NASA

Debating schedule versus competition for commercial crew

Today and tomorrow, NASA and industry officials will be meeting at the Kennedy Space Center to discuss a draft request for proposals (RFP) for the next phase of the commercial crew program. The Commercial Crew Transportation Capability, or CCtCap, contract will cover the development and test of crew transportation systems to take astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS). It will also, unlike previous phases of the program, use a contract that follows the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) rather than Space Act Agreements.

Although NASA is shifting to FAR-based contracts, one NASA official hopes to maintain the spirit of partnerships between NASA and industry in earlier phases of the program. “We will want this to be a partnership,” Phil McAlister said in a meeting of the NASA Advisory Council’s Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) committee on Tuesday. “Even though we’re entering into a contract, that does not preclude us from still being in a partnership mode. We still want cost-share, we still want them to own the intellectual property and to operate these systems.” Moving to a FAR-based contract, he said, does allow NASA to apply its requirements to the vehicles in order to certify them for transporting NASA astronauts.

How many companies will go forward from the ongoing CCiCap program to the new CCtCap program remains to be seen, and depends on program funding. McAlister, like other NASA officials, emphasized the need to maintain competition. “I see prematurely eliminating competition as one of the primary risks,” he said. “We really do not want to do that.” A premature downselect, he argued, threatened the ability of the effort to develop safe, reliable, and cost-effective systems. “I believe competition supports all three of those simultaneously,” he said.

McAlister, though, did suggest that there would likely be a downselect from the three companies that currently have funded CCiCap awards to those who get CCtCap contracts. “I don’t know if we can carry three,” he said. “I think two would probably be sufficient to maintain the benefits of competition.” That’s in line with previous speculation about NASA’s plans for the future of commercial crew.

That belief, though, clashed with some members of the NAC HEO committee, who expressed concern that limited funding could keep NASA from having a commercial crew system ready by 2017, extending reliance on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft. At the full NAC meeting Wednesday, Richard Kohrs, chairman of the HEO committee, offered a recommendation that NASA make schedule a top priority for the program. “You really ought to go pick a schedule and a fixed date,” he said. “You ought to pick a schedule and stick to it as best you can.”

Although NASA administrator Charles Bolden has previously said the 2017 date would be in jeopardy if the program got less than the $821 million requested by the administration in fiscal year 2014, McAlister said the specific impact to the program if it received closer to $500 million remained to be seen. “It would be up to NASA to decide what was in the best interest of the government: either to downselect or to slip schedule or to make some other change to the program,” he said. “All those things are in play.”

93 comments to Debating schedule versus competition for commercial crew

  • Two articles of relevance in today’s Florida Today:

    “Commercial-space contenders visit KSC”

    “Lease on Kennedy Space Center’s Pad 39 may be near, Bolden says”

    Of interest in the latter is this:

    Bolden said NASA had talked to United Launch Alliance about launching crews from pad 39B instead of modifying its existing Atlas V launch pad at the Cape.

    He wasn’t sure if a final decision had been made.

    So would it enhance the chances for CST-100 and Dream Chaser if they agree to move Atlas V to 39B?!

    And in another recent article, SpaceX opened the door to Dragon crew flights at 39A.

    This just gets better and better, boys and girls. Ain’t competition grand?

    • DCSCA

      “And in another recent article, SpaceX opened the door to Dragon crew flights at 39A.” spins Stephen.

      Earth to Stephen: another press release spinning fa;se equivalency for a firm that has failed to even attempt to fly anybody into LEO, let alone to the moon and beyond. Hype isn’t flight. And it doesn’t earn NewSpace advocates outside Florida or those w/vested interests in real estate there any credbility. Just a reputation for doing nothing and calling it somethign.

      “This just gets better and better, boys and girls. Ain’t competition grand?” dreams Stephen.

      Hmmm. If you value and support a successful space program under adult supervision for the men and women of the United States, no, it’s not:

      “…The space program enjoyed a favorable political environment, few direct competitors, and no vested interests. In organizational terms, the success of NASA depended on turning all three to advantage.”

      http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4102/contents.htm

      The ‘boys and girls’ in the fantasyworld of NewSpace are sorely in need of some very down to earth adult supervision. When a NewSpace kid posts fiction as fact, such as: “Once NASA put boots on the Moon, it had no clue what it was to do next. Neither did Congress or the White House.”.. it’s time to send the ‘boys and girls’ off to summer school for some remedial classes about history and to learn to discern fantasy from reality.

      • Coastal Ron

        DCSCA mumbled:

        Hype isn’t flight.

        No doubt you are talking about the SLS. ULA and SpaceX are flying. It’s amazing how often you can fly when you build the right sized launcher – you know, one that has payloads for it.

        Let us know if the SLS ever gets something to fly besides the over-weight 60′s era capsule that you think is “cutting edge”.

        If you value and support a successful space program under adult supervision for the men and women of the United States, no, it’s not:

        Well first of all you can’t even provide the right link reference. Don’t you know which specific chapter you got that quote from? Lose track?

        Look, you’ve been schooled on this before – quoting from something 60 years ago has no relevance in today’s world. What drove our efforts in space back then (military domination) don’t exist today, and what drives our efforts in space today (commerce) didn’t exist back then.

        As to Stephens quote: “Once NASA put boots on the Moon, it had no clue what it was to do next. Neither did Congress or the White House.”

        You failed to present any evidence that Congress or the White House did in fact have a clue what to do next. Just disagreeing makes you look uninformed, which is no doubt accurate, but a waste of time on your part.

        • DCSCA

          Well first of all you can’t even provide the right link reference. Don’t you know which specific chapter you got that quote from? Lose track?

          In fact, the link/ref is correct. That you have to read the entire piece on NASA managemwnt is an education a NewSpaceer such as your self seems unwilling to do readdirms the characteristic Gene Cernan highlighted when he noted NewSpacers ‘fon’t know what the dont know.”

          • Coastal Ron

            DCSCA said:

            That you have to read the entire piece on NASA managemwnt is an education a NewSpaceer such as your self seems unwilling to do…

            I am a space enthusiast and advocate, not an irrelevant history enthusiast. If there was something from 60 years ago that was relevant today, then I would read it. But there isn’t, and you have continuously failed to show why the random quotes you post have any relevance in today’s world.

            The past is in the past, and today we are creating the future. Get over it.

            ‘fon’t know what the dont know.”

            Not sure what the source of your inability to write coherently is, but you should understand the need to address it.

      • Mader

        I guess “firm that has failed to even attempt to fly anybody into LEO” is not spin at all?
        Empty rethoric is empty.

      • Robert G Oler

        LOL I have gotten through a fairly tough schedule to visit Hanoi and with the folks their do an on sight examination of launched to ISS the SECOND Vietnam cubsat from ISS. You and Whittington People who belong in the past…see my facebook page fork aces you will never go but I am operating in You and mark Whittington and Wind and other fools belong in the past

        Robert G Oler Geatings from the Indian Sub continent

        • DCSCA

          When RGO thinks of space, he thinks Vietnam now as a space power. ” “fools belong in the past” indeed. And we suffer you gladly.

  • Coastal Ron

    Stephen C. Smith said:

    So would it enhance the chances for CST-100 and Dream Chaser if they agree to move Atlas V to 39B?!

