Author Topic: Legislative Language for Restructuring NASA  (Read 15328 times)

Offline robertross

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Re: Legislative Language for Restructuring NASA
« Reply #20 on: 01/12/2010 09:09 PM »
More seriously, Lori Garver is #2 at NASA and George Whitesides is Chief of Staff and Jeff Greason was on the Augustine Commission.

Today, senior management at NASA is more pro-commercial space than ever before.

The message: "NASA should be prohibited from developing, manufacturing and operating any launch system" has certainly been heard at the highest levels of NASA even if it isn't being heeded.

And yet, if kraisee and the others on Team Direct have been getting good intel, an HLV is what we will be getting, going forward. Not Ares 1, fortunately, and perhaps a stretched heavy and perhaps not, but an HLV.

Mileage varies on whether this is a good idea or not, however, the political realities seem clear enough, and advocating something that won't get through Congress seems pointless, at least to me. Except perhaps over margaritas at the Space Access Society convention.

Therefore, IMHO, NewSpace & all-commercial advocates should consider looking for revenue streams that do not first pass through Uncle Sam, at least as much as they demand that NASA change course.

With the aforesaid top management at NASA, I also believe NASA  today will be more tolerant of purely commercial ventures independent of NASA than it has been in the past.

See, now that's sensible. Good write.
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Offline Namechange User

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Re: Legislative Language for Restructuring NASA
« Reply #21 on: 01/12/2010 09:12 PM »
Taking the job of design and manufacture of equipment away from a Govt. run organization, when commercial alternatives are available is not unknown or unprecedented. The US Army used to design and manufacture rifles. Does not anymore.

I'm constantly amazed at how many people do not get this, yet prescribe a "cure". 

No, the US Army does not manufacture rifles, NASA does not manufacture rockets.  Contractors do in both cases with the government (Army or NASA) being the customer.  These pieces of equipment are manufactured to the government specifications and requirements.  In all cases, the government then pays the contractor for it's work. 

Specifically to EELV's, they did not just sprout out of the ground because Boeing and LM wanted to spend lots of money, they did so with government funding and with military requirements that were levied on them.  Yes, now ULA has the ability to market them to other customers because that helps lower the cost overall.  However, while the USAF does not design or manufacture the vehicle, I would be very surprised to find out they do not have a resident office either in Denver, AL or at the Cape as a basic oversight role. 

When it comes to future designs and productions, there has to be a market that requires development of these vehicles.  While SpaceX and others are doing that because they see a business case in doing so, that does not mean they are going to make very large vehicles without having that business case close.  Saying NASA can't be involved and all of the sudden expecting companies by the dozen to say, "in that case...I'll build this" is naive.

If we are to do exploration class missions, then logistically and operationally it makes sense to have a heavy lift vehicle, even Greason agreed with this from the Augustine Committee.  There is not a commercial market for these type vehicles, which means if they are to exist they will be government funded (which generally means government controlled and owned - unless something akin to ULA is worked out - but the flight rate and hence the profit margin is most likely not there for customers outside the government anyway, rendering it a mute point) which leaves you then with the following:

1.  Relying on currently available or near term avilable medium lift rockets at the expense of increased per mission cost and increased time and schedule and complexity before your mission can even leave LEO....or

2.  Nothing at all and no beyond LEO missions whatsoever. 

So, my message is a NASA owned HLV is not a bad thing.  It just needs to be managed correctly. 
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Offline Jim

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Re: Legislative Language for Restructuring NASA
« Reply #22 on: 01/12/2010 09:50 PM »

The problem with fixed firm price is getting the companies to go along with it.

We have that for unmanned launch vehicles now.

Offline robertross

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Re: Legislative Language for Restructuring NASA
« Reply #23 on: 01/12/2010 09:55 PM »

The problem with fixed firm price is getting the companies to go along with it.

We have that for unmanned launch vehicles now.

I take it you mean 'having' fixed firm price, not a 'problem' with it.

