Congress, NASA

House and Senate making progress on NASA, commercial space bills

This week, the full House is taking up its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes some space-related provisions, such as authorizing funding for a domestic rocket engine to replace the RD-180. The Senate Armed Services Committee, meanwhile, is working on its own version of the NDAA this week in closed sessions. As early as next week, the Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) appropriations bill, which provides $17.9 billion for NASA, will reach the House floor.

Not long thereafter, the House is expected to take up a NASA authorization bill passed by the House Science Committee last month. “We expect floor time in the next few weeks, so we can pass that smoothly and send it on to the Senate side,” said Tom Hammond, majority staff director for the House Science Committee’s space subcommittee, during a panel session at the 30th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs on Tuesday afternoon.

The Senate, meanwhile, is working on its version of a NASA authorization bill. “There’s still hope of getting a NASA reauthorization through this Congress,” said Ann Zulkosky, senior professional staff on the Senate Commerce Committee’s space subcommittee, on the same panel. She said the topics under consideration for the bill include intellectual property rights issues for companies doing research on the International Space Station, an extension of the ISS itself beyond 2020, and maintaining competition in NASA’s commercial crew program.

One issue that doesn’t appear likely to make it into the House or Senate NASA authorization bills is a new engine development program. “From a NASA perspective, this is not an issue that we have dealt with directly,” Zulkosky said. Hammond concurred, nothing the action on an RD-180 replacement in the NDAA.

Both the House and Senate are also working on legislation to update the Commercial Space Launch Act. The House version, said Hammond, may address several issues, including a request by the FAA for on-orbit authority for commercial space transportation vehicles and an extension of the “learning period” that limits the FAA’s ability to enact safety regulations for spaceflight participants. The bill may include “some asteroid mining or exploitation provisions,” he added, without elaboration.

49 comments to House and Senate making progress on NASA, commercial space bills

  • Coastal Ron

    So it appears that the Senate is not planning any action to fund SLS missions or payloads either, which would confirm that the earliest any funding would be approved is at least FY2016, or only 6 years out from the nominal 2022 start of the once-per-year SLS flight cadence.

    Every year that no SLS mission funding appears means that once Congress finally gets around to looking at funding SLS missions the amount needed becomes that much more daunting.

    Without any need for the SLS on the horizon, it’s time to kill this forsaken beast NOW.

    • The Senate Launch System jobs program infuriates me because congress refuses to give NASA the funding for advanced technology development for payloads.
      By law SLS takes LV engineering out of the hands of those best qualified to do it and requires the consumption of shuttle RD-25′s meant to be reusable.

      In a logical world we would determine mission requirements, based on a goal such as the moon, L5 or Mars. Determine the minimum mission technology requirements, such as 3 year life support system, lander/habitat requirements etc, and then determine the what it would take to build the rocket to launch the payload required to meet the objective.
      To date we’ve spent more on SLS than had we kept the shuttle flying.
      Congressional rocket science is exactly what you would expect it to be, a pork barrel on a powder keg with an overweight pig on top.

    • Crash Davis

      “from the nominal 2022 start of the once-per-year SLS flight cadence.”

      Which would be more frequent than SpaceX has flown to ISS. SpaceX had 13 months between routine ISS flights. And these SLS missions are meaningful exploration flights, not routine, meaningless flights to LEO. You truly are a rocket scientist novice.

      • Coastal Ron

        Crash Davis said:

        Which would be more frequent than SpaceX has flown to ISS. SpaceX had 13 months between routine ISS flights.

        Of course you are conveniently forgetting that the first two CRS flights were only 5 months apart, and then SpaceX introduced their new Falcon 9 v1.1 launcher used for their 3rd flight, which is why there was additional time.

        And these SLS missions are meaningful exploration flights…

        Can you point to an actual, funded, exploration flight?

        Because as of today there are only test flights, and those keep slipping further and further out. For instance, the only Orion flight using the SLS that is supposed to carry humans is the EM-2 flight, but that is getting ready to be pushed out from it’s current 2021 date to sometime in 2022 or beyond.

        And that’s all that is currently funded.

        Apparently you think test flights are “meaningful exploration flights”.

        …not routine, meaningless flights to LEO.

