Congress, NASA

House members press NASA for information on Russia crisis effects on ISS

In a letter to NASA administrator Charles Bolden today, three key members of the House Science Committee asked for information on how threats by Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin regarding the future of the ISS would affect the agency’s plans.

In their letter, House Science Committee chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), space subcommittee chairman Steven Palazzo (R-MS), and space subcommittee vice-chairman Mo Brooks (R-AL) referred to Rogozin’s comments on Tuesday about Russia not agreeing to continued operation of the ISS beyond 2020. “If Mr. Rogozin’s statement proves to be accurate, we will have to take a step back and evaluate the costs and benefits of maintaining the ISS beyond 2020 without our Russian partners,” they wrote.

The three members asked Bolden several questions, including the status of efforts to get ISS partners to commit to operating ISS beyond 2020, the critical roles Russia plays in supporting the ISS today, and what would happen if Russia withdrew as Rogozin suggests. The members also ask Bolden about another topic Rogozin mentioned Tuesday: banning the use of RD-180 and NK-33 engines for launching military payloads. They note that while the restriction would still allow NASA to use the engines for its missions, “this may impact the price NASA pays for launch vehicles that utilize these engines, as decreases in supply may impact availability.” The members asked Bolden to provide responses by May 28.

60 comments to House members press NASA for information on Russia crisis effects on ISS

  • Given the three signatories to the letter, I suspect they’ll use this as an opportunity to argue for splashing the ISS so SLS/Orion can go get more Moon rocks.

    With billions in contracts to Boeing, Lockheed Martin and ATK.

    • Hiram

      It would be interesting to understand how the U.S. would go about exploring the Moon if Russia weren’t going to be a part of that effort. In the Constellation era, Roscosmos had, I believe, a partnership with ESA to manage materiel transport to the lunar vicinity, and collaborate on lunar base development. Constellation was always premised as an international effort, though Griffin was adamant that the U.S. be in control of human space flight between here and there. But human spaceflight between here and there doesn’t make for exploration and development.

      If it comes down to another Apollo program, which would be to go, pick up a few rocks and come back, because we couldn’t afford to do anything else, it would be pretty unfortunate.

      • @Stephen C. Smith & Hiram;……The SAME exact thing could be said about a Mars expedition! Hey, all they’re gonna do is pick up some rocks——some red rocks!! This ignorant put-down of further Moon exploration completely misses the point: That a human Lunar Return is going to cover much more than “mere” astro-geology!!

        Sure, there will be sortie missions——at first——to prove out the durabilities of our new vehicles. If those sorties last for ten or twelve days apiece, I see NO reason to get impatient: the Space Shuttle flew four “test flights” prior to being declared operational, in 1982. STS then flew about 60-something LEO sortie missions, lasting less than two weeks each!! It was only after all this, from 1981 until the mid-90′s, that the STS program finally got to do an actual space station docking——-to the Russian MIR. Further, it was a few years after that, that the Shuttle was finally used to lift-up components of a subsequent space station——-the ISS, next to the turn-of-the-century.

        So I honestly don’t understand you guys, with your contempt for the possible undertaking of what, if successful, would only be the 7th manned lunar landing in the history of humankind! That first astronaut who climbs down that lunar lander ladder, will only have been the 13th man to walk on the Moon, in all of history!

        • Hiram

          “This ignorant put-down of further Moon exploration completely misses the point: That a human Lunar Return is going to cover much more than “mere” astro-geology!!”

          There was no “put-down” expressed. What I said, if you read my words, is that I have to be skeptical that without Russian funding, the U.S. can afford to do a lot more than pick up rocks, if even that. That would be unfortunate. The U.S. budget for Constellation didn’t include much in the way of surface ops. Of course, you haven’t enlightened us about what more a human lunar return is going to provide, besides a proud astronaut wearing a “I’m #13!” button. Really more skepticism than “contempt”.

          So #13 is going to mine He3 for the reactors we don’t have? That astronaut is going to extract water for the missions to Mars we can’t afford? That astronaut is going to build habs where he or she can play pinochle while thumbing their nose at the Chinese? Yes, if we sent astronauts back to the Moon just to pick up rocks,it would be hugely unfortunate. That could be done far more safely and efficiently telerobotically from the Earth these days.

          With lunar “sortie” missions at several $B apiece, we’d sure better not get impatient! But again, since we can’t rely on Congress to do so, the space fairy will provide loads of funding, I guess.

          Now, as to Mars, picking up red rocks is just about the only valuable task envisioned. Mars is not considered a resource base for going to Jupiter, after all. But there is, I guess, still a lot of potential for playing pinochle and thumbing noses there.

