Congress, States

Reaction to the Cygnus launch

Mikulski watches launch

Sen. Barbara Mikulski wishes Antares and Cygnus luck as she watches the launch from her office, in this photo provided by her office.

The Antares rocket that lifted off Wednesday carrying Orbital’s first Cygnus cargo spacecraft to the ISS might be the biggest booster to launch from Virginia’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, but arguably the spaceport’s biggest booster is Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who has long been a major advocate for the Wallops Island launch site. “Today is a victory for space science and jobs!” she declared in a press release after the successful launch. “Today’s launch is possible because of the close partnership between federal and state agencies along with the private sector at Wallops Island working to create jobs today and jobs tomorrow.” To accentuate her support, the release includes a photo of her watching the launch on a television on her office, with a model of Antares next to the TV. For good measure, her fingers are crossed as the rocket lifts off.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) also issued a statement about the launch that included a photo of him watching the launch on TV—in this case, with his hands on his hips, his fingers uncrossed. “This is a great milestone in our efforts to build out a commercial spaceflight industry at Wallops that leverages Virginia’s incredible talent pool and world-class launch facilities at Wallops Island,” he said in the statement.

Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA), the ranking member of the appropriations subcommittee in the House that funds NASA, also weighed in. “Today’s Cygnus launch is a signal of immense progress for American commercial spaceflight,” he said in the statement. “This demonstration mission is a further testament of NASA’s commitment to growing and strengthening its ties with the commercial spaceflight industry in order to remain a world leader in space exploration.”

Meanwhile, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) saw the launch as a sign of his state’s growing competitiveness in the commercial space industry. “In just over a week, Virginia has witnessed two historic launches from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport,” he said in a statement, referring to the Minotaur V launch of NASA’s LADEE lunar mission, also from Wallops but not, strictly speaking, a commercial launch. “These historic launches are sure to put Virginia on the map as a leader in space exploration. We are well on our way to making Wallops Island the top commercial spaceport in the country.” Heads up, Florida.

115 comments to Reaction to the Cygnus launch

  • Dark Blue Nine

    Is some piece of Cygnus/Antares built in Fattah’s Pennsylvania district? I don’t know of any OSC facility there. A subcontractor, maybe?

    Maybe Fattah’s support is genuine, but I have to think there’s a connection.

    • Ben Russell-Gough

      As far as I know, construction of the bulk of the Antares is entirely in the Ukraine (core) and Utah (ATK Castor-30 upper stage). I suppose that OSC build the PLF and interstage at their plant, whereever that is.

    • Justin Kugler

      Fattah is the leading member of the National Lab Caucus, so he’s taken an interest in the development of the ISS National Lab. I briefed his staff earlier this summer on our progress at CASIS.

  • amightywind

    Congratulations to the space entrepreneurs at Orbital, delivering cargo to ISS at less cost, and 1% the hype of SpaceX. Game on Elon Musk.

    • Mader

      SpaceX: 12 flights for 1.6 bil $.
      Orbital: 8 flights for 1.9 bil $.
      Yeeeeah, “less cost”.
      Try with your wishful-thinking powered reality-warping Force again, because you clearly failed.

      • Ferris Valyn

        Well, too be far, it is lower cost that the shuttle, and certainly lower cost than SLS.

        • Routine SLS flights shouldn’t cost more than $500 million per launch ($105 tonnes to orbit) unless your launching them– once a century– like the Obama administration would like to:-)

          • Coastal Ron

            Marcel F. Williams said:

            Routine SLS flights shouldn’t cost more than $500 million per launch…

            I guess that depends on what you mean by “routine”?

            The Shuttle supply system was set up to allow up to four launches per year on average, and that was mainly gated by the External Tank and SRM production. Add in the USA contract that averaged $99M/month, and that was what drove the $200M/month figure that the Shuttle Program Manager quoted was their running cost.

            The SLS supply chain is set up for a much lower flight rate, and that is because Congress hasn’t authorized anything beyond the test program, so NASA can’t afford to set up a high flight rate supply chain.

            But in any case, NASA’s own estimates for a 130mt launcher, which your buddy Spudis has endorsed, show that the real program costs would average at least $2.5B/flight, and that’s only if NASA contracts for a bulk buy of at least 18 flights.

            So no, there is no way the SLS would ever cost a mere $500M/flight.

            …unless your launching them– once a century– like the Obama administration would like to…

            Congress told NASA to build the SLS, not the Obama Administration, and it’s Congress that isn’t funding any use for the SLS.

            You apparently don’t know the facts… what a surprise. ;-)

            • Vladislaw

              Don’t forget to top off that 2.5 BILLION dollar per launch rocket with the gold and gem encrusted MPCV.Orion, another bargin at ONLY 1+ billion a pop.

              3.5 BILLION dollars of hardware into the drink with each flight… gosh we could launch this combo 5-6 times a year .. no problem ..

      • mt noise

        And SpaceX can bring cargo back to Earth too.

    • Coastal Ron

      amightywind said:

      Game on Elon Musk.

      Funny how you don’t see the irony here.

      You applaud competition for this NASA need, yet insist on no competition for other NASA needs.

      President Reagan would not be very happy with you for that attitude. Of course being the type of “conservative” Reagan was, you would probably be calling him a traitor just like you called Rubio a traitor.

      It is so fun to watch you eat your young… ;-)

      • amightywind

        ISS resupply is a petty mission. ISS draws funds away that might be used to fund manned exploration of the solar system. But I still commend Orbital for their performance. I am confident that ghost of President Reagan smiles upon me.

        • Coastal Ron

          amightywind said:

          ISS draws funds away that might be used to fund manned exploration of the solar system.

          How can NASA keep crews alive jaunting around the Solar System if you end the mission of the science platform that is trying to solve the question of how to keep crews alive on jaunts around the Solar System?

          You really don’t understand the trade-offs, do you?

          I am confident that ghost of President Reagan smiles upon me.

          Not as long as you support the government-owned, government-run, government-monopoly rocket called the SLS. Don’t you remember – government is not the answer?

          • amightywind

            How can NASA keep crews alive jaunting around the Solar System if you end the mission of the science platform that is trying to solve the question of how to keep crews alive on jaunts around the Solar System?

            An awfully expensive way to accomplish this, don’t you think? ISS addresses neither problem of radiation shielding, nor physical atrophy of astronauts. All it does is carefully, and pointlessly observe them both.

            • Vladislaw

              “dubbed AS10, and was developed by NASA as a drink packed with anti-oxidants to help astronauts against radiation while traveling in outer space.”
              http://tawkon.com/blog/en/can-nasa-anti-radiation-space-drink-help-your-skin

            • Coastal Ron

              amightywind said:

              An awfully expensive way to accomplish this, don’t you think?

              Compared to what? You offer no other choices except to test out solutions during full-up missions. And if they don’t work, then the crew is S.O.L.

              ISS addresses neither problem of radiation shielding, nor physical atrophy of astronauts.

              Wrong on the astronaut health issue, and you know it. That is why NASA and Russia are getting ready for a one year mission for two crew so that they can test out the zero-gravity mitigation techniques and technologies the ISS has been perfecting for over a decade.

              You can’t validate a solution for a space-only condition unless you test it in space.

              As to radiation shielding, there is at least one upcoming test at the ISS, and that is the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM). But further testing needs to be done further out in space, and that is part of the reason for the EML station proposal.

              And again, since you have offered no alternatives, apparently you think all testing should be carried out on operational missions where there are no backup, right?

              Doing things in space is never going to be inexpensive, but cutting corners like what you propose is a sure way to shut down our activities in space because of being too cavalier.

              It’s a good thing you don’t make critical decisions for the space program…

              • amightywind

                $3 billion a year buys an awful lot of prototype hardware. Use your head. The opportunity cost of ISS is enormous.

                It’s a good thing you don’t make critical decisions for the space program…

                It is a shame I don’t since most of my opinions are self-evident. I would bring order and disciple, just as I do in the private sector.

              • Coastal Ron

                amightywind said:

                $3 billion a year buys an awful lot of prototype hardware.

                Apparently not, not when you look at what the SLS and MPCV do with $3B per year.

                And regardless how much “prototype hardware” you build, you still have to test and iterate, test and iterate, test and iterate.

                I noticed that you avoided answering the question of how you are supposed to test space hardware in space, in a non-operational environment. That is what the ISS is for – what do you proposed to replace that test function with?

                The opportunity cost of ISS is enormous.

                That’s a funny statement coming from someone that supports the spending of $3B/year on a rocket that Congress has refused to use, and a capsule that is too overweight to carry humans.

                The ISS eco-system is the future of our operations in space, not the SLS and MPCV. Use your head.

        • I am confident that ghost of President Reagan smiles upon me.

          Ronald Reagan initiated the space-station program, you idiot. He’s not smiling upon you — he’s laughing at you.

          • amightywind

            Yeah, he initiated the Space Station Freedom program, America’s space station. It took a democrat (Clinton) to turn it into the international tar baby that it has become.

            • common sense

              I don’t know what Reagan’s ghost is doing these days but if he smiles upon you it’s probably because even his ghost has gone senile. Or maybe he’s actually laughing at you. I’ll ask Elvis next time I see him.

              Oh and yeah, it took a Democrat to save a failed Republican station program.

              Freedom… How’s your tea dear?

          • DCSCA

            “Ronald Reagan initiated the space-station program, you idiot. He’s not smiling upon you — he’s laughing at you.” quips Simberg.

            Hmmmm. Yes, a throw-away line ina SOTU speech three decades ago. And it had a projected cost of what– $8 billion, not $100 billion…yes, back in the days of the Berlin Wall and the Betamax and the nights you stayed up to watch ther A-Team on one of just three TV networks. Clinging to Cold War planning, bad decisions and poor policy made by a discredited president long dead is very Reaganesque indeed, isn’t Rand.

