Author Topic: The U.S. Manned Space Gap Record is Now Broken  (Read 14944 times)

Offline MATTBLAK

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The U.S. Manned Space Gap Record is Now Broken
« on: 04/19/2017 02:55 AM »
Wayne Hale has noted that the gap between manned U.S. Space missions from U.S. soil with American spacecraft is now greater than that between Apollo & Shuttle! Depressing... Not much to say about that. :(

...Other than when I said a couple years ago that this would happen; I was told to shut my mouth - I didn't know what I was talking about. I don't always like being right - especially about this subject... :'(

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Offline Coastal Ron

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Re: The U.S. Manned Space Gap Record is Now Broken
« Reply #1 on: 04/19/2017 03:00 AM »
For me at least, I'm not as concerned about HOW we get into space, but that we are IN space.  And have been for 16 years, 5 months and 17 days.

So if anything I'm more concerned with how many people are in space at any one time, not whose ride they took to get there.

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 MATTBLAK

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Re: The U.S. Manned Space Gap Record is Now Broken
« Reply #2 on: 04/19/2017 03:16 AM »
You are quite right, of course. Still doesn't make me any less sad about the general thrust of Wayne Hale's point, though.
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Offline spacenut

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Re: The U.S. Manned Space Gap Record is Now Broken
« Reply #3 on: 04/19/2017 03:37 AM »
NASA has lacked direction for years.  The directors have allowed congress to pick and choose what should be done lately.  The good news is private companies are making great strides such as SpaceX and Blue Origin.  At this point, NASA shouldn't focus on vehicles and/or a way to get into space.  They should have some goals and objectives, ask private companies for solutions, and award the best solutions with contracts, like they did with COTS.  It worked great and got us new engines, new companies, and new rockets. 

Offline A_M_Swallow

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Re: The U.S. Manned Space Gap Record is Now Broken
« Reply #4 on: 04/19/2017 03:40 AM »
NASA being unable to launch people is a public embarrassment.

Measures had to be taken to cure this problem and prevent it from happening again.

Cure = design new launch vehicle and capsule
Prevent again = multiple launch vehicles & capsules from different companies, so no single source failure problems
« Last Edit: 04/19/2017 03:42 AM by A_M_Swallow »

Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: The U.S. Manned Space Gap Record is Now Broken
« Reply #5 on: 04/19/2017 03:48 AM »
To me, the important question is why we have the gap.  Is it because we're just not doing anything and the future looks bleak?  Or is it because new and better things are coming?

I believe it is the latter.  I'm excited about what the gap means.  To me, it's like tearing down an old building to make way for a new, better building.  Yes, there is a period when you don't have that building, but it's worth it if in the end you are getting something significantly better.

To me, the new, better things that are coming are commercial crew vehicles, and, more generally, the shift to commercial decision making rather than government decision making.

The shuttle had to be cancelled to make commercial crew vehicles happen.  Sure, in my ideal world we could have had both, but we don't live in that ideal world.  In the world we live in, if shuttle had kept going, I firmly believe commercial crew never would have happened.  Even commercial cargo flights were predicated on the coming retirement of the shuttle.  No gap means shuttle continuing, means no COTS, means SpaceX goes bankrupt in 2006.

Your mileage may vary, of course -- if you liked the shuttle better than commercial cargo and crew, better than reusable launch vehicles, better than all the things SpaceX and Blue Origin have planned for the future, then for you the gap will be a waste.  For me, it is creative destruction that makes way for the new.
« Last Edit: 04/19/2017 03:49 AM by ChrisWilson68 »

Offline MATTBLAK

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Re: The U.S. Manned Space Gap Record is Now Broken
« Reply #6 on: 04/19/2017 04:17 AM »
ChrisWilson - I certainly hope you turn out to be right.
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Offline Coastal Ron

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Re: The U.S. Manned Space Gap Record is Now Broken
« Reply #7 on: 04/19/2017 04:38 AM »
To me, the new, better things that are coming are commercial crew vehicles, and, more generally, the shift to commercial decision making rather than government decision making.

For me I keep in mind what the ultimate goal should be, which is the expansion of humanity out into space.

Now that sounds like a big goal, and it is.  More importantly though what it also provides is a window into what we want that future to look like.  For instance, do we want the U.S. Government to be leading the way?  For as much as I love my country, the U.S. of A., the answer is "no".  Mainly because the U.S. Government really doesn't have a reason to expand humanity out into space.  Do science in space, sure, and that would include humans.  But what is the ROI for the U.S. Taxpayer for spending money on colonizing the Moon, Mars or other places?  The U.S. Government just can't be counted on for long-term planning and commitment.

