Congress, NASA

Omnibus bill gives NASA $17.65 billion (and launch indemnification extension as well)

Late Monday evening, House and Senate appropriations formally released their joint omnibus bill to fund the federal government for fiscal year 2014. For NASA, the bill provides the agency with $17.646 billion, a decrease of less than $70 million from the administration’s original proposal and a billion dollars more than what House appropriators approved last summer. The table below compares the original request, the House and Senate bills from last summer, and the final omnibus numbers:

Account White House House CJS Senate CJS Omnibus
SCIENCE $5,017.8 $4,781.0 $5,154.2 $5,151.2
- Earth Science $1,846.0 $1,659.0 $1,846.2 $1,826.0
- Planetary Science $1,218.0 $1,315.0 $1,317.6 $1,345.0
- Astrophysics $642.0 $622.0 $678.4 $668.0
- JWST $658.0 $584.0 $658.2 $658.2
- Heliophysics $654.0 $601.0 $653.8 $654.0
SPACE TECHNOLOGY $742.6 $576.0 $670.1 $576.0
AERONAUTICS $565.7 $566.0 $558.7 $566.0
EXPLORATION SYSTEMS $3,915.5 $3,612.0 $4,209.3 $4,113.2
- SLS/Orion $2,730.0 $2,825.0 $3,118.2 $3,115.2
- Commercial Spaceflight $821.0 $500.0 $775.0 $696.0
- Exploration R&D $364.0 $287.0 $316.1 $302.0
SPACE OPERATIONS $3,882.9 $3,670.0 $3,882.9 $3,778.0
- ISS $3,049.0 $2,860.0 $3,049.1 n/a
- Space and Flight Support $834.0 $810.0 $833.8 n/a
EDUCATION $94.2 $122.0 $116.6 $116.6
CROSS AGENCY SUPPORT $2,850.3 $2,711.0 $2,793.6 $2,793.0
CONSTRUCTION $609.4 $525.0 $586.9 $515.0
INSPECTOR GENERAL $37.0 $35.3 $38.0 $37.5
TOTAL $17,715.4 $16,598.3 $18,010.3 $17,646.5

Some comments regarding some of the hot topics during the budget debate:

Planetary Science: Planetary science gets an increase of $127 million over the administration’s request. However, the bill retains a provision in the House bill that sets aside $80 million for “pre-formulation and/or formulation activities” for a Europa mission that was not in the administration’s request. (The final FY13 bill had a similar earmark.) That means planetary sciences gets only a very modest increase over the administration’s request. The report accompanying the bill, though, does press NASA to increase the rate of Discovery-class missions, including releasing an announcement of opportunity (AO) for the next such mission no later than May 1, selecting one or more missions by September 2015.

Commercial Crew: The omnibus bill provides $696 million for commercial crew in FY14, a number closer to the Senate’s proposed $775 million than the House’s $500 million, but will short of the administration’s request $821 million. NASA officials had previous said they need full funding to keep the program on track to begin crewed flights to the International Space Station in 2017.

The bill sets aside about a quarter of that $696 million, $171 million, until NASA “has certified that the commercial crew program has undergone an independent benefit-cost analysis that takes into consideration the total Federal investment in the commercial crew program and the expected operational life of the International Space Station.” The report accompanying the bill notes that the uncertainty about the lifetime of the ISS “has a substantial impact on planning and financial requirements” for the commercial crew program that the report seeks to address. (The report does not mention plans announced last week by the White House and NASA seeking to extend operations of the ISS to at least 2024; in any case, it will take perhaps years before the partners decide whether to support such an extension.)

SLS and Orion: Those programs come out as winners in the omnibus bill, with the Space Launch System receiving $1.6 billion, Orion nearly $1.2 billion, and Exploration Ground Systems (primarily facilities supporting the SLS) $318 million. “Adequate funding for SLS, a top NASA priority, is necessary to support program goals, preserve progress already made toward achieving the upcoming test flight and maintain a schedule that supports accomplishing an initial operating capability in 2017,” the report accompanying the bill states. “Due to continuing concerns regarding the diversion of funding intended for vehicle development to activities with only tangential relevance to SLS, NASA shall not use SLS funds for engineering or other activities that are not directly related to SLS vehicle development.”

Space Operations: Neither the bill nor the report include breakouts for ISS and other spending within this account, but the report states that it “maintains strong support for the ISS” while mentioning “operational and financial concerns” discussed in previous House and Senate bills. The bill sets aside $100 million for a satellite servicing program, and the report includes a provision directing NASA to propose policies or legislation that address intellectual property concerns regarding ISS research.

Asteroid Redirection Mission (ARM): The House appropriations bill included a provision blocking spending on projects associated with the ARM, while the Senate was silent on the issue. The final report accompanying the bill does not include a specific ban, but instead more of a cautionary note about the proposed mission. “While the ARM is still an emerging concept, NASA has not provided Congress with satisfactory justification materials such as detailed cost estimates or impacts to ongoing missions. The completion of significant preliminary activities is needed to appropriately lay the groundwork for the ARM prior to NASA and Congress making a long-term commitment to this mission concept.”

Commercial launch liability indemnification: The omnibus budget bill also includes something of a bonus for the space community. As is often the case with such bills, legislators use an existing pending, but unrelated, bill as a vehicle for the appropriations, including the appropriations language as an amendment. In this case, the House is using HR 3547, a bill that extends the commercial launch liability indemnification regime. The House passed the original HR 3547 in December, extending the regime by one year, while the Senate amended the bill later last month, changing the one-year extension to a three-year one. That extension, in its three-year form, is preserved in the amended bill that is now primarily a vehicle for passing the omnibus spending bill.

90 comments to Omnibus bill gives NASA $17.65 billion (and launch indemnification extension as well)

  • Robert G Oler

    3 billion a year and SLS and Orion cant make it to orbit.

    The right wings pork pie RGO

    • Yeah! Boeing and ATK really can’t build rockets anymore– only Space X can:-) Somebody should really let them know:-)

      Marcel

      • Vladislaw

        No one said they can not build rockets. Hell ATK and Boeing are even willing to build the most insanely expensive rockets that every existed.

        ALL AT NO BID, COST PLUS, FIXED FEE!

        • Boeing was promoting the building of a heavy lift vehicle before the SLS ever existed. Plus the Obama administration– claimed– that they also wanted a heavy lift vehicle developed– but they simply wanted to study the issue for five years for a few hundred million a year.

          Marcel

          • Coastal Ron

            Marcel F. Williams said:

            Boeing was promoting the building of a heavy lift vehicle before the SLS ever existed.

            Well of course – haven’t you ever heard of marketing? And why shouldn’t they? They were lobbying for government contracts, not promoting something they would take a risk on. Geesh Marcel.

            If Boeing really believed that HLV’s were the future they would risk their own money to build one. But HLV’s are not yet the future, and not even close to being needed for space exploration or anything else, so Boeing is not going to risk their own money.

            It’s not complicated.

            • While I believe that a heavy lift vehicle can be commercially utilized, NASA is not a for profit corporation– and shouldn’t be. NASA’s role is not to compete with private space companies but to use them to achieve its own goals which should be to explore and to pioneer the Solar System so that we can know more about the universe and also so that privateers can utilize NASA’s knowledge for potential profit.

              NASA knows it needs a heavy lift vehicle if it is to easily achieve those goals and Boeing knew that NASA needed a heavy lift vehicle so that NASA’s goals could be achieved.

              But your idea that our society should do things– only– if private business decides its a good idea, is the type of corporate Plutocracy I don’t think most Americans want to live in. Capitalism has flourished under a government of the people, by the people, and for the people! And I like it that way!

              Marcel

              • Coastal Ron

                Marcel F. Williams said:

                While I believe that a heavy lift vehicle can be commercially utilized…

                For what? Show us where the market has been demanding the ability to launch payloads larger than what the current launchers can handle. And when I say demand, I mean paying customers that have indicated that they will spend money to build larger payloads.

                Because if the need for launching larger mass payloads does exist, then they will first start with using the Falcon Heavy. Not only can it place as much in GTO as the largest existing launches can lift just to LEO, but at $135M it would be an absolute bargain.

                However even SpaceX admits that the Falcon Heavy is too large for the needs of the market today, and SpaceX is developing the Heavy as much to provide an upgrade path for the market and a way to move along their goal of eventually reaching Mars.

                So whereas the 747, A380 and “Triple E” family of containerships were all responses to known market constraints, no such constraint exists in the launch market today that an HLV would solve. Especially a U.S. government-owned one that will likely be the most expensive launcher in the world.

