Congress, NASA, White House

As House debates spending bill, administration calls for more commercial crew and space technology funding

The House of Representatives started deliberation Wednesday evening of the fiscal year 2015 Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) appropriations bill, HR 4660. So far, that debate has not led to any changes in provisions of the bill funding NASA; an amendment to cut NASA exploration spending by $10 million and transfer $8 million of it to the International Trade Administration failed on a voice vote. The House is expected to wrap up debate over the bill and approve it by late today.

As the full House started consideration of the bill, the White House released its Statement of Administration Policy (SAP), outlining the issues it has with the bill. For NASA, it highlighted two areas that received less funding in the bill than in the administration’s request: commercial crew and space technology. “The Administration appreciates the Committee’s support for NASA, but is disappointed the bill does not provide the full funding request for the Commercial Crew Program,” the SAP stated, warning that the lower funding level threatens the goal of beginning astronaut transportation to the ISS by 2017. “The Administration also encourages the Congress to support competition in the program, which is important to lowering risk and reducing prices in the long term,” it adds, referring to report language that calls for NASA to downselect to a single company in the next round of the program, later this year.

The SAP also briefly discusses the space technology program, which was cut by $85 million from the administration’s request. “Space Technology is important to reducing the cost and increasing the capability of NASA, other Government, and commercial space activities.”

62 comments to As House debates spending bill, administration calls for more commercial crew and space technology funding

  • We are hearing positive reports of progress on SLS development.

    http://www.space.com/26015-nasa-space-launch-system-orion-capsule.html

    This must be NASA’s first funding priority.

    That fate of ISS must be decided sooner, not later. Comrade Rogozin has rejected participation in ISS after 2020, making the same arguments as amightywind and other ISS critics have made on this forum.

    “Simply circling the earth’s orbit and earning something on cosmonaut delivery to space – that’s not enough for this great space country”

    No, indeed. And if it is not good enough for a bottom feeding country like Russia, what kind of program is it for the “Land of the Free and Home of the Brave”?

    • Robert G. Oler

      LOL SLS is floundering RGO

    • Hiram

      “Simply circling the earth’s orbit and earning something on cosmonaut delivery to space – that’s not enough for this great space country”

      Duh, like they’ve EVER done anything else with humans in space. Pretty odd preaching for a “great space country”. But I agree with Rogozin, that if all Russia has to point at with regard to ISS is taxi service, then it’s time to get out.

      The ISS is doing very useful stuff, but it is hugely expensive, and that should disincentivize just about anyone from buying into it in the long term. Of course, we’re building a new hugely expensive asset (SLS) that won’t hardly get used as much as ISS. That’s what ISS critics are arguing for.

      • DCSCA

        “Simply circling the earth’s orbit and earning something on cosmonaut delivery to space – that’s not enough for this great space country”

        Duh, like they’ve EVER done anything else with humans in space.

        hmmm. Apparently you missed Project Apollo and its nine missions out to Luna– six landing and exploring.

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “We are hearing positive reports of progress on SLS development.”

      That journalist didn’t even get the units right in their article.

      From official, independent, technically literate channels, there’s little to be positive about:

      “The core stage is the SLS program’s only new development effort and it represents the critical path — the set of developmental activities that
      must be completed for the program to stay on schedule — for the SLS program as a whole. Unlike the existing booster and engine subsystems, designs and hardware for the core stage as well as the production facility are not yet complete.”

      “The SLS program faces challenges integrating existing hardware into a new system with different operational environments and requirements. In the case of the RS-25 engines from the Space Shuttle, the engines were designed to start using fuel slightly warmer than the fuel they will receive from the new SLS core stage fuel tank… Similarly, according to program officials, some portions of the Shuttle-era solid rocket boosters may require redesign due to the increased loads anticipated in the SLS operating environment. For example, NASA is concerned that the forward skirt of the solid rocket boosters is not qualified to withstand
      the loads it will encounter during SLS flight… NASA plans to use a propulsion subsystem, called the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS), originally developed for the Delta IV launch vehicle. However,
      according to agency officials, this subsystem is not certified to meet NASA’s requirements for human spaceflight. For example, the ICPS currently cannot be steered by launch vehicle crew, which is a human
      spaceflight requirement… The full extent of challenges associated with integrating existing hardware into new operating environments and their associated impacts on cost, schedule, and performance, including mass, is likely to remain uncertain until the program’s critical design review, currently planned for 2015.”

      “Over 2 years after being established as a program, many of the SLS program contracts remain undefinitized, placing the program at risk of
      unanticipated costs.”

      http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662571.pdf

    • Coastal Ron

      amightywind said:

      Comrade Rogozin has rejected participation in ISS after 2020, making the same arguments as amightywind and other ISS critics have made on this forum.

