’s based on SAAs then it might stand a chance.

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “what the chances are of it resulting in commercial satellite servicing capability”

      Slim, given that:

      1) MDA couldn’t find a second customer for their Space Infrastructure Servicing (SIS) vehicle, and their first customer, Intelsat, dropped out.

      2) ViviSat (US Space/ATK) hasn’t found a single customer for their Mission Extension Vehicle.

      3) Benjamin Reed, deputy project manager of the Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center admits that: “The technology exists today to do on-orbit servicing, even though the client base we’re talking about is not prepared for servicing.” [http://www.spacenews.com/article/satellite-telecom/34747satellite-servicing-efforts-grapple-with-the-business-case#.Ue9IOyDD9pM]

      The market has repeatedly shown no interest in modern, efficient, commercial satellite servicing capabilities, and is certainly not going to be interested in NASA’s outdated HST servicing technology. GSFC’s “core competency” in this area is an abandoned hammer in search of a paying nail.

    • Hiram

      The new generation Boeing 702SP may reduce the need for this kind of comsat servicing, as much of the effort of this team is on satellite refueling. The 702SP is a novel concept that uses an SEP for stationkeeping, orbit raising, and even placement in GEO. The use of an SEP allows considerable mass reduction and, at the same time, offers extra propellant to maximize lifetime. You can do the same propulsion with an all-electric system as you can with a chemical system with twice the mass.

      The promise of telerobotic control for assembly and maintenance in GEO probably depends on the need for very large structures there. Beamed solar power collectors could use such a capability very handily, as could, I suppose, the assembly of large ships to travel BEO, but there are no plans to develop such facilities.

      • Dark Blue Nine

        Agreed. I think there are many trends working against satellite servicing for the foreseeable future:

        1) Emergence of all-electric buses, as you already noted.
        2) Growth in commercial Ka-band spotbeam geocomsats. (Operators will increasingly replace old Ku-band sats, not extend their lives.)
        3) USAF disaggregation.
        4) Commercial LEO constellation replacement. (Iridium, GlobalStar, Orbcomm, etc. are all opting to develop second-generation satellites.)
        5) Emergence of practically disposable microsat constellations in LEO (like Skybox, Planet Labs, etc.)

        Given the above and the fact that most satellite failures are launch failures unaddressable by servicing, the market for satellite servicing is very narrow and may get smaller as time goes on. A commercial provider would have to be very affordable and cost-effective. 1980s human-rated NASA technology originally for servicing an exquisite instrument like HST will not fit that description.

        • Hiram

          I think the GSFC space servicing group is doing excellent stuff, in a technology-development picture, but getting Bab’s loud and pricey support depends on having it connected to real world stuff. The only real world stuff that bears on servicing right now are comsats, though that bearing is, as noted, pretty thin. It would be great if the servicing group would throw off that “forced marriage” and do open-ended tech development aimed at less contemporary but more enabling future tasks. But open-ended tech development is not a Congressional priority.

  • Joe

    Coastal Ron July 24, 2013 at 12:02 am

    You were responding to my post about – ““fools” who think it is the government’s job to give money to “private” companies to develop launch vehicles that the government (the tax payers who funded them) has no control over”- not all those other posts. You asserted that I was making” theoretical suppositions”. I quoted your own words back to you and proved you wrong.

    There is nothing “unclear and obtuse” about that, though it is easy to see why you would want to confuse things as much as possible. Sticking to the actual subject makes you look rather foolish.

    Since we are now down to the point where you want change the subject, you will have to continue this discussion alone. Look at the bright side, if you are arguing with yourself you might (if you are very careful) have a chance of winning.

    One last point in passing. If you have to use the little yellow “smiley faces” to mark the spots where you are trying to be clever, it implies that even you know you are not succeeding.

    • RockyMtnSpace

      Joe – 2
      Coastal Ron – 0

      Ron, time to throw in the towel. You lose.

    • Coastal Ron

      Joe said:

      Since we are now down to the point where you want change the subject, you will have to continue this discussion alone.

