Author Topic: New Frontiers 4  (Read 82145 times)

Offline vjkane

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Re: New Frontiers 4
« Reply #220 on: 11/12/2017 06:16 PM »
You don't really get to do trial and error for outer planets missions--if it breaks at Saturn because of something you missed because you went too cheap, then your next try comes many years later. So you want to engineer and test like crazy, and that's not cheap. You don't want an engineering team with no experience, so you want to hire people with experience, and that means JPL, and that's not cheap either.

Now you could do a mission cheaper than the New Frontiers cap, but I primarily see that as cutting instruments and capability, not cutting corners on engineering and testing. That might be acceptable for a billionaire who wants to put his name on something, but NASA's science community (and management) has long taken the approach of trying to maximize the science-per-dollar return. Roughly speaking, that might mean spending $1 billion to send 8 instruments somewhere rather than spending $600 million to send 2 instruments.
Absolutely agree on all points except as noted below.  Almost every attempt to design and test planetary missions more cheaply have failed at least partially.  It would be good to see attempts to apply new development processes, but simpler, closer to home missions would seem the place to start.  But I expect that the members of this imitative are thinking along these lines.

The ELF mission only has two instruments -- a neutral/ion mass spec and a dust mass spec.  These are not cheap instruments, but their demands on the spacecraft and operations are about as simple as you can get beyond just flying the proverbial brick to Saturn orbit.  Chris McKay's proposed mission probably has more instruments based on his approach to other proposals that he's led.

Offline plutogno

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Re: New Frontiers 4
« Reply #221 on: 11/12/2017 06:28 PM »
actually, there was a number of studies of privately-funded missions in the 1990s. Lunacorp, or ISELA to the Moon, or the NEAP asteroid prospector. I will believe in this kind of mission when I see one fly

Offline Blackstar

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Re: New Frontiers 4
« Reply #222 on: 11/12/2017 06:57 PM »
actually, there was a number of studies of privately-funded missions in the 1990s. Lunacorp, or ISELA to the Moon, or the NEAP asteroid prospector. I will believe in this kind of mission when I see one fly

Yeah, privately-funded robotic mission proposals have been around for a long time. The original Lunar Prospector orbiter mission was supposed to be privately funded. I vaguely remember seeing something about that in the 1980s. They were going to use a leftover Apollo instrument. They never found traction, although the science goals were sound. Eventually, NASA came along and funded that mission.

I can remember attending a space conference in the latter 1990s where several groups talked about their privately funded space missions. There was one--maybe you remember what it was called?--where they were going to use Soviet-era Luna lander hardware. I can remember some guy pitching it and showing drawings of their mission control center. He claimed that they were going to sell tickets so people could watch from mission control. Having been in a mission control before during an actual mission event (the Bat Cave used for Clementine), I knew how non-exciting this could be and doubted their ability to sell tickets.

And thanks for mentioning LunaCorp, which I think was the most prominent example for a time, but is now forgotten.

Something I noticed with a number of these efforts was a disconnect between the people proposing them and others who had actually done such missions, both scientists and engineers. For example, they often thought that they knew the kind of science that could be performed, but didn't understand that it was not the kind of science that most scientists in that area were interested in. Similarly, they thought they had a great engineering idea, but they didn't have anybody on their team who had actually built a planetary spacecraft.

It was the typical variation of the young upstart who thought he had a brilliant idea and was too arrogant to actually bother to talk to people who had previously done that stuff. A lot of the suborbital spaceflight companies had similar problems, thinking that they were going to provide science capabilities without actually asking the scientists what they wanted.
« Last Edit: 11/12/2017 06:58 PM by Blackstar »

Offline Blackstar

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Re: New Frontiers 4
« Reply #223 on: 11/12/2017 07:09 PM »
Absolutely agree on all points except as noted below.  Almost every attempt to design and test planetary missions more cheaply have failed at least partially.  It would be good to see attempts to apply new development processes, but simpler, closer to home missions would seem the place to start.  But I expect that the members of this imitative are thinking along these lines.