Was it always this way? Or did it start with cost plus until it matured?
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Offline Jim

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Re: Legislative Language for Restructuring NASA
« Reply #24 on: 01/12/2010 09:55 PM »
Commercial is not defined by funding source. It is defined by the contract and NASA's interaction with the contractor and whether the product is available to the commercial sector.  Delta IV, Atlas V and Falcon 9 are commercial vehicles because the contractor is responsible for all engineering and operations and owns the rights to the vehicle. NASA doesn't have a say in the overall design, processes and operations of the launch vehicle fleet.

With a commercial launch services contract, NASA doesn't buy hardware, it buys a ride to orbit. With a launch services contract, NASA gets some insight and limited say into how the vehicle is prepared for the mission, both analytically and hardware wise. The contractor determines the processes and NASA accepts them.

Ares I is not a commercial vehicle just like the shuttle isn't. NASA determines the design of the SRB and upperstage and to what specs and processes. Boeing is actually only producing the upperstage to a MSFC design. NASA also does the overall engineering and integration of Ares I. As NASA receives these pieces and gives them to another contractor to operate. NASA civil servants are heavily involved. This is not commercial, since it is not available to the commercial sector since NASA is involved (it is against the law, Commercial space Act)

Offline neilh

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Re: Legislative Language for Restructuring NASA
« Reply #25 on: 01/12/2010 10:27 PM »
Bill White made some intriguing, to me at least, comments:

"How might it be politically feasible to re-structure NASA to achieve robust human exploration without heavy lift?"

He goes on to ask: "What would the legislation actually say?"

Assuming that that issue is with NASA-built HLV (and commercial-built HLV would be ok), I think the original text of the Launch Services Purchase Act of 1990 would fit the bill (ahem):

http://www.cwo.com/~davida/lspalaw.txt
Quote
42 U.S.C. 2465d:

        $ 2465d. Requirement to procure commercial launch services

        (a) In general

          Except as otherwise provided in this section, the National
          Aeronautics and Space Administration shall purchase launch
          services for its primary payloads from commercial providers
          whenever such services are required in the course of its
          activities.

        (b) Exceptions

          The National Aeronautics and Space Administration shall not be
          required to purchase launch services as provided in subsection
          (a) of this section if, on a case by case basis the
          Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space
          Administration determines that--
                (1) the payload requires the unique capabilities of the
                    space shuttle;
                (2) cost effective commerical launch services to meet
                    specific mission requirements are not reasonably
                    available and would not be available when required;
                (3) the use of commerical launch services poses an
                    unacceptable risk of loss of a unique scientific
                    opportunity; or
                (4) the payload serves national security or foreign
                    policy purposes.

          Upon any such determination, the Administrator shall, within
          30 days, notify in writing the Committee on Science, Space,
          and Technology of the House of Representatives and the
          Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the
          Senate of the determination and its rationale.

        (c) National Aeronautics and Space Administration launch
            vehicles

          Launch vehicles shall be acquired or owned by the National
          Aeronautcs and Space Administration only--
                (1) as required under circumstances described in
                    subsection (b) of this section; or
                (2) by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
                    for conducting research and development on, and
                    testing of, launch technology.
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Offline Bill White

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Re: Legislative Language for Restructuring NASA
« Reply #26 on: 01/12/2010 10:27 PM »
Commercial is not defined by funding source. It is defined by the contract and NASA's interaction with the contractor and whether the product is available to the commercial sector.

I agree with this, especially the bolded text, which is the true crux of the definitional issue, at least IMHO.

A Boeing KC-767 USAF re-fueling tanker would be defined as commercial because United Airlines can buy and fly essentially the same airframe. An F-22 cannot be commercial because non-governmental entities cannot buy one.   

I do believe NASA should support the development of genuine commercial human orbital spaceflight capability, however, at the moment, there is no commercial option for humans to LEO, is there?

If and when a deal is done with Bigelow (for example) for a genuine commercial LEO crew taxi, NASA should buy 'em by the dozen.

However, why should NASA be restricted in its mission planning to what is available commercially?
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Online butters

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Re: Legislative Language for Restructuring NASA
« Reply #27 on: 01/12/2010 10:49 PM »
Whereas it is the sense of the Congress that there is no foreseeable individual consumer demand for exploration beyond earth orbit, and whereas there is a collective interest in an expanded understanding of our universe and how it may be employed for the future benefit of humanity, we hereby establish a National Space Fund tasked with establishing space exploration objectives and purchasing goods and services from private industry, in cooperation with international partners where appropriate.