      Um, not alone Joe, since you leaving the comment thread is not going to detract from the conversation one iota. I say that because I can’t remember the last time you actually contributed to a conversation.

      So in that regard, you leaving the conversation will actually RAISE the level of discourse. ;-)

  • Henry Vanderbilt

    There’s less here than meets the eye.

    Keep in mind that the overall House allocations meet the Sequester requirements, while the overall Senate allocations (as well as the White House budget proposal) come in at 9% over.

    This is the basic impasse that’s behind the Sequester going into effect in the first place: The WH and Senate want to continue free budget growth, the House wants to flatten the growth rate. It would take all three to repeal the Sequester, it thus is likely to remain in force until the political balance changes one way or the other.

    In other words, those Senate NASA numbers that total 8.5% higher than the House’s, if passed as-is tomorrow, would all end up reduced by 9%. The Senate is actually calling for less *real* NASA funding than the House here.

    Thus the only actual fight here is over the relative balance between a few specific programs. And it’s fewer than you think – once you knock 9% off the Senate SLS numbers, for instance, they’re almost the same as the House’s – both want to increase SLS by double digits over the *real* WH SLS request, the nominal request divided by 1.09.

    Get used to knocking 9% off the Senate (and WH) numbers before you compare them this year, because that’s the actual funding they’d deliver. you’ll end up with a better idea what’s really going on. Much of the fulmination over House tightfistedness is just a distraction from the real show. Don’t be distracted.

  • Hiram

    I think it depends on whether an exemption for NASA can be arranged. What the House is saying is that they don’t want such an exemption for NASA – don’t even think about it. Those exemptions are being looked at as the newest earmarks for the Hill, as they are favors bestowed on select entities. It’s happening a lot. I understand that Congress is already looking hard at exempting NIH from the sequestration.

  • TT

    Can someone please tell me what the budget numbers are that NASA is operating under currently? Specifically SLS and Ground Systems. I’d like to know how these 3 proposals compare to current funding levels. And if anyone ventures a guess will the 2014 budget come in same/higher/lower than current 2013 budget?

    • Dark Blue Nine

      The exact program-level budget figures for FY 2013 are unknown because NASA and the relevant committees in Congress have not agreed on an operating plan. Based on FY 2012 Actuals and the trend in the FY 2014 Request, I’d guess that SLS will get about $1,450M, MPCV will get about $1,100M, and Ground Systems will get about $310M, for an SLS/MPCV total of around $2,860M. But take that with a grain of salt — it’s a thumbnail estimate.

  • Go4TLI

    Ron says…..

    “A. You say you are “associated with project and program management dealing with technical requirements, cost and schedules on a daily basis”, so if you can, can you please point out the basic demand there is for a government HLV?

    B. Everyone can point to what the requirements were in the law that mandated the development of the SLS, but what are the THEY based on? What is the constraint that the Congress is trying to solve?

    C. And let me spell it out in even more detail for you. If you say “Congress wants to send 130mt payloads to space”, then you still need to show where that requirement came from, since it’s a fictitious number unless it can be backed up by something real.

    My objection to the SLS program boils down to two issues:

    D. 1. NASA does not, as yet, have a need for an HLV.

    E. 2. The government no longer needs to build and operate rockets.

    F. Both of those boil down to money, and the lack thereof that NASA has. SLS supporters don’t seem to care about money, SLS detractors do.

    G. Do you care about money?

    H. If you do, then please provide your estimate of how much NASA’s budget needs to be increased up to in order to fly the SLS at a safe operational rate of 2-3 launches per year, including the cost of building and operating the mission payloads.

    I. And based on that estimate and the funding trend for NASA, and the lack of any “National Imperative” to do anything in space, what do you think the likelihood is that Congress will actually give NASA that amount of money?

    K. Just so you know, I think NASA’s budget would have to triple in order to fully utilize the SLS. Am I too high or too low? And why?”