      And you’re not concerned about who you agree with? That Rogozin’s comments were made because he is reactionary and short-sighted?

      • I am pointing out that even Russian space leaders have come to the same logical conclusion that has been obvious to those of us in the US who are not in denial, or carrying water for Obama. The Obama administration is running out of gas on all fronts. Time to discard his failed policies and change course in space.

        • Coastal Ron

          amightywind said:

          I am pointing out that even Russian space leaders have come to the same logical conclusion that has been obvious to those of us in the US who are not in denial…

          Denial about what?

          Do we here in the U.S. have the technology and technique we need to leave LEO competently and confidently?

          Can we here in the U.S. keep humans alive AND healthy for more than 6 months in zero G beyond LEO?

          Do we here in the U.S. know how to build an ECLSS that doesn’t need constant maintenance and attention?

          The answer to all those questions is “NO”. Maybe the Russians plan to wind down their presence in space, but if we here in the U.S. want to expand our presence out into space beyond short “stunt” type trips, the ISS will be needed until we can positively answer “YES” to all those questions.

          The Obama administration is running out of gas on all fronts. Time to discard his failed policies and change course in space.

          The ISS started as an effort by Reagan, and has been bipartisan since. Stop being obsessive – it makes you blind to reality…

        • Vladislaw

          Failed policies? The house and senate took President Obama’s NASA policies in his first budget and tossed then .. all of them .. what NASA got is EXACTLY what congress wanted. What NASA always ends up with .. what Congress will fund. The only failed policies are the ones congress has insisted on. Like all congressional/NASA funded boondoggles. Orion, 16.5 BILLION for a water landing, 4 person, disposable capsule.. this is laughable so it is has Windasovich’s full support. James webb, the space launch system. All the big ticket boondoggles and 10 nasa centers with full funding.

    • Henry Vanderbilt

      Amazing how much bandwidth can be wasted by staking out a, ahem, position radically tangential to reality, in the very first comment.

    • Fred Willett

      No we are actually hearing negative reports that are being spun as “improvements..”
      1/ Human rated centaur 2nd stage has been dropped in the hope they can go straight to the advanced 2nd stage (the spin) and if that doesn’t work out, hey they’ve still got the option of using the un-human rated centaur.
      2/ Orion ECLSS is delayed and so will not be available to test till 1st crewed flight. Would that be acceptable for Commercial Crew? No. Senators would have a fit. But for Orion? Oh well.

      • Andrew Swallow

        I had assumed that Commercial Crew was getting the upper stage of the Atlas V (Centaur) human rated.

        • Henry Vanderbilt

          I believe it was the Delta 4 cryo upper stage they were talking about using for the first SLS/Orion launch. Different design from A5′s.

          That said, I don’t try too hard to follow the paper-rocket gyrations as the SLS gang tries to get to 130 tons lift from here. Wait a year, it’ll all change again.

  • reader

    Yep, lets just do that and keep cutting future space technology development. I mean, space is all just about big rockets and big telescopes right ?

    • Dark Blue Nine

      NASA does desperately need to make new technology investments. But the current Space Technology Program is grossly mismanaged. They need to restructure under new management and show that they can actually follow and carry through on a priority or two before being provided more (nevertheless increased) funding.

      • reader

        Can provide more details in how it is mismanaged ? They put together a bunch of priority roadmaps a few years ago, and were supposed to execute on it ?

        • Dark Blue Nine

          “Can provide more details in how it is mismanaged? They put together a bunch of priority roadmaps a few years ago, and were supposed to execute on it?”

          NASA had the National Research Council put together a space technology decadal report, similar to the ones that drive NASA’s science programs. STP managers have not followed the priorities in that report.

          For example, the top two flight demonstration priorities in the report were industry cryo prop storage and xfer and Stirling cycle RTG. Neither has flown or is even being substantively pursued. Instead, STP managers tried for solar sail and green propellant flight demonstrations, technologies which didn’t even show up in the NRC report (nevertheless were flight priorities). Now both of these mis-prioritized projects are now being sidelined due to managerial incompetence.

          The STP program gets over a half billion dollars a year, and has little to show for it other than small business, NIAC, suborbital, and student grants and a few nanosat-sized PhoneSat demos. Even if they can’t follow priorities, after a half decade and $2-3 billion in the hole, they should have some major space tech demos under their belt. They don’t.

          Time for a changing of the guard and probably a rethink of NASA’s technology organization(s).