          • @Hiram;….So, the first 21st century lunar astronaut wears a lapel pin saying “I’m #13″? Isn’t this kind of like the 13th or even the 31st ISS astronaut wearing a similar one?! LEO, via the ISS, gets visited an endless myriad of times. Why would anyone want to argue so hard against flying that 7th successful manned landing——which by the way, would be just a prelude to a sequence of expeditions, which will have Lunar stay times much more longer, than the longest Apollo missions, in the 1970′s?! Once an unmanned version of the lunar lander is in operation, that could reach the Moon solo, an emplace base cargo, at pre-selected sites, multi-week and eventually multi-month-long expeditions become possible.

            • Coastal Ron

              Chris Castro said:

              Why would anyone want to argue so hard against flying that 7th successful manned landing…

              Some day that day will come, and lots of people will be excited. However…

              …which by the way, would be just a prelude to a sequence of expeditions, which will have Lunar stay times much more longer, than the longest Apollo missions, in the 1970′s?

              So what? Two weeks instead of two days – how is that really worthwhile?

              Think Chris. Please think!

              As the Constellation cancellation by both Republicans and Democrats proved, there is no political will to return to the Moon, nor to spend the increased amounts of money on NASA necessary to get there.

              Nor is there enough validated technology (i.e. why the ISS is so important). Not sure why we have to keep pointing this out to you…

              • @Coastal Ron;……Three days—–that was the longest Moon surface stay time, ever done—–back in 1971 & 1972!! If Constellation’s lunar hardware would have INITIALLY had the crews stay on the surface for fourteen days instead, guess what: THAT WOULD STILL BE PROGRESS! Two weeks time, puts you into a lunar night survival mode. Plus, a fortnight span of time might mean having to contend with a possible solar flare event——hence, some sort of radiation storm shelter annex, might eventually need using. Furthermore, with such a fortnight-length expedition, obviously this implies the entire crew going down for the landing——the lunar orbiter craft, presumably the Orion, would be quite the mission-critical link in the chain, being left uncrewed, flying a low lunar orbit flight on this phase; to be reached later by the astronauts after their surface activities, and re-powered up for the Earth return. Something that has NEVER been done on a lunar journey before.

                But who really said that two weeks stay time would have to be the upper limit, beyond the first string of missions? Again, if an unmanned flight, cargo-only variant would be brought on line, of the lunar lander vehicle, then that opens up the outpost mission phase. Base-camp equipment & another lunar cabin-module, can be soft-landed on the Moon, to be accessed by an arriving crew. (There’d be no need for an ascent stage nor ascent fuel or engines, on these cargo-only landers.) This landing mission technique, once mastered, will permit even longer stay times.

                All you guys who complain about the planned expeditions “not being long enough”, obviously had ZERO complaints to say during the first 60-something Space Shuttle missions, all of which were LEO Sorties, lasting roughly ten days each——-from 1981 until 1996! Jeez, big freaking deal, if the first four or five new lunar landing flights were to last two weeks or less, on the surface stays!!!

              • Henry Vanderbilt

                A quibble: There was (and is) no political will to return to the Moon (or to go anywhere else interesting) _at NASA in-house hardware development prices_ which, yes, would have required a major NASA budget increase for the project to fly.

                The obvious alternative, of course, is to see what interesting places NASA might get to within its existing funding on commercially developed hardware.

              • Coastal Ron

                Chris Castro said:

                If Constellation’s lunar hardware would have INITIALLY had the crews stay on the surface for fourteen days instead, guess what: THAT WOULD STILL BE PROGRESS!

                To do what? Pick up more gray rocks? To “learn” the history of the Moon?

                Here is part of a press release from NASA today about the SpaceX Dragon return to Earth from the ISS:

                “The space station is our springboard to deep space and the science samples returned to Earth are critical to improving our knowledge of how space affects humans who live and work there for long durations,” said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for human exploration and operations. “Now that Dragon has returned, scientists can complete their analyses, so we can see how results may impact future human space exploration or provide direct benefits to people on Earth.”

                Investigations included among the returned cargo could aid in better understanding the decreased effectiveness of antibiotics during spaceflight while also improving antibiotic development on Earth. Others could lead to the development of plants better suited for space and improvements in sustainable agriculture.

                The T-Cell Activation in Aging experiment, which also launched to space aboard Dragon, seeks the cause of a depression in the human immune system while in microgravity. The research could help researchers develop better protective measures to prevent disease in astronauts.

                So I see the choice we have as rather stark:

                A. Continue the ISS mission so we can find out how humans will be able to not only survive in space, but potentially live.

                B. Learn more about the geology of the Moon.

                That’s the choice you want to make, right? Please correct me if I’m wrong, but if those are the choices then I choose “A”.

        • “So I honestly don’t understand you guys, with your contempt for the possible undertaking of what, if successful, would only be the 7th manned lunar landing in the history of humankind! That first astronaut who climbs down that lunar lander ladder, will only have been the 13th man to walk on the Moon, in all of history!

          And…then what?

          You can’t seem to look past that first-day glory. The rest of us, even though we may not agree on what the long-range policy and actions should be, we do look farther out. This is why ‘excite the public’ is a poor justification, unless part of a set of better ones. For most of the public, it just doesn’t last, and it’s unrealistic to think it should.