    ——————-

    A. Goodness. You seem to unfortunately interchange terminology and miss the central point time and time again. There is NO market for an SLS-class vehicle beyond the governments desire. Therefore if the commercial market cannot provide the service the government seeks, the government procures it from the private sector via contracts and government issued requirements. For example, did Lockheed Martin just build the F-22 for the hell of it or did the government issue requirements for it and have the LockMart build it under contract? Can LockMart sell an F-22 to anyone or does the government own this product and therefore controls it?

    B. Instead of arm-waving do some research. The basic requirement for SLS came from those inside NASA and industry based on NASA’s own DRMs. Based on this Congress is trying to provide what NASA has requested. Keep in mind “NASA” is not just those who sit in HQ and are appointed and must absolutely serve the Administration.

    C. It’s not fictitous. Again see B. In addition, it is an evolution to get to 130 mt.

    D. Your objection is just that, your personal objection. However, it seems to be really based on nothing. NASA does have a need if the ultimate destination is Mars and general exploration. Again based on NASA DRMs. Rockets are just not born out of thin air. They take time to design, test and build. So if you wait until what YOU define as a “need” it is too late.

    E. As has been explained to you at length, NASA or the government is NOT building nor will be operating SLS. Private industry is under a contract from NASA. This would be precisely the way it would be if SLS was a configuration that you personally found less distasteful. The reasons for this are littered at length throughout this thread.

    F. Whatever. Arm-wave much?

    G. You have to be kidding me….

    H. I believe SLS and Orion can fly 2-3 times a year or so for the approximate money that was allocated for the STS Program. Recurring costs are rather small and the money is spent on maintaining an executable and stable program.

    I. Correct there is no “national imperative”. This is what happens when the Executive Branch fails to lead and delagates authority to an approximately 535 member body, also known as the Legislative Branch.

    K. That’s insane and see no basis nor proof for you to say because of SLS NASA’s budget will have to be approximately 54 billion a year. That said, the things that the whole agency could do with that amount of money would truly be amazing.

    • Coastal Ron

      Go4TLI said:

      There is NO market for an SLS-class vehicle beyond the governments desire.

      I never said there was. “Demand” for the SLS is supposedly from NASA, yet there is no plans or funding for a stream of “demand” for payloads that would require launchers larger than what exist in the commercial world. For instance, NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) said they have no plans to use the SLS.

      Based on this Congress is trying to provide what NASA has requested.

      NASA did not request the SLS, nor an HLV of any kind. Here is their FY11 budget request.

      So instead Congress, who was advised by people outside of NASA, picked design and capability requirements that were not agreed upon with NASA.

      It’s not fictitous. Again see B. In addition, it is an evolution to get to 130 mt.

      Congress created the 130mt requirement – and where did they get it? Where are the trade studies that NASA provided that point to that capability? Of course they don’t exist, since NASA wasn’t asked to provide trade studies, nor any potential alternatives to a government built rocket made from old technology.

      NASA does have a need if the ultimate destination is Mars and general exploration.

      So if we need such a capability in 50 years, then we should build the HLV today and let it sit for decades?

      When I say NASA does not, as yet, have a need for an HLV, that doesn’t mean they will never. I hope larger capacity launchers of some sort are needed in the future, but they are not needed today, next year, nor even in the next couple of decades. NASA doesn’t get enough money to use them.

      You have to be kidding me [i.e. do you care about money]

      Well, do you?

      I’ve never heard of an SLS supporter that cares about taxpayer value. If you think you do, then please explain what the taxpayer ROI is for the SLS compared to using commercial launch services.

      I believe SLS and Orion can fly 2-3 times a year or so for the approximate money that was allocated for the STS Program.

      The STS program cost, on average, $1.2B per flight, without DDT&E included. As Dark Blue Nine pointed out, no one knows how much the SLS will eventually cost, but NASA has made some assumptions about operational cost, and the SLS is projected to cost more (~$1.6B for the 130mt).

