Author Topic: ASAP on board with NASA's DSG as stepping stone to Mars  (Read 13304 times)


Offline Coastal Ron

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Re: ASAP on board with NASA's DSG as stepping stone to Mars
« Reply #1 on: 06/09/2017 09:54 PM »
Great article, and yes great images to support the story.

While the support of a well-watched advisory board is good, it does not change the political calculation for getting the overall DSG/DST plan approved and funded.

One thing I liked was:

"...NASA expected to publish individual documents for each system, such as environmental control and life support, power, data, storage, etc., that would contain voluntary standards rather than requirements, with the hope that both international and industry partners would be able to develop hardware and software that could easily be incorporated into the overall architecture, per the overview to the ASAP."

In this day and age of distributed contributions (think Github, open source s/w, etc.) I think providing a framework for identifying the known issues and being a "repository" for solutions makes a lot of sense. It leverages not only the "wisdom of the crowds", but also the resources of the planet. To me that was the most noteworthy part of the article.

As to the Deep Space Gateway, it's difficult to build things when you don't have very specific use cases for them. And I'm not talking about theoretical use cases, but real use cases that "customers" are vocal about needing to be solved. For instance, from the article:

“In terms of basic functionality, the DSG is being planned to support multiple NASA, commercial, and international objectives,” added the overview. “It would be designed for the deep space environment and would support a crew of 4 for total mission durations of up to 42 days with the Orion vehicle attached.

As of today there are really only two likely spacecraft that could use the DSG, the Orion MPCV and the Dragon Crew - I'm ignoring Soyuz for now.

We know that even though SpaceX is being paid to send two humans around the Moon, otherwise they are focused on building interplanetary spacecraft that can start to colonize Mars. So I don't see SpaceX themselves being interested in the DSG. Maybe a SpaceX customer would want to go, but I think there is a limited market for that.

Which leaves the Orion MPCV as the primary spacecraft that can reach the DSG. But because of the cost of the Orion and the SLS, and the production lead times for both with current factory capabilities, we're talking about 42 days in space per year at the DSG. Compared to the 6-12 months current U.S. astronauts spend on the ISS, I'm not sure what the value proposition is for spending 42 days in space. Sure the location is unique, but what is being learned in 12% of a year at the DSG vs 100% of the year at the ISS?

I mention that because there will need to be sponsors of the legislation for the DSG/DST in both the House and Senate, and they will need to be able to explain the value proposition to their fellow legislators and get them to set aside their priorities in order to fund this effort.

In internet startup terminology, I'm not seeing a "killer app" with the DSG, just a "nice to have". Things that are "nice to have" don't get funding priority, so I think NASA needs to work harder on identifying and explaining what the value proposition is for the Deep Space Gateway.

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 yg1968

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Re: ASAP on board with NASA's DSG as stepping stone to Mars
« Reply #2 on: 06/09/2017 10:23 PM »
I thought this quote in the article was also interesting:

Quote from: ASAP
“It would include a power and propulsion bus and a habitat, and would incorporate a logistics strategy that could involve cargo resupply or crew transportation flights by industry or international partners, such as what is done now for the ISS.”

Given that only one SLS is planned per year, Orion would also only be launched once a year. If NASA were to decide that it wants 2 or 3 crewed flights to the DSG per year, it could contract SpaceX or another commercial company for the other flights. That would be an interesting scenario.
« Last Edit: 06/09/2017 10:27 PM by yg1968 »

Online A_M_Swallow

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Re: ASAP on board with NASA's DSG as stepping stone to Mars
« Reply #3 on: 06/09/2017 10:29 PM »
The 'killer app' for the DSG is sending people to Mars on the Deep Space Transport. To save fuel etc. the big ships will return to the DSG rather than LEO. An Orion could pick up the astronauts and return them to the Earth's surface.

IMHO The DSG day job will be sending people and cargo to the lunar surface. Reusable lunar landers will need to be parked and refuelled somewhere between missions.

Reusable LEO to DSG and back transfer vehicles will be useful. SEP for cargo and chemical rocket engines for people. Providing the LEO spacestation, DSG and transfer vehicle have NASA Docking Ports then NASA can simply buy tickets for the 3-4 day journey rather than pay for the vehicle's development.