    While it remains to be seen if they can truly handle multiple launchers on the same pad, the following quote from the same article was interesting:

    We would prefer that the multi-use facility be 39B [the SLS pad], and it’s built that way now,” Bolden told the NASA Advisory Council during a meeting at NASA headquarters. “It’s got a flame trench, a blast deflector in it that’s mobile. We think we can handle all takers on 39B.

    I think NASA is acknowledging that the SLS is not going to be flying much (assuming it ever does), so they need to have other users to reduce the budget burden of keeping the pad operational – especially since the SLS is only scheduled to fly every 4 years, so why not put it to better use?

    And because 39B would be multi-use, they would be OK with having someone take over 39B for single use. As of today, the company that has the biggest need for such a launch site is SpaceX, and unlike NASA, they have the money going forward to pay for it.

    Ain’t competition grand?

    If only we had a Congress that believed in competition – imagine the places we’d go?

    • Egad

      since the SLS is only scheduled to fly every 4 years

      The schedule that NASA has been presenting (you have to look carefully to find it, but it’s there) for the last year has SLS flights in 2017, 2021, 2023, 2025 and 2009. 2027 is a question, since 2029 is the first cargo flight and it’s possible that a 2027 manned mission would be deferred in order to have a dual launch of unknown purpose in 2029. Or not.

      In any event, it looks like they’re hoping to produce and usually fly SLSes at two year intervals starting with the 2021 crewed launch.

      • Coastal Ron

        Egad said:

        it looks like they’re hoping to produce and usually fly SLSes at two year intervals starting with the 2021 crewed launch.

        I think that assumes that the Asteroid Retrieval Mission (ARM) is funded, which is highly unlikely at this point.

        Here is the article I reference for the every four years launch rate:

        Tooling, Processes Coming Together For ‘Affordable’ Space Launch System – SpaceNews.com

        Without a funded mission that demands the capabilities of the SLS, I’m not sure there is even a need to fly the SLS every four years. As it is, it makes more sense to launch the SLS and then fire the entire operations team, then hire a new team before the next launch so they can get trained up.

        Having people sit around for years and years “doing sims” for an SLS launch at some indeterminate point in the future will go down as one of the most egregious wastes of taxpayer money ever conceived (the SLS itself being even more egregious).

      • Just sticking my nose in … I wouldn’t pay attention to any notional schedules more than a year or two out. We all know the Congressional funding isn’t guaranteed, not even in the current fiscal year any more what with sequestration.

        Two years, four years … It’s meaningless. It’s up to Congress, and Congress doesn’t care so long as jobs are protected in their districts.

        • Egad

          Two years, four years … It’s meaningless. It’s up to Congress, and Congress doesn’t care so long as jobs are protected in their districts.

          Well, yes, no argument. But I think it’s an amusing exercise to keep track of what NASA says, more or less officially, that it’s intending to do. It’s kind of a Kremlinological exercise, but there are hints in the URLs I posted just above of what’s stirring around at NASA HQ. E.g., cargo fairings.

          • Coastal Ron

            Egad said:

            but there are hints in the URLs I posted just above of what’s stirring around at NASA HQ. E.g., cargo fairings.

            Cargo fairings are pretty useless if you don’t have cargo for them to protect.

            I view the schedules that you referenced as good-faith internal efforts to guess the future, but still only guesses.

            Until Congress actually funds NASA to do something with the SLS, there are no believable schedules beyond what’s needed for development (and even that is still pretty dubious).

        • James

          Indeed. Congress may complain about the cost of ground crews sitting around for years doing sims between SLS flights every 2 or 4 or 6 years, but in the world of jobs programs pork, their complaints are phony baloney

          The Next administration will no doubt convene Augustine II. And will discover the program is un-executable

        • DCSCA

          “Just sticking my nose in … I wouldn’t pay attention to any notional schedules more than a year or two out.” says NewsSpacer Stephen.

          Really, Stephen? “I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.” -JFKennedy. Easy to see why a NewSpacer like you ‘would pay attention’ to that. Funny how the government managed to meet that goal ahead of schedule and under budget, while NewSpace firms like Space X repeatedly failed to meet their own announced schedules and goala. Stephen reveals the NewSpacer’s attitude on the business practice of meeting schedules and target dates– and it is poor.

          • Coastal Ron

            DCSCA mumbled:

            Easy to see why a NewSpacer like you ‘would pay attention’ to that.

            I know it’s hard for you to understand this, but the topic was SLS, not Apollo.

            And while the Apollo program had the luxury of sucking up 4% of the national budget at it’s high point, the NASA of today has to limp along on 0.5%.

            Then you add into that a rocket designed by Congress without any input from NASA, and it becomes very clear to anyone of any substantial intelligence that the SLS program is not anything like the Apollo program.

            Stephen reveals the NewSpacer’s attitude on the business practice of meeting schedules and target dates– and it is poor.

            Um, no. He was actually pointing out how NASA is stretching out the interval between planned SLS flights. Originally they said they wanted to fly 2-3 times per year, but now that Congress has not funded ANY missions for the SLS, NASA is instead saying they hope to fly the SLS every 4 years.

            And what is your witty retort to that?

            • DCSCA

              “I know it’s hard for you to understand this, but the topic was SLS, not Apollo.” spins Ron.

              In fact, you don’t know– the issue was NewSpacer’s poor record for meeting schedules, a characteristice common to poor business practices and bad management.

          • Matt McClanahan

            DCSCA, if you actually believe that the current political evironment would tolerate the same kind of investment of money and materials as during the Apollo-era space race, you’re completely delusional.

            The motivation of the Apollo-era space race, and I can’t believe this even has to be stated anymore in 2013, was beating the USSR. Not scientific advancement, not exploring new frontiers, not advancing economic or technological growth. Just beating the Soviets. It justified spending an enormous (compared to present day levels) amount of money on the space program. Today, that money, that solidarity of purpose, that justification, is gone.

            Until you disprove that current state of affairs, you cannot seriously argue that SLS’s mission schedule beyond the next couple years (two experimental flights, maybe) is anything but wishful thinking. It has absolutely nothing to do with the perspectives of “NewSpacers”, it’s simply observing the realities of the political landscape.

            If your position holds any water at all, then you should be able to point straight at a JFK-esque mission plan, with funding and support from Congress, which NASA is planning on achieving in the next decade. Or if there isn’t one currently, your arguemnt rests on the fantastically optimistic hope that one will come along in the next few years.

            • DCSCA

              =yawn= It is simply a matter of priorities, Matt. In fact the military space budgets and dark projects are quite flush. And that is no delusion- just a sad reality.

            • DCSCA

              Matt- SLS is a geo-political strategy for the united States. So was Apollo. That they are paced at diffrent cadences is a political flexibility afforded SLS unavailable to Apollo, which was a come-from-behind effort. SLS is not in that political stance— yet.

              • Coastal Ron

                DCSCA mumbled:

                SLS is a geo-political strategy for the united States. So was Apollo.

                Everyone knows the what the geo-political goal was for Apollo.

                You have failed to point out what it is for the SLS – except for borrowing more money from China… ;-)

                And where is the SLS version of the Kennedy speech? You know, the one by President Obama before the SLS is authorized that lays out the geo-political rationale for what we’re doing with the SLS?

