Author Topic: Senate Commerce Committee Executive and Congress Version - July 15 onwards  (Read 673430 times)

Offline Jeff Bingham

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Bill, you touch on a point that is a good one, and one that, unfortunately, there is, right now, no really good answer for, and that is the sustainability and utilization of the ISS. The Senate bill makes quite a point of that concern, and, after establishing a clear policy direction to extend it to at least 2020, requires an in-depth analysis and report on projected ISS requirements for that extended time-period, in terms of spares, replacements, etc. It also takes steps to ensure an expanded utilization and research base by opening up half of the US Segment for  management and use coordinated by an external, non-governmental non-profit organization, that can bring in other government agencies, private research entities, academic consortia, etc., to make use of ISS research capability, while NASA of course continues to use the other half for exploration-related science, technology development, etc.. It also of course adds the LON for the specific purpose of helping ensure sufficient spares are delivered--and things like the failed ammonia pump assembly to be brought back for analysis. It also provides for some work looking into potential down-mass capability beyond what might be anticipated in COTS/CRS program, which the bill also strongly supports. The ET-94 refurbishment "could" conceivably be the core of an additional flight, since it could be available by the end of CY 2011, but that would be an issue to consider after the ISS requirements analysis has been done and validated by GAO.

In the end, however, there still is no real answer to the "gap" and the reliance on Soyuz as the only means of crew access for ANY of the partners. The ONLY short term answer for that between this time next year and whenever a new crew capability is available, whether NASA (SLS/MPCV) or commercial, is continued shuttle flights. You may recall that Senator Hutchison's bill introduced in March provided for the possibility of maintaining a two-flight-per-year option. I am still firmly convinced that could be accomplished for no more than $1.5 billion per year total cost; $2b per year at the max. But that simply is money that no one is willing, at this point, to provide as "new money", and so it would have to come out of the SLS/MPCV development, or Space and Earth Science, and none of those are acceptable options. That's one reason why that option did not carry into the Senate bill. But it remains, in my mind, to be an issue that we may well still have to seriously address (though NOT in this year's legislation) The recent failure highlighted that, and my guess is the ISS requirements analysis will likely suggest other steps might need to be taken.

But I personally believe it's a point that should be remembered as we move forward, that we do not have a perfect solution; we believe we have the best solution possible, however, under current circumstances.
You are asking the taxpayer to swallow ~200 million a month for two flights a year.

The shuttle is simply too expensive.

I think there are people who would vote for an extension if the cost of the program was under a poultry 100 million a month.  However, you and I both know this will not happen.  Too many people have their hands in the shuttle cookie jar, and much like the F-22 Raptor cookie jar, they are out of cookies.

You know, maybe it could be passed, where we do get a shuttle extension, if somehow NASA could show how it could reduce costs and fly safely.  I just do not think NASA has that leadership.  NASA lacks the fiscal discipline to be trusted with anymore money.  And it pains me to say that.

As you pointed out the recent failure on ISS has raised a lot of eyebrows about future capability.  With the imminent addition of STS-135 next June, shuttle huggers can rejoice.  But if they were smart they would figure out how to "lean" the operation.  Because there is no way the next congress is going to throw ~2.4 Billion a year for two shuttle launches.

Has there been talk of reducing the fleet to two orbiters using one as a spare?  Has there been talk of going from three shifts to one?  Has anyone at NASA invited the private sector to look at the way they conduct business to see where we can not only save money; but the shuttle and SOME shuttle jobs?  These questions are all rhetorical of course.

Best wishes,
RE327

 

You're right that shuttle costs could be "leaner" through some of the very things you describe (2 orbiters, less shifts--which would be feasible with a flight rate of two per year, etc.) and yes, those questions have been asked--and in fact you "may" hear more about that in the not too distant future--but so far there isn't widespread agreement or consensus on the real "need." (Frankly, most folks interested in space have been focused more on Big-E Exploration the past five or six years and the station, and why we built it and what it might accomplish, has been left in the "noise" by most and seen as a money-sucking obstacle to Big E Exploration by others.)