        • DCSCA

          “ISS resupply is a petty mission.” quips Windy.

          Perhaps not so much petty but dead end, Windy. Wallops has more value to condo developers than HSF ops– and given the winters Virginia endures, not particularly cost-effective for year round spaceflight ops along the East Coast. The future is in Florida– even the Texas coast…. not in Virginia.

    • Matt McClanahan

      SpaceX hype is exciting a lot of potential scientists and engineers who may not have been too interested in the field otherwise. They’re inspiring young people in the way NASA used to do. This is not a bad thing. Where’s the bold, optimistic vision of the future of spaceflight from ULA, ATK, Aerojet, or Orbital? As far as I can tell they’re all content to do business as usual. I wish every one of those companies had their own Grasshopper-scale R&D effort to push the boundaries of spaceflight, but none of them are doing anything remotely ambitious. SpaceX is being ambitious and people respond to that.

      • Matt McClanahan wrote:

        SpaceX is being ambitious and people respond to that.

        And not always positively.

        Living here in the Space Coast, I run into people all the time who bad-mouth SpaceX. Usually they’re employees of Boeing or Lockheed Martin. I still encounter people rooting for “SpaceX to blow up,” because in their minds they think that will magically bring an end to commercial space and we’ll get billions of dollars to do Apollo again.

        NewSpace is happening despite all the delusional people running around out here.

        During the recent Delta IV launch, I was subjected to a screed by a ULA employee who was telling everyone “Obama is giving 39A to SpaceX because he owns SpaceX stock.” Stupid and delusional on so many levels, but that’s the nonsense that gets spread around here. A variation I heard was that Obama’s former Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel owned a lot of SpaceX stock. These people seem to ignore that SpaceX is privately owned and has no stock.

        • Ben Russell-Gough

          Politics is ugly and encourages all the worst human instincts.

          Still, ULA should have stuck their heads above the battlements and presented their EELV Phase-I exploration plan as an alternative to Constellation at the Augustine hearings if they were serious about getting a cut of the pie. I always considered the way they waited to publish their studies until after the Augustine Commission had reported was either very, very canny politics or a complete lack of corporate vision.

          Seriously, the Phase-I versions of Atlas-V (capable of launching Orion) and Delta-IV (Falcon Heavy-class cargo lifter) could be in their hardware test phase now if they had been adopted at the end of Augustine but, of course no-one knew about them then.

          As it was, they left the field open for free drift followed by SLS.

          • Ferris Valyn

            Its important to remember that ULA is not its own master, unlike SpaceX. This doesn’t mean that ULA can’t produce quality proposals, but their parent companies may not always let them play in the sandbox, as it were

          • Coastal Ron

            Ben Russell-Gough said:

            Still, ULA should have stuck their heads above the battlements and presented their EELV Phase-I exploration plan as an alternative to Constellation at the Augustine hearings if they were serious about getting a cut of the pie.

            As Ferris points out, ULA is not an independent entity, and is barred from certain activities by it’s parents (i.e. Boeing and Lockheed Martin).

            However in 2009 ULA’s President did present their proposals to the Augustine Commission for launching humans and providing larger launchers, but that has no connection to what Congress is with the SLS. Congress wasn’t looking for a space transportation architecture, they were looking for JOBS IN CERTAIN POLITICAL DISTRICTS.

            The SLS is not the end result of a rational set of reviews and trade studies, so it doesn’t matter whether there were rational alternatives.

            I always considered the way they waited to publish their studies until after the Augustine Commission had reported was either very, very canny politics or a complete lack of corporate vision.

            Boeing and Lockheed Martin are the two largest government contractors, and since they jointly own ULA, there was really no downside for them in this. In fact I would argue the biggest downside was in not doing the SLS and MPCV, since they are much higher profit programs than if ULA was competing for launch contracts.

            So ULA is not even a factor in this debate. ULA’s parents are.

            …but, of course no-one knew about them then.

            Which they did know about, but the politicians didn’t care. It was never about the “best” way to get hardware to space, it was all about jobs in certain districts.

        • common sense

          ” These people seem to ignore that SpaceX is privately owned and has no stock.”

          That, Stephen is not quite true but the company is indeed privately owned.

        • Every corporation with more than a single owner has stock. It’s just not publicly traded.

      • Vladislaw

        That is just so wrong on so many levels. NASA is the only place to be. Look at all the young engineers who stated at NASA in Jan. of 2004 when President Bush announced the Vision for Space Exploration.

        They have been working at a break neck speed and after only nine years already did a non suborbital test flight.

        And now .. right around the corner in 2023 they are looking for a CREWED launched.

        How can you even begin to compare everything NASA has launched and did for spaceflight since 2004 and what SpaceX has did since 2004.

  • Coastal Ron

    Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) said:

    “Today’s launch is possible because of the close partnership between federal and state agencies along with the private sector at Wallops Island working to create jobs today and jobs tomorrow.”

    If that’s all the launch means – jobs – then that’s further proof that NASA will never be able to do much in space in the future, since everything will be based on jobs, not science, engineering, or common sense.

    I see this launch as further validation that the commercial sector truly is up to the job of taking over the routine transportation jobs that NASA has long done. And it’s further validation that NASA is not adding any value in building their own rockets, especially when companies as small as Orbital Sciences have shown they do know how to be successful at rocket science (and so far in orbital science too).

    Go Cygnus!

  • James

    Orbital was wooed by KSC as well as the Va Space Port; in the end they chose Wallops for their Cygnus launch operations.

    Make no mistake though, for any internal NASA launch, i.e. not a commercial resupply to ISS, the KSC folks will fight tooth and nail to prevent WFF from stealing their ‘jobs’; even though I”m sure the WFF launch services costs would be much less than KSC costs.

    • pathfinder_01

      KSC does not do commercial launches and hasn’t done so since the Shuttle was banned as a commercial launcher post challenger. Cape Canerval although next door is seperate from KSC and that is where most east coast commercail launches take place.

      • James

        And yes. There r no commercial launches from KSC property. Agreed. however, KSC does have dominion over non commercial NASA launches out of Canaveral. This is the arena where KSC Launch Services Program will fight tooth and nail w Wallops. The LSP would never allow a cheaper launch service to be negotiated between launch service providers and Wallops because it threatens their monopoly. And I bet Wallops could do it for less costs than KSC,LSP. If allowed to compete.

        • Byeman

          That is totally bogus.
          1. OSC regrets picking Wallops. It is ended up being harder to deal with the Wallops range than the Eastern Range.
          2. Your claim about Wallops being cheaper has no relevant data to base make such a claim.
          3. Your claim about the LSP has no merit. LSP doesn’t care where launches occur.
          They support Kodiak, Kwaj, VAFB and CCAFS launches. They would add Wallops if OSC wins a proposal. Antares is on the NLS II contract already.
          a. ULA and SpaceX are not going to establish a pad there.
          b. Orbital (not the company) mechanics and vehicle performance will dictate whether Antares can compete for a launch. Range costs are a minor part and don’t play a role.

  • Gregori

    The politicians are hardly going to pursue your science fiction fantasies without some sort of political payoff. They’re not that dumb. When unemployment and underemployment are still major problems, the public are really going to be pressing the politicians to provide opportunities for jobs. This is just hard reality and if you can’t deal with it you’re going to lose in the long run.

  • mike shupp

    If the real purpose of these program was increasing employment, it’d be more effective to boost highway construction. I’m sure the senators and representatives are bright enough to know this or have staff members trained in economics to remind them occasionally of reality. So the blathering about jobs doesn’t have any connection to policy or logical thought, it’s just as way for Mikulski and other Congressmen to tell their not-so-bright constituents that spaceflight is a good thing.

    • Hiram

      So the blathering about jobs doesn’t have any connection to policy or logical thought, it’s just as way for Mikulski and other Congressmen to tell their not-so-bright constituents that spaceflight is a good thing.”

      I think that’s exactly right, and comes with a corollary. That is, that Congress needs to tell their constituents that spaceflight actually has a purpose. Because those not-so-bright constituents, and even the fairly bright ones as well, don’t otherwise understand what the purpose of spaceflight might be for them, and it’s been a long time since we supplied one (beating the crap out of the USSR) that was digestible. Highway construction? That’s easy. For lack of anything better, the purpose of spaceflight is, in fact, jobs.

  • Matt

    This is just the proof-of-concept for Orbital Science and Cygnus. A successful mission means they can do the job. The next hurdle is a mission under contract. Successful mission completion there demonstrates capability. As I’ve said before: commercial taking over the LEO mission frees up resources for the NASA BEO mission. And keep in mind that the commercial sector is not a one-size fits all for all of the country’s spaceflight needs. NASA explores. The commercial sector supports, and when that phase opens up, exploits.

    Now, do it with crew, and the successful firm(s) will be deserving of well-earned accolades. Don’t pop the champagne corks until then.

    • Neil Shipley

      Matt. COTS demonstrates the capability, not a contract mission. that said, Orbital already have a CRS contract.
      The companies in the CCiCap Program are doing just fine meeting agreed schedule and receiving their milestone payments as per the contract. That schedule has been determined by Congress and the funding available. It should also be noted that although the schedule is moving to the right due to the funding constraints, this doesn’t cost NASA any more since the milestone payments are for fixed amounts payable only on successful completion of the milestone. You know you sound a bit like DCSCA wingeing about commercial not flying anybody.Sheesh!

      • Matt

        That’s one thing DCSCA and I have in common: skepticism about Commercial providers. Space X has shown that they can do what they’ve been contracted to do, so now let’s see if Orbital Science can do the same thing. Once they prove that they can, then they are deserving of the accolades that will come their way.

        Same thing with crew: show that you can do it. Fly two or three demonstration flights-and Boeing’s already said that NASA astronauts will fly on at least one of their missions (sort of like a customer’s representative), and then get the contract. With crew, just as with cargo, they have to demonstrate safety as well as reliability. Do it once, and it’s proof-of-concept. Do it two or three times more, you prove capability. Then it’s time to sign the contract and do it for real.