                But of course that speech doesn’t exist, since Obama didn’t want the SLS, and you know it.

                So drop the farce. No one believes you.

  • SpaceX
    Boeing
    Sierra Nevada

    Down-selecting to two would be tough politically, which?

    • Coastal Ron

      sftommy said:

      Down-selecting to two would be tough politically, which?

      Normally politics would only enter into contract decisions when the proposal has been purposefully skewed in it’s requirements. So far I don’t think we’ve seen that on Commercial Crew.

      If politics is not part of the equation, then the decision turns on the normal award factors like technical ability to meet the contract requirements, company ability to meet the contract requirements, and price.

      No doubt SpaceX has the advantage in price and availability, but how those factors are weighted by NASA is unknown. Still, I think it’s SpaceX for sure, and then it’s a matter of whether there is enough money left over for a second provider, which would likely be Boeing. I would imagine NASA would love to get Dream Chaser operational (VTHL is preferable to capsules), but it’s going to take more time and money than the CST-100, so I don’t think it would make 2nd place.

      • James

        The next round of contracts will be FAR based. Which means , in theory, politics won’t enter into the evaluation of the proposals. So the proposals will be judged on merit. In theory if the government does not follow the FAR to the letter of that word, companies can protest thru the courts, people can go to jail, etc.

        This is unlike the robotics side of NASA in SMD. Where the AO completions are not governed by the FAR and politics reins supreme in selection decisions. .

        • Hiram

          “This is unlike the robotics side of NASA in SMD. Where the AO completions are not governed by the FAR and politics reins supreme in selection decisions.”

          Huh? What’s this about? SMD procurements, as all NASA procurements, are bound by the FAR. That’s simply not the case that politics reign supreme in selection decisions. SMD proposals are all judged on merit, where FAR-compliant independent teams are collected to do carefully documented head-to-head evaluations on the basis of AO specifications. Contract awards are subject to the provisions of the FAR and the NASA FAR Supplement. An omnbudsman program and servicing of protests are thus accommodated.

          Can you give an example where an SMD procurement was not FAR-based?

          • James

            When the head of SMD selects which mission is the victor, say in an Explorer AO competition, or Discovery, or New Frontiers, there is no SEB, no FAR, nothing that governs the selection process per FAR requirements. Grunsfeld, Weiler, Stern, et al, simply picked who they wanted.

            Yes, there is a group at LaRC that is evaluating the proposal on technical, cost, and management approach merit, but there is no ‘selection official’, Source Evaluation Board, or SEB Chair, etc. The group at LaRC scores the proposals and provides the data to SMD AA.

            This is where the fun begins.

            The team that wins will have contracts to buy spacecraft, ground systems etc, that must follow FAR regulations, yes, but, when it comes to ‘who wins’ the AO competition. No.

            • Hiram

              SMD leadership picks “who they wanted” on the basis of the independent science recommendations that are made to them. That’s documented in their Source Selection Statement. So their decision is highly defensible. The TCM scoring of the proposals is, in that respect, a formality that assures implementability. But it is the science recommendations that determine whether it is good science. A highly implementable proposal might not be a scientifically compelling one, and such a proposal is toast.

              The AO is to “do good and implementable science”, which is something that a SEB probably can’t be entrusted to make the final decision on. Well, formally, it’s mission suitability, cost/price, and past performance. Science is the former. The success metric is a lot more squishy than for an HEOMD project. That squishiness is just the nature of science. There is no better way to write a success criterion.

              Note that, formally, an SEB has to be made of government employees. SMD just acknowledges that determining the best science is not best served by shutting out everyone else. Actually, even the SEB doesn’t make recommendations for selection to the agency official who makes the final decision.

              • James

                SMD will not pick a mission that isn’t ‘selectable’. Yes. If the TMC gives u bad scores and you aren’t selectable then politics won’t come into play. What usually happens is that more than one proposal is selectable. It is at this point that the SMD AA can be influenced by politics. It is at this point that the best proposal isn’t always selected. It is at this point that lobbyist can learn what is on the AA’s plate and get their congress people to influence , even direct, which proposal gets selected for Phase B

                There are othe games that can be played with this process that FAR regulations won’t permit or someone goes to Jail

              • James

                I will go further and say SMD likes the existing approach so they can steer money where they want it to go. How else to ensure 10 Healthy Centers. Well make that 12 as SwRI and APL play this game too

              • Hiram

                ” What usually happens is that more than one proposal is selectable. It is at this point that the SMD AA can be influenced by politics.”

                I guess you call science value “politics”. That’s a truly odd definition, and I’ve already stated my case. No doubt the source selection official can be biased a bit by other factors, but that’s true across the agency. If that bias were conspicuous, procurement protests would be rampant. There is nothing special about SMD here.

              • Hiram

                I will go further and say that SMD doesn’t give squat about ten healthy centers.

      • Fred Willett

        According to the RFI the biggest weighting in selecting a winner is to be price.

        • Coastal Ron

          Fred Willett said:

          According to the RFI the biggest weighting in selecting a winner is to be price.

          Which makes sense since the who point of CCDev and CCiCap was to make sure that all the potential bidders would be able to provide the service in a safe enough manner.

          • Fred Willett

            And the earliest possible date for a crewed flight to ISS is 2017 as the first docking adaptor doesn’t get to ISS till Dragon flight 7 in late 2016.

  • yg1968

    Jeff,

    The recommendation by the HEO committee for the 2017 deadline for commercial crew was modified given that it conflicted with the one from the committee on commercial space which suggested maintaining competition as long as possible. They ended up with a compromise recommendation that says that NASA needs to figure out what it plans to do and brief NAC on that plan.

    See https://twitter.com/SpcPlcyOnline/status/363026342406660096

  • There’s simply not enough traffic to the ISS to sustain more than one Commercial Crew company. And by the time these guys really get going, the ISS will probably already be decommissioned.

    The future of the Commercial Crew industry is in private commercial space stations (probably for space tourism), not the ISS.

    Marcel F. Williams

    • Hiram

      In the long run, this is about traffic to LEO, and not traffic to ISS. We’ll be sending stuff to LEO for a long time, no matter what we do beyond that. To the extent commercial crew is funding vehicles that can only go to ISS, what you say is true. But that’s hardly the case.

      • DCSCA

        “In the long run, this is about traffic to LEO, and not traffic to ISS.” spins Hiram.

        But you are not an advocate for HSF anyway, so embracing a policy for LEO that is a ticket to no place, going in circles, no where fast, is no surprise. Subsidizing a waak redundancy to access the ISS for a few years, a dead end project from Cold War planning, doomed to a Pacific grave, is a waste of government resources.

        It is space projects of scale that matter. Which is why, in the long run, short-sighted forays by deep-pocketed NewSpace hobbyists do not.

        HSF is an instrument of politics; a means of projecting national policy– it’s political science, not rocket science that drives it.
        Human spaceflight in this era projects geo-political influence, economic vigor and technical prowess, around the globe for the nation(s) that choose to do it. And it plays out on a stage with high visibility that demands performance with engineering excellence from all the actors. The bounties from which are all reaped by the participating nation(s) on Earth. That’s why government’s do it.

        HSF is, in effect, a loss leader in this era for projecting national power and nurturing a perception of leadership. And in politics, perception is a reality. Which makes a drive to establishing a permanent foothold on Luna, seen around the world by all peoples in their evening skies, all the more imperative for the United States in this century.