          Many of us remember (or learned its lessons, even if not old enough to know when it was current events) how the level of interest in Apollo changed, not long after mission 11. Even Apollo 13 was just another flight to the Moon (except to geeks like us) until ‘the problem.’ And survival stories should never be standard operating procedure, for they mean something very fundamental is wrong with the system. We want drama in our fiction, but real space crews want as few surprises as possible…owners of commercial payloads feel the same. ‘Boring’ regular success is good when it’s your butt or your expensive stuff involved.

          And that’s good, in its own way.

          Give me ‘boring’ but reliable, successful, economical transatlantic air flights (or orbital/Lunar space flights) that I might actually be able to take part in, over a thousand high-risk, first-time Lindberghs (or Armstrongs).

          You want to be able to take it for granted. Let what you do with the transportation technology matter more, than the simple fact that it worked at all.

  • Really guys? You’ve been at this for how long and are still thinking Russia bears any of the costs of the ISS or ever have?

    New Station at L1, use whatever parts from ISS that are useful.

  • Coastal Ron

    Based on Administrator Bolden’s recent comments where he said that without the ISS we don’t need the SLS, I think a review of our options for the ISS post-Russia would only reinforce the need for the ISS.

    And from the quick research I’ve done, I don’t see any major stumbling blocks to letting the Russians disconnect their modules from the rest of the ISS – we can replace the critical functionality their modules provide, and by that time we’ll have Commercial Crew fully in place too. And since the Russians know that too, I think ultimately they will back down from all their recent bluster, but there is a chance they won’t.

    A full review and decision on supporting the ISS will also be a sign of commitment from all concerned for human space exploration in general. If they don’t support the ISS, then it’s better to know now that we don’t have the political support for human space exploration, and we can throw in the SLS and Orion to be cancelled too.

  • Russia’s Proton launch just suffered a third-stage failure:

    http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2014/05/russian-proton-m-launches-with-ekspress-am4r/

    Let the trampoline cheap shots begin. :-)

    Mr. Rogozin can talk big, but when his rockets keep failing then all he has is talk.

  • Ending the $3 billion a year ISS program would finally give NASA the appropriate funding to set up permanent outpost on the Moon and Mars by allowing it to developing a– reusable depot based beyond LEO architecture– that could also give Commercial Crew companies access to the Moon and Mars.

    Marcel

    • Hiram

      “Ending the $3 billion a year ISS program would finally give NASA the appropriate funding to set up permanent outpost on the Moon and Mars”

      No it wouldn’t. Certainly not for Mars. Constellation knew it wouldn’t for a lunar base, which is why NASA desperately needed a budget bump to make it achievable. Constellation didn’t even budget for a “reusable depot based beyond LEO”. NASA never got that budget bump, though promised at one time, it would seem, by W. $3B/yr might barely get humans back and forth, but would not cover any of the surface operations costs. So much for “appropriate funding”.

      Fact of the matter is, we have a lot more we know we need to do on ISS than we do at a lunar base. A lunar base is a poor site for learning about human survival in a space environment. Now, of course, at a lunar base we could extract water to fuel all the missions we can’t afford in order to go to Mars.

      • Yes it would. We already know that a microgravity environment is inherently deleterious to humans– especial over several months. So its time to move towards an architecture that utilizes simulated gravity. You can’t do that with the ISS.

        You’re also going to need mass shielding to protect astronauts from major solar events while also mitigating their exposure to cosmic radiation for several months and even a few years. Again, you can’t do that with the ISS.

        We’re going to need to use water from the Moon for fueling and mass shielding vehicles for crewed interplanetary missions in order to reduce cost while beginning to spread our economic realm beyond LEO an GEO.

        The ISS only keeps NASA trapped at LEO while wasting billions of tax payer dollars annually. It time to move on and to move outwards!

        SLS Fuel Tank Derived Artificial Gravity Habitats, Interplanetary Vehicles, & Fuel Depots

        http://newpapyrusmagazine.blogspot.com/2014/05/sls-fuel-tank-derived-artificial.html

        • Coastal Ron

          Marcel F. Williams said:

          So its time to move towards an architecture that utilizes simulated gravity. You can’t do that with the ISS.

          Maybe not, but you can do that in LEO – and it would far cheaper to build such a structure in LEO to work out the kinks before moving further away.

          You’re also going to need mass shielding to protect astronauts from major solar events while also mitigating their exposure to cosmic radiation for several months and even a few years. Again, you can’t do that with the ISS.

          No, mass shielding is only one form of protection, and may end up being only part of the answer.

          And again, though you may not be able to test those solutions on the ISS, you can start testing them in LEO – possibly using the ISS as a base of operations. Then as the system becomes operational it can be moved to higher radiation locations.

          Gravity and radiation mitigation are just two of the many issues that we must address if we’re to leave LEO competently and with confidence. And as of now we can only address them on the ISS, which was built specifically to address those types of issues.