        Skepticism about commercial providers is not heresy, contrary to what some may think.

        • Ferris Valyn

          2 points

          1) Can we then use that same skepticism about NASA’s proposals, and non-commercial spaceflight? Skepticism isn’t a bad thing, provided it applied fairly.

          2) Everyone has at least 1 full up test flight to ISS for the crew proposals (I don’t remember how many each company has, but they have at least 1). But how do you think we should handle the issue of items that need long lead time?

        • Vladislaw

          Your base line assumption from the start has been, American entreprenuers and aerospace engineers and technicans are just to absolutely to stupid to even attempt this.

          You have did nothing but launch vile statements how commercial providers must be a bunch of hillbillies with not a brain in their heads…

          from the start you have been a ONLY NASA because the rest of American aerospace are just to stupid to even tie their own shoes…

          Just about every single statement you have every made in the last several years has been only proven wrong. NASA still producing PORK not launches and Commerical launches only increasing at both suborbital and orbital.

          The only thing left for you to cling to is commercial crew .. once American aerospace workers are doing that you will have to find a new stalking horse.

          “well commercial has to land on the moon several times” You are like DC .. always moving the goal posts.

        • pathfinder_01

          Matt we trust commercial companies to launch plutonium powered payloads to deep space destinations but until recently didn’t trust them to send underwear to the ISS? What kind of sense does THAT make? The shuttle had a poor record for launching on time far poorer than anything else, and when it failed the whole system got taken down for two years causing the delays to ISS construction and the ISS’s crew to be dropped down to two and yet we fear an commercial company putting humans into space?

          They seem to be much better at putting just about anything into space safer and closer to time with fewer delays and better recovery from delay than NASA ever did. The truth of the matter was when space was deregulated, NASA got stuck with the shuttle because no company could compete and operate it at profit and dependence on the shuttle and the whole concept of NASA launching anything is not conducive to the evolution of HSF.

          If someone finds a way to send crew or cargo to the ISS a little cheaper NASA could simply change providers when the contract ends. If NASA owns the rocket, you use the same technology for 30 years because only congress can supply money for upgrades/replacement and they don’t. In the time the Shuttle has flown Delta II, Delta III, Titan IV, Atlas II, Atlas III, and Atlas V have all be developed. Orbital and Space X have both broken into the world of Spaceflight with their respective launcher(Pegasus, Falcon, ect…) and NASA has developed nothing that has gone into space, it used the shuttle till it couldn’t use it anymore.

    • Coastal Ron

      Matt said:

      As I’ve said before: commercial taking over the LEO mission frees up resources for the NASA BEO mission.

      Glad to see you finally accept this. We’ve been saying it for a number of years…

      And keep in mind that the commercial sector is not a one-size fits all for all of the country’s spaceflight needs.

      What are you talking about?

      Since NewSpace is all about competition, of course there are varieties in capabilities.

      BUT, keep in mind that NASA doesn’t yet have any standards for what it needs for BEO, so really you can’t even say what NASA’s needs are. And if NASA standardizes on modular spacecraft components that are no bigger than 5m in diameter and 18mt in mass, then there are five launchers around the world that could lift that to LEO. That’s turns NASA’s transportation needs into a commodity, which is a good thing.

      NASA explores.

      Only when it can afford to, and right now they can’t afford to do anything BEO with humans.

      Why is that? Because Congress is forcing NASA to provide their own transportation, and that makes BEO exploration too expensive.

      As long as you keep ignoring this Matt, you won’t truly understand why the SLS needs to be cancelled.

      • Matt

        Ron, as I’ve said before, a commercial capability to LEO compliments NASA: it doesn’t replace it. A totally commercial program, as Vadislaw mentioned when JFK’s Rice Univ. speech was discussed, is not politically possible. Commercial space is not a one-size fits all solution to the HSF dilemma that this Administration created for itself when it canned Constellation without having any kind of program on the drawing board, ready to present. And a commercially based (EELV/depot) program is equally politically impossible-though if the firms that would benefit (Space X, Orbital, ULA, etc), why aren’t they lobbying for it?

        That ULA paper about Affordable Exploration Architecture (Submitted to AIAA in 2009)? I direct your attention, Ron, to Ch. VII, p. 19: “The presence of a launcher in the 50-80 tons to LEO reduces the launch rate and reduces the dependency on depots. Combining depots with these larger launchers hugely amplifies the architecture performance.” Which politically means: SLS/Orion + depot. Though a depot opens up more opportunities for failure: the more launches mean more chances for something to go wrong.

        As long as the public sees NASA as THE space program-not to mention the key members of Congress who are concerned with such matters, “making the sale” that commercial space benefits everyone (NASA, other space agencies, DOD, space tourism, etc.) is going to be a problem.

        • pathfinder_01

          In 1963, NASA launched all payloads manned, unmanned into space. The only payloads not launched by NASA were launched by the Air force. The deregulation of space in 1984, along with the challenger disaster as well as the commercial space act of 1990 all meant that NASA would no longer launch anything into space. There would be no government payloads provided commercial space could lift them. The Shuttle itself banned from commercial launching of satellites. The only reason why the Shute survived 1986 is because there was no other manned spacecraft available and the country was not in the mood to spend money on one.

          By holding forcing NASA to be a launch provider you are forcing costs that have little benefit in terms of exploration and forcing NASA to keep jobs just for jobs sakes rather than advance our ability to work and live in space that is the waste of SLS.

          The only sale to be made if for HSF as commercial already does DOD, and other space program flights right now and that sale is going to be made the moment the bill for SLS comes in along with the clear lack of use for it.

          Every poltitical system changes or dies and in the case of the Shuttle it’s disfunction in terms of cost is what is going to bring it down.

        • Coastal Ron

          Matt said:

          Commercial space is not a one-size fits all solution…

          You keep using this phrase as a reason why commercial launch providers are not the answer, but you ignore the flip side – the “one size fits all” SLS is far from the perfect launch system for what NASA needs.

          For instance, if NASA needs to send one person to anywhere in space, it must use the SLS and MPCV, which together will cost well over $1.5B. Considering that NASA’s budget is less than $18B/year, NASA can’t afford to use the SLS on a regular basis and still have money left over for building any meaningful exploration hardware.

          So as usual Matt, you ignore the realities of the money situation. It doesn’t matter what you think the political situation is, because even if it is accurate, NASA still won’t be able to afford to do anything.

          This is a binary choice Matt:

          A. NASA is forced to use the SLS and won’t be able to afford to go anywhere or do anything meaningful because it lacks the funding to do so (i.e. the current situation with NASA today).

          B. NASA is allowed to use commercial transportation AND to use an exploration architecture that is based on using existing commercial launchers. It’s how we built a 450mt space station in LEO, so it will be easy to expand upon.

          That’s your choice Matt.

        • Coastal Ron

          Matt said:

          I direct your attention, Ron, to Ch. VII, p. 19: “The presence of a launcher in the 50-80 tons to LEO reduces the launch rate and reduces the dependency on depots. Combining depots with these larger launchers hugely amplifies the architecture performance.”

          That is a future refinement they are talking about, not what is required to start.

          However SpaceX has this covered with the 53mt Falcon Heavy. It will have it’s first flight next year, and be priced at the ridiculously affordable price of $135M/flight ($1,155/lb to LEO).

          So if this is the only reason to build the SLS, then you agree there is no reason to build it now, right?

          Though a depot opens up more opportunities for failure: the more launches mean more chances for something to go wrong.

          Do you know how many launches it took to build the ISS? That has turned out pretty well, eh?

          Look Matt, if we can’t perfect building things in space from multiple launches – which NASA has to do with the SLS anyways – then we’re not going anywhere in space as a species. And as I already pointed out, the ISS proves that we as a species have learned how to do this. Depots is a refinement on what we have already been doing, not something completely new.

          OK, now what’s your next fake reason?

          • Matt

            Ron, remember that there is only ONE member of Congress, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) who is on record as favoring a Commercially based program. The only other anti-SLS Congressman (Rep. Tom McClintock, R-CA) isn’t against SLS per se, only the way the contracts were awarded. As long as there’s only one member of the House on record, and zero Senators, going “commercial” isn’t an option. Again, if a commercially based program would benefit not just the startups, but the big players, why aren’t they lobbying for one? Again, offering carrots to facilities in Alabama (Shelby, Louisiana (Landreau and Vitter), Florida (Nelson, Rubio), Texas (Cornyn, Hall, Jackson-Lee), and so on, would be a way to attract more support. As long as the relevant Congressional committees have the “Space States” represented, you’ll have trouble “making the sale.” Which this Administration has had trouble doing.

            • Coastal Ron

              Matt said:

              Ron, remember that there is only ONE member of Congress, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) who is on record as favoring a Commercially based program.

              I could care less. Politics does matter, but as I’ve pointed out Matt, this is a binary choice:

              0. The SLS stays, and NASA can’t afford to use it or do any meaningful exploration with it.

              1. The SLS is cancelled, and NASA is able to afford to do some sort of exploration using existing launchers.

              It’s pretty simple Matt, and that’s because it all comes down to money, and that is what you try to ignore.

              For instance, you say there is no support for the commercial approach, but fail to acknowledge that there is NONE for using the SLS either.

              Where is the money for using the SLS Matt?

              • Matt

                Ron, if we’re spending $1 Billion a month to fight in Afghanistan, we can find the money to fund the space program, including SLS and Orion.

                At least you finally recognized that politics does matter. And this Administration still, as the article above quoting Jeff Bingham mentions, they have never seen the value of involving Congress. You have to get Congressional support-they write the checks, after all. And expecting any Congress, regardless of which party is in control, to be a rubber stamp is a wasted effort-as was pointed out back in ’10 when that disaster known as FY 11 was rolled out.