        Commercial is welcome to come along for the ride– to supplement and service an exploration/exploitation outpost on Luna, established by governent(s). But they’ll never lead the way in establishing such a facility on their own. The largess of the capital requirements involved coupled w/t low to no ROI prevents it; the very parameters of the market it is trying to create and service. It’s the same for LEO commercial HSF ops.That’s why governments do it. And will ultimately continue to d oso for decades to come. Whether they’re American lead remains to be seen in this century.

        but rationale for HSF by the United States government in the 21st century was made in the 20th century by Presdient Kennedy. It is as valid today as it was in 1961:“We go into space because whatever mankind must undertake, free men must fully share.”

        • Coastal Ron

          DCSCA opined:

          It is space projects of scale that matter.

          The ISS is the last “space projects of scale” that have survived, and that is because it is multi-national and it actually produces value for future space exploration.

          Notice what happened with the previous “space projects of scale” that tried to be pure “pick up the pretty rocks and hit some golf balls”, and it zoomed out of budget faster than an out-of-control Proton rocket.

          The goal should be to make space exploration affordable, not massively expensive.

          Commercial is welcome to come along for the ride…

          You have that backwards – commercial will be providing the rides.

          And that’s a good thing, since the private sector does transportation far better (and less expensively) than the government.

          For someone that purports to be concerned about how much money we are borrowing from China, that should be important.

          …to supplement and service an exploration/exploitation outpost on Luna, established by governent(s).

          Well at least you’re coming around to what General Bolden said, that the U.S. may go back to the Moon, but not as the lead, only a partner.

          However the U.S. can’t even afford to do that, and going to the Moon so far has proven too expensive to be worth the effort for other nations. Maybe after SpaceX lowers the cost to access space even more, then maybe they’ll be able to afford it. Musk will lead the way.

          but rationale for HSF by the United States government in the 21st century was made in the 20th century by Presdient Kennedy.

          Speeches do have value, but only in the right context. That speech was made in a different era with different challenges, and it no longer resonates today – except for those that won’t live in the 21st century… ;-)

        • Mark Bernard

          DCSCA wrote:

          “LEO that is a ticket to no place, going in circles, no where fast”

          Wernher von Braun would disagree with you.

          • DCSCA

            Wernher von Braun would disagree with you. says Mark.

            Met Von Braun, Mark. And in our chat— he didn’t. Although he was down on nuclear propulaion.

            • Coastal Ron

              DCSCA opined:

              Met Von Braun, Mark. And in our chat— he didn’t.

              Why would he talk to someone that didn’t matter? You were there as part of a TV crew (or so you insinuate), so of course he’s going to be cordial and not tell you your ideas suck.

              Have you no idea how social interaction works?

              And for someone that supposed “knew him”, you apparently forget that he was a proponent of what you call “going around in endless circles” – LEO space stations. He even promulgated the idea of using LEO space stations as staging point for BEO missions.

              If Werhner were alive today, he would not be very happy with you dissing his ideas…

        • Hiram

          Sorry, I overlooked this wonderful immersion into the antique shop of space policy.

          HSF is an instrument of politics in exactly the same way that nuclear missles were once instruments of politics. Those who played that game are now drastically reducing their forces because, frankly, that was an old game in an old world. HSF is an instrument of politics in the same way. It’s an instrument of politics in an old world.

          HSF plays out on a stage with high visibility that demands performance with engineering excellence from all the actors. But so do information technologists and bioengineers. Human space flight in no way projects economic vigor. We’ve been doing the same human space flight throughout both bear and bull periods. Where were you? As to projecting technical prowess, there are many many endeavors that do that better, projecting technical prowess that actually makes a whit of difference to the life of a citizen. No, high thrust propulsion engineering doesn’t do that, nor does in-space life support technology. The American public hasn’t been truly excited about human spaceflight for many decades. As to nurturing a perception of leadership, I suppose it’s good to show that people are smart enough to sit on the leading end of the stick.

          I won’t take the time to answer all your 1960′s-heritage pronouncements, but as to your Kennedy quote, “We go into space because whatever mankind must undertake, free men must fully share”, that has actually been put into practice on ISS even as it just goes round-and-round. JFK would be pleased.

    • Coastal Ron

      Marcel F. Williams said:

      There’s simply not enough traffic to the ISS to sustain more than one Commercial Crew company.

      I’m with Hiram on this. Typically any initial market is too small to be profitable, so the goal is not to be profitable on Commercial Crew per se, but to create the conditions to be profitable with the customers that come after the ISS initial contract.

      And you’ve had this explained to you before Marcel. Since all of the Commercial Crew vehicles are reusable, each company only needs to keep a couple around in order to provide service for years to come at a low rate. The cost of building the vehicles is already a sunk cost for the first flights, and they don’t have to pay for any of the launch operations overhead (rocket production, launch staff, overhead, etc.). It’s a pretty low cost sustaining operation.

      And we already know that SpaceX is in the business for the long run, and can likely use the same overhead to maintain both the cargo and crew versions. Boeing has stated that they want to be in the space transportation business for the long run too, and they have the financial backing to give the market time to mature.

      The only real question in my mind is whether Sierra Nevada will be able to get the Dream Chaser ready in time for the first round of Commercial Crew contracts. They may not, but they have the most desirable LEO crew vehicle, so they could decide to push ahead and capture the next round (assuming the ISS is funded beyond 2020) plus any additional traffic like Bigelow.

      But to summarize, all of them have testified that they plan to pursue other customers besides the ISS. You’re not the first person to raise this issue, and they wouldn’t be risking their own money if they didn’t understand the risks going forward.

      • Fred Willett

        Typically any initial market is too small to be profitable, so the goal is not to be profitable on Commercial Crew per se, but to create the conditions to be profitable with the customers that come after the ISS initial contract.
        I’m not at all sure this is true.
        All 3 vehicles can carry cargo as well as crew. and all 3 (when they’re completed) will, I expect, bid on cargo to ISS as well as crew to ISS contracts as they come up.
        And consider the size of the market with just ISS. Currently under commercial cargo Orbital and SpaceX will average 4 flights a year. Add one for crew that’s 5 flights a year.
        ATV is going away and the crew on ISS is going up by one to 7 permanent crew on ISS, so you’ll need to add another flight or two per year of cargo. that could be 7 flights a year through 2028. More than enough to support 3 vehicles. (Note Boeing said they only needed 2 flights a year of CST-100 to make money.)
        The next round of ISS cargo procurements will come up in 2014 for the period 2017 to 2022. Can you doubt Boeing and SNC will compete for this as well as Orbital and SpaceX?
        Personally I would like to see Crew and cargo competed together so that NASA could mix and match. Rather than having only one company doing crew and another couple doing cargo I would have companies doing a mix of crew flights and cargo flights so you keep multiple options.

        • Coastal Ron

          Fred Willett said:

          I’m not at all sure this is true.
          All 3 vehicles can carry cargo as well as crew. and all 3 (when they’re completed) will, I expect, bid on cargo to ISS as well as crew to ISS contracts as they come up.

          I think the sequence of events you outline could come true. My only point was that it’s unlikely that the Commercial Crew providers will become profitable on the 1st crew contract. Adding cargo runs and follow-on crew transportation contracts will likely make the industry profitable, and I hope it does, but initially they will be spending more than they are making.

