Author Topic: In a change of attitude, NASA appears to embrace private rockets  (Read 14035 times)

Offline Star One

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I really can't imagine this Truce lasting long not with people like Newt Gingrich hectoring for new space from the sidelines. Especially if someone like him gets the big job at NASA replacing Bolden.

https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/03/nasa-spaceflight-chief-says-he-loves-all-of-the-rockets/

Online AncientU

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It is called a 'tactical retreat'

Echoing a frequent refrain on this forum:
Quote
Perhaps now that Bolden has left the agency, Gerstenmaier feels more able to speak out. During his comments this week, he noted that due to its high cost, the SLS rocket will only be able to fly once a year. "That doesn't make for a very compelling human-spaceflight program," he said.

also
Quote
  "We're going to be using some of these other rockets to augment what we're doing with SLS. So SLS is used for that unique case where we have to launch one very large mass that can't be broken up into separate pieces"
« Last Edit: 03/09/2017 03:14 PM by AncientU »
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Offline Jim

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It is called a 'tactical retreat'


Nothing of the sort. 

Offline Star One

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It is called a 'tactical retreat'


Nothing of the sort.

Tactical realignment then?

Offline Proponent

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I think the truce will last some time.  Though it's now $20 billion into Orion/SLS, Congress is still vague on what to do with it.  I think that's no accident: it's perfectly obvious that doing much with SLS requires much more money than NASA's going to get (and deep down, Congress knows that -- the 2014 NRC report which Congress itself commissioned said so).  But, sooner or later, Congress has to start talking about using Orion/SLS if it's going to keep the money flowing.  By allowing consideration of much cheaper commercial systems, Congress can fudge the cost of using SLS for a few years longer.

Offline Blackstar

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It is called a 'tactical retreat'

Nothing of the sort. 

Yeah, I think this is all being over-interpreted.

Part of the problem is that the reporter is comparing what Gerst is saying now to something that Bolden said a little while ago. The problem with that is that Bolden often said things that were not exactly the policy, or even what he meant to say. So people took him literally when they really should have run his statements through an interpreter. Thus, I think there is less of an actual change now than the reporter thinks.

NASA already uses "private" rockets--if you accept that "private" means something developed by a company, possibly with a lot of NASA money. So it's hard to see a fundamental shift here or even much of a change in policy. If somebody builds their big rocket and proves that it works, NASA may take a look at it. There are a whole bunch of conditional "ifs" involved.
« Last Edit: 03/09/2017 05:42 PM by Blackstar »

Offline Star One

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It is called a 'tactical retreat'

Nothing of the sort. 

Yeah, I think this is all being over-interpreted.

Part of the problem is that the reporter is comparing what Gerst is saying now to something that Bolden said a little while ago. The problem with that is that Bolden often said things that were not exactly the policy, or even what he meant to say. So people took him literally when they really should have run his statements through an interpreter. Thus, I think there is less of an actual change now than the reporter thinks.

NASA already uses "private" rockets--if you accept that "private" means something developed by a company, possibly with a lot of NASA money. So it's hard to see a fundamental shift here or even much of a change in policy. If somebody builds their big rocket and proves that it works, NASA may take a look at it. There are a whole bunch of conditional "ifs" involved.

Well how are people supposed to know beforehand that they were meant to run everything he said through some kind of 'interpreter' first before getting to what he actually meant?

Offline Jim

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This is by any measure an abrupt about face by NASA brass.

Not really.  You are only provide selective quotes that seem to support your POV. 
NASA is more than just SLS.
« Last Edit: 03/09/2017 06:44 PM by Jim »

Online AncientU

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This is by any measure an abrupt about face by NASA brass.

Not really.  You are only provide selective quotes that seem to support your POV. 
NASA is more than just SLS.

The parts of NASA that are OT are human space flight, Gerst, SLS.  The quote I provided was part of the OP... Eric Berger selected it because of the contrast with Grest's statement.  Eric, like most good writers, select quotes that make their point.

What is your point, other than instinctive negativity?
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Online guckyfan

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Quote
Gerst

For us Germans it is somewhat weird to see the name shortened like this.

We do have an Astronaut with the name Alexander Gerst who was at the ISS:

Edit: I do know you are talking about William Gerstenmeyer, I have seen it before. It is not a problem to me, just feels weird.  ;)
« Last Edit: 03/09/2017 08:51 PM by guckyfan »

Online AncientU

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Quote
Gerst

For us Germans it is somewhat weird to see the name shortened like this.

We do have an Astronaut with the name Alexander Gerst who was at the ISS:

Sorry.  Shortened William Gerstenmaier's, NASA's Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, name as is common practice here.  Had to look it up first time I saw 'Gerst'.
Too much in a rush...
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Offline Jim

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The parts of NASA that are OT are human space flight, Gerst, SLS.

NASA Launch Services Program is under Gerstenmaier.  They would be are the ones buying the rides on the rockets in the chart except SLS.
« Last Edit: 03/10/2017 02:04 PM by Jim »

Offline Blackstar

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Well how are people supposed to know beforehand that they were meant to run everything he said through some kind of 'interpreter' first before getting to what he actually meant?

Not "beforehand," but after observing Bolden do that many times.

I never worked with Bolden. I encountered him numerous times in a professional capacity, but never had to work with him. I know that people who interacted with him regularly found him to be a personable guy. I think that in retrospect, NASA had no major problems during his tenure as administrator. It ran smooth and steady, and that's an accomplishment that he should get credit for. As for Bolden's downsides, I would list several:

-no clear sense of vision or where the agency was heading (and I don't include the humans to Mars talk, because it was all talk and little action)
-he didn't care about anything other than human spaceflight
-his lack of ability to talk about anything other than human spaceflight
-his awkwardness as a public speaker
-his lack of diplomacy or political savvy

Many times those things combined in unfortunate ways. Go back and look at his "Muslim outreach" comments. What he was trying to say in an interview was that he was in the Middle East to talk to students in Muslim countries about science and education. Instead, he mucked it up, and the result was that for years conservatives with an axe to grind kept referring to NASA as the "Muslim outreach agency." It was a dumb blunder that he should not have made.

And there were numerous other examples of those things combining in inappropriate ways. For instance, in summer 2015 when New Horizons flew past Pluto the NASA administrator should have hit a home run with that. All he had to do was put a little bit of thought into it and he could have talked about how historic it was that NASA was revealing the mysteries of one of the furthest objects in our solar system. He could have said that it demonstrated just how important NASA was to the United States and the world and the future--the agency was rewriting the text books and changing humanity's understanding of the universe. He could have been poetic and uplifting. And it would not have taken much effort at all, because it was all right there waiting for him to assemble the words. Instead, Bolden stood in front of a group of scientists and read from notecards about how New Horizons was another successful step on NASA's Journey to Mars. That kind of stuff deflates everybody in the room, because they know that the administrator has no understanding of what is happening and really doesn't care what they actually accomplished. At that moment, when he should have praised them, he turned it into a lame effort to push a tired public relations agenda for the Potemkin human spaceflight program. (Note: if you draw a line from Earth to Mars, you will not pass Pluto.)

Add in the last point: Bolden had a tendency to say things that were more declarative than they should have been when a more politically savvy person might have left in some ambiguity. He sort of boxed himself into a corner at various times. (An example was when he stated that NASA would no longer build flagship class missions: right after that they approved Mars 2020, WFIRST and the Europa mission.) And if you watched him do that again and again, eventually you developed a filter for it.

There's an old joke about military staffers: "What the generally meant to say was..." You just hope that the guy in charge is sharp enough to not blunder himself into stating things that his staff has to clarify later.

Offline Star One

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Well how are people supposed to know beforehand that they were meant to run everything he said through some kind of 'interpreter' first before getting to what he actually meant?

Not "beforehand," but after observing Bolden do that many times.

I never worked with Bolden. I encountered him numerous times in a professional capacity, but never had to work with him. I know that people who interacted with him regularly found him to be a personable guy. I think that in retrospect, NASA had no major problems during his tenure as administrator. It ran smooth and steady, and that's an accomplishment that he should get credit for. As for Bolden's downsides, I would list several:

-no clear sense of vision or where the agency was heading (and I don't include the humans to Mars talk, because it was all talk and little action)
-he didn't care about anything other than human spaceflight
-his lack of ability to talk about anything other than human spaceflight
-his awkwardness as a public speaker
-his lack of diplomacy or political savvy

Many times those things combined in unfortunate ways. Go back and look at his "Muslim outreach" comments. What he was trying to say in an interview was that he was in the Middle East to talk to students in Muslim countries about science and education. Instead, he mucked it up, and the result was that for years conservatives with an axe to grind kept referring to NASA as the "Muslim outreach agency." It was a dumb blunder that he should not have made.

And there were numerous other examples of those things combining in inappropriate ways. For instance, in summer 2015 when New Horizons flew past Pluto the NASA administrator should have hit a home run with that. All he had to do was put a little bit of thought into it and he could have talked about how historic it was that NASA was revealing the mysteries of one of the furthest objects in our solar system. He could have said that it demonstrated just how important NASA was to the United States and the world and the future--the agency was rewriting the text books and changing humanity's understanding of the universe. He could have been poetic and uplifting. And it would not have taken much effort at all, because it was all right there waiting for him to assemble the words. Instead, Bolden stood in front of a group of scientists and read from notecards about how New Horizons was another successful step on NASA's Journey to Mars. That kind of stuff deflates everybody in the room, because they know that the administrator has no understanding of what is happening and really doesn't care what they actually accomplished. At that moment, when he should have praised them, he turned it into a lame effort to push a tired public relations agenda for the Potemkin human spaceflight program. (Note: if you draw a line from Earth to Mars, you will not pass Pluto.)

Add in the last point: Bolden had a tendency to say things that were more declarative than they should have been when a more politically savvy person might have left in some ambiguity. He sort of boxed himself into a corner at various times. (An example was when he stated that NASA would no longer build flagship class missions: right after that they approved Mars 2020, WFIRST and the Europa mission.) And if you watched him do that again and again, eventually you developed a filter for it.

There's an old joke about military staffers: "What the generally meant to say was..." You just hope that the guy in charge is sharp enough to not blunder himself into stating things that his staff has to clarify later.

Fascinating stuff and it paints another side to him.

Offline tdperk

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This is by any measure an abrupt about face by NASA brass.

Not really.  You are only provide selective quotes that seem to support your POV. 
NASA is more than just SLS.

If you look at it from the standpoint of budget, you might have a different view.

If you look at it from the standpoint of miss-spent budget, still more so.

Offline Danderman

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Budgets are policy.

Offline D_Dom

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Not sure about the value of this thread, if NASA weren't funding private rockets throughout history, how many would exist? Keep the conversation focused and be excellent.
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Offline Blackstar

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Not sure about the value of this thread, if NASA weren't funding private rockets throughout history, how many would exist? Keep the conversation focused and be excellent.

If the thread has value it is this:

-the article implies that there is a change in policy/strategy
-as several of us have pointed out, that is probably not really true, in part because people misunderstood the earlier policy/strategy

So the value is that it clarifies things.

A bit.

Maybe.

Sorta.

Well, probably not...
« Last Edit: 03/10/2017 04:57 PM by Blackstar »

Offline Eric Hedman

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-no clear sense of vision or where the agency was heading (and I don't include the humans to Mars talk, because it was all talk and little action)

I always wondered how much of that was due to no support for a clear vision from the White House.

Many times those things combined in unfortunate ways. Go back and look at his "Muslim outreach" comments. What he was trying to say in an interview was that he was in the Middle East to talk to students in Muslim countries about science and education. Instead, he mucked it up, and the result was that for years conservatives with an axe to grind kept referring to NASA as the "Muslim outreach agency." It was a dumb blunder that he should not have made.

The only time I met Gen. Bolden was shortly after the "Muslim outreach" comments.  Up close he comes across as very personable and likeable.  I always wondered how he was prepped for his trip to the middle east.  I suspect the State Department gave him some talking points that they thought would go over well where he was.  Comments by people in his position don't say isolated to the intended audience.  Better thought needs to go into what gets said practically anywhere because of who will eventually hear them.

The big question comes with the next administrator and the support or lack of support this person will get from Trump to set a direction and to lobby for it to get done.  I personally suspect that NASA will be embracing more and more cooperation with SpaceX and Blue Origin.  And that will probably be coming from the White House.  There is a reason Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos talk with Trump.  It will work better with what are the coming budget realities.  Where that leaves SLS and Orion in the long haul is still anyone's guess.

Offline Star One

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Not sure about the value of this thread, if NASA weren't funding private rockets throughout history, how many would exist? Keep the conversation focused and be excellent.

If the thread has value it is this:

-the article implies that there is a change in policy/strategy
-as several of us have pointed out, that is probably not really true, in part because people misunderstood the earlier policy/strategy

So the value is that it clarifies things.

A bit.

Maybe.

Sorta.

Well, probably not...

Especially as a lot of people online seem to believe the line put forward by the article.

Offline bad_astra

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It seems like a good opportunity now to figure out how SLS and purchased launch vehicles can both be utilized together in a good way that allows a successful program, whatever that program may be (cough, return to moon, cough). I'm not the most optimistic guy around sometimes, but I really do see some possibilities here. It just needs a vision and a commitment now. I think everyone gets frustrated because there has been what looks like a lot of treading water going on, but think of it: in two years, or less, we'll have THREE human carrying spacecraft produced in the USA, a well established cargo transportation system from multiple vendors, and two heavy lift launch vehicles. That's never happened.

Makes perfect sense that anyone would want to work with everything they have at hand. That sounds like the opposite of a tactical retreat to me. That is moving forward.
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Offline sfxtd

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Japan's H-IIB is notably absent from the operational rocket list.

