Congress, Lobbying, NASA

The Planetary Society offers a stronger endorsement of ARM

Last year, The Planetary Society announced a “conditional” endorsement of NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (AMR), calling it an “intriguing idea” but arguing that it needed to know more details about the concept. “The Planetary Society is concerned that the detailed goals, costs, and implementation plan for this asteroid mission are not yet well defined,” it said in its May 2013 statement, also emphasizing the need for stable long-term funding for the program.

Earlier this week, the organization revisited that conditional endorsement and removed some, but not all, of those conditions. “In the past year, NASA has made commendable progress in developing its plans” for the ARM, the society said in its revised endorsement.

However, it added it’s still seeking “a rigorous and independent cost and technical evaluation” of ARM. “We worry that the ARM effort will prove a great deal more expensive than is currently being suggested,” the organization stated. “As has happened too often in the past, cost overruns lead to budgeting difficulties for years into the future.”

The Planetary Society is not alone is seeking additional details about the ARM. The NASA authorization bill passed by the House Science Committee last month also calls for a report on the ARM, calling for detailed cost and technical assessments of the proposed mission. The House bill does not explicitly require that report to be an independent assessment, though.

72 comments to The Planetary Society offers a stronger endorsement of ARM

  • reader

    Funny how they suddenly changed the tune on that. What prompted the change ?

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “‘In the past year, NASA has made commendable progress in developing its plans’ for the ARM”

    Progress? There’s nothing to point to. NASA has made no demonstrable or substantive progress on ARM, commendable or otherwise.

    • John Malkin

      It’s not a funded program so it can’t make progress. They are only able to do RFI and related activities. Once congress decides we want to do it and funds it than NASA can start negotiating contracts in earnest and spending other resources.

      I wish ARM took humans to the near earth Asteroid instead of toeing one to near earth but expect that’s the only “affordable” use of SLS.

      • reader

        It’s not a funded program so it can’t make progress

        Which makes Planetary Societys sudden reversal on this even more baffling.

      • Dark Blue Nine

        “It’s not a funded program so it can’t make progress. They are only able to do RFI and related activities.”

        NASA has had enough leeway to redirect low millions of program funding to ARM, enough to have augmented a NEO search, performed a substantive industry mission study, and/or started some nanosat-sized probe in conjunction with industry. Although limited, it’s not clear that these millions are doing anything more than dissipating into the bureaucratic ether.

        And that says nothing of the internal personnel resources that NASA could throw at this from salaries and overhead. GRC could get a heckuva head start on the high-power electric propulsion system and LaRC on the capture mechanism just by throwing underutilized FTEs at these long-lead subsystems/technologies. But I guess that’s too hard.

        I’m no fan of ARM, but NASA is making the defeat of yet another President’s human space exploration goal all too easy.

        • Andrew Swallow

          GRC could get a heckuva head start on the high-power electric propulsion system and LaRC on the capture mechanism just by throwing underutilized FTEs at these long-lead subsystems/technologies.

          Next year there will be electric propulsion for cubesats. Building two cubesats that play catch in LEO is possible allowing the debugging of systems for ARM.

  • John Malkin

    At ISDC last weekend there was an underlying theme of unity between the groups to focus on a single vision and common goals. As a matter of fact, Robert Zubrin seems to be warming to the concept, reluctantly. Todd May will be addressing the Mars Society Convention in August.

    I think it might be a “keep hope alive” stand, hoping NASA will do something of meaning for the groups.

  • Hiram

    Oh c’mon. Lou Friedman, a Founder and onetime CEO of the Planetary Society, was up to his ears in the KISS preview of ARM. The society needs to kiss his feet and at least defer to his (onetime) society leadership.

    Also, the Planetary Society is about ROCKS. Firm rocks, soft rocks, smelly and sweet rocks. Space exploration to them is about rocks. Moon is hard, Mars is harder, so we need to get a rock that has no gravity well and that is nearby enough that we can hug. What’s not to like in ARM? Oh, the fact that the human spaceflight part of it won’t actually accomplish anything useful that couldn’t be accomplished more easily some other way? Hey, no sweat.

    Yes, the Planetary Society won’t be satisfied until NASA is between a rock and a hard place, and ARM does precisely that! In fact, clinging to that captured asteroid, a human will be able to look out and see a harder place!

    I’m glad they’re seeking a rigorous and independent cost and technical evaluation” of ARM. What say they seek a rigorous and independent evaluation of the rationale for ARM? I mean, besides giving SLS and Orion something to do.

    • The Planetary Society was NOT about the Moon. They have always been opposed to any & all further manned operations there! They were the first space-interest organization to actually support Obama’s hideously awful demolition of the Constellation project. They actually hailed its demolishment!

      After those first dark, gloomy days, in 2010, I personally had NO further use NOR respect for the Planetary Society! How any space travel buff can get so ecstatic about an astronaut visit to an asteroid boulder, yet at the same time be “bored” by an astronaut return to the Moon, profoundly dumbfounds me!! Even the Mars Society——-NO friend to new Lunar exploration——–found plenty NOT to like, in Obama’s space policy! The Zubrinites probably realized that Obamaspace would strand NASA in LEO for another 15 to 20 years, with paltrily little to show for progress, even after we were done researching more about all the bad things that happen to human physiology under zero-G & high-cosmic ray exposure, come 2030.

      The Moon is a silver-dynamic destination, which eventually will be proven to have tremendous long-term value, in the quest for building a true space-faring civilization! With the Planetary Society continuing to actively oppose NASA ever taking up this great challenge, I CAN’T ever see myself having a common ground with them, as an organization. This particular space-interest group is totally hopeless!!

