Bolden uses Soyuz launch to press for commercial crew funding

Despite the current tensions between the United States and Russia, the two countries continued their cooperation in space late Tuesday with the launch of a Soyuz spacecraft carrying two Russian cosmonauts and one American astronaut to the International Space Station. (Their arrival, planned for Tuesday night, has been delayed because of a technical glitch with the spacecraft, but the Soyuz is still expected to safely arrive at the ISS Thursday evening.) “It is important to note that NASA continues to cooperate successfully with Russia on International Space Station (ISS) activities,” NASA administrator Charles Bolden noted in a blog post yesterday shortly before the launch.

Bolden, though, used the launch to make the case once again for full funding of the agency’s commercial crew program in its fiscal year 2015 budget proposal, arguing that was a better use of funds than continuing to pay the Russians about $70 million per Soyuz seat. “Budgets are about choices,” he wrote, echoing language from the rollout of the budget earlier this month. “The choice moving forward is between fully funding the President’s request to bring space launches back to American soil or continuing to send millions to the Russians. It’s that simple.”

Bolden was also subtly critical of past decisions by Congress to fund commercial crew at lower levels than requested. “President Obama has requested in NASA’s budget more than $800 million each of the past 5 years to incentivize the American aerospace industry to build the spacecraft needed to launch our astronauts from American soil. Had this plan been fully funded, we would have returned American human spaceflight launches – and the jobs they support – back to the United States next year. With the reduced level of funding approved by Congress, we’re now looking at launching from U.S. soil in 2017.”

46 comments to Bolden uses Soyuz launch to press for commercial crew funding

  • amightywind

    Obama did America no favors installing one of his activists at NASA. As for the lower funding levels, first manned launch is still scheduled for 2017. (Of course you can keep your doctor too!) Full funding would not have shortened the schedule. I am openly critical of Bolden for not down selecting Commercial Crew by now.

    • yg1968

      I can’t say that I agree. One of the big advantages of the commercial crew program over traditional programs is the fact that competition keeps prices down.

      • Not enough traffic to the ISS for any competition.


        • Coastal Ron

          Marcel F. Williams said:

          Not enough traffic to the ISS for any competition.

          The people actually building the crew transportation systems disagree with you. And for good reason, since because they rely on existing launchers, the only real extra costs once the systems are developed are the spacecraft, and those are all reusable for at least 10 flights.

          All of the Commercial Crew participating companies have also stated that they are taking the long view, and know that it may be a while until the crew transportation market fully develops. This is pretty typical for many transportation markets, as well as consumer markets.

        • Fred Willett

          Not enough traffic to the ISS for any competition.
          Oddly enough there is competition already in cargo.
          Orbital vs SpaceX. Both are delivering 20t. to ISS. Orbital in 8 flights. SpaceX in 12 flights.
          Orbital for $1.9B SpaceX for $1.6B
          It’s called competition.

        • yg1968

          CRS-2 will be open to new entrants which should expand the market for Dream Chaser and the CST-100.

          • Neil Shipley

            Nope don’t think so. CST-100 isn’t designed for cargo and neither is DC IIRC.

            I believe they can take some small amounts (bit like Soyuz) but significant quantities, doubt it.

    • Vladislaw

      If you are refering to Bolden he wasn’t President Obama’s choice, he wanted an airforce guy…. it’s you monster rocket supporters that got exactly who we got.. Bill Nelson pushed for Bolden.

    • Coastal Ron

      amightywind said:

      Full funding would not have shortened the schedule.

      Of course it would have. Silly to think otherwise.

      The question is how much funding is needed to ensure that at least on U.S. provider can replace Putin’s Soyuz by the end of 2017, and to ensure that a second, redundant provider is close behind. It’s about time we stop being stupid about having redundant transportation systems – it’s the 21st Century, we know what happens when we only have one choice for getting to space.

      I am openly critical of Bolden for not down selecting Commercial Crew by now.

      It’s amazing how much you don’t like competition, which is a cornerstone of capitalism.

  • Matt McClanahan

    As much as I’m impressed by General Bolden’s discovery that NASA has a commercial crew program, I rather wish he would’ve made that discovery five years ago. Instead, he was quite content to ignore it entirely and leave advocacy of the US’s only hope of human spaceflight before 2021 in the hands of his former deputy.

    It’ll be interesting to see how the House Science Committee spins this as a reason to not increase CCDev funding, but instead to increase funding their provincial contributors’ interests. As we’re all aware, SLS/Orion is not a realistic ISS transportation option.