                NASA knows it needs a heavy lift vehicle if it is to easily achieve those goals…

                There are no NASA goals that require an HLV. If you disagree, please point out to us the funded programs that have such goals.

                Apparently you feel that a bunch of engineers dreaming up “Best Case” scenarios for human exploration constitute “goals”. They don’t. Only the President and the Congress can authorize NASA’s goals, and so far they haven’t authorized any that require an HLV.

                But your idea that our society should do things– only– if private business decides its a good idea…

                Apparently you believe the opposite, that our society should only do things if “the government” decides it’s a good idea?

                Come on Marcel, you know you don’t believe that.

                And let’s remember that it was not “the government” that did some thorough, thoughtful and deliberative study about their future launch needs, and a wide-ranging consensus was reached about the need to build a government-owned, government-run HLV. The SLS was designed by a small group of people in Congress, without input or consensus from anyone outside their group. And who was helping? The “private businesses” (Boeing and Lockheed Martin) that thought Congress should cancel their contracts.

                Don’t be naive.

              • One of the reasons that I’m a strong advocate for funding Commercial Crew development is my belief that space tourism will be the primary catalyst for dramatically lowering the cost of space travel. There was an ABC poll back in 2008 that indicated that at least 40% of Americans would travel into space if they had the opportunity to do so. There are 14,000 people on this planet that are worth more than $250 million. So even if they lost 90% of their wealth, they’d still be extremely wealthy people. I’ll assume that only a third of these individuals would like to travel into space but only 10% (1400 people) would actually pay the $25 to $35 million price to travel into space to a space station. I’ll also assume that only 10% of that group actually get around to purchasing their ticket each year (140 people each year). If you assume that a commercial crew vehicle can accommodate five passengers per flight, that would mean about 28 launches per year. But where do they go?

                Bigelow’s Olympus BA-2100 can only be launched into orbit by a vehicle with at least an 8 meter in diameter payload fairing– with the capability of lifting at least 65 tonnes into orbit. So the Falcon heavy won’t do. You have to use the SLS.

                Assuming that the total cost of deploying an Olympus space station to LEO (launch cost plus the cost of the space station) is about $1 billion. I’d charge visitors and crew who stayed in my space hotel $2 million each per visit (two or three weeks). Assuming one tourist flight to the Olympus every month for 7 individuals (passengers and crew) that would be $14 million per month ($168 million per year). So after just six years you could pay off the cost of building and deploying the Olympus. But you’d need at least three Olympus space stations to accommodate 28 launches. Of course, some tourist might prefer going to one of Bigelow’s smaller space stations: But why would you prefer to live in a tent when you could live in hotel especially if you’re going to spend $27 to $37 million dollars. The Olympus would also have the advantage of being able to accommodate a six meter in diameter hyper gravity centrifuge to help tourist maintain their health while they’re experiencing a microgravity environment.

                Of course, your also probably going to have to accommodate Space Lotto winners. Assuming that 10% of the world’s population would be willing to risk $10 a year on average (each lotto ticket would cost $1) for a chance to fly to a space station plus win $250,000 in compensation for their time off for astronaut training, that would generate around $7 billion a year in revenue for spaceflight tickets. That would be at least 210 passengers per year or 42 flights. So Bigelow would have to deploy at least three more space stations to accommodate these tourist.

                Of course 70 Commercial Crew launches per year by perhaps three to six global launch companies would probably cause the cost of space flights to drop dramatically causing an increase in the number of wealthy people and lotto winners that can travel into space which would further decrease the cost of space travel causing further increases in flight volume and further decreases in flight cost. And, of course, the need for a lot more Bigelow space stations.

                Lunar tourism would be more expensive but pretty much be the same since it would require an SLS launch to deploy a 10 to 15 tonne lunar regolith habitat (regolith shielded habitat for protection against cosmic radiation, micrometeorites, thermal extremes, and major solar events) to the lunar surface to accommodate tourist during their trip to the Moon. Of course, under this scenario, the SLS would also be used to deploy the reusable Orbital Transfer Vehicles, Fuel Depots, and Lunar Landers that will take tourist from LEO to the Lunar surface and back to LEO.

                Marcel

              • “Apparently you believe the opposite, that our society should only do things if “the government” decides it’s a good idea?”

                I believe that the role of government in a Democratic Republic is to “do those things of common public interest and benefit which private industry either refuses to do, or cannot afford to do, or simply cannot do as efficiently as the government can.

                Marcel

              • “here are no NASA goals that require an HLV. If you disagree, please point out to us the funded programs that have such goals.”

                The primary focus of NASA’s manned space program should be to set up a water and fuel producing and exporting lunar outpost so that we can utilize those lunar resources to set up similar outpost on the moons of Mars and on the surface of Mars. And an HLV should make that pretty easy to do!

                Marcel

              • Coastal Ron

                Marcel F. Williams said:

                I believe that the role of government in a Democratic Republic is to…

                I actually agree with that philosophy, although I word it slightly differently.

                So with the SLS, where was private industry asked and they refused? Both ULA and SpaceX have stated that they could provide lifters with the same or better capacity for far less that what NASA is paying. How do you explain that? Where was the public review that weighed their offers?

                The primary focus of NASA’s manned space program should be to…

                This is only your opinion Marcel, and since you are not our dictator you are just one of the U.S. Taxpayers who has a stake in what happens. But only one.

                What hasn’t happened is a public review of what NASA’s goals should be, followed by a political consensus about the goals and the funding levels, and then NASA and others decide the best way to meet the goals. Right now we have a few in Congress mandating the wrong end of the solution – “The How” – before “The What” has been identified and potential solutions have been weighed.

                Sounds more like a dictator than democracy don’t you think? Or back room politics. Let’s just call it “pork”, since that what the SLS is at this point.

              • Vladislaw

                Marcel, Bigelow said that the 26 million SpaceX price and the 36 million boeing price was for the launch and 30 days in space. The last figure of BA’s for each additional month was 3 million dollars.

                NASA studies for how much cargo it takes to support a human was 47-62 pounds per day. It is not human cargo but the support cargo that will really increase the flight rate. The MOU’s that Bigelow has collected are very important. Most tourists are not going to stay months. But 2nd and 3rd tier countries that want a full up LEO based space program will be staying. All bigelow has to do is start cranking out BA330′s and chain them together once commercial human access flights start.

                The nation can not afford a monster rocket to launch one or two olympus stations. NOT at 50-60 billion for development.

                MODULAR design Marcel. Stop looking for how to do things with launchers we do not have and instead focus on how to do things with what we have.

              • Hiram

                “But your idea that our society should do things– only– if private business decides its a good idea, is the type of corporate Plutocracy”

                That idea is pretty simple to defend. It’s that private business is exquisitely sensitive to consumer value, and the federal government is not. So it’s not about decisions being made by the wealthy, but about decisions from people who want to be wealthy. What’s the problem with that?

                Capitalism has flourished under a government of the people, by the people, and for the people precisely because it is based, fundamentally, on value to the people. I can’t imagine how you twist that into a premise that the government should do things that might not offer the best value to the people. With regard to HSF, we have a government that is *totally clueless* about long term plans, and spends gobs of money defending that cluelessness. Does that signify value to you? With regard to such cluelessness, the government is just running on autopilot.

              • Coastal Ron

                Marcel F. Williams said:

                One of the reasons that I’m a strong advocate for funding Commercial Crew development is my belief that space tourism will be the primary catalyst for dramatically lowering the cost of space travel.

                You have that backwards. The focus on driving down the cost of accessing space – for cargo and crew – is the reason why tourism will become more affordable.

                And in regards to the SLS, no one is crazy enough to use their own money to buy a flight on that thing.

                Bigelow’s Olympus BA-2100 can only be launched into orbit by a vehicle with at least an 8 meter in diameter payload fairing…

                Bigelow will build station modules for whatever launcher is available or preferred by his customers. The BA-2100 was just a model used to illustrate future possibilities, but if you look he hasn’t had any takers. If anything Bigelow still has to prove out his BA-330 design before he can move on to anything bigger or complex. That will be more than a decade in the future, which means it can’t help the SLS to become useful. Sorry.

                Of course, your also probably going to have to accommodate Space Lotto winners.

                Lasted I looked lotto’s were just a way to separate money from fools, not to do anything worthwhile. Even the “education” benefits they provide are a joke. Legalized gambling, especially government-sponsored legalized gambling is not a firm foundation for expanding humanity out into space.

                Why are you so against real work being done in space?

              • “This is only your opinion Marcel, and since you are not our dictator you are just one of the U.S. Taxpayers who has a stake in what happens. But only one.”