The ELF mission only has two instruments -- a neutral/ion mass spec and a dust mass spec.  These are not cheap instruments, but their demands on the spacecraft and operations are about as simple as you can get beyond just flying the proverbial brick to Saturn orbit.  Chris McKay's proposed mission probably has more instruments based on his approach to other proposals that he's led.

But Saturn is tough. They're not going to get an RTG (because of the legal issues), so they have to use solar. Solar requires big panels, and that's not cheap. And then there's other stuff that we don't think about, like components and engineering to handle the cold temperatures that far from the sun, and the deep space navigation experience, which really only resides at JPL and which has been honed through many decades of experience and training.

Could a privately-funded mission be done cheaper than NASA? Yeah. Would it be worth it? Maybe to a few scientists, probably not to the broader community. Would it be successful? Unlikely. We often discuss mission costs as if the high prices don't actually come with value. The reality is that with the higher costs for these missions you're also getting a much higher probably of success. You haven't saved any money if the spacecraft doesn't work.

Offline plutogno

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Re: New Frontiers 4
« Reply #224 on: 11/12/2017 07:13 PM »
I can remember attending a space conference in the latter 1990s where several groups talked about their privately funded space missions. There was one--maybe you remember what it was called?--where they were going to use Soviet-era Luna lander hardware.

ISELA wanted to use ex-Soviet hardware. LA stood for Lavochkin Association, which manufactured all Soviet planetary probes since the mid-1960s

Offline Blackstar

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Re: New Frontiers 4
« Reply #225 on: 11/12/2017 07:15 PM »
1-It's been interesting watching the EMM mission, with its LASP collaboration and its experiences with LM.

If one wanted to send a deep space mission, the first thing you do is find someone with a sat bus that's already done/doing deep space missions.

2-But for a few recent non LM missions, they've done differently. The idea is to build both indigenous capability as well as international collaborations to gain similar.

1-I have heard--I don't know how accurate it is, but it comes from some sources involved in the program--that the foreign sponsor is unhappy with their share of the work. It's more of an American mission than they want. But I would expect those kinds of complaints no matter what, since everybody wants to be Captain Kirk, not Ensign Leibovitz.

2-If by LM you mean Lockheed Martin, I was told many years ago by a former LM exec that they take a rather enlightened approach to their work on planetary missions. They only make a slim profit on them, but they find them valuable for keeping their engineers trained and challenged. Every planetary spacecraft is unique, so the engineering team is always engaged and forced to think. It's different than producing Military Comsat #7. Plus, it's more exciting to put their Mars lander on the cover of the company's annual report.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: New Frontiers 4
« Reply #226 on: 11/12/2017 07:17 PM »
I can remember attending a space conference in the latter 1990s where several groups talked about their privately funded space missions. There was one--maybe you remember what it was called?--where they were going to use Soviet-era Luna lander hardware.

ISELA wanted to use ex-Soviet hardware. LA stood for Lavochkin Association, which manufactured all Soviet planetary probes since the mid-1960s

That must be the one I'm thinking of.

Okay, googled them and came up with this:

http://www.outofthecradle.net/WordPress/wp-content/uploads/srn_v3n01.pdf

International Space Enterprises Lavochkin Association (ISELA).

Maybe I'm getting them confused with the several companies that wanted to offer circumlunar tourist flights using Soyuz hardware. Those companies have made various promises over the years (several years ago they claimed to have finally lined up their second required paying customer--and nothing has happened).
« Last Edit: 11/12/2017 07:35 PM by Blackstar »

Offline Space Ghost 1962

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Re: New Frontiers 4
« Reply #227 on: 11/12/2017 09:56 PM »
1-It's been interesting watching the EMM mission, with its LASP collaboration and its experiences with LM.

If one wanted to send a deep space mission, the first thing you do is find someone with a sat bus that's already done/doing deep space missions.

2-But for a few recent non LM missions, they've done differently. The idea is to build both indigenous capability as well as international collaborations to gain similar.