        • Hiram

          “You can’t do that with the ISS.”

          Hello? Hello? We were talking about “appropriate funding”. And now you want a NEW space station outside of LEO with lots of mass shielding and gravity? Pray tell, when you develop such a thing, who’s going to have any cash for a lunar landing? You have an astonishing blind spot on fiscal realities, or else you really believe in the space fairy, sprinkling money on good space advocates.

          Guess what. When we first go to Mars we aren’t going to go in a gravity-enabled or heavily shielded vehicle. None of the concepts developed by NASA include that. So our expertise on ISS would be far more valuable, in understanding how to mitigate microgravity effects. Best we know right now, the health effects of radiation on a human over a several year trip to Mars are in the 10-30% lifetime cancer incidence range. Look it up. Astronauts will gladly accept those risks. You keep blathering about getting fried by cosmic radiation, but you’re just comparing space irradiation to that on the ground, and the effects of space radiation on the ground are totally negligible. In no way shape or form will a future space vehicle try to keep radiation levels to a terrestrial level.

          “It time to move on and to move outwards!”

          Spoken as someone who measures progress with a yardstick.

          • amightywind

            The voice of the status quo. Earth to Hiram. It isn’t going so well.

          • Hiram

            “Earth to Hiram. It isn’t going so well.”

            Yep. I hear it loud and clear. Those bucks just aren’t raining down like we thought they would be. Status quo? I wish it were.

        • @Marcel F. Williams;……Very good points you’ve brought up! I too, feel firmly that the overtly over-long era of the LEO station should be brought to a close. If the ISS has to end by 2020, that’ll be a beneficial loss, because the gigantic sums of money that were spent on it, could then be re-directed elsewhere——-to a new, & more-advanced-than-in-the-past human lunar program, that’ll evolve to doing outpost Moon missions, within half-a-decade of the first, preliminary landings.

          • The answer to that, is developing some of those ‘boring, unsexy’ technologies that allow things to be done with something less than ‘gigantic sums of money,’

            Otherwise, if you’re counting on a flat-budget NASA-as-usual to do it, then yes, they’ll be able to do only one serious thing at a time….and you keep insisting that there IS only one serious thing to do at a time. After LEO, then what? After the Moon, then what? After Mars, then what? (yes, there will ultimately be an ‘after Mars,’ even though most Mars fans can’t see that) Who decides when we’re ‘finished’ with any of those places…and by your logic, there must be a finishing point.

            Did we get ‘finished’ with, and abandon St. Louis, before going farther west?

            That’s not growing space development and expanding permanent human presence into the solar system (if you see that as a good thing, and I do), that’s hopscotch.

            • @Frank Glover;……Low Earth Orbit is NOT St. Louis, Missouri! The Gateway To The West was on Terra Firma! LEO is scarcely even a place. It’s more like the embarkation point, from which we’re to depart to deep space. Hovering around in LEO for multiple decades is a path to oblivion, for our space program!

              • Coastal Ron

                Chris Castro said:

                LEO is scarcely even a place. It’s more like the embarkation point, from which we’re to depart to deep space.

                Yes, and a very expensive one to get to. But once you get there the cost to go continue on is far less than it is from the surface of the Earth.

                Does money mean nothing to you?

              • Hiram

                “LEO is scarcely even a place.”

                Bingo. That’s the delusion of the destination-driven crowd expressed succinctly. If it’s not a rock, it’s not a destination, and it isn’t worth going there except maybe to get to a real destination.

                The destination-driven crowd revere rocks, and measure progress with a yardstick. Success is measured in footprints.

  • If ISS is allowed to splash, so will hope for America’s future in Space.

    If you support jobs in the American space industry there’s a form letter for your representative here:

    http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=34737.msg1199082#msg1199082

    And a petition to the White House here:

    http://wh.gov/lA2zZ

    Without ISS, no need for commercial crew jobs, no need for SLS/Orion jobs…
    The money spent on space is spent right here on earth, on middle class jobs.
    Don’t let Russia dictate our future or limit our ability to do the hard things.

    • There’s not enough traffic to the ISS to support more than once Commercial Crew company. The future of Commercial Crew launches is in flights to private space stations, not big government space stations.

      Marcel

    • Hiram

      “And a petition to the White House here:”

      Wow. A petition to continue ISS because of jobs (and some peripheral words about the future of American spaceflight). This is a really policy-vacuous petition. At least it’s honest, in that it can’t come up with any value for the future of American spaceflight besides jobs.

      But get real. The loss of ISS jobs wouldn’t be “devastating to our struggling economy”, though it might seem that way to those job holders. Of course, since that federal money would likely be expended on other technological fronts, perhaps even having to do with space, the net number of high technology jobs likely wouldn’t change, and the struggles of our economy would not be impacted at all. But maybe Congress would want to stuff that money under a mattress somewhere?