      • Dave Hall

        @Chris Castro

        You said: “This particular space-interest group is totally hopeless!!”

        Your passion for the Moon is unquestionable. I reckon the bloke you need to be trying to convince is Elon Musk. I challenge you to write one post here addressed to him in a open letter format right here on this forum/space-interest group. I’ve been a reader for years and your comments indicate you should enjoy answering my request.

      • Hiram

        “The Planetary Society was NOT about the Moon.”

        That’s at least partly true. Certainly the Planetary Society jumped on the “kill Constellation” bandwagon after Planetary Society onetime Board member Norm Augustine pronounced it unimplementable. Of course, almost everyone did. Now, the Society sees near asteroids as a ROCKY OPPORTUNITY (remember, it’s all about rocks!) to develop expertise to go to Mars. I think the Planetary Society isn’t opposed to going back to the Moon, but just that at this time, to them, it makes little sense if the ultimate destination is Mars.

        No question that if you’re going to send busloads of colonists to Mars, developing the Moon is a good idea. But that’s not what this is about.

        I admire the efforts of the Planetary Society, but they really do have to get those rocks out of their head.

    • E.P. Grondine

      Well, Hiram,

      What say we conduct an rigorous, independent cost benefit study on the value to society of flying a few men to Mars?

      • Hiram

        “What say we conduct an rigorous, independent cost benefit study on the value to society of flying a few men to Mars?”

        Marvelous idea! The “Human Exploration Roadmap”, mandated by the current NASA Auth bill now in Congress, would define the “capabilities and technologies that contribute to extending human presence to the surface of Mars and the sets and sequences of missions necessary to demonstrate the proficiency of these capabilities and technologies.” But that doesn’t quite do it, does it?

        Of course “It is the policy of the United States that the goal of the Administration’s exploration program shall be to successfully conduct a crewed mission to the surface of Mars to begin human exploration of that planet” sez the bill. Why? Oh, you’re supposed to figure that out for yourself.

        I guess it’s something about “exploration” (blather blather), “inspiration” (blather blather) and “national pride” (more blather). Maybe it’s about colonization and settlement? Or about beating the Chinese? Who knows? Congress will confidently say “ALL OF THE ABOVE!” in sotto voce. But cost benefit of sending a few people to Mars doesn’t cleanly come from those things, unless you flap your arms pretty hard. Lots of flapping going on.

  • Fred Willett

    The sad fact is ECLSS for Orion has been delayed. Without it Orion is not going anywhere.

    • Neil

      That’s not the only issue with Orion:
      1. Delayed ECLSS
      2. Overweight, still and no plan to fix it.
      3. Heatshield cracks – no root cause or fix characterised
      4. No reuse
      5. No technology transfer from ESA yet for SM.
      6. No upper stage for its launch vehicle
      7. No funded mission for its launch vehicle
      8. No whole of life cost estimate for its launch vehicle

      And this is by no means an exhaustive list.
      Cheers.

      • Hiram

        I think the main issue for Orion is that we really don’t have a clue what it’s for. ARM is a desperate yet feeble attempt to create rationale for it out of whole cloth.

        • Neil

          Yes, I left that one off deliberately to see if anyone would pick it. Gold star for you H.
          Anyway, it’s all pointless. SpaceX has just unveiled the 1st generation of their crew vehicles with advances that make Orion look exactly what it is, a replica of a bygone era.
          Cheers

          • Neil wrote:

            SpaceX has just unveiled the 1st generation of their crew vehicles with advances that make Orion look exactly what it is, a replica of a bygone era.

            You said it.

            Dragon V2 is 50 years ahead of Soyuz, 30 years ahead of Orion, and 20 years ahead for CST-100.

            Gasp. Just … gasp.

            • Robert G. Oler

              It is truly an amazing vehicle…you can see room for growth in both the capsule and the trunk…

              Boeing’s fortunes in the competition just sank RGO

            • Michael Kent

              In what way is it more advanced than the CST-100, let alone 20 years ahead?

              • common sense

                I don’t know if you can put numbers as in years but if their abort/retro-propulsion system work they are pretty much ahead of… well… anything. For years to come.

              • Robert G. Oler

                first if the landing/abort system works as advertised, meaning they can land with either chutes or rockets then that is one of the first vehicles in history that can suffer a failure in that mode…in addition it is claimed that there is two engine land capability so that is another back up

                I doubt Boeing’s can land on just the airbags, it might survive a failure of the bags but I bet the vehicle is in pretty tough shape after that.

                without the chutes I suspect it is “crushed bug” time

                this issue alone will save a bit to a lot of money…if they can demonstrate recoveries at launch sites…Boeing will never bring a CST back to its launch site unless the thing is a Abort or they move the launch site.

                Vertical rocket landing is a very very big deal

                We will see about the rest of it, the comments I would make about things like the FBW are ones I want to hold off on until I make sure what I have read is correct.

                The windows are another thing (if they last) RGO

          • We were all led to believe that SpaceX just needed to throw a few seats into their Dragon spacecraft and they’d be good to go. Apparently not. I get a kick watching Musk fanbois drool over his latest sideshow. It looks small. I don’t like its lines.

            • common sense

              You are wrong.

              The original Dragon would carry astronauts without any problem.

              This new one incorporates an abort system to answer a NASA requirement, which Shuttle did not have, could not have. The reason they did that is that Elon wants to i) reuse and ii) land on Mars. So they have an abort system that can serve as a landing retro-propulsion system and conversely. Of course now we have to see if the abort/srp system works. And that you can question for sure.

              Now and then, are you opposed to improving an existing vehicle too? I wonder, do you have a cell phone? Because after all a telephone with rotary dial works pretty well. Right?