                Every poll that I’ve seen (the Wall Street Journal poll in particular) or conducted strongly favors the Moon over any other destination. The recent revelations from the US astronauts on this issue only further supports the idea that we need to focus on the Moon. Plus there was bi-partisan support in Congress for returning to the Moon.

                Marcel

              • Coastal Ron

                Marcel F. Williams said:

                Every poll that I’ve seen (the Wall Street Journal poll in particular) or conducted strongly favors the Moon over any other destination.

                Great. However they don’t say when, or how, or even why. And they say nothing about the U.S. paying for setting up a lunar refueling station, which is obviously something the private sector should be doing, not John Q. Public. If there is so much demand for fuel from the Moon, then why isn’t the private sector drooling at the prospects of making money there?

                There may be some amount of interest, but there is no consensus, and no money behind the interest.

                Plus there was bi-partisan support in Congress for returning to the Moon.

                There was bi-partisan support for canceling the over-budget, under-whelming Constellation program. Most of the Republicans in the House that were in states that had major work on the program voted to cancel. How do you explain that?

                I’ll explain it. The key takeaway is that no matter what goal NASA has, it needs to have a good plan, well executed, and consistently funded. The Constellation program did not have a good plan, and was certainly not well executed. And in case you haven’t noticed, no government program is immune to the ups and downs of the politics of the day, so any program that wants to survive has to learn to deliver value quickly and continue to deliver value over time.

                Constellation wasn’t going to launch humans on meaningful mission until two decades into the program, so it was a major failure in that regard. That’s why using existing launchers can deliver results so fast, and scale so quickly. Given the same level of funding, I could get to the Moon using existing launchers years before you could using the SLS, and I would be able to devote far more resources to actual space hardware than you could. And since I would source fuel from Earth, I would have to pay less for my fuel, and be able to launch large assemblies out of LEO for a fraction of the cost of launching using fuel from the Moon.

          • Vladislaw

            Ya boeing wanted 6.5 billion for phase II, could have payed for that option four times already since constellation/sls.orion

    • josh

      3 billion of waste (minimum). oh well, look on the bright side. the likes of windy get to play rocket scientist for a couple more years until spacex makes them all irrelevant.

  • Thanks, Jeff for the the details. I woke up this morning and saw the news story about the omnibus bill. I hopped over here hoping you’d have the NASA details. You deliver, as usual.

    Glad to see that commercial crew wasn’t cut too badly, and that the House failed to prohibit asteroid initiative. The administration is still evolving the idea; I know a lot of people don’t care for it, but I think that at least they deserve a chance to present the final proposal in the next year or two. (How many of you would give it a second thought if the launch vehicle was a Falcon Heavy/Dragon and not SLS/Orion?)

    I’ll also note that today is the 10th anniversary of President Bush’s Vision for Space Exploration speech. For those interested, you can watch it here along with my commentary on its consequences.

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “How many of you would give it a second thought if the launch vehicle was a Falcon Heavy/Dragon and not SLS/Orion?”

      No. Regardless of the LVs and capsule, ARM remains a mission that doesn’t do what it claims to do. The target is too small to advance planetary defense, too close to push human space exploration frontiers and capabilities, and too limited and uncharacterized to be useful to science or commerce.

      It’s a waste of $2.6B. (And given the low TRLs for the robotic mission and the costs of the follow-on human mission, ARM will cost a lot more than $2.6B.)

      If the world wants to address planetary defense, then we should invest hundreds of millions of dollars in the requisite telescopic searches to identify the specific threats and in the follow-on techniques that will actually mitigate those threats — not blow billions on a mission to move an innocuous and very small rock in an innocuous and very rare orbit using techniques that have no relevance to planetary defense.

      If the White House wants to send astronauts to an asteroid, then it should man up with Congress, terminate MPCV/SLS, and invest in the advanced systems to get them there — not blow billions repeating Apollo 8.

      If NASA really wants to test high power electric propulsion, then it should spend the hundreds of millions of dollars necessary to mount a demonstration mission — not put an unproven technology on the critical path of a multi-billion dolalr operational mission. We know from history that this is a recipe for programmatic failure.

      If NASA really wants to help the nascent NEO mining industry, then it should spend tens of millions of dollars on a COTS-like robotic survey effort, which is what these companies are actually building towards today — not waste billions redirecting a rock that’s not the right type for testing volatile or platinum-group mining techniques.

      If the science community really wants more NEO sample returns over and above Osiris-REX and Hayabusa-2, they’ll let NASA know through hundred-million dollar Discovery proposals — not by blowing up the science budget with a single mission to a rock that’s of no interest to science.

      • “The target is too small to advance planetary defense,”

        The assumption seems to be that the only asteroids worth defending against are Chixculub sized NEAs. Not so. There are also Tunguska and Chelyabinsk sized asteroids that are far more common than dino killer sized rocks.

        “too limited and uncharacterized to be useful to science or commerce”

        The ARM is based on a vehicle described in the Keck report. Take a look at the list of of authors for the Keck report and you will see Chris Lewicki of Planetary Resources, John S. Lewis, Don Yeoman and many other well known scientists and engineers. Mostly folks who hope to someday use asteroid resources as well as those searching for possible impactors.

        NASA developing the technology for this robust SEP space craft would be very helpful to companies like Planetary Resources or Deep Space Industries.

        • Dark Blue Nine

          “The assumption seems to be that the only asteroids worth defending against are Chixculub sized NEAs. Not so.”

          You shouldn’t make assumptions about assumptions. The argument is based on the fact (not assumption) that ARM is planning to retrieve a 7m diameter rock, at most. This is more than 3x smaller in diameter (and more than 20x smaller in mass, assuming consistent densities) than Chelyabinsk, more than an order magnitude smaller than Tunguska, and many orders of magnitude smaller than any ELE. The techniques used to move such a small rock are not applicable to NEOs large enough to be hazardous. Thinking that ARM is applicable to Chelyabinsk is like expecting my wife’s Honda Civic to safely move a oversized tractor-trailer filled with hazardous material. Thinking that ARM is applicable to Tunguska or an ELE is like expecting my kid and his bicycle to move a mountain.

          ARM also has to target NEOs in very rare, very benign, very observable orbits. By definition, a hazardous NEO will never be in such an orbit, otherwise it wouldn’t be hazardous.

          “Take a look at the list of of authors for the Keck report and you will see Chris Lewicki of Planetary Resources, John S. Lewis, Don Yeoman”

          In Yeomans’ testimony to Congress last summer, he stated that “For the millions of small NEOs, in the range
          of 30 to 50 meters, it would be extremely challenging to find the majority of this population far enough in advance to first determine which ones represent a threat and then deflect them safely away from Earth.” He went on to state that “It may be sufficient to simply detect these small asteroids a few days or weeks prior to Earth impact so that appropriate warnings could be made and evacuations undertaken similar to hurricane emergencies in the unlikely case where populated areas of Earth would be threatened.” Yeomans may have helped out (or been ordered to help out) with the Keck study, but he clearly doesn’t see ARM or anything like it as a solution to “impactors”.

          Moreover, a few people on an engineering study don’t represent the consensus of a science community. The U.S. scientific consensus on the NEO threat is found in this National Research Council report:

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

          The recommendations in that report look nothing like ARM.

          “NASA developing the technology for this robust SEP space craft would be very helpful to companies like Planetary Resources or Deep Space Industries.”

          Say who? You? PR and DSI have not made such a statement. In fact, it’s not even clear that these companies prefer to extract resources in lunar orbit, using ARM or anything like it. Given that they don’t even know which NEOs they want to mine yet, I doubt they know themselves.

          The emphasis in these company’s statements to date has been on their near-term plans to assay the NEO population using much smaller space telescopes and probes. That’s what they’re actually focused on and what they’ve specifically asked for help with. DSI’s own input to NASA, for example, looks nothing like ARM:

          “– The first step in the Asteroid Initiative should be sending out low-cost robotic scouts to photograph and collect data about potential asteroid targets. No images have ever been taken of NEAs smaller than 500 meters, a knowledge gap with consequences for planetary defense and resource development. (For example a 100 meter asteroid can potentially destroy an entire city/region).

          – Rather than attempt to find and deliver to Earth orbit a tiny, complete 8-10 meter asteroid, the goal should be to collect material from the surface of an easier-to-find larger asteroid. In addition, the collected bags of asteroid material will pose no threat to Earth’s surface should control be lost over their trajectory.