  • I should have said: there’s not enough traffic to the ISS to support more than– one- Commercial Crew company:-)

    Marcel

    • Coastal Ron

      Marcel F. Williams said:

      I should have said…

      Yes, yes. You’ve been saying that for years, yet Boeing, Sierra Nevada and SpaceX don’t agree with you.

      They know what you refuse to believe, which is that it’s not unusual for initial demand for a service to be below the economic profitability of that service. But over time the availability of that service opens up new demand, and eventually makes it an overall profitable business segment.

      That’s something that you continue to not understand…

  • Marek

    Most of the Russians will be providing once Space X and commercial crew begin to fly is redundancy to critical NASA life support systems. The one exception is propulsion which NASA will need to replace.

    As far as other, newer Russians systems and modules, or new vehicles for some future exploration mission, I wouldn’t count on the Russians. The modules they have used for ISS to date were virtually all older modules built in the 1970s and 80s, and they are now nearing the ends of their operational lifetimes. As far as building major new elements, the Russians have struggled to get virtually anything new built, even just putting the finishing touches on their existing modules. The few significant new elements they promised for ISS never materialized and their future modules have been deferred year for year, so the Russians cannot be relied upon. If you look at the internal systems of the Russian elements, you’ll see that few of those have undergone significant update over the last 40 years. Most updates happened only when there were accidents and those frequently occurred because of inadevertent changes to processes or materials. About the only real planned changes were to electronics.

    NASA needs to get to work on the new prop module. Commercial crew needs to start flying.

    As far as the Russians, by 2020 they will need us far more than we will be needing them.

  • James

    This is what the beginning of the end looks like for the ISS.

    • If it is indeed the beginning of the end for the ISS, then so be it! NO big loss, at all really. But we should NOT get bogged down in LEO with another station! The ISS’s demise should instead be viewed as a silver opportunity to get re-started on a new manned lunar program.

      Indeed the ISS de-orbiting & splash-down will take place, after the Low-Earth-Orbit President is finally out-of-office. It’ll be good riddance to the Barack administration! He & his minions did more damage to human spaceflight than all of the previous presidential administrations combined!

      • James

        I’m with you 100%. Governments only take new direction when a crisis comes home to roost. Then there is action. Russia, and then the Euro’s, bailing on ISS is that crisis.

        • @James;…..I too, have made that observation! Sometimes it can even take a space crew fatality, for the space agency to analyze its priorities. Just look at how NASA seemed to finally change its tune, after the February 2003 Columbia catastrophe, with the full death of the Shuttle crew. From then up until Barack Hussein’s horrific decision to eliminate Project Constellation, in February 2010, NASA looked, by all accounts, to be finally on its way to doing something grand & big! Constellation was to have been a brand new, bold step to seize a historic opportunity, to at long last build upon the stirring progress of the Apollo program, and develop the Moon.

          But alas, it was not to be, because of the political leadership with entered in January 2009. Today’s Ukraine Crisis, which could lead to an ISS crisis, has the potential for making NASA change directions again——-in a positive way. But only if the correct decisions are ultimately made. The ISS’s demise could be an opportunity to get things right. If we don’t get trapped in LEO, all over again!

      • Coastal Ron

        Chris Castro said:

        If it is indeed the beginning of the end for the ISS, then so be it! NO big loss, at all really.

        It’s amazing how much you don’t know about what the ISS is doing. That without the science work being done not the ISS, we won’t be able to leave LEO for any length of time. Of sure, Apollo type quick trips to the Moon, but that is no longer a worthy goal – we’ve already been there and done that.

        For those that don’t understand the value of the ISS, I suggest you look at the 2012 study called “NASA Space Technology Roadmaps and Priorities” on the Future In-Space Operations (FISO) Working Group (it was released March 7, 2012). At the beginning of the study, under the heading “State of Space Technology” the first three statements are:

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

        - NASA’s technology base is largely depleted.

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

        Building a government-owned HLV does nothing to address those issues, and there is nothing to stick on top of the SLS to go anywhere regardless how much money Congress threw at NASA. And how do you develop that technology unless you have a way to test it out in the actual environment without it being mission critical? As Administrator Bolden said, without the ISS we have no need for the SLS.

        I implore you, read that study.

        • @Coastal Ron;…..We do NOT need an ISS to be able to conduct outpost Moon missions! If you analyzed the bold plans for the Constellation Project, you would know that after a short sequence of sorties, that an unmanned variant of the L-SAM vehicle was to have come into operation, to emplace base cargo on the surface, ahead of a lunar crew. This was to have permitted much more longer surface stay times, at intermittently-occupied bases. The outpost mission phase would’ve been the longest & bigger focus, of the manifest of lunar flights.
          There is nothing at all wrong with STARTING OUT doing sortie landing flights! As I said before, the Space Shuttle flew over 60 LEO sortie flights, for a decade & a half, before it was eventually used for visiting a space station or building such a station. If the first 4,5, or 6 Moon landings were to be sorties, in a span of time less than a single Presidential term of office, I would NOT consider that anything to flip-out about! Once the unmanned version of the lunar lander comes into service, the first fortnight length-of-time expedition will be underway, leading straight to three-week, four-week, & five-week lunar surface stays——And further spans of time longer, later on. Indeed one of those outpost missions will be the first to survive a solar flare event, at some point.