            • John Malkin

              Actually what he said was that a person would have been fairly comfortable, he didn’t say it met NASA requirements for commercial crew. Well, NASA posted several pictures of commercial crew vehicles, only Dragon was actual hardware, the rest were actual slides. So…

              Your comments remind me of an old man in a park. I imagine Orion will be sitting on display somewhere next to a bench while Dragon is on the Moon or Mars. Mr. Musk has said that SuperDraco engines could be used on either of those bodies. Can Orion do that? Also note that SuperDraco engines have past certification. so again not slides.

              • common sense

                Dragon could have carried people whatever anyone says or said. Dragon was designed for people from the start. It was used for CRS missions in its cargo variant.

                As for the SuperDRACO this is not clear just yet that the abort/landing system will work as advertised. And Elon wants to use them for Earth EDL as well which is even less clear it can do. I don’t know that you can even accurately simulate such an atmospheric entry to predict what happens. It is a complicated/complex problem. FWIW.

              • Neil

                And the SD is a 3D printed engine.

              • RockyMtnSpace

                CS – “I don’t know that you can even accurately simulate such an atmospheric entry to predict what happens. It is a complicated/complex problem.”

                Real aerospace engineers can. Quite accurately. But don’t let a few dozen “ifs” and three required minor miracles dampen your enthusiasm.

              • common sense

                “Real aerospace engineers can. Quite accurately.”

                Really? Using what tools? Please send link if possible. Unless of course the “real aerospace engineers” use some proprietary tools including accurate chemically reacting flow physics code that no one knows about.

                I like the “accurately” as well. Cool. Must be so advanced in the Rockies. How’s Orion going?

            • Hiram

              “I don’t like its lines.”

              That’s a devastating assessment. How will SpaceX recover? Maybe they’ll call in some artistic support? Perhaps retrofit some tailfins and a racing stripe? I get a kick watching SLS and Orion fanbois drool over what is really a well funded delusion, and choke on reality. It hurts, doesn’t it?

              • Dick Eagleson

                Hey, Dragon V2 has tailfins!

              • Hiram

                “Hey, Dragon V2 has tailfins!”

                Oops yes, it kinda does. Elon has such style, ya know? But I don’t think they have embedded backup lights on Dragon. C’mon, we’re talking DeSoto 1959, if you like them rounded, or a Caddie Eldorado. Like SLS and Orion (which don’t have fins), they make the owner think they’re ready for flight, even though no real flight is likely to happen.

                Interestingly, it has been pointed out that automobile tailfins started to wane in 1960, which was about the time that the full impact of Sputnik descended on the U.S., and were virtually gone by the time of Freedom 7. So much for “lines”.

              • Dick Eagleson

                Peak year for tailfins was probably ’59 or ’60, but Friendship 7 was in ’61 and there were definitely still tailfins around. Ford and Chevy dumped them in ’61 (if you don’t count teensy vestigial fins on the T-Bird and Lincoln) but Caddy was still going strong. Hell, Caddy was still putting tailfins on their cars when the Mercury program ended in ’63!

                As to lines, the Dragon V2 is very gumdroppy, kind of like that peroxide-powered suborbital thingy Blue Origin was flying a few years ago. I like gumdroppy. Elon and Co. also figured out that the widest point of the fins should be furthest back on the vehicle. That newer Blue Origin thingy, to cite a contrasting vehicle, looks more like a medicine capsule than a space capsule and the fins on the bottom look upside down. Not cool. Dragon V2, with trunk and fins attached, has a very fat-bullet-with-fins, Men Into Space aesthetic to it. I like.

              • Robert G. Oler

                LOL RGO

            • E.P. Grondine

              Hi AW -

              Go after exhaust impingement on the heat shield during landing, and the ability of the control panel suspension to stand abort loads…

              I hope you will support me in putting ULA into the fly-back first stage business.

              • Dick Eagleson

                Poor targets. If your launch escape motors are not at the very bottom of the vehicle – as they are not on the Dragon V2 – then their exhausts ought to impinge on part of the thermal protection system (TPS)! That’s a feature not a bug! What else would you like them to impinge upon? The aluminum or composite parts of the hull?

                The four “heat shield sconces” – if I may coin a term for the indented TPS portions that are around and below the engine bells of the Super Dracos – wouldn’t take as much thermal loading during entry phase as the base of the craft. Putting up with hot exhaust for a maximum of maybe 30 seconds, when there is also thick air streaming by tangentially to help cool things, isn’t going to cause untoward wear.

                As for the control panel standing abort loads, the max abort acceleration is about 8G. The panel drops down and is held in tension by its supports. I’m sure there is plenty of margin in said supports to deal with a lot more than 8G even considering vibrational transients and such.

              • E.P. Grondine

                The load I was speaking of is during D2′s normal landing.

                Perhaps I’m just an old fuddy duddy, but you may have noticed that based on 1950′s VTOL, I hve extreme doubts about powered descent.

                Do you young whippersnappers remember 1950′s VTOL?

                Why the less than 2 minute mark was chosen for parachute disconnect is another issue.

                Since you want to bring up launch aborts,
                let’s talk about moving your hand up during 8Gs and vibrations to press some buttons.

                Now perhaps the panel supports can take the abort shock, but I’d want to see it. Rotation and sudden stop – any dampers?

              • pathfinder_01

                Sometimes things that are not possible in one decade are possible in another with technology. The reason why the VTOL failed in the 50ies was because human pilots are too slow to make all the adjustments and changes needed to maintain stability. They needed a system that was passively stable which those VTOL were not. With fly by wire it is possible for things that are not passively stable to fly. The shuttle for instance would not be flyable without it’s computers. Likewise many aircraft today. Heck even cars today have fly by wire technology(in that the steering wheel is no longer mechanically connected to the wheels of the car saving an bit of energy that would have gone into the steering pump.).

