Author Topic: NASA considers alternatives to its Orion spacecraft  (Read 27230 times)

Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: NASA considers alternatives to its Orion spacecraft
« Reply #40 on: 11/12/2016 12:00 AM »
NASA isn't looking for services to buy, they're looking for hardware to buy. Unless SpaceX has decided to start selling hardware rather than services then talk of ITS, Dragon, or anything else is moot.

Making a distinction between buying hardware and buying services for expendable systems is not rational.  Either way, they have to pay for a new one each time.  The only real difference is how much of the launch cost goes to government employees versus contractor employees.

If you're only interested in the mission, not in which district the jobs are in, buying services versus buying hardware to perform the same mission doesn't matter.


Online Coastal Ron

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Re: NASA considers alternatives to its Orion spacecraft
« Reply #41 on: 11/12/2016 12:25 AM »
I agree, NASA shouldn't be Elon's personal bank...

Right, that wouldn't be American.  Instead it should be Boeing and Lockheed Martin's personal bank.

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...if a change of direction is needed then it should be openly competed and preferably multiple providers should be selected.

Yes, that is what should happen.  Unfortunately that didn't happen with the SLS and Orion.

Quote
But I think SLS + Orion funding is more than enough to support both ITS and anything Blue Origin/ULA can come up.

Let's remember that the SLS and Orion were funded directly because they were taking over an existing program - the Constellation program.

But normally new programs are not proposed as 1:1 replacements for programs that are being cancelled.  And if the SLS and Orion do get cancelled, it will be because they are not needed for any known U.S. Government efforts in space.  So if the SLS and Orion are not needed, why would Congress fund a replacement program?

Let's be rational about our expectations here...
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline Steven Pietrobon

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Re: NASA considers alternatives to its Orion spacecraft
« Reply #42 on: 11/12/2016 02:19 AM »
Orion is already beholden to one company.  SLS is already beholden to one company.

Orion has Lockheed Martin doing the capsule and Airbus Defence and Space and Thales Alenia Space are doing the Service Module. That's three companies.

SLS has Boeing doing the core and upper stage, Orbital ATK doing the boosters and Aerojet Rocketdyne doing the core and upper stage engines. That's three companies.
« Last Edit: 11/12/2016 03:28 AM by Steven Pietrobon »
Akin's Laws of Spacecraft Design #1:  Engineering is done with numbers.  Analysis without numbers is only an opinion.

Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: NASA considers alternatives to its Orion spacecraft
« Reply #43 on: 11/12/2016 05:39 AM »
Orion is already beholden to one company.  SLS is already beholden to one company.

Orion has Lockheed Martin doing the capsule and Airbus Defence and Space and Thales Alenia Space are doing the Service Module. That's three companies.

SLS has Boeing doing the core and upper stage, Orbital ATK doing the boosters and Aerojet Rocketdyne doing the core and upper stage engines. That's three companies.

But that makes it even worse.  It means any one of those companies failing or being difficult brings the whole effort to a halt.  It means the government is beholden to all of those companies, not just one.

To not be "beholden" to any one company, you need to have competing providers of the same good or service.  On Orion, you don't have three companies competing.  You have three monopolies on three different parts of the system.  And the same thing is true for SLS.

Offline su27k

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Re: NASA considers alternatives to its Orion spacecraft
« Reply #44 on: 11/12/2016 08:05 AM »
But normally new programs are not proposed as 1:1 replacements for programs that are being cancelled.  And if the SLS and Orion do get cancelled, it will be because they are not needed for any known U.S. Government efforts in space.  So if the SLS and Orion are not needed, why would Congress fund a replacement program?

Let's be rational about our expectations here...

What I wrote is not my expectation, it's what I think should happen. The most likely outcome is obviously continuing the status quo, but if we limit our discussion to business as usual it would be pretty boring wouldn't it? Besides, as recent event shows, the unexpected can happen, so you never know...

I for one don't know how to qualify what government needs or does not need, from my point of view whatever they decided to get is what they need, and this decision is not always rational. Why would congress fund a replacement program? The same reason they funded $200M for US participation in LHC even though they cancelled SSC. The replacement program doesn't have to be 1:1, a 50% funding would be enough for a robust program, even 10% could make a difference if they follow the COTS model.

Offline woods170

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Re: NASA considers alternatives to its Orion spacecraft
« Reply #45 on: 11/12/2016 11:23 AM »

By the way, regarding Orion IP, the article also says:
Quote
The original structure of NASA’s contract with Lockheed Martin is such that NASA “owns” the design work when it is completed, so another contractor, if it could demonstrate a compelling cost advantage, could take over for Exploration Mission-3 and beyond.
Oh good. That's the first clear indicator about the IP of the CM that I've seen in quite a while. Nice find!
We already know that the IP of the ESM will be co-shared between NASA and ESA once development of the ESM is complete.

