Author Topic: The U.S. Manned Space Gap Record is Now Broken  (Read 16360 times)

Offline Khadgars

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Re: The U.S. Manned Space Gap Record is Now Broken
« Reply #40 on: 04/19/2017 09:23 PM »
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

To be honest, pretty pointless post.  U.S manned spaceflight is about to get three spectacular manned spacecraft and rockets operational within the next 12-18 months, and as Coastal Ron stated, we've been in-space for over 16 years straight.

I'd be concerned if we had nothing on the drawing board, but as that is obviously not the case, I don't understand the sensationalism.

Offline john smith 19

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Re: The U.S. Manned Space Gap Record is Now Broken
« Reply #41 on: 04/19/2017 09:24 PM »
This man was previously the LM Skunk Works X-33 Program manager so he knows how to get stuff done.
So just to be clear the guy who managed to burn through the whole X33 build budget and the test budget and still didn't deliver a complete flight vehicle would have done much better on Orion?

This may seem unfair but don't forget LM claimed they had solved any issues due to the shape in black programmes they could not talk about.  This turned out to be (at best) an exaggeration. :(

Now it looks like he's managed to burn through the SM budget to the point NASA requested ESA supply their contribution to the ISS as Orions SM.
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Re: The U.S. Manned Space Gap Record is Now Broken
« Reply #42 on: 04/19/2017 10:06 PM »
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

To be honest, pretty pointless post.  U.S manned spaceflight is about to get three spectacular manned spacecraft and rockets operational within the next 12-18 months, and as Coastal Ron stated, we've been in-space for over 16 years straight.

I'd be concerned if we had nothing on the drawing board, but as that is obviously not the case, I don't understand the sensationalism.

Mr Hale is someone myself and many others respect immensely - I was just reporting what this honorable man said. If you don't agree with him - write to him and say so. I could possibly disagree with some of his assertions, but actually I strongly agree with the general thrust of his statement. I don't think he was trying to stir a hornets nest of 'space geeks' into a frenzy. I think - me - that the gap of thousands of days and the hundreds more still to come is outrageous and need not have happened. Essentially saying "So what - we're going to have three really cool, shiny ships soon" is disingenuous and a bit specious. Saying that the gap doesn't matter or hasn't mattered is - I think - rather incorrect thinking - possibly even deliberately so. Now; you might think; "Oh, boo-hoo Mr Antipodean Space Geek - let me call you a Waaaaahhmbulance".... And I would understand that sentiment!! I really would.

But it didn't have to be this way. In a couple of years, it seemingly wont matter - just as presumably the Apollo-Soyuz-STS-1 gap didn't matter, right up until the 24th Shuttle flight. Then..... :(  But at least this time, with multiple launchers and spacecraft - all the eggs wont be in the one basket, so to speak.
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Offline clongton

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Re: The U.S. Manned Space Gap Record is Now Broken
« Reply #43 on: 04/19/2017 10:19 PM »
The totally unnecessary extent of the gap caused extreme financial hardship and complete disillusionment and hardship to thousands of NASA workers and their families. Many lost homes. Many more had to pull their kids from college. Some of these were personal friends of mine and I have felt their pain. Most have had to eventually relocate to other parts of the country and are no longer in the aerospace field at all. To say anything that even hints that the gap isn't a big deal is really disingenuous and betrays an ignorance of what it was responsible for, for the suffering and heartbreak that it caused. I'm sorry. You may disagree with me and that's your right. But there it is. I put it out there. YMMV 
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Offline mike robel

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Re: The U.S. Manned Space Gap Record is Now Broken
« Reply #44 on: 04/19/2017 11:11 PM »
I deplore this gap.  However, manned space is not currently a national imperative and I don't really see it becoming one absent some foreign spectacular rivaling a sputnik moment or some black swan event which convinces the whole world that we need to get into space.  (Impending asteroid strike is not one because (1) it's not a black swan, and (2) we know it can happen.  We just don't know when, yet.

This past gap wasn't the first such gap that had that effect and I suspect it won't be the last.  If you go to work for NASA, or any other government agency, particularly as a contractor.  I should think you should expect it.  The Apollo RIFs were one reason why I did not become an aeronautical engineer.  (of course my lack of solid math skills was also a significantimpact.)