        I guess you think all those trucks that supply your local businesses with the supplies they need to function are “meaningless”?

        I’m not sure how you think we are going to expand our presence out into space without routine deliveries of supplies. Weird.

      • pathfinder_01

        They are only scheduled for 2 flights a year and orbital is also scheduled for two flights an year. SLS would be lucky to get one flight a year at the rate it is going and in the case of Falcon 9, NASA isn’t the only customer.

        Anyway on total the ISS gets cargo about every three months from Progress, ATV, HTV, Dragon, and Cygnus. We have not gotten to the pizza delivery phase yet on orbit but one day we might.

      • Neil

        SLS flights? When did they happen exactly?

  • Hiram

    With regard to these authorization bills, I am left somewhat dumfounded by the footprints that this Mars 2021 mission concept (the federally funded version of Inspiration Mars) has left on the House Science committee and their legislation strategy. Not only does the bill insist that an independent analysis of this concept be done within two months of bill passage (NASA has already weighed in on it as being impractical, so better get someone else to look at it!), but Science Committee Chair Lamar Smith has now underscored his legislative enthusiasm about it in a very public way

    http://spacenews.com/article/opinion/406242021-a-new-space-odyssey

    Smith’s op-ed in Space News from a few days ago is noteworthy in that he declares unapologetically that “At a fundamental level, space exploration — the mission of NASA — is about inspiration.” That’s a new one on me, and is only vaguely consistent with its charter. Has it come to that, that the mission of NASA is so ill-defined that it’s now all about inspiration? Kinda hokey. I remember when it used to just be about “exploration”. Those were the days. That puts it right up there with the National Endowment for the Arts, whose $140M budget is all about inspiration. Are there any other agencies that, at a fundamental level, are about inspiration?

    The result of this independent analysis they’re asking for is easy to predict. Mars 2021 will be declared “feasible” with application of a huge increase in funding for SLS and Orion that will accelerate those programs, as well as for a habitation module. So House Science seems to want to talk themselves into a large bump for NASA, and the Senate SLS champions are probably drooling.

    This bump won’t happen in FY15, so if started in FY16 we’re talking four or five years to get our act together to fling people to Mars, with an agency that is not even convinced it’s a good thing to do. So where is Smith going with this? Is this setting up NASA to fail? Or is this a matter of kicking off a mission that might be ready by 2023, when the delta-V is 15% higher but the radiation burden is a bit lower? What exactly is the rush?

    It will be interesting to see how the Senate bites on this idea.

    • Andrew Swallow

      I suggest that the Mars 2021 astronauts be convicted murders. A Mars mission in 2021 being little more than a high-tech replacement for the gas chamber.

      I need legal advice on this one. Is the Supreme Court likely to rule the mission unconstitutional on the grounds that a slow death is a ‘Cruel’ punishment?

      Since our technology is not ready for this mission the only inspiration from this mission will be to foreigners to laugh at the USA. Approving this mission before 2030 is a very brave decision.

    • I was dismayed that NASA was specifically excluded from the Space Subcommittee meeting discussing the Venus/Mars flyby in 2021. The ranking members of this subcommittee are searching for any job for SLS, besides the NASA asteroid redirect mission that doesn’t require much R&D for payload development.

      We don’t have the advanced technology development done that can assure the health and safety of humans in deep space for an extended period of time. Going around NASA is not going to change the engineering and technology requirements.
      When you put lawmakers in charge of science funding who deny AGW and probably can’t handle simple algebra, much less engineering, you come up with these sorts of bright ideas.
      http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/11/28/1248751/rep-lamar-smith-who-criticized-the-idea-of-human-made-global-warming-set-to-be-chair-of-house-science-panel/

      • Hiram

        “Going around NASA is not going to change the engineering and technology requirements.”

        No, but an independent review can say that the technology and engineering can be bought. NASA doesn’t dare say that. An independent review, doing an end-run around NASA, sure can say that. The cost will be frightening. But I guess it takes a technologically/engineering/scientifically clueless lawmaker not to see that coming, unless he’s in Dennis Tito’s pocket, in which case he can pretend that he doesn’t. Of course, Tito is a tycoon who has given generously to the GOP, and could give a LOT more. Yes, Lamar Smith is probably well inspired by this concept.