          And that’s OK. Many businesses don’t make money on their first customers, but use them to establish themselves in the marketplace – or in this case, use the first customer (the ISS) to create the marketplace.

          The next round of ISS cargo procurements will come up in 2014 for the period 2017 to 2022. Can you doubt Boeing and SNC will compete for this as well as Orbital and SpaceX?

          I not sure Orbital can be competitive long-term with a disposable cargo carrier and their Taurus launcher. However Boeing may not be ready in the eyes of NASA to take over cargo transport from Orbital in 2017, especially since Boeing likely won’t be ready for crew transport until then. Throw in some potential delays, and it could create logistical supply headaches for NASA. Boeing may bid, but I think NASA will stick with Orbital for the 2nd contract. That would be my guess in any case.

          Not that Congress is aware of it, or cares, but their delay of the Commercial Crew program will only raise the prices for the next round of CRS because they will have delayed the non-SpaceX Commercial Crew vehicles from being able to compete for cargo transport too.

          Personally I would like to see Crew and cargo competed together so that NASA could mix and match.

          That’s likely the way the market will go, and it will have the effect of driving prices down. I’d be sorry to see Orbital get locked out of future business because they don’t have a competing service, but overall you’re right, that’s likely the best route.

          • RockyMtnSpace

            Ron bloviated – “Not that Congress is aware of it, or cares, but their delay of the Commercial Crew program will only raise the prices for the next round of CRS because they will have delayed the non-SpaceX Commercial Crew vehicles from being able to compete for cargo transport too.”

            So in essence your argument is that the government needs to spend more money for a service only the government needs/wants so that we can have more providers of that service so that we can have more competition in an already highly demand-limited market. Since you typically demand proof of argument from others, please provide your proof on this comment; how much will prices go up if we only have one provider and not two? or two providers and not three? And what is the cost of the DDT&E required to stand up that 2nd or 3rd provider? What are the savings by adding one additional provider?, two providers? And just to pre-empt your normal mode of diverting the discussion to something else by throwing out the comment of “Well, its far cheaper than SLS/Orion.” we are not talking about that architecture, we are only talking about commercial crew/cargo providers.

            • Coastal Ron

              RockyMtnSpace said:

              So in essence your argument is that the government needs to spend more money for a service only the government needs/wants so that we can have more providers of that service so that we can have more competition in an already highly demand-limited market.

              Regardless how many crew providers there ends up being, and who they are, NASA has a requirement – a NEED – for crew transportation to the ISS. The Soyuz does not fully satisfy it, since the Soyuz can only carry three people, and NASA wants to boost the ISS crew compliment up to seven, which the Soyuz cannot support.

              OK, so that’s the requirement, now we need to look at how we satisfy that requirement. NASA could pick one company and award them a sole-sourced contract, but that would be non-optimal for a number of reasons: 1) There is no backup, 2) There is no competition to keep prices as low as possible, and 3) It does not leverage public money to spur the creation of a private transportation industry.

              If none of those reasons are important to you, then there is not much help for you.

              And what is the cost of the DDT&E required to stand up that 2nd or 3rd provider?

              You don’t need to ask me that, just look at what NASA is asking for, plus what they have already spent on CCDev 1&2 and CCiCap.

              Plus you can also look at the latest contract we have with Russia, which is going to cost us $424M for six people ($70.7M/ea) through 2017. That is money that is leaving the country instead of paying American’s here at home. All of the Commercial Crew providers have stated they can be competitive with the Russian prices.

              For an idea where the prices could go, this Space News article talks about what Bigelow plans to charge for transportation to his private stations, and the range is between $26.25M and $36.75M depending is it’s SpaceX or Boeing.

              And keep in mind that NASA hopes to keep operating the ISS beyond 2020, and if that does happen then that is where the real cost saving come in.

              And just to pre-empt your normal mode of diverting the discussion to something else by throwing out the comment of “Well, its far cheaper than SLS/Orion.” we are not talking about that architecture, we are only talking about commercial crew/cargo providers.

              You got that right. The whole idea that the SLS/Orion can be a backup for Commercial Crew is supposed to be part of the justification for the SLS/Orion, and is an outright lie. Not only can’t NASA afford to use the SLS/Orion for simple crew support, but as it stands today there are no Service Modules for the Orion after the one test flight in 2021, so I’m not sure how anyone would think the SLS/Orion is a valid option for supporting the ISS.

              • RockyMtnSpace

                Ron said “…1) There is no backup,”

                There is no requirement for backup. Unlike DoD, NASA has no need for assured access to space. Requirement #1 – Fail

                “2) There is no competition to keep prices as low as possible…”

                There is no competitive demand, its a monopsony. Thus NASA can dictate terms to any supplier whether there is one or three or five. Requirement #2 – Fail

                “3) It does not leverage public money to spur the creation of a private transportation industry”

                The “public” could care less about creating a private [space] transportation system. Requirement #3 – Fail

                “Plus you can also look at the latest contract we have with Russia, which is going to cost us $424M for six people ($70.7M/ea) through 2017. … All of the Commercial Crew providers have stated they can be competitive with the Russian prices.”

                So for the amount this Admin wants for one year of ComCrew funding, we could purchase all the rides we need for the current life of the ISS. Sounds like a bargain to me. And of course all of the commercial crew providers you envision have historical cost data to justify their competitive pricing so that the cost risk is very low. On this point, I doubt it.

                “… what Bigelow plans to charge for transportation to his private stations, and the range is between $26.25M and $36.75M depending is it’s SpaceX or Boeing.”

                You’re using a non-existing business based on non-existent crew launchers to justify a NASA pricing level? Seriously? Of course what Bigelow needs to close his business case and what reality will deliver, if ever, are worlds apart. Any number he throws out now is pure fantasy as he neither has an operating station up and running to determine true operating costs nor a supply chain that has any idea of what the potential support costs might be. And this is the basis for your argument for NASA to spend more money on standing up a faux market?

                “… And keep in mind that NASA hopes …”

                Well, you did get NASA’s current strategic vision correct, hope and a prayer. Garver’s strategy and Bolden’s song and dance.

              • Coastal Ron

                RockyMtnSpace said:

                There is no requirement for backup.

                A sure sign you probably thought the Shuttle program shouldn’t have ended, eh? Apparently you think stranding our astronauts in space is acceptable.

                This is obliviously a philosophical divide here, where you think a single-point-of-failure government transportation system is good enough, and I think the only way we’ll increase our presence out into space is by having redundant and competitive commercial transportation system.

                As to the “requirement”, NASA would disagree with you – though not mandatory, NASA has been pushing for at least two providers. Apparently THEY have learned something lessons from the Shuttle program.

                There is no competitive demand, its a monopsony.

                If you’re going to use big words, use them correctly. Despite the ISS being the only current demand (although Bigelow may not be far in the future), you can have a competition for supply. And we have been talking about the supply side, not the demand side.

                Try to keep up.

                The “public” could care less about creating a private [space] transportation system.

                I never said the public cared about space. I’m talking about the best use for taxpayer money. Our politicians are supposed to be the stewards of how our money is spent, and if the choice is to build a government-only transportation system that will shut down when funding dries up, or a private market system that could develop into a self-sustaining, tax paying, employee hiring industry, well I’d would want the self-sustaining industry, and not some temporary government program.