I've said it before and I'll say it again.  NASA made a strategic and tactical mistake by swinging for the moon or mars first instead of just getting US Manned Spacecraft into orbit to supply  the ISS.  Orion and Delta IV Heavy would have done the job.

Direct should have been the next step (IMHO) and if it could have been ready soon enough as Chuck says, there would be no need for the Delta IVH option I so strongly favor.  (Of course, the Northrop-Grumman/Boeing team should have won Orion, but that is just more opinion.)

I think a government manned space program can be justified if it is limited to conducting reconnaissance of the Moon and Mars, establishing research stations in LEO, on the moon, and Mars to serve as laboratories to advance technologies in space exploration that can be harvested by commercial companies.  I don't think, in the future, they need to build these vehicles however.  Perhaps they don't now and we would be better served by just canceling them now.

Other efforts more properly belong in the commercial sphere.  I think "they" should find ways to find better public-private partnerships that are not so heavily contract based.

Offline Space Ghost 1962

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Re: The U.S. Manned Space Gap Record is Now Broken
« Reply #45 on: 04/20/2017 02:10 AM »
The bottom line is that he said that if those “things” (which included a lot of totally unnecessary impediments) could be properly mitigated then they could have Orion ready for 1st unmanned test flight by end of 3rd quarter 2010 and 1st manned test flight by late 2nd quarter 2011.

Don't doubt that you heard this. Don't doubt that he believed this. Not relevant to what we were discussing.

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Straight from the horse’s mouth. This man was previously the LM Skunk Works X-33 Program manager so he knows how to get stuff done.
Agreed, but still not the point.

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Paraphrasing now, he indicated that if Orion had been a Skunk Works project it would be nearly done already.
True but irrelevant. It was not and could never have been a Skunk Works project/program, as you well know.

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So based on the statements of the one man in command of all the actual facts on the ground, I stand by my statement.
It's not about your word or his belief.

It's about Congresses will, as expressed by congressional staffers in the Senate office building, at the time.

My remarks were about policy, you're bringing up the potential. It's never been about capability, but about political will (and whim).

The totally unnecessary extent of the gap caused extreme financial hardship and complete disillusionment and hardship to thousands of NASA workers and their families. Many lost homes. Many more had to pull their kids from college. Some of these were personal friends of mine and I have felt their pain. Most have had to eventually relocate to other parts of the country and are no longer in the aerospace field at all. To say anything that even hints that the gap isn't a big deal is really disingenuous and betrays an ignorance of what it was responsible for, for the suffering and heartbreak that it caused. I'm sorry. You may disagree with me and that's your right. But there it is. I put it out there. YMMV 
Could not agree more.

Was myself a victim of the time before as well as that time. Gave me time to develop other skills in other places. But the personal costs during those times were very high.

Offline Coastal Ron

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Re: The U.S. Manned Space Gap Record is Now Broken
« Reply #46 on: 04/20/2017 02:21 AM »
The totally unnecessary extent of the gap caused extreme financial hardship and complete disillusionment and hardship to thousands of NASA workers and their families. Many lost homes. Many more had to pull their kids from college. Some of these were personal friends of mine and I have felt their pain. Most have had to eventually relocate to other parts of the country and are no longer in the aerospace field at all.

I have a lot of respect for you Chuck and Wayne Hale, but I do have a different perspective on this, probably because I'm not involved in the aerospace field at all.

In my line of work I have changed jobs a number of times, including times that I didn't have a choice.  During my generation the idea that you could stay in one job for your whole career became no longer true, with whole industries shifting around the country (and leaving too).

So while it sucks to have to change jobs or relocate to another location, NASA workers had plenty of advanced notice on what to expect regarding the Shuttle program.  More notice than workers in the private sector usually have.

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To say anything that even hints that the gap isn't a big deal is really disingenuous and betrays an ignorance of what it was responsible for, for the suffering and heartbreak that it caused. I'm sorry.

For me I don't assume that NASA was supposed to be like the Amtrak for space, that our government was always going to have it's own space transportation system, even if the biggest government customer for space transportation (i.e. the USAF) was not going to use it.