1-I have heard--I don't know how accurate it is, but it comes from some sources involved in the program--that the foreign sponsor is unhappy with their share of the work. It's more of an American mission than they want. But I would expect those kinds of complaints no matter what, since everybody wants to be Captain Kirk, not Ensign Leibovitz.

2-If by LM you mean Lockheed Martin, I was told many years ago by a former LM exec that they take a rather enlightened approach to their work on planetary missions. They only make a slim profit on them, but they find them valuable for keeping their engineers trained and challenged. Every planetary spacecraft is unique, so the engineering team is always engaged and forced to think. It's different than producing Military Comsat #7. Plus, it's more exciting to put their Mars lander on the cover of the company's annual report.

1- I know. The irony is that many of the "non-systems types" from the domestic side are being worn weary having to do impromptu program management (which they've never done before), with the foreign side totally unbelieving as to how much has to be done to pull of the mission.

2-Yes, LM is so good at this that I think for some they make it look easy. (Eye's glaze over when even I do five minutes of the summary, even though I've just been the warm-up band before.) There's been an advantage for them on the NSS side because they can talk about how far they can take their stuff. Very effective - it also locks out other potential new vendors because they don't have such proven experience/heritage.

Back to the discussion upthread. I *have* talked to those vjkane referred to. Its very much like EMM, and how that effort started will be similar as to how these will start/progress. What is the problem in these is the appreciation of the skill, its sources (extremely rare), and the social/professional issues necessary to bring things off. (With nations, nationalist needs just like those of the wealthy, blur/complicate carrying off such programs/projects.) Which is why I chose to use a more public example. In both cases, neither are suited for a relationship with LM.

So its not budget or will that stops these from happening. It's appreciation, patience, and access to the necessary skill/capability.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: New Frontiers 4
« Reply #228 on: 11/12/2017 11:54 PM »
Very effective - it also locks out other potential new vendors because they don't have such proven experience/heritage.

I know a guy who used to work at Boeing. He tired to convince them to compete for planetary spacecraft (New Frontiers, Discovery). They weren't interested. They figured that a) they could not make any profit, and b) because it was competitive, they might actually lose. (The latter point also gives you some insight as to how they viewed military satellite contracts--i.e. they thought that they had much less chance of losing than when competing for NASA projects.) The argument that it would be good for Boeing's workforce and could give them space programs to brag about didn't impress anybody there.

There might actually be some interesting stories as to how Lockheed Martin uses these projects. They may rotate in both early career engineers and veterans when they compete, using the project as much for training and teamwork as an actual business opportunity. I dunno. I do know that they've gotten pretty good at it.

Offline vjkane

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Re: New Frontiers 4
« Reply #229 on: 11/13/2017 02:12 PM »
But Saturn is tough. They're not going to get an RTG (because of the legal issues), so they have to use solar. Solar requires big panels, and that's not cheap. And then there's other stuff that we don't think about, like components and engineering to handle the cold temperatures that far from the sun, and the deep space navigation experience, which really only resides at JPL and which has been honed through many decades of experience and training.

Could a privately-funded mission be done cheaper than NASA? Yeah. Would it be worth it? Maybe to a few scientists, probably not to the broader community. Would it be successful? Unlikely. We often discuss mission costs as if the high prices don't actually come with value. The reality is that with the higher costs for these missions you're also getting a much higher probably of success. You haven't saved any money if the spacecraft doesn't work.
Agree on every point.  I could see a private organization doing a lunar or NEO mission.  For Saturn, the only viable approach I see would be to pay NASA or ESA to do it.

Offline vjkane

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Re: New Frontiers 4
« Reply #230 on: 11/13/2017 02:27 PM »
I know a guy who used to work at Boeing. He tired to convince them to compete for planetary spacecraft (New Frontiers, Discovery). They weren't interested. They figured that a) they could not make any profit, and b) because it was competitive, they might actually lose. (The latter point also gives you some insight as to how they viewed military satellite contracts--i.e. they thought that they had much less chance of losing than when competing for NASA projects.) The argument that it would be good for Boeing's workforce and could give them space programs to brag about didn't impress anybody there.