  • Egad

    This is a bit of a force-fit for this thread (sorry!) but I think it does pertain to the future of SLS, its budgets and the missions that might be flown.

    A couple of days ago Space News ran a piece on the recent GAO report on the status of the SLS budget, but at the end mentioned the following:

    http://www.spacenews.com/article/civil-space/40610gao-true-cost-of-sls-orion-unclear

    Similarly, NASA has backed off of a plan to upgrade SLS with a pair of competitively selected strap-on boosters to replace the ATK-provided solids that will boost the 2017 and 2021 missions off the pad, Gerstenmaier told SpaceNews May 8. The scuttled competition had been scheduled for 2015.

    Does anyone here have more information on this? Does it mean that the upgrade itself has been scuttled, or is it just the competitive procurement aspect of the upgrade? If the latter, then presumably the upgrade would be sole-sourced to ATK, no? If the former, how does SLS go from 70 to 105 tons lift capacity? Or am I just misreading the whole thing and something else entirely is meant?

    • I think it is much more important to develop a hydrogen fueled EDS before considering larger first stage boosters.

      • Dick Eagleson

        SLS has always had a “hydrogen fueled EDS” – it’s the same upper stage as the Delta IV, a Centaur with a single RL-10. It has always been slated for use on the 70 tonne version of SLS that is to fly in 2017. According to a later Space News article, the second SLS mission, slated for 2021, and which was to be manned but now might not be, will get an improved EDS with four RL-10′s. According to Wikipedia, that should be good for 93 tonnes to LEO. Also according to the Space News article, that’s about as muscular an upper stage as SLS is ever going to get as the J-2X is now said to be benched for good. With the liquid-fueled booster competition now also deep-sixed, it’s hard to see how SLS is ever going to be capable of hefting much more than those 93 tonnes. To get even modestly over 100 tonnes, ATK would have to invest heavily in an advanced SRB with a composite case and new fuel grain formulation. I’m personally dubious that ATK, now a division of Orbital Sciences, will even complete its current contract for six of the 5-segment SRB’s over the next seven years, never mind gear up for a major upgrade. SLS is afflicted with a wasting disease, both monetarily and specificationally. Kill this ever-weakening monstrosity now and save everyone involved the even greater embarrassment of having to do it later.

        • NASA came to the logical conclusion that ganged RL-10 based upper stages were crap back in the 1960′s. Full speed ahead with the J-2X.

          SLS is afflicted with a wasting disease, both monetarily and specificationally.

          More like sabotage. One hopes that will change as the balance of power in congress shifts.

          • pathfinder_01

            Not really. The Saturn V was a three stage rocket that used the J2 in the 2nd and 3rd stage. The RL10 isn’t a good 2nd stage engine and the J2 could serve well as an 3rd stage engine. It was a bit of an cost savings.

          • Dick Eagleson

            Yeah, rah, rah, rah. As the Space News reportage indicates, the J-2X is not only not going full speed anywhere, it’s been sent to sleep with the fishes. Agree that even multiple RL-10′s are a pretty anemic excuse for an upper stage. Four is better than one, but it’s pretty small beer either way. Still, that’s what on your plate. And it wasn’t put there by Elon Musk or any of your other favorite whipping boys.

            If there’s, as you say, “sabotage” going on it’s coming from inside NASA, aided and abetted by the SLS amen corner in Congress. Get it through your head, Windy, Richard Shelby and the rest of the SLS caucus don’t care if SLS sheds capability as it shambles its way to eventual cancellation. No one pushing this monstrosity on us has the slightest interest in actual space exploration; they’re in it strictly for the pork and the campaign contribution quid pro quo. When the thing eventually dies, they’ll move on to whatever other corrupt bargains they can strike with government employees and contractors in their states and districts. These may or may not have anything to do with space.

            As to the balance of power shifting in Congress, the only shifts I see are against SLS. The Russian initiation of Cold War 2.0 has rendered the future of ULA, Shelby, et al’s other traditional money tree, highly problematic. Defending those ill-gotten gains is likely to occupy an increasing proportion of their time, leaving less for also defending SLS.