The SLS and Orion aren't even meant to perpetuate NASA's role in LEO space transportation, as they are really only meant for BLEO destinations.

So it was really only a matter of time before NASA gave up it's responsibility for transportation to space, and what little it currently has a responsibility for (i.e. BLEO) likely will go away sometime in the not too distant future.

As to the gap, I'm very happy with the Commercial Crew systems that are close to coming online, and I'm not sure they could have come online 5 years earlier, so in this case I think the delay will provide a better outcome.  And it's not like the Russians didn't provide what we needed in the mean time - their participation in the ISS and supporting the ISS has been an example of how international cooperation can happen even during the most challenging of relationships.

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You may disagree with me and that's your right. But there it is. I put it out there. YMMV

You have a lot of connections to NASA, so your passion for this topic shows.  I wish it could have been less painful for all involved.

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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Re: The U.S. Manned Space Gap Record is Now Broken
« Reply #47 on: 04/20/2017 03:05 AM »
The current gap goes back to a bad decision made during the Constellation program. Orion should have been designed to launch from an EELV instead of Ares I.

Orion is (of course) a man rated spacecraft. The two EELVs (Atlas V and Delta 4) don't meet NASA's standards for man-rated space craft including structure margins (~1.4) and man-rated engines.

Also, a BEO manned spacecraft like the current Orion is too heavy for either of these two vehicles to deliver the spacecraft to low earth orbit without black zones on ascent.

That said, how should Orion (or any other BEO manned spacecraft) be "designed" to fly on an EELV?   

Offline RonM

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Re: The U.S. Manned Space Gap Record is Now Broken
« Reply #48 on: 04/20/2017 03:49 AM »
The current gap goes back to a bad decision made during the Constellation program. Orion should have been designed to launch from an EELV instead of Ares I.

Orion is (of course) a man rated spacecraft. The two EELVs (Atlas V and Delta 4) don't meet NASA's standards for man-rated space craft including structure margins (~1.4) and man-rated engines.

Also, a BEO manned spacecraft like the current Orion is too heavy for either of these two vehicles to deliver the spacecraft to low earth orbit without black zones on ascent.

That said, how should Orion (or any other BEO manned spacecraft) be "designed" to fly on an EELV?

Atlas V is being man rated for Commercial Crew, so why is that an issue?

Orion could have been designed to be launched on an Atlas V by not making it so massive. If NASA needed a little more mass, then design Orion for DIVH and man rate that rocket. Of course it would cost money, but it would have been a lot cheaper than trying to build a totally new rocket like the Ares I.

Dragon 2 will be doing a lunar flyby mission using a FH. That's a BEO mission. F9 or Atlas V can be used to assemble a stack in LEO for a lunar mission. An ACES stage would make a good commercial EDS.

C'mon and think about it. I'm not talking about today's bloated Orion, I'm talking about how NASA could have made more practical decisions a dozen years ago. Fortunately, we have Commercial Crew, which will be flying before a crewed Orion flight, even if EM-1 is crewed.

Offline Patchouli

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Re: The U.S. Manned Space Gap Record is Now Broken
« Reply #49 on: 04/20/2017 03:52 AM »
The totally unnecessary extent of the gap caused extreme financial hardship and complete disillusionment and hardship to thousands of NASA workers and their families. Many lost homes. Many more had to pull their kids from college. Some of these were personal friends of mine and I have felt their pain. Most have had to eventually relocate to other parts of the country and are no longer in the aerospace field at all. To say anything that even hints that the gap isn't a big deal is really disingenuous and betrays an ignorance of what it was responsible for, for the suffering and heartbreak that it caused. I'm sorry. You may disagree with me and that's your right. But there it is. I put it out there. YMMV 

Agreed it is inexcusable and the gap should not have even existed at all.

If the SDV was closer to STS and didn't require razing the shuttle's infrastructure STS's retirement would not have been set in stone or if the spiral development plan was kept the EELVs could have been used as crew launch vehicles.
One thing that could have been done would have been to dust off the X-38 or HL-20 and then work to a BEO vehicle from there.
Even if the OML needs to be completely changed for BEO missions a lot of systems could be reused.
Though that said Orion itself is not too heavy for an EELV class vehicle with a reduced SM it could even fly on Atlas.