                Aborts would be automated. Sure the crew could initiate it, but so could the computer systems based on information from the rocket.For instance Challenger’s computer’s knew there was something very wrong and were attempting to shutdown the main engines due to an sudden drop in fuel pressure. If there was an abort system both the rocket(which knew something was not right) and crew(who lived through the break up) could have started it(assuming the system wasn’t damaged in the break up). We know the crew survived that part because a number of switches were not in their launch position and someone turned on an portable oxygen sensor

                Apollo had both an automatic abort system(if the rocket moves too far out of an certain range it could be triggered) as well an manual system. There really would be no need to keep pressing buttons once it was started. It would be like an ejector seat in that it is designed to operate without active input from the crew.

                As for panel supports both Dragon and CST-100 plan them. It is so that you can move the control panel out of the way in space or at the station. You could build something able to handle those forces if it locks down.

              • E.P. Grondine

                Hi Pathfinder –

                New materials, new manufacturing techniques, new computers, new sensors, new avionics.

                New engineers, too young to remember the old problems and mistakes.

                Whatever automated systems there are, the designers still had key control buttons.
                They are in an awkward place for easy use under abort loads.

                Being able to move and/or stow the control panel is fine. It is the hinges performance under abort loads that bother me right now.

                It is not the computer control for VTOL, it is blowback of exhaust gases and heat.

                While you and I nearly probably know certain different key items, given his behavior on foreign polictics, I do not think that Jeff will allow a technical discussion of either Challenger or Columbia here.

                Apollo and Soyuz are closer to D2.

              • amightywind

                I didn’t take the short landing legs seriously, any more than the faux-landing legs they attached to F9. Of course they make no physical sense. This is is a mockup, a stage show. This is what SpaceX does between flights.

                I hope you will support me in putting ULA into the fly-back first stage business.

                It is a very difficult problem. No one has yet given an accurate accounting of how much extra fuel the first stage would need to carry to pull it off. Then there is the small matter of the hypersonic pitch-over maneuver. No saying it can’t be done. SpaceX’s silly show was not even an attempt.

              • E.P. Grondine

                Hi AW –

                (Spell checker out, so excuse my stroke impairment)

                It looks to me like SpaceX and Orbital/ATK think they will have the launch market all sewn up, but what will emerge from the new Chinese purchases of Russian technologies is likely to leave them both with “significant” competition.

                As China has a significant electronics industry, my goal here is to keep US sat industry healthy.

                I want a ULA booster backup C team in place, and you know both of the above are going to do their best to prevent that.

              • E.P. Grondine

                Hi AW –

                In my view, our problem is recovering from Mike Griffin’s absymal engineeing and ATK’s greed.

                We could have had DIRECT for $3 billion. Instead, at the cost of $8 billion from NASA’s budget, DoD will have a solid fueled launch on demand system.

                After Victoria Nuland’s sponsorhip of the Ukrainian coup, all of Russia is fed up with the US. This has serioussly hurt the US-Russia-EU-Japan ISS, and relations with China as well.

                Further, Russia will never return Crimea to Ukraine. Stalin’s gift of Crimea to them is ended.

                Let us assume ISS ends in 2020.

                The US has used single launch architectures for manned space flight, while neither Russia nor China does. If you take a look at Rogozin’s statements, they may anticipate China’s space plans, with Russia as a partner.

                Given this, in my opinion ARM is still the best course for the US.

                I think that is so regardless of the upcoming China-Russia space agreements, and the final course adopted in China’s next 5 year technology plan.

              • Dick Eagleson

                So Windy has now graduated from merely doubting what SpaceX hasn’t yet done to denying what they have done – twice – namely, getting 1st-stage boosters back from altitude and speed in one piece down to where they could land.

                EPG, meanwhile, ignores Grasshopper in favor of harking back to failed 50′s VTOL experiments to advance his thesis that powered landings are never going to work. He compounds his folly by imagining that ULA and/or a combo of the Russians and Chinese can quickly and easily match SpaceX in the reusability sweepstakes. He further imagines that SpaceX and Orbital are scheming to thwart this. No scheming required. ULA has neither the capability nor the intention of matching SpaceX with actual hardware. Neither do the Russians and Chinese. ULA will resort to politics to try to save itself. I believe they will find they have too few Congressmen on their payroll to manage this trick.

                As for manipulation of controls during abort, as pathfinder noted, aborts will be initiated automatically. The 8G’s only last a few seconds. After that, you’re in zero-G and can push all the buttons you want.

              • E.P. Grondine

                Hi DE –

                Do you rememeber the VTOL effort from McD in the 1980′s? VTOL was used successfully for the Apollo LEM.

                IF SpaceX’s VTOL works, tell me about it then.
                In the meantime, I’d like to see a Plan C engineering group working at ULA on reusable first stages.

                You do not appear familiar with the Russian work on the fly-back Zenit.

                China intends to compete internationally in the sat market. China will attempt to match SpaceX’s launch prices, and will certainly offer competitive sat/launch packages.

                I stand by my earlier comments on D2′s currnet placement of key buttons.

              • E.P. Grondine

                Hi DE –

                I am aware that Musk and his engineers have already suceeded in bringing launch costs down.

                The question now is about the next reduction.

                Do you remember McD’s VTOL effort in the late 1980′s?

                While VTOL was successfully used by the Apollo LEM, that was in 1/6 G, with a very different mass than a first stage.