Offline Coastal Ron

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Re: ASAP on board with NASA's DSG as stepping stone to Mars
« Reply #4 on: 06/09/2017 11:26 PM »
The 'killer app' for the DSG is sending people to Mars on the Deep Space Transport.

OK. Although at the funding level NASA has today industry experts don't think NASA will ever get to Mars, so at best this is a use case that is far in the future. Something more near-term is needed...

Quote
IMHO The DSG day job will be sending people and cargo to the lunar surface. Reusable lunar landers will need to be parked and refuelled somewhere between missions.

OK. So the near-term "killer app" for the Deep Space Gateway is a U.S. Government program to return humans to the surface of the Moon? Why hasn't this been made an explicit goal then?

Quote
Reusable LEO to DSG and back transfer vehicles will be useful. SEP for cargo and chemical rocket engines for people. Providing the LEO spacestation, DSG and transfer vehicle have NASA Docking Ports then NASA can simply buy tickets for the 3-4 day journey rather than pay for the vehicle's development.

All great stuff, but we shouldn't conflate personal desire with U.S. Government needs - because the USG doesn't have a current "need" to do any of that (as defined by USG policy and funding).

One way to look at the situation with the DSG/DST is whether this proposal would have been made regardless if the SLS & Orion existed or not? In other words, is the goal what's important, of the use of the SLS & Orion? And would the U.S. Government be willing to give up the SLS and Orion in order to pursue the DSG/DST effort if needed?

Those are questions the President needs to answer since it should be the President that proposes and supports such efforts. Obama had other priorities that he supported, some that succeeded and some that didn't, so we'll have to see if Trump is willing to attach his name to a long term effort too.
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 okan170

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Re: ASAP on board with NASA's DSG as stepping stone to Mars
« Reply #5 on: 06/10/2017 12:13 AM »
All great stuff, but we shouldn't conflate personal desire with U.S. Government needs - because the USG doesn't have a current "need" to do any of that (as defined by USG policy and funding).

One way to look at the situation with the DSG/DST is whether this proposal would have been made regardless if the SLS & Orion existed or not? In other words, is the goal what's important, of the use of the SLS & Orion? And would the U.S. Government be willing to give up the SLS and Orion in order to pursue the DSG/DST effort if needed?

As always, we come back to your assertion that we... shouldn't do anything at all until we 100% have congress and the president agreeing with full budget in-hand (which is never.)   ::)

We have a golden opportunity to do something that commercial and international partners are both interested in contributing to and using.  Its not an ideal plan, but its pretty good for what we have to work with and what money there is.  We can spend years arguing about what should be done or we can make a start on providing our own do-able cislunar toehold.

Online A_M_Swallow

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Re: ASAP on board with NASA's DSG as stepping stone to Mars
« Reply #6 on: 06/10/2017 12:31 AM »
The 'killer app' for the DSG is sending people to Mars on the Deep Space Transport.

OK. Although at the funding level NASA has today industry experts don't think NASA will ever get to Mars, so at best this is a use case that is far in the future. Something more near-term is needed...

Quote
IMHO The DSG day job will be sending people and cargo to the lunar surface. Reusable lunar landers will need to be parked and refuelled somewhere between missions.

OK. So the near-term "killer app" for the Deep Space Gateway is a U.S. Government program to return humans to the surface of the Moon? Why hasn't this been made an explicit goal then?
{snip}

Obama did not ask for it, DSG is being managed by the Mars team and NASA would have to pay for an explicit goal. Providing support but no money to Lunar CATALYST industry/NASA partnership hopefully will produce several cargo lunar landers one of which is big enough to carry people. (The cabin will have to be a later project.) NASA is already looking for lunar surface payloads.
https://www.nasa.gov/feature/nasa-seeks-additional-information-on-small-lunar-surface-payloads

Online northenarc

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Re: ASAP on board with NASA's DSG as stepping stone to Mars
« Reply #7 on: 06/10/2017 02:16 AM »
 I don't generally like to rain on space parades, and mods can pull this if they think it doesn't belong. I just feel this entire direction is a waste of time and money, it isn't going to get us to Mars, at least not anytime soon, and wouldn't even do that much to facilitate a moon base or missions that can't be done in other ways. I have trouble seeing the advantages, all this does is add another layer of unnecessary complexity. It sounds like something created to eat budgets. Sorry to be cynical.