          • Coastal Ron

            Chris Castro said:

            We do NOT need an ISS to be able to conduct outpost Moon missions!

            No we don’t. But we need the ISS to find the solutions and test out the technology that will keep humans alive once they reach the Moon.

            You are all about the hardware, but you keep forgetting the humans. Why is that?

            Apparently you don’t understand that NASA doctors will never sign off on letting astronauts go the Moon for any length of time unless we solve a number of basic medical and technology issues. Didn’t know that, did you?

            For instance, bet you didn’t know that we don’t have a tested and validated long-duration ECLSS. That is work that is being done on the ISS.

            So maybe you should step back and think about the needs of humans in space instead of being so hardware focused. We can pretty much do anything you’ve proposed from a hardware standpoint, but we can’t populate it with humans. Which makes the whole effort pointless.

            Sheesh.

        • amightywind

          Yes, all read the biased internal study written by people with a vested interest in the stagnation of ISS.

  • Good article this morning in Florida Today by Ledyard King:

    “U.S. on edge after Russia’s ISS, rocket-sales threats”

    Independent analysts generally agree with Bolden, saying Russia’s withdrawal would cause relatively minimal disruption because so much of the orbiting lab’s operation and upkeep falls on an international consortium led by the United States.

    A pull-out would be much worse for Russia, which views the space program as a national source of pride, said Howard McCurdy, a space policy expert at American University. He said Russia depends on its program to employ numerous engineers and desperately needs the roughly $70 million it gets each time a Soyuz rocket ferries an American astronaut to the space station.

    “It’s to their benefit that they cooperate,” he said. “So if they want to take their ball and go home, they’re the ones that are inflicting harm upon themselves. Are they bluffing? Yeah, they’re bluffing. They may withdraw but it wouldn’t be to their advantage.”

    • Coastal Ron

      Stephen C. Smith said:

      Good article this morning in Florida Today by Ledyard King:

      I agree with his sentiment. Russia loses far more from pulling out of the ISS than we do, and by 2020 what the Russians do provide will only be redundant to what we can provide on our own. The ISS can continue it’s science mission without the Russians.

      I don’t think it will come to that, and in the long run the Russians will decide to stay with the ISS. They are just doing posturing, and the ISS is just one of the few ways they have to push back on Ukraine-related sanctions.

  • amightywind

    I am thrilled with the development. ISS is collapsing, just like I said it would. To the leftist internationalists who have guided our space politics since the breakup of the USSR, and who dote one Russian collaboration I say, “They’re just not that into you.”

    • Coastal Ron

      amightywind said:

      I am thrilled with the development. ISS is collapsing, just like I said it would.

      Considering that one partner of the ISS partnership is talking about ending their participation SIX YEARS FROM NOW is hardly a sign that the ISS is “collapsing”.

      Plenty of time to replace Russia’s contributions to the ISS, and plenty of time for them to change direction (again) and say “OK, we’re back to supporting the extension of the ISS beyond 2020″.

      Sorry Chicken Little… ;-)

  • Jim Nobles

    With all that’s going on Orbital Sciences has apparently decided that buying Russian engines is a good idea.

    http://en.itar-tass.com/non-political/731768

    • Dick Eagleson

      Be interesting to be a fly on the wall for this one. I’m guessing this site visit was scheduled quite a bit pre-Crimea. Clever of the Russians to rename the RD-180 the “RD-181″ – presumably to get around the ULA “exclusivity” deal. I wouldn’t be looking for a deal to be done though. Putin and his boys have made their brags and now they’ve got to back them or risk looking like – gasp! – the feckless Obama. Decisions about engine exports have passed from the realm of economics to the realm of politics in the Russian Federation and they won’t be passing back soon, if ever. I’m guessing Orbital’s people are probably in Russia to explain the new facts of Cold War 2.0 life to their counterparts and break it to them as gently as possible. Since the ATK merger, Orbital has an in-house alternative to Russky engines – a big, fat ATK solid. Not an ideal solution, but the only one completely within their grasp and independent of Russian politics.

  • Robert G. Oler

    there are a few realities here that if people would sit back and think instead of martialling bluster to their favorite political bent…we would all be better for.

    First The Russians are neither going to do anything that would jeopardize their stake in ISS or really the selling of engines to ULA. Russia contributes almost nothing to ISS that is not paid for in direct currency, mostly by the US and that “contribution” is going a long way toward keeping their human spaceflight program afloat period. Otherwise it sinks. The engines keep an industry alive …

    I really think Obama is playing this just about correctly; saying little and doing even less. The Russians are only moving the political ball in a more favorable situation for startup US space companiess…the only think I might do differently if I was Obama was call their bluff…if they claim they are leaving ISS In 6 years…well lets send a group to Russia to start negotiating the separation :)

    Second there is no “next” major program after ISS…particularly if it involves SLS/Orion. there is no political support for the massive spending a (insert fantasy goal here) would take. I still dont think that they will finish SLS, much less for the money that they are talking about.