      So let’s say the SLS flies 3X/year, which is about $4.8B just for the SLS itself. That would require a budget increase over today’s NASA budget – how likely is that?

      Plus, how much will it cost to build SLS-sized payloads? Based on existing and past NASA hardware programs, I have estimated that each payload mission would cost $10B and take 10 years to build. Do you think that is high or low, and why? Regardless, NASA would need a budget increase for those too – how likely is that?

      Correct there is no “national imperative”.

      I know there are some space enthusiasts that blame politics on this, but the other explanation is that space is just not that high of a priority for the nation. At least not from a government funding standpoint.

      Maybe you keep hoping for another “Kennedy speech”, yet don’t forget that Apollo was a political response to the Cold War, not an urge to do space exploration.

      That’s insane and see no basis nor proof for you to say because of SLS NASA’s budget will have to be approximately 54 billion a year.

      I’m a numbers guy – that is my specialty within my profession. If you want to talk cost, and dig into the assumptions I use, I’d be glad to have that discussion. Think of it as an opportunity to “tear me apart”… ;-)

      Keep in mind too that I am a space enthusiast, and I care about NASA. I think NASA should be leading the way on space exploration. But NASA’s plans have to be tempered to it’s budget, not the other way around – you can’t force politicians to fund something that they don’t care about.

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “I believe SLS and Orion can fly 2-3 times a year or so for the approximate money that was allocated for the STS Program.”

      Your belief doesn’t match reality:

      “SLS is to make its maiden flight in 2017, when it will carry an empty Orion crew capsule to near-Moon space and back. Another flight would follow in 2021…

      Notionally, SLS would next fly in 2025, giving the rocket a launch rate of once every four years. NASA has been spending about $1.8 billion a year on SLS development, including construction of a rocket test stand in Mississippi, and associated launch infrastructure at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Add in the cost of the rocket’s companion crew capsule, the Lockheed Martin-built Orion, and the tab rises to nearly $3 billion a year.”

      http://www.spacenews.com/article/civil-space/36012tooling-processes-coming-together-for-%E2%80%98affordable%E2%80%99-space-launch-system#.UfFquyDD9pM

      Four years between missions at $3 billion per year is $12 billion per SLS/MPCV mission. This is roughly consistent with an estimate of $14.3B per mission developed in this paper:

      http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2330/1

      Even at its height, the STS budget was only ~$5 billion per year.

      Based on these numbers, to get to a rate of 2-3 missions per year, the SLS/MPCV budget would have to approach $24-36 billion. (And that doesn’t include the costs of any exploration payloads or hardware.) It’s probably not quite that high, but getting the SLS/MPCV mission rate up to 2-3 per year is going to take a lot more than the old Shuttle budget of $5 billion per year.

      “Recurring costs are rather small”

      No, they’re quite large:

      “In November 2012, NASA produced a preliminary estimate of $7.65 to $8.59 billion for the 70 metric ton version of SLS. This is not a life cycle cost estimate, however, because it only covers the first non-crewed launch date in December 2017, plus three months of data analysis. This estimate does not include costs for the first crewed flight of the same vehicle type of the SLS in 2021, nor does it include costs associated with substantial development for future flights of other variants of the launch vehicle.”

      http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/653866.pdf

      “and the money is spent on maintaining an executable and stable program.”

      As various witnesses have been warning Congress, a flight program that launches only once every few years will not be “stable”, and it probably won’t be “executable” over the long-term:

      “… the low flight rate has raised red flags for some industry watchers, most recently during a June 19 congressional hearing on a draft NASA authorization bill.

      ‘We have no experience with a human-rate flight system that only flies every two or three or four years,’ NASA Advisory Council Chairman Steven Squyres told members of the House Space, Science and Technology Committee. ‘And I believe that’s cause for serious concern. It’s not just simply a matter of maintaining program momentum. It’s not even purely a matter of efficiency. It’s also a matter of keeping the flight team sharp and safe.’”

      http://www.spacenews.com/article/civil-space/36012tooling-processes-coming-together-for-%E2%80%98affordable%E2%80%99-space-launch-system#.UfFquyDD9pM

      “The basic requirement for SLS came from those inside NASA and industry based on NASA’s own DRMs. Based on this Congress is trying to provide what NASA has requested… NASA does have a need if the ultimate destination is Mars and general exploration. Again based on NASA DRMs.”