As for saying the EELVs are unsafe their operational record and the fact two companies choose Atlas to lift crewed vehicles says otherwise.
I'd even go as far and say both LV's are probably safer than Soyuz U.
Less ignition events,more modern avionics,and less staging events etc.

« Last Edit: 04/20/2017 03:55 AM by Patchouli »

Online MATTBLAK

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Re: The U.S. Manned Space Gap Record is Now Broken
« Reply #50 on: 04/20/2017 06:38 AM »
I still think the Atlas V Phase II with 5-meter diameter stages should have been the way to go to lift Orion and evolve for Heavy Lift needs. That is, if they didn't go for the Direct or Side-Mount Shuttle-derived Heavy Lifter for cargo. The 'single stick' Atlas V-Phase 2 with twinned RD-180s should have easily lifted the Orion into LEO. And the 'triple barrel' Phase 2 heavy lifter could have done the Constellation Lunar missions in twinned launches of the same class of vehicle. With a single J-2X or multiple RL-10 upper stage such as the 'Direct' upper stage (and SLS E.U.S.) then this vehicle could have had a great deal of flexibility and capability.

Even with the political trouble of Russian engines; the launcher could evolve to AR-1 or very similar - with increased performance to boot. But NASA was hamstrung by the Ares political football and most of us know how that ended up. SpaceX, ULA and Blue Origin are proving that hydrocarbon mainstages were the way to go for cost and future capability. Shuttle Derived is powerful and relatively reliable - but very expensive and relatively slow; it's day appears to be over :(  We can do a retrospective on how many bad decisions were made and micro-analyse all the bad past decisions. But being smart post-mortem is not as good as being smart pre-mortem - ambulances at the bottom of the cliff are more wasteful than preventing the tumble off the cliff in the first place!

It boils down to bad decisions and pork-flavored, political footballs. Sorry for the mixed metaphors; but we are in a post-decision traumatic-stress mode. There is light at the end of the tunnel. But going forward; we need some pragmatic, smart and bold decisions made about the coming capabilities that are going to be available.
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Offline Svetoslav

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Re: The U.S. Manned Space Gap Record is Now Broken
« Reply #51 on: 04/20/2017 11:01 AM »
Although certain media love to focus on the gap and to stress on the so called "dependency" on Russian vehicles, certain point must be made.

What kind of dependency is it? Does the fact that NASA relies on Russian ship means a technology lag between the USA and Russia? Of course, we know that this is not true. New rockets and vehicles are currently being developed in the USA, while Russia relies mainly on rockets developed decades ago. This doesn't rule out that there's no modernisaton in the Russian space sector. No, certain new technologies have been developed in the Post-soviet era. These include two new upper stages - Briz and Fregat. The Soyuz craft has also received substantial upgrades. However, the development of de-novo rockets and de-novo spacecraft has been met with delays. After two test flights of Angara several years ago, they're nowhere close to entering regular service. And Federatsiya won't fly until next decade. Meanwhile the USA operates two cargo craft (Cygnus and Dragon), and a new rocket (Falcon 9) has entered regular service.

So is it then an economical dependency? No! In fact, it's the exact opposite. The Russian space industry depends on the USA! The existence of NPO Energomash depends on the USA. It's because this plant produces engines for Atlas V and Antares (US customers), as well as for Soyuz (we know that  NASA still buys seats for Soyuz). In a worst case political scenario when Russia stops working with the USA, it will have a huge impact on the Russian space program. NPO Energomash will be endangered, especially if Angara is nowhere close to flying as regularly as Atlas.

Politicians know that very well. Apparently this is why Russia is a very loyal partner and it will continue to be so. Of course, certain Russian politicians would tease the USA about launching their astronauts on a trampoline, or about pulling out the Russian segment from the American portion of the ISS and forming a Russian-made station Mir-2. Oh, come on. We know it ain't gonna happen. Russia doesn't have the resources to operate its own station alone. Hell, the core Russian module MLM Nauka which was supposed to be a node for the Russian segment and modern science modules, is way behind schedule, and engineers are dealing with contamination of the fuel lines and amortization of the rubber components. MLM Nauka is more like a laughing stock these days.