            The recent merger of ATK into Orbital Sciences messes directly and materially with the traditional SLS political base too. ATK now takes orders from an outfit with major ties to ISS and Stratolaunch – another of those damned pesky New Space outfits that seem to be kicking over sacred iron rice bowls left and right these days. The SLS caucus is weakening perhaps even more rapidly than their misbegotten rocket. At this point all Orbital has to do to kill SLS outright is tell ATK to get out of the increasingly dubious SRB business in favor of, say, building solid booster stages for Antares 2.0. Poof! Gone!

            I’m not predicting that Orbital will absolutely do this, but it might well float the possibility in private if the remaining SLS-ies are so incautious as to make any more runs at the ISS budget. When, as I think is inevitable, SLS faces existential doom, Orbital will likely stand aside as it goes down. SLS SRB’s may have looked like the only game in town to a pre-merger ATK, but now they’ve got options. All continued fealty to SLS promises is fewer and fewer SRB’s purchased over longer and longer intervals. When the axe finally falls on SLS, Orbital-ATK should be privately relieved to be out from under it.

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “Does it mean that the upgrade itself has been scuttled, or is it just the competitive procurement aspect of the upgrade?”

      The booster upgrade itself is likely terminated in favor of a more powerful upper stage called the Exploration Upper Stage (EUS). Boeing and NASA have begun negotiations to build and test the EUS on the second SLS launch in 2021:

      http://www.spacenews.com/article/civil-space/40647second-sls-mission-might-not-carry-crew

      If the negotiations fall through, then the booster upgrade might come back. But that’s unlikely; the booster upgrade is no longer the favored path.

      As the article notes, the tradeoff for a new upper stage in 2021 is that there will likely be no crew on that launch. Without a crewed shakedown of MPCV, the payload/purpose of the (very expensive) 2021 launch becomes unclear, at best.

      The program has been flailing on the upper stage (and upgrade path in general) issue for several years now. In 2011, SLS was supposed to develop a powerful J-2X upper stage. As cost and schedule reality set in, J-2X had to be shelved after a billion dollars down that drain, and the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage was lifted from Delta IV to meet the 2016, er, 2017 first launch date for SLS. But with a single RL-10, the iCPS is woefully underpowered for most exploration missions. The EUS is an attempt to create an upper stage that is both more powerful and more affordable to manufacture. It does so by leveraging multiple (four) RL-10s and SLS core stage tankage and structure from Michoud.

      But the immediate, pressing issue is development cost — not manufacturing cost — and it’s hard to see how the EUS will be any less costly to develop than the old J-2X stage (or the booster upgrade). The fundamental problem is that the SLS budget is not big enough to develop a powerful, human-rated SLS on a reasonable and relevant schedule. (Maybe if the program didn’t have to blow a wad on the relatively useless iCPS by 2017, but even then.) I suspect that EUS isn’t the end of this, and that upper stage (and or booster upgrade) churn for 2021+ will continue until the program’s termination during the first term of the next Administration.

      “If the former, how does SLS go from 70 to 105 tons lift capacity?”

      EUS, formerly LUS (or Large Upper Stage), gets SLS to 105 tons. As this article explains, they examined four RL-10, dual MB-60s, and single J-2X options to get that performance:

      http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2013/11/sls-us-proposals-increasing-payload-destination-options/

      However, without the booster upgrade, we are kissing the 130-ton SLS goodbye, and NASA has sworn for years that 130 tons is the magical number to enable human Mars missions. That, combined with SLS’s once-every-other-year launch rate means that SLS cannot support the Mars DRMs, and there is no clear path to humans on Mars using SLS.

      Hope this helps.

      • reader

        thanks. iCPS is “developed” for a single unmanned flight then ? And EUS will likely fly unmanned at first ..
        Its amazing how many times a single rocket can change engines, and still be on track , under budget and meeting deadlines.

        • Dark Blue Nine

          “iCPS is ‘developed’ for a single unmanned flight then ?”

          Yes.

          “And EUS will likely fly unmanned at first ..”

          Unless NASA and the astronaut office disregard their own rules about never flying astronauts on unproven stages.

          “Its amazing how many times a single rocket can change engines, and still be on track , under budget and meeting deadlines.”