Offline russianhalo117

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Japan's H-IIB is notably absent from the operational rocket list.
There is no reason to list a retiring launcher as its manufacturer MHI is about to end production of H-IIB, as its last flight is in early JFY 2019, so that MHI can start retooling its facilities for the new H-III launcher family. H-IIA will retire in JFY 2023.

Offline Mark S

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Japan's H-IIB is notably absent from the operational rocket list.
There is no reason to list a retiring launcher as its manufacturer MHI is about to end production of H-IIB, as its last flight is in early JFY 2019, so that MHI can start retooling its facilities for the new H-III launcher family. H-IIA will retire in JFY 2023.

Still it should have been included, and the H-III included in the "advanced development" or "proposed" section.

The Indian launchers (PSLV, GSLV) are also not included.

I guess there's only so much room in a single (very wide) graphic.


Online AncientU

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The presence of three Chinese vehicles was interesting... isn't there a prohibition against such collaboration?

What is 'private' about those vehicles and others on the graphic?
« Last Edit: 03/10/2017 08:47 PM by AncientU »
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Offline Blackstar

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-no clear sense of vision or where the agency was heading (and I don't include the humans to Mars talk, because it was all talk and little action)

I always wondered how much of that was due to no support for a clear vision from the White House.



I think they were not mutually exclusive. In other words:

-there was no clear vision from the White House, AND
-Bolden had no vision of his own


Dealing with Bolden first: he did not want the job. He said so himself. He was asked by the president and he was not going to turn him down. So he took the job because he was a good Marine. But the only thing he really cared about was STEM education. He talked about that a bit, but he actually did not turn it into a goal for the agency. Beyond that, I think his personal goals probably involved managing the end of the shuttle program, managing ISS and the human spaceflight program, and keeping everything on an even keel. There are rumors that he actually opposed the cancellation of the Constellation program but he was overruled. I never heard of any indication that he had any personal desire to set the agency on the path to the Moon or Mars or anything like that. And I've heard enough about the way the asteroid mission was selected (it was done quietly, with little careful deliberation) that I don't think he was much involved in that either. He provided some hints that for his first couple of years at the agency he did not know everything that was going on--implying that his deputy was doing things without his knowledge. He later got a better handle on things, and his deputy left.

As for the lack of vision from the White House? Hopefully some enterprising graduate student will try and tackle this subject, because it's really baffling. The White House sought to do a complete overhaul of NASA in early 2010 by canceling Constellation, Ares I, Ares V, Orion and Antares and the lunar goal. They also sought to create a big R&D budget inside NASA. They did all this in the most inept way they possibly could, ticking off many people in Congress, even those who should have been on their own side.

But it was not clear from the start what they actually were aiming for with all these changes. What was the goal other than to try and create technology at NASA? The asteroid project was created rather hastily without anybody looking into the details. And then for months, even years later, it seemed like the administration really just wanted to cover their eyes and ears and hum loudly and ignore reality about that.

I think Bolden found himself at the whims of an indifferent White House and an OMB that really didn't want to give NASA any more money. In the midst of all that, perhaps the best he could hope for was to keep ISS flying, move along Commercial Cargo and Crew, and just avoid any big failures. And he did that. But he never articulated a real future for the agency, and I think that's because he didn't really have a vision of what NASA's future should be.
« Last Edit: 03/11/2017 12:26 AM by Blackstar »

Offline Lar

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I think the best that can be said about the Bolden era, was that it was mostly harmless. Meandering and wasted time but at least some things moved forward some. And happily, some directorates churn out lots of great science with rovers and planetary probes... all you have to do is mostly leave them alone and don't futz with their budget too much.

But Blackstar nailed it, in that the Pluto flyby was a chance to really wax historic and leave giant "poetic and uplifting" words ringing that go down in the history books, Maybe not Winston Churchill level, but historic. Bolden, although a good man at heart, does not have giant words in him.

As for the thread, meh. I agree with those that think this might be a good summation piece but there's no new news here...
« Last Edit: 03/11/2017 12:40 AM by Lar »
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Offline Blackstar

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The only time I met Gen. Bolden was shortly after the "Muslim outreach" comments.  Up close he comes across as very personable and likeable.  I always wondered how he was prepped for his trip to the middle east.  I suspect the State Department gave him some talking points that they thought would go over well where he was.  Comments by people in his position don't say isolated to the intended audience.  Better thought needs to go into what gets said practically anywhere because of who will eventually hear them.

Yes, he was probably given some talking points. But he had a bad habit of forgetting what he was supposed to say and I think that's what happened when he gave that interview. It's a real shame too, because that's not that hard a message to convey. He could have said "The United States has many allies in the Muslim world. I'm here to reach out to them and make connections and talk about possible ways that we can cooperate in exploring the solar system and studying the universe." Easy. NASA has a great brand, particularly overseas. All he had to do was put a little spin on that brand and he'd win. Instead, he flubbed it and for years later whenever an article about NASA appeared on some conservative website you inevitably saw dipshits making comments about NASA being a "Muslim outreach agency."

If you watched him in public talks later on he often pulled out his notecards and read from them. Every talk he gave then somehow became tied to the human spaceflight program. Heck, I ran a meeting around 2012 or so that included a lot of top aeronautics (i.e. airplanes) experts. Bolden gave a talk and started discussing the great human spaceflight program. Nobody cared--they wanted to discuss airplanes--but that was his default position. Eventually, around 2015 or so, somebody came up with the "#JourneytoMars" and not only did NASA start putting that in every single press release, but Bolden started mentioning it in all of his talks, even when he was talking about flying New Horizons past Pluto. It was on the notecards, so he read it. But he needed the notecards because without them he would say things that got him into trouble.

Offline Coastal Ron

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-no clear sense of vision or where the agency was heading (and I don't include the humans to Mars talk, because it was all talk and little action)

I always wondered how much of that was due to no support for a clear vision from the White House.

Ever since Kennedy we've expected our Presidents to be able to articulate long-lasting and inspirational space-related "visions".  Except all that Kennedy did was take advantage of two converging international issues, the Space Race and the Cold War.

Today not even the space community can agree on what the next goal should be in space, so how are less informed politicians supposed to understand what the next goal should be?

Also, as of today there are no problems in space that sending government employees to space solves, so our efforts in space today are gated by how much political "love" NASA can capture.  Of course it helps that NASA has large facilities in certain states, and that alone keeps politicians pushing for NASA funding.  But the lack of funding for ANY payloads or programs that MUST use the SLS and Orion is evidence that we've hit kind of a pause point for NASA in space.  That beyond supporting the ISS, nothing else is near-term enough to be easy to fund and back with political capital.

So just as I don't blame Obama for not going beyond general support for reaching Mars, I would not blame Trump if he is not able to do any better.

As to Gerstenmaier's comments, my view has always been that what has been keeping us from expanding humanity out into space has been the cost of accessing space.  The SLS does not solve that, but SpaceX and Blue Origin are trying to solve that - without direct government assistance.

So maybe Gerstenmaier is reading the writing on the wall, or maybe these are his personal beliefs, but anything out of NASA that encourages lowering the cost to access space overall is a good thing.  It may not go anywhere, and the next NASA Administrator may reverse course and support only the SLS, but for now this should be garnering positive reviews.  I hope that helps our politicians understand what they can do to help - in the right way.
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 yg1968

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It is called a 'tactical retreat'

Nothing of the sort. 

Yeah, I think this is all being over-interpreted.

Part of the problem is that the reporter is comparing what Gerst is saying now to something that Bolden said a little while ago. The problem with that is that Bolden often said things that were not exactly the policy, or even what he meant to say. So people took him literally when they really should have run his statements through an interpreter. Thus, I think there is less of an actual change now than the reporter thinks.

NASA already uses "private" rockets--if you accept that "private" means something developed by a company, possibly with a lot of NASA money. So it's hard to see a fundamental shift here or even much of a change in policy. If somebody builds their big rocket and proves that it works, NASA may take a look at it. There are a whole bunch of conditional "ifs" involved.

Yes, I agree. Bolden said that a while ago and the previous administration was also very pro-commercial. I don't think that is a fair to summarize Bolden's views in that manner.

But I think that you are being to harsh on Bolden. His speeches got better and better. In any event, people that make great speeches aren't always good leaders.

« Last Edit: 03/11/2017 03:36 AM by yg1968 »

Offline Proponent

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I think Bolden found himself at the whims of an indifferent White House and an OMB that really didn't want to give NASA any more money....

Isn't that par for the course?

Quote
As for the lack of vision from the White House? Hopefully some enterprising graduate student will try and tackle this subject, because it's really baffling. The White House sought to do a complete overhaul of NASA in early 2010 by canceling Constellation, Ares I, Ares V, Orion and Antares and the lunar goal. They also sought to create a big R&D budget inside NASA. They did all this in the most inept way they possibly could, ticking off many people in Congress, even those who should have been on their own side.

I agree that the Obama administration's moves on space early on were very clumsy, even for a new administration.  But when I put myself in Obama's shoes, the FY 2011 proposal doesn't seem crazy to me.  The inherited Constellation program was already in trouble and its projected budgetary needs were unrealistic.  It was a disaster waiting to happen.  Either you burn some political capital for a big plus-up in NASA's budget to fix the problem--which no president since JFK* has been willing to do--or you change course.



* And it wasn't even his idea: he was just reacting to decisions made in Moscow.
« Last Edit: 03/11/2017 09:16 AM by Proponent »

Online AncientU

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...

So maybe Gerstenmaier is reading the writing on the wall, or maybe these are his personal beliefs, but anything out of NASA that encourages lowering the cost to access space overall is a good thing.  It may not go anywhere, and the next NASA Administrator may reverse course and support only the SLS, but for now this should be garnering positive reviews.  I hope that helps our politicians understand what they can do to help - in the right way.

The writing on the wall is the budget
Flat is better than can be expected... 5% cut proposed this coming year.

Grest's telling phrase is 'one SLS per year'... 2-3 are needed for any 'compelling' exploration program -- and that will take a significant budget increase.  Oh, and then payloads, lots of them.  More budget increases.

Ain't gonna happen.

Even the manned flight by 2020 is going to take buckets more money... That too will not happen.

Of course, Congress could over-ride the President's plan to increase Defense spending and cut discretionary programs to 'pay for' spending increases.  Or simply call for increases in Federal spending... in other words, go nuclear against the President's campaign promises.  Recipe for blood in the aisles...

Multiple SLS flights per year is indefensible ground.  Better a tactical retreat to something that can possibly be defended -- a public plus private exploration effort -- than a total rout.
« Last Edit: 03/11/2017 10:31 AM by AncientU »
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Offline Proponent

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Better a tactical retreat to something that can possibly be defended -- a public plus private exploration effort -- than a total rout.

This.

Thus far, SLS's supporters in Congress have avoided the specifics of employing SLS, likely because the know the costs are just too scary.  That strategy has worked well for several election cycles, but it has a limited life.  So now they'll have to mix in some non-NASA launch vehicles to make the projected cost of actually doing something with SLS less scary.

The trouble with the new strategy is that it tends to highlight the question of why use SLS at all if the other rockets are so much cheaper.  But that day of reckoning can likely be put off for a few more election cycles.

All above the above is merely IMHO, of course.

Offline Blackstar

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-no clear sense of vision or where the agency was heading (and I don't include the humans to Mars talk, because it was all talk and little action)

I always wondered how much of that was due to no support for a clear vision from the White House.

Ever since Kennedy we've expected our Presidents to be able to articulate long-lasting and inspirational space-related "visions".  Except all that Kennedy did was take advantage of two converging international issues, the Space Race and the Cold War.

Today not even the space community can agree on what the next goal should be in space, so how are less informed politicians supposed to understand what the next goal should be?

No. "Vision" does not require bold pronouncements and big inspiration and all that. It just requires setting goals and plotting a strategy to achieve them. The Obama administration didn't really try for that. They held some very private deliberations in late 2009-early 2010 (where they treated NASA people as if they were foreign spies), and then rolled out a new budget that changed a lot of things but also had no underlying policy explanation for what they were doing and why they were doing it. That's policy incompetence--it's not how you are supposed to do this stuff. And indeed, it is not how Bush did it in 2005. Then they actually produced the policy document first, then rolled out the budget. And they successfully implemented the first stages of that.

As for "less informed politicians" that's also just not true. The politicians might not be as informed, but they have staff and quite often their staff is pretty well-informed. Now the staff might be distracted by shinier objects, or they might be deliberately ignored by the decision makers, but they're not dumb. One of the dirty little secrets about how the asteroid mission decision was made was that senior NASA officials (and the White House) deliberately excluded the asteroid experts when they were making the decision. NASA had in-house asteroid experts at JPL, NASA HQ, and the Minor Planets Center, and none of them were consulted before that decision was made and inserted into the president's speech. That was a case where they deliberately chose to keep out the people who actually understood the subject.

There were just a number of steps that the Obama administration took on space that were pretty clumsy. They don't get a pass by saying "Well, everybody does it."

The asteroid mission is a good case in point. I'm not convinced that it was ever a serious proposal. I think that it was actually a public relations facade to create the illusion that they had a plan. But if you look at the plan that they laid out, it was inherently flawed. Everybody who knows anything about asteroids told them that Step 1 was "Find more asteroids." But they chose to ignore that, and in fact even five years after they had established that plan there were still people at OSTP asking the question "What was Step 1 again?"

« Last Edit: 03/11/2017 01:01 PM by Blackstar »

Offline Blackstar

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I agree that the Obama administration's moves on space early on were very clumsy, even for a new administration.  But when I put myself in Obama's shoes, the FY 2011 proposal doesn't seem crazy to me.