The Director of the Fund shall be appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.  The annual budget shall be approved by an Act of Congress, but the Fund shall have the exclusive authority to allocate its budget.

The Fund may allocate no more than 10% of its budget to its own payroll and operations.  All other funds must be allocated by contract through a competitive open bidding process.  Bids comprise one or more deliverables toward the contract objective, each with a negotiated fee and deadline.  The Fund may pay no more than half of the fee prior to delivery and has the option to terminate or renegotiate the contract if a deadline is missed.
« Last Edit: 01/12/2010 10:56 PM by butters »

Offline khallow

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Re: Legislative Language for Restructuring NASA
« Reply #28 on: 01/12/2010 11:15 PM »

Heavy lift is pretty much required unless you want to design everything to a smaller launcher, potentially assemble it in LEO over multiple launches where anyone launch failure takes your mission out of the game (for at least a little while) before even leaving orbit.

I agree with neilh here. Why would one launch failure end the mission? Just make duplicate copies of all your vital mission components and drop the blame finding delay that goes on after a major accident. Redundancy in launch vehicles and payloads can greatly reduce the odds of LOM from a launch failure.


And why do we continue to fund Ares I? Politics.
Why do we continue with NASA's design of vehicles? Politics.
Why do we have HSF? Politics.

Oh, and the money comes from: government = politics.

Change the game so that NASA is doing worthwhile space endeavors again = politics. Also, NASA managing a HLV program well would be politics.

My take is that if NASA is going to spend money on launch vehicles, it should spend it on commercial launch vehicles. Money spent on developing a NASA-only HLV could be spent on missions, on a lot of launches, or helping one or more commercial launch providers develop an HLV. However, I think that's not the route that NASA will take. In which case, an HLV that is well run and isn't too ambitious (I prefer 100 ton to 200 ton launchers, for example) should be productive even if it isn't the best choice out there.
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Re: Legislative Language for Restructuring NASA
« Reply #29 on: 01/12/2010 11:49 PM »
I agree with neilh here. Why would one launch failure end the mission? Just make duplicate copies of all your vital mission components and drop the blame finding delay that goes on after a major accident. Redundancy in launch vehicles and payloads can greatly reduce the odds of LOM from a launch failure.


Absolutely.  Why just make one of something for a particular mission when you can make two for twice the price. 
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Offline Jim

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Re: Legislative Language for Restructuring NASA
« Reply #30 on: 01/12/2010 11:57 PM »

However, why should NASA be restricted in its mission planning to what is available commercially?

It is all about how it is procured.  If an HLV is needed, then mass to orbit, fairing dimensions, payload environments, etc only defined.  No need to define engines, number of stages, diameter, etc.

Offline Jorge

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Re: Legislative Language for Restructuring NASA
« Reply #31 on: 01/13/2010 12:15 AM »
Bill White made some intriguing, to me at least, comments:

"How might it be politically feasible to re-structure NASA to achieve robust human exploration without heavy lift?"

He goes on to ask: "What would the legislation actually say?"

Assuming that that issue is with NASA-built HLV (and commercial-built HLV would be ok), I think the original text of the Launch Services Purchase Act of 1990 would fit the bill (ahem):

http://www.cwo.com/~davida/lspalaw.txt

Much of the LSPA of 1990 was replaced by the Commercial Space Act of 1998.
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Offline jongoff

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Re: Legislative Language for Restructuring NASA
« Reply #32 on: 01/13/2010 12:21 AM »
I agree with neilh here. Why would one launch failure end the mission? Just make duplicate copies of all your vital mission components and drop the blame finding delay that goes on after a major accident. Redundancy in launch vehicles and payloads can greatly reduce the odds of LOM from a launch failure.


Absolutely.  Why just make one of something for a particular mission when you can make two for twice the price. 

OV, there are easy ways of dealing with stuff like this, we've been discussing this for years.  First off, almost all the mass of any BEO mission at the point of departure from LEO is propellant.  If done right, you can keep the number of mission critical hardware launches in any BEO campaign to the same number using EELV-class vehicles as you could with HLVs.  You then have a large number of low-value propellant payloads that have almost no inherent value.