There might actually be some interesting stories as to how Lockheed Martin uses these projects. They may rotate in both early career engineers and veterans when they compete, using the project as much for training and teamwork as an actual business opportunity. I dunno. I do know that they've gotten pretty good at it.

I believe that the Psyche mission is using a modified commercial satellite bus, and there are proposals to for the next Mars orbiter and/or sample return mission to use a commercial bus.  The CONDOR NF mission would use a Lockheed-Martin A2100 bus.  I suspect that some of the other NF proposals also would use commercial buses, but the public information on these proposals usually avoids information on the design implementation to protect proprietary information.

I believe that the now more robust capabilities of commercial spacecraft will enable cheaper planetary missions.  I don't know where the reuse of these designs breaks down.  Is Venus orbit too hot?  Hard to put a radiation vault for Jupiter orbit in a commercial craft (but a distant orbiter might be okay if there's a science mission there).  Is Saturn too cold for reasonably modify a commercial bus.  And would the length of the mission be a concern for the longevity of the spacecraft?

Offline Blackstar

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Re: New Frontiers 4
« Reply #231 on: 11/13/2017 05:41 PM »
I believe that the Psyche mission is using a modified commercial satellite bus, and there are proposals to for the next Mars orbiter and/or sample return mission to use a commercial bus.  The CONDOR NF mission would use a Lockheed-Martin A2100 bus.  I suspect that some of the other NF proposals also would use commercial buses, but the public information on these proposals usually avoids information on the design implementation to protect proprietary information.

I think we could very easily wander into a confusing discussion here. For starters, when these programs claim that they are using a "commercial bus," that's misleading. They're using the commercial bus as the starting point, but they're modifying the heck out of it. It's not stock. Plus, they're putting an entirely new payload on it, not just a variation of communication antennas and transponders.

More importantly, they're doing systems engineering on a unique spacecraft, not just producing a near-copy of something that has already been done before. The thermal environment is significantly different. Power levels are different (no night/day/night/day--they could often have continuous day with decreasing power as the spacecraft travels away from the sun).

So when a company like Lockheed Martin bids on something like this, they are doing unique work, not production line stuff. Their engineers are designing a spacecraft, not just making minor modifications to something that they've done before.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: New Frontiers 4
« Reply #232 on: 11/13/2017 05:44 PM »
I believe that the now more robust capabilities of commercial spacecraft will enable cheaper planetary missions.  I don't know where the reuse of these designs breaks down.  Is Venus orbit too hot?  Hard to put a radiation vault for Jupiter orbit in a commercial craft (but a distant orbiter might be okay if there's a science mission there).  Is Saturn too cold for reasonably modify a commercial bus.  And would the length of the mission be a concern for the longevity of the spacecraft?

One other thing: many years ago somebody told me that Hughes built all their comsats to milspec. Now that might have made them more expensive, but in some ways the company saved money by applying a common standard to all their satellites. Also, because of that, it was easier to adapt from commercial to military, and some of their commercial comsats, like the Hughes 701 bus, were later adopted for military use.

Online redliox

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Re: New Frontiers 4
« Reply #233 on: 11/13/2017 05:59 PM »
Although it is surprising to hear that someone was bold enough to suggest a privately-funded mission to Saturn's moon, I'm starting to find its discussion in this thread more distracting than enlightening.  I agree with Blackstar that it is highly unlikely to succeed, not without active help from a larger entity like ESA or even a company like Boeing.  Unless they produce a blueprint or at least an instrument wish-list, I'd rather return conversation back to the New Frontier selection.

...on that last note, do we know when specifically this month an announcement was scheduled, or if it's delayed?
"Let the trails lead where they may, I will follow."
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Offline vjkane

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Re: New Frontiers 4
« Reply #234 on: 11/13/2017 06:17 PM »
...on that last note, do we know when specifically this month an announcement was scheduled, or if it's delayed?