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Re: ASAP on board with NASA's DSG as stepping stone to Mars
« Reply #8 on: 06/10/2017 02:52 AM »
I don't generally like to rain on space parades, and mods can pull this if they think it doesn't belong. I just feel this entire direction is a waste of time and money, it isn't going to get us to Mars, at least not anytime soon, and wouldn't even do that much to facilitate a moon base or missions that can't be done in other ways. I have trouble seeing the advantages, all this does is add another layer of unnecessary complexity. It sounds like something created to eat budgets. Sorry to be cynical.

NASA has a long term problem. It takes about a decade to develop a major machine. Unlike the Apollo days it can only afford to develop one major machine at a time. Going to Mars will require several new machines. It has chosen to work on an important component - long term life support. ECLSS are needed in capsules, transfer vehicles, spacestations, landers, spacesuits, planetary buildings and manned rovers. It has decided to flight test the ECLSS in a spacestation's habitat.

Offline yg1968

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Re: ASAP on board with NASA's DSG as stepping stone to Mars
« Reply #9 on: 06/10/2017 03:10 AM »
I don't generally like to rain on space parades, and mods can pull this if they think it doesn't belong. I just feel this entire direction is a waste of time and money, it isn't going to get us to Mars, at least not anytime soon, and wouldn't even do that much to facilitate a moon base or missions that can't be done in other ways. I have trouble seeing the advantages, all this does is add another layer of unnecessary complexity. It sounds like something created to eat budgets. Sorry to be cynical.

I disagree. Regardless of where we go, we need habitats. I don't think that we are going to Mars any time soon. So this is what we get in the mean time. But this has to be done cheaply. If it's expensive, I agree that it then becomes a distraction.

Online northenarc

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Re: ASAP on board with NASA's DSG as stepping stone to Mars
« Reply #10 on: 06/10/2017 03:13 AM »
I don't generally like to rain on space parades, and mods can pull this if they think it doesn't belong. I just feel this entire direction is a waste of time and money, it isn't going to get us to Mars, at least not anytime soon, and wouldn't even do that much to facilitate a moon base or missions that can't be done in other ways. I have trouble seeing the advantages, all this does is add another layer of unnecessary complexity. It sounds like something created to eat budgets. Sorry to be cynical.

NASA has a long term problem. It takes about a decade to develop a major machine. Unlike the Apollo days it can only afford to develop one major machine at a time. Going to Mars will require several new machines. It has chosen to work on an important component - long term life support. ECLSS are needed in capsules, transfer vehicles, spacestations, landers, spacesuits, planetary buildings and manned rovers. It has decided to flight test the ECLSS in a spacestation's habitat.
  I do not deny your points, NASA is doing the best they feel they can with the current circumstances, doing something different with the same money might well require unpopular things. We can blame the last decade of conflicted and uncertain direction from all quarters for the current state of affairs. I think a small lunar base would better serve all of our long term exploration goals for getting to Mars, a cislunar stations' only advantage is not needing to be landed or landed at, we could always send out smaller modules for fueling if we decided to go that direction. And we really don't want to hire the military industrial complex as the only gas station for interplanetary missions, and it sounds like they'd love to have that monopoly.     

Offline RonM

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Re: ASAP on board with NASA's DSG as stepping stone to Mars
« Reply #11 on: 06/10/2017 03:39 AM »
Each Orion launch on SLS Block 1B will have about 10 tonnes payload capacity unused. NASA is trying to do something with that excess capacity. So, DSG is actually a pretty good idea considering the situation.

If DSG turns out to be just a tin can for astronauts to sit in, it won't be very useful. If our ISS partners join up with NASA and add lunar landers, especially reusable ones to be docked at DSG, then it will be money well spent.

SLS and Orion are Congressional pet projects. They will continue to be funded for the foreseeable future. Might as well get some good use out of them.

Online A_M_Swallow

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Re: ASAP on board with NASA's DSG as stepping stone to Mars
« Reply #12 on: 06/10/2017 03:56 AM »
  I do not deny your points, NASA is doing the best they feel they can with the current circumstances, doing something different with the same money might well require unpopular things. We can blame the last decade of conflicted and uncertain direction from all quarters for the current state of affairs. I think a small lunar base would better serve all of our long term exploration goals for getting to Mars, a cislunar stations' only advantage is not needing to be landed or landed at, we could always send out smaller modules for fueling if we decided to go that direction. And we really don't want to hire the military industrial complex as the only gas station for interplanetary missions, and it sounds like they'd love to have that monopoly.     