          – Delivering large quantities of asteroid material to Earth orbit should be done on a commercial basis with NASA as one of the customers, alongside industrial users. NASA’s asteroid delivery plan is to have crew in its Orion capsule visit the returned material in 2021 at a beyond-the-Moon rendezvous point and bring back only 100 kg out of the 100 to 500 tonnes available there. A commercial approach would plan for industrial use of the remainder from the very start of the mission. A commercial approach also would enable greater public involvement through the use of corporate sponsorships that NASA is barred from employing.”

          http://deepspaceindustries.com/nasa-selects-deep-space-industries-for-multiple-asteroid-presentations/

        • Hiram

          “Take a look at the list of of authors for the Keck report and you will see Chris Lewicki of Planetary Resources, John S. Lewis, Don Yeoman and many other well known scientists and engineers. Mostly folks who hope to someday use asteroid resources as well as those searching for possible impactors.”

          I hope you understand that asteroid afficionadoes see value in encouraging ANY interest in asteroids, whether it benefits their prospecting/science/defense goals or not. Even the SBAG, which gave a thumbs down to the science value of the human part of the ARM mission, did so somewhat reluctantly, because the science community knows that attaching humans to ARM would engender a large amount of asteroid research funding (which could, in principle, happen without ARM of course). That’s what I call indirect endorsement. It doesn’t really do what I want to do, but it might cultivate interest in what I want to do. It isn’t smart policy to respond to indirect endorsement.

          Indirect endorsement is a common psychology that the human space flight community has mastered. The Mars-via-Moon strategy is like that, whereby sending humans to the Moon doesn’t get them to Mars, and really is quite dissimilar than a trip to Mars would be, but the interest in human spaceflight it cultivates can presumably incentivize trips to Mars.

          If I want to understand the Pacific Ocean, I can explore Lake Superior. Why? Well, it’s also water. It’s also kinda ripply. It’s also got sand on the bottom. It also incentivizes interest in, er, big bodies of water. Hey, almost there!

          A far more sensible strategy would be to send an SEP out to try to deflect a larger, more threatening asteroid, or perhaps an OSIRIS-REx type spacecraft to survey and sample an asteroid with likely resource potential. Of course, that strategy doesn’t need astronauts, nor does it need SLS.

    • Coastal Ron

      Stephen C. Smith said:

      I know a lot of people don’t care for it [ARM], but I think that at least they deserve a chance to present the final proposal in the next year or two.

      I think the review would be good, even though I think the merits of ARM using the SLS/MPCV would not be worth the effort. However the review would shed light on the cost structure required to support the sustained use of the SLS, and THAT is what is needed to show how unneeded the SLS is.

      Congress directed NASA to build the SLS, yet Congress has refused to even hold a hearing on what it will take to eventually use the SLS – for anything. This is a sign of a zombie program, where money continues to be allocated yet no reviews are done on what the money is accomplishing.

      Heck, I’d be glad to put what I’m doing on hold to help with such a review. The faster we stop wasting money on an unneeded government-owned rocket, the faster we can refocus NASA to developing the real technologies and techniques we’ll need for human space exploration. The ARM review, and the fiscal numbers that show the SLS is unsustainable, can’t come soon enough.

      • Vladislaw

        Coastal Ron wrote:

        However the review would shed light on the cost structure required to support the sustained use of the SLS, and THAT is what is needed to show how unneeded the SLS is.

        Great point and if it is a realistic price it will be a non starter. Now will it be a thumb on the scale price that congress has already agreed to through the backdoor or a reality based price moving towards the cancelation of SLS?

        • Coastal Ron

          Vladislaw said:

          Now will it be a thumb on the scale price that congress has already agreed to through the backdoor or a reality based price moving towards the cancelation of SLS?

          No doubt SLS promoters would low-ball the estimates, but it puts a stake in the ground that can be used to start evaluating the SLS – no one, no even Congress, has done any evaluation of the SLS and the cost structures it mandates. The sooner it happens, the sooner the SLS will be seen as not needed.

          • Michael Kent

            “no one, no even Congress, has done any evaluation of the SLS and the cost structures it mandates.”

            Booz Allen Hamilton did. They found that it was ridiculously expensive.

    • Hiram

      “… at least they deserve a chance to present the final proposal in the next year or two.”

      Which will be an implementation proposal. Yep, we know how to do it, they will say. Won’t make up for the fact that we don’t know why we should do it. As noted, we will be told that it’s in the interest of (1) planetary defense, (2) science, and (3) commercialization, but of course, that just simplistically means that (1) it’s a rock, (2) we’ll grab a chunk while we’re planting a flag and (3) again, it’s a rock. ARM has tried hard to develop sensible rationale, and has repeatedly failed. It’s kind of sad when what, from and engineering and technology perspective is a pretty keen mission, has no identifiable value. No, there is no intrinsic value in keenness.

      I wish I could say that ARM developed strategies that would be useful for BEO efforts in general, but it doesn’t obviously do that either.

  • Robert G Oler

    Stephen I would give the asteroid “thing” a couple of extra thoughts IF it involved 1) lower the price of such efforts, 2) an innovative mission plan that was more then 3 people in a can for a long time…and 3) pushed the envelope of private industry.

    I have other ideas so that wouldnt be my first one…but a program which moved NASA from the Apollo style “program management” it has to something more like commercial cargo crew…I am interested RGO

  • James

    $80M for one year of pre-formulation/formulation. Great get for JPL here; there must be a Europa marching army out there just chomping at the bit to march. perhaps this is all for Technology development of the mission? How does one spend $80M in one year in pre Phase A? Don’t get me wrong, I”m all for an outer planet mission; and Europa is as good as it gets (well, outer planet moon)

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “$80M for one year of pre-formulation/formulation. Great get for JPL here… How does one spend $80M in one year in pre Phase A?”

      A $70-80M Europa earmark is a “get” that JPL has been getting for several years now. It doesn’t go to good pre-Phase A or Phase A work. If it had, JPL’s Europa mission design would not have lost to more Mars missions in the last decadal survey. Instead the money is used to prevent layoffs at JPL. People sitting around and drawing paychecks with little or nothing to do.

      • James

        That’s what I thought; The Pre Formulation I”ve been involved with takes $3 to $5M per year of scientists and engineers laying the framework. This is for $1B missions that are a good 6 to 7 years away from launch. Don’t need more than that; unless of course there is technology to be developed, then I can see much more money, especially if there are lots of technologies that need advancement.

      • Vladislaw

        When you say little or nothing to do ….

        As I have never wandered the back halls JPL what do you mean with nothing to do? Do dozens of people show up at their desks and sit on facebook or do they at least have to do some makework/viewgraphs etc.

        • Dark Blue Nine

          “what do you mean with nothing to do? Do dozens of people show up at their desks and sit on facebook or do they at least have to do some makework/viewgraphs etc.”

          I mean both. It’s not unique to JPL. All the NASA field centers (and Headquarters) suffer from Griffin’s “Ten Healthy Centers” philosophy/syndrome and have large numbers of people doing busywork or just websurfing, charging their time to engineering pools or overhead and not projects because there’s not enough actual project work for them to do. (Constellation managers, for example, had to have a representative from every field center on every inter-center conference call — even if those field centers weren’t involved in that manager’s project.) JPL is far from the worst. An unaccompanied walk-and-talk through ARC, GRC, GSFC, or LaRC will open one’s eyes.

          But unlike the other centers, which are staffed by civil servants paid out of the “Cross Agency Support” account in Jeff’s budget table above, JPL is staffed by Caltech contractors, who can only charge their time directly to project accounts (e.g., Mars X, Y, or Z). So when JPL doesn’t have enough project work to go around, people either get laid off or someone in Congress has to come up with an earmark to cover them. This is what’s been happening for several years now under the guise of a Europa earmark.

          JPL has probably spent something like $300 million via these Europa earmarks, but the vast bulk of the money is obviously not going towards a Europa mission. Otherwise, Europa would have been the #1 priority in the last planetary decadal, not more Mars missions.

          Multiply JPL’s $80 million Europa earmark over ten field centers and that’s a decent guesstimate of how much of NASA’s budget is going towards underutilized salaries — something approaching $1 billion. The Cross Agency Support account is ~$2.7 billion, so that budget could take the hit if someone wanted to redirect that money to more useful purposes within or outside NASA. But the relevant congressmen would never take such a risk with their upcoming reelection.

          (Although I seriously doubt the NASA — or former NASA — workforce could ever sway an election. They’re simply dwarfed by other voting blocs, even in cases like central Florida.)

          FWIW…

        • Dark Blue Nine

          “what do you mean with nothing to do? Do dozens of people show up at their desks and sit on facebook or do they at least have to do some makework/viewgraphs etc.”