But I must also say it's more than just a matter of how many launches, divided by the total cost, to get a per-launch cost; you'd be paying for a CAPABILITY. You keep a standing Army at a huge cost, hoping you never really have to send troops into battle; but you need the CAPABILITY to do so if the need arises, because you're protecting a huge value and investment--our freedom. Not trying to compare spaceflight to preservation of national security, of course, but just suggesting more has to be taken into account than simply an estimated per-mission cost. There's VALUE in preserving the CAPABILITY to ensure the ISS--something this nation has invested between $60 and $100 BILLION in developing, assembling and operating so far, depending on what costs you choose to include--can not only survive as a functioning spacecraft and habitat, but also be used to the fullest as a research laboratory--with who knows WHAT potential scientific and economic payoff over the next ten years.
Offering only my own views and experience as a long-time "Space Cadet."

Offline simonbp

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Shuttle extension would only seem to make sense at this point with side mount. Inline would require sufficient changes to LC-39 that shuttle extension just delays SLS further...

Offline Bill White

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Shuttle extension would only seem to make sense at this point with side mount. Inline would require sufficient changes to LC-39 that shuttle extension just delays SLS further...

Edit: "Perhaps" true (see MPuckett & clongton below).

Maybe the road forward is for the ISS managers to carefully calculate what can best sustain ISS as long as possible and then push for the simplest, cheapest and quickest inline SDLV possible while husbanding whatever logistics can be supplied by Progress, ATV, HTV and U.S. commercial crew and cargo.

Once the SDLV (and Orion!) are available, my understanding is that two shuttle payloads can be lofted per Jupiter 130 launch and if Orion can be used as a tug then massive up-mass capability will come on line.

Ever since February 2010, I have sensed a ticking clock for ISS and maybe that urgency can help with the necessary contract novations and legislative compromises needed to fly the simplest SDLV possible, as quickly as possible.
« Last Edit: 08/23/2010 12:55 am by Bill White »
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Offline M_Puckett

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39A or 39B?

There are two and they both don't have to be modded at the same time.

Offline clongton

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39A or 39B?

There are two and they both don't have to be modded at the same time.

Shuttle and LON from 1 pad and SLS's J-130 equivalent on the other. As long as the $1.5b is made available for 2xSTS per year then SLS can be fielded concurrently with an active STS schedule.

51D, how much money does the US gov have to pay per seat on the Soyuz and how many seats are we buying per year? It seems to me that that money would be better spent offsetting at least some of the cost of maintaining the capability to launch our astronauts on our own launch systems, as is actually required by law.

You see, there's the rub. The *only* way to eliminate the gap is to continue to fly shuttle until Orion is operational on the SLS and that's going to cost $1.5b per year additional expenditure. Taking the money from anywhere else in the NASA budget is unacceptable so it has to be new money. But, as you have said so many times "it's only money". So, the $64k question: Where does it come from?
« Last Edit: 08/23/2010 01:01 am by clongton »
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Offline HappyMartian

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It seems to me that that money would be better spent offsetting at least some of the cost of maintaining the capability to launch our astronauts on our own launch systems, as is actually required by law.


Yep. The Space Shuttles also offer significant amounts of downmass capability that can help in the analysis of experiments, failed ISS equipment, and large pieces of "game changing" hardware. 

Cheers!
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Offline Jim

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, and large pieces of "game changing" hardware. 


No such thing and there is 30 years of history to prove it.

Offline robertross

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But I must also say it's more than just a matter of how many launches, divided by the total cost, to get a per-launch cost; you'd be paying for a CAPABILITY. You keep a standing Army at a huge cost, hoping you never really have to send troops into battle; but you need the CAPABILITY to do so if the need arises, because you're protecting a huge value and investment--our freedom. Not trying to compare spaceflight to preservation of national security, of course, but just suggesting more has to be taken into account than simply an estimated per-mission cost. There's VALUE in preserving the CAPABILITY to ensure the ISS--something this nation has invested between $60 and $100 BILLION in developing, assembling and operating so far, depending on what costs you choose to include--can not only survive as a functioning spacecraft and habitat, but also be used to the fullest as a research laboratory--with who knows WHAT potential scientific and economic payoff over the next ten years.


As much as I would love a 2 launch/year shuttle option, we still have the issue of the new foam to re-certify:

http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=22163.msg615284#msg615284


So I don't know how that would all play out, unless we do a stand-down until the new foam is ready, possiby extending STS-135 to later in 2011...I suppose those are options, but there seems to be more than just a cost issue, unfortunately.