          • reader

            Right. So from what i see, there is nothing wrong with the NRC decadal report input and the roadmaps are solid and comprehensive. Apart from the fact that in a field of technology, such roadmaps should probably be updated more often than once in a decade as things simply happen faster.

            The execution of STP side has apparently been botched. The question is, do you throw the baby out with the bathwater. I don’t think reorganizing is a brilliant idea here, i think holding the people in charge accountable would be the first step.
            Why is there no congressional inquiry happening here ? Has anyone asked Bolden about why are the roadmaps not being followed ?

            • common sense

              I think this is a lot more subtle than that. The STP is not a stand-alone program nor should it be. Sure NASA has created impregnable fortresses within its own organization. However there are people trying to develop an overarching vision for the Agency. But how do you develop a technology program when the driver program (ARM, driven by SLS/MPCV) is such a mess? What technology do you develop when most of the budget is being eaten by programs that are bankrupt? Technologies to do what? Congress insistence to develop redundant technologies at multiple billion dollar cost is sinking the whole agency. It is not about reorg unless you are able to reorg from Congress down. It does not matter that you have the best plan if the budget does not reflect the necessities. It is pretty simple to see that if technologies were allocated billions and SLS/MPCV only millions the result would be far different. Take the VSE as a starting point. Define a path forward such as Flexible Path or Spiral Approach. Pay as you go for technologies and specifically do not invest in obsolete redundant technologies.

              Anyway.

              Congress priorities are not the Moon, Mars, L1 or anything. Congress priorities are dictated by the election timeline and to get support from voters.

              The trick is to combine those two priorities and make them work. But “Space” is not important enough to warrant the attention of Congress or the WH. And then there are the tinkerbell personality issues. Those who “believe”…

              It is impossible to manage the un-manageable. Unless…

              Oh well.

              • reader

                If you take a step back and assume for the moment that the NRC technology roadmaps are actually useful documents, and can exist independent of the mess with NASA programs, oversight and management…

                The high priority items in there are actually enabling capabilities. Everyone can debate what color the next soon to be cancelled rocket needs to look like until they are blue in the face, but ASRG for example is a fundamentally enabling technology, period. For everyone, not just NASA.
                Same goes for orbital cryo prop management, laser communications and a laundry list of other items in the roadmaps.

                These benefit existing commercial space applications like telecom and earth observation, defense, future commercial applications AND NASA. This is work that fundamentally puts US of A ahead of everyone else in space.

                So they SHOULD be walled off to a certain degree by the NASA fiefdoms and insanity. Or taken completely out of their hands to a DARPA/NACA lookalike.

              • common sense

                “If you take a step back and assume for the moment that the NRC technology roadmaps are actually useful documents, and can exist independent of the mess with NASA programs, oversight and management…”

                I am not disputing that but we saw how effective the WH was to get their FY-11 implemented by a Congress that cancelled Constellation to just re-implement it under SLS/MPCV. It does not matter how good those roadmaps are at this stage.

                I think we basically agree but for us to say that technologies are more important than SLS/MPCV and they are does not change the fact that we are absolutely ineffective. So what gives? My answer is the political process. This is where the solution resides for NASA.

                “So they SHOULD be walled off to a certain degree by the NASA fiefdoms and insanity. Or taken completely out of their hands to a DARPA/NACA lookalike.”

                Well. This was my “unless” hint. And in the end, it may just happen but there are forces within and without that would rather have a number of their constituents work mechanically, rather than smartly. Their approach being to just give games and bread to the people…

            • Dark Blue Nine

              “I don’t think reorganizing is a brilliant idea here, i think holding the people in charge accountable would be the first step.”

              Agreed. But to the extent that the sandbox syndrome/attention-deficit disorder continues under new managers, I’d eliminate the Space Technology Mission Directorate, move the higher-TRL development and demonstration funding back to the human and science mission directorates and move the low-TRL design/study/student/suborbital money under the Chief Technologist.

              “Why is there no congressional inquiry happening here ?”

              Because there are no significant congressional rice bowls that risk being overturned due to the poor management. In fact, as long as the bad management continues, it gives the interested members of Congress the cover they need to repeatedly reduce and redirect the Administration’s budget request for the space technology program to MPCV/SLS.

              “Has anyone asked Bolden about why are the roadmaps not being followed ?”

              Bolden should be asking internally, but he doesn’t seem to have the attention or brainpower necessary to realize that just throwing money at technology isn’t sufficient to move the ball down the field.

              • reader

                “I’d eliminate the Space Technology Mission Directorate, move the higher-TRL development and demonstration funding back to the human and science mission directorates”

                Holding these forever hostage to AD&D and mismanagement that goes on in these respective asylums. Both human and science mission directorates always have every incentive to actually AVOID doing technology development.
                And this approach asserts that space technology development is only useful for NASA and/or should be solely driven by NASA priorities.