    If ISS collapses so will human spaceflight on any sort of scale by various nations. Period. that is not going to happen

    The US President that allows it to collapse will take a significant political hit. What is happening is that the entire human spaceflight effort is evolving. :)

    Robert G. Oler

    • Dick Eagleson

      Agree about the ISS. It’s a bit of a sow’s ear, but has the potential to become the silk purse it should always have been. The SLS, though, is strictly pork.

      Don’t agree at all about the Russians. They’re taking their marbles, including their engines and quite possibly the Russian portions of ISS – and going home. Sure they’ll take an economic hit and, long-term, the policy is stupidly self-destructive, but a look at Russian history reveals a lot of this sort of thing. We in the West are too used to assuming that everyone is basically a rational player pursuing rational economic advantage. They’re not. There’s a need for periodic external conquests baked deeply into the Russian national character. It’s a bit like the old story about the frog and the scorpion crossing the river; doesn’t matter if stinging makes sense or not, it’s in their nature.

      • Robert G. Oler

        Dick. I DONT KNOW FOR SURE that you are wrong about the Russians and Putin, I think you are but there is enough “doubt” in my ability to reason to not just say “YOUR WRONG” but in any event right or wrong :)

        It is amazing to me how strong the call for “pork” is that it allows a “thing” that the US taxpayers spent several hundreds of billions on (including launch cost) to suffer and not be under “positive control” while instead we have to spend at least 3 billion a year on something that is, as you point out completely pork.

        ISS can and should be made to be a pivot point in national space development. It is a sow’s ear but it can be made into something useful, and for not a lot of money but it does take some money…

        And I think your analogy of the Scorpion is a valid one in terms of the legacy of Russian history that Putin is keeping in power with.

        Robert G. Oler

      • Robert G. Oler

        Dick I would add this. If this “talk” goes on much longer IF I were Obama or his space advisors I would call the bluff.

        Send a team to Moscow to start negotiating the “separation” and then end SLS and Orion with a re program of money to do things like build a propulsion module (the FGB will either go or be useless), a large Bigelow module etc…

        This is a good political lever as well to pit Congress against each other on SLS spending. RGO

        • Jim Nobles

          “Send a team to Moscow to start negotiating the “separation”…”

          Maybe wait until the first manned test flight of Dragon in order to make it clear that we ourselves do not need to bluff back but can back it up.

          We already have any needed hab space in development with Bigelow. The other hardware can show up in short order if needed, I think.

          • Robert G. Oler

            Jim. I agree in my world we would simply stop the pad abort test and move right to the inflight abort test. RGO

            • common sense

              If you are serious about an abort system you cannot do away with the pad abort. A very difficult abort indeed. Possibly. Then max-q which is transonic. Then possibly max-mach and/or max-heating.

        • Dick Eagleson

          Agree that sending a delegation to negotiate the ISS “divorce” – keeping in mind the provisions of any “pre-nups” in force – would be a good move. Also agree with Mr. Nobles that there is no need to be hasty in doing it. I personally favor having NASA let SpaceX skip the pad abort test of Dragon 2.0 and move up the in-flight abort test as it is the one that really counts. If that could be accomplished successfully by early Fall, it’d be a heck of a bargaining chip for any such future delegation as it would effectively make Dragon 2.0 immediately operable at almost any time of our choosing following that milestone.

          At the bargaining table we should be magnanimous and let the Russians stay on ISS for the entire five-plus additional years they’ve got coming under current arrangements, but also work out a rebuild schedule such that the Russians can detach their contributed property to form the rump of a future Mir 2.0 and allow us to step-by-step replace Russian functionality and extend the new ISS 2.0/Freedom or whatever else we choose to call it, so that two separate, independent stations are extant by 2020. It would be nice to have the U.S. delegation be simply the lead entity of a larger delegation representing also the EU, Canada and Japan, but we should go it alone if we must.

          As they have long been obviously delusional, it is perhaps unsurprising that the various SLS fan-boys who post here now seem to see mortal peril for ISS in recent Russian moves. In truth, it’s SLS and its joined-at-the-hip-and-in-Alabams blood brother ULA that both face prompt extinction. Once it’s apparent that Russia really means to embargo RD-180′s, Atlas V is dead and 60% or more of ULA’s future business along with it. The ULA-USAF block buy will be broken and SpaceX will grab all or most of the low-end launches as they are competed, one at a time. Toward the end of the launch slate represented by the current block buy, SpaceX might even get some competition for a few payloads from Orbital’s Antares – probably a re-engineered Antares 2.0 by that time. SpaceX will barely notice even if they lose a few of these as they will be well into eating the Delta IV Heavy’s lunch with Falcon Heavy by that time.