                Again, if a commercially based program-even one under direct NASA control (i.e. NASA owns and operates the systems as they’ve always done), is the way to go, why aren’t the aerospace firms that would benefit from such a program lobbying for one? As long as Rohrabacher is the “voice in the wilderness”, and-this has to be emphasized again-the relevant Congressional Committees have those from the “Space States”, you have to give them a reason to vote for it-and not just budgetary. They are looking out for their constituents, and grand promises of a “vibrant, strong commercial space program in x number of years” do not satisfy short- and medium-term concerns about workforce. IF NASA made iron-clad guarantees of work on such a program at those NASA centers and contractor facilities (i.e. second-source production of engines, rocket stages; work on depot and L-2 gateway, other exploration hardware, etc.) it might attract support. But you have to play the political game before getting anything done. That’s how D.C. works. It doesn’t help that this Administration has been anti-NASA from the get-go; going back to that original campaign promise to defer Constellation by five years “to pay for unspecified education programs.”

              • Coastal Ron

                Matt said:

                if we’re spending $1 Billion a month to fight in Afghanistan, we can find the money to fund the space program, including SLS and Orion.

                Congress can spend money on anything they want, even if the President disagrees (override a veto, attach to more important bills, etc.).

                Congress SHOULD be spending a whole lot more on fixing our decaying transportation infrastructure here on Earth, which affects far more people than anything NASA does. But Congress isn’t.

                So if Congress won’t fix obvious problems here on Earth, why are you expecting that they WILL fund things for the SLS?

                And this Administration still, as the article above quoting Jeff Bingham mentions, they have never seen the value of involving Congress.

                What an ignorant statement. The Administration knows they have to submit budget requests to Congress, and they also know that Congress can pass whatever they want for budgets. Congress, by law, has to be involved.

                Again, what an ignorant statement.

                You have to get Congressional support-they write the checks, after all.

                Yes, and they are NOT writing any checks to use the SLS. None. Nada. Zero.

                And again Matt, it’s a binary choice. If Congress continues to force NASA to build the SLS, NASA will never be able to mount any meaningful exploration with the SLS. So if you want nothing to be done, then cheer on the development of the SLS.

              • Coastal Ron

                Matt said:

                if a commercially based program-even one under direct NASA control (i.e. NASA owns and operates the systems as they’ve always done), is the way to go, why aren’t the aerospace firms that would benefit from such a program lobbying for one?

                Do you even know who does what for NASA? Ever heard of Boeing and Lockheed Martin?

                Not only do they own Atlas V and Delta IV, but they are the prime contractors on the SLS and MPCV. Do you know which programs they make more money on?

                Once you learn about them, then you’ll understand what they do and don’t lobby for.

                But keep in mind something else Matt. NASA is the only government program being forced to build their own rocket system. The DoD and NRO rely on commercial companies, as does NASA itself for it’s robotic exploration programs. And I dare say that the DoD and NRO feel that their payloads are as valuable (if not more) than any NASA astronaut. This has nothing to do with “trust”, and everything to do with the flow of money.

                Once the SLS is cancelled, and NASA is allowed to use commercial launchers, then NASA will be able to propose and pursue sane exploration programs that are affordable.

                Until then, NASA will be forced to spend a significant amount of it’s budget on unusable hardware development.

                And that’s all that matters Matt, is what you end up with after the money is spent.

                As I said before it’s a binary choice, and so far you are choosing that NASA should NOT do any meaningful and long-term HSF beyond LEO.

              • Hiram

                “if we’re spending $1 Billion a month to fight in Afghanistan, we can find the money to fund the space program, including SLS and Orion”

                I feel compelled to add that we’re spending $1B/month in Afghanistan because the Administration has made the point, and Congress agrees, that this expenditure is in the national interest, whether terrorist fighting or nation building. We’re not spending enough on SLS and Orion because neither the Administration or Congress can see that expenditure to complete and use these facilities as being in the national interest. We’re spending money on those projects to preserve jobs. Now, completing SLS, and using SLS, doesn’t preserve any more jobs than developing it does. The NASA budget line will be pretty level, and most of that money goes to jobs, which will stay level as well. So what’s the rush?

                Until the nation is convinced that completing SLS and Orion are truly in the national interest in a way that goes beyond jobs, this is where we’re going to stay. Money is being spent to pay people, and “exploration” is the lame excuse for doing so. You have to play the political game before getting anything done. That’s how D.C. works.

                Now, it’s true, a lot of that $1B/month is about jobs as well. But it’s putting citizens at risk in the process.

              • Matt

                Ron, again, you have to have Congressional support. As long as it’s just Rohrabacher, you’re not going to get one. Sure, Boeing is working on SLS, but it’s not just the firms that work SLS that would benefit from such a switch: a certain company in the news with Dragon (my loathing for that firm is well known), Orbital Science,Blue Origin, ATK (though working with SLS for the solids), and so on, all would benefit. So, Ron, answer the question: how do you get the members of the relevant Congressional committees to agree with what you’re proposing? Not to mention those rank and file who have either contractors or subcontractors in their districts, hmm? All are looking out for their constituents, and not just the facility’s workers, but those whose businesses depend on the facility employees’ patronage. Like I said: you have to give them more reasons, not just the budget, to go along with a Commercially based program, and not just fancy proposals sent to AIAA every so often.

                Again, Ron, heavy-lift such as SLS lessens the complexity of the architecture, reduces the dependency on depots, and increases the architecture’s overall performance-especially if you have problems with a depot-or, if due to an accident, the depot’s no longer there…The more launches required for a commercially based strategy, the more chances there are for failure.

              • Coastal Ron

                Matt said:

                …you have to have Congressional support.

                Congress either finally comes around to stop wasting money, or we’re not going anywhere beyond LEO. I could care less who the players are, because it really doesn’t matter.

                As long as Congress is forcing NASA to build the SLS, and to a degree the MPCV too, within the limits of the current budget profile NASA won’t be able to do anything with the SLS and MPCV. It’s pretty simple Matt, IF you understand how much things cost. Which apparently YOU don’t.

                …how do you get the members of the relevant Congressional committees to agree with what you’re proposing?

                The same question could have been asked about Constellation, and the answer is that it died of natural causes – it couldn’t live within the budget Congress was willing to allocate. The same will happen with the SLS, regardless who supports it.

                But the SLS is a very big anomaly that is skewing peoples perceptions. For instance, there are plenty of examples of NASA using competitive launch services for their needs, such as NASA Launch Services II contract for launching science missions, CRS for resupplying the ISS, and the upcoming crew contract which hopefully will consist of at least two providers (but is a competitive contract in any case).

                The SLS is the exception these days, not the rule. And since there are no payloads for the SLS that need to be cancelled along with the rocket, NASA can just use their existing contracts to move cargo, supplies and crew to space, and once they are there, new spacecraft will move them beyond LEO.

              • Coastal Ron

                Matt said:

                heavy-lift such as SLS lessens the complexity of the architecture…

                It could, but not is not really what is holding us back from doing more in space, it’s a lack of money.

                Our aerospace industries are set up for supporting ISS-sized components, so without much additional investment we can start building an EML Station, a Nautilus-X, or anything else that has modular components that are no more than 20mt in mass.

                There is NOTHING to support the production of 8.4m wide, 70mt mass payloads. Sure, the innards could use the same hardware that we’re using on the ISS, but building and testing 8.4m wide payloads is going to take lots of expensive new buildings, production and test fixtures and equipment, as well as transportation systems. Keep in mind that ISS-sized modules can travel down the highway and fit inside of C-5 aircraft – neither of those are options for SLS-sized payloads.

                The ISS hardware is also proven, whereas the SLS hardware isn’t.

                We could migrate to a larger architecture, but it is going to cost a lot of money to do so. Where is that money coming from Matt?

                …reduces the dependency on depots

                No, it doesn’t. Filling up a depot from existing launchers will cost far less, and the amount of mass difference between ISS and SLS type architectures likely won’t be that much mass-wise, so the difference will be small.

                …and increases the architecture’s overall performance…

                This is a made up metric.

                At this point, the most important metric is cost, and that is the one that go out of your way to avoid.

                Without lots and lots of money, the SLS won’t survive. Once it’s gone though, an exploration program can be mounted that exists within the given budget using existing launchers and existing hardware architectures.

              • Coastal Ron

                Matt said:

                heavy-lift such as SLS lessens the complexity of the architecture

                Just wanted to point out that the ISS has required 31 assembly flights so far, by a variety of vehicles.

                I’d say we have demonstrated that in-space assembly is not a barrier, and that if anything we are getting better and better at it.

                You need to stop dreaming up fake reasons the SLS is the only way to support space exploration. It’s not, and in reality it’s the MOST EXPENSIVE way to do space exploration, which considering how little money NASA gets, is not the solution that NASA needs right now.

  • Coastal Ron

    Matt said:

    Now, do it with crew, and the successful firm(s) will be deserving of well-earned accolades.

    I agree with Neil – you are trying to channel DCSCA, and he/she/it is/was nuts. Stop acting nuts.

    If you don’t think that America’s aerospace industry can build successful crew spacecraft, then I’m not sure why you think NASA can…

    • Matt

      Ron, do I think that the commercial industry can build space vehicles? Of course: NASA bought every vehicle it flew people on from commercial contractors: McDonnell-Douglas built both Mercury and Gemini, North American (Rockwell International) build Apollo’s CSM, and Grumman built the LM. My issue (other than giving public funds to private companies for R&D that they should be doing with their own dinero) is that the commercial sector has no experience with operating those systems. Prove that your company (Space X, Boeing, Blue Origin, for CCDev) can operate a HSF system safely and reliably, and you get rewarded with contracts for ISS and other LEO operations. Not before.