              • common sense

                “And this approach asserts that space technology development is only useful for NASA and/or should be solely driven by NASA priorities.”

                This is key, or rather the opposite (technologies are useful outside NASA), to a much bigger reform at NASA.

                But you have to understand the conflict within the private industry as well, especially the old guard. NASA is your customer and going against the NASA old guard even if it makes sense long term may just jeopardize your short term revenue.

                That is why there is the so-called NewSpace and that is growing, growing even faster than many, me included, might have anticipated even 10 years ago. Hoped yes. Anticipated no.

              • Dark Blue Nine

                “Holding these forever hostage to AD&D and mismanagement that goes on in these respective asylums.”

                Compared to the juvenile sandboxing and attention-deficit disorder on display in the Space Technology Mission Directorate, the Science Mission Directorate and (to a lesser extent) the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate are positively focused, sane, and adult.

                HEOMD has its priorities totally backwards, building an HLV and capsule that industry could supply at a fraction of the cost instead of developing the actual deep-space human exploration systems that industry has no experience with. But at least HEOMD follows priorities. STMD is told to fund an industry cryo prop demo and fly a Stirling RTG, and they go after solar sail and green propellant missions instead. Utterly dysfunctional in terms of priorities.

                SMD may never get JWST off the ground. But they do get substantive and often complex science missions launched. After a couple or few billion dollars down the drain, STMD can only claim a few PhoneSat missions that only took up tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars of their budget.

                NASA is one big asylum, but some wings are better than others if you actually want to get a system or capability to the finish line.

                “Both human and science mission directorates always have every incentive to actually AVOID doing technology development.”

                That’s hyperbole. SMD and HEOMD don’t have every incentive to never improve their capabilities. But when push comes to shove and a mission overrun or budget reduction comes down the pike, it’s always going to be less painful for them to cut technology than to derail a mission in development or operation.

                The flipside is that SMD and HEOMD practically never sandbox and pursue low-priority technologies with no customer. Although they often fail to fund their high-priority technologies with clear customers, it’s a good thing that the waste on technology spending in SMD and HEOMD is so low.

                “And this approach asserts that space technology development is only useful for NASA and/or should be solely driven by NASA priorities.”

                No doubt, but I don’t see anyone in the defense or commercial space sectors clamoring for more of what STMD has been putting out (or not) over the past half-decade.

          • reader

            To add, this kinda happens quietly and unnoticed, as opposed to planetary science or any other science roadmaps. Science has an active lobby, there are organizations like Planetary Society that will and are making a big stink, and every PhD will fight for their own food scraps too, when decadal surveys are not being followed.

            There is no effective “technology lobby”, however. A bunch of SBIR grant companies do not come together and make statements, when STP management randomizes their funds allocations.

            • Dark Blue Nine

              “There is no effective ‘technology lobby’, however.”

              Agreed. But there is still an opportunity for companies to come forward and lobby for those elements of the NRC decadal plan that apply to them. The cryo demo recommendation was tailor made for ULA to step forward on with its CryOTE demo. Unfortunately, the timing is bad relative to SLS, which ULA’s parent don’t want challenged by CryOTE or any other tech demo.

              “A bunch of SBIR grant companies do not come together and make statements”

              The SBIR paper mills have no reason to make a statement. They’re happy producing PowerPoints and component-level technologies. Why do something hard like produce a system-level capability or prove your capability in space when your current grant doesn’t require it and you can win new grants next year?

          • NASA/Administration propose program budgets but congress determines funding and can also add new requirements that NASA may not desire, hence SLS/Orion.

        • Fred Willett

          After Obama came out with his “Flexible Path” plan and before the congress killed it by creating the SLS Franken-rocket NASA did a lot of work on what new technologies they should develop and assigning different centers to work on each technology. They even published a “road map” of what would be developed when.
          Look it up.
          Just two examples. 1/ Right about now complete development of closed loop ECLSS. Which would have enabled NASA to drop ARM and actually go to an asteroid.
          2/ in 2015 complete development of 1st fuel depot.
          There were also plans for heaps of other useful stuff which would have allowed for like, you know, actual exploration.

    • reader

      I put this question here exactly to provoke this discussion

      Does any of the commenters here remember the last time when any of these organizations below spoke out about the Space Technology issues.

      Commercial Spaceflight Federation
      California Space Authority
      SEDS
      National Space Society
      Mars Society
      American Astronautical Society
      Space Frontier Foundation
      …. and, dare i add
      Coalition for Space Exploration

      • common sense

        No and I think most of them are only concerned with policy, or their wish list anyway.