You only start having to do even remotely clever stuff when you start talking about trying to do Mars missions with EELV class vehicles.  NEOs are doable, but Mars takes some cleverness.  But if you only need an HLV for Mars, you'd probably be money ahead not doing an HLV right away (so you don't have to pay an extra 20+ years of operating cost you don't need to), and start it when you're closer to the need.  While most people in the industry act as though they think that all that will ever be useful in liquid rocketry has already been invented, and that the next 50 years will just be whittling away on that last decimal place of performance, I don't share that view.  20 years from now, if we're investing regularly in new technologies, and creating new markets that can drive investment beyond NASA funding, the technology base for building an HLV will probably be better and more affordable than today. 

It's not that your comment was dumb, or somehow illegit, or that I doubt your sincerity.  Just gets old having to reanswer the same questions over and over again.  I'd like some new ones occasionally.

~Jon

Offline khallow

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Re: Legislative Language for Restructuring NASA
« Reply #33 on: 01/13/2010 12:34 AM »
I agree with neilh here. Why would one launch failure end the mission? Just make duplicate copies of all your vital mission components and drop the blame finding delay that goes on after a major accident. Redundancy in launch vehicles and payloads can greatly reduce the odds of LOM from a launch failure.

Absolutely.  Why just make one of something for a particular mission when you can make two for twice the price. 

Development costs happen only once. And if you're doing more than just one-off missions, then this burden becomes far less significant especially with economies of scale reducing cost of manufacture per component.
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Re: Legislative Language for Restructuring NASA
« Reply #34 on: 01/13/2010 12:37 AM »
I agree with neilh here. Why would one launch failure end the mission? Just make duplicate copies of all your vital mission components and drop the blame finding delay that goes on after a major accident. Redundancy in launch vehicles and payloads can greatly reduce the odds of LOM from a launch failure.


Absolutely.  Why just make one of something for a particular mission when you can make two for twice the price. 

OV, there are easy ways of dealing with stuff like this, we've been discussing this for years.  First off, almost all the mass of any BEO mission at the point of departure from LEO is propellant.  If done right, you can keep the number of mission critical hardware launches in any BEO campaign to the same number using EELV-class vehicles as you could with HLVs.  You then have a large number of low-value propellant payloads that have almost no inherent value.

You only start having to do even remotely clever stuff when you start talking about trying to do Mars missions with EELV class vehicles.  NEOs are doable, but Mars takes some cleverness.  But if you only need an HLV for Mars, you'd probably be money ahead not doing an HLV right away (so you don't have to pay an extra 20+ years of operating cost you don't need to), and start it when you're closer to the need.  While most people in the industry act as though they think that all that will ever be useful in liquid rocketry has already been invented, and that the next 50 years will just be whittling away on that last decimal place of performance, I don't share that view.  20 years from now, if we're investing regularly in new technologies, and creating new markets that can drive investment beyond NASA funding, the technology base for building an HLV will probably be better and more affordable than today. 

It's not that your comment was dumb, or somehow illegit, or that I doubt your sincerity.  Just gets old having to reanswer the same questions over and over again.  I'd like some new ones occasionally.

~Jon

Jon,

Thank you for comment.  I did not think my comment was dumb or illegit either.  Nor do I doubt your sincerity.  However, allow me to point out this was not a question but a comment.  Nor was a question directed toward you or one where I meant to intentionally burden you with trying to educate me to your philosophy. 

Let me say this, you and I are very much the approximate age but perhaps with different types of experience and philosophy.  That's not a bad thing really but I refuse to also totally discount what I know just because it would seem to satisfy the business case of the company you work for.
« Last Edit: 01/13/2010 12:39 AM by OV-106 »
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Re: Legislative Language for Restructuring NASA
« Reply #35 on: 01/13/2010 12:42 AM »
I agree with neilh here. Why would one launch failure end the mission? Just make duplicate copies of all your vital mission components and drop the blame finding delay that goes on after a major accident. Redundancy in launch vehicles and payloads can greatly reduce the odds of LOM from a launch failure.

Absolutely.  Why just make one of something for a particular mission when you can make two for twice the price. 