You're only paying attention to the cancellation part, not the "what we're going to do next" part, which was pretty awful because there was no policy justification for it.

Just off the top of my head the blunders in early 2010 were:

-cancelling major programs without providing a sound justification for it
-failing to produce a White House white paper/policy document that explained what they were trying to do
-explaining what the post-Constellation goal was
-briefing Congress before they released the budget and briefed the press (they made a lot of enemies they did not have to)
-failing to understand that any rapid increase in any budget (such as the big R&D increase in the FY2011 budget) always gets a skeptical eye in Congress
-scrambling after all the controversy to come up with a new goal, which led to Obama going to KSC and saying "It's asteroids."

Lots of blundering there. Talk to people on Capitol Hill at the time and they will tell you that the administration did one of the worst roll outs of a new policy that they had ever seen. That kind of fumbling led many on the Hill to decide that the White House did not know what it was doing in space policy. And if the White House didn't know what they were doing, Congress figured, they (Congress) would take over the reins. That led to greater micromanagement and infighting. There's this common misconception that the only thing that mattered to the Congress was pork. But they also had this impression that the White House did not know what it was doing regarding space policy, so Congress was going to start dictating the decisions.

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You're only paying attention to the cancellation part, not the "what we're going to do next" part, which was pretty awful because there was no policy justification for it.

Just off the top of my head the blunders in early 2010 were:

-cancelling major programs without providing a sound justification for it
<snip>
Your other arguments are all pretty much spot-on. But the one highlighted above just plain isn't IMO. Exactly what part of the Augustine report did you not understand?
There was plenty of sound justification for canceling CxP. All of CxP.
« Last Edit: 03/12/2017 05:27 PM by woods170 »

Offline Coastal Ron

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No. "Vision" does not require bold pronouncements and big inspiration and all that. It just requires setting goals and plotting a strategy to achieve them. The Obama administration didn't really try for that.

Only viewing what was said and done in public, you are right.  And I believe that was on purpose.

Obama's FY2011 budget proposal that cancelled the Constellation program was focused on rebuilding NASA's "technology cupboard", not jumping from one destination (the Moon) to another (an asteroid).  To me he was justifying why the changes needed to be made, but realized that NASA was not yet ready to go anywhere so he would focus on preparation during his time in office, and leave mission details to future Presidents.

Unfortunately Congress wanted the SLS and the Orion, and didn't want to fund in-space technologies that would have made the SLS and Orion irrelevant, so Obama likely figured that he had done as much as he could do with securing the future of the ISS and left it at that.  I called it a victory at the time, and I still do.

Quote
The asteroid mission is a good case in point. I'm not convinced that it was ever a serious proposal. I think that it was actually a public relations facade to create the illusion that they had a plan.

The "vision" that Obama laid out in 2010 was humans to an asteroid in the mid-2020's, and humans to orbit Mars by the mid-2030's.  Then Congress decided to fund the SLS and Orion, which meant neither of those was going to happen from a budget standpoint.

Fast forward to April of 2013, Senator Nelson announced that NASA was planning to capture an asteroid and send an Orion to meet it once it was brought back to the region of our Moon, and that the funding would be in an upcoming Administration budget.

I don't think this was Obama's idea, I think it was something that Nelson and maybe Bolden created to try and make the most of the SLS and Orion situation.  And I don't recall Obama publicly spending any of his "political capital" to push Congress to support the ARM - whereas he was very vocal about supporting Commercial Crew.  Nevertheless it came from his Administration, so it was his to own, but to me it's clear it was not anything he was enthusiastic about - because he didn't believe the SLS and Orion had a future.

NASA is a tool the U.S. Government uses to solve peaceful problems in space, but if you can't identify specific problems (i.e. what is Earth doing, how do we keep humans alive in space, etc.) then you can't propose a solution and support it.  Anyone that proposes sending government employees away from Earth still needs to identify how that solves a problem here on Earth - and other than jobs or prestige, we don't have an obvious one right now.

These are the circumstances of our times.  If tomorrow we find there are aliens in our solar system, or an asteroid is going to hit us in 50 years, the circumstances will be far more clear.  But today there are no defining issues that will focus our politicians on a single plan for years to come.  Or that will focus our space community on a single goal for years to come.

Which is why it may be time for the private sector to take the lead, since our government doesn't have a need to at this point.

My $0.02
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 Robotbeat

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The robotic part of that asteroid redirect mission made far more pragmatic sense than Constellation's return to the Moon.

Fair point that Obama didn't sell it very well, but Congress as a whole was out for his head, so hard to blame him much.
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Offline yg1968

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The robotic part of that asteroid redirect mission made far more pragmatic sense than Constellation's return to the Moon.

Fair point that Obama didn't sell it very well, but Congress as a whole was out for his head, so hard to blame him much.

Congress wasn't going to buy what was in the NASA FY 2011 budget regardless of how it was announced. Congress wanted to maintain the government programs for human spaceflight. The 2010 NASA Authorization deal was a compromise between what the President wanted and what Congress wanted. Obama deserves some of the credit and some of the blame for this compromise. I hope that the Trump Administration renames SLS, Ares V. Because both Orion and SLS are remnants of Constellation. I think of them as Constellation lite.
« Last Edit: 03/12/2017 12:15 AM by yg1968 »

Offline Endeavour_01

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An exploration program using both SLS and commercial rockets is something I have hoped would happen for a while. I am really glad to hear Gerst endorsing it (his comments about a cis-lunar outpost were also very promising).

It makes the most sense from both a logistical and a political perspective. Logistically since SLS can only launch 1-2 times a year more capability is needed to launch cargo. FH can place a Destiny sized module in DRO as well as a Cygnus or a Dragon.

Politically both OldSpace and NewSpace have their supporters in the political arena. Trying to do it all the NewSpace way or the OldSpace way will lead to damaging political fights. A compromise proposal like this preserves the most support for space exploration.

What may end up happening is SLS will handle really large cargo (say BA-330 or a lunar lander) and crew (with co-manifested payloads) while FH and other commercial rockets handle cargo resupply and the smaller modules, with BLEO commercial crew on the horizon.

With a couple of differences this a repeat of what is going on with LEO right now. NASA builds the outpost, initially crews it with a NASA owned spacecraft, contracts for commercial cargo, and finally contracts for commercial crew. What's not to like?

In the space lecture I give to my students each semester I always include a slide with Nathan's (okan170) excellent render of FH on 39A and SLS on 39B with the caption of "Tag Team?" Looks like I can take the question mark out soon.  :D
I cheer for both NASA and commercial space. For SLS, Orion, Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy, Dragon, Starliner, Cygnus and all the rest!
I was blessed to see the launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour on STS-99. The launch was beyond amazing. My 8-year old mind was blown. I remember the noise and seeing the exhaust pour out of the shuttle as it lifted off. I remember staring and watching it soar while it was visible in the clear blue sky. It was one of the greatest moments of my life and I will never forget it.

Offline Coastal Ron

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It makes the most sense from both a logistical and a political perspective. Logistically since SLS can only launch 1-2 times a year more capability is needed to launch cargo. FH can place a Destiny sized module in DRO as well as a Cygnus or a Dragon.

What we're missing though, that will influence the "political perspective", is cost information for using the SLS.  Until our politicians know that, no one knows if they will support using the SLS for any long-term use.

Quote
Politically both OldSpace and NewSpace have their supporters in the political arena.

OldSpace, which includes most of the largest government contractors, wields far more political clout that NewSpace.  It's not even close.

What NewSpace has going for it are those politicians that are capitalists and/or focus on price as a determinant for whether the government is needed or not to provide a service.  Ironically such politicians are usually Republicans - unless a Democrat occupies the White House...   ;)

Quote
Trying to do it all the NewSpace way or the OldSpace way will lead to damaging political fights.

Damaging?  I don't see how.  And the only debate is whether a government transportation system is needed, since the commercial launch will be there already, since their business is mainly supported by non-NASA customers.  The SLS, of course, only has NASA as a customer.

Quote
A compromise proposal like this preserves the most support for space exploration.

Call me old fashion, but I prefer that decisions are made based on a defined need, not on political whims.  Meaning that if an effort in space is only funded because there is a need for a jobs program, then I don't high hopes for that program no matter what launch system is used.

Quote
What may end up happening is SLS will handle really large cargo (say BA-330 or a lunar lander) and crew (with co-manifested payloads) while FH and other commercial rockets handle cargo resupply and the smaller modules, with BLEO commercial crew on the horizon.

The New Glenn, which is now committed to be operational about the same time as the SLS (i.e. 2021) has a body diameter of 7m, compared to a body diameter of 8m for the SLS.  And it will be able to lift 45mT to LEO.  I'm just pointing out that the private sector is increasing their capabilities at a faster rate than the U.S. Government is with the SLS.  At some point it will be hard to ignore the differences between the cost and capabilities.

Interesting times...
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 Jim

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In the space lecture I give to my students each semester I always include a slide with Nathan's (okan170) excellent render of FH on 39A and SLS on 39B with the caption of "Tag Team?" Looks like I can take the question mark out soon.  :D

Yep, because SLS is history.

Offline Proponent

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An exploration program using both SLS and commercial rockets is something I have hoped would happen for a while. I am really glad to hear Gerst endorsing it (his comments about a cis-lunar outpost were also very promising).

It makes the most sense from both a logistical and a political perspective. Logistically since SLS can only launch 1-2 times a year more capability is needed to launch cargo. FH can place a Destiny sized module in DRO as well as a Cygnus or a Dragon.

Politically both OldSpace and NewSpace have their supporters in the political arena. Trying to do it all the NewSpace way or the OldSpace way will lead to damaging political fights. A compromise proposal like this preserves the most support for space exploration.

What may end up happening is SLS will handle really large cargo (say BA-330 or a lunar lander) and crew (with co-manifested payloads) while FH and other commercial rockets handle cargo resupply and the smaller modules, with BLEO commercial crew on the horizon.

With a couple of differences this a repeat of what is going on with LEO right now. NASA builds the outpost, initially crews it with a NASA owned spacecraft, contracts for commercial cargo, and finally contracts for commercial crew. What's not to like?

What's not to like is quite possibly paying $3 billion a year for a single SLS launch, or over $4 billion if Orion is included.  It's not obvious that there would be much left over for anything else.

I think the big difference between this scenario and what's going on in LEO is that the Shuttle has been retired.  If SLS were used to launch a couple of modules and then retired, the outlook might be better.  I can't imagine that would be proposed now, though I can imagine it happening.

Online AncientU

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An exploration program using both SLS and commercial rockets is something I have hoped would happen for a while. I am really glad to hear Gerst endorsing it (his comments about a cis-lunar outpost were also very promising).

It makes the most sense from both a logistical and a political perspective. Logistically since SLS can only launch 1-2 times a year more capability is needed to launch cargo. FH can place a Destiny sized module in DRO as well as a Cygnus or a Dragon.

...

What's not to like?

What's not to like is quite possibly paying $3 billion a year for a single SLS launch, or over $4 billion if Orion is included.  It's not obvious that there would be much left over for anything else.

...

Gerst agreed with this response to, "What's not to like?"
Quote
...due to its high cost, the SLS rocket will only be able to fly once a year.

He notably did not mention Orion, but confined the useful scope of the single SLS flight per year as:
Quote
SLS is used for that unique case where we have to launch one very large mass that can't be broken up into separate pieces

We appear to be stuck with SLS for the next few years, but as soon as that hypothetical 'one very large mass'
1. exists, and
2. can be flown by someone else,
SLS will be scrapped.
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Offline Coastal Ron

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We appear to be stuck with SLS for the next few years, but as soon as that hypothetical 'one very large mass'
1. exists, and
2. can be flown by someone else,
SLS will be scrapped.

Just as a reminder, the SLS has an 8m diameter body and cargo fairing, and the Blue Origin New Glenn rocket they hope to start launching in 2020 has a 7m diameter body and cargo fairing.  The New Glenn will be capable of lifting 45mT to LEO, versus the initial SLS capacity of 70mT to LEO.

So by the early 2020's the private launch sector should be able to lift any bulky NASA items to space that otherwise would have needed the SLS.

But there are no bulky or large items that the SLS will be needed to launch in the 2020's.  Why?

Any large or bulky items that could not fit on existing or near-term commercial launchers will likely take NASA 10 years or more to build.  Unless the payload is just a giant enclosure or tank.  But otherwise it will likely be a human-certified system that will be quite sophisticated, because otherwise they would just use ISS designs.

Even assuming Congress would OK a program that requires an 8m diameter human-rated system, there is nothing for the SLS to support in the interim while it waits for such a system to be built.  And based on NASA's past history, chances are such a large and complex assembly would have budget challenges and schedule slippages, not unlike the Orion spacecraft and the JWST - both of which are taking 18 years or more from initial funding to launch.

The bottom line here is that there are no "one very large mass" payloads for the SLS in the next 10 years, so the only unique payload for the SLS will be the Orion and payloads that require the Exploration Upper Stage.  Everything else should be able to launched on commercial rockets.  And if that's true, then NASA would have a hard time justifying launching the SLS even once per year, because I'm not sure what it would launch.

SLS-specific payloads should have been funded years ago, but because they weren't NASA is caught between the need to launch the SLS to maintain a safe launch cadence, and not launching the SLS because there aren't enough SLS-specific payloads for it.