        How many people in general and in any one of those orgs have enough of a grasp of technologies/science/policy/economy to provide adequate answers?

        • reader

          Also, lack of serious space journalism on this.

          • common sense

            Yeah but journalists answer to their readership and most readers are not interested in that area. I think there is good space journalism but it is not in the mainstream media.

            Back to square 1 so who cares about space again?

            • reader

              About 30 000 were watching the SpaceX live webcast yesterday. ISEE-3 got funded in no time.
              People care about space – especially if explained in understandable language.

              • common sense

                30,000 people is a very, very small number. It is a drop in the ocean of the tax-paying public.

                No people don’t “care” about space. Some like it as a nice-to-have but that’s about it.

                If they cared, they would be informed. If they were informed NASA would have a decent budget and be less subject to political non-sense. People would put their representatives’ feet to the fire. They don’t.

                People don’t “care”.

      • Planetary Society sent a letter to the House Space Subcommittee which was added to the record but the chair refused to read it aloud or even discuss with Bolden it at the end of the hearing.

  • John Malkin

    Orion will not go anywhere interesting without supporting hardware. It’s not large enough for anything other than relatively short trips. Space technology gives Orion the ability to go places with things like an actual BEO exploration vehicle, advance EDL systems, radiation shields, long duration food and many other needed technologies. It makes you wonder if Congress really wants NASA to succeed.

    Note the US doesn’t just send US astronauts to ISS but also our International partners in mostly bartered agreements. We get to use their facilities at little to no cost.
    Having a single provider leaves us open for dependencies on Russia if the one of the providers gets grounded for an extended amount of time, similar to the Shuttle program. We are knocking at Russia’s door for services. I don’t think Bigelow or other companies would prefer to have Russia as a backup.

    Personally, I think Elon Musk will go to Mars with or without NASA. It may take him longer but he has the most important resource, money. Also he has a space company and the will. Will is the thing our Congress lacks. Note Dragon v2 will be unveiled at 7pm PT today (spacex.com).

    • John Malkin

      Orbital’s engine test failure shows the need for an American backup. Note that Orion/SLS is a single point of failure in the BEO exploration roadmap. Isn’t NASA built on redundancy?

      • Funding 2 EELV vehicles was one of the most extravagant wastes ever perpetrated by the US government, only exceeded by NASA’s pursuit of 3 commercial crew projects under tight budgets. How about building 1 reliable new rocket, SLS?

        • Coastal Ron

          amightywind said:

          Funding 2 EELV vehicles was one of the most extravagant wastes ever perpetrated by the US government…

          If the government hadn’t given in to Boeing and Lockheed Martin and allowed them to create a USG-focused monopoly they might have actually pursued a commercial market strategy like they were supposed to. ULA is more a cautionary tale about monopolies than redundant transportation systems though.

          only exceeded by NASA’s pursuit of 3 commercial crew projects under tight budgets.”

          This gets back to a philosophical difference – if all that is needed or desired is a system that moves government employees to the ISS in LEO, then maybe all we’d need to fund is one service provider.

          But this is about creating a self-supporting transportation industry that will be able to grow our presence out into space, for both the government and private sector.

          How about building 1 reliable new rocket, SLS?

          Such a waste of money.

          Can you point to any funded missions or payloads that require a government-run HLV?

          I’ll take your inability to provide any examples as acknowledgement that you agree the SLS program should be cancelled as soon as possible… ;-)

        • Is there just one kind of airplane?

          Would you have us believe that SLS is a ‘one size fits all’ system? The last time we tried that, with a slightly different set of initials (STS) it barely pleased anybody, and still left us with no Plan B (or is that Soyuz? You see how well that’s working out, too), when it had catastrophically serious problems.

        • Frankly the Senate Launch System is too expensive and Orion MPCV is still 2800 lbs overweight with first crewed mission in the 2019+ time-frame.
          What are you going to lift BEO with that big rocket besides a capsule. No lander funding, no payload funding at all.
          When Congress does rocket science you end up with a pork barrel on a powder keg with a fat pig on top.

        • Vladislaw

          The big government Stalinist approach, that windasovich has always supported, wants to blow 16.5 BILLION on just the disposable capsule.. THAT according to windy is not a waste. A couple billion for THREE capsules/craft .. for windy .. that is a waste…

          Windy .. when are you going to take your comedy routine on the road? I want to see the full stand up comedy show.