      This is bull. NASA’s human Mars DRM 5.0 doesn’t have a requirement or otherwise call for a 130-ton HLLV or a 70-ton HLLV. It certainly doesn’t call for an HLLV that launches only once every four years:

      http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/373665main_NASA-SP-2009-566.pdf

      NASA’s human Mars DRM 5.0 assumed at least seven launches of Ares V, which could put 188 tons in LEO, or 1,316 tons in LEO for the whole mission. That would take 11 launches of the 130-ton SLS and 19 launches of the 70-ton SLS. At a launch rate of one every four years (probably more for the 130-ton SLS), it would take SLS between 44 and 76 years to put up enough mass to field one human Mars landing using the DRM 5.0 architecture.

      Moreover, NASA’s human Mars DRM 5.0 assumes three human Mars landings over ten years. It would take SLS between 132 and 228 years to complete the mission sequence in NASA’s human Mars DRM 5.0.

      There are huge, enormous disconnects between the Mars DRMs and SLS. To claim that the former bears on the latter is pure bull.

      “Rockets are just not born out of thin air.”

      SLS and MPCV weren’t “born out of thin air”. They represent a level of work that is needed to prevent assumed political backlash from layoffs at ATK, Boeing, LockMart, and PWR, and maintain the illusion that the civil servants in the NASA human space flight workforce are still in the launch and exploration games.

      But SLS’s throw weight, costs, and launch rate have no basis in any requirement outside the SLS program, and are incapable of supporting even modest human space exploration missions at a modest cadence.

      Actually, that’s an overstatement. SLS/MPCV cost so much that NASA’s own internal documents state that there is no budget for “In-Space Elements” until after 2030 under $18B+/yr. budget assumptions (see slide #8):

      http://images.spaceref.com/news/2011/NASA.SLS.Budget.Aug.2011.pdf

      NASA’s budget this year is $16B+.

      “it is an evolution to get to 130 mt.”

      It’s an evolution, but it’s getting deferred:

      “The project also reported that developing the core stage for the 70 metric ton vehicle in parallel with the core stage of the 130 metric ton vehicle would be preferable in order to ensure optimum core stage design and full evaluation of integration issues between the two stages, and would be more cost effective. However, due to budget constraints this is not possible. As a result, once development of the 130 metric ton vehicle begins, modifications may be needed.”

      http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/653866.pdf

      “Private industry is under a contract from NASA.”

      Not really. SLS contracts remain undefinitized about three years in:

      “Project officials told us that development of SLS components continue under modified undefinitized contracts awarded under the Constellation program’s Ares project. Project officials reported that the SLS work conducted under these contracts remains within the scope of the Ares prime contracts, however the contracts need to be modified to be in line with the design requirements and flight objectives of the SLS project.”

      http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/653866.pdf

      “Instead of arm-waving do some research.”

      Pot, kettle, black.

    • Hiram

      “I believe SLS and Orion can fly 2-3 times a year or so for the approximate money that was allocated for the STS Program.”

      Even aside from the good arguments that this statement isn’t true, it’s worse than that. Who’s paying for the payloads that SLS is going to be flying 2-3 times a year? That is, it’s hard enough to fly them empty at that flight rate. Even the most simplistic costing models scale directly with mass, and we’re talking 2-3 STS payloads for each SLS launch.