Online AncientU

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Re: NASA considers alternatives to its Orion spacecraft
« Reply #46 on: 11/12/2016 11:44 AM »
There could be an open competition for say 400mT to orbit annually, starting 2025, with up to four launches, 8+m fairing capability, and minimum crew of 8 per year.  (Adjust the numbers as you see fit for a realistic exploration program that includes Mars by early to mid 2030s.)  Awards would be fixed fee/COTS model.

SLS/Orion would compete with all costs through FY 2017 ignored, but full cost accounting thereafter.  Existing industrial team would be required to propose this option, but each member would be free to propose alternatives or team with others.

Development costs to USG, plus operating costs for ten years (2025-2035) at this threshold 400mT annual rate would be one of the criteria.  Another would be the tonnage and crew delivered to Mars surface per synod. Other technical features could score bonus points.  Distribution of funds to existing industrial partners not a weighed criterion.

At a minimum, this would force the SLS/Orion program to reveal costs, and possibly even work to reduce them. It would also fulfill US Law as we are frequently reminded by Robotbeat:
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To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers. US law http://goo.gl/YZYNt0
« Last Edit: 11/12/2016 12:18 PM by AncientU »
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Offline EE Scott

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Re: NASA considers alternatives to its Orion spacecraft
« Reply #47 on: 11/12/2016 11:51 AM »
Any talk of ITS in the context of this RFI just seems way beyond the pale. It is so far from being a reality and so not compatible with NASA's mission plans (so far that they have conceptualized them), that IMO, it's really not helpful.

Also, just IMO, it makes sense to de-couple Orion and SLS if one seeks to salvage at least one of those programs going forward. To me it seems that SLS (if it is deemed worthy of survival by the next Administration) would make a formidable cargo-only LV that can work nicely as part of multi-launch missions where the alternative crew vehicle selected (if it shakes out that way) is launched by an LV from Blue, ULA, SpaceX, or even ESA (Ariane 6?). It also could have great utility as an LV for unmanned planetary probe missions, as we have read a lot about.

What payloads?  The Europa missions were opportunities to keep SLS flying annually so that it would be safe for crewed missions.  Without crew, what justifies the cost of SLS launches?  if you think Science Mission Directorate will carry the cost of SLS, think again.

Without Orion, SLS is history.

I get it. I share your concerns - the money does not even come close to adding up. I'm one of the most shrill critics of SLS/Orion and have stated all too many times here that I wish those programs could be replaced by payload designing/building (hab, SEP, etc.) programs. My post above was just speculation on what NASA might be considering behind the scenes.
Scott

Offline rayleighscatter

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Re: NASA considers alternatives to its Orion spacecraft
« Reply #48 on: 11/12/2016 12:40 PM »
NASA isn't looking for services to buy, they're looking for hardware to buy. Unless SpaceX has decided to start selling hardware rather than services then talk of ITS, Dragon, or anything else is moot.

Making a distinction between buying hardware and buying services for expendable systems is not rational.  Either way, they have to pay for a new one each time.  The only real difference is how much of the launch cost goes to government employees versus contractor employees.

If you're only interested in the mission, not in which district the jobs are in, buying services versus buying hardware to perform the same mission doesn't matter.
Don't conflate rationality and government procurement.

Offline Jim

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Re: NASA considers alternatives to its Orion spacecraft
« Reply #49 on: 11/12/2016 12:57 PM »

SLS/Orion would compete with all costs through FY 2017 ignored, but full cost accounting thereafter.  Existing industrial team would be required to propose this option, but each member would be free to propose alternatives or team with others.


Not feasible SLS/Orion is a gov't/contractor team.  It is not a contractor managed/operated system.  Part of the reason for SLS and Orion existing is for NASA to have "hands on" work.

Online AncientU

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Re: NASA considers alternatives to its Orion spacecraft
« Reply #50 on: 11/12/2016 01:41 PM »

SLS/Orion would compete with all costs through FY 2017 ignored, but full cost accounting thereafter.  Existing industrial team would be required to propose this option, but each member would be free to propose alternatives or team with others.


Not feasible SLS/Orion is a gov't/contractor team.  It is not a contractor managed/operated system.  Part of the reason for SLS and Orion existing is for NASA to have "hands on" work.

So, include the cost of NASA's hands-on effort. 
This 'feature' can be evaluated for it's cost/benefit like any other.
(I'm sure NASA can find other hands-on tasks to keep themselves busy, like developing payloads, for instance.)

Or are you saying no one can determine what the full cost accounting would be if NASA is involved?
« Last Edit: 11/12/2016 01:42 PM by AncientU »
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Offline Proponent

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Re: NASA considers alternatives to its Orion spacecraft
« Reply #51 on: 11/12/2016 01:54 PM »
Lockheed Martin issued a short statement in response to Eric Berger's story (see attachment).