          Both. It’s people, some highly technically qualified (but very few ambitious, for obvious reasons), who are whiling away months to years on busywork and websurfing and charging their time to center engineering pools and overhead because there’s not enough actual project work to go around. It’s not unique to JPL, or even that bad there compared to other centers. An unaccompanied afternoon walk-and-talk through various ARC, GRC, or GSFC buildings will open one’s eyes. Even HQ suffers from this issue. It’s been a long festering problem, but it ballooned under Griffin’s “ten healthy centers” philosophy/syndrome and Congress’s happy acquiescence to the same. The real world downsizes when there’s underutilized workforce. NASA center workforces are incredibly static, by comparison.

          JPL is unique in that they have to get an earmark to cover their underutilized workforce. Unlike the other NASA centers, which are staffed by civil servants paid out of the Cross Agency Support account in Jeff’s budget table above, JPL is a Federally Funded Research and Development Center — essentially a privileged contractor managed by a university. So JPL’s workforce is comprised of Caltech contractors that can only charge to projects — there’s no separate appropriations account for their salaries. When their salaries are not covered by a project, they either have to be fired or someone in Congress has to cover them with an earmark.

          That’s what has been happening under the guise of the Europa earmark for several years now. There’s probably around $300 million in Europa earmarks so far, but they’re obviously not going towards Europa work. Otherwise, Europa would not have lost so handily to yet more Mars missions in the last planetary decadal survey.

          Multiply the $80 million Europa earmark times ten NASA field centers and that’s a good wag at the amount of NASA’s budget going towards salaries, benefits, and overhead for underutilized workforce — something approaching $1 billion. The Cross Agency Support account is ~$2.7 billion, so it could take the hit if someone wanted to let some NASA workforce go and use some of those funds more effectively inside or outside NASA. But the relevant congressmen would never agree to such a risk in their upcoming reelections. (Although the NASA workforce is dwarfed by other constituencies — even in places like Central Florida — so I doubt a large RIF would have any actual effect on election outcomes.)

          FWIW…

    • red

      In 2013 $15M was budgeted for instrument technology development for Europa Clipper:

      http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/europa/docs/ICEE_KO_Niebur_revised.pdf

      They are also evaluating different power subsystems, trajectories, launchers (Atlas V and SLS), inclusion of cubesats, etc. They’re doing various subsystem tests (electronics, thermal control) and other risk reduction activities. I don’t know about the funding levels for these, though.

      http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/europa/docs/ICEE_KO_Combined_20131022_RevKAL.pdf

      My gut feeling is that I’d rather have the $80M go to a Discovery mission, giving the difficulty and expense of the mission (even though it’s been descoped compared to JEO) and the likely available Planetary Science budget with Mars 2020 already a flagship mission.

  • DocM

    Not as much for commercial crew as the administration asked, but more than I expected. Hopefully this will move the selection process towards at least 2 candidates.

    I’m hoping for Dragon and Dream Chaser because they are dissimilar and seem persistant about going on regardless of selection. ISTM Boeing has been a bit dodgy about it.

    • DocM wrote:

      I’m hoping for Dragon and Dream Chaser because they are dissimilar and seem persistant about going on regardless of selection. ISTM Boeing has been a bit dodgy about it.

      Boeing, of course, has its army of lobbyists roaming the halls of Congress, but we don’t seem to hear much about CST-100 compared to the other two. Dragon is flying now as a cargo vehicle, and will have two abort tests in 2014. Sierra Nevada just cut a deal with Europe for Dream Chaser. Boeing has a partnership with Bigelow, but we haven’t heard much about that in a while.

      Maybe it’s just Boeing’s corporate style flying under the radar, but if I had a say I’d go with your preferences.

      Boeing now controls two of the three former orbiter hangars at KSC — one for CST-100, and now a second for the X-37B. They’ll continue to have a presence, and I’m sure they’ll argue that’s one reason to select CST-100.

      • Both the Dream Chaser and the CST-100 are supposed to fly on top of an Atlas-V. That gives the ULA a huge advantage, IMO.

        Marcel

        • Vladislaw

          Marcel wrote: “That gives the ULA a huge advantage, IMO.”

          According to Bigelow Aerospace, which is already setting prices for both Boeing and SpaceX, ULA will still have a lot of work to on their prices.

          The lastest prices listed are 26 million for a seat on Dragon and 36 million a seat on CST-100. Although I believe Boeing has a lead on customer awareness. Boeing has the positive reputation for their airplanes and previous spacework and that will bleed over. We won’t know what that actually is though until those two start services.

          NASA astronauts like the stick and yoke and flying. Look for the Dreamchaser to, in the end, be used by NASA.

          • NASA is more concerned about safety and reliability rather than price since there won’t be a lot of manned flights to the space station. Plus the Atlas V has been flying reliably for 12 years.

            I’d also favor the Dream Chaser since it can land on practically any runway.

            As far as manned spaceflights by private companies to private space stations is concerned, the cheapest price should prevail– as long as the vessel is viewed by the public as safe.

            Marcel

            • Coastal Ron

              Marcel F. Williams said:

              NASA is more concerned about safety and reliability rather than price since there won’t be a lot of manned flights to the space station.

              Since only spacecraft that have been certified through the Commercial Crew program will be eligible for crew service competition, and all certified spacecraft are therefore equal in the eyes of the government, price will indeed be an important factor.

              SpaceX is on track to receive the first Commercial Crew contract by virtue of being ready far earlier than Boeing is. But as I have stated previously, I hope that NASA reserves flights for all qualified Commercial Crew providers. And Boeing, Sierra Nevada and SpaceX know this will probably be the situation, as it is with other government contracts with multiple qualified providers. They all can survive on low rate flights, since their launchers both fly frequently with and without crew.

              Not sure why you don’t understand that.

              Plus the Atlas V has been flying reliably for 12 years.

              The same was said about the Shuttle prior to the Challenger accident. Assuming perfection based on past performance is not a recipe for safety. Constant vigilance is. And so far the Falcon 9 has had a 100% success rate, so there are no reasons NOT to use the Falcon 9.

          • Vladislaw wrote:

            NASA astronauts like the stick and yoke and flying. Look for the Dreamchaser to, in the end, be used by NASA.

            Well, first off, I don’t think the astronaut corps get the final say, but also the three candidate craft are all design to fly and land robotically. Last week’s Sierra Nevada-ESA deal includes a potential Dream Chaser version that would fly without crew, just orbit with an experimental payload like the X-37B and land by remote control.

            Presumably all three will have some sort of manual override, but my guess is the computers will control it all.

    • amightywind

      Dream on. I think SpaceX is beginning to look like the odd man out. Dream Chaser has had a great year, and is even capitalizing on European interest in the platform. The Euros have always loved space planes. Adding Lockmart to the team adds credibility. I am becoming a fan of the platform. That leaves SpaceX against Boeing in a turning political environment where Musk and his partisan dealings are increasingly unpopular. My money is on Boeing, quite literally.

      • Coastal Ron

        amightywind said:

        That leaves SpaceX against Boeing in a turning political environment where Musk and his partisan dealings are increasingly unpopular.

        You are funny. Boeing spends far more on politics than Musk or SpaceX, and that’s not likely to change. How many lobbyists does Boeing have? How many lawmakers do they have on their side? Again, you are funny.

        In any case, the Commercial Crew program has shown that it is being operated based on actual accomplishments, not political pork like the SLS and MPCV are.

        From that standpoint Boeing can argue all they want that they should be given a crew transportation contract, but if SpaceX is flying and already certified, and Boeing is still working on their first unmanned flights, then of course NASA is going to go with a known capability over an unknown one. And unless Boeing plans to operate their service at a loss, then SpaceX will also have the price advantage, which according to government contracting rules must receive due consideration, especially when the technical requirements are being met equally.

        My money is on Boeing, quite literally.

        Boeing is a good company, but in regards to the Commercial Crew program, they are the outsider. Compared to SpaceX they cost more, offer the same features (i.e. just a 7-person capsule), and are further behind in development by over a year. Compared to Sierra Nevada they may be further ahead, but NASA really wants a vehicle that can land on a runway, and now the Europeans are offering to help with funding. Boeing doesn’t offer anything better than what the competition does. Nothing.

        Your Boeing stock may go up, but it won’t be because of the CST-100.

        • Coastal Ron wrote:

          NASA really wants a vehicle that can land on a runway …

          SpaceX folks have been talking about the next-generation Dragon being steered to land at the former Shuttle runway or at a reactivated Cape pad, perhaps LC-36 which is run these days by Space Florida.