My bet on the future is that we find non-governmental reasons to expand out into space.  Which hopefully includes commerce, but will likely also include people who go to space because they believe humans should expand out into space - who I'm sure Elon Musk is counting on to a great degree to colonize Mars.

Quote
The shuttle had to be cancelled to make commercial crew vehicles happen.

I don't think people know how much the government-run Shuttle program suppressed the commercial space transportation sector.  Because no one can compete with "FREE", or at least government discounts.  I highly doubt anyone paid the actual full price for a Shuttle ride, either cargo or crew.

So yes, the Shuttle had to die in order for the commercial space transportation sector to gain new life.  And it has, big time with SpaceX, Blue Origin and many other companies that stepped up to take over what the Shuttle did.

This is a wonderful time to be a space geek, and most recently that's been because of what the private sector has been doing.  We should encourage that, not compete with it...
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Online FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: The U.S. Manned Space Gap Record is Now Broken
« Reply #8 on: 04/19/2017 05:03 AM »
Eric Berger's take on it:

Quote
NASA set an ignominious record last weekóbut donít blame the space agency
NASA is taking steps to ensure this kind of capability gap never again occurs.

by Eric Berger - Apr 18, 2017 6:13pm BST

https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/04/nasa-set-an-ignominious-record-last-week-but-dont-blame-the-space-agency/

I agree with points made earlier in this thread. Yes the gap is unfortunate and longer than it needed to be or should have been but it is a blip in the wider picture. What matters is that after the gap the US will be in the best position it's ever been with respect to both redundant and more cost-effective crew transport.

Offline MATTBLAK

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Re: The U.S. Manned Space Gap Record is Now Broken
« Reply #9 on: 04/19/2017 05:50 AM »
I don't really blame NASA - they've just run with what they've been given. A simpler Shuttle-derived lifter than SLS might have sufficed better and a slightly smaller Orion than the 5 meter wide behemoth - and Lockheed-Martin's feet held to the fire! >:(  But most of all - better support for Commercial Crew from all sides... :(
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Offline redliox

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Re: The U.S. Manned Space Gap Record is Now Broken
« Reply #10 on: 04/19/2017 06:16 AM »
It would have happened sooner or later.  NASA's budget is barely a fifth of its Apollo glory days so it is little wonder when the time came to retire the space shuttle the fiscal cupboard was bare; NASA being setup to fail basically.  Can't build a cathedral on the head of a pin.

It's not the Cold War, so NASA isn't seen as a glamorous trophy to flash in the enemy's face anymore.  Personally I expect the Orion to get canceled after a few flights.  Best hope is a larger NASA budget and a variety of commercial ships.
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Offline woods170

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Re: The U.S. Manned Space Gap Record is Now Broken
« Reply #11 on: 04/19/2017 06:33 AM »
Throwing the proverbial bat in the henhouse:

There is no gap.

NASA is still launching it's astros to the ISS. But instead of using a NASA-owned system, it hires a foreign service (Roscosmos/Soyuz) to do so.
As such, there won't be changing much once NASA switches to hiring Starliner or Crew Dragon's to get their astros to the ISS. Because NASA does not own Starliner or Crew Dragon either.

There only is a gap IF one starts phrasing it the way Wayne deliberately did
Quote from: Wayne Hale
...longest gap in human launches from US soil.

And that kind of gap is, IMO, not much of a problem to have. It sure as h*ll never bothered other space agencies enough to get their own indigenous manned launch system into orbit. China being the major exception here, not being driven by need, but by prestige.
« Last Edit: 04/19/2017 06:42 AM by woods170 »

Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: The U.S. Manned Space Gap Record is Now Broken
« Reply #12 on: 04/19/2017 07:31 AM »
Throwing the proverbial bat in the henhouse:

I've never heard that expression before.  What does it mean?  Do bats scare the hens into running around like mad?

There is no gap.

NASA is still launching it's astros to the ISS. But instead of using a NASA-owned system, it hires a foreign service (Roscosmos/Soyuz) to do so.
As such, there won't be changing much once NASA switches to hiring Starliner or Crew Dragon's to get their astros to the ISS. Because NASA does not own Starliner or Crew Dragon either.

There only is a gap IF one starts phrasing it the way Wayne deliberately did
Quote from: Wayne Hale
...longest gap in human launches from US soil.

And that kind of gap is, IMO, not much of a problem to have. It sure as h*ll never bothered other space agencies enough to get their own indigenous manned launch system into orbit. China being the major exception here, not being driven by need, but by prestige.

I disagree.  I think every space agency on Earth desperately wishes to be able to have their own indigenous human launch system to orbit.  The only reason most don't is that they don't have the funding to do it.  But they're all constantly talking about long-range plans to do so, dreaming of the day they can afford it.