    • yg1968

      Bolden has been a strong supporter of commercial crew since its beginning.

      • Vladislaw

        Was he a strong support of commercial crew when it was mentioned in the Vision for Space Exploration? Was he a strong supporter right before the policy was announced by President Obama?

        • Jim Nobles

          Bolden supported commercial crew since he became administrator. But he let Garver take point on it while she was there. Now that’s she’s gone he talks more about it.

  • Bolden could also make the same argument for NASA to move beyond a space station that is partially owned by the Russians.


    • Neil Shipley

      Yes he could if NASA had any funds to do so but Congress has decided that a monster rocket and capsule to nowhere is more important.
      In fact BEAM is designed to provide additional data on Bigelow’s inflatable modules however it’s probably not going to add a lot to the data that is already available from the existing 2 modules. Perhaps some associated with being attached to the ISS and as risk reduction for an agency that has become more than a little risk averse.

    • amightywind

      Could not agree more What are we doing up there with Russia? Cut ‘em lose.

  • John Malkin

    Competition is important but more important is redundancy so when a problem occurs with one of the providers, it doesn’t halt spaceflight and have us begging Russia or China for a seat. This doesn’t just apply to NASA but also Commercial companies utilizing these launchers and capsules for Bigelow labs or other commercial or government projects. Bigelow said that he didn’t feel comfortable with only one access method to LEO. He even has published pricing utilizing SpaceX, ULA and Boeing.

    ISS is overpriced and underutilized like all the large NASA human spaceflight programs. However, it provides a stepping stone for commercial. ISS will be replaced someday but NASA shouldn’t be the one to replace it. NASA should utilize a commercial lab.

    It amazes me that a bipartisan Congress can magically find $1 Billion for the Ukraine and pass it in a matter of days while it’s pulling teeth for a couple of hundred million for a program to help American companies develop the next generation of affordable space access. I feel commercial crew is only kept alive to hedge space committees’ bets if they are wrong on their ability to sustain SLS/Orion funding.

    • Fred Willett

      “ISS is overpriced and underutilized”
      Actually the recent article
      makes an interesting point. Yes the ISS is underutilized in terms of rack space for experiments but the staff (astronauts) couldn’t cope with any more work load anyway. Once commercial crew starts flying the crew on ISS can be upped to 7 full time occupants and the experimental work load can be increased accordingly.
      That’s the plan.
      As to Overpricing. How are you going to get prices down?

      • John Malkin

        The only way to reduced price is to take government out. NASA can develop raw technologies and prototypes but making systems widely available can only be done by private companies.

        Bigelow came from NASA technologies and a prototype. NASA cannot do what Bigelow can do with it because they are a government agency (Not-For-Profit). Private companies have more flexibility because they can take risks with their own capital. Congress has to put into law every dime NASA spends including which projects to spend it, plus pork. This varies with every election cycle.

        Also I think competition is over emphasized, there are a lot of things private companies can do better than government agencies. The success of SpaceX and Orbital Sciences in COTS is due to each entity including NASA leveraging their strengths.

        ULA is another joint private company making systems used by the government widely available to non-government entities.

        • Matt McClanahan

          ULA is another joint private company making systems used by the government widely available to non-government entities.

          Or rather, it could make them available, if any non-government entities could afford their services. ULA hasn’t done a commercial launch in five years, and doesn’t have any on the books for the next several years unless you count CST-100/Dream Chaser as non-government launches.

        • Fred Willett

          ULA is another joint private company making systems used by the government widely available to non-government entities.
          IIRC ULA is a joint venture of Boeing and LM to look after US govt launches. Commercial launches remain with the parent companies.

          • Fred Willett

            Actually I was wrong. Boeing and LM retain the right to do independant commercial launches but ULA has dones some commercial launches too.

      • Vladislaw

        Not only that put if a Commercial carrier brings up 7 passengers, and only three are going to rotate those 4 extra people can run experiments for a week or two. If you have more rapid rotations you can really get some extra experiment time.

  • guest

    Regardless of the past 5 years, I agree with Bolden now. Write your Congressmen!

  • Marek

    I think its a good idea to keep Space-X, Boeing and Sierra Nevada all working. Space-X is doing things new and differently and its good. Boeing is doing the job that Lockheed should have been doing on Orion. They are working much less expensively, much more quickly, and its great to see a major contractor doing the job properly. Sierra offers something that no one else will offer and if they are successful they’ll be the preferred transportation for people.

    Keep Americans working to overcome the competition!

    • John Malkin

      It’s true we are in competition in human spaceflight right now with Russia and China. And maybe in the future Europe, Japan and the UK.