          • Coastal Ron

            Stephen C. Smith said:

            SpaceX folks have been talking about the next-generation Dragon being steered to land at the former Shuttle runway or…

            The ability to land on dry land will be a significant advantage for SpaceX. However the Dream Chaser will have a much broader cross-range ability, meaning it can change course to the right or left (even “behind” it’s course) better than capsules can.

            I think SpaceX will be the first to become certified for crew transportation, and get the first contract because of that. But at this point I think that Sierra Nevada will have the most in-demand mode of transportation. And once they move the Dream Chaser over to the Falcon 9 for launch, it will be a pretty compelling transportation system.

        • josh

          why? there just was another battery failure on boeing’s nightmare plane.

      • josh

        spacex is a given. you’re making yourself look silly by pretending otherwise. they will do manned flights to leo with or without nasa backing them.

    • Vladislaw

      As Boeing doesn’t run airlines I Have a feeling they are not planning on being a spaceline for LEO longterm. In one presenation by a Boeing rep he said their capsules would be reusable and could be sold outright and they just supply the launch vehicle or the owner could use whatever launch vehicle they like.

  • amightywind

    It is too bad that congress has to put language in the bill to keep NASA leadership from pillaging SLS funding. Congress should demand program management they can trust. The funding level seems adequate.

    Commercial crew continues to be an open sore. When is the down select?

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “It is too bad that congress has to put language in the bill to keep NASA leadership from pillaging SLS funding.”

      Congress is pointing blame in the wrong direction. SLS program managers and congressmen themselves have been pillaging the SLS budget from the inside, redirecting over $700M to useless and duplicative test stands:

      http://nasawatch.com/archives/2014/01/oig-slaps-nasa.html

      “The funding level seems adequate.”

      SLS funding in this bill is $1 billion lower than what the 2010 NASA Authorization Act planned for FY13 ($2.6 billion versus $1.6 billion). Not good.

      MPCV funding in this bill is better off, only $200 million lower than what the 2010 NASA Authorization Act planned for FY13 ($1.4 billion versus $1.2 billion). But they need it given all of the project’s mass issues and how many milestones have slipped.

      Contrary to the bill, the likelihood of these projects maintaining schedule through 2017 and 2021 given these constraints and obstacles is practically nil.

      “When is the down select?”

      It was mid-2014, but it will likely be later now that Congress is requiring an independent report. Why get a couple native human space flight capabilities developed on time when you can shovel hundreds of millions of more taxpayer dollars at the Russian government?

    • Vladislaw

      windy wrote: “The funding level seems adequate.”

      Since congress doesn’t want to give up jobs, and about 120 million a month goes to labor that sure leaves a lot for actual SLS hardware.

    • josh

      you really hate competition, don’t you? lol..

  • reader

    So technology development took a hit, commercial took a slight hit, E R&D took a hit. Planetary science handwringing largely ignored. Why invest in future if you can feed your big contractors instead ? Cue another round of self-congratulatory press releases by LockMart, ATK et al.

    • amightywind

      Why invest in future if you can feed your big contractors instead ?

      Because the future is here and America has no space exploration capability, unless you call strumming a guitar on the space station exploration.

      • Coastal Ron

        amightywind said:

        Because the future is here and America has no space exploration capability…

        Today, with no money required for the U.S. Taxpayer, the U.S. has the existing capability to build space craft at least as big as 450mt, which is 320mt more than what a single SLS is supposed to be able to do. We can do that today using designs that already exist, using factories that already exist, and using transportation infrastructure that already exists.

        Even if the SLS ever flies, and even if Congress decides that they will eventually fund something for the SLS to do, Congress would need to pay for new designs and testing, new factories, and new transportation infrastructure. Why? Because using the SLS mandates the use of SLS-only payloads, which means greater than 5.2m in diameter. Where today payloads can travel by road or by air, new factories will have to be built near waterways. That increases costs, and limits competition.

        Because you only focus on one solution, and ignore all the ramifications of your solution, you will forever never understand why you solution will never get funded – it’s too damn expensive.

        So the choice here is really is to build the SLS and not go anywhere, or base our exploration systems on existing launch systems, which are here now, and have designs ready to modify (i.e. ISS modules). If you really want to send humans out into space to explore, then you’ll forget about the former and go with the later. It’s the only solution that makes economic sense, which means in this fiscal environment it’s the only one likely to work.

        That’s just the way it is. You have to value money again. Reagan would be disappointed in you… ;-)

      • josh

        still trying to justify your shameless trough feeding, eh? no one’s buying it windy. you want the taxpayer to pay for you playing rocket scientist, accomplishing nothing of value in the process, and that’s about it.

      • Dark Blue Nine

        “Because the future is here and America has no space exploration capability, unless you call strumming a guitar on the space station exploration.”

        Chris Hadfield is a Canadian, doofus.

  • Aberwys

    If you consider thst the Europans have been working since the 90s to get a mission, $80M, distributed across 20-odd years is cheap.

  • Aberwys

    Many Europans have had side jobs to keep the science alive. I have a lot of respect for their dedication!

  • Anonymous

    Does anyone know how this budget affects the upcoming Senior Review involving ongoing robotic missions? Previous reports stated that either Curiosity or Cassini, or perhaps both, would need to be shut down due to inadequate funding. Does this budget restore funding for these missions? Thanks.

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “Does anyone know how this budget affects the upcoming Senior Review involving ongoing robotic missions? Previous reports stated that either Curiosity or Cassini, or perhaps both, would need to be shut down due to inadequate funding. Does this budget restore funding for these missions?”

      Per Jeff’s notes above, Planetary Science got a $127 million increase. $80 million of that goes to the Europa/JPL workforce earmark. That leaves $47 million, some of which is required to start the selection process for the additional Discovery mission that Congress is also requiring. But until study contracts are let late this year or early next, the impact of the extra Discovery mission on the remaining $47 million increase in 2014 should be negligible. So most of the $47 million should be available for Curiousity or Cassini operations and that amount would just about cover one of them for one year, making a downselect between them unnecessary.

      So unless there’s some other game afoot besides the early stages of an additional Discovery mission that has a priority on that $47 million, I’d expect both Cassini and Curiousity to get renewed.

  • BuzzFan

    Can anyone here provide a an unbiased review of potential upsides to science/space missions that will result from an operational SLS? I mean, It’s clear we have a lot of naysayers of the program, and that is totally fine. I am just settling with the fact SLS will eventually be operational and able to do missions (though spaced out significantly). So if It’s coming, regardless of what we may think of it, what are some real benefits? What can we look forward to over the coming decades of SLS and Orion, with their upgrades? Someone please sell me on this.

    • amightywind

      Hmm. I have an idea. Lets use the SLS for lunar exploration. That would be novel.

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “Can anyone here provide a an unbiased review of potential upsides to science/space missions that will result from an operational SLS?”

      Practically speaking, there are none. The science community has not prioritized any mission requiring an HLV because those missions either don’t need that much lift and/or are too expensive. Right now, the planetary science community is having trouble finding funding for new Discovery-class missions, which have cost caps of ~$500 million (with an “m”) or less and typically weigh a ton or two. A Flagship-plus class planetary mission that would actually require a 70- or 130-ton HLV like SLS cost at least $5 billion (with a “b”) a pop, and that’s before you blow another billion or two on a rare SLS launch. There’s simply no budget to provide a steady stream of monster-sized science payloads for a monster-sized launcher like SLS. We can’t even find the budget for a steady stream of the smallest independent science missions.

      Theoretically, there are missions decades into the future that might be able to take advantage of an HLV. The National Research Council did a report on these here:

      http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=12554

      But again, the report finds that these missions are all too expensive to realistically consider for the foreseeable future.

      For human missions, multiple industry and university studies (ULA, Georgia Tech, Golden Spike, Inspiration Mars, etc.) have shown that most of the missions we’d like to mount can be performed without the expense of developing and operating an HLV. And the one human mission that could require an HLV — a human Mars landing — SLS can’t fulfill due to its very low launch rate. Moreover, even if you commit to an HLV for most/all of your human missions, ULA and SpaceX have offered to develop 70- and 150-ton HLVs for about one-tenth each of what SLS will cost (assuming no cost overruns).

      Of course, this may all be moot as the MPCV command module is about 20% overweight for its parachutes (which are at the limits of their technology) and may be incapable of safely returning astronauts to Earth, anyway. No MPCV, no human missions, and no SLS.

      • BuzzFan

        Thank you for the link. That helps get an idea of a few best case scenarios. I am still wondering about the possibilities of using Orion for visiting NEO’s (not via ARM, but actually venturing out a bit further into deep space and catching up with an asteroid or comet). Thoughts on this? It’s my understanding that the science community originally believed this was the intention for missions involving humans visiting an asteroid. ARM was a bit of a disappointment to say the least.