Since they are self catering I sometimes think of these spacestations as YMCA in space.

Out of the way hotels probably have experience with logistics. Bigelow both builds and runs hotels. The oil companies run gas stations and are used to drilling off road. Walmart may be able to submit a very different bid.

Offline okan170

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Re: ASAP on board with NASA's DSG as stepping stone to Mars
« Reply #13 on: 06/10/2017 03:59 AM »
I think a small lunar base would better serve all of our long term exploration goals for getting to Mars, a cislunar stations' only advantage is not needing to be landed or landed at, we could always send out smaller modules for fueling if we decided to go that direction. And we really don't want to hire the military industrial complex as the only gas station for interplanetary missions, and it sounds like they'd love to have that monopoly.     

One big advantage of the station is that, according to Gerst, it can be done within the relatively flat NASA budgets.  A surface base would be nice, but it requires commitment and funding that is not there and may not materialize for some time.  This is what we can do now with what we have and even Bezos has expressed interest in basing a lander there.

We also don't want to have the only gas station held by corporate space interests instead of the military industrial complex if thats what you're implying.

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Re: ASAP on board with NASA's DSG as stepping stone to Mars
« Reply #14 on: 06/10/2017 04:15 AM »
{snip}

We also don't want to have the only gas station held by corporate space interests instead of the military industrial complex if thats what you're implying.

If there is only one space gas station then it is a natural monopoly. NASA could try running it itself but since the propellant depot will hope to sell fuel to commercially run space-lines the two boss problem will make management a mess. A depot paid for by NASA but leased out to an operator may work. (See Britain's motorway service stations for a terrestrial equivalent.)

NASA and the FAA can regulate the propellant depot. If the operator misbehaves they can threaten to take it to the Monopolies Commission. I do not know what the Commission will do but the operator is unlikely to like it.

Offline su27k

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Re: ASAP on board with NASA's DSG as stepping stone to Mars
« Reply #15 on: 06/10/2017 04:21 AM »
I don't generally like to rain on space parades, and mods can pull this if they think it doesn't belong. I just feel this entire direction is a waste of time and money, it isn't going to get us to Mars, at least not anytime soon, and wouldn't even do that much to facilitate a moon base or missions that can't be done in other ways. I have trouble seeing the advantages, all this does is add another layer of unnecessary complexity. It sounds like something created to eat budgets. Sorry to be cynical.

NASA has a long term problem. It takes about a decade to develop a major machine. Unlike the Apollo days it can only afford to develop one major machine at a time. Going to Mars will require several new machines. It has chosen to work on an important component - long term life support. ECLSS are needed in capsules, transfer vehicles, spacestations, landers, spacesuits, planetary buildings and manned rovers. It has decided to flight test the ECLSS in a spacestation's habitat.

To quote the article "“In terms of basic functionality, the DSG is being planned to support multiple NASA, commercial, and international objectives,” added the overview. “It would be designed for the deep space environment and would support a crew of 4 for total mission durations of up to 42 days with the Orion vehicle attached."

Please explain how is a 42 days ECLSS qualifies as long term life support?

Offline redliox

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Re: ASAP on board with NASA's DSG as stepping stone to Mars
« Reply #16 on: 06/10/2017 04:37 AM »
Finally content where I can use some of Nathan's amazing L2 renders on the DSG! ;D

ASAP being positive about something!
https://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2017/06/asap-nasas-dsg-stepping-stone-mars/

They are definitely beautiful to look at  :)
I don't generally like to rain on space parades, and mods can pull this if they think it doesn't belong. I just feel this entire direction is a waste of time and money, it isn't going to get us to Mars, at least not anytime soon, and wouldn't even do that much to facilitate a moon base or missions that can't be done in other ways. I have trouble seeing the advantages, all this does is add another layer of unnecessary complexity. It sounds like something created to eat budgets. Sorry to be cynical.

I disagree. Regardless of where we go, we need habitats. I don't think that we are going to Mars any time soon. So this is what we get in the mean time. But this has to be done cheaply. If it's expensive, I agree that it then becomes a distraction.

I agree with you both: it's not really required to get to Mars but it is the only thing NASA could possibly afford in the near future.