As NASA's budget continues to be in a holding pattern, and the private sector is doing a lot of innovating, the options for space transportation are becoming more clear...
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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In the space lecture I give to my students each semester I always include a slide with Nathan's (okan170) excellent render of FH on 39A and SLS on 39B with the caption of "Tag Team?" Looks like I can take the question mark out soon.  :D

Yep, because SLS is history.
Don't light the fireworks before it actually is the 4th of July. Just sayin...

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We appear to be stuck with SLS for the next few years, but as soon as that hypothetical 'one very large mass'
1. exists, and
2. can be flown by someone else,
SLS will be scrapped.

Just as a reminder, the SLS has an 8m diameter body and cargo fairing, and the Blue Origin New Glenn rocket they hope to start launching in 2020 has a 7m diameter body and cargo fairing.  The New Glenn will be capable of lifting 45mT to LEO, versus the initial SLS capacity of 70mT to LEO.

So by the early 2020's the private launch sector should be able to lift any bulky NASA items to space that otherwise would have needed the SLS.

...

1. SLS Block 1 (70t) would have a standard Delta IV 5m fairing if it ever flew cargo.  SLS Block 1B (~100t) will be built to carry an 8.4m fairing sometime in the mid-2020s.  (NG has the same size fairing as Block 1 as far as we've seen.)
2. A hypothetical 'one very large mass' is a quite effective and cost-efficient justification (than actually building something that people can evaluate against existing launchers)
« Last Edit: 03/12/2017 06:12 PM by AncientU »
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Offline Endeavour_01

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After reading the last page of this thread I am reminded of MATTBLAK's sidebar quote, "'Space Cadets' Let us; UNITE!! (crickets chirping)."

Can we all not agree that this is at least a positive development and something to be excited about?


OldSpace, which includes most of the largest government contractors, wields far more political clout that NewSpace.  It's not even close.

I never said they had equal political clout, only that each side had some and that it would foolish to engage in a "space civil war" that would deplete support for the space program as a whole. Like Gerst said the market will sort things out in the end, trying to force it one way or another will not be helpful in the long run.

Quote
What NewSpace has going for it are those politicians that are capitalists and/or focus on price as a determinant for whether the government is needed or not to provide a service.


Lets not pretend that politicians who support NewSpace are as pure as the wind-driven snow. Most OldSpace and NewSpace supporters in Congress only care about money going to their districts. If Mike Rogers were representing a district near Hawthorne instead of one near Huntsville his views would be a complete 180.

Quote
The New Glenn, which is now committed to be operational about the same time as the SLS (i.e. 2021) has a body diameter of 7m, compared to a body diameter of 8m for the SLS.  And it will be able to lift 45mT to LEO. 

From what I understand NG has less performance BLEO than FH. We need to focus on BLEO numbers rather than LEO when comparing SLS to commercial rockets. Right now there are no serious plans to use SLS as a LEO launcher, NASA can let the private sector take care of that.

SLS Block IB can launch 40 mt to TLI, compared to around 15 mt for FH. Building a cis-lunar base and crewing it becomes much easier when SLS is used in concert with commercial rockets.


Yep, because SLS is history.

We'll see.

What's not to like is quite possibly paying $3 billion a year for a single SLS launch, or over $4 billion if Orion is included.  It's not obvious that there would be much left over for anything else.

Lets be clear here that this is less per year than we paid to launch the shuttle. Sure, there are less launches, but the slack can be picked up by the commercial rockets and the goal (a cis-lunar outpost) is far larger than LEO flights.

In a lot of posts on this forum there is an oft-repeated assumption that if SLS/Orion are canceled the money will flow to commercial space or other projects. At the very least that is not guaranteed and more than likely the money will leave the space program all together. Personally I would rather see that money remain a part of NASA's budget.

Once CCtCap winds down over $1 Billion could be available for payload development (not a guarantee but based on past Congressional action it seems quite possible). Plus, we already have cargo delivery systems that can be modified to supply a cis-lunar outpost so NASA doesn't have to create that industry from scratch.
I cheer for both NASA and commercial space. For SLS, Orion, Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy, Dragon, Starliner, Cygnus and all the rest!
I was blessed to see the launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour on STS-99. The launch was beyond amazing. My 8-year old mind was blown. I remember the noise and seeing the exhaust pour out of the shuttle as it lifted off. I remember staring and watching it soar while it was visible in the clear blue sky. It was one of the greatest moments of my life and I will never forget it.

Offline Coastal Ron

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After reading the last page of this thread I am reminded of MATTBLAK's sidebar quote, "'Space Cadets' Let us; UNITE!! (crickets chirping)."

Can we all not agree that this is at least a positive development and something to be excited about?

I think there is a lot of joy about this.

Quote
I never said they had equal political clout, only that each side had some and that it would foolish to engage in a "space civil war" that would deplete support for the space program as a whole.

Being that NASA's budget is less than 0.5% of the entire budget, I'm not sure how there can be any disagreements over NASA could be significant compared to, say, the Defense budget, Justice, Commerce, Agriculture, Health and Human Services, and all the other far larger government departments and agencies that have far higher emotional possibilities.

Other than where to go next, which has no budget anyways, the only real major disagreement with the space community centers on whether the SLS is needed or not.  And Congress will decide that by funding payloads and missions for the SLS or not.

Quote
Lets not pretend that politicians who support NewSpace are as pure as the wind-driven snow. Most OldSpace and NewSpace supporters in Congress only care about money going to their districts. If Mike Rogers were representing a district near Hawthorne instead of one near Huntsville his views would be a complete 180.

If you look around Congress, how many members are "NewSpace" supporters?  Very few.  And how many are in positions of power and influence?  None that I know of, other than Kevin McCarthy, and he isn't on a NASA oversight committee.

Lockheed Martin and Boeing have influence over many Representatives and Senators because of the shear size of their companies, with employees spread across many states.  The difference in "OldSpace" political influence and "NewSpace" is stark.

As to "pure as driven snow", so far I'm not aware of any "NewSpace" contracts that were not awarded in open competition, which to me is the indicator of openness.  The same cannot be said for the SLS and Orion.

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From what I understand NG has less performance BLEO than FH. We need to focus on BLEO numbers rather than LEO when comparing SLS to commercial rockets. Right now there are no serious plans to use SLS as a LEO launcher, NASA can let the private sector take care of that.

Other than the Orion, there are no serious plans that require the SLS.  My point was that if there was something big that required the SLS, it won't be ready to launch until 2030 at least.  How does NASA justify keeping the SLS around till then?  And why not just redesign whatever the payload is to fit on existing launchers, and at most require in-space assembly?  The ISS weighs 450mT and we built it without the SLS, so I'm not sure why we'd want to go backwards in capabilities...

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In a lot of posts on this forum there is an oft-repeated assumption that if SLS/Orion are canceled the money will flow to commercial space or other projects.

I don't believe that, and from what I can tell that is a minority opinion.  Congress will fund NASA to do whatever it requires NASA to do, which means if there is less to do there will be less funding.  I'm OK with that.
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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After reading the last page of this thread I am reminded of MATTBLAK's sidebar quote, "'Space Cadets' Let us; UNITE!! (crickets chirping)."

Can we all not agree that this is at least a positive development and something to be excited about?

I think there is a lot of joy about this.
...

It is the best news out of the 9th floor for a long time IMO.

My questions and concerns involve the 'command structure' of 3P.  If it is a top-down (waterfall?) years/decade of meetings, PowerPoints, and Roadmaps approach -- waiting for SLS Block 1B to become fully operational because it is the centerpiece of the plan -- then I believe we're all going to be sadly disappointed.  Mars will remain a horizon goal -- never getting any closer.

In contrast, if we start with what can we do now or in the next few years, and then grow the effort as capabilities come on line, we might get somewhere.  New capabilities can target specific needs such as a large fairing on early NG launchers, or Bigelow modules as starting points for orbital operations away from ISS, space tugs evolved from existing second stages, refueling tests/demos, whatever.  We can start building infrastructure essentially now.

For this latter approach, the 'command structure' needs to be opened up to include all participants, and new methods/concepts such as reusability.  New approaches to tests and demos need to be given a chance to succeed or (gasp!) fail.  An example is the supersonic retro-propulsion capability (suggested 50 years ago by Goddard or Von Braun, I hear) which was wrought in the just do it mode instead of years (a half century, that is) of hand wringing and inaction.

So yes, quite promising IF we break the mold...
« Last Edit: 03/12/2017 10:22 PM by AncientU »
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Offline Jim

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Yep, because SLS is history.

We'll see.


Many of the non SLS people at KSC think it is.  Many wonder why we are wasting our time on it.  Also, some JPL'ers feel the same way.
« Last Edit: 03/13/2017 12:01 AM by Jim »

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Three existing military rockets served NASA's manned space program just fine in the beginning. Though the largest of commercial launchers of the time may have been able to carry out a lunar program via an EOR architecture, rendezvous was not proven, and the massive Apollo-Nova program was proposed. It was feared Kennedy's goal would not be reached in time. Most here know the story of moving to LOR and Saturn instead. No existing rockets could accomplish a manned lunar goal and Saturn was thus justified in the minds of those who prevailed.

As for STS, I don't even want to go into all the civilian and military politics.

When Ares then SLS were proposed, nothing else was on the horizon (Falcon X was an idea for a portion of the time) that could do the job NASA wanted was told to do.

We don't need to recount the tortured history of SLS. What is germane is that new classes of HLV and SHLV are either at hand or about to go into development. These are quite capable of EOR assembly for a lunar architecture in the near future. Those capable of Mars architectures are not as certain, but look to be quite viable. Falcon wasn't originally intended for reuse, but its design fortuitously allowed it and proved the concept. The reusability factor alone is enough to begin thinking of closing out most existing launch systems in favor of new LVs designed for reuse from the get/go. Throwing good money after bad for an obsolete technology is silly. Even the cadre of senators who have championed SLS have to acknowledge that at some point.

Not only will new commercial launchers be partially or fully reusable, they free NASA from the burden of building launchers that fly for around 10 minutes and allow them instead to focus on what to do once astronauts are IN space. Having a super launcher but no money for a mission, as has been said here for a long time, is absurd. Dumping SLS-Orion is not going to cost any time in the long run. It was only going to fly 4 times in the next 10 years and would be in need of new engines, boosters, SM, tower mods, habs, landers, rovers, etc., et al. Letting go and embracing new technology that is far more efficient and affordable is the only prudent option. Of course politicians are not always (or even often) prudent, but from the POV of economics and technology, it really is the only viable path forward.

From one viewpoint, it means moving forward to new technology, but from another it is simply coming full circle and using launchers that NASA simply buys (or buys services) rather than builds. NASA HSF, freed of senate micromanagement, given a JPL like autonomy, with funds left over for missions could give us the same excitement as those heady early days.

Offline Jim

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NASA HSF, freed of senate micromanagement, given a JPL like autonomy, with funds left over for missions could give us the same excitement as those heady early days.

The JPL analogy is not true.  Congress still dicks with them.

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The JPL analogy is not true.  Congress still dicks with them.

But not to the extent they do HSF, do they? How badly?

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Yep, because SLS is history.

We'll see.


Many of the non SLS people at KSC think it is.  Many wonder why we are wasting our time on it.  Also, some JPL'ers feel the same way.
The mere fact that some non-SLS folks at KSC and JPL "feel" that SLS is history does not make it history. Only US Congress will make it "history" (if ever).

Offline Proponent

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What's not to like is quite possibly paying $3 billion a year for a single SLS launch, or over $4 billion if Orion is included.  It's not obvious that there would be much left over for anything else.

Lets be clear here that this is less per year than we paid to launch the shuttle. Sure, there are less launches, but the slack can be picked up by the commercial rockets and the goal (a cis-lunar outpost) is far larger than LEO flights.

Why is the Shuttle's budget relevant?  NASA's budget has gone down since then and, if anything, seems likely to go down further.  Meanwhile, the only hard numbers we've ever seen indicate that the cost of Orion/SLS will increase if and when it starts flying once a year.  I'll stop here, because otherwise I'd be repeating what Coastal Ron just said.

Quote
In a lot of posts on this forum there is an oft-repeated assumption that if SLS/Orion are canceled the money will flow to commercial space or other projects. At the very least that is not guaranteed and more than likely the money will leave the space program all together. Personally I would rather see that money remain a part of NASA's budget.

A risk, to be sure, but if SLS did die (not that I expect it anytime soon), I doubt Sen. Shelby would do anything but support the notion of ULA building more launch vehicles in Decatur and MSFC developing, for example, space power systems.  It'd still be pork to some degree, but it would be more productive pork.

Offline rayleighscatter

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Three existing military rockets served NASA's manned space program just fine in the beginning. Though the largest of commercial launchers of the time may have been able to carry out a lunar program via an EOR architecture, rendezvous was not proven, and the massive Apollo-Nova program was proposed. It was feared Kennedy's goal would not be reached in time. Most here know the story of moving to LOR and Saturn instead. No existing rockets could accomplish a manned lunar goal and Saturn was thus justified in the minds of those who prevailed.

As for STS, I don't even want to go into all the civilian and military politics.

When Ares then SLS were proposed, nothing else was on the horizon (Falcon X was an idea for a portion of the time) that could do the job NASA wanted was told to do.

We don't need to recount the tortured history of SLS. What is germane is that new classes of HLV and SHLV are either at hand or about to go into development. These are quite capable of EOR assembly for a lunar architecture in the near future. Those capable of Mars architectures are not as certain, but look to be quite viable. Falcon wasn't originally intended for reuse, but its design fortuitously allowed it and proved the concept. The reusability factor alone is enough to begin thinking of closing out most existing launch systems in favor of new LVs designed for reuse from the get/go. Throwing good money after bad for an obsolete technology is silly. Even the cadre of senators who have championed SLS have to acknowledge that at some point.