        • Coastal Ron

          BuzzFan said:

          I am still wondering about the possibilities of using Orion for visiting NEO’s

          As of now NASA can only afford to build the capsule portion of the Orion/MPCV, and ESA has only committed to building one of the service modules. So just from that standpoint the ability to use the Orion for any mission is reliant on at least one international partner, and would likely mean that all Orion/MPCV missions going forward would have “international” crews.

          Also the Orion/MPCV is only currently designed to sustain crews for just 20 days or so, since the original idea was that it was going to be used for shuttling humans to the Moon and back. In order to do extended missions there needs to be developed additional hardware (life-support, science instruments, etc.), plus some sort of habitat to allow the crew to stay healthy while in space. That equipment is essentially what the ISS has, so we could just duplicate some parts of the ISS. But if we’re going to do that, the Orion/MPCV then just becomes a transport vehicle and lifeboat, and not an “exploration” vehicle.

          Once you start down that line of thinking, you realize that using capsules of any kind for exploration is a dead end, and that what we need to really do next is work on developing dedicated in-space only vehicles like the proposed Nautilus-X.

          Because the Orion/MPCV is really only a very short term solution, and not a good one at that, I have been advocating that we stop wasting money on the MPCV and move directly towards true in-space spacecraft. Not only that, but the MPCV is still very over-weight and may never be able to fly safely, so it may never see space anyways.

          Did this help?

          • BuzzFan

            Yes, good answer. I keep trying to imagine ways to salvage SLS and make something useful from it. Perhaps a Bigelow habitat attachment to Orion, to allow for extended duration flights for close up studies of NEO’s? Or even a mars flyby? I can’t really think of much else within the realm of possibility (economically and technologically speaking)for interesting/useful manned missions with Orion/SLS…

            • Vladislaw

              The problem is that the congressional pork premuim has literally priced NASA out of the game. SLS launches are going to be SSOOO freakin’ expensive they will only launch ONCE every couple YEARS. That means the taxpayers will have to fund a NASA army to stand around for years between launches. The SLS can not be used for any big mars missions because it cost SSOOO freakin’ much per launch you could not launch it 8-12 times a year. At 2.5 billion a launch a mars pork mission would cost 50 billion and at least another 50 billion for all the additional hardware. It just is not happening until the transition from the NASA monopoly to commercial space transportation that is outside congressional games.

            • Coastal Ron

              BuzzFan said:

              I keep trying to imagine ways to salvage SLS and make something useful from it.

              We don’t lack ways of using an HLV, we severely lack the money.

              Unless or until NASA’s budget is more than doubled (tripled more likely), an HLV is unneeded – NASA simply cannot afford to build and operate the amount of space hardware a constant rate of HLV launches would require.

              And in reality, if a mission was identified that required massive amounts of mass to be moved to space, the SLS would be one of the last vehicles to be considered, since the existing fleet of commodity launchers can lift far more mass to space, and for far less, than the SLS can with it’s current production facilities.

              Again, it all boils down to money, since the SLS mandates such a massive amount of it to justify it’s existence.

        • Dark Blue Nine

          “I am still wondering about the possibilities of using Orion for visiting NEO’s (not via ARM, but actually venturing out a bit further into deep space and catching up with an asteroid or comet). Thoughts on this?”

          Recent history shows that if NASA designs the asteroid mission, it will be too complex, take too long, and be extremely unaffordable. NASA’s Human Exploration Framework Team (HEFT) was charged with developing the asteroid mission back in ~2010. Although this was before SLS was fully defined, they did assume a Shuttle-derived, 100-ton Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle (HLLV) as well as an Orion-derived Crew Transfer Vehicle (CTV). However, their architecture also required the development of an alphabet soup of other systems (CPS, MMSEV, DSH, SEP, MO, GO, etc.) as well as nine precursor missions to test all this hardware. (The nine do not include a couple other robotic precursor missions to the target asteroid.) By the time NASA finished all that development and all those test flights (gotta keep all those engineers employed until retirement!), HEFT reckoned NASA could rendezvous with a target NEO in 2031, six years after the President’s 2025 goal. Here’s their final presentation:

          http://www.nasawatch.com/images/heft.presentation.pdf

          Go to page 52 and you’ll see that by the time they paid for their Shuttle-derived HLLV, Orion-derived CTV, and all these other HEFT systems, the HEFT plan was billions over the budget runout at that time. (The budget runout is much lower now.) If you add up the budget figures on pages 53-55, it comes to $143 billion total. That’s $40 billion more than what ISS development cost — ultimately for one lousy mission to one lousy rock two decades in the future. Crazy expensive. Totally nuts and utterly out of touch with the budget and what the President had directed them to do.

          Georgia Tech did a study that dumped the Shuttle-derived HLLV in favor of cryogenic propellant management and less expensive launch vehicles, and dumped some of the other unnecessary HEFT systems as well, but otherwise did things NASA’s way. That got the mission cost down to $86 billion, which was well within the budget runout at that time. See page 36 in their presentation here:

          http://images.spaceref.com/news/2011/F9Prop.Depot.pdf

          It’s a huge improvement, but $86 billion for one lousy visit to one lousy rock still 20 years into the future (still in 2031) probably remains a non-starter.

          LockMart’s “Plymouth Rock” study looked at a dual-Orion mission to a NEO. The mission is very limited in terms of the NEOs it can visit, it capabilities, and its duration. It’s really running at the ragged edge of viability and safety due to the constraints imposed by the modified second Orion (vice purpose-built habitation and propulsion to supplement the first unmodified Orion). There are also no public cost figures, and it’s unclear what additional HEFT systems and testing would be applied if NASA were to adopt the Plymouth Rock mission architecture. It was baselined on Ares I/V, which would require two SLS launches today, one human-rated. With the baseline once-every-other-year launch rate on SLS, it’s unclear that SLS could pull off this minimalist mission. But assuming SLS could, at $1 billion per Orion (from the Augustine committee’s final report) and at least $2 billion per SLS launch, the Plymouth Rock mission itself would cost roughly $6 billion. This does not include the costs of human-rating SLS, modifying the second Orion, and any additional HEFT systems or testing imposed by NASA, which would probably spiral the total cost into the low tens of billions. But ignoring NASA/HEFT practices, $6 billion is at least in the realm of possibility for a human exploration mission. Here’s a Plymouth Rock presentation:

          http://www.lpi.usra.edu/sbag/meetings/sbag2/presentations/PlymouthRockasteroidmission.pdf

          No one to my knowledge has really looked at a sane, clean-sheet, low-cost NEO mission unburdened by SLS or Orion or HEFT assumptions. The closest is the Inspiration Mars free-return trajectory circumnavigation of the planet Mars, which should have enough dV and life support to enable human missions to a number of NEOs. Their original architecture assumed a modified DragonRider and an inflatable or Cygnus-derived habitat launched on two Falcon Heavy vehicles or an Atlas V and a Delta IV Heavy, with the latter option requiring propellant transfer. The upper cost bound on this architecture was $2 billion and change, including both development and operations. Later refinements showed that they probably needed three launch vehicles, which might have rounded it up to $3 billion total. I doubt NASA would ever take the calculated risks of such a mission or that the political environment would allow NASA to cancel or divert funding from SLS/MPCV to such a mission. But something like the Inspiration Mars architecture is probably also the only realistic option for a human mission to an asteroid within NASA’s foreseeable budget horizon. Here’s an Inspiration Mars presentation:

          http://www.aiaa.org/uploadedFiles/About-AIAA/Press-Room/Key_Speeches-Reports-and-Presentations/2013_Key_Speeches/Inspiration-Mars-FISO-Presentation2013-04-03.pdf

          “It’s my understanding that the science community originally believed this was the intention for missions involving humans visiting an asteroid.”

          The science community doesn’t want to have anything to do with a human NEO mission, whether the astronauts go to the NEO or the NEO comes to them. Neither mission addresses the planetary science community’s priorities, or even the priorities of the so-called small body (asteroids, comets, etc.) science community.

          “ARM was a bit of a disappointment to say the least.”

          As I wrote earlier in this thread, ARM doesn’t achieve or contribute to any of the goals it espouses. And for the $2.6B cost of the ARM robotic spacecraft, we could afford an Inspiration Mars-model human mission to an asteroid and maybe have enough change left over for an exhaustive search of hazardous and commercially interesting NEOs.

          • Coastal Ron

            Dark Blue Nine said:

            Recent history shows that if NASA designs the asteroid mission, it will be too complex, take too long, and be extremely unaffordable…

            You did a great writeup on this, and I just wanted to say that I greatly appreciate the detail that you spent time to include.