My personal opinion is mixed, in addition to what I just mentioned the DSG would be good for the Moon, but it's a distraction for Mars.  What would be better would be to develop an actual landing vehicle for the respective celestial bodies, not so much an ISS 2.0-Luna Deluxe.  Telescopes and experiments can be sent up and act largely autonomously; the Hubble for instance benefited from sporadic human service, but a 24/7 human presence would have compromised its mission (outgassing from life support, ect. were one reason astronomy options for Freedom and then ISS weren't prominent).

As for whether the DSG or DST will materialize...it will largely depend on the success of the SLS firstly.  Secondly, we need to see what the current and future administrations will do (not to get political, but frankly I think Mr Trump is too preoccupied with 'other' matters not to mention I think being explained the impossibility of reaching Mars within a single term threw his interest in NASA away).  I'm only giving it a 40% chance of happening; ARM I'd have given 10% on a generous day for comparison.

I think what could help the DSG's case would be listing a very specific set of objectives it could accomplish.  Testing out self-sufficient and enclosed life support could be considered one, but it shouldn't be the only one.  If its main occupation is near the Moon, include some remote lunar science.  After that, perhaps arrange for servicing other craft is Cislunar space - hypothetically the DSG is supposed to move anywhere, so it could visit a lunar-Lagrange Hubble and refuel and fix it for example, perhaps with a larger tool set than the STS had.  Ensure it is more specific than the ISS yet useful.
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Re: ASAP on board with NASA's DSG as stepping stone to Mars
« Reply #17 on: 06/10/2017 04:47 AM »

To quote the article "“In terms of basic functionality, the DSG is being planned to support multiple NASA, commercial, and international objectives,” added the overview. “It would be designed for the deep space environment and would support a crew of 4 for total mission durations of up to 42 days with the Orion vehicle attached."

Please explain how is a 42 days ECLSS qualifies as long term life support?

After 10 visits that is 10 * 42 = 420 days. More than a year.

The ECLSS in capsules can be serviced every time they return to Earth but the DSG's ECLSS can only expect its consumables to be replaced. NASA hopes to use the same design of ECLSS on its Mars trips.

Offline Chalmer

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Re: ASAP on board with NASA's DSG as stepping stone to Mars
« Reply #18 on: 06/10/2017 04:48 AM »
I am in two minds about this DSG.

On the one hand NASA needs to find their next big project after ISS, on the other hand this has some of the hallmarks of a make work program to utilize the SLS/ORION.

I general I like the idea of a way-station where spacecraft’s can refuel and astronauts rest/resupply before the next leg of a journey either to the moon or mars. For that reason, DSG is appealing.

But it should not be a substitute for LEO infrastructure such as a zero-gravity research, tech-demo etc. such as what is happening on ISS. Now commercial might take over this role with after ISS, with NASA as anchor tenant, but NASA would probably still need to initiate a COTS type program for that to happen. 

NASA has forced itself out of LEO in some ways with all its talk of handing over LEO to commercial operators and SLS/ORION is for BLEO. SLS/ORION only justification other than pure pork lies in its superior per launch BLEO capability.

So, given the need to justify and utilize SLS/ORION what to do in BLEO, that is within the flat budget profile?
DSG allows NASA to utilize SLS/ORION to build an infrastructure capacity. A make work program for SLS/ORION that also delivers some permanent value.

The big fear is that a DSG program under the SLS umbrella so to speak will mean its cost will be enormous and ends up never flying or constant being revised since political forces align to keep it going no matter the high costs and low return.  Much like SLS and ORION.
« Last Edit: 06/10/2017 04:49 AM by Chalmer »

Offline Lars-J

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Re: ASAP on board with NASA's DSG as stepping stone to Mars
« Reply #19 on: 06/10/2017 05:19 AM »

To quote the article "“In terms of basic functionality, the DSG is being planned to support multiple NASA, commercial, and international objectives,” added the overview. “It would be designed for the deep space environment and would support a crew of 4 for total mission durations of up to 42 days with the Orion vehicle attached."

Please explain how is a 42 days ECLSS qualifies as long term life support?

After 10 visits that is 10 * 42 = 420 days. More than a year.

The ECLSS in capsules can be serviced every time they return to Earth but the DSG's ECLSS can only expect its consumables to be replaced. NASA hopes to use the same design of ECLSS on its Mars trips.

But if the ECLSS needs to be replenished every 42 days, you certainly aren't getting to Mars. Or am I missing something?

Tags: DSG JAXA