          Some of that is expected at the beginning of a program. It took about a year for the Apollo Program to settle on the LOR architecture and five F-1 engines for Saturn V. But we’re approaching four years on SLS, and the flailing continues.

  • The thing that keeps support up for the SLS is the idea that we will eventually need the capacity of the SLS-Block 2 to go to Mars. Falcon X(X) is too uncertain at this point so better to keep the SLS workforce intact. That’s the logic.

    So, Falcon Heavy is likely to launch in 2015. Given the 300+ successful previous dockings, can he case be made now that SLS isn’t necessary because the Falcon Heavy can provide the same capability?

    • Falcon 9 Heavy is too small.

      • Jim Nobles

        “Falcon 9 Heavy is too small.”

        Too small for what?

        To make that statement you must have something in mind…

      • Dick Eagleson

        Too small to do a manned Mars run on one launch? Sure is. But so is SLS. And given the latter’s progressive case of mechanical myasthenia gravis, it’ll probably take at least three or four of the new and ever more crippled SLSes to put even a minimal Mars expedition up. Given SLS’s pathetic projected ops tempo and sharply limited production capacity, that’ll take years. Falcon Heavy’s projected flight rate is much higher and could assemble an equivalent expedition mass in LEO much more quickly than SLS. Not that I’m expecting such a project to actually happen. Elon is going to Mars, alright, but I don’t think Falcon Heavy figures significantly in those plans.

  • FAA can keep out of orbit, please.

  • James

    What I find very pathetic, is, imagine how Congress is meddling in the affairs of all the other Agencies, and Cabinets, like they are meddling with NASA.

    The human folly that is SLS, being played out in an Agency w/o leadership to be found, is no doubt mimicked everywhere and in every nook and cranny that Congress can get its little dysfunctional grubby hands on.

  • Andrew Swallow

    Inspiration.

    Get NASA to:
    * Build a new US spacestation.
    * Transport people to it.
    * Land men on the Moon.

    Within 10 years.

    Shows NASA has recovered from the Shuttle crash.

    • Hiram

      “Inspiration”

      And that plan inspires people to do what? I think building an undersea city would be “inspirational”. We could transport people to it, and land people on the bottom of the ocean. Within 10 years. Why? Well, BECAUSE! Yep, it might inspire people to do stuff without any real rationale. We need more of that, no?

      Building space stations and landing people on the Moon might well be inspirational, but not because we did it, but rather because of what it would gain us. What would it gain us?

      “Shows NASA has recovered from the Shuttle crash.”

      Ah, so it’s a “confidence builder”? That’s what we’d gain? We’d be confident we could do things without any real rationale. Hooray!

      This “inspiration” business is a wholesale scam. The goals are unmeasureable and the rationale is non-existent. But hey, it’s coool.

    • AntonA

      LEO stations are useless.

      • Andrew Swallow

        Manned Mars vehicles are too big to be launched from the Earth. They can be assembled at a LEO spacestation.

        As show in the film ’2001 A Space Odyssey’ LEO spacestations are good places to change from capsules designed for the Earth’s atmosphere to deep space spacecraft.

        The effects of weightlessness and space radiation can be tested at LEO and Lagrange Points. The astronauts need something to live in for months on end.

        • Hiram

          The effects of deep space radiation cannot be tested at LEO. LEO is shielded from that radiation. Certainly long duration weightlessness can, as can the command and control of space vehicles of all kinds. LEO is very useful. Now, that being said, LEO is a pretty crummy place to assemble a large ship, and the movie 2001 didn’t understand why (let’s not get space engineering lessons from movies, OK?). The reason is debris, with which LEO is rich. A more distant station, like at a Lagrange point, or in an SDRO, is the right place to assemble large vehicles destined for long trips. No reason why LEO can’t serve well as a materiel depot site and logistics center and, as you say, a place to switch to an atmospheric entry vehicle. But don’t assemble a big ship there.

        • AntonA

          We need to assemble deep space vehicles at the LEO, but we don’t need station for that. As far as I remember, there is lunar orbit station in ’2001 A Space Odyssey’.