Online AncientU

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Re: The U.S. Manned Space Gap Record is Now Broken
« Reply #52 on: 04/20/2017 01:07 PM »
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.

...

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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...

This is an important point.  The Shuttle, while a wonderful vehicle, never realized its goal of cheap access to space.  All of the USG-promoted reasons for breaking down the cost barrier faded away into the night -- but that was only due to the need for justification of the hugely-colonized program that was STS (then STS + ISS).  Had NASA acted responsibly, they would have called the Shuttle an important first step and continued down the technological path to lower cost access to space.  The next step could have been refinement of the STS... reusable engines that needed near zero post-flight refurbishment (equivalent of hydrogen-fueled BE-4s or Raptors), reusable fly-back boosters, better heat shield tiles -- or pivoted and gone down a completely different technological path.  While it existed, the USG had negative incentive to encourage private development efforts, except for the National security needs for more frequent and more affordable launches.  STS set the price baseline and EELV came into existence to undercut that price and increase the launch frequency... these programs created an extreme barrier against new entrants.

This is a major flaw of any central planned economy or program... it soon losses sight of the original purpose and begins to justify its ongoing existence, sustenance, and growth.  Constellation was a misguided effort to go retro to an APOLLO on steroids -- as if General Motors could have flourished by reverting to big steel, eight-cylinder, dual four-barrel carburetor speed machines when their cars weren't selling in the 1980-1990s. 

Russia, formerly Soviet Union, has and always had incredible technical prowess in rocketry.  Again, the central planning process became too inertial to change directions.  China is heading down a similar path; their long term prospects are at risk by the same centralized control.

Sad to have lost the Shuttle program (and to have this long gap in US human spaceflight capability), but if it had to happen to allow the original vision that created STS to sprout anew, then it was worth it.
« Last Edit: 04/20/2017 01:10 PM by AncientU »
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Offline gospacex

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Re: The U.S. Manned Space Gap Record is Now Broken
« Reply #53 on: 04/20/2017 01:40 PM »
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.

Oh really, they (human spaceflight program at NASA) had "only" about $7B per year. Who can build a rocket and launch humans to LEO on such a meagre budget??? [sarcasm]

Offline gospacex

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Re: The U.S. Manned Space Gap Record is Now Broken
« Reply #54 on: 04/20/2017 01:46 PM »
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.

Was it efficient _during_ Apollo?
No.
To be fair, it was not trying to be efficient, the task was to beat Russians to the Moon, regardless of cost - and this was successfully accomplished.
But in the process, NASA human spaceflight was "infected" by the notion that somehow financial efficiency is "not important".

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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.

This is also true of almost all other government programs, and this makes most government programs (not only in US) inefficient.

Trying to fix this problem by "improving efficiency of government programs" is generally futile. About two dozen different countries tried to do so, every single one has failed, or is failing as we speak.
« Last Edit: 04/20/2017 01:47 PM by gospacex »

Offline Jim

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Re: The U.S. Manned Space Gap Record is Now Broken
« Reply #55 on: 04/20/2017 02:47 PM »

Was it efficient _during_ Apollo?
No.


Really?  Try posting something supported up by data. 
Your NASA bashing is getting sickening.

Offline edkyle99

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Re: The U.S. Manned Space Gap Record is Now Broken
« Reply #56 on: 04/20/2017 03:15 PM »
Now it looks like he's [the LM Skunk Works X-33 Program manager] managed to burn through the SM budget to the point NASA requested ESA supply their contribution to the ISS as Orions SM.
Not the actual sequence of events.  ESA asked NASA if it could contribute the ESM as a barter in lieu of ISS contributions.  NASA said yes, because at the time it had no budget for ESM.  The Obama Administration had cancelled the program!  The Orion capsule was being strung along as a potential ISS rescue vehicle or something.  Remember?  So no one "managed to burn through the SM budget".  There was no "SM budget".