          Since the recent merger, Orbital is now in charge of ATK’s space assets. As I noted above, they want to follow the trail blazed by SpaceX and get Antares certified to launch DoD/USAF/NRO payloads. ATK, previously an unalloyed part of the Shelby mob owing to its SLS connection, will now have active reason to oppose the other major objective of said mob, preservation of ULA’s military/intel launch monopoly.

          With respect to SLS, a decision to base future large solids business on building several Antares 2.0 booster stages per year – instead of maybe an average of one five-segment SRB a year for SLS – would gut SLS like a trout. Orbital is an ISS partisan and ATK’s political weight, which used to be exclusively SLS-centric, is now going to be redeployed. The best the SLS faction can hope for in future is that Orbital doesn’t simply stab SLS to death out of hand by nixing the SRB’s. The price of such forbearance is likely to be a strict hands-off policy with respect to the ISS budget and acquiescence to Orbital’s orderly entry, behind SpaceX, into the DoD/USAF/NRO launch services market.

          Truth to tell, Orbital is a lot more crucial to the future of both ULA and SLS than even SpaceX right now, odd as that may seem. Both are doomed, of course, but when the bodies eventually go down, the CSI’s are going to find at least as many Orbital fingerprints on the corpses as SpaceX ones.

          • but also work out a rebuild schedule such that the Russians can detach their contributed property to form the rump of a future Mir 2.0 and allow us to step-by-step replace Russian functionality and extend the new ISS 2.0/Freedom or whatever else we choose to call it, so that two separate

            Leaving 2 stations co-orbiting in each others debris, in useless 55 degree orbits? You aren’t thinking clearly.

            Orbital is an ISS partisan and ATK’s political weight, which used to be exclusively SLS-centric, is now going to be redeployed.

            Orbital is suddenly America’s solid rocket motor company, owning a multi-billion SLS contract. ATK boosters aren’t going anywhere.

            • Jim Nobles

              I plead technical ignorance. Are the SLS solids likely to be essentially the same segments as the probable Orbital Science solids? The same diameter and mix? Or would the ATK section of OSATK be producing two different products?

              It would seem to make the most business sense to just produce one type of segment if that’s feasible. But if they do that how are they going to price the new segments? If they charge the same price as for the SLS segments is that going to automatically put the new Antares (or whatever name) vehicle non-competitive price-wise?

              On the other hand, if they price the new segments more reasonably how is that going to look if essentially the same segments for SLS are priced quite differently?

              Anyone have thoughts on this?

              • Coastal Ron

                Jim Nobles said:

                Are the SLS solids likely to be essentially the same segments as the probable Orbital Science solids? The same diameter and mix?

                No.

                Or would the ATK section of OSATK be producing two different products?

                Yes.

                It would seem to make the most business sense to just produce one type of segment if that’s feasible.

                The technical requirements are not the same.

                However the labor force required would share commonalities, and maybe even some common facilities.

                However the prospects for a long term need for SLS solids is not very high, since a liquid fueled booster (assuming the SLS survives that long) is more likely to win in a competition.

          • Robert G. Oler

            Dick

            I think that is a pretty solid analysis and it more or less matches mine.

            Government policy is the baseline definition of inertia, and usually this inertia is immune from basic notions of change…but vunerable to almost every event in the government…this is an excellent example of where, kind of from an unexpected source basic US policy which was very immune to change is now coming under some “mass” disruption.

            What the Russian move into the Ukraine has done is given various actors who want a course change a geniune and hard to dispute chisel to see if the wedge can be opened and it seems to be doing it.

            in the end what OSC and ATK have to do is to try and figure out how to compete with SpaceX and this will be the fall back to soften the blow when SLS goes down.

            They will need to stab SLS to death by virtue of looking for customers on a more then a 2 year launch cycle…and will have to do it in large measure because it will be silly to have a solid first stage that is orders of magnitude cheaper then the boosters for SLS.

            Where both Lockmart and Boeing are in a hurt is that the need for their launch vehicles will falter if a lower cost alternate actually emerges (ie SpaceX can meet its goals or OSC/ATK develops a lower cost vehicle.)

            As Stephen would say it is interesting times. RGO

  • DCSCA

    “If ISS is allowed to splash, so will hope for America’s future in Space.”

    Except it won’t. Particularly as the ISS represents the past policy planning for an era long over.

    Going in circles, no wherem fast, for half a century is a waste of resources. Noly Musketeers like Costal Ron crave the fig leaft of ‘learning how to live in microgravity’– which is a plea to finance trash cans like Dragoon. There’s five decades of on orbo data from living in microgravity .

    The Obama ewra has been a waste of time in the space era. BEO is the future. HRC knows it. Next stop, Luna, folks. Meanwhile the Mars gawkers can be paraded before Congress and explain what we’ve gotten for the $2.6 billion Curiosity mission- whose two year mission is up in August. Lots of pretty red pictures. Quaint.

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>