          • Hiram

            No we do NOT need to assemble deep space vehicles in LEO. Dumb idea. Maybe my comment didn’t get posted until after you posted, but getting space engineering lessons from movies is a bad idea.

            http://www.moviemistakes.com/film8

            LEO is useful, but not for building deep space habs. Re the movie 2001, I guess it used to be, before LEO was so seriously polluted. Orbital debris is one important reason why space telescopes are not put in LEO anymore. Because of more rapid orbital decay, LEO is somewhat less polluted than higher altitudes, but the problem is still serious. ISS is outfitted with Whipple shields over key sections. Putting such shielding on a deep space vehicle to protect it in LEO would be a waste of mass.

      • Coastal Ron

        AntonA said:

        LEO stations are useless.

        That’s not what NASA thinks, nor it’s counterparts in Russia and China.

        So either you expand and defend your views, or you just fade away as another random single post…

        • AntonA

          That is problem of Roscosmos, they don’t have strategy. In 1970s officials (I mean in Russia) said LEO stations is a step to the deep space, because we need medical, life support and other technologies before we begin longer-then-year missions. And it’s right idea. But Russia had build 9 stations (seven Saluts, Mir, ISS) and can’t stop. We have this technologies since 1990 and Roscosmos think now, just by force of habit, that LEO stations are the ultimate goal of cosmonautics. At the other hand, NASA’ve got technologies during ISS project. China still don’t have it. So NASA isn’t going to build new station, and Chinad declare such plans.

          • Coastal Ron

            AntonA said:

            In 1970s officials (I mean in Russia) said LEO stations is a step to the deep space, because we need medical, life support and other technologies before we begin longer-then-year missions. And it’s right idea.

            Not only was it the right idea, but we here in the U.S. have STILL not developed the technologies and techniques necessary to leave LEO in a competent and confident way. Oh sure, we can do quick trips, but we’re just now testing out what we need to keep humans alive and well beyond 6 months in zero G.

            At the other hand, NASA’ve got technologies during ISS project.

            Some maybe, but not enough. In fact, the longer we stay in space, the more we learn about how much we DON’T know about the detrimental health effects of zero G, nor how to mitigate the effects.

            Plus, how are we supposed to go anywhere? NASA has been allowed to build any of the technologies we’ll need in order to leave LEO. And I’m not talking about the SLS and Orion, since they are useless without all the other technologies like fuel depots, departure stages, in-space habits (no one can live in a capsule for very long) and Environmental Control and Life Support Systems (ECLSS) that can work unattended for long periods of time (we don’t have that yet).

            So no, we’re not ready to leave LEO for long periods of time yet, and yes, we still need to do lots of research and in-space validation – and the best place (and least costly) to do that is in LEO.

            • >Not only was it the right idea, but we here in the U.S. have STILL not developed the technologies and techniques necessary to leave LEO in a competent and confident way.
              Hm-hm. I guess, USA already leaved LEO in 1968? :)

              >In fact, the longer we stay in space, the more we learn about how much we DON’T know about the detrimental health effects of zero G, nor how to mitigate the effects.
              What is the big difference between 6-monthes expeditions to ISS and, for example, one-year flight of Krikalev on Mir? What aspects of long missions are you going to work out on the next LEO station, after ISS? Life support system? We have it. Medical aspects? We already know people can live in space 12-18 months. Protection for radiation? Oh, wait, LEO is useless for that, because radiation conditions beyond the LEO are not the same. Also, close biosystems would be useful in a long journeys as a source of oxygen and food, but at first it should be created on Earth. There are no reasons to pull it on the orbit before we build stable system here.

              Why do yo mix hardware and technologies necessary for it? NASA don’t have propulsion module and habitat module, but have quite all technologies to build it. At least, all technologies that could be obtained from a LEO stations.

              • pathfinder_01

                “Life support system? We have it.”

                The problem with ISS life-support is that it takes too much crew time to maintain and is a bit unreliable. Honestly, it needs to be upgraded with something a tad more reliable.

                “Medical aspects? We already know people can live in space 12-18 months.”

                Only 4 people have stayed in space longer than 12 months. All were men. Too small a sample size to get much meaningful data on health effects and yes there are possible health effects. Shorter stays have revealed issues with bone-loss, muscle loss, vision changes(in men),low blood pressure and so forth.