Not only will new commercial launchers be partially or fully reusable, they free NASA from the burden of building launchers that fly for around 10 minutes and allow them instead to focus on what to do once astronauts are IN space. Having a super launcher but no money for a mission, as has been said here for a long time, is absurd. Dumping SLS-Orion is not going to cost any time in the long run. It was only going to fly 4 times in the next 10 years and would be in need of new engines, boosters, SM, tower mods, habs, landers, rovers, etc., et al. Letting go and embracing new technology that is far more efficient and affordable is the only prudent option. Of course politicians are not always (or even often) prudent, but from the POV of economics and technology, it really is the only viable path forward.

From one viewpoint, it means moving forward to new technology, but from another it is simply coming full circle and using launchers that NASA simply buys (or buys services) rather than builds. NASA HSF, freed of senate micromanagement, given a JPL like autonomy, with funds left over for missions could give us the same excitement as those heady early days.

But being this is the policy section we can't just pretend the politics don't exist.

For instance, if SLS is cancelled what happens to MSFC? I can tell you that it will continue to exist so it will do the obvious alternative, providing its full oversight and influence on whoever NASA contracts with. The paper trails, x-ray'd welds, and supplier certification will be required for all launches with said launcher for the sake of oversight, without regard to what that will do to the contractor's commercial business.

Offline deltaV

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For instance, if SLS is cancelled what happens to MSFC? I can tell you that it will continue to exist so it will do the obvious alternative, providing its full oversight and influence on whoever NASA contracts with. The paper trails, x-ray'd welds, and supplier certification will be required for all launches with said launcher for the sake of oversight, without regard to what that will do to the contractor's commercial business.

If SLS is cancelled MSFC should be tasked with engineering in-space exploration hardware such as a deep space hab, moon lander, or Mars lander.

Offline Coastal Ron

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For instance, if SLS is cancelled what happens to MSFC? I can tell you that it will continue to exist so it will do the obvious alternative, providing its full oversight and influence on whoever NASA contracts with. The paper trails, x-ray'd welds, and supplier certification will be required for all launches with said launcher for the sake of oversight, without regard to what that will do to the contractor's commercial business.

If SLS is cancelled MSFC should be tasked with engineering in-space exploration hardware such as a deep space hab, moon lander, or Mars lander.

Specifically, since the space transportation segment from Earth to LEO will have been handed over to commercial carriers, they should focus on what the next barriers to expanding humanity into space are, and how NASA can help the private sector to solve those.

Unless there is a specific and long-term need, the U.S. Government should not have a need to own space transportation systems, and should instead focus on the activities at the end points of transportation systems.
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Offline Proponent

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Unless there is a specific and long-term need, the U.S. Government should not have a need to own space transportation systems, and should instead focus on the activities at the end points of transportation systems.

Would you rule out a role for government in developing transportation technology?

EDIT:  "develop" -> "developing"
« Last Edit: 03/15/2017 08:50 AM by Proponent »

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Unless there is a specific and long-term need, the U.S. Government should not have a need to own space transportation systems, and should instead focus on the activities at the end points of transportation systems.

Would you rule out a role for government in develop transportation technology?

The previous administration tried to direct budget towards technology development, but was rebuffed by Congress.  I think that is at least in part, NASA's role, but they seem to have given it over to the private sector more than LEO.  NASA should possibly fund, at a partnership level, those leading edge technology efforts instead of trying to 'catch up' with the private sector.

One thing the USG should lead in is science... as far as exploration is motivated by science, they should lead exploration.  The search for life and its origins is classical science.  So is, what are the ingredients for a habitable planet...
« Last Edit: 03/14/2017 09:40 AM by AncientU »
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Offline Proponent

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The only time I met Gen. Bolden was shortly after the "Muslim outreach" comments.  Up close he comes across as very personable and likeable.  I always wondered how he was prepped for his trip to the middle east.  I suspect the State Department gave him some talking points that they thought would go over well where he was.  Comments by people in his position don't say isolated to the intended audience.  Better thought needs to go into what gets said practically anywhere because of who will eventually hear them.

Yes, he was probably given some talking points. But he had a bad habit of forgetting what he was supposed to say and I think that's what happened when he gave that interview. It's a real shame too, because that's not that hard a message to convey. He could have said "The United States has many allies in the Muslim world. I'm here to reach out to them and make connections and talk about possible ways that we can cooperate in exploring the solar system and studying the universe." Easy. NASA has a great brand, particularly overseas. All he had to do was put a little spin on that brand and he'd win. Instead, he flubbed it and for years later whenever an article about NASA appeared on some conservative website you inevitably saw dipshits making comments about NASA being a "Muslim outreach agency."

If you watched him in public talks later on he often pulled out his notecards and read from them. Every talk he gave then somehow became tied to the human spaceflight program. Heck, I ran a meeting around 2012 or so that included a lot of top aeronautics (i.e. airplanes) experts. Bolden gave a talk and started discussing the great human spaceflight program. Nobody cared--they wanted to discuss airplanes--but that was his default position. Eventually, around 2015 or so, somebody came up with the "#JourneytoMars" and not only did NASA start putting that in every single press release, but Bolden started mentioning it in all of his talks, even when he was talking about flying New Horizons past Pluto. It was on the notecards, so he read it. But he needed the notecards because without them he would say things that got him into trouble.

Bolden strikes me as an intelligent and decent person, who was miscast as NASA administrator.  The thing that really puzzles me is how someone who has a tough time staying on message and wears his emotions on his sleeve ever became a Marine Corps general.  That in turn makes me wonder, in my more skeptical moods, whether he was not at times dissembling.  Perhaps he was actually rather more focused than he liked to let on but found a softer public persona useful.  When my skepticism deepens to cynicism, I wonder further, given his long and deep experience with the Shuttle, whether he might have been an agent of the Shuttle ecosystem, never on board with the administration's FY 2011 plan for NASA to begin with.  Maybe he did not want FY 2011 rolled out well.

Offline Proponent

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The JPL analogy is not true.  Congress still dicks with them.

Although right now some parts of JPL are pretty happy with that, in that Congress has short-circuited the usual process in support of Europa Clipper.

Offline Proponent

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There's this common misconception that the only thing that mattered to the Congress was pork. But they also had this impression that the White House did not know what it was doing regarding space policy, so Congress was going to start dictating the decisions.

I would dearly like to believe, and once did, that Congress's dominant motivation in HSF is not pork.  But consider the following questions relating to human spaceflight policy in the last several years:

* Why does the 2010 Act write rocket specs into law?  Even if Congress felt the need to supply leadership that should have come from the president, why would it address engineering issues, especially since it has declined to address top-level issues, like whether the goal is returning to the moon, going to an NEA or Mars, which might reasonably be regarded within politicians' purview?

* Why would Congress studiously ignore the conclusions of both the Augustine Committee and of the NRC study that it itself commissioned that NASA is going nowhere with Orion/SLS without a lot more money?  And I do mean studiously.  During one hearing, multiple Congressman were whining to Bolden about wanting to go to the moon instead of to a hijacked asteroid.  Bolden told them that going to the moon would be great, but he'd need a lot more money.  Two of the Congressmen at least had the self-consciousness to get that deer-in-headlight look, but Lamar Smith (I have a Youtube link, but unfortunately it doesn't work anymore) just went yakking on as though he had not heard Bolden.  What's with that?

* Why has Congress spent over $20 billion on Orion and SLS before even beginning to seriously ask what to do with the them?

* With Orion and SLS years behind schedule and, therefore, billions over budget, why would the 2017 Authorization say (Para. 421[a][1]) that "NASA has made steady progress in developing and testing the Space Launch System and Orion exploration systems"?

There are many more such questions, but I'll stop here, because this is turning into quite a rant.  My point is that all of the above are easy to answer if pork is the dominant concern and difficult to answer if it is not.  I'm sure there is some interest in Congress in actually accomplishing something, but I'd be grateful if you could offer some evidence that it's anything other than an afterthought.

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You forgot to include that Congress mandated that NASA use the same contractors, contracting approach, and NASA centers (that had botched the Constellation effort so badly).  This specificity sidestepped a handful of USG rules about awarding work sole source in this manner.
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Regarding the graphic that Mr. Gerstenmaier presented, I have a question

Does everyone think that is accurate?  For example, Is Vulcan and New Glenn in the notional category, or should they be more in the advanced development stage?
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It seems to me that graphic is missing a category, namely early development.

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Could there be an equilibrium where Orion doesn't ever fly (except perhaps w/o people on EM-1), but SLS flies every couple of years to loft heavy payloads like the lunar outpost that's discussed in another thread, and NASA procures all crew vehicles from commercial providers?  I'm not talking about whether it's a good use of money, or right, or..., but in the political sense.  Could Congress get behind such an idea?

Without the need for Orion, that program's money could go into building payloads, at no increase to NASA's budget.
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Online AncientU

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Regarding the graphic that Mr. Gerstenmaier presented, I have a question

Does everyone think that is accurate?  For example, Is Vulcan and New Glenn in the notional category, or should they be more in the advanced development stage?

If the vehicles were sequenced in order of initial flight, the sequence would be quite different.
SLS Block 2 with new boosters would be near last, Vulcan would be before Ariane 6, etc.

The message is fairly clear that NASA is cracking the door to sharing 'Exploration' rather trying to have it for themselves
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Offline Coastal Ron

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Could there be an equilibrium where Orion doesn't ever fly (except perhaps w/o people on EM-1), but SLS flies every couple of years...

NASA has stated that the MINIMUM safe flight cadence is launching the SLS NO LESS THAN every 12 months.  That is the minimum flight rate, so NASA would need payloads that fit into that 12 month cadence, no matter what they are.

Only rotating crew at a Deep Space Habitat once every 12 months doesn't seem to make a lot of sense, especially since such a station won't be a remote outpost, but a science station that is proving how we can expand humanity out into space.

Quote
...to loft heavy payloads like the lunar outpost that's discussed in another thread, and NASA procures all crew vehicles from commercial providers?  I'm not talking about whether it's a good use of money, or right, or..., but in the political sense.  Could Congress get behind such an idea?

Only rotating crew at a Deep Space Habitat once every 12 months doesn't seem to make a lot of sense, especially since such a station won't be a remote outpost, but a science station that is proving how we can expand humanity out into space.  So either more Orion & SLS would be built and launched per year, or a commercial alternative would have to be found (i.e. Dragon Crew to start, but others to follow).

All this hinges on the assumption that Congress will want to fund a follow-up to the ISS before the ISS has been decommissioned - and we don't yet know when the end date for the ISS, only the current "no earlier than" date.

I've seen nothing that indicates Congress is ready to fund any new HSF programs, and if NASA finally tells them how much the SLS and Orion systems will cost to operate that could, if the costs are perceived as high, kill such an effort.

Too little information still...
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Could there be an equilibrium where Orion doesn't ever fly (except perhaps w/o people on EM-1), but SLS flies every couple of years to loft heavy payloads like the lunar outpost that's discussed in another thread, and NASA procures all crew vehicles from commercial providers?  I'm not talking about whether it's a good use of money, or right, or..., but in the political sense.  Could Congress get behind such an idea?

Without the need for Orion, that program's money could go into building payloads, at no increase to NASA's budget.

SLS without Orion and human qualification could be ready much sooner, cheaper, and not be constrained to the every year baseline rate which is another expensive facet that could be dropped.  Gerst never mentioned Orion -- maybe that is a message or clue (like the dog that didn't bark).  It certainly wasn't the centerpiece of his message.

The article mentions private rockets even delivering crew into deep space.  Not Grest's words because not supplied as a quote.  Wonder if that is what he said or implied?
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Could there be an equilibrium where Orion doesn't ever fly (except perhaps w/o people on EM-1), but SLS flies every couple of years...

NASA has stated that the MINIMUM safe flight cadence is launching the SLS NO LESS THAN every 12 months.  That is the minimum flight rate, so NASA would need payloads that fit into that 12 month cadence, no matter what they are.

Only rotating crew at a Deep Space Habitat once every 12 months doesn't seem to make a lot of sense, especially since such a station won't be a remote outpost, but a science station that is proving how we can expand humanity out into space.

Agreed.  Maybe use SLS to launch inexpensive but heavy modules stuffed with consumables, or hab modules, etc., and build up a large volume eventually.  Aim for replaceability and redundancy, with a regular cycling of modules, so that you don't have to have an "end date" for the whole station, and you've got the beginnings of something interesting.   SLS gets a job, commercial crew gets a job, and you end up with a station with eventually hundreds of inhabitants.  But IANARS, or a politician (thankfully on that one) and I'm sure there are many reasons that won't work.

But it's sad and frustrating to watch so much work by so many good people, and so much money, just go pfffft.
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Offline Lar

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Unless there is a specific and long-term need, the U.S. Government should not have a need to own space transportation systems, and should instead focus on the activities at the end points of transportation systems.

Would you rule out a role for government in develop transportation technology?

You weren't asking me. Like that ever stopped me before.

The libertarian in me says no, tech development, even basic research is market driven.  Not a proper government function (my FB wall has a long post about the proper functions of government... NASA isn't in it at all. Not even a little bit.... but that's not reality)

The pragmatist but still mostly libertarian says let the government do basic research since it's hard to properly allocate costs, and that keeps the cupboard full of new basic knowledge which is super needful for significant game changing new tech. License the basic knowledge to the market people developing new tech and roll the license money back into more basic research (don't give it away free)

The more pragmatic but still kinda libertarian says, in this environment, very very mixed, not free market, the government can do tech development too... especially when we're talking about moving from TRL1 to TRL 4 or 5 or so...  but no actually building transport or actual hardware, just buy it from market providers (which have somehow magically gotten good at making stuff)

The mostly pragmatic, trying to live in the actual world we are in now..... says all that..... but also this... yes, face it, we have to put up with SLS because no way can congress depork to that level fast enough, so sure, loft habs and giant single piece equipment with it. But don't manrate SLS itself. If Orion really is suitable for deep space, manrate something to loft Orion and if necessary (ACES?) help it mate with whatever SLS lofted. If it's not really suitable (which is what I mostly believe), use Crew Dragon plus a transit hab whenever you need to go somewhere deepspace and scrap Orion.