So Lockheed Martin says it will be able to reduce Orion's recurring production costs by 50% -- but from what level?  Do we have any figures as to what Orion will cost to produce?  Without out that, the 50% comment is just about meaningless.

Offline Jim

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Re: NASA considers alternatives to its Orion spacecraft
« Reply #52 on: 11/12/2016 01:56 PM »

1.  So, include the cost of NASA's hands-on effort. 
This 'feature' can be evaluated for it's cost/benefit like any other.

2.  (I'm sure NASA can find other hands-on tasks to keep themselves busy, like developing payloads, for instance.)


1. It doesn't matter what the costs are compared to the others.  The others don't provided the hands on

2.  Not the same, they aren't rockets.  And JSC, MSFC and KSC don't develop payload

Online AncientU

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Re: NASA considers alternatives to its Orion spacecraft
« Reply #53 on: 11/12/2016 02:32 PM »

1.  So, include the cost of NASA's hands-on effort. 
This 'feature' can be evaluated for it's cost/benefit like any other.

2.  (I'm sure NASA can find other hands-on tasks to keep themselves busy, like developing payloads, for instance.)


1. It doesn't matter what the costs are compared to the others.  The others don't provided the hands on

2.  Not the same, they aren't rockets.  And JSC, MSFC and KSC don't develop payload

So, if they cannot develop a launch system that is affordable or reasonably competitive, time to move on to someone that can.
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Offline Jim

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Re: NASA considers alternatives to its Orion spacecraft
« Reply #54 on: 11/12/2016 02:36 PM »
So, if they cannot develop a launch system that is affordable or reasonably competitive, time to move on to someone that can.

That has never been the mandate, especially competitive since it is the gov't

Offline texas_space

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Re: NASA considers alternatives to its Orion spacecraft
« Reply #55 on: 11/12/2016 02:49 PM »
Based on reading the article, I'd say that NASA is looking to save money primarily by going to fixed-price pricing versus cost-plus.  That makes sense as we move into production versus development.  Defense contracting is going that way too.  The government doesn't have the money to be wasteful anymore.  (not that it ever did)

"Ars understands that there are also discussions in Gerstenmaier’s office about issuing a similar RFI for the Space Launch System rocket, which has Boeing as its primary contractor. This would not be too great of a surprise, because at least two companies, SpaceX and Blue Origin, are privately developing heavy-lift alternatives that theoretically could offer significant savings to the large government rocket."

This would be a more prudent way to go.  The larger cost for BEO missions is going to be the rocket.  Alternatives to SLS would be a more prudent avenue to investigate.  The New Space companies still have work to do though.  The recent SpaceX explosion doesn't inspire much confidence in NASA I imagine for example.

Sure, we could scrap Orion and go with an alternative.  No other spacecraft are currently designed for the BEO environment currently though.  That means more development (more money, pushing schedules to right).  Jim is right though...taking NASA out of the "hands on" process means NASA has little to do.  Congress won't like that.  That's why we have SLS after all.
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Online AncientU

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Re: NASA considers alternatives to its Orion spacecraft
« Reply #56 on: 11/12/2016 03:11 PM »
So, if they cannot develop a launch system that is affordable or reasonably competitive, time to move on to someone that can.

That has never been the mandate, especially competitive since it is the gov't

Time to make it the mandate. Past time.
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Offline Jim

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Re: NASA considers alternatives to its Orion spacecraft
« Reply #57 on: 11/12/2016 03:16 PM »

Time to make it the mandate. Past time.

No, that is never the job of the gov't.  It is not to compete.

Anyways, the market and gov't requirements are not aligned and shouldn't be.

The gov't has no need for an ITS
« Last Edit: 11/12/2016 03:19 PM by Jim »

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: NASA considers alternatives to its Orion spacecraft
« Reply #58 on: 11/12/2016 04:38 PM »
A Hercules lander (or any ascent vehicle really) would be a payload that is also a rocket.
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Online Coastal Ron

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Re: NASA considers alternatives to its Orion spacecraft
« Reply #59 on: 11/12/2016 05:57 PM »
Lockheed Martin issued a short statement in response to Eric Berger's story (see attachment).

So Lockheed Martin says it will be able to reduce Orion's recurring production costs by 50% -- but from what level?  Do we have any figures as to what Orion will cost to produce?  Without out that, the 50% comment is just about meaningless.

And that would only be for the Crew Module, and not the Service Module.

Plus, just as an observation, and to your point also, the Orion has now been in development for 5 years as the original CEV version, and 5 years as the current MPCV.  With the amount of money already spent, and the amount of money it apparently takes to build the current MPCV, 50% savings for just the CM doesn't sound like it will allow NASA to do a lot of missions per year.

NASA needs to rethink it's transportation needs, and how it will satisfy them.  Maybe this RFI is part of that, and if so I'm glad they are doing it.  At the amount NASA is funded today, the SLS & Orion combo does not allow for much use, which is a recipe for not getting much done.  We should be able to do better...
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

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