Offline RocketEconomist327

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You're right that shuttle costs could be "leaner" through some of the very things you describe (2 orbiters, less shifts--which would be feasible with a flight rate of two per year, etc.) and yes, those questions have been asked--and in fact you "may" hear more about that in the not too distant future--but so far there isn't widespread agreement or consensus on the real "need."

I have heard "some" but then again, I am in a different position than you.  If the question that cannot be answered is "need"for the shuttle; then are our leaders and experts who manage NASA and space exploration truly experts and leaders?  The down mass capability is huge.  With two flights per year not only do we give ourselves incredible up-mass, but the down-mass capability.  We need need down-mass capability that COTS simply cannot provide.  STS was always designed to work WITH ISS, not decommission it after being completed.   

(Frankly, most folks interested in space have been focused more on Big-E Exploration the past five or six years and the station, and why we built it and what it might accomplish, has been left in the "noise" by most and seen as a money-sucking obstacle to Big E Exploration by others.)

Sir, things like CxP MSL, and JWST are killing NASA.  When will NASA be held accountable for this?  Congress has the power of the purse strings, so why can't we do something right and mandate NASA to become, well, more NASA.  I realize I am speaking from my own, personal and political views (which are probably very close to yours); but when will we "save jobs" by cutting the fat?

But I must also say it's more than just a matter of how many launches, divided by the total cost, to get a per-launch cost; you'd be paying for a CAPABILITY. You keep a standing Army at a huge cost, hoping you never really have to send troops into battle; but you need the CAPABILITY to do so if the need arises, because you're protecting a huge value and investment--our freedom. Not trying to compare spaceflight to preservation of national security, of course, but just suggesting more has to be taken into account than simply an estimated per-mission cost. There's VALUE in preserving the CAPABILITY to ensure the ISS--something this nation has invested between $60 and $100 BILLION in developing, assembling and operating so far, depending on what costs you choose to include--can not only survive as a functioning spacecraft and habitat, but also be used to the fullest as a research laboratory--with who knows WHAT potential scientific and economic payoff over the next ten years.

Sir, if we can not find a way to save operating costs by 50% we both know this is unfeasible.  I understand your analogy but I do not agree with it.  The money to run the STS program at ~200 Million is not there.  Could we get 1.2 Billion a year for two or three years?  I think that is  possible. 

STS is a national security issue.  So is the F-22 Raptor.  The contractors producing the F-22 couldn't cut costs so we cut units.  The same will happen to NASA.  I know I am preaching to the choir here. 

I hope you are successful in a further extension; but that does not depend on you but the people who run and operate STS.

Thank you for your time. I do know how busy you are.

Respectfully,
RE327
You can talk about all the great things you can do, or want to do, in space; but unless the rocket scientists get a sound understanding of economics (and quickly), the US space program will never achieve the greatness it should.

Putting my money where my mouth is.

Offline RocketEconomist327

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Shuttle extension would only seem to make sense at this point with side mount. Inline would require sufficient changes to LC-39 that shuttle extension just delays SLS further...
I completely disagree.

You and I both know we can continue to fly STS from 39A while continue to mod 39B. 

I do not want another side mount vehicle; we do not need to make that mistake, again. 

This is a disingenuous argument in my humble opinion. 

VR
RE327
You can talk about all the great things you can do, or want to do, in space; but unless the rocket scientists get a sound understanding of economics (and quickly), the US space program will never achieve the greatness it should.

Putting my money where my mouth is.

Offline HappyMartian

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, and large pieces of "game changing" hardware. 

No such thing and there is 30 years of history to prove it.

You mean someone lied to us and Congress? Jim, how could that be? I'm shocked! Good thing I put "game changing" in quotation marks, otherwise I would feel like a complete fool. I always had my doubts, but your confirmation is quite useful and might also be a wake up call for other folks. Thank you Jim.

Not to ask a silly off topic question, but how is the VASIMR engine going to get back to Earth for analysis? If someone can just point me to a reference please... If "game changing" technology can't get back to Earth for analysis... the supporters of it are talking hot air. Oh, that's right, maybe Jim just posted something to that effect.