And giving Russia a huge amount of leverage to embarrass the U.S. government seems like a really bad idea, particularly after Crimea.

Plus, I think there are benefits to having the dollars spent on launching a country's astronauts to orbit going to that country.  It encourages a higher technology and education level that benefits the country indirectly in many ways.  Paying Russia to do it just benefits Russia.

Finally, I wish to see the U.S. with its own human launch systems just because I think aerospace is something the United States does well, and I like to see us making that contribution to the general progress of all humankind.  The U.S. is showing the world the way forward with reusable launch vehicles and a focus on cost reduction that is being felt everywhere.  Programs in the United States are the only ones in the world with chances of really revolutionizing access to space and even possibly starting an actual colonization program.

Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: The U.S. Manned Space Gap Record is Now Broken
« Reply #13 on: 04/19/2017 07:45 AM »
Now that sounds like a big goal, and it is.  More importantly though what it also provides is a window into what we want that future to look like.  For instance, do we want the U.S. Government to be leading the way?  For as much as I love my country, the U.S. of A., the answer is "no".  Mainly because the U.S. Government really doesn't have a reason to expand humanity out into space.  Do science in space, sure, and that would include humans.  But what is the ROI for the U.S. Taxpayer for spending money on colonizing the Moon, Mars or other places?  The U.S. Government just can't be counted on for long-term planning and commitment.

I agree with a lot of your points, and I think if there are purely private commercial motives for the expansion into the universe, that's great, and that's more efficient than having a government making the decisions.

But I'm not entirely counting the government out as you seem to be doing.  There is such a thing as a commons problem, and markets alone don't solve those.  Some things in space are such problems, I think.

Some things NASA does really well.  In particular, I think they've been very successful with unmanned scientific probes.  What hasn't been done so efficiently by NASA, in my opinion, is human spaceflight since Apollo.

The difference is whether there's competition and a monolithic bureaucracy or not.  With science missions, many teams are formed to make proposals that must compete with one another.  The people making the decisions don't have a vested interest in doing it a particular way or keeping particular people employed (for the most part).  And the programs are fixed-length and then the funding is done.

With human spaceflight, none of that is true.  The programs don't have to compete with anything.  The government workforce has a monopoly and the programs last indefinitely.

That is changing with commercial cargo and crew, and those programs have worked wonderfully.  But SLS is still sucking up a lot more dollars than commercial cargo and crew.

If we could get NASA out of the business of doing things and instead get it limited to the business of funding competing, independent entities to do things, then we'd really have something.

I think the U.S. government has at least as much reason to fund colonization of space as it has to fund science in space.  They just don't know how to do it.  The average voter would probably be more likely to think colonization of space is a good use of money than more science.

Offline MattMason

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Re: The U.S. Manned Space Gap Record is Now Broken
« Reply #14 on: 04/19/2017 07:52 AM »
The "Gap" is based on a supposition: "NASA is the only US entity obligated to keep an American presence in space."

That's false. Do we think that Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Robert Bigelow, SNC and others are going to be contracted only to NASA for every launch they make or ship into orbit? Of course not.

Their idea is to create a permanent space presence, funded by non-governmental interests. Places that, over time, government officials visit to so as set up services and to tax their residents for the said services that governments provide as part of a habitable area in their sovereign places.

While it is regrettable that a national federal space presence isn't around, private industry will not be so discouraged about the opportunities up there. And they will not only build permanent launch vehicles and spacecraft that support travel but add habitats for various uses there.

Most importantly, private space enterprise can do something NASA or other governmental space agencies can't (at least, not outside the context of war, asteroid collision or mass exodus): Private enterprise SELLS the idea of going, not just the hardware that goes.

The genie is out of the bottle. It simply hasn't fully formed enough yet to ask those it wants to serve, "Whaddya need?"
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Offline john smith 19

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Re: The U.S. Manned Space Gap Record is Now Broken
« Reply #15 on: 04/19/2017 08:00 AM »
Wayne Hale has noted that the gap between manned U.S. Space missions from U.S. soil with American spacecraft is now greater than that between Apollo & Shuttle! Depressing... Not much to say about that. :(

...Other than when I said a couple years ago that this would happen; I was told to shut my mouth - I didn't know what I was talking about. I don't always like being right - especially about this subject... :'(

https://twitter.com/waynehale
But let's add a few further qualifiers to his statement.
"..from US soil" on an LV specified, owned and operated by NASA for their use.

Orion has not launched already because NASA chose to have it fly on an their own LV. It is massively heavier than either CST 100 or Crew Dragon yet has still has one less seat.

They recreated the Apollo era TPS (then discovered that H&S rules on dangerous chemicals mean you can't actually recreate it).