      Skepticism about Commercial space is not heresy, as I’ve said before. Right now, on cargo, they’re doing fine so far, and should be okay. The next hurdle is crew. Fly people, and bring them back, and then I’ll be much more supportive. Do I have faith that they can do it? Yes, but first, fly a demonstration mission. Just as Space X did with Dragon to ISS, and Orbital is doing now.

  • Fred Willett

    Assuming the rest of this flight goes as well as the first bit this flight brings to an end the COTS program and it has been one of the most successful NASA programs ever from a cost point of view.
    For just $500M in investment NASA has seeded the development of 2 new commercial LVs Falcon 9 and Antares as well as two new spacecraft, the Dragon and the Cygnus.
    Put another way NASA’s subsidy for each vehicle is a meagre $125M.
    Who knew you could build a medium lift launch vehicle for so little?
    Of course SpaceX and Orbital have put up the bulk of the funds but it does show what you can do when your main goal is not to latch onto the government teat.
    US commercial space is the big winner there. They’ve shown they’ve got what it takes.
    Congratulations to Orbital.

    • Neil Shipley

      Cost and capability.

    • Well said, Willett. The costs savings in development costs amount to about 90%(!) for both SpaceX and Orbital Sciences, for both launchers and spacecraft. Imaging what we could accomplish if the commercial space approach were applied also to BEO flights.

      Finally, someone at NASA has acknowledged the saving possible under commercial space:

      The Commercial Leverage Model and Public/Private Partnerships.
      Daniel J. Rasky
      Director, Emerging Commercial Space Office
      NASA Ames Research Center
      Founder & Director, Space Portal
      NASA Research Park
      Moffett Field, CA 9403
      September 11, 2013
      https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/47645641/AIAA_2013.pptx

      Bob Clark

  • josh

    good job, orbital. they’re proving to be a worthy competitor.

  • Breaking my silence for a moment here.

    Musk says the first flight of Falcon 1.1 is a test flight of essentially a new rocket (which it is) and gives it a 50/50 chance of success. This is the price SpaceX is willing to pay to develop reusability. The potential payoff is HUGE.

    Even though this is a test flight, you can bet that if it fails, people like Matt and DCSCA will declare SpaceX unworthy for continued participation in Commercial Cargo and Commercial Crew programs. Of course, with a test flight, when a failure occurs you find out what caused the failure and fix it. If such a major mishap happens, SpaceX will just learn from the experience and the fix will put it so far out in front that it won’t matter what bad-mouthing it gets in the short-run.

    I am a big fan of ULA vehicles. Their launch vehicles are as good as anyone else’s out there and very reliable. I would like to see ULA do something similar because I don’t like having only one significant American orbital launch provider, but that is what will happen if ULA, Boeing or Lock-Mart do not wise up and take the kind of bold moves that SpaceX take.

    My $0.02 worth.

    • common sense

      “Even though this is a test flight, you can bet that if it fails, people like Matt and DCSCA will declare SpaceX unworthy for continued participation in Commercial Cargo and Commercial Crew programs.”

      Fortunately whatever these two think does not matter all that much. For SpaceX what matters is their investors keep investing. And those include but are not limited to NASA.

      ” if ULA, Boeing or Lock-Mart do not wise up and take the kind of bold moves that SpaceX take.”

      It is a lot more complicated for ULA to take such bold moves just as it is for Boeing to go the CST-100 route. Not impossible but very, very difficult. And I daresay that the hole point of SpaceX is to shake the market and provide low(er) cost LVs. Not that much more than that. See for example http://spacex.net/press.php?page=11

      • Fred Willett

        When Mush started Tesla the big car makers said you couldn’t build a practical electric vehicle.
        When Musk did they said you couldn’t build a mass market electric vehicle.
        Now the Model S has won car of the year and the worlds car makers are starting to produce real electric vehicles too. Not as good as Tesla, yet, but hey, they’re trying.
        The same thing could happen with SpaceX.
        If they do achieve reusability SpaceX will spark a revolution and open the way to “real” space exploration.
        Consider. Bolden thinks SLS will fly once every 3-4 years.
        That gives SLS a cost of $9-12 Billion a flight.
        (that’s without a payload and without amortising the development costs)
        With reusability Falcon Heavy could fall to $9-12 Million a flight.
        Wow.
        Now you can do real exploration. Lots of it. And you can actually afford payloads.

      • Notice I said people “like” Matt and DCSCA. That’s what irks me, not those two in particular, but people in influential government positions whose thought processes work similarly. As I was indicating, such persons can slow things down significantly, but in the end, won’t be able to stop the progress.

        • common sense

          I know. I dare say those in government do not think like them. They do it for political gains not necessarily daydreaming. These two only bring their baseless support to the others.

          I would note further that despite their hypocritical discourse of support those in government did not hesitate to – rightfully – kill Constellation, cut NASA budget and underfund SLS/MPCV.

          Hence my remark.

    • Neil Shipley

      In addition, I’d just add that they can only do it if they, as you noted, move on cost. That is the only way they or anyone unless subsidised by gov’t, will be able to compete. SpaceX will demonstrate both capability and they already have priced everyone else out of the market.
      I don’t really like a single provider but it’s heading that way, at least for commercially bid payloads.

    • Jim Nobles

      I’m a SpaceX fan and Elon Musk is my hero but this first flight of the v1.1 worries me. It is essentially a brand new rocket. The engine configuration has changed. The load paths have changed. The structure has changed. So what could go w0rng?

      If the payload makes it to orbit I’ll be praising the lord.

  • DCSCA

    Mikulski might just as well be clapping over the completion of a zeppelin mooring mast in her district. Subsidizing a doomed space platform representing past planning from an era long over is short term thinknig; a dead end; a waste. LEO is a ticket to no place, going in circles, no where fast.

    Mikulski has more pressing matters to deal with; a sputtering economy; crumbling infrastructure across her state; gun control; a postal service in need of modernization; a balanced approch to managing the SNAP program not to mention getting projects like the JWST under controol and fiascos like Curiosity never reoccur. Mickey was elected to field down to earth problems. And Wallops would make for some superb coastal real estate to develop. Shutter it, sell it off to the private sector and leave Eastern launchings to more temperate climates– like Florida.

    • Matt

      Personally, having Wallops Island as a complimentary launch facility to KSC/CCAFS is s good idea.

      And you’re actually against Curiosity? Or was it just the cost overruns? (See, folks, we do have disagreements!)

      • common sense

        “See, folks, we do have disagreements”

        See nobody cares!

      • Neil Shipley

        Curiosity was a chancy engineering undertaking and a budget blowout although not to the same extent as Cx was and JWST, MPCV, and SLSnow are. In addition, the science isn’t that astounding given the hype. Budget and schedule control are now MIA for all NASA projects.

        • Coastal Ron

          Neil Shipley said:

          In addition, the science isn’t that astounding given the hype.

          You’re kidding, right? Apparently you don’t read the mass media:

          BBC News – Curiosity rover’s methane result challenges life theory

          If that isn’t classified as an important find, I think you’re holding out for some sort of close encounter or Stonehenge moment… ;-)

          • Matt

            For once, Ron and I agree on something. Curiosity’s got a long life ahead on Mars, and no doubt has additional discoveries in her future. And remember: Opportunity is still roving around, ten years into her 90-day mission.

      • DCSCA

        “And you’re actually against Curiosity?” Or was it just the cost overruns?” asks Matt.

        The cost overruns– and the incremental hierarchy in the planetary science culture. They want career builders, not answers– they seek adpublixize ‘hints,’ not definitive answers, and Curiosity is a glaring example. Case in point, Review the press clippings on the Vikings. The hype was the landers were going to look for life on Mars– the ibitial returns reported there was none- so the publie shrugged and Mars was essentially abandoned for 20 years. Realizing their faux pas, the planertary community begain to use terms like ‘inconclusive’ and ‘hints’– changed their objective to ‘follow the water’ and let careers build from that. They look for hints,. not definitive answers. Curiosity is the end result– an over budget, gold plated buggy that is already half way through its ’2 year mission’– that is $1.3 of its $2.6 billion cost– and returned nothing close to justifying the expense. Jusr more red pictures and ‘hints’ and reconfirming existing information. Interested parties rightly applauded the engineering triumph of the EDL phase. The science return, not so much– particularly at a cost of $2.6 billion. The cost of these throwaway probes should be going down, not up– particularly in a world where disposable electronics are getting cheaper and cheaper. Curiosity is little more than a works projects for academia. And when it comes to ROI, Voyager it most decidely is not.

  • Hiram

    “In addition, the science isn’t that astounding given the hype.”

    It’s true, there was a lot of hype. But the science is very high quality. The quality of that science isn’t really measured by astoundingness. There was a lot of scientific hype with Apollo, but the science they did was hardly astounding. There was a lot of it, measured in papers published, but that’s precisely because NASA was handing out analysis grant money with a snow shovel.

    “… and fiascos like Curiosity never reoccur”

    It’s baaack! Yeah, let’s put a few $B into human space flight and see where that gets us. While ISS has done some good work, human spaceflight in this nation has been fiasco-city for the last few decades. Pot, black.

  • Curtis Quick

    I am a little surprised by the different reception Orbital seems to have received on successfully launching its test flight to the ISS relative to the much more reserved statements that had to be greatly stretched to be seen as congratulatory to SpaceX by government leaders when it launched the first test flight to the ISS. I don’t recall any politicians crossing their fingers and issuing gushing statements of support for the first non-governmental spacecraft that could return cargo from orbit two years ago.

    It is amazing that a rocket built of mostly Russian parts carrying an Italian-built spacecraft would garner so many accolades by American politicians compared to SpaceX who provided an All-American rocket and spacecraft. I wish SpaceX would paint their Falcon rockets more red, white, and blue to better emphasize the difference.