Hows that for nuanced?

« Last Edit: 03/14/2017 09:48 PM by Lar »
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Offline Coastal Ron

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Unless there is a specific and long-term need, the U.S. Government should not have a need to own space transportation systems, and should instead focus on the activities at the end points of transportation systems.

Would you rule out a role for government in develop transportation technology?

No.

Investing in, and directly supporting, technologies that the U.S. Government wants the private sector to be good at is in the national interests of the United States.  And in fact NACA, NASA's precursor, was directly involved in making our aircraft industries world class.  So I would love NASA to be more NACA like.

Will that happen?  Not while the SLS and Orion are around, since NASA will be beholden to funding their use.
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 Coastal Ron

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The mostly pragmatic, trying to live in the actual world we are in now..... says all that..... but also this... yes, face it, we have to put up with SLS because no way can congress depork to that level fast enough, so sure, loft habs and giant single piece equipment with it.

Even after all these years there is an assumption that Congress is on the verge of funding something big for the SLS and Orion to do, even if it's just to give them something to do.

I have yet to see that happen.

And even if the upcoming FY2018 funding law authorized NASA to build some sort of big HSF hardware effort that only the SLS could support, based on past and current history that type of hardware would be unlikely to be ready for launch until 2030 or so.

So there is a HUGE launch schedule gap that will become apparent once anyone starts actually looking at what the SLS and Orion should be doing during the next decade.  And that assumes Congress will be OK with the cost numbers NASA finally releases on the SLS and Orion.  Which is not a given.

I just point this out to show that there are hard questions that will have to be addressed "soon" about what NASA is staffed to support versus what the nation needs them to support.

As to space transportation systems in general, a goal of the U.S. Government could be to encourage the expansion of humanity out into space, and that could be justified on the basis of expanding our sphere of economic influence out into space (not sure anything else would be supportable long-term).  That could provide NASA with some specific direction on how they are to support the private sector, but I can't see that requiring the level of NASA support that the SLS and Orion have today.

Times and priorities change, and I think a reassessment for NASA is coming soon - regardless who would have been elected President.
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 Proponent

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Lar & Coastal Ron:  I thought technology development was a big part of what NACA did.

EDIT:  Added missing final 't' in "thought."
« Last Edit: 03/31/2017 10:18 AM by Proponent »

Offline Blackstar

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SNIP
* Why does the 2010 Act write rocket specs into law?  Even if Congress felt the need to supply leadership that should have come from the president, why would it address engineering issues, especially since it has declined to address top-level issues, like whether the goal is returning to the moon, going to an NEA or Mars, which might reasonably be regarded within politicians' purview?

SNIP

2-* Why has Congress spent over $20 billion on Orion and SLS before even beginning to seriously ask what to do with the them?

3-* With Orion and SLS years behind schedule and, therefore, billions over budget, why would the 2017 Authorization say (Para. 421[a][1]) that "NASA has made steady progress in developing and testing the Space Launch System and Orion exploration systems"?

By your own admission you're on a rant, so I'm guessing there's little point in discussing this, but I'll respond to three of the above points here, and then make two more general comments:

1-The reason they "wrote rocket specs into law" was because they had become convinced that unless they did that, the White House would ignore them. They felt they had to be very specific in everything.

What people outside of DC space policy circles don't get is just how much damage Obama did when he rolled out that FY2011 NASA budget in February 2010. Members of Congress felt both blindsided and disrespected. Even members of his own party were angry. The NASA Authorization Act was signed in October 2010, after about 6+ months of members of Congress getting very annoyed with the White House (and NASA by extension) and believing that the people in the executive branch were not interested in listening or negotiating but only in dictating. They concluded that unless they wrote down exactly what they wanted, it would not get implemented.


2-* Why has Congress spent over $20 billion on Orion and SLS before even beginning to seriously ask what to do with the them?

They did tell NASA what to do with them: Moon exploration was in the 2005 Act and repeated in the 2010 Act. It has been supplanted by Mars exploration. It's right there:

"FINDINGS.—Congress makes the following findings:
(1)  The  extension  of  the  human  presence  from  low-Earth 
orbit  to  other  regions  of  space  beyond  low-Earth  orbit  will 
enable  missions  to  the  surface  of  the  Moon  and  missions  to 
deep space destinations such as near-Earth asteroids and Mars."


3-"made steady progress in developing and testing..."

Because it has. Yeah, it might be behind schedule and over-budget, but that does not mean that it is not progressing, just that it is not progressing by the original schedule. Hardware is being built and tested and shipped. Go look at the press releases. Don't let hatred of SLS blind you to what is actually happening, even if you don't like it or think that there is a better solution.


Here's general point #1: Welcome to democracy. This is how it works. There's a back and forth, push and pull between the executive and legislative branches. And quite often the outcome of that push and pull is a lack of progress, or much slower progress than one side wants. Congress has been signaling to the White House for a long time that it wants NASA to do beyond low Earth exploration missions (Moon, then Mars). But Congress can only do so much. It can largely signal that is what it wants, but it cannot enact it on its own. So Congress has pushed for the big rocket, but it cannot dictate all the other necessary things. It can mostly signal, by requiring NASA to establish a roadmap, for example, and then pushing the White House to start implementing that roadmap. And remember: the Obama White House didn't really want to go beyond low Earth orbit, especially if it was going to cost a lot more money. Go back and find the original FY2011 budget proposal--it killed Constellation, but did not replace it with a new program to go beyond LEO. Only after a lot of yelling did the administration suddenly invent the asteroid mission, which it never bothered to fund. You cannot talk about a lack of progress as if the White House had no involvement at all.

But here's the more general point: don't think of "Congress" as if it is a point source with a single set of views and opinions and values and interests. It's a conglomeration of all of those things, to different amounts. There are SLS supporters in Congress who don't benefit at all from the pork. There are SLS "supporters" who actually don't care all that much about the issue, but have a gut instinct that it's the right approach and other approaches are wrong. And there are supporters of SLS who both benefit from it AND believe in it. Don't make the mistaken assumption that it's all cynical self-interest and hypocrisy and they actually secretly agree with your logic but are only voting the other way because of CASH$$$. Nope, you can benefit from something and truly believe in it at the same time.

Offline Blackstar

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Bolden strikes me as an intelligent and decent person, who was miscast as NASA administrator.

I'm not sure he was miscast as NASA administrator. It is entirely possible that he was (perhaps by accident) exactly what the administration wanted: a guy who would follow orders, not bring his own agenda--at least publicly--and who would keep the agency on an even keel. He did all that, so if that is what the administration wanted, he was great.

Oftentimes administrations want people to lead agencies who will implement their agendas. And sometimes that means getting a leader who agrees with the administration's agenda and will advocate for it (witness what is happening at EPA right now). But sometimes they may settle for somebody who doesn't oppose the agenda and who also doesn't screw up. I think that the first requirement for NASA administrator is "Don't embarrass the White House."

The thing that really puzzles me is how someone who has a tough time staying on message and wears his emotions on his sleeve ever became a Marine Corps general.  That in turn makes me wonder, in my more skeptical moods, whether he was not at times dissembling.  Perhaps he was actually rather more focused than he liked to let on but found a softer public persona useful.

I think that there are different aspects to what makes people good leaders. Some leaders have vision and agenda and the ability to persuade people to follow them. I think that others may lack the vision and agenda stuff, but are good at what they do and personable, and so people are willing to follow them. I think that Bolden was the latter and that helped advance him in the Marines--he was a good pilot, he was dedicated to the Corps, and he cared a lot for his fellow Marines. He flew combat missions over Vietnam, so he certainly was brave. People who worked with him liked him, although I suspect that many accepted that he didn't have a long-term vision for NASA.

I wonder further, given his long and deep experience with the Shuttle, whether he might have been an agent of the Shuttle ecosystem, never on board with the administration's FY 2011 plan for NASA to begin with.  Maybe he did not want FY 2011 rolled out well.

What I heard, which I don't know is true, is that he opposed the cancellation of Constellation but he was overruled. He then was a good soldier and did what he was ordered to do. He was not politically sophisticated enough to go behind the curtains and manipulate an outcome that he wanted. Other people at the agency may have been better at that kind of maneuvering. One question to ask is where the rocket design specs that Congress wrote into law came from...

Offline deltaV

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Congress has been signaling to the White House for a long time that it wants NASA to do beyond low Earth exploration missions (Moon, then Mars). But Congress can only do so much. It can largely signal that is what it wants, but it cannot enact it on its own. So Congress has pushed for the big rocket, but it cannot dictate all the other necessary things. It can mostly signal, by requiring NASA to establish a roadmap, for example, and then pushing the White House to start implementing that roadmap. And remember: the Obama White House didn't really want to go beyond low Earth orbit, especially if it was going to cost a lot more money. Go back and find the original FY2011 budget proposal--it killed Constellation, but did not replace it with a new program to go beyond LEO. Only after a lot of yelling did the administration suddenly invent the asteroid mission, which it never bothered to fund. You cannot talk about a lack of progress as if the White House had no involvement at all.

According to the Augustine Commission (and most experts) NASA could not do (i) human exploration using (ii) current technology and (iii) the current budget. Pick any two. Obama's proposal to do R&D now and explore later was basically a choice for (i) and (iii). Congress ordered NASA to do all three, which in practice was a choice for (ii) and (iii). Congress could have raised NASA's budget to get (i) and (ii) but chose not to do so. AFAICT a budget increase was necessary and sufficient for exploration regardless of who was in the white house.

Offline Proponent

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One question to ask is where the rocket design specs that Congress wrote into law came from...

Well, now that you mention it, that seems a very intriguing possibility.  Given the ease with which the 2010 NASA Authorization cleared Congress, I would have to think that he and Constellation's other supporters regarded it as a pretty good consolation prize.  If this is actually what happened, I'd say the General demonstrated some sharp political smarts, even if it wasn't quite following the chain of command.

Offline psloss

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One question to ask is where the rocket design specs that Congress wrote into law came from...

Well, now that you mention it, that seems a very intriguing possibility.  Given the ease with which the 2010 NASA Authorization cleared Congress, I would have to think that he and Constellation's other supporters regarded it as a pretty good consolation prize.  If this is actually what happened, I'd say the General demonstrated some sharp political smarts, even if it wasn't quite following the chain of command.
It wasn't quite that easy -- it required a 2/3rds vote in the House in that situation.  If you look at the threads here following the considerable arm-twisting of House members, there were still people like Representative Giffords who were advocating to keep Constellation.

Online AncientU

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One question to ask is where the rocket design specs that Congress wrote into law came from...

Well, now that you mention it, that seems a very intriguing possibility.  Given the ease with which the 2010 NASA Authorization cleared Congress, I would have to think that he and Constellation's other supporters regarded it as a pretty good consolation prize.  If this is actually what happened, I'd say the General demonstrated some sharp political smarts, even if it wasn't quite following the chain of command.

Aren't most bills like this with technical content written by lobbyists?  I'd assume that is what Boeing, LM, ATK etc. pay their lobbyists to do. 
"If we shared everything [we are working on] people would think we are insane!"
-- SpaceX friend of mlindner

Offline Political Hack Wannabe

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But here's the more general point: don't think of "Congress" as if it is a point source with a single set of views and opinions and values and interests. It's a conglomeration of all of those things, to different amounts. There are SLS supporters in Congress who don't benefit at all from the pork. There are SLS "supporters" who actually don't care all that much about the issue, but have a gut instinct that it's the right approach and other approaches are wrong. And there are supporters of SLS who both benefit from it AND believe in it. Don't make the mistaken assumption that it's all cynical self-interest and hypocrisy and they actually secretly agree with your logic but are only voting the other way because of CASH$$$. Nope, you can benefit from something and truly believe in it at the same time.

I don't want to get into the specifics of what happened with the FY11 budget.  My suspicion is that someday, someone will write a book, and the data will prove VERY interesting. 

However, to the general point - I very much agree, Congressman and Senators have a host of reasons for why or why not they support a particular program, whether it's SLS or commercial crew, or JWST, or whatever.  Some are true believers, some are a combination of circumstance, some do because of constituent interest.

The problem is that we are fundamentally arguing over the wrong things, and so is congress, by extension.  Moon vs Mars vs Asteroid - what does that matter?  The reason to pick moon or mars, SLS or not, etc... needs to be based on fundamental reasons - why does NASA exist?  What do we hope to gain from spaceflight?  And so forth.  And we don't really get into this debate too often it seems.

I'll give 3 examples of fundamental reasons, that could be fundamental justifications of why we have NASA. 

1.  The Chinese are going to be our next adversary, and anyone who doesn't understand this is short-sighted or worse.  Therefore, we need a national mobilization to oppose them, and that includes space.  Clearly, they are going to the moon, and they are proposing to do it in some sort of Apollo style, so we need to recreate Apollo. 

2.   NASA's culture is fundamentally needed to do anything in space - they assemble the smartest and best and most capable people.  The preservation of that culture is so important that we really don't want to inject any major changes quickly into it.  We need to protect the culture because without protecting that culture, we will lose our ability to do anything with space.