                IF Musk’s VTOL works over time, well and good.

                But given the size of that IF, I would like to see a Plan C team at ULA in the meantime.

                You do not understand my concerns over the current key button placement in D2.

                I also expect the D2 to have emergency egress ability.

                My guess is that you know nothing of the Russian work on the fly-back version of the Zenit first stage.

                My guess is also that your knowledge of Chinese technical capabilities and policies is non-existent – at least you have not demonstrated it here.

                My last guess is that Musk is likely very well aware that China will be offering sat/launch packages on a very competitive basis.

                If that is “folly” in your view, well then so be it.

              • Dick Eagleson

                Strictly speaking, what SpaceX is doing for both its 1st stages and intends for Dragon V2 and, eventually, its 2nd stages as well, is not VTOL, it’s VL. But SpaceX has a considerable record of actual VTOL operations too – the Grasshopper and F9R Dev1 vehicles both have to take off first in order to then land. Given the considerable track record of both vehicles, I completely fail to see any rational basis for your crepe-hanging skepticism about SpaceX’s ability to propulsively land a comparatively short, lightweight thing like Dragon V2 when they’ve already amply demonstrated they can control much larger and more unwieldy things descending under power to soft landings.

                Regaling us with allusions to things other aerospace companies did or didn’t succeed at doing decades ago while ignoring current evidence to the contrary is just nuts, frankly. But it seems to be a common affliction in these threads. Elsewhere, I’ve been solemnly informed that none of the current private NewSpace companies is significant because Robert Goddard and the German amateur rocket clubs of the 20′s and 30′s failed to birth private spaceships before WW2. Right. How silly of me not to have realized.

                You’d be correct that I know nothing about a flyback Zenit. I could find no information about this whatsoever. Anatoly Zaks’s web site says nothing about any flyback Zenit. Feel free to enlighten me. At least one link would be nice. The only reference I could find to flyback boosters and Zenit was a patent issued to Buzz Aldrin, et al, quite some time ago for a notion called Starbooster that could potentially incorporate a Zenit booster stage. I’m pretty sure this is not what you had in mind.

                The Angara, one version of which is supposed to replace the Zenit for Russian launch ops, is said by Wikipedia to have a flyback booster version called Baikal in the works. Perhaps this is a current version of a notion that was Zenit-centric back in the day? The Angara family of vehicles has, itself, been “in the works” for close to two decades. Who knows, maybe the Russkies will eventually build and fly a reusable first stage. I’m dubious they’ll do it any time soon.

                Perhaps you would also be willing to cough up some specifics as to Chinese “technical capabilities” with which I should be acquainted? Hey, why not toss in a few “policies” while you’re at it. I can’t comment meaningfully on vague generalities. The Chinese, especially the PLA, are often given to big talk in both their internal and external publications. Perhaps, for some inexplicable reason, you elect to believe Chicom braggadocio. I’m an honorary Missourian when it comes to that kind of thing. Meantime, Aviation Week reported three years ago that the Chinese conceded they can’t match SpaceX pricing with current vehicles.

              • E.P. Grondine

                Hi DE –

                I hope this link works for you:

                http://books.google.com/books?id=aI9QhDA4AVwC&pg=PA49&lpg=PA49&dq=flyback+Energia+booster&source=bl&ots=Nl2IkaRgf9&sig=FVZd1ceOu0X0rpGzNhjQmlylbw8&hl=en&sa=X&ei=28eMU9yyMsyZyATz0YH4Cg&ved=0CEcQ6AEwDA#v=onepage&q=flyback%20Energia%20booster&f=false

                I pretty much meant what I said.

                If you find it “nuts”, from my point of view that is your problem and not mine. If RGO or pathfinder were to notice a factual error in any of my statements, I doubt if they would use that kind of language to point it out to me.

                As I did not say what other people said, I refuse to comment on their nonsense.

                No, I do not intend to train you personally in the basics of China’s technology and technology policies here at space politics.

                That said, I am pretty certain that China will focus on a lower launch cost in the round after CZ5, and not on Heavy Lift.
                It is interesting that you noticed earlier Chinese statements about launch costs.

                Until SpaceX’s VTOL launcher technology is proven operationally in regular use, I would like to see a Plan C engineering group working at ULA.

              • Dick Eagleson

                Interesting link Mr. G. The illustration of the proposed flyback Energia strap-on booster version of Zenit looks remarkably like the photo of the mocked-up Angara-based Baikal at the Paris Airshow 13 years ago. The family resemblance being near-perfect, I’m going to call Baikal the Return of Son of Zenit/Energia Flyback Booster.

                Might I point out, however, that this mockup was displayed a full year before Elon Musk even started SpaceX in dinky quarters in El Segundo. In all this intervening time, I have no basis to believe the Russians have advanced this program beyond the mock-up stage. If you know of evidence for metal actually being bent for a prototype Baikal, I’m sure we’d all be intensely interested.

                As to the “nuts” comment. Okay, a little strong, maybe, but I fail utterly to grasp your psychology here. I wasn’t pointing out an error of fact. I’ll freely stipulate that 50′s-era VTOL experiments – jet- and/or rocket-based – with which you are familiar failed to result in operational series-production vehicles. Your error is in giving these antique efforts a dispositive significance they don’t deserve in light of much more recent facts in the air and on the ground – namely the Grasshopper and F9R Dev1 flights – that you still don’t seem to want to acknowledge for some reason. Heck, I could have mentioned Masten and Armadillo’s work on the Lunar Lander Challenge too, but given that SpaceX is the one actually doing the Grasshopper/F9R Dev1 stuff, and also intends to do likewise with Dragon V2, it seemed like gilding the lily to drag in efforts by other firms. To repeat: SpaceX has repeatedly VTOLed two tall, skinny, unwieldy objects, each weighing many tons and each being at least 100 feet tall. If that doesn’t demonstrate the practicality of powered vertical landing for reusable spacecraft components, I have – literally – no idea what to say to you by way of further convincing. Behold – the thing speaks for itself.