  • Malmesbury

    Back when military program’s produced more product than over runs and failures, competition was the norm.

    In the USSR (!) it was thought essential to have competing designs.

    Aerospace museums are full of the results of this – and the web is full of memorial pages to the losers and the forgotten.

    Uncompetitive, sole source has failed steadily for decades.

  • vulture4

    It’s good to see Bolden standing up for what is right.

  • Marek

    I think the worst failure because it has become noncompetitive is NASA. It is exhibited in a lot of ways.

    NASA cannot seem to figure out how to design the next generation spaceship. They’ve been trying for thirty years and Orion is a good example of how not to do it. All the others have died in development. If one of the commercial carriers succeeds soon enough, Orion will not survive either. Given its technical issues with mass and parachutes I’m not sure it can survive in its present form.

    When Spacehab was trying to be successful they knew they had to do integration better than Shuttle and they did. ISS had no competition and reverted to a five year long integration template.

    NASA didn’t even try to build ISS components in the last 15 years; it was easier just to give them all to the Internationals to build. As long as we stuck an American flag on it, that was all that mattered.

  • A reminder that poor Charlie will take more arrows through the chest this morning when he appears before the dysfunctional House Space Subcommittee at 9 AM EDT to discuss NASA’s proposed FY15 budget. Watch online at:

    Yesterday the full House Science Committee met to discuss the Administration’s science budgets. It was a two-hour display of scientifically illiterate politicians lecturing the national science advisor on their denial of climate change, on the lack of space pork for their districts, on the Affordable Care Act, on the Ice Age, and any other fool idea that came into their heads. You can watch on my YouTube channel at:

    • Hiram

      As to scientifically illiterate politicians, yes, it was an embarrassing performance, especially for the House Science committee. I noted that Rep. Posey was carefully uncommittal about exactly when the Earth was born. But the remarks by Rep. Joe Kennedy were priceless and inspired. While several members curiously started off their remarks with snide comments about the reality of human-induced global climate change, Kennedy started his remarks congratulating those members. After all, he said, hardly anyone in the science community believes that current climate change isn’t largely driven by human activity, so those members are to be admired for defending oppressed minorities.

  • Gary Warburton

    So are they going to fund commercial at the full amount or are they going to continue delaying US access to ISS? Any bets.

    • Hiram

      At the House Space Subcommittee hearing today, I think it was Mo Brooks who pummeled Bolden for not having a “plan” to assure American access to ISS if the Ukraine situation removed the availability of Soyuz. Bolden answered (well, as the only witness, he tried to answer, but Brooks mostly wouldn’t let him) that he was not too concerned about that situation, because the Russians needed us for ISS operation as much as we needed them to get there, but that commercial crew should have us there by 2017. Brooks was livid. Three years???!!! Of course it was congressional budget meddling and cuts to the commercial crew line that made for that three year delay. Take a bow, Congress, and take an especially deep bow, Mr. Brooks, for using those cuts to inflate the budget line for your mega-launcher than won’t even get anyone near ISS. The nerve of that guy. Oh, Brooks was also livid about the termination of Constellation and shuttle

    • Gary Warburton wrote:

      So are they going to fund commercial at the full amount or are they going to continue delaying US access to ISS? Any bets.

      Just my speculation … I think Charlie may have been more aggressive because he knew he had them over a barrel. He’s been warning about this for years, and now he’s been proven right. Other than especially shameless porkers like Steve Palazzo and Mo Brooks, the rest have to be eating crow.

      I had to laugh at Donna Edwards who was warning about the consequence of doing a downselect too soon and ending competition, when she was shoulder-to-shoulder for years with her committee buddies demanding an end to the competition.

      This still has a long way to go. The budget has to go through the Senate space subcommittee, and then it’s up to the appropriations committees to decide how much money NASA really gets.

      But if Russia so much as flickers the lights on ISS (which they can’t, because we control the electronics) … they’ll fall all over each other trying to inflate the commercial crew budget.

  • Charlie kicked butt today. I know Bolden skeptics who commented to me today they were impressed with Charlie’s performance, how he got right in their faces and stated flat out they were responsible for the delays.

    Thanks to Jeff for the tweets, for those of us who were working and couldn’t watch live.

  • Here’s the link to the video on YouTube of today’s hearing:

    Bring your popcorn!

    • Gary Warburton

      Thanks, Steven that was great. Charlie did great. I`m surprised with Posey`s comments. I think he is actually interested in space. In spite of his pushing SLS. Mo Brooks is a real dink though.