    When Orbital gets paid US$1.9 billion for 8 launches to SpaceX’s US$1.6 billion for 12, it makes me even sadder to realize that that much more money flows out of the USA to support Russia’s teetering space program. Not only is SpaceX a better deal for the US taxpayer, but it is a better deal for the US economy. It is only the corruption of pork-politics that keeps lawmakers from picking up the SpaceX ball of “America first” and running with it all the way to re-election.

    There sure seems to be A LOT of money behind the detractors of SpaceX. Innovation is bad for business when it’s your competitor doing the innovating. I would not be surprised if we had an “accident” at the SpaceX launchpad that caused a Falcon’s premature demise. Of course, many would blame SpaceX for their “inexperience and arrogance” but the rest of us would have our suspicions about what really was going on. I hope SpaceX pays close attention to security.

  • Matt

    For Ron: those comments I made about HLV above: they’re not made up. I refer you again to the Affordable Exploration Architecture paper that was presented by two ULA employees to AIAA in 2009; this is a paper that you are so fond of quoting. Specifically: Chapter VII, p. 19; And I shall quote: “The presence of a launcher in the 50-80 tons to LEO reduces the launch rate and reduces the dependency on depots. Combining depots with these larger launchers hugely amplifies the architecture performance.” Which also reduces the chances of mission failure due to problems with refilling the depot, or if there is an…accident involving the depot.

    You still haven’t answered another question: how do you convince members of Congress who have constituents working on SLS that a new program that is commercially based, even if NASA has direct control of the HSF portion (i.e. Orion, space hab, L-2 Gateway, lunar/NEO/Mars systems), will benefit their constituents. You have to give them something. Shelby, say: “Marshall won’t finish SLS, but a NASA-developed, but commercially compatible EDS for Moon/Mars flights, yes, they’ll be working on that.” Vitter and Landreau: “Engineers at Michoud won’t be building SLS fuel tanks and other systems, but they will be working on propellant depots, tanks for EDS, and so forth. The same goes for the engineers working on RS-25 and J-2X: they can work on engines for EDS, for depot maneuvering, lunar lander, etc.” And so on down the line. Unless you give those Congresscritters-as well as the others-reasons to support a commercially based program, besides budget, they won’t vote for it. That’s politics.

    • Coastal Ron

      Matt said:

      …those comments I made about HLV above: they’re not made up.

      Oh? Where did the “and increases the architecture’s overall performance” metric come from?

      Specifically: Chapter VII, p. 19; And I shall quote: “The presence of a launcher in the 50-80 tons to LEO reduces the launch rate and reduces the dependency on depots.

      Matt, of course moving more cargo in one vehicle would be preferred, but you assume many facts that are not in evidence. The biggest factor today with NASA is money, so any trade study would focus on what the cost would be of using various sized transports. Redundancy would also be another factor.

      So let’s look at how the SLS does in this trade study. Is it the lowest cost transport? No, and in fact it is by far the MOST expensive. Does it provide redundancy? NO, not at all, and in fact it suffers from two critical redundancy issues which are 1) very low production rate, and 2) being a unique vehicle.

      If NASA standardizes on commercial launchers in the 18mt range, then there are three American launchers that they could use (Atlas 551, Delta IV Heavy, and Falcon Heavy). Add in our international partners (Ariane 5, Proton and H-IIB), and that goes up to a total of six launchers that could be used, which would likely be the case since we’re more likely to do our next exploration program with international partners.

      But if all we need is a tanker, then there would be little risk in contracting with SpaceX for their 53mt to LEO Falcon Heavy. That satisfies the quote you keep pushing, costs ZERO taxpayer dollars to develop, and ZERO taxpayer dollars for a standing army to maintain it. If something goes wrong with it, then other vehicles can still be tankers, just carrying less.

      But since the Falcon Heavy satisfies your requirement above, why are we still debating this?

      • Matt

        Ron, the money is there. There is fat that can be cut and redirected to NASA. Things like crop subsidies (Sugar, corn-for ethanol, barley, etc.), Useless studies like spending $50,000 on dung beetles’ feeding habits, and there’s even things in DOD that I’d be glad to cut without hampering training, readiness, or force structure (why the AF F-35 when there’s F-15SE available?). You can find the money.

        Also: most decisions to cancel a program are made not in Congress, but at White House level. Though Congress can by withholding funds, they don’t do that very often. And White House decisions are often overridden by Congress when they vote funds for a program anyway. Case in point: U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt. Jimmy Carter opposed the ship’s construction, and vetoed two Defense Budgets that included the ship. He was overridden, and the ship was built. Want to make the decision to can SLS? Try the White House first. Not likely with the current President.

        I prefer the KISS principle on launches: one, two, maybe three, max. Have your EOR to assemble the finished vehicle, then off you go to L-2, NEO, or the lunar surface. Adding a depot only adds to the complexity, and the more launches to a depot only increases the chance of failure.

        • Coastal Ron

          Matt said:

          the money is there.

          The only money that is “there”, is to develop the SLS. There is no money to USE the SLS.

          There is fat that can be cut and redirected to NASA.

          Yes, I know. Subsidies to oil companies, subsidies to big farm companies, yadda yadda.

          Two problems with that misguided attitude though:

          1. There are politicians that support that non-NASA “fat”.

          2. You assume that Congress WANTS to fund a use for the SLS, of any sort. There is no evidence of that yet.

          Also: most decisions to cancel a program are made not in Congress, but at White House level.

          Don’t get off topic here. Regardless who proposes a program to be cancelled, Congress has to agree.

          I prefer the KISS principle on launches: one, two, maybe three, max.

          Being a non-engineer, it doesn’t matter what you prefer.

          Adding a depot only adds to the complexity, and the more launches to a depot only increases the chance of failure.

          What a bizarre statement. Do you feel the same way about your local gas station?

          Matt, if we don’t use fuel depots, we’re not going to Mars.

    • Coastal Ron

      Matt said:

      You still haven’t answered another question: how do you convince members of Congress who have constituents working on SLS that a new program that is commercially based, even if NASA has direct control of the HSF portion (i.e. Orion, space hab, L-2 Gateway, lunar/NEO/Mars systems), will benefit their constituents.

      I don’t have to convince them, and if they were true patriots, they would only look at the “national good”. I’m not going to waste my time on politicians that are pushing pork programs that have no chance in ultimately succeeding.

      Just as the Constellation program collapsed under it’s own weight, so will the SLS. It’s just a matter of time Matt.

      I’ve been answering your questions, but you have yet to explain how the SLS program will survive?

      Proffer for us your vision of how the SLS will be in so much demand that all this nonsense me and others have been talking will fade from our memories.

      And as part of that, tell us how much money you think the politicians will be giving NASA over the 20-30 years it will take for the SLS to be worth the time and money U.S. Taxpayers will have invested?

      Time to talk SLS.

      • Matt

        Ron, first and foremost, it’s a political decision. Again, if we’re funding the Afghan war to the tune of a Billion dollars a month, we can find the money to fully fund the space program to the tune it deserves. And there’s stuff we can cut: things like crop subsidies (Sugar and Corn are two examples), useless crap like spending $2 million on dung beetles’ feeding habits, things like that. There’s even stuff in DOD that we can get rid of that doesn’t affect readiness, training, or force structure. The money’s there: it’s just a question of finding it and reallocating it.

        Btw, Ron, even Zubrin, the most vocal advocate of Mars First, though he’s against SLS (mainly due to how it’s being planned and funded-he’d rather put out a RFP and get it done for $5 Billion), has been quoted as saying “we absolutely do need heavy lift.”
        When we get ready for Mars, we’ll likely send stuff on ahead: habitats, surface rovers for crew, ISRU equipment, crew ascent vehicle, etc. Having a rocket that can lift that stuff-not to mention having the option of not needing a depot, is a good thing to have: it lessens dependency on depots, and lessens the complexity of the total system (I prefer the KISS principle-two, three launches, max for something like PLYMOUTH ROCK or a Earth-Sun L1 mission). For the Zubrin quote, though I disagree with him on a number of issues, see: http://www.nbcnews.com/science/case-mars-facing-crisis-6C10402608?franchiseSlug=sciencemain

        The other thing is this: NASA is beholden to Congress. You can’t get around that. Now, if someone like Rohrabacher was chair of House Sci/Tech committee, he’d be in a position to influence policy, maybe push legislation requiring EELV/Depot work, and so on. Just as long as the political reality is what it is: one congressman and no Senators in favor of the kind of program you are pushing, well, it is what it is.

        • Matt

          One other thing: the decision on whether or not to proceed with SLS will not likely come from Congress, but the White House. Though Congress will vote on whether or not to go along (they are not a rubber stamp, regardless of who controls Congress). So you’d have to sell either the current POTUS, or those who have their sights set on running for the Presidency in ’16. Obama could do it, but he’s not likely to do so, as he wouldn’t want to ruin a Democrat’s Florida chances in ’16. So it’s selling the idea to either Joe Beiden or Hillary on that said, and folks like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), or governors like Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) and Mitch Daniels (former Governor of Indiana). Congress rarely cancels a program, unless they decide to just plain quit funding it. Program cancellations are done at the White House level in most cases.

        • Coastal Ron

          Matt said:

          first and foremost, it’s a political decision.

          Yes, and so far the politicians have decided that they DON’T want to fund a massive program for NASA to go to the Moon or Mars. And without a massive program, the SLS is USELESS.

          Keep in mind also that the Apollo and Constellation programs were created in RESPONSIVE to something. Apollo to the Soviet Union, and Constellation to the Columbia accident. Those were political focal points that brought together the politicians, and no mission beyond LEO has happened without one.

          And so far there is none today. In fact the Republican’s in the House want to make it illegal for NASA to make plans to visit an asteroid.

          Any program that requires the SLS to launch on a frequent basis will require that NASA budget be at boosted by at least 50%, likely more. Regardless who the President is, I don’t see that happening, especially with Tea Party Republican’s influencing spending so much these days.