      But as I’ve said several times, we can shatter that cost curve by just launching concrete. To the extent that exploration needs rocks in space to step on and hug, we can launch them ourselves. We don’t even have to reach outside of cis-lunar space to grab one. There is enormous chest-beating potential that would come from putting 70 mT of concrete in LEO. To Congress, concrete is synonymous with progress, so they’ll go nuts over the idea. At current premix prices, that works out to about $5K per SLS launch. Easily secured and packaged in a launch shroud, and pretty tolerant of g-loads and vibration. No sweat! In LEO, however, uncontrolled reentry threats may require attached propulsion. It’ll work, I tell ya.

    • josh

      another post by an sls supporter chock-full of falsehoods and outright lies. didn’t see that coming.

  • Go4TLI

    Ron,

    You don’t “care about NASA”. You troll on the internet refusing to listen to anyone with acutal information and who does not agree with you. Instead you try to insult people time and time again (asking if I care about money is just one example, I find you abrasive and insulting). It’s sad and suggests something about you.

    In summary. I told you about the DRMs (Design Reference Missions) that were creations of NASA. The FY11 proposal was a political tool and ignored essentially all of NASA that tries (and sometimes fails miserably) to make things work day in and day out.

    Relative to the “payload arguement”, if FY11 was so superior and was to save so much money, where were the payloads in the budget request? Where were the missions we could do in the near term with these existing rockets and payloads-to-be? Hell, where are they now?

    To sum it up, can you launch things on smaller rockets? Of course, nobody said otherwise. However, there is a cost to those multiple launch vehicles and the operations associated with them. There is a cost to the on-orbit operations and integration, the training, etc. There is a cost to the in-space infrastructure to design, test, build and fly it. There is a logisitcs cost to keep it maintained and functioning. So, my point here is that why you can continue your crusade on this website, you are ignoring a major portion of what you would need for your argument.

    As for STS, that program cost 3-4 billion a year depending on the things that were going on right then. It could fly 7-8 times a year. I don’t see how you get 1.6 billion a launch as some sort of fixed price. As I tried to point out to you above, most of the cost in operations is fixed in that it requires X dollars to keep the various programs sustainable, regardless if they fly or not. Recurring costs are typically marginal. So the programs costs X dollars, essentially regardless if it is flying or not.

    I’m pretty much done with this now. Good day to you.

    • Guest

      The DRMs are obsolete in the new world of chemical fuel abundant booster assisted fully reusable launch vehicles flying direct trajectories to the Moon and Mars. You need to get with the program because it has already left you and NASA in the dust, and the longer you wait the more money its going to cost you and the more obsolete technology and beliefs you are going to be stuck with. History remembers this stuff.

    • Coastal Ron

      Go4TLI said:

      In summary. I told you about the DRMs (Design Reference Missions) that were creations of NASA.

      Dark Blue Nine does a great job of covering this above.

      The FY11 proposal was a political tool and ignored essentially all of NASA that tries (and sometimes fails miserably) to make things work day in and day out.

      Ah, so that’s it.

      You’re one of those people that believes that NASA personnel get to choose what they can do, regardless what their elected and appointed leaders want.

      Of course you also ignore the fact that there are those in NASA that DON’T want the SLS, understand that it’s too expensive for NASA, and would rather be working on the technology and techniques we’ll need to do space exploration.

      So a little civics lesson here – the budget the President submits is ALWAYS a political tool, and is almost always ignored by Congress. Nothing new here.

      Relative to the “payload arguement”, if FY11 was so superior and was to save so much money, where were the payloads in the budget request?

      It’s the taxpayers money I’m looking out for here – trying to reduce wasteful spending. Spending $30B on the SLS and two decades of time doesn’t get us out into space exploring, since transportation to space is not the gating item here.

      Are you familiar with the Future In-Space Operations (FISO) Working Group? Experts both inside and outside of NASA working on the real issues regarding future space exploration (article about them here, their archive here).

      They put out a report called “NASA Space Technology Roadmaps and Priorities“, which is very detailed. The first three bullet points in the report are:

      - Success in executing future NASA space missions will depend on advanced technology developments that should already be underway.

      - NASA’s technology base is largely depleted.