The announcement has been listed as December for a few months now.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: New Frontiers 4
« Reply #235 on: 11/13/2017 06:17 PM »
But Saturn is tough. They're not going to get an RTG (because of the legal issues), so they have to use solar. Solar requires big panels, and that's not cheap. And then there's other stuff that we don't think about, like components and engineering to handle the cold temperatures that far from the sun, and the deep space navigation experience, which really only resides at JPL and which has been honed through many decades of experience and training.

Could a privately-funded mission be done cheaper than NASA? Yeah. Would it be worth it? Maybe to a few scientists, probably not to the broader community. Would it be successful? Unlikely. We often discuss mission costs as if the high prices don't actually come with value. The reality is that with the higher costs for these missions you're also getting a much higher probably of success. You haven't saved any money if the spacecraft doesn't work.
Agree on every point.  I could see a private organization doing a lunar or NEO mission.  For Saturn, the only viable approach I see would be to pay NASA or ESA to do it.

Yeah, a private organization could do a lunar or NEO mission, but even those efforts haven't panned out so far. And sometimes even stuff that looks easy gets more expensive fast. A colleague has been working on a planetary CubeSat mission. You think that CubeSats cost a few hundred thousand dollars. But once you have to start designing them for longer lifetimes and radiation hardening and things like that so that they don't die two days after reaching the object--let alone before they reach the object--the cost quickly rises into the tens of millions of dollars.

Offline vjkane

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Re: New Frontiers 4
« Reply #236 on: 11/13/2017 06:22 PM »
Yeah, a private organization could do a lunar or NEO mission, but even those efforts haven't panned out so far. And sometimes even stuff that looks easy gets more expensive fast. A colleague has been working on a planetary CubeSat mission. You think that CubeSats cost a few hundred thousand dollars. But once you have to start designing them for longer lifetimes and radiation hardening and things like that so that they don't die two days after reaching the object--let alone before they reach the object--the cost quickly rises into the tens of millions of dollars.
And I think that dollars is the rub for this.   I believe that commercial companies are capable of many lunar and NEO missions, probably even Martian.  My understanding is that Lockheed-Martin is/has been the lead on several of the Mars missions with NASA oversight.  But the dollars are significant!  So far the only bucket large enough has been the government.  So unless someone has hundreds of millions of dollars, it will be governments doing this.

And there's a whole class of missions that I think that only one or two space agencies have the technical capability to tackle.  That includes Saturn IMO.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: New Frontiers 4
« Reply #237 on: 11/13/2017 09:36 PM »
And I think that dollars is the rub for this.   I believe that commercial companies are capable of many lunar and NEO missions, probably even Martian.  My understanding is that Lockheed-Martin is/has been the lead on several of the Mars missions with NASA oversight.  But the dollars are significant!  So far the only bucket large enough has been the government.  So unless someone has hundreds of millions of dollars, it will be governments doing this.

And there's a whole class of missions that I think that only one or two space agencies have the technical capability to tackle.  That includes Saturn IMO.

If you go back to why the New Frontiers program was created in the first place (first planetary decadal survey; I was not involved in that one) part of the justification was that there are missions that are too big and/or complex to be addressed at the Discovery level. Realistically, that also meant that they were "big." So it's not surprising that they're out of reach of most other space agencies as well as private individuals.


Offline Blackstar

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Offline Blackstar

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Re: New Frontiers 4
« Reply #239 on: 11/14/2017 05:30 PM »
Furthest out privately funded mission that I've heard of was to Uranus. Got to the mission planning stage. He wanted an orbiter...

A colleague who used to work at JPL looked at designing a "low cost" ice giants mission. It was going to be a magnetic field mission and I cannot remember if he targeted Uranus or Neptune. I think it was going to be flyby only, with a very minimal instrument suite. And he wanted to do it with solar, to avoid the RTG cost. He couldn't really get it to work, but the problem was in the details, not the basics. I seem to remember that he said that it would have very low power requirements and very big solar arrays, but the problem was that the spacecraft got really rickety with the big arrays and could not really do any course correction without shaking like crazy. This was not supposed to be privately funded, he was just trying to get the cost down where it might fit in a Discovery cost cap. Didn't work. Outer planets get really challenging.

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