          Here we are just 8 years from when the SLS becomes operational, and Congress has expressed no interest in using the SLS. It takes at least 10 years to propose, choose, build, and test a complex mission, so we are already years late in using the SLS.

          So I ask you again. Where is the money coming from to use the SLS? Yes the U.S. Budget is vast and large, but when will Congress actually agree to fund a use for the SLS? What is holding that back today, and why will it change?

  • Coastal Ron

    Matt said:

    One other thing: the decision on whether or not to proceed with SLS will not likely come from Congress, but the White House.

    Well this is a pretty ignorant statement. The Administration didn’t want the SLS in the first place, and would love to cancel it if they could. That hasn’t happened, which is proof that your theory is wrong.

    Though Congress will vote on whether or not to go along (they are not a rubber stamp, regardless of who controls Congress).

    Matt, when have I said Congress is a “rubber stamp”? If anything, I have provided examples of where President’s DON’T get what they want (like Cheney with the V-22), as is the current case with the SLS. YOU are the one that forgets that Congress has to approve all spending, and that budget requests from the President are just that, requests, not final documents.

    Congress rarely cancels a program, unless they decide to just plain quit funding it.

    Congress has cancelled about 20 NASA programs worth a total of $20B in the last 20 years. That’s not rare, and as Congress showed with the Constellation program, they don’t have a problem shutting down massive ones as well as small ones. And considering how many Republican’s from Alabama, Florida and Texas voted in favor of canceling Constellation when they were in the minority, you can’t say it was partisan either.

    The SLS, without a decades worth of planned use, will be cancelled because Congress decides they don’t want to allocate the massive amount of money it will take to use the SLS.

    And since you can’t seem to explain where the money to use the SLS will come from, I guess you agree, even though you won’t admit it.

    It’s just a matter of time.

  • Matt

    Ron, you didn’t see what I wrote above: I identified where the money can come from: trimming fat out of DOD, (deferral of F-35 for the USAF and maybe the Navy) eliminating crop subsidies, and eliminating real pork (like useless Department of Agriculture studies, to give one example). Not to mention that the Afghan War is winding down-that’s a billion dollars a month right there.

    Again, unless you have a Rand Paul or Ted Cruz in the White House-and even that’s no guarantee, how do you convince the likely Presidential Candidates that killing SLS is a good idea-and if you try, you’d better have a program ready to present to them and their science and technology advisors. (The Obama Administration’s big mistake was killing CxP without having a program to present as an alternative) And any program in SLS’ place had better have the ability to use some of what’s already been in the pipeline (Orion, J-2X, etc.) so that some of the effort hasn’t gone to waste. Which was something even Norm Augustine in his 2010 Senate testimony alongside Gene Cernan and Neil Armstrong admitted was a good idea.

    So, Ron, in your dream program, who controls what? Even if a commercially based program was adopted, I would have NASA control all BEO activities, from crew launch to recovery. If someone like Bigelow was operating a depot that NASA (and other agencies) used for refueling prior to TLI or TMI, fine, but NASA procures the equipment and uses it as it has always done. That is very likely a condition imposed by Congress, because there will be angry shouts of “outsourcing exploration” to private firms, no “buying tickets” on commercially run flights, that sort of thing. And the crews are either NASA or NASA-sponsored (ESA, JAXA, etc.) Leave the LEO mission to the private firms under contract. But anything past LEO belongs to NASA and the other agencies until the exploitation phase begins.

    • Coastal Ron

      Matt said:

      you didn’t see what I wrote above: I identified where the money can come from: trimming fat out of DOD, … eliminating crop subsidies, and eliminating real pork…. Not to mention that the Afghan War is winding down-that’s a billion dollars a month right there.

      I saw what you wrote, and all that tells me is that you don’t understand how our government works.

      If Congress wanted to fund NASA at a higher level – for whatever reason – they don’t need to “trim the fat” on some other program, all they have to do is fund NASA at a higher level. It is a misconception that there is some rigid amount of spending that Congress can authorize. There isn’t, and they can spend however much money they want on whatever they want.

      But for NASA, they don’t want to increase funding. Why would they?

      So Matt, you keep avoiding this issue. What happens if Congress never funds a use for the SLS? What then?

      Do you blame NASA? Obama? Or the people that told NASA to build it in the first place, Congress itself?

      As to “who controls what?”, NASA already uses commercial services, and it’s the government-built, government-run SLS and MPCV that are the big exception. Once they are gone things will get back to normal, with only a normal amount of interference from Congress.

      So Matt, talk SLS for us. How can NASA do anything with the wonderful SLS if Congress won’t fund anything for it to do?

      • Hiram

        This is correct about fat-trimming not being the answer, but I think you both need some lessons in how government works. DOD and NASA are in entirely different appropriation categories. That is, the same legislators that trim DOD projects don’t renivest the dollars in NASA. The DOD appropriators don’t go over to the CJS committee with funds to share, all wrapped up in a pretty box with a bow on it. They have dollars for defense, and they spend it on defense. If not on this, then on that. That’s how government works.

        It’s also simplistic that “they can spend however much money they want on whatever they want”. That’s just silly. The CJS appropriations committee is given a fixed budget mark, and they have to abide by that in sharing that amount across CJS agencies. It’s major legislative tinkering that allows those budget numbers to be diddled with. That tinkering has little to do with individual projects. Now, it’s true that there is no rigid amount of spending that Congress can authorize. They can authorize whatever they damned well please. What pays the bills year-by-year, however, is what gets appropriated. The amounts authorized for NASA are always significantly larger than the amounts appropriated.

        Let me add that the Obama administration DID have a programmatic alternative when it killed Constellation. It was the same technology development alternative that Congress is now busy eviscerating. It was a smart alternative that offered real long-term advantages. No, the Obama administration had absolutely no obligation to propose a HLV alternative, and they sure didn’t.

        • Coastal Ron

          Hiram said:

          It’s also simplistic that “they can spend however much money they want on whatever they want”. That’s just silly.

          Then said:

          Now, it’s true that there is no rigid amount of spending that Congress can authorize. They can authorize whatever they damned well please.

          So essentially you agree with me.

          And my perspective is that if the President and Congress agree that boosting NASA’s budget is a good idea or needed for some “National Imperative” (like it was for Apollo), then there is nothing holding them back from boosting NASA’s budget.

          Where the money comes from gets worked out through the normal Congressional processes, and identifying what programs will get cut (if any) doesn’t need to be agreed upon ahead of time. We funded the Bush 43 Iraq war outside of the normal budget process, so there are no real barriers – IF our politicians want NASA to have more money. So far they don’t.

          • Hiram

            “So essentially you agree with me.”

            I’m afraid not. You said …

            “they can spend however much money they want on whatever they want.”

            I said

            “there is no rigid amount of spending that Congress can authorize.”

            Authorization is NOT spending. Get that straight. Big difference. If you’re a contractor, and Congress writes you a check cashable from an authorization bill, you might as well be white-washing fences.

            Yep, if the President and Congress agree that building the worlds largest roller coaster is a good idea or needed for some “National Imperative”, there is nothing holding them back from doing it. You bet. But they don’t agree on that. Got any other good ideas?

            That the U.S. government can fiscally underwrite a war is of little relevance here. By the way, the Iraq war largely did not get funded by cutting other programs. It was funded by supplemental appropriations billed to the national debt (mostly Treasury Bonds sold to foreigners.) It was also a pretty cheap war, as wars go, amounting to about 1% of the GDP. So yes, we could, in principle, fund an increase to NASA by selling bonds to other nations.

            The reason that NASA’s budget has not been increased by cutting other programs is, duh, because those other programs are more important to the nation than NASA. Get over it.

            • Coastal Ron

              Hiram said:

              Yep, if the President and Congress agree that building the worlds largest roller coaster is a good idea or needed for some “National Imperative”, there is nothing holding them back from doing it. You bet.

              Which has been my whole point.

              But they don’t agree on that.

              Something else I said.

              That the U.S. government can fiscally underwrite a war is of little relevance here.

              That they can do it “off budget” reinforces my point that increasing NASA’s budget is not dependent on cutting something else currently in the budget.

              Matt thinks that all we need to do is cut farm subsidies or child lunch programs, or whatever, and the money will magically flow to NASA.

              My point is that NASA doesn’t get more money because Congress isn’t interested in giving NASA more money, not because there aren’t lots of places to cut the budget in order to keep a balanced budget and increase NASA’s meager budget.

              He probably believes this fiction because that’s the only way he can believe that there isn’t yet an identified and funded need for the SLS. If Congress wanted the SLS to do something, they would find the money for it somewhere. As we all know, that has yet to happen.

              • Hiram

                But the nation doesn’t want to pay for “more NASA”. It wants to pay for something more concrete. So increasing NASA’s budget is not in the cards until the nation comes up with something significant that they need NASA to do. Off-budget investment will be based on that something more concrete, and it may turn out that NASA can contribute to getting it done. We haven’t seen that significant something yet, and Congress hasn’t seen it either. What NASA is about right now is doing cool stuff and paying people to do it. That’s not a national need, and don’t give me any drivel about “inspiration”.

                The Iraq war wasn’t a matter of “Let’s bump up funding for the DoD!!!” It was a matter of protecting the nation. Well, it was sold that way.

                So we can blather about how the nation can pay for an ambitious program of human space flight. The question isn’t how the money gets routed. The question is affordability, and that question is about value. The nation sees no great value in ambitious programs for human space flight. It sees jobs, and it sees some measure of exceptionalism in that we need to do JUST ENOUGH to be better than everyone else. But that’s it. That’s where the firm line is drawn.

                On that part, I suppose we agree. I’ll look forward to that federally funded giant roller coaster!

              • Coastal Ron

                Hiram said:

                But the nation doesn’t want to pay for “more NASA”.

                As I’ve said, and which has been the whole point I was making with Matt.