3.  The resources of space are so great that they can help solve many problems here on earth.  Therefore, we need to consider how to position our activities in space as to enable gaining access to those resources, and if what we are doing doesn't help that, there is no reason to continue that activity, even if it results in hurting people.

All 3 of those are IMHO, fundamental reasons for why we might do what we do with regards to space and NASA, but this isn't the debate we have frequently.  And yes - this is a problem arguably with US Democracy, which I grant and don't have a solution.  But I keep coming back to this discussion of fundamental reasons because that is the only way we'll really build support for space going forward - getting fundamental reasons everyone can agree with
It's not democrats vs republicans, it's reality vs innumerate space cadet fantasy.

Offline Coastal Ron

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The problem is that we are fundamentally arguing over the wrong things, and so is congress, by extension.  Moon vs Mars vs Asteroid - what does that matter?  The reason to pick moon or mars, SLS or not, etc... needs to be based on fundamental reasons - why does NASA exist?  What do we hope to gain from spaceflight?  And so forth.  And we don't really get into this debate too often it seems.

Well said.

The way I like to describe it is that NASA is a tool that the U.S. Government uses to solve national problems with solutions that involve the peaceful use of space.

So before you can define a solution, you have to know what the problem is.

Apollo was one of many attempts being made for winning the Cold War, which by default also included the Space Race since rockets could be used for both peaceful and non-peaceful purposes.  It achieved it's announced goal, but whether it helped to win the Cold War is not clear.

I think picking a destination is the wrong approach, unless there is something specific at that destination that is a "National Imperative" to own.  The better approach, if we want the private sector to be contributing to the peaceful use of space, is to have a more general goal with recognized intermediate goals.

For instance, the U.S. Government could state that our goal in space is to expand our economic sphere of influence out into space (general and open-ended), with the first goal being a reusable transportation system to the region of the Moon (specific and near-term).  Then they should create public/private partnerships and government/government partnerships to make that first goal happen.  Rinse and repeat as the near-term goal is closer to being achieved.
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 gosnold

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The problem is that we are fundamentally arguing over the wrong things, and so is congress, by extension.  Moon vs Mars vs Asteroid - what does that matter?  The reason to pick moon or mars, SLS or not, etc... needs to be based on fundamental reasons - why does NASA exist?  What do we hope to gain from spaceflight?  And so forth.  And we don't really get into this debate too often it seems.

Well said.

The way I like to describe it is that NASA is a tool that the U.S. Government uses to solve national problems with solutions that involve the peaceful use of space.

So before you can define a solution, you have to know what the problem is.

There are many scientific problems that NASA solves per this definition:
- weather forecasting
- climate and earth resource monitoring
- fundamental research in physics, through the astrophysics program
- etc...

However, most do not require manned spaceflight, which the central point to the SLS/Orion/manned exploration debate. There are other kinds of problems that were solved by manned spaceflight, namely "how to show the USA are more powerful than the USSR?", which resulted in Apollo, and "how to keep Russian rocket engineers busy so that they don't start spreading ICBM technology around?", which resulted in the ISS. These are not technical problems, but political ones. The issue with Orion and SLS is that they don't directly solve a scientific problem, and not a political one either.

Offline Political Hack Wannabe

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The problem is that we are fundamentally arguing over the wrong things, and so is congress, by extension.  Moon vs Mars vs Asteroid - what does that matter?  The reason to pick moon or mars, SLS or not, etc... needs to be based on fundamental reasons - why does NASA exist?  What do we hope to gain from spaceflight?  And so forth.  And we don't really get into this debate too often it seems.

Well said.

The way I like to describe it is that NASA is a tool that the U.S. Government uses to solve national problems with solutions that involve the peaceful use of space.

So before you can define a solution, you have to know what the problem is.

There are many scientific problems that NASA solves per this definition:
- weather forecasting
- climate and earth resource monitoring
- fundamental research in physics, through the astrophysics program
- etc...

However, most do not require manned spaceflight, which the central point to the SLS/Orion/manned exploration debate. There are other kinds of problems that were solved by manned spaceflight, namely "how to show the USA are more powerful than the USSR?", which resulted in Apollo, and "how to keep Russian rocket engineers busy so that they don't start spreading ICBM technology around?", which resulted in the ISS. These are not technical problems, but political ones. The issue with Orion and SLS is that they don't directly solve a scientific problem, and not a political one either.

This is why I am making the point about fundamental purpose and reasons.  Saying "scientific reason" or "political reasons" is too vague.  You have to get the actual reason articulated. 

Of the 3 reasons I cited, SLS/Orion is really justified by 2 of those reasons.  You can argue about whether those reasons are good or bad, which is what we should be doing (and thus my original point), but that really isn't what we do.  We tend to skip over the fundamental reasons debate, and get to the "does destination/program X make sense or not." but don't have an agreed metric as to whether and why it makes sense. 
It's not democrats vs republicans, it's reality vs innumerate space cadet fantasy.

Offline Coastal Ron

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Lar & Coastal Ron:  I though technology development was a big part of what NACA did.

NACA was created to "...supervise and direct the scientific study of the problems of flight with a view to their practical solution".  Advisory to start, but research and development was eventually added.  It started out simple but was expanded as it's value was recognized.

I would hope NASA of the near future could be more NACA-like in helping our aerospace industries to come up with practical solutions that allow humanity to expand out into space.  NASA has shown it's value in being the "pointy tip of the spear" regarding space exploration, and I think there is still value for them to do that, but one would hope they would do it in concert with the private sector.
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 Lobo

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I agree that the Obama administration's moves on space early on were very clumsy, even for a new administration.  But when I put myself in Obama's shoes, the FY 2011 proposal doesn't seem crazy to me.

You're only paying attention to the cancellation part, not the "what we're going to do next" part, which was pretty awful because there was no policy justification for it.

Just off the top of my head the blunders in early 2010 were:

-cancelling major programs without providing a sound justification for it
-failing to produce a White House white paper/policy document that explained what they were trying to do
-explaining what the post-Constellation goal was
-briefing Congress before they released the budget and briefed the press (they made a lot of enemies they did not have to)
-failing to understand that any rapid increase in any budget (such as the big R&D increase in the FY2011 budget) always gets a skeptical eye in Congress
-scrambling after all the controversy to come up with a new goal, which led to Obama going to KSC and saying "It's asteroids."

Lots of blundering there. Talk to people on Capitol Hill at the time and they will tell you that the administration did one of the worst roll outs of a new policy that they had ever seen. That kind of fumbling led many on the Hill to decide that the White House did not know what it was doing in space policy. And if the White House didn't know what they were doing, Congress figured, they (Congress) would take over the reins. That led to greater micromanagement and infighting. There's this common misconception that the only thing that mattered to the Congress was pork. But they also had this impression that the White House did not know what it was doing regarding space policy, so Congress was going to start dictating the decisions.

A good summary, IMO Blackstar.  I thought cancelling (or a major revision of) CxP was needed given how it was going and that sufficient additional funding never got secured, so President Obama wasn't incorrect there.   But something (well defined) then needs to be put in it's place.  Just as STS replaced Apollo, and CxP was to replace STS, there needed to be a a clear replacement program.  At the time, President Obama's party controlled both the House and Senate, so a good, feasible replacement plan was pretty likely to get passed I think.  And there were some good options available.  'Direct' for one (also it was politically attractive with the least disruption in the existing STS infrastructure).  Or an evolved EELV system for commonality with USAF/DoD launchers.

As it was, even his own party turned on him, and we got the NAA2010 passed by large bipartisan margins in both Houses, which became SLS.

Offline Lobo

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An exploration program using both SLS and commercial rockets is something I have hoped would happen for a while. I am really glad to hear Gerst endorsing it (his comments about a cis-lunar outpost were also very promising).

It makes the most sense from both a logistical and a political perspective. Logistically since SLS can only launch 1-2 times a year more capability is needed to launch cargo. FH can place a Destiny sized module in DRO as well as a Cygnus or a Dragon.

Politically both OldSpace and NewSpace have their supporters in the political arena. Trying to do it all the NewSpace way or the OldSpace way will lead to damaging political fights. A compromise proposal like this preserves the most support for space exploration.

What may end up happening is SLS will handle really large cargo (say BA-330 or a lunar lander) and crew (with co-manifested payloads) while FH and other commercial rockets handle cargo resupply and the smaller modules, with BLEO commercial crew on the horizon.

With a couple of differences this a repeat of what is going on with LEO right now. NASA builds the outpost, initially crews it with a NASA owned spacecraft, contracts for commercial cargo, and finally contracts for commercial crew. What's not to like?

In the space lecture I give to my students each semester I always include a slide with Nathan's (okan170) excellent render of FH on 39A and SLS on 39B with the caption of "Tag Team?" Looks like I can take the question mark out soon.  :D

IMO, the issue with this is you have a HLV that has all of it's own unique support infrastructure and facilities, but only launches occasionally.  Seems to me it would be better to either find a way to use it -more-, or cancel it and use something else more.  Let of the forces of economics and mass production help out.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure there's a way to get enough launches out of SLS to get those forces much in your favor.  (although I could be wrong there?).  So I think using F9 and FH would be my NASA HSF direction of choice as of right now...or possibly Vulcan...were it up to me.  For servicing the ISS, and for HSF if there's a new Lunar program.  In-space refueling would likely be needed, but those aren't likely to be too big of a problem. 
Something more would be needed to go to Mars, but SpaceX -is- developing that something more now.  And it's a combination launcher/spacecraft/lander/Hab all in one.  NASA could partner with them in that and get US Astronauts on the early missions on it.


Offline Lobo

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Three existing military rockets served NASA's manned space program just fine in the beginning.
<snip>

We don't need to recount the tortured history of SLS. What is germane is that new classes of HLV and SHLV are either at hand or about to go into development. These are quite capable of EOR assembly for a lunar architecture in the near future. Those capable of Mars architectures are not as certain, but look to be quite viable. Falcon wasn't originally intended for reuse, but its design fortuitously allowed it and proved the concept. The reusability factor alone is enough to begin thinking of closing out most existing launch systems in favor of new LVs designed for reuse from the get/go. Throwing good money after bad for an obsolete technology is silly. Even the cadre of senators who have championed SLS have to acknowledge that at some point.

Not only will new commercial launchers be partially or fully reusable, they free NASA from the burden of building launchers that fly for around 10 minutes and allow them instead to focus on what to do once astronauts are IN space. Having a super launcher but no money for a mission, as has been said here for a long time, is absurd. Dumping SLS-Orion is not going to cost any time in the long run. It was only going to fly 4 times in the next 10 years and would be in need of new engines, boosters, SM, tower mods, habs, landers, rovers, etc., et al. Letting go and embracing new technology that is far more efficient and affordable is the only prudent option. Of course politicians are not always (or even often) prudent, but from the POV of economics and technology, it really is the only viable path forward.

From one viewpoint, it means moving forward to new technology, but from another it is simply coming full circle and using launchers that NASA simply buys (or buys services) rather than builds. NASA HSF, freed of senate micromanagement, given a JPL like autonomy, with funds left over for missions could give us the same excitement as those heady early days.

Agreed Tom.
As you said, the difference is now there's new commercial launchers in development with potential to meet NASA HSF needs  (perhaps not "wants", but "needs").  And the costs of those launchers will be shared by all of their other launch customers, not just NASA.  Which isn't the case for NASA operated launchers.

The politics are difficult of going to private launchers for NASA because after decades of NASA operating a launcher, it just seems like it should always be so.  But NASA operated on shared launchers for their first two programs, and really could have post-Apollo LEO era too with evolving Titan III., instead of STS.  (Just as the Russians did)

The Jobs issue in congressional districts is problematic, but you counter that with the cases that keeping SLS just for the sake of make-work jobs for an unsustainable system, is government waste.  The public likes NASA, but they don't like examples of government make-work.  So pressure could be applied there I think.  Plus the public has a pretty good view of Musk these days, so the case for NASA flying on private rockets rather than their own probably won't get a bad reception where it once may have.  Not to mention NASA astronauts will be flying on private spacecraft and rockets here soon to the ISS.  The US's "return to launch operations" will be with private rockets and spaceships. 

So quietly cancelling SLS may not get as much blow back as it did in 2010 with the cancellation of CxP.  Especially since there will be such a visible new plan with US Astronauts currently flying on existing hardware.  It's hard to argue too hard against private launchers being up to the task, when they are already doing it.


Offline Kansan52

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But I keep coming back to this discussion of fundamental reasons because that is the only way we'll really build support for space going forward - getting fundamental reasons everyone can agree with

For me, this is the core.

We do need some combined force of voices. Now it seems that there is much too much fighting for a larger piece of the pie when we really need a bigger pie.

We can do more. We need to do more. Combined voices might be able to sway the budget makers that more is good. Since Apollo, more (as in budget) has seemed to become a bad word.


Offline Political Hack Wannabe

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But I keep coming back to this discussion of fundamental reasons because that is the only way we'll really build support for space going forward - getting fundamental reasons everyone can agree with

For me, this is the core.

We do need some combined force of voices. Now it seems that there is much too much fighting for a larger piece of the pie when we really need a bigger pie.

We can do more. We need to do more. Combined voices might be able to sway the budget makers that more is good. Since Apollo, more (as in budget) has seemed to become a bad word.

Again,  the problem is core justifications.  We've NEVER had a solid, big picture, easily understandable justification for this.  We have various items, in a combined "list" of things like inspiration, science, geo-political, etc. 