  • Henry Vanderbilt

    So, it doesn’t look like any push to accelerate Commercial Crew IOC will come from the House appropriators. There’s still the Senate (Mikulski said a month ago she hoped to have a Senate CJS appropriation out of committee by the end of June) and then the conference, if anyone in the Congress does at some point decide to pay attention to an actual pressing NASA national/international policy issue.

    It most likely will end up being a matter of what the White House and NASA HQ are willing and able to do within whatever CCrew funding and program constraints Congress passes. It’d be good to see some effective White House outreach to Congress on this to build more of a consensus, but based on the record and the overall climate, that’s not something to hold your breath waiting for.

  • josh

    Commercial crew is the only nasa hsf program that is worth supporting. SLS and Orion should be canceled and the money redirected to something more worthwhile, like basically anything else. I would even be okay with nasa’s budget being cut by 3 billion if that’s what it takes to eliminate this destructive pork project.

  • Henry Vanderbilt

    Well, the only floor amendment passed about NASA I could find was Marcy Kaptur moving $7m from Space Operations to Space Technology for some Glenn project. Nothing whatsoever in the amendments or the bill specifically about Commercial Crew.

    One amusing note: In addition to specifying $1.915 billion for SLS, the bill mandates both 130 mt payload and an upper stage developed simultaneously with the core. Good luck on all that…

  • DCSCA

    HSF is an instrument of politics; a means of projecting national policy– it’s political science, not rocket science that fuels it.
    Human spaceflight in this era projects geo-political influence, economic vigor and technical prowess, around the globe for the nation(s) that choose to do it. And it plays out on a stage with high visibility that demands performance with engineering excellence from all the actors. The bounties from which are all reaped by the participating nation(s) on Earth. That’s why governments do it.

    It is space projects of scale that matter. Which is why, in the long run, short-sighted forays by deep-pocketed NewSpace hobbyists do not.

    HSF is, in effect, a loss leader in this era for projecting national power and nurturing a perception of leadership. And in politics, perception is a reality. Which makes a drive to establishing a permanent foothold on Luna, seen around the world by all peoples in their evening skies, all the more imperative for the United States in this century.

    Commercial is welcome to come along for the ride– to supplement and service an exploration/exploitation outpost on Luna, established by governent(s). But commercial will never lead the way in establishing such a facility on their own The largess of the capital requirements involved to establish and sustain such a facility coupled w/t low to no ROI prevents it; the very parameters of the market it is trying to create and service.

    That’s why governments do it and have led the way in this field since its creation back in the days of the third Reich surplanting the German rocket clubs while the struggling efforts of the Guggenheim-financed Goddard went largely ignored. Not to mention the struggles of Korelev in Soviet Russia in the same era which blossomed only due to government backing. Private enterprise has never led the way in this field and never will in this era– particularly with an economic model that is quarterly driven to show profit. It always been a follow along, cashing in where it could.

    Profiteers make for poor rocketeers when it comes to HSF. For half a century after governments have been flying people into and back from LEO as well as voyages to Luna– commercial has failed to even attempt to fly anybody into and back from LEO safely, let alone attempt BEO ops. The risk outweighs the value of the return. And that has not changed. that’s why governments do it.

    Accordingly, the future for HSP rests with government– as the latest player to join the club, the PRC– well knows. And Luna awaits a revisit by fresh generations, embracing ‘the thrill of just beginning’– as Goddard said.

    The rationale for HSF by the United States government in the 21st century was made in the 20th century by President Kennedy. It is as valid today as it was in 1962: “We go into space because whatever mankind must undertake, free men must fully share.”

    • Dick Eagleson

      That’s about as good a summary manifesto of “the future of humans in space is a few government employees sent there at insane expense to impress the employees of other governments” thesis I’ve ever seen. Needless to say, I don’t agree, but it’s hardly my agreement or disagreement that will be dispositive of this issue. The people who really count are the “deep-pocketed NewSpace hobbyists” who see self-sustaining future fortunes to be made in space. Given that these folks would not be deep-pocketed in the first place had they not seen, and successfully exploited, previous Earthside profit-making opportunities, being curtly dismissive of their current efforts strikes me as a wee tad arrogant at this point. (Have you seen Elon Musk’s modest little hobby shop, by the way? It’s hard to miss. It covers a city block or two on Crenshaw Blvd. in Hawthorne, CA. There’s a Lowe’s Superstore across the street that looks dinky by comparison.)

      From where I sit, the future of government-run “space exploration” consists entirely of pork, patronage and PowerPoint. A few Congressmen with no real interest in space will do their best to keep aging armies of functionaries ensconced in a few big government centers comfortably employed demonstrating that they are no longer capable even of duplicating the achievements of their illustrious predecessors, now all long-retired or deceased. So long as government funds are expended in sufficient quantity to keep these space mausoleums staffed, their congressional symbionts will be happy. Actual accomplishments being decidedly optional, there won’t be any to speak of. One unbuilt rocket to nowhere will simply succeed the last until the public catches on to the scam and/or the current congressional beneficiaries of this farce die or retire.