            I have been coming to Space Politics now for many years, and as I’ve stated in the past, I come here to discuss, debate and LEARN. Explaining your logic AND providing the source information is very helpful for people like me who are space enthusiasts and not involved in the science or industry side of space, but otherwise have a stake in what our nation does in space.

            Thanks for the detail you take time to include in your posts.

            • Dark Blue Nine

              Thanks, Ron. When an opportunity comes up in between refuting the usual trolls here, I like to try to provide some substantive information.

    • Hiram

      “Can anyone here provide a an unbiased review of potential upsides to science/space missions that will result from an operational SLS?”

      The upsides of SLS for science are pretty obvious. For space astronomy in particular, one needs BIG telescopes, and bigness fits well in SLS. Folding a large aperture adds expense and risk. Of course, you can get bigness by space assembly as well. For planetary astronomy, large mass and volume means more power and propulsion, which translates to speed and operations in gravity wells. Earth science and heliophysics are largely uninterested in HLVs.

      As noted, there was serious attention given to the science potential of Ares V. There are similar (but less well organized) rumblings right now about SLS. Potential SLS contractors are right now trying hard to stir that pot.

      But the downsides are legion. The expense of large missions is ENORMOUS. You think JWST is bad? Wait until you try to fill an SLS with a telescope. So if you can’t fill an SLS with a science mission, the fact that SLS might eventually be operational means nothing to science. You won’t be doing any missions.

      What I’m going to sell you on are serviceable/expandable missions that are lofted in pieces by smaller, vastly more affordable launchers. One needs some kind of in-space servicing/construction capability, but this telerobotic capability is being developed, and would serve many needs. Look at it this way. If we build megalaunchers because we’re scared of in-space construction, those megalaunchers are a dead end. We’re never going to have ultra-megalaunchers.

      • Coastal Ron

        Hiram said:

        Look at it this way. If we build megalaunchers because we’re scared of in-space construction, those megalaunchers are a dead end. We’re never going to have ultra-megalaunchers.

        Well said, and something that is not always realized by HLV supporters.

        We’ve already proved we can build a 450mt space station using components no larger than 20mt and 5 meters in diameter. We have not yet maxed out our abilities with this set of capabilities, but we have plenty more we can do to make it more capable and less costly. Even NASA’s Mars plans call out for in-space assembly of Mars-bound spacecraft, so in-space assembly has to be perfected.

        And no matter how large the rocket, we’ll always need the ability to transfer fuel in space from automated tankers, so delaying the perfection of that capability is just plain stupid.

        HLV supporters just don’t like to address reality, which is why mainly only politicians support their views… ;-)

  • Peter Kuhns

    Why aren’t the smart people in charge of the checkbook?

    Now I see why nothing much (except robots) has happened in 40 years…

    • common sense

      It’s not about “smart”. It’s about politics. And, politically, they are pretty smart considering they are still in Congress.

      Oh well.

      • Dave Huntsman

        I’m afraid it is also about not being ‘smart’, as well. One of the sad things about the whole SLS debacle is that the people involved in both the House and the Senate who support it actually have convinced themselves it’s needed to maintain American ‘leadership’ in space exploration. No one has pointed out to them that they decimated the space technology budget – the seed corn for the future – to pay for the thing; no one has pointed out to them the likely costs of ownership of the thing (and they haven’t asked about those things, either). They seem to truly believe SLS = US leadership; not the US-in-decline that it, in fact, represents.

        • Coastal Ron

          Dave Huntsman said:

          They seem to truly believe SLS = US leadership; not the US-in-decline that it, in fact, represents.

          Overall I agree with your whole post. This last line I would change though, since I don’t see the U.S. in decline, nor do I see our space industry in decline either. Our space industry is the envy of the world, in that we have companies that can do far more than what entire countries are capable of.

          What the SLS does represent is declining interest in space by our politicians, since the few in Congress that pushed for the SLS had no interest in actually finding out whether it would do anything useful. They knew it would help the voters in their districts and states, and they knew it would help their political contributors, but they had no verifiable information about whether it would in fact help the U.S.

          Now I’m not saying those politicians are not patriots, but they are not helping the U.S. to keep ahead in the frontier of space. In fact as you pointed out so well they are actually retarding the ability of NASA to get ready for the future. In that regard you are right, that with respect to NASA we are in decline.

        • common sense

          “They seem to truly believe SLS = US leadership; not the US-in-decline that it, in fact, represents.”

          You (seem to?) believe they have US leadership at heart. I would point other areas such as healthcare, manufacturing, science in general, immigration (see science as well), education, etc, where they haven’t shown the slightest interest in US leadership.

          Smart? Yes absolutely. Smart at keeping their jobs by dividing the electorate.

          SLS/MPCV only is a tiny, minuscule, if visible, example of the shenanigans in Congress.

          I believe you give those guys way too much credit.

  • BuzzFan

    Couple other questions:

    1) Does Bigelow Aerospace habitats have any direct competitors for next generation space stations/facilities? NASA has been pretty quiet about their potential relationship and use of Bigelow (with the exception of BEAM, which is great news for NewSpace). I would imagine that if BEAM works without any major hiccups, NASA will be eyeballing a contract to purchase or lease some habitats for post-ISS era. That said, I am looking around wondering if there are any other advanced concepts for next generation stations. None, right?

    2)Does SLS have an advantage over private HLV’s, should NASA issue an order for multiple Bigelow stations? I know Bigelow has a few different ideas about sizes of future facilities. Perhaps an extra large facility (or multiple launched on one rocket) would benefit from a super HLV?

    • Coastal Ron

      BuzzFan said:

      I would imagine that if BEAM works without any major hiccups, NASA will be eyeballing a contract to purchase or lease some habitats for post-ISS era.

      Not unless they are really inexpensive. The ISS is construction complete as far as the U.S. is concerned, and other than adding some additional living space to boost the number of people that can be on the ISS, there are no other needs that a Bigelow module could support.

      Does SLS have an advantage over private HLV’s, should NASA issue an order for multiple Bigelow stations?

      If the President and Congress gave NASA a mission (and the money to do the mission), and that mission required the largest inflatable habitats that we could get to space, then NASA would be forced to use the SLS. The SLS is NASA’s heavy launcher, and regardless how much it costs to use they would use it for NASA payloads (no other agency wants to use it). Even if a commercial launcher could do the same job, NASA would be obligated to use the SLS, since NASA has to pay for it even if it’s sitting on the ground. That’s why the SLS is so bad for NASA, because it wastes NASA’s meager budget on keeping the SLS safe to fly even if there are no planned uses for it.

      However this is just a theoretical exercise, since there have been no indications that the President or Congress intend to give NASA a new mission that would require a Bigelow habitat. And if Bigelow does find a customer that wants modules larger than their BA-330, he will likely build them to fit on the Falcon Heavy, which only costs $135M/launch and shares flight heritage with every Falcon 9 flight.

    • Vladislaw

      Buzzfan wrote: “1) Does Bigelow Aerospace habitats have any direct competitors for next generation space stations/facilities?

      Here is an image of a russian station design that was supposed to be for commercial use, have not seen anything on it the last couple years.
      http://www.everythingology.com/private-space-stations-edge-closer-to-reality/

      Buzzfan wrote: “2)Does SLS have an advantage over private HLV’s”

      Consider this, NASA is spending 3 billion per YEAR on SLS and the disposable water landing capsule MPCV/Orion and there is no end in sight. This is ON TOP of the 12 billion the porkonauts in congress and NASA blew threw on the CONstellation program.

      Boeing said they could do a heavylift upgrade for the Delta IV heavy for 6.5 billion.
      Lockheed Martin said they could do a heavy lift upgrade for the Atlas V for 6 billion.
      SpaceX said they could do a 140 ton heavy lift for 3 billion.

      We could have funded ALL THREE and still saved 10 billion as of today. By 2023 when the SLS is supposed to do the first human flight you can add another 27 BILLION to that 10 billion.

      That is how much SLS is costing America in NOT doing anything in space. ALL THOSE BILLIONS = lost hardware like how many fuel stations would be have by now? How many NautilusX’s could we have already built by now?

      The pork premuim has priced NASA out of space exploration. Do not bother looking for NASA to open the frontier. Congress killed it as if they drove a stake in.

  • James R. Brown

    The Money going to SLS/Orion should be exchanged with Commercial Crew or should instead be spent to the SpaceX super heavy at over two hundred tons, and to be operated at much less cost. It would be enough to get us the largest super Heavy and enough for some operations.

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