                “Also, close biosystems would be useful in a long journeys as a source of oxygen and food, but at first it should be created on Earth. There are no reasons to pull it on the orbit before we build stable system here.”

                Ah if you mean closed loop life support, yeah you do want that in an space station to reduce supplies. If you mean growing food in space, yeah you do want that because the seeds and chemicals needed to grow the food could take up less space than the space needed to store food . You don’t need an biosphere for an source of oxygen as both ISS and Bigloew stations would get their oxygen from breaking water molecules.

          • Dick Eagleson

            So if I understand you correctly, you believe that LEO stations are not intrinsically useless, but that they are made useless by the bureaucracies that run them. If that is so, then we agree. I think even Coastal Ron probably agrees.

            The reason the ISS has been of very limited use in working out the unknowns needing solution for deep space travel is that actual exploration has never been very high on NASA’s real list of priorities. From what you say here, the same seems to be true of Roscosmos on the Soviet/Russian side. You speculate that the same is likely true of the Chinese station efforts. I think you are right. Bureaucratic organizations like to keep doing the same things over and over. That seems to be a truth that transcends cultures.

            I favor keeping ISS going mainly because I think it may be possible to repurpose it, a bit at a time, into a platform that does do useful research on issues related to human factors in deep space exploration. If such efforts can’t be gotten well underway by 2020, then I’m willing to let ISS splash in the Pacific. By then there should be one or two Bigelow stations in LEO and we will have alternatives.

            • No, I believe objective potential of LEO stations is exhausted to the date. We’ve got everything it could give us. Every next step must be ahead of the previous. It’s useless to jump on the one stair. If you want a new space station, try L2 point. Such station would require to develop new radiation protection It’s a suitably even for artificial gravity practice.

              • “No, I believe objective potential of LEO stations is exhausted to the date.”

                You seem see their only purpose as being support for deep space missions.

                But someone who needs to do other kinds of microgravity and/or large vacuum research, has no reason to go any farther than LEO.

                The ‘don’t look back’ attitude of those who are ‘tired of going round and round’ in LEO, never ceases to annoy me…

                And without affordable launchers, nobody can hope to get anything done very much, if at all.

  • 2pathfinder_01
    The problem with ISS life-support is that it takes too much crew time to maintain and is a bit unreliable. Honestly, it needs to be upgraded with something a tad more reliable.
    Backup systems and units solve the problem. Ang again, how new LEO station could help to get a reliable LSS?

    Only 4 people have stayed in space longer than 12 months. All were men. Too small a sample size to get much meaningful data on health effects and yes there are possible health effects.
    Too small sample rate for statistics, but enougth to expand duration of expeditions. AFAIK Roscosmos & NASA re going to send few 1-year crews to ISS since 2015. How many people do you want to get representative sample? 100 or 200?

  • pathfinder_01

    “Backup systems and units solve the problem. Ang again, how new LEO station could help to get a reliable LSS?”

    LEO has one huge advantage when it comes to human spaceflight. Lower costs for manning and resupply. Any rocket that can lift about 10-25MT to LEO can lift both people, cargo or build an LEO station. Rockets of that size also have demand outside of manned spaceflight in terms of lifting communications satellites to GEO, GPS, or for spying and this makes them both cheap and relatively available. For stations further out the cost of manning and logistics increases.

    A good example is say the Falcon 9. The F9 can lift about 13MT to LEO, but only 4.8MT to GEO(and to lift to L2 would cost about the same, maybe a little less). At 4.8MT, resupply would be impossible with the Dragon capsule. You need a bigger more expensive rocket like FH, Atlas, or Delta or you need to use low delta V trajectories (which can take a few months and also cut into cargo) or SEP.

    To send crew likewise would require larger more expensive rockets but crew cannot take slow trajectories and so you again either need a bigger rocket or on-orbit assembly or a propellant depot to get out that far. Basically there is nothing to be gained by going further out but a bigger bill unless there is some objective that cannot be done in LEO.

    For a station at L2, I rather doubt that it would be possible to even keep it crewed constantly as most projects I have seen for them tend to call for stations that are man tended to keep costs down. FH might be cheap enough to do it, SLS won’t be cheap or have a flight rate high enough to even attempt a permanently manned station further out.