                Any number he [Bigelow] throws out now is pure fantasy…

                Stating price publicly is a sign of confidence on his part, and on the part of Boeing and SpaceX. If they were to renege on the pricing, then that would be far worse than never stating the prices.

                …as he neither has an operating station up and running to determine true operating costs nor a supply chain that has any idea of what the potential support costs might be.

                Bigelow may not succeed, but there is a chance that he may succeed. Too early to tell, but since he’s already launched two prototypes, and he has built and staffed a factory, and has a contract with NASA to test out his inflatable structures on the ISS, I’d say he has shown what is known as “traction”. That is the wonderful thing about TRYING.

                Geez, you can tell you don’t have an entrepreneurial bone in your body, huh?

                And if we’re ever going to expand humanities presence out into space, we need more entrepreneurs like Bigelow, not less.

                Garver’s strategy and Bolden’s song and dance.

                Garver who?

                In any case, NASA of today is hamstrung by Congressional politics, not a lack of vision or ability.

              • RockyMtnSpace

                Ron said – “A sure sign you probably thought the Shuttle program shouldn’t have ended, eh?”

                Nope, shuttle didn’t end soon enough. It was way too expensive but it kept a huge number of NASA folks employed on the ground and that was its only true function.

                “…As to the “requirement”, NASA would disagree with you – though not mandatory, NASA has been pushing for at least two providers.”

                In this one statement you effectively contradict yourself and prove my point. There is nothing that NASA does that requires they have assured access to space. There is no national imperative, national security, or national economic need that dictates that NASA has assured access to space. A want is not as need, a desirement is not a requirement.

                “Despite the ISS being the only current demand, you can have a competition for supply.”

                Uhh, that’s the definition of a monopsony – single user, multiple providers. Look it up.

                “I never said the public cared about space. I’m talking about the best use for taxpayer money.”

                And you still don’t get it. In the taypayer’s eyes, funding NASA is not the best use of their money. NASA is a luxury you can afford when times are good and the first place to start trimming when times are bad. Earth-to-Ron, times are really bad and getting worse.

                “Garver who?”

                LOL, Well I have to agree with you on that one. Eight hours later and she is nothing but a bad nightmare washed away with the sunrise.

              • Coastal Ron

                RockyMtnSpace said:

                There is nothing that NASA does that requires they have assured access to space.

                Dig into the NASA charter and you’ll see that NASA isn’t supposed to be a transportation provider or doing human space exploration. Yet they are.

                So don’t get too high-and-mighty about “requirements”.

                If anything NASA is trying to push for things that make sense, and that were gross oversights during the time of the Shuttle. Spending money to build a Single-Point-Of-Failure transportation system is not a good investment of taxpayer money, nor does it support ongoing space operations sufficiently.

                And true, there is no law or requirement for us to succeed in what we do in space, yet NASA routinely creates requirements that make it more likely we will. We don’t need Congress to write laws for that, it’s common sense.

                For instance, can you show me the law that mandates backup systems on human vehicles?

                that’s the definition of a monopsony – single user, multiple providers.

                The topic is about competition for supply, and that is because we are talking about redundancy and cost of supply. Having a single source of demand is irrelevant.

                And you still don’t get it. In the taypayer’s eyes…

                Why do you keep bringing us taxpayers into this? WE DON’T SPEND OUR TAX MONEY, CONGRESS DOES.

                And Congress is supposed to spend it wisely, and effectively.

                One way to spend it effectively is in the creation of a new, self-sustaining industry. Otherwise, like in the case of the SLS, all you’re doing is deficit spending.

              • Vladislaw

                What NASA “needs” is what congress tells them they need. Congress wants NASA to have domestic service to LEO. End of story.

        • Fred Willett

          On top of this you have purely commercial flights. Space Tourists. Bigelow (perhaps) Dragonlab and so on. The future is bright and it is commercial.

      • Vladislaw

        Actually it is usually the opposite.

        The intial market is small but extremely profitable. In fact, the producer gets EXTRA normal profits. Prices are high as a mechanism because production is so low and does not match demand. If you look at items like, eyeglasses, refridgerators, telescopes, mobile phones (the brick), cars, personal airplanes etc. All were considered as playthings for the very wealthy, because only the rich could afford them.

        Capital automatically flows to extra normal profits. The speculation phase. This means that mutiple vendors now start making the new product. This starts the over capacity phase and over production starts. Now companies start slashing prices as price wars start for the new product or service. It is this over capacity that drives down prices.

        Now the shake out phase as the least productive go bankrupt or mergers take place and the market leaders start buying up that production capacity for pennies on the dollar and the product is now mass produced and the new lower equilibruim prices are reached.

        • Coastal Ron

          Vladislaw said:

          The intial market is small but extremely profitable. In fact, the producer gets EXTRA normal profits.

          In an open market setting with only one supplier that might be the case. Commercial Crew is not an open market though, and there is a mish-mash of things going on:

          - The initial customer is paying some portion of the service development

          - NASA is trying to ensure competition is present when the first contracts are awarded

          Because of this, profitability might not be that far away for the providers that get a contract, even at a low flight rate. But if competition is present it doesn’t look like there will be an opportunity for extra normal profits on the initial ISS support contract.

          Haven’t seen you posting much recently – busy?

          • Vladislaw

            That is exactly what we had. One supplier, the soyuz. They ratched up the price to now 70 million a seat. Now we are seeing capital flowing into competitors. Soyuz prices were raised because the demand was outpacing the supply.

            (works the same for competing governments usually)

            The first innovator/supplier is almost always a monopoly. The question is usually can they get their government to raise some roadblocks to make it a protected market monopoly.

            You have read another’s post that there is not enough traffic to support mulitple suppliers. Again… if the successful supplier is seen to be making a killing, profit wise, capital will come flooding in, (barring government roadblocks) driving up production. Then the shakeout.

            • Coastal Ron

              Vladislaw said:

              That is exactly what we had. One supplier, the soyuz.

              Ah, I see what you mean.

              • Vladislaw

                CR, you will also find, that in a lot industries, the peak innovation period is usually right after the overproduction phase.

                Now all the companies are trying to wring out every single innovation they can to keep their company afloat. *necessity is the mother of invention*

                It is the make it or break it time in the product life cycle. You will also see that a lot of these innovations come at the exact time when the company can no longer afford to put them in place. Those are the companies that will usually get a merger while the unproductive companies that just got out competed go bankrupt.

  • RockyMtnSpace

    James proffered “… It is at this point that the SMD AA can be influenced by politics. It is at this point that the best proposal isn’t always selected. It is at this point that lobbyist can learn what is on the AA’s plate and get their congress people to influence , even direct, which proposal gets selected for Phase B.”

    Please provide proof of these accusations. I have been involved with SMD PI led missions and their selections for quite some time and while I may not agree with every mission chosen, the evaluations and decision criteria have always been above board from what I have experienced and in-line with Decadal Survey goals.

    Sounds more like sour grapes on your part. Lost several proposals huh?