The problem is that these broad statements are very hard to quantify a value to the non-space world.  There is a reason the military budget is always high - it's easy to say "we need to spend money to keep our country safe, from people who will attack/kill you".   Most citizens understand that at a very core level.  There are other departments that have a similar simple message "we are spending money so your town water doesn't make you throw up" "we are spending money to fight drug dealers because they'll ruin your kids life."  And so on.

Now, again, the problem is we've NEVER come up with this kind of argument.  Want proof of that?  In the 1960s, most 45-60% of the populace thought we were spending too much money on space.  There were marches protesting moon launches in place of poverty - "Your belly isn't full, but your government spending billions to send people to pick up rocks on the moon.  Is that fair?"

And because we don't have a clear reason, because everyone has their own reasons, and the technical/legal/economic situation that results based on those reasons results in long arguments about destinations, and vehicles, and so forth.  "How much do we have to protect the contractors?" and "How important is the civil service work force?" and "How important is the development of technology?" all get answered when you have a core reason, and force you down a particular technical/destination path.

I would also add (although I don't have 100% proof of this ) that I suspect that part of our problem is that NONE of our arguments require space activity.  Are there other ways we can flex our geo-political muscles that don't require Space?  Yes.  Are they ways we can inspire people that don't require Space?  Yes.  Science is a little different - it is true that if you care about the science of space, you need space.  However, this is why we have the classic human vs robotic divide that never really dies. 

So we are back to my core point - we have the budget we have, because our reasons are lacking.  And that is not going to change until we can find more, and better justifications, that reach more people. 
It's not democrats vs republicans, it's reality vs innumerate space cadet fantasy.

Offline yg1968

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I really can't imagine this Truce lasting long not with people like Newt Gingrich hectoring for new space from the sidelines. Especially if someone like him gets the big job at NASA replacing Bolden.

https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/03/nasa-spaceflight-chief-says-he-loves-all-of-the-rockets/

The archived video of the conference (the AAS Goddard Symposium) where Gerst said this is now online:
http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/100752759

The slides of Gerst's presentation are attached to this post. The presentation is only 12 minutes and is worth watching.

See also these related links for other material from this symposium:
http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nasa-gsfc-science-and-exploration
http://astronautical.org/dev/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Goddard-Program-for-Website-Final-with-PP.pdf
https://twitter.com/SpcPlcyOnline/status/842802939735564289
« Last Edit: 03/18/2017 03:32 AM by yg1968 »

Online AncientU

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Bottom line (near the bottom anyway at 01:20:55):
Quote
NASA doesn't need to do everything any more -- those days are gone.
-- Gerst
"If we shared everything [we are working on] people would think we are insane!"
-- SpaceX friend of mlindner

Offline Proponent

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But here's the more general point: don't think of "Congress" as if it is a point source with a single set of views and opinions and values and interests.

Let me start with the general points, and those in reverse order.  As to "don't think of Congress as a point source...," of course, you are correct.  I was inaccurate in using the word "Congress" when I was actually thinking principally of the key players on the space subcommittees: the Steven Palazzos, the Mo Brookses, the Bill Nelsons, the Kay Bailey Hutchisons, the Rex Halls, the Ted Cruzes, the Bill Poseys, and so on.  In the interest of precision, let me refer to the people I have in mind with terms such as "space-interested Congresspeople."  I'm sure that within Congress there is full spectrum of views on NASA, and even among those who are broadly supportive (most, I would think), reasons for supporting NASA's programs range from the belief that they really do represent the very best in space policy all the way over pure porkishness.

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Here's general point #1: Welcome to democracy. This is how it works.

I agree that democracy is messy and sometimes ugly, but I'm not bashing it: I firmly believe it is better than all of the alternatives.  I'm merely making the very narrow point that, in this case, the results of the democratic process, on this extremely unimportant issue, are readily explained if the key players (space-interested Congresspeople) are motivated principally by pork.  It seems to me that it's stretch to explain the results by assuming the key players are motivated principally by the desire for an effective space policy.

Each element of my "rant" (obviously my attempt at self-deprecating humor has fallen flat) is intended as a data point on which to test hypotheses.  So, to be now more specific....

Quote
1-The reason they "wrote rocket specs into law" was because they had become convinced that unless they did that, the White House would ignore them. They felt they had to be very specific in everything.

What people outside of DC space policy circles don't get is just how much damage Obama did when he rolled out that FY2011 NASA budget in February 2010. Members of Congress felt both blindsided and disrespected. Even members of his own party were angry. The NASA Authorization Act was signed in October 2010, after about 6+ months of members of Congress getting very annoyed with the White House (and NASA by extension) and believing that the people in the executive branch were not interested in listening or negotiating but only in dictating. They concluded that unless they wrote down exactly what they wanted, it would not get implemented.

And what was it, exactly, that they wanted?  Was a return to the moon, or a trip to an asteroid?  Footprints on Mars?  No, exactly what they wanted was a Shuttle-derived rocket.  QED.

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2-* Why has Congress spent over $20 billion on Orion and SLS before even beginning to seriously ask what to do with the them?

They did tell NASA what to do with them: Moon exploration was in the 2005 Act and repeated in the 2010 Act. It has been supplanted by Mars exploration. It's right there:

"FINDINGS.—Congress makes the following findings:
(1)  The  extension  of  the  human  presence  from  low-Earth orbit  to  other  regions  of  space  beyond  low-Earth  orbit  will enable  missions  to  the  surface  of  the  Moon  and  missions  to deep space destinations such as near-Earth asteroids and Mars."

That's a Christmas wish list, an undated, uncosted, unprioritized long-range grab-bag of just about everything NASA might conceivably do with people in space in the 21st century.  It is significant in that it envisions NASA, not some other part of government or private enterprise, doing those things, but beyond that just about anything goes.  More to the point, Congress itself is ignoring it:  according to the NRC study commissioned by Congress itself, NASA's current programs on the budgets Congress is willing to provide is not on track to execute any of those deep-space missions.


Quote
3-"made steady progress in developing and testing..."

Because it has. Yeah, it might be behind schedule and over-budget, but that does not mean that it is not progressing, just that it is not progressing by the original schedule. Hardware is being built and tested and shipped. Go look at the press releases. Don't let hatred of SLS blind you to what is actually happening, even if you don't like it or think that there is a better solution.

Please, I am not blind to the technical progress Orion and SLS have made.  I have no doubt that the NASA-industry team building those systems is competent and can bring them to flight, and I have stated that multiple times in this forum.  But for Congress to mention "progress" without mentioning the delays and billions in overruns is a bit like asking Ms. Lincoln how, other things aside, she liked the play.  Congress has been known to demand people's heads for less.  The attitude displayed here is that Congress is perfectly happy to throw money at the program, without demanding much in return.  Again, that's consistent with the rocket and capsule programs themselves being the main goal, with actual human exploration being an afterthought.  If they were serious about exploration, they'd be pounding the table demanding to know why timetables and budgets have slipped so much.  They do that lot; that they don't do it here is a case of the dog that doesn't bark.

EDIT:  "Kaye" -> "Kay"
« Last Edit: 03/22/2017 09:16 AM by Proponent »

Offline Blackstar

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in this case, the results of the democratic process, on this extremely unimportant issue, are readily explained if the key players (space-interested Congresspeople) are motivated principally by pork. 

By the logic you are employing, your entire rant can be explained if one assumes that you hate SLS.

Reductio ad absurdum is a poor strategy for trying to understand why things turn out the way they do in a complex democratic process.


Offline bad_astra

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I hate to sound snarky but.. Shuttle-C/Sidemount SDLV-: we'd be there by now.

Ares I, got its single flight, and I suspect SLS will get at least one, and that will probably be the last whimper of the Constellation era. If congress had focused entirely on MSFC building a lander and possibly a BEO habitat, left the LV question well enough alone for some future date, just in case there was a commercial heavy lift vehicle by then, the worst that could have happened would have been that NASA would have had to derive some sort of multiple EELV program and get whatever utility they could have out of said habitat or lander. The long lead item would just be, as ever, Orion. And if there happened to be a couple of heavy lift commercial vehicles having metal bent by then, all the better.

But that did not happen and it was never going to. Too many experts and a couple of moonwalkers were called in to testify the need to do things the Mike Griffin way. Congress was sold on Constellation, did did not like having the table cloth yanked out from under the dishes in 2011, and its hard to blame them, from their viewpoint.

The biggest symbol of all that work was Ares V. The Yet-Another-Committee Committee determined that they did indeed need a Big Rocket, and that's what they got, sort of, years later, almost. So they'll get their launch out of it, it will look good, better than poor, goofy Ares 1X, and about as useful, unless budgets dramatically change. That will be the end of it, most likely. Time has moved on and surpassed what the old model could deliver. It's a pity that better steps weren't taken but I don't know that things could have happened any way other than how that did. It's not about being pro-SLS or hating it.
« Last Edit: 03/20/2017 03:19 PM by bad_astra »
"Contact Light" -Buzz Aldrin

Offline Proponent

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in this case, the results of the democratic process, on this extremely unimportant issue, are readily explained if the key players (space-interested Congresspeople) are motivated principally by pork. 

By the logic you are employing, your entire rant can be explained if one assumes that you hate SLS.

Reductio ad absurdum is a poor strategy for trying to understand why things turn out the way they do in a complex democratic process.

I have presented facts and have offered a hypothesis consistent with them.  To put it in a nutshell, Congress continues to spend fund a program which, according to the experts it chose itself (the NRC, not to mention Augustine) will not achieve the exploration goals it claims to be interested in.  What's your explanation for why Congress does that?

Offline Blackstar

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I have presented facts and have offered a hypothesis consistent with them.  To put it in a nutshell, Congress continues to spend fund a program which, according to the experts it chose itself (the NRC, not to mention Augustine) will not achieve the exploration goals it claims to be interested in.  What's your explanation for why Congress does that?

Let's assume that your conclusion is correct and that "Congress" (which you are using to refer to a select subsection of Congress) funds these programs "primarily because of pork."

So what?

What are you going to do with that information? What is the value of that conclusion?

I'd also add that this would not make space any different than any other thing that is funded by the federal government. I'm sure that we would all be shocked--just shocked!--to discover that the biggest proponents of farm subsidies come from farm states. And the biggest proponents of building submarines come from states where submarines are built. And the biggest proponents of allowing oil drilling on federal lands tend to come from states where oil drilling is a major enterprise.

There is a remarkable correlation between incidents of gambling and casinos...

Online AncientU

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This is why Congress will never allow the President to line item veto.  None of these programs could stand up to a super-majority vote... most wouldn't achieve a plurality if voted on the record, one at a time.
"If we shared everything [we are working on] people would think we are insane!"
-- SpaceX friend of mlindner

Offline RonM

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This is why Congress will never allow the President to line item veto.  None of these programs could stand up to a super-majority vote... most wouldn't achieve a plurality if voted on the record, one at a time.

Actually, there was the Line Item Veto Act of 1996. Passed by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton. Then it was immediately challenged and ruled unconstitutional. The Supreme Court confirmed the ruling in 1998.

Offline Proponent

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Let's assume that your conclusion is correct and that "Congress" (which you are using to refer to a select subsection of Congress) funds these programs "primarily because of pork."

So what?

What are you going to do with that information? What is the value of that conclusion?

I'd also add that this would not make space any different than any other thing that is funded by the federal government. I'm sure that we would all be shocked--just shocked!--to discover that the biggest proponents of farm subsidies come from farm states. And the biggest proponents of building submarines come from states where submarines are built. And the biggest proponents of allowing oil drilling on federal lands tend to come from states where oil drilling is a major enterprise.

What am I going to do with the information?  Pretty much what I do with most of the information I absorb or deduce from this forum, which is to say nothing much, aside from think about it and talk about it.

There are no doubt inefficiencies and conflicts of interest in submarine building, oil drilling too, and, for that matter, in other NASA programs.  However, submarines do actually get built, oil gets pumped (albeit with huge public subsidies) and NASA's other programs often reach fruition.  The Shuttle-derived something or other, on the other hand, is into its second decade and still does not even have any clearly-defined objectives.  Perhaps in its third decade it will do something new and notable, like put up a cis-lunar hab, but that will be a small shadow of what was promised when the program was kicked off.  It seems a marvel of inefficiency and diminishing expectations, yet so many within and without government are happy with it.

Offline Proponent

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The biggest symbol of all that work was Ares V. The Yet-Another-Committee Committee determined that they did indeed need a Big Rocket, and that's what they got, sort of, years later, almost.

Augustine never said that an SLS-sized rocket was needed; 50 tonnes was deemed sufficient.  And the NRC avoided the question of launch vehicles altogether by simply assuming that SLS would be used (Mitch Daniels seems like the kind of guy who knows a third rail when sees one!).

Offline Proponent

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Just off the top of my head the blunders in early 2010 were:

...

-scrambling after all the controversy to come up with a new goal, which led to Obama going to KSC and saying "It's asteroids."

By that time, Obama had acceded to congressional demands for Orion a Shuttle-derived launch vehicle.  Given that, what else could he have done?  Promising to go to back to the moon would have raised the question of funding for the lunar lander, which, as we've seen in the years since, Congress itself is unwilling to fund.

Though widely panned (and I'm one of the panners, and as you've pointed out it's not obvious that even the administration was serious about it), ARM seems a pretty clever way to satisfy the conflicting demands imposed by Congress (use Orion/SLS but don't give NASA more money), because the additional technology and hardware required was robotic and, therefore, much cheaper than a lander or a deep-space hab (and, incidentally, in line with the administration's desire to develop new technology).

In an ironic twisf of fate, it now looks as though ARM's large electric-propulsion system may survive ARM's demise.  So some useful technology may come out of the whole sorry episode after all!
« Last Edit: 03/23/2017 02:39 PM by Proponent »

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