      - Currently available technology is insufficient to accomplish many intended space missions in Earth orbit and to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.

      Essentially, a lack of things to launch on any kind of rocket is what’s keeping us from doing space exploration, not a lack of bigger rockets.

      Recurring costs are typically marginal.

      You say that out of ignorance of course. I do know what the major recurring costs were for the STS, and they were not insignificant, especially considering that the SLS components are far larger than their STS equivalents.

      Again Dark Blue Nine did a good job of covering most of this part above.

      Look, as long as you ignore the money side of NASA you will continue to be vastly disappointed in what’s happening. That’s why those of us that are concerned about NASA are encouraged by the advancements the private space industry is making, since a stronger space industry means that NASA doesn’t have to fund everything itself. Still, NASA is getting less and less money per year from Republicans and Democrats alike, so you have to get used to a much slower pace of government activity in space.

      Stop living in a fantasy world where money is thrown at NASA to pick up grey rocks on far away airless voids… ;-)

      • Neil Shipley

        Hi CR. Thanks for the FISO link. I wasn’t aware of this. Looks like there’s going to be some great reading in there.
        Cheers.

    • Joe

      A noble attempt to hold a rational conversation with “Coastal Ron”. Unfortunately your description of him is all too accurate: “You troll on the internet refusing to listen to anyone with actual information and who does not agree with you. Instead you try to insult people time and time again (asking if I care about money is just one example, I find you abrasive and insulting). It’s sad and suggests something about you.”

      That is sad, as at the top level this website provides links to interesting information and their articles tend to present mild and basically neutral analysis. The comments section could be a place for discussion and exchange of information among actually knowledgeable people, but it continually gets hijacked by people like “Coastal Ron”. Which turns it into a dog-and-pony show.

      Note the response by “Guest” above: “The DRMs are obsolete in the new world of chemical fuel abundant booster assisted fully reusable launch vehicles flying direct trajectories to the Moon and Mars. You need to get with the program because it has already left you and NASA in the dust, and the longer you wait the more money its going to cost you and the more obsolete technology and beliefs you are going to be stuck with. History remembers this stuff.”

      Wow, “chemical fuel abundant booster assisted fully reusable launch vehicles flying direct trajectories to the Moon and Mars”, who knew such things already existed?

      Like I said sad but unfortunately true.

      • Coastal Ron

        Joe said:

        Note the response by “Guest” above

        I rarely agree with “Guest”, but at least he puts forth ideas and participates in discussion. The same cannot be said about you Joe.

        And since this is a forum to discuss ideas and current events, “Guest” appears to be a better participant on Space Politics than you… ;-)

      • Guest

        chemical fuel abundant booster assisted fully reusable launch vehicles flying direct trajectories to the Moon and Mars”, who knew such things already existed?

        I know of two companies actively working on them, Blue Origin in hydrogen for the moon and SpaceX in methane for Mars. These are very wealthy men with missions.

        I do believe SpaceX has a working prototype for the boosters and Blue Origin has actually flown a prototype to destruction and is soldiering on. They’ve even tested the engine. So I consider these activities more viable than a twenty billion dollar prototype that purposely self destructs after eight minutes of flight, with only the engines and boosters demonstrated thus far. Your kilometers per second may vary.

        Like I said, read it and weep. You (or more specifically your elected representatives and your space agency) has exactly one more chance to save this thing from history.

        Quickly now, thousand of jobs are at stake! Maybe even yours. Good luck, joe! It’s your vehicle, so it’s your mission and job to save it. It’s not as if you haven’t been notified of this mission with a self destructing recorded tape already.

  • Jeff Foust

    A gentle reminder to please focus your attacks on each others’ ideas, and not each other. Thanks.

  • Neil Shipley

    DBN and CR have, IMO effectively put paid to any cost, mission, arguments concerning SLS. The very best that can be said about it is that it’s a jobs program. Arguments concerning the validity of SLS can be made on that basis but there’s simply no other basis to contemplate maintaining this program.

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