    • Hiram

      This is the second time that the OP has been asked for examples. Barring any credible cases, the accusation made by this person about SMD selection being politics-driven is not just sour grapes, but a serious misunderstanding of the SMD procurement and evaluation process. As you say, SMD is careful to abide by Decadal Survey goals. HEOMD has no such consensus-driven goal set, so the opportunity for a selection official to make a personally justified (and possibly biased) decision is far greater. The OP uses the word “politics” without really understanding what that word means.

      • Guest

        Oh, and those ‘decadal surveys’ have done the US citizen so well, a space telescope so far over budget and so technologically fragile that it may not even work if it ever flies, and so far out that it can’t even be repaired, another duplicative rover for Mars when we already have two on the ground, both projects only capable of providing welfare for scientists and photo ops for civil servants and politicians, producing data that WE DON’T REALLY NEED ANYMORE. And then when we actually need a simple little 500 million dollar mission vital and critical for national and planetary security? No.

        No love lost here. As bad as SLS and Orion. The entire NASA portfolio is borked, lol.

        • Hiram

          Poor interpretation. The decadal surveys had absolutely nothing to do with JWST cost overruns. In fact, those surveys first recommended that mission when it was cast as a vastly more economical one. When Congress tells NASA to go do good science, those decadal surveys tell NASA what that phrase “good science” means. Congress adores those decadal surveys … for good reason.

          Decadal surveys have actually done the US citizen quite well in science accomplishment and expression of technological superiority. Just look at the long string of successes of NASA science missions and try to say that they didn’t. But no, you complain about a mission that hasn’t even flown yet. That’s cheap criticism.

          As to technologically fragile, one can’t be sure exactly what you mean. JWST is designed to work. It’s designed to work even though things may not go right. It’s complicated, but if we shy away from doing something because it’s going to be complicated, where does that leave us? MSL/Curiosity is a powerful counterargument to your fragility fear. That has been an astoundingly complex mission, and so far, it’s worked perfectly. Our intense pride in ourselves as a nation because of that mission was because it was complicated. Damn, we’re good. But yes, the cost of JWST is an embarrassment, the likes of which we haven’t seen at NASA for a long time, at least in science. NASA future science planning certainly has been humbled by JWST.

          “Producing data we don’t really need anymore”? Speak for yourself. We need to understand the universe as much as we used to. Mars, for example, is just as important as it used to be. I don’t recall anyone giving us all the answers.

          “And then when we actually need a simple little 500 million dollar mission vital and critical for national and planetary security?”

          You know, the vitality and criticality of that mission (um, NEO survey, you mean?) to national and planetary security has never been entirely clear to Congress or NASA. Impact threat detection is critical to planetary security, and thanks to Congress, we’re already spending a good chunk of money on it.

        • Mader

          “producing data that WE DON’T REALLY NEED ANYMORE”
          Just cut the chase and say we need to scrape NASA budget for hungry African children or something equally retarded.

        • “…another duplicative rover for Mars when we already have two on the ground…”

          To be fair, there are only two functioning rovers on Mars. They are not at all duplicates of each other, the older of them is massively beyond its design lifetime with degraded mobility, its sister machine having already gone silent.

          • Guest

            It’s too bad they appear to be driven by interns with little or no scientific direction at all anymore. Multi-billion dollar rovers on the ground on Mars underutilized, and already they’re moving on to a clone. It’s a jobs program.

            I’m clearly in the ‘disband NASA’ camp now. Perhaps Hillary can deal with it. This entire NASA debacle is symptomatic of a much more serious decline in the intellectual capacity of American science and the courage to take brave risks.

  • Hiram

    “It’s too bad they appear to be driven by interns with little or no scientific direction at all anymore.”

    I am truly boggled. What in the world are you talking about? “Serious decline in the intellectual capacity of American science”?? “Multi-billion dollar rovers on the ground on Mars underutilized”?? This discussion which, by the way, has meandered far off topic, has me wondering about intellectual capacity, but not that of American science.

    Without explanation, examples, or insightful justification, this is just idle blather. There are other posters here who have similar views, but at least they valiantly try to argue their case. That gives us some confidence that “Guest” isn’t just an alternate monicker of anonymity for one of them. NASA may well require “disbanding” (um, it’s a “band”?), but that won’t be driven by the groundless rants expressed here.

    The point about “courage to take brave risks” is an interesting one. NASA science has taken hugely brave risks. MSL/Curiosity is a great example. NASA human spaceflight, it’s true, is paralyzed by the fear of losing astronauts. But that fear comes directly from Congress. That fear originates, I believe, in the unacknowledged premise that human spaceflight doesn’t offer that much of value to the nation, such that bodily risks to humans simply aren’t tolerable. Hey, let’s “disband” Congress!

    • Guest

      Your ‘God Bless America’ rant aside, the point is I’m another serious space advocate who has now joined the ranks of many other serious space advocates who no longer have any respect for the American scientific process and the specific institution of NASA.

      Your mileage may vary.

      • Coastal Ron

        Guest said:

        I’m another serious space advocate who has now joined the ranks of many other serious space advocates who no longer have any respect for the American scientific process and the specific institution of NASA.

        I’m not sure what group you think you’re joining, but I have plenty of respect for the American scientific process – but I don’t have a lot of respect for the politicians who ignore scientific input or just ignore common sense in general.

        For instance, our space industry is by far the best in the world, and I’m not even sure I could say anyone is close behind. Even in countries where they are have lots of capabilities those are mainly state supported, and they are not part of a total ecosystem of capabilities.

        Here in the U.S. we have companies that are making more progress in space related activities than entire countries are able to do.

        Now maybe it could be argued that we’re not doing all we can do with what we have, but from a government funding standpoint that is because of our politicians, not our industrial base. And it has to be remembered also that doing space exploration is still a luxury activity, so it is unreasonable to expect that NASA will have unlimited amounts of money to spend. NASA gets plenty of money, it just needs to be unshackled from the politically mandated pork programs.

      • Hiram

        Those are big words to use with no supporting examples. That’s “blather” defined. No “respect for the American scientific process”, eh? To the extent you think that NASA science is badly done, it’s a remarkable extrapolation to apply that criticism to “American science”. Although “science” is a little tricky to budgetarily isolate, NASA R&D is about 6% of federal R&D. So American scientists funded by NIH, DOE, NSF, and USDA don’t have your respect either, one has to assume. Do they too provide science we don’t need anymore? There’s a lot of that going around, it would seem.

        So, let me guess. Whose scientific process do you have respect for? Bolivia’s maybe?

        The real point is that with blather like that, your own mileage won’t vary. You’ve joined the ranks of those who are destined to be stuck in the mud for a long time.

        To get back on topic, let me point out that at least some marketers of commercial crew are, in the long run, going to try to sell their activities to science (e.g. Golden Spike). While I’m not sure I’m convinced of value they offer, I look forward to seeing their case develop. Maybe the Bolivian science community will buy it?

  • Coastal Ron wrote:

    For instance, our space industry is by far the best in the world, and I’m not even sure I could say anyone is close behind. Even in countries where they are have lots of capabilities those are mainly state supported, and they are not part of a total ecosystem of capabilities.

    This is the part I don’t get. Republicans like Bill Posey and Sandy Adams before him represent the Space Coast, yet they’re fond of proclaiming that the U.S. aerospace industry is now behind China and India. Really?! I want to say to them, “Why do you hate America?!”