                I’m glad you agree with me that the other correspondent’s would-be point about Goddard and the German rocket clubs is nonsense. Nonsense on stilts, I’d say. I brought it up because his argument had the same structure as yours anent VL/VTOL under rocket power – namely, pointing to some decades-old history as supposed proof something can’t happen in the present. Even when it has already happened.

                No, I do not intend to train you personally in the basics of China’s technology and technology policies here at space politics.

                Well, of course, given that it would appear on this forum, it wouldn’t be just me you’d be “training,” but, leaving that aside, and in the absence of any further hints from your direction, all I can do is ask again what you imagine the Chinese to have up their sleeves that is so potentially devastating to SpaceX’s plan for World Conquest and Domination?

                I’m aware the Chinese have a lot of experience with large, storable propellant (hypergolic) boosters. They have also built some pretty good-size solid boosters for their various ballistic missile programs and as strap-ons for the Long March series. They don’t – so far as I know – have much experience with large engines or systems based on full or partially cryogenic propellants that yield superior specific impulse numbers, though it is said the Long March 5 will be a Kero-LOX design. They’ve apparently got a high-energy LOX-LH2 upper stage already in service so that’s certainly a plus. Then there’s their space station program which is already well-established, but modest and hardly proceeding in a pell-mell fashion. Feel free to mention anything I’ve missed here.

                It would be advisable for the Chinese – indeed for anyone who wants any kind of future in the launch services business where SpaceX now marauds – to concentrate on low-cost, i.e., resusability, in new vehicle development. I see no evidence that the Chinese program is pursuing such a goal, however. At least not in what I can straightforwardly suss up with search engines.

                The Wikipedia article on the Long March family of rockets does contain a section on the proposed Long March 9, the 130-tonnes-to-LEO, 50-tonnes-to-TLI, SLS-BLock-2-with-epicanthic-folds heavy lifter the Chinese have publicly revealed they are working on. Given that North Asians are, on average, smarter than white people, it would be nice to think the Chinese will avoid following NASA into punching the heavy-lift tar baby, but perhaps not.

                I do note a certain seeming bandwagon effect going on here. NASA (well, Congress, actually) announces SLS. Then the Chinese announce Long March 9. Now the Russians have chimed in with vague claims about some beyond-Angara heavy-lifter. “If your friends jumped off a cliff, would you jump too?” my mom used to ask. Not sure about friends, but enemies seem so-inclined lately. Maybe we’ll get lucky, the next administration will do a Lucy-with-the-football number on SLS and the Russians and Chinese can go over that particular cliff without our company.

                I noticed the Chinese statements about SpaceX’s launch costs at the time because it was newsworthy to we space freaks. There was a pervasive meme that nobody can underprice the Chinese – at anything! It was nice to see some evidence that the Chinese put their pants on one leg at a time like everyone else.

                Until SpaceX’s VTOL launcher technology is proven operationally in regular use, I would like to see a Plan C engineering group working at ULA.

                Hey, I’d really like to spend a debauched weekend of carnal abandon in a Vegas penthouse with Carmen Electra. Right now, I think I’m ever so slightly more likely to get my wish than you are to get yours. Just saying.

              • E.P. Grondine

                Hi DE –

                I have repeatedly posted here on China’s civil space goals.

                You apparently understand that a couple of test flights are one thing, but an operational system is another.

                Your desire to spend a weekend with Carmen Electra in a Las Veas penthouse is noted.
                But how you think you’d convince her to pay for it all is beyond me.

                As far as paying for launch systems goes, that is something that I still do know a little about. In particular the motivations for making those expenditures.

              • Dick Eagleson

                I have repeatedly posted here on China’s civil space goals.

                You’ve certainly posted here on both what the Chinese say and what you speculate they mean. Again, I’ll just note that they are publicly on record about wanting to pursue heavy lift in the form of Long March 9 but don’t appear to have any SpaceX-ish resuability/low cost initiative going. Personally, I’d be delighted if they publicly declared such a thing, I’m just not expecting it.

                You apparently understand that a couple of test flights are one thing, but an operational system is another.

                Yes, I do. But I also understand that successful test flights are what get you to an operational system. Unlike your cited failures from the Brylcreem era of aerospace, SpaceX has had no failed test flights of its VTOL/VL technology except for the 1st-stage booster soft-landing tests accompanying operational F9 missions. Even these “failures” have materially advanced SpaceX’s game. I think SpaceX will have 1st-stage flyback at the operational level within a year. I think Dragonfly will give them comparable confidence in Dragon V2 on about the same time frame. 2nd-stage reentry/recovery/reuse will follow in another year or two.

                Your desire to spend a weekend with Carmen Electra in a Las Veas penthouse is noted.
                But how you think you’d convince her to pay for it all is beyond me.

                Me too, dammit. I tossed this out there mainly to make the point that, however improbable such a scenario might be, Ms. Electra is undeniably in current possession of everything she’d need to accomplish such a mission.

                This stands in stark contrast to the situation of ULA, which I do not believe has either the staff nor the institutional will to pursue a genuinely competitive, clean-sheet-of-paper new vehicle design/development program to cope with the simultaneous advent of Russian geopolitical truculence and a SpaceX on the verge of demonstrating operational reusability of 1st stages and more.