Development costs happen only once. And if you're doing more than just one-off missions, then this burden becomes far less significant especially with economies of scale reducing cost of manufacture per component.


Ok, but what you are talking about is mass-production at a rate beyond what is currently required for the immediate future.  That makes it a waste.
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Offline khallow

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Re: Legislative Language for Restructuring NASA
« Reply #36 on: 01/13/2010 12:44 AM »

Ok, but what you are talking about is mass-production at a rate beyond what is currently required for the immediate future.  That makes it a waste.

You can always make zero of that particular project. That's even less waste.
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Offline Bill White

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Re: Legislative Language for Restructuring NASA
« Reply #37 on: 01/13/2010 12:53 AM »
Quote
"How might it be politically feasible to re-structure NASA to achieve robust human exploration without heavy lift?"

Jon Goff, with the focus of this thread being politics, not engineering, do you have any thoughts on the above question?

Not whether it is feasible from an engineering perspective, but how might the politics be arranged to actually accomplish robust human space exploration without heavy lift?

If not politically feasible in the near term (notwithstanding all manner of nifty ideas guys like you have come up with) might NASA willingness to accept private LEO destinations be a viable Plan B?
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Offline jongoff

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Re: Legislative Language for Restructuring NASA
« Reply #38 on: 01/13/2010 01:26 AM »
Thank you for comment.  I did not think my comment was dumb or illegit either.  Nor do I doubt your sincerity.  However, allow me to point out this was not a question but a comment.  Nor was a question directed toward you or one where I meant to intentionally burden you with trying to educate me to your philosophy.

Sorry, while I only quoted that later post, I was more responding to your earlier comments on this thread regarding the need for HLVs and the increased risks supposedly inherent in non-HLV options.  I should've responded there.  Been busy today.  :-)

Quote
Let me say this, you and I are very much the approximate age but perhaps with different types of experience and philosophy.

Really?  You always sounded older than that to me.

Quote
That's not a bad thing really but I refuse to also totally discount what I know just because it would seem to satisfy the business case of the company you work for.

???

Are you suggesting that you think I hold these views because my company is somehow going to benefit if we go with propellant depots and multi-launch architectures?  If so, I wish that were the case, but it really isn't.

The company I'm working for isn't really more likely to get additional business if the government went the route I'd like to see taken, compared to if they perpetuate the status quo.  Either way, I highly doubt MSS is going to be a lead player in building or operating orbital launch systems, depots, EDS's, or NASA manned lunar landers.  Our most likely contribution for any of these areas is providing low-cost access to short-duration microgravity, and low-cost flight testing of prototype hardware.  I think we're just as likely to do well under the existing CxP plan (which requires lots of cryo fluid management development in its own right) as we will under any other.

This is more a matter of principle for me--I really think that a program that is geared towards fostering and building technological capabilities and commercial capabilities is going to provide a far better return in the longrun than one that yet again designs yet another expensive heavy lift vehicle, that only NASA will use, and use only a few few times per year, employing thousands of people.

~Jon

Offline jongoff

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Re: Legislative Language for Restructuring NASA
« Reply #39 on: 01/13/2010 01:34 AM »
Quote
"How might it be politically feasible to re-structure NASA to achieve robust human exploration without heavy lift?"

Jon Goff, with the focus of this thread being politics, not engineering, do you have any thoughts on the above question?

I dunno, actually require them to follow existing laws (that have been quoted in this thread already)?  If they aren't willing to do that, or if they can find exceptions for any law they don't want to follow, what good will legislating around the problem do?

Quote
Not whether it is feasible from an engineering perspective, but how might the politics be arranged to actually accomplish robust human space exploration without heavy lift?

The budgetary realities out there will probably preclude robust human space exploration with heavy lift as well.  Shelby and co may have the power to derail any useful alternative, but they don't have enough pull to get the solution they want funded at the level that would be necessary to deliver anything. 

Quote
If not politically feasible in the near term (notwithstanding all manner of nifty ideas guys like you have come up with) might NASA willingness to accept private LEO destinations be a viable Plan B?

Not sure what you mean by this.  As for what my plan is, it is what it always has been to assume that the overall NASA direction was always going to be hopelessly screwed up, and try to salvage what value we can around the margins.

~Jon

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