                So increasing NASA’s budget is not in the cards…

                You are over analyzing the example I used. It was only to show that there are no barriers to increasing NASA’s budget. I don’t advocate off-budget funding for anything.

                What NASA is about right now is doing cool stuff and paying people to do it. That’s not a national need, and don’t give me any drivel about “inspiration”.

                When have I ever said that? You must be confusing me with someone else…

                Look, I see a value to spending taxpayer money on science and technology, and NASA is just part of that. As I’ve stated MANY times, I’m fine with keeping NASA’s budget at it’s present level.

                On that part, I suppose we agree.

                In general we do agree on a lot.

              • Hiram

                “It was only to show that there are no barriers to increasing NASA’s budget.”

                Fifty years of NASA history and it still can’t figure out what human space flight is really for. Until it does, the barriers to increasing NASA’s budget to do it will be insurmountable. If you think there are no barriers to NASA getting a hefty increase, you’re hallucinating. There are no barriers to me being President of the U.S. or to me running a touchdown against the Seahawks. In fact, there are no barriers to Congress writing me a check for $16B.

                This thread started out with simplistic musings about where NASA could get large amounts of money. Of course, those musings didn’t dare make any presumptions about why one would want to give NASA huge amounts of money.

                “When have I ever said that? You must be confusing me with someone else…”

                I never said you did. Geez. Just read the words. What I asked you to do was NOT to give me any drivel about inspiration, which is what people often do when they are challenged about the value of doing “cool stuff.” Chill, please.

              • Coastal Ron

                Hiram said:

                If you think there are no barriers to NASA getting a hefty increase, you’re hallucinating.

                Alright, this sentence shows that you really don’t know what I’m saying, and what I stand for. I normally enjoy your perspectives, and even agree with most, but you are completely off on this particular thread.

                For instance, I said:

                “My point is that NASA doesn’t get more money because Congress isn’t interested in giving NASA more money, not because there aren’t lots of places to cut the budget in order to keep a balanced budget and increase NASA’s meager budget.”

                I rest my case.

                Then you also said:

                I never said you did. Geez. Just read the words. What I asked you to do was NOT to give me any drivel about inspiration…

                Oh, so that’s how we should operate now, you want us all to guess what everyone is going to advocate for before they actually say it?

                Well in that case, DO NOT give me any drivel about “replacing U.S. astronauts with nuclear-powered zombies”! ;-)

              • Hiram

                “It was only to show that there are no barriers to increasing NASA’s budget.”

                “NASA doesn’t get more money because Congress isn’t interested in giving NASA more money”

                But, aside from that, there are no barriers to NASA getting more money? Make up your mind. I’d have to say that the fact that Congress doesn’t want to give NASA more money is a pretty strong barrier. But I’ll consider your case rested.

                As to guessing what people might advocate, darn, I was just about to advocate nuclear-powered zombies! That might change the minds of Congress, ya think?

              • Coastal Ron

                Hiram said:

                But, aside from that, there are no barriers to NASA getting more money?

                The point was to show Matt that school lunch programs don’t have to be cut to raise NASA’s budget – Congress can raise it anytime they want. But again to Matt’s argument about using the SLS, Congress so far has had no interest in providing NASA with more money, so it is not the inability of Congress to cut school lunch programs that is keeping the SLS from doing the wonderful things he thinks it should be doing.

                nuclear-powered zombies

                It’s likely they will be the next fad on TV… ;-)

  • Matt

    Hiram, the Administration’s mistake was not having a program-with destinations, tentative timelines, etc. to present when they cancelled Constellation. All Congress saw was a lot of R&D work, with no missions to anywhere but LEO. Remember when a Congressman asked Charlie Bolden if he’d be upset if the Chinese beat us back to the Moon, and Bolden replied it didn’t concern him? The Congressman replied, “It does to me.” All anyone got regarding missions and destinations was POTUS’ speech with an NEO by 2025 and Mars orbit by 2035. Nothing else. That was not what Congress wanted to hear, and both Gene Cernan and Neil Armstrong were very critical of that in their Senate testimony.

    Remember that it was a Democratic-controlled Congress at the time, and skepticism of the Administration was bipartisan. Nelson and Bailey Hutchinson, Landreau and Vitter, Shelby, Jackson-Lee, and so on. Even Gabby Giffords, before she was shot, was not pleased with the Administration. You have to give those Congresscritters whose districts and states are affected some carrots they can give their constituents. Because no congresscritter is going to vote to cancel a program that folks in their districts are working on.

    • Hiram

      “the Administration’s mistake was not having a program-with destinations, tentative timelines, etc. to present when they cancelled Constellation”

      So in your mind a “program to present as an alternative” would have been one with a specific rocky destination and a notional timeline, as opposed to a technological destination where human access to space becomes more affordable and realizable. More worship at altars to Apollo, where money was not an issue.

      But the fact remains that this administration doesn’t really have a clue about human destiny in space, and neither did any of its predecessors. Well, Bush II did, sort of, with VSE, but that administration totally bungled the job of implementing it, and did a poor job of communicating taxpayer value. W realized that poor value development, and lost interest. That being the case, specific rocky destinations and timelines are just handwaving. The point of technology investment was to help understand taxpayer value. As we all know, one has to wave magic wands to make a billion-plus dollar SLS launch (big flames and tons of “stuff” in space) look like taxpayer value.

      So let’s not turn this into a partisan issue. The problem is cultural one more than a political one. It’s political one only in that our culture has never really identified a compelling reason to do this, outside of sport (international competition) and entertainment. As you say, it gets political when legislators look for carrots they can give their constituents. That carrot isn’t a compelling national reason to do it, because we don’t have it, but for lack of that, just dollars dropped on constituents.

    • Coastal Ron

      Matt said:

      Remember that it was a Democratic-controlled Congress at the time, and skepticism of the Administration was bipartisan.

      So is partisan good and bipartisan bad, or bipartisan good and partisan bad? You seem to want it both ways.

      How do you explain that in the “Democratic-controlled Congress at the time”, that Republican’s in the House from the states of Alabama, Florida and Texas voted overwhelmingly to cancel the Constellation program?

      That doesn’t bode well for the SLS and MPCV, now does it?

      That’s why many of us say the SLS will collapse on it’s own, and “alternatives” don’t even need to be discussed or debated until after the decision to kill it is made.

      Because really, right now the alternative to the SLS is nothing, right? There is nothing being built that requires the SLS, so there is nothing needed to replace it.

      There is however lots of ISS sized technology and hardware that could be built on existing production lines to do the kind of modest space exploration that the Obama Administration was trying to position NASA to do.

  • Matt

    Ron, you’re not answering my question: who is responsible for what in a commercially based program. Who operates what, in other words.

    As for SLS, kill this ARM mission, and have the L-2 gateway with the Skylab II with components lifted off the production line. Have that as EM-3, and adopt PLYMOUTH ROCK with dual Orions for a for-real NEO mission.

    • Coastal Ron

      Matt said:

      who is responsible for what in a commercially based program. Who operates what, in other words.

      I don’t feel the need to define that so far out. Below “pathfinder_01″ does a pretty good job in laying out the different reasons for what would likely happen, and like I already said, I’m OK with the normal amount of Congressional involvement, which when competitive contracts are involved, is not much.

      But in general, what NASA does best are those things that have never been done before. Transporting cargo and crew to space, and even through space, is not something that NASA needs to do anymore, nor does it have any special advantage over commercial companies that do that. That is why the SLS and MPCV are doomed to have a very short operational life, if they can even become operational.

      As for SLS, kill this ARM mission, and have the L-2 gateway with the Skylab II with components lifted off the production line.

      First of all, there is no ARM mission, only a proposal. So there is nothing to kill. And what Skylab II “production line” are you talking about? Seriously Matt, you’re proposing using 40 year old technology when we have ISS proven technology in operation today? I’m wondering about you on this…

      As for your proposal, now you are proposing something that has even less support in Congress than the ARM? Anyone can dream up things to do in space Matt, but what you keep forgetting is that Congress doesn’t want to fund any of those.

      When is Congress going to fund something for the SLS to do?

      If it’s so critical that NASA have an HLV, and Congress wants NASA to have an HLV, then why hasn’t Congress provided the money for the SLS-sized missions? This is all on Congress Matt – how do you explain that?

  • pathfinder_01

    Depends on who pays for it. If pure tourism then the company would support it. Space X, Orbital, Bigleow all have control rooms to support their missions right now. They all have launch pads and launch control rooms if they have rockets. The TDRS system for the ISS or the deep space network for a BEO program might be a bit of an problem but TDRS could be replaced with commercial satellites with current technology or just maybe one extra satellite on conjunction with commercial ones(like the Chinese station). The companies themselves would be capable of operating a lot of the mission. Dream chaser for instance is planning on being able to land at a normal sized runway, being able to be transported inside of a cargo plane(so no special transport craft needed). CST-100 and Dragon plan to land by land and likewise easy to ship. There rockets alreay have payload processing facilities that could be used with slight modification and some pad modifications to exsisting pads(or a new pad but you were going to need it anyway).

    If NASA pays then again NASA’s dollar get stretched further and it can do more for less. You could for instance use an Cygnus or Dragon to supply an craft being assembled in LEO right now then your budget would only need to pay for the craft and it’s launch instead of the craft, a new rocket, and launch. You could then build a module istead of using a capsule designed for renentry for storage this would give you more space per unit of mass and an handy thing called an airlock so you don’t need to depressurize half the combined spacecraft. You could build tankers that could deliver propellant to the craft being assembeld in LEO and international partners could likewise so do(instead of being passengers). You could do this all pretty much right now instead of way past 2025.

  • Coastal Ron

    Being that this topic is related to the Cygnus mission, just wanted to say Congratulations! to Orbital Sciences on the ISS capture of Cygnus.

    That and the successful launch of the first Falcon 9 v1.1 show how NewSpace is changing the future by making doing things in space more affordable.

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