                As far as paying for launch systems goes, that is something that I still do know a little about. In particular the motivations for making those expenditures.

                Not sure what you mean by this. Please feel free to elaborate further.

      • @Fred Willet & Neil;……The ideal place to practice using an ECLSS, would be on board a Lunar base module during an outpost-length surface stay. Plus, on such an expedition you’d have to contend with full deep space cosmic rays, hence, have plans for counteracting that. You would further have to be prepared for dealing with a possible solar flare event, by having a radiation storm shelter, on board, and having your outpost crew survive it, with flying colors. Additionally, whatever length of time that the Lunar crew is in low lunar orbit or is in cis-lunar transit, they’d have to be prepared for dealing with this life-threatening possibility. A special radiation-sheilding chamber, would be an absolute must, on board the lunar orbiter craft and the lunar landing craft.

        • Reality Bits

          The ideal place to practice using an ECLSS, would be on board a Lunar base module during an outpost-length surface stay. Plus, on such an expedition you’d have to contend with full deep space cosmic rays, hence, have plans for counteracting that.

          An ideal place to test the ECLSS system is in a can in earth orbit. Then if there is a problem it’s only a 2 hour flight back home vs a 2-3 day flight.

          Go hang out at GEO or EML1/2 as a follow-on for further testing.

        • Hiram

          “Plus, on such an expedition you’d have to contend with full deep space cosmic rays, hence, have plans for counteracting that.”

          You don’t have to be on the lunar surface to do that, and lunar surface dust tremendously complicates performance for what would be an on-orbit ECLSS system.

          I know. Let’s have people go down to the bottom of the Marianas Trench to see if they can survive underwater!

        • Dick Eagleson

          I think it would be useful to go back to the Moon too, but let’s not hyperventilate here. Lunar bases will handle radiation shielding by shoveling any required thickness of regolith over their hab modules. That’s a Moon-centric solution that can be repeated on Mars, but isn’t useful as a guide to how to handle the same problem in transit in space. Ditto for developing long-duration ECLSS. Do it in LEO and you can always bail if the oxy quits on you by just bugging out and retro-firing.

          • Egad

            Ditto for developing long-duration ECLSS. Do it in LEO and you can always bail if the oxy quits on you by just bugging out and retro-firing.

            I certainly agree that LEO is the place to start development of a Deep Space Habitat/Exploration Augmentation Module, the sooner the better. Step One could be on/at ISS, Step Two actually putting everything together in a can and flying it autonomously in LEO with crew for year to two-year durations.

            But I’d argue for a Step Three, which would be like Step Two but at EML2 — for mostly psychological reasons (and radiation). Those psychological reasons being related to the fact that the crew *wouldn’t* have a fast bug out option and the engineers designing the thing would not be tempted, perhaps unconsciously, to cut corners. I’ve seen enough corners cut to be wary of that possibility.

            • LEO is way too easy of a place to test an ECLSS! Of course the engineers will cut corners, to the detriment of the potential real-life test——–earth-sent resupply is just too readily available. So dependency on mission control & on-the-ground planners makes for a scenario where actually having to deal with supply/provisions, independent of Earth, for a full one year span of time, something that NASA (or whatever national space agency) would NOT be incentivized to really carry through. If it is attempted as an adjunct to the ISS, on a connected module section, there’s even less motivation to actually put such a life-support structure to its full test: again, resupply from Earth is just too easy.

              It all smells rather like those Analogue Bases that the Mars Society have encamped in, at various desert and/or arctic locales, purportedly to test how an interplanetary landing crew would cope & manage, “left-to-their-own-devices” at some remote site. You’re never really going to see a full-extent autonomous expedition, facing any real cut-off from the rest of humanity in such places. Rescue & resupply are just a couple hours away, and the incentive to build systems & structures for a long stretch of autonomous survival———-say, a full calendar year———is never actually there.

              The Moon is a better place than mere LEO, for emplacing such an ECLSS module, as it is psychologically/physically remote & removed from Earth. The radiation environment closely approximates that of open interplanetary space. A solar flare event would be something that the crew would need to have an on-base means of being able to survive from. Plus, the expeditioneers would have plenty of astro-geologic work to do, to occupy their time. Sure, the dusty, regolith and the management-systems for dealing with it, would make the test interlude a bit different from an interplanetary transit flight, but wouldn’t this be another area of spacecraft capability that could use some real-life experimenting with, as well?

              • Hiram

                “LEO is way too easy of a place to test an ECLSS! Of course the engineers will cut corners, to the detriment of the potential real-life test——–earth-sent resupply is just too readily available.”

                Your requirements are pretty peculiar. This isn’t about validating an ECLSS to you. It’s about making it really hard to do. You’re not testing engineering, but rather psychology and fear. I mean, the automobile companies should test out their cars on a track in Mongolia. Why not near the design center and factory? That’s too easy! Because the engineers will cut corners there, to the detriment of the potential real-life test ——– factory-sent resupply is just too readily available. Ooh, better yet. Do those track tests in Afghanistan, where your cars will be getting shot at while they’re on the track! That’s the Froot-Loop style of engineering.

                Your requirements for radiation mitigation testing are similarly Frooty. You say that the best way to test radiation mitigation is to send humans out where they could get bombarded by radiation and see what happens. Continuing the auto simile, that’s like using humans instead of crash test dummies. Thoroughly Frooty!

                It’s not surprising though. HSF is, to many people, simply about heroes, and you need fear and dread to make heroes.

              • Andrew Swallow

                There are dust storms on Mars, so both Moon and Mars bases will have to be able to handle them.

              • Hiram

                “There are dust storms …”

                It’s pretty far up the thread, but this was about Orion ECLSS. Orion isn’t going to run into any dust storms, one would hope.