  • Robert G Oler

    It is a fundamental failure of national policy, competency, and even basic thought; when an asset of the government, one that was the focus of decades of effort and tens of billions (more like hundreds of billions) of dollars is underused because of policy decisions…particularly when those policy decisions are grounded in fiction.

    It is insanity when the same process is at work and it jeopardizes fundamental control over such an asset. But this has been policy for quite along time even in the face of things like access to the space station being single string or limiting to crew size…it usually takes a massive or larger anyway crisis to stimulate action and perhaps the issue of the Ukraine is it.

    SLS and Orion are simply fairy tales. they are unaffordable under ay budget scheme and yet the political establishment, “mostly” lead by Republicans is determined to keep it going because it aide s the space industrial complex to survive.

    Commercial crew does not….and that, not the policy issues is what is at stake here.

    The “complexes” Have as Ike predicted almost brought the US to its knees…in almost every areana we now spend more for less, programs/projects take longer and are mostly failures.

    But this is the GOP world, they dont care. Robert G. Oler

  • Malmesbury

    The bit that the congress critters seem to be missing is that Bolden is planning to use Commercial Crew and ISS as part of the BEO architecture.

    For anything beyond the moon – and for a non flag and footprints return to the moon – you will need to assemble your mission in space over time.

    Doing this with a traditionalSpace HLV would cost far too much – so the HLV carries the cargo, the light launcher carries the crews to build, maintain and eventually undertake the mission.

    This was the original mission for Ares I – until it swallowed the budget and failed to deliver the required performance, ruining Orion into the bargin.

    • @Malmesbury,…..Ares 1 could have worked, eventually, had enough & continued funding been acheived. But even if it had been deleted, surely some other similar sized rocket launcher could have fit the bill. This specialized manned capsule launcher, would’ve had the same function as the Saturn 1B, of decades past: a rocket system slated for the intermediate launching of an Orion craft into LEO, prior to its rendezvous with a trans-lunar space craft & earth-escape stage.

      Keeping this portion of the Constellation plan in effect, for the interim, would’ve erased the seemingly current conundrum of having to man-rate the Heavy-Lift rocket. Orion shouldn’t be depending upon such a massive rocket at all. A small or medium booster for launching it, should’ve been the game plan, all along. Particularly during this time, that manned lunar exploration has become politically unviable, because of Obama & his liegemen. This administration has done all it can to block the way to the Moon. The path to manned deep space travel will continue being blocked, as long as Barack remains in the Oval Office.

      • Ben Russell-Gough

        The “one and a half” launch concept originated from an over-interpretation of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board report. It was never shown to be any more or less dangerous to launch crew with cargo, only that it was dangerous and unnecessary to launch a crew because you also had to launch cargo. In other words, putting everything on the shuttle was a recipe for disaster.

        Simply put, there was never any need for a ‘specialist manned capsule launcher’. All you needed was a ELV with sufficient mass-to-LEO (say, Atlas-V-5H2 or a crew-rated Delta-IVH).

        You are also misunderstanding the role of the Saturn-IB. It was not a ‘specialised manned capsule launcher’. It was a launcher for a lightweight Apollo without mission cargo to LEO only. It did not have the ability to launch a fully-loaded Apollo (yes, this came as a surprise to me too). To launch a lunar-ready Apollo to LEO required a Saturn-V. The parallel that NASA drew between Saturn-IB and Ares-I was entirely misleading. I’m hoping that it wasn’t deliberately mendacious but, knowing the behaviour of the Griffin/Cooke axis, I do wonder.

      • If all you want is to put Orion in LEO (which is all Ares-i would have done), Delta IV Heavy is adequate, and experienced.

  • Malmesbury

    Ares I had less and less performance for more and more money.

    To meet this target Orion had more and more capabilities hacked off it.

    Despite which Ares I was a sub orbital rocket in the end – Orion would has to do its own burn to get into orbit!

    A regen RS-68 would have been an order of magnitude cheaper.

  • Lynn

    Call it what you will commercial crew, private companies, competition, but commercial crews, private companies, and the competition that may make space flight cheaper and more frequent must answer to Congress if they us government funds to accomplish their private business. What all the other private companies in the past have learned, all those companies using their own seed money and developing their technologies have learned is be a little more humble when asking the Congress for the people’s money. My advice also would be not to use an international incident that could lead or may lead to sending our young men and woman in harms way, not use this incident as a wedge or a veiled threat. I am appalled that Bolden would do it also. A shot across the bow of a ship or a space ship should be carefully considered and NOT used by those who have their own personal gain in mind.

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