      A few more years will tell the tale. I don’t think it will be yours.

      • DCSCA

        The people who really count are the “deep-pocketed NewSpace hobbyists”

        Except they don’t. As goddard leared from Goggenheim and the German rocket clubs discovered in the ’30s. and it was government, not private industry, which responded to the Sputnik– another government project of scale. No sire, in the long run, there is simply zero evidence the private enterprise will ever lead the way in this field. Except, perhaps, in the movies– see ‘Destination Moon’ for details. Great business plan and the profit motive was uranium on Luna. Fiction, of course. In the real world, it is governments that use HSF as leverage in projecting geo-political power. The most recent case in point- Putin’s ‘threat’ to deny re-upping contracting rides to US astrronauts up to the ISS. A projection of geo-politics that ha zero to do with space exploration.

        • Dick Eagleson

          Transfixed by events and a few impecunious pioneers of 80+ years ago, you ignore the vast difference in scale of private space resources now deployed. Blue Origin may prove, in the end, to be a “hobby shop” but SpaceX, Stratolaunch and Bigelow Aerospace are significant undertakings by very serious people. If Elon Musk is a modern Goddard, he enjoys the significant advantage of also being his own Guggenheim. Paul Allen, Robert Bigelow and Jeff Bezos are similarly situated.

          The government space establishments and the old-line contractors which serve them have had most of their cozy arrangements upended by Russia’s renewed aggressions. They will be flailing for the foreseeable future to regain footing. Some will fail. NASA will continue to waste much and produce little until privately developed vehicles render their expensive and inferior efforts redundant. The next five years are going to see more change in the space sector than any comparable span since the Apollo era. It will be driven almost entirely by commercial efforts.

          The Russians will posture and thump their chests but their population continues to shrink and their space industry has significant problems that will not very likely be solved by the re-nationalization currently under way there. Nor will Russia likely be able to spend nearly as much on space as they have recently indicated an intent to do. Their space-related exports will follow their weapons exports into decline leaving them essentially a petro-state. The future does not seem friendly to states whose finances depend upon ever-increasing fossil fuel energy prices. Fracking, in the U.S. and elsewhere, will limit Russia’s energy export earnings.

          The Chinese seem serious about space, but do not exhibit any notable urgency about their efforts there. They will, without doubt, continue on their planned path, but, like our own purely governmental efforts, may well be passed by commercial ventures of several kinds in the next decade or two.

      • DCSCA

        (Have you seen Elon Musk’s modest little hobby shop, by the way?

        Having lived in PDRey for a decade, trhe old 747 assembly build was put to use y Musk. but it’s still a quaint hobby shop. He has flown nobody. and needs government to subsidize his efforts. Launching satellites is a laudable effort and he lucked out on his third attempt. but humansd have been lofting satelites for half a century. Following in the wake of government efforts simply reaffirms the point- commercial never leads, but is a follow aling, cashing in whwn it can. But it a short term effort. Without the ISS, its dead end. Isn’t it. For as we know, LEO is a ticket to no place, going in circles, no where, fast.

        • Dick Eagleson

          He has flown nobody.

          And that will be true – right up until he does. In a year or two at the most your song’s gonna need some new lyrics.

          and needs government to subsidize his efforts.

          The government pays SpaceX for development and launch services rendered. That ain’t subsidy. Under cost-plus contracting, the old-line aerospace majors get paid handsomely for what often turns out to be no service and no product. Technically, that ain’t subsidy either, but it’s close enough you sure can see it from there.

          SpaceX seems to have comfortably passed the point where government revenues are critical to its financial success, but the government will constitute a nice incremental market, even if probably a fairly static or even shrinking one, as time goes by. Even if NASA should succumb to old-school procurement politics and drop SpaceX from CCtCap, it would likely only accelerate the entry into service of Dragon V2 and Falcon Heavy. When it’s time to railroad, you railroad.

          Launching satellites is a laudable effort and he lucked out on his third attempt.

          By my count he failed on his third attempt but “lucked out” on his fourth and every attempt thereafter. After awhile, it begins to look like luck has less to do with it than skill.

          but humansd have been lofting satelites for half a century.

          True. And in the next half-century, most of those lofted will probably be courtesy of Mr. Musk.

          Following in the wake of government efforts simply reaffirms the point- commercial never leads, but is a follow aling, cashing in whwn it can.