    Also the breakdowns on the ISS life-support have caused them to turn to back ups. It isn’t a problem solved with more back up. If you want to get data on long term spaceflight it is best done from LEO. As for number of people more is better but probably about 10-20 to start drawing conclusions. It would also help to have some women.

    • Hiram

      “LEO has one huge advantage when it comes to human spaceflight. Lower costs for manning and resupply.”

      Let’s not forget that although the propulsion needed to get from Earth to a cis-lunar station is larger than that needed to get to LEO, the propulsion needed to get from that cis-lunar station to Mars or the Moon is a lot less than that required to get to the Moon or Mars from LEO. So although a cis-lunar development station is logistically somewhat harder than one in LEO, what you build there has a big advantage.

      In the long run, to the extent such deep space vehicles can make economical use of lunar ISRU, a LEO development station makes less sense. Yes, that’s a VERY long run.

      The idea that you need such a station to be continually crewed is nonsense, and in no way, in this day and age, would that keep costs down. The Chinese understand that with Tiangong. Keeping crew in space keeps costs down? What planet are you living on? In fact, even at a cis-lunar development station, many development tasks (e.g. linking modules for building a deep space vehicle), could be done telerobotically from the Earth. Given the potential for telerobotic operation, fewer, rather than more, humans on the station are probably best. “10-20″ is a wholly artificial WAG number.

      “It would also help to have some women.”

      Ah, in addition to “people”? Nice call. Again, what planet are you living on?

      I agree that stations in LEO have many uses, but let’s not inflate the rationale blindly.

      • Coastal Ron

        Hiram said:

        The idea that you need such a station to be continually crewed is nonsense, and in no way, in this day and age, would that keep costs down.

        The reason for having human tended space stations is to learn how to live and work in space WITH HUMANS. I agree that we can do a lot of stuff already telerobotically, and could do more. But that does not address the science that is being done on humans in space related to mitigating the effects of zero G and all the other “bad” things in space with humans. The only way to do that is with humans as test subjects in space, and LEO is the closest place to accomplish that.

        The Chinese understand that with Tiangong.

        Considering how early on the Chinese are with their space program, how risk adverse they are, and how little we really know about their intentions, I’d say there is not enough information to make that statement.

        What we do know is that the Chinese are slowing improving their capabilities, and that there record so far puts them about where we were with the Skylab.

        But the Chinese have also stated that their eventual goal is to move further out into space, and they are as interested as the rest of us in how to keep their people alive and healthy. So far the length of missions they have done have not been a concern, but as we know when you start doing missions numbering in months, it becomes a much more serious concern.

        Overall the only reason for doing anything in space with humans is because there is some form of agreement that we want to do things in space with humans. What they ultimate goals are for that are undefined (and vastly uncoordinated), but the general goal is enough that is sustains continued funding for the ISS and other programs.

        • Hiram

          “The reason for having human tended space stations is to learn how to live and work in space WITH HUMANS.”

          No question. I agree completely. But that’s not what the OP said. The issue was whether it was indeed doubtful that a station could not be crewed continuously. It may be doubtful that a LEO space station would deserve support if it were not occupied, given that the lion share of important work being done on it is human factors in microgravity. But one could probably operate it for a long time without people on board.

          “Considering how early on the Chinese are with their space program, how risk adverse they are, and how little we really know about their intentions, I’d say there is not enough information to make that statement.”

          My statement was intended to mean that the Chinese understand they don’t need to keep Tiangong occupied. But that’s correct that they may or may not understand that not keeping it occupied will keep costs down for them.

          • pathfinder_01

            I should have been more clear. Man tended meaning not always occupied.(I.e. an Visit every so many months). Not a bad thing per see but if you want to explore how human health is effected by the space environment (zero g, radiation, ect.) not the best method. The Chinese on the other hand currently lack resupply. Tiangon-1 is both their first station and is the planned cargo vehicle prototype for their more permanent station. That is why they are not able to stay continuously about it. Sort of like using ATV as a temporary station. The reason why you would want women is because the long duration spaceflights have generally been all men and you really can’t extrapolate that women and men will react the same way. For instance it is know that for some odd reason space sickness tends to be worse in women and so far the vision changes from long term space flight have only been found in men.

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>