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 04/20/2017 03:17 PM by edkyle99 »

Offline Ludus

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Re: The U.S. Manned Space Gap Record is Now Broken
« Reply #57 on: 04/20/2017 04:15 PM »
Both gaps resulted from a loss of political interest. In the first case because of the success of Apollo at winning the race there wasn't an obvious point to be made. In the second case the Cold War had gone away and there was both a lack of competition and an active desire to help employ the Russian rocket industry to keep their people from getting into mischief.

The rise of commercial space in the second gap seems to be an accident of history but if it takes hold it may be the real beginning of history with everything else just a preface.

Offline Comga

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Re: The U.S. Manned Space Gap Record is Now Broken
« Reply #58 on: 04/20/2017 04:22 PM »
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?
I suggest you throw a bat (as in club or bludgeon) in a henhouse once. It will for sure send the chickens running around like mad.

I thought he meant to send an old crone into the henhouse to pick one out for dinner, thereby causing mass panic, but that version of 'bat' could be seen as sexist.

Really, all this for one confused metaphor.

What's really interesting is that almost all of these posts, with the exception of Orion to the Moon, are "supply side astronautics".  "Build it and they will come".  It presumes the lack of functioning spacecraft is the limit for people flying to orbit.  Only a few have mentioned the demand side.  There needs to be a place to go.  NASA is pushing the ISS as a destination, but it is insufficiently commercial for people to develop and fly vehicles as an enterprise. Dragon-2 and CST-100 are both still government programs, with development paid for. We are still in search of something to drive demand.

While I fear that there will always be one more safety requirement from one more oversight group that prevents Dragon from flying NASA astronauts, and almost no destinations for non-NASA flyers, it is encouraging that Dragon continues to progress, as does CST-100.  We will see if demand rises once supply exists, as Bigelow, for one, has stated.
What kind of wastrels would dump a perfectly good booster in the ocean after just one use?

Offline Ludus

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Re: The U.S. Manned Space Gap Record is Now Broken
« Reply #59 on: 04/20/2017 04:29 PM »
Although certain media love to focus on the gap and to stress on the so called "dependency" on Russian vehicles, certain point must be made.

What kind of dependency is it? Does the fact that NASA relies on Russian ship means a technology lag between the USA and Russia? Of course, we know that this is not true. New rockets and vehicles are currently being developed in the USA, while Russia relies mainly on rockets developed decades ago. This doesn't rule out that there's no modernisaton in the Russian space sector. No, certain new technologies have been developed in the Post-soviet era. These include two new upper stages - Briz and Fregat. The Soyuz craft has also received substantial upgrades. However, the development of de-novo rockets and de-novo spacecraft has been met with delays. After two test flights of Angara several years ago, they're nowhere close to entering regular service. And Federatsiya won't fly until next decade. Meanwhile the USA operates two cargo craft (Cygnus and Dragon), and a new rocket (Falcon 9) has entered regular service.

So is it then an economical dependency? No! In fact, it's the exact opposite. The Russian space industry depends on the USA! The existence of NPO Energomash depends on the USA. It's because this plant produces engines for Atlas V and Antares (US customers), as well as for Soyuz (we know that  NASA still buys seats for Soyuz). In a worst case political scenario when Russia stops working with the USA, it will have a huge impact on the Russian space program. NPO Energomash will be endangered, especially if Angara is nowhere close to flying as regularly as Atlas.

Politicians know that very well. Apparently this is why Russia is a very loyal partner and it will continue to be so. Of course, certain Russian politicians would tease the USA about launching their astronauts on a trampoline, or about pulling out the Russian segment from the American portion of the ISS and forming a Russian-made station Mir-2. Oh, come on. We know it ain't gonna happen. Russia doesn't have the resources to operate its own station alone. Hell, the core Russian module MLM Nauka which was supposed to be a node for the Russian segment and modern science modules, is way behind schedule, and engineers are dealing with contamination of the fuel lines and amortization of the rubber components. MLM Nauka is more like a laughing stock these days.

I agree. Part of the political reason for the gap was an active US interest in subsidizing the Russian rocket industry to keep their talent from being unemployed and wandering off in search of work. There were a lot of places the US didn't want to benefit from an influx of talented experienced Russian rocket engineers. Keeping them working on Space launch kept them from being employed by less stable countries for more dangerous projects.

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