    Of course, the truth is that they only hate Barack Obama, but that hatred is so deep they’ll tell any lie, no matter how big a whopper it is.

    No other nation is even attempting to create a privatized space agency. Folks like Richard Branson and Elon Musk are here for a reason. No other nation is capable of it.

    Once Branson achieves his first commercial suborbital flight — and that could be in a year — you will no longer have to be a government employee to go into space. That’s how radical and revolutionary a change that is happening right before our eyes here in the U.S.

    The OldSpace folks and their Congressional lapdogs can lie and obfuscate and delay, but they will fail. NewSpace is here. It will succeed. The next ten years will be the most exciting years in aerospace history since the 1960s.

    And here in the Space Coast, I have a front row seat, which thrills me to no end.

    • Guest

      Welcome to the party. Too bad about those big party crashers.

      It’s too bad also those big guys can’t become assets, and not liabilities.

    • amightywind

      Republicans like Bill Posey and Sandy Adams before him represent the Space Coast, yet they’re fond of proclaiming that the U.S. aerospace industry is now behind China and India. Really?! I want to say to them, “Why do you hate America?!

      Wow! I’ve had post censored for using that phrase.

      Of course, the truth is that they only hate Barack Obama, but that hatred is so deep they’ll tell any lie, no matter how big a whopper it is.

      It is a tendency for this administration has been to ascribe dishonest motives to the opposition. Posey and Adams are only trying to save what is good in the face of a reckless and adventurist space policy.

  • Once Branson achieves his first commercial suborbital flight — and that could be in a year — you will no longer have to be a government employee to go into space.

    It could be, but I wouldn’t bet on it. They were supposed to have another powered flight in June. It’s now August. I hope I’m wrong, but appears to me that they continue to have serious engine problems, and it wont get fixed until they give up on hybrids, which means a delay of another couple of years.

    • Rand Simberg wrote:

      It could be, but I wouldn’t bet on it. They were supposed to have another powered flight in June. It’s now August. I hope I’m wrong, but appears to me that they continue to have serious engine problems, and it wont get fixed until they give up on hybrids, which means a delay of another couple of years.

      Whether it’s Virgin or XCOR, I don’t care. When it happens … like I said, you don’t have to be a government employee any more to go into space. The world changes.

  • Coastal Ron

    Stephen C. Smith said:

    Of course, the truth is that they only hate Barack Obama, but that hatred is so deep they’ll tell any lie, no matter how big a whopper it is.

    And that trend started with Bill Clinton, so I don’t think it will change for any Democrat president going forward.

    How does the bode for our space program? Well quite honestly our space program is the least of our worries if our politicians can’t get their act together to do the things our nation needs to keep us moving forward.

    The OldSpace folks and their Congressional lapdogs can lie and obfuscate and delay, but they will fail. NewSpace is here. It will succeed. The next ten years will be the most exciting years in aerospace history since the 1960s.

    One only has to look around the defense industry over the past couple of decades to understand that change is constant, and if you don’t innovate you die.

    Our space industry has had it’s share of failures, and no doubt will see it’s share in the future, but some will succeed. SpaceX is a disruptive presence in the market, and it will be fun to see how the market responds to what it is doing. Add into that all the other NewSpace efforts, and yes, I agree that the next 10 years will be very exciting.

    What will NASA be doing in 10 years? Considering the budget battles, likely not much innovation by comparison. Too bad too, since NASA has lots of potential…

  • amightywind

    “It would be up to NASA to decide what was in the best interest of the government: either to downselect or to slip schedule

    That’s why he makes the big bucks. It is pretty obvious that CCDev cost and schedule are constraints in that order, and have been for years. A gold-plaited, triply redundant program is a luxury that NASA could never afford. NASA is in a declining budget era. ISS gets splashed in 2020. Every day CCDev continues to slip makes it less and less relevant. A down select to 1 credible bidder is obviously required and should have been done years ago.

    Amightywind greetings from my mother’s basement.

  • Coastal Ron

    amightywind said:

    Every day CCDev continues to slip makes it less and less relevant.

    Every day Commercial Crew slips means more money to Putin’s Russia.

    I’m not sure why you like this idea so much. Why don’t you want that money to stay here in the U.S. creating a new industry for America to dominate? Weird.

  • vulture4

    Competition is not just redundancy, it is cost saving, because it prevents a monopoly supplier from having an irresistible incentive to maximize cost, as we quickly discovered when the two EELV programs were merged into one and when Shuttle was grounded and we were left with only Soyuz.

    ISS will not be deorbited. It is not a footstep in space, it is our only foothold. Even BEO exploration, when it finally becomes feasible, will start in LEO. As I said before, without ISS we will not be stuck in LEO. We will be stuck on the ground.

    • amightywind

      I might agree with you if NASA were ordering 1000 units. But they are not. CCDev will fly to the ISS a dozen times at most. The time and cost of the competition are simply not worth it. What Boeing and Lockmart quickly discovered with EELV was that the duplicate support structures for each program were wasteful given the low launch rate.

      ISS will not be deorbited. It is not a footstep in space, it is our only foothold.

      ISS is a budget liability. It also helps to prop up the tyrant Putin. It could easily be replaced in 1 or 2 SLS flights by a more modest station.

      • Coastal Ron

        amightywind said:

        What Boeing and Lockmart quickly discovered with EELV was that the duplicate support structures for each program were wasteful given the low launch rate.

        Which, given that all the Commercial Crew providers are using existing launchers, is an irrelevant point.

        All the Commercial Crew providers have to build vehicles for qualification flights, and those will be the same used for normal duty. Since they can be reused up to 10 flights, each provider really only needs as a “fleet” of 2-3 vehicles. And since they can be stored in a small building, or out on the production floor, in no way is it the same as the EELV situation.

        ISS is a budget liability.

        We’re paying money for science and technology advancement. Though the value could be debated, at least there is no debate that we are getting something for our money.

        Use you same judgement for the SLS – what do we get for the $30B+?

        It also helps to prop up the tyrant Putin.

        Funny how that doesn’t feed into your equation for Commercial Crew.

        And again, how does that same judgement work for the SLS? Instead of Russia, we’re borrowing that money from China. Is China better to prop up than Russia?

        So far you have been arguing to prop up Russia and China far more than those of us that want a domestic crew transportation system and for NASA to use existing AMERICAN launchers.

        Interesting, no?

      • Vladislaw

        I believe you are off by a tad. I believe there will be over 30 passenger flights to the ISS by domestic carriers before the ISS is splashed.

  • Mr. Mark

    DCSCA -”HSF is an instrument of politics; a means of projecting national policy– it’s political science, not rocket science that drives it.
    Human spaceflight in this era projects geo-political influence, economic vigor and technical prowess, around the globe for the nation(s) that choose to do it. And it plays out on a stage with high visibility that demands performance with engineering excellence from all the actors. The bounties from which are all reaped by the participating nation(s) on Earth. That’s why government’s do it”.

    20th century ideology.

    • DCSCA

      20th century ideology.
      No, In fact, it is basic politics. Every time private enterprise has had the opportunity to finance this science, it has balked and let government carrythe risk. HSF projects power for the governments who choose to do it. There’s no other reason for it– as the PRC know today, Soviet Russia demonstrated half a century ago and the United States followec suit. Human Spaceflight is a political instrument- not a marketplace.

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