          Navy seaplanes were the first multi-engine craft to cross the Atlantic. Thereafter, though it took getting through a couple more decades and an intervening World War, it was commercial airlines that made a mass-market business of doing so. The commercial efforts quickly dwarfed their pioneering government predecessors. We’re on the cusp of that tip-over in space launch and human space travel.

          If the U.S. government is able to actually continue space exploration, more power to them. But if they are, as I fear, terminally mired in a dysfunctional system of space-irrelevant pork-based looting by dinosaur legacy contractors and politicians and literally insane procurement regulations, then even exploration will be taken over by those who will shortly have the goods to pursue it and no institutional obstacles to doing so.

          But it a short term effort. Without the ISS, its dead end. Isn’t it. For as we know, LEO is a ticket to no place, going in circles, no where, fast.

          As has often been pointed out, it’s not necessarily the things you know, but the things you know that ain’t so that mess you up. I assume you think of ISS as the indispensable rationale for LEO crew launch services because it’s marinated in that government holy water you seem to worship. You think it’s a short-term deal because ISS has little likelihood of still being on orbit in a decade’s time and may come down much sooner.

          The fate of ISS is increasingly unconnected with the future of LEO space infrastructure. In three or four years, I expect Bigelow to have as much or more habitation volume in LEO as does the ISS. A few more years down the road and he’ll likely have multiples of ISS’s habitation volume and as much or more mass on orbit as ISS – not necessarily all in one chunk. There might even be Bigelow habitats elsewhere in cislunar space by the early 2020′s. Reusable F9′s and Dragon V2′s will be busy. So might Dreamchasers, though that is a longer shot. There’s plenty to do in LEO. It’s a ticket to every place.

          • DCSCA

            “The government pays SpaceX for development and launch services rendered. That ain’t subsidy.”

            Except it is. Just as it pay farmers to grow wheat- or not.
            No ISS, no Space X. Nothing is stopping Musk from launching out on his own– except the very parameters of the marketplace he wants to service. The private enterprisewed resources you embrace are insignificant in the grand scheme of things. They fly nobody. Because they can’t– the risk outweights the value of the return. That’s why governments do it. History ha shown commercial never steps up to carry the load but attempts to socialize the risk on the many to benefit a few. Commercial space has no future because there zimply no reasonsble market for it. So capital is invested in oil wells, not balloon hotels. You fly nobody and claim parody through false equivalency. Space X launches satellites. That’s old hat. Even North Korea and Iran are doing that.

            • Dick Eagleson

              The government paid SpaceX to develop Dragon and – in part – Falcon 9. SpaceX delivered. Now that these systems are operational, the government pays SpaceX to fly missions using them. Mission also accomplished. The government is not paying SpaceX to not fly missions nor is it slipping them money on the side to support below-market pricing. No subsidy.

              In contrast, the government pays ULA a billion a year for “services” that seem pretty ill-defined, but definitely don’t include actually launching anything. With the Atlas V now engineless, their symbionts in Congress will no doubt try to increase the fees-for-no-services fraction of ULA’s income. I don’t think they will be long-term successful.

              The same largely applies on the NASA side. SLS gets, by NASA standards, huge appropriations, but will, in the end, most probably never fly. January 2017, when a new administration takes office, looks increasingly like the upper limit on life-support for NASA’s BFR (Big Fake Rocket). As more and more people become aware that trims to the SLS program already made to stay within the current and realistically projectable budgets (advanced boosters, J2X-based upper stage) will limit it to never boosting more than 93 tonnes to LEO, an operational, and way cheaper, 53-tonne-capable Falcon Heavy will be an unanswerable alternative by the time the next president, whomever it may be, takes the oath of office.

              Beyond ISS, I see Bigelow-based habitats in LEO and elsewhere constituting a growing market for crew and cargo launch services. You don’t. Fair enough. I’m content to await events to prove my case. I have to be, as there isn’t any other way to get that particular job done. By the time ISS reaches the end of its currently extant support in 2020, the intervening six years should be more than sufficient to decide which of our visions proves out. One of us will be a seer and the other a sap. I eagerly await your incremental schooling as events unfold.

  • DCSCA

    From where I sit, the future of government-run “space exploration” consists entirely of pork, patronage and PowerPoint.

    You sit in America. Wher spacefight has always been a reactive policy. It was Hitler’s Gemnany that pushed rocket development and Soviet Russai that led the way into space– and has not waidered from that commitment through some incredible upheavals. . The PRC is coming along fast as well. HSF isn’t restricted to Americans. and as Tom Stafford once lamented, it may very well just fade away.

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