It's SM weighs 15 tonnes, although a substantial part of that are consumables. Clearly running most of the consumable tanks part filled would have cut the load a lot.

And of course it could not be launched on either EELV because they could not be crew rated. Except it turns out that Atlas V could be crew rated fairly easily. 

Assuming it flies in 2018 it will have been under development by NASA since 2004, IE 14 years. This is despite (or perhaps because of) the entire NASA library of Mercury, Gemini and Apollo capsule work to draw on for ideas on what worked well, what could be made to work with a lot of effort and what not to touch with a barge pole.

To put that in perspective in 2004 SpaceX was 2 years old and was 2 years away from blowing up its first rocket. 4 years after that it launched its first capsule and has now been launching them for 7 years.

NASA has so far spent 13 years and an awful lot of US taxpayers money to almost get to the point it was at with Apollo

I'd suggest the that the US human crew space transport industry is in quite good shape right now.
The US government owned and controlled human space flight programme is in less good shape.
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Offline john smith 19

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Re: The U.S. Manned Space Gap Record is Now Broken
« Reply #16 on: 04/19/2017 08:05 AM »
I disagree.  I think every space agency on Earth desperately wishes to be able to have their own indigenous human launch system to orbit.  The only reason most don't is that they don't have the funding to do it. 
And as long as they think the only way to orbit is with a TSTO ELV they never will.

Which was the point REL were making with Skylon.
"Solids are a branch of fireworks, not rocketry. :-) :-) ", Henry Spencer 1/28/11  Averse to bold? You must be in marketing."It's all in the sequencing" K. Mattingly.  STS-Keeping most of the stakeholders happy most of the time.

Offline Bob Shaw

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Re: The U.S. Manned Space Gap Record is Now Broken
« Reply #17 on: 04/19/2017 09:12 AM »
Everyone has forgotten SpaceShipOne - built for pennies by NewSpace and on a comparable timescale to the Mercury sub-orbital flights.


Offline IRobot

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Re: The U.S. Manned Space Gap Record is Now Broken
« Reply #18 on: 04/19/2017 10:55 AM »
There is no gap.

NASA is still launching it's astros to the ISS. But instead of using a NASA-owned system, it hires a foreign service (Roscosmos/Soyuz) to do so.
That is a politic liability, to depend on a nation which is not friendly.

What if this was a case where a French aircraft carrier was being used for years by US airplanes due to lack of aircraft carrier building capabilities in the US? Do you think this would be acceptable to the public and to the military?

Offline spacenut

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Re: The U.S. Manned Space Gap Record is Now Broken
« Reply #19 on: 04/19/2017 01:24 PM »
For me, an American, we need access to space.  I don't care if it is public or private, as long as it is an American company.  Depending on foreign countries or companies can be problematic, even a friendly allied country.  Things change, people change, problems arise.  Many of the aerospace companies from the 1960's are no longer in business.  They have been bought out, merged, etc.  That is just in America.  If a foreign company providing launch service goes out of business for any reason, it could hurt American projects. 

For instance.  Say a Japanese rocket is used to launch Americans in orbit, but they have a Tsunami that wipes out the manufacturing plant.  Well, goodby launches for a while.  Now if we have at least two launch providers in America, we have backup.  What if an earthquake knocks out the SpaceX manufacturing plant.  Goodby SpaceX for a while, back to ULA. 

NASA should just do everything COTS style.  From launches to in space facilities, etc.  Just use the money to help fund the projects.  We have two human launch providers coming on line.  We want to build a moon orbiting station.  Send out proposals to American companies, then choose two for the equipment.  There should be some common sizes, etc.  Docking ports, refueling equipment attach points all should be made the same so any competitor can use their equipment with others.  Vehicle refueling in America is standardized.  Garage doors, vehicle size limits, parking buildings, parking spaces are all standardized.  Same should be done in space. 

All that being said, when Dragon and CTS-100 come on line, there should be no need for Orion, even in deep space.  Either of these capsules could dock with a deep space module for radiation protection if needed beyond the Van Allen radiation belt.  Orion is overkill.  No matter which way we go to the moon or Mars, in space habitats will be needed.  So either of these can taxi you to dock to a station or mother ship. 

SLS is a kludge and has taken too long and too much money to develop for the amount of capability it can provide.  I think a clean sheet design would have been better.  They could have developed AR-1 for a large first stage rocket, Saturn V sized, and used the J2-X for second stage engines.  With about 9 AR-1's on a 10m first stage, it could have been made reusable and landed back at the cape.  A 3-5 engine J2X upper stage could have also been made reusable to land.  Two stage to orbit reusable for about 150 tons, and add a third stage with a J2-X and you have a large deep space probe launcher.  This concept is being proven out by SpaceX and Blue Origin as the way forward. 

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