            • Hiram

              “But I’d argue for a Step Three, which would be like Step Two but at EML2 — for mostly psychological reasons”

              Wow. A many billion dollar hab at EM L2 for “mostly psychological reasons”. That rationale sure requires some serious psychoanalysis. Get help.

              I think putting a hab at a Lagrange point is a great idea, vastly better than plucking at random rocks, but for what it could actually DO there, rather than whose psyche gets massaged. Telerobotic control of lunar surface assets, depoting of lunar surface material, base station to build Mars ships, garage shop for ES Lagrange point hardware. The list goes on and on.

  • James

    A likely reason for the PS reversal of support for ARM is they are hearing that Bolden is going to ‘tax’ all NASA projects to pay for it..which will eat into Planetary Division missions/money. By supporting ARM, they are hoping that Congress will fund it, so Bolden doesn’t have to create an internal (illegal?) tax on existing projects/missions and thus screw over Planetary Division again.

    • Hiram

      “A likely reason for the PS reversal of support for ARM is they are hearing that Bolden is going to ‘tax’ all NASA projects to pay for it.”

      That’s an interesting idea, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense. So when Congress doesn’t fund ARM, and Bolden raids other NASA accounts, PS is going to be on board supporting it? The mud on their face will be pretty thick when that happens.

      In some sense, PS support for ARM could be read by NASA leadership as independent evidence that the Planetary Science Division should maybe be helping to pay for it. Again, that’s icky mud.

      BTW, if Congress tells NASA not do do ARM, Boldin will get thrown in jail if he taxes existing missions and projects to do it. The way a tax like that works is if Congress tells NASA to do ARM, but doesn’t supply any money for it. As in, “do it, and you guys figure out how!”

      • James

        “So when Congress doesn’t fund ARM, and Bolden raids other NASA accounts, PS is going to be on board supporting it?”

        No, I don’t think they would, as Planetary Division missions will get taxed.

        The point I”m trying to make is, I think they see ARM happening no matter what. They’d rather have Congress fund it, so Bolden doesn’t tax existing Divisions to pay for it. And to get Congress to fund it, they have to publicly support it. Hency their reversal (whilst holding their collective noses!)

        And Congress can’t stop NASA from ‘studying’ a mission like ARM, while its in the conceptual or Pre Phase A stage. And to study something like this, Bolden is going to lay on a Tax.

        I think NASA needs Congressional Approval to step into Phase A? If it’s really Phase C, (which is when Confirmation happens, and Nun McCurdy kicks in), then NASA will need to tax itself to pay for Phase A and B. Again, a lose situation for P.S. and all of NASA.

        ARM represents NASA , Congress, and the White House dysfunction at its very best. All yucky mud!

    • reader

      I think a far more likely reason is, PS simply sold out. Maybe in return of keeping the planetary science budget not massively raided.

  • Hiram

    “I think they see ARM happening no matter what.”

    Well, pre-Phase A studies don’t cost a lot (unless you’re a Europa mission, it would seem!)

    For Planetary Society to construct “insurance” for the PSD by endorsing a mission that could eat PSD’s lunch and that it really doesn’t want is just nuts. That endorsement just makes the planetary science community look a little more like it wants ARM, which just encourages rerouting of funds from PSD, rather than from other SMD divisions. Let’s take it at face value. The PS wants ARM.

    Why? As I said above, the Planetary Society feels some connection with ARM because Lou was heavily involved in the conceptual phases. But sometimes I have to think the PS is more about rock worship than science. ARM is exactly that. Rock worship. If you want to validate strategies for long-term survival in deep space, or if you want to learn about, or defend against asteroids, dragging a random rock into cis-lunar space and meeting up with it is NOT the way to do it. To ARM advocates, a rock is here an altar for human space flight, rather than a rationale. The idea of validating a strategy for long term survival in space without a rock can be seen as positively sacrilegious. Yes, you could do it, and it would be done more economically without it, but it would entail blasphemy.

    But yes, ARM represents dysfunction at all levels. Really the worst I’ve seen in a long time. Constellation was well intentioned, and had merit. It was just unimplementable under fiscal caps. ARM is about rock worship and stuntsmanship. That’s all.

    • James

      Yes, I see your point. Rock Worship. And yes, (unless you are JPL and have ear mark connections), Pre Phase A’s don’t cost that much.

      And I’ve heard Bolden wants to tax internal NASA projects.

      Not sure if that is prior to Congressional funding, or even if Congress funds it. Etc. Not sure of the specifics, and I”m hearing about it. Grumbling of course.

      Guess we will have to wait to see how this unfolds.

      • Hiram

        That is correct that NASA administration is willing to “tax” internal projects to fund other things that they think they have guidance from above to make happen, even if what is being taxed has nothing to do with them. SMD was implicitly taxed to support Constellation, much to the despair of the science community. As NASA administration gets more desperate to prove to the world that it is still “in the game” with regard human spaceflight, SMD had better watch its pockets.

        I am a fan of the Planetary Society. I think they have vision and drive. But they do worship rocks, as does NASA human space flight. Bill Ney is great, and has some common sense in this regard. But Lou Friedman probably wears a rock around his neck, and says a blessing over it every day. One wonders if Apollo and the Moon aren’t the cross that human spaceflight was crucified on, as the Moon is a symbol of devotion to human space flight.

        You know, the only thing wrong with ISS is that there isn’t a rock there. Everyone knows that, and it irks the hell out of HEOMD.

  • Explorer08

    You all can blather on all you want and speculate ’till your blue in the face. The fact is we’re going nowhere any time soon.

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