And thank you 51D Mascot! Your many explanations always help us to understand the vexying complexity of the political world.

Cheers!
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Offline Cog_in_the_machine

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Not to ask a silly off topic question, but how is the VASIMR engine going to get back to Earth for analysis?

Couldn't it be analyzed on orbit? That's the whole point of the ISS, it's a flying laboratory.

Quote
If someone can just point me to a reference please... If "game changing" technology can't get back to Earth for analysis... the supporters of it are talking hot air.

If arbitrary thing A can't happen, pushing the technological envelope further is a bad idea. Brilliant.
^^ Warning! Contains opinions. ^^ 

Offline simonbp

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This is a disingenuous argument in my humble opinion. 

No, it's not disingenuous, it's objectively honest.

I'd love to imagine that you could simultaneously stack Shuttle and SLS in the VAB at the same time, but it's just not going to happen. Wishful thinking is no basis for a space program.
« Last Edit: 08/23/2010 03:57 am by simonbp »

Online chrisking0997

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This is a disingenuous argument in my humble opinion. 

No, it's not disingenuous, it's objectively honest.

I'd love to imagine that you could simultaneously stack Shuttle and SLS in the VAB at the same time, but it's just not going to happen. Wishful thinking is no basis for a space program.

whats the limitation that prevents this?
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Offline TrueBlueWitt

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This is a disingenuous argument in my humble opinion. 

No, it's not disingenuous, it's objectively honest.

I'd love to imagine that you could simultaneously stack Shuttle and SLS in the VAB at the same time, but it's just not going to happen. Wishful thinking is no basis for a space program.

whats the limitation that prevents this?

$$$$$$

Offline simonbp

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whats the limitation that prevents this?
$$$$$$

Precisely.

I'm not saying it's physically impossible, it's just not worth the cost relative to commercial crew.

And plus, extra money into Shuttle just perpetuates a doomed system. Funding commercial crew creates a solution that will still be available after 2016...
« Last Edit: 08/23/2010 04:26 am by simonbp »

Offline 93143

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And plus, extra money into Shuttle just perpetuates a doomed system. Funding commercial crew creates a solution that will still be available after 2016...

Now that is a disingenuous argument.

If there is only one viable solution to a problem (and in this case, it looks distinctly possible that Shuttle extension really is the only way to plug the logistics gap), advocating a different solution that doesn't actually solve the problem, on the grounds that it's better value for the money, doesn't make sense.

Unless getting rid of Shuttle matters more to you than keeping the ISS supplied...
« Last Edit: 08/23/2010 05:26 am by 93143 »

Offline simonbp

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Now that is a disingenuous argument.

If there is only one viable solution to a problem (and in this case, it looks distinctly possible that Shuttle extension really is the only way to plug the logistics gap), advocating a different solution that doesn't actually solve the problem, on the grounds that it's better value for the money, doesn't make sense.

Unless getting rid of Shuttle matters more to you than keeping the ISS supplied...

How come I get keep getting called "disingenuous" for stating the obvious?  ???

Why does the "gap" need to be filled? We've already taken care of ISS cargo logistics with COTS/CRS, with two separate vendors no less. And there is no reason Soyuz can't provide crew logistics to ISS, just as it already did for 2003-2006. The only real argument against Soyuz seems to be "I don't trust them Russkies"...

I'm not trying to be a shuttle-basher by saying that it will be retired. That's been blindly obvious to almost everyone since Columbia broke up Texas. So extending shuttle is just delaying the inevitable, and in the process, delaying SLS, MPCV, Commercial Crew, and everything else. It's not fixing the problem, it's delaying it a few years.
« Last Edit: 08/23/2010 06:14 am by simonbp »

Offline MP99

Why does the "gap" need to be filled? We've already taken care of ISS cargo logistics with COTS/CRS, with two separate vendors no less. And there is no reason Soyuz can't provide crew logistics to ISS, just as it already did for 2003-2006. The only real argument against Soyuz seems to be "I don't trust them Russkies"...

Two COTS/CRS providers - backup for each other.

Soyuz hasn't had a flawless flight record over the last few years (ballistic re-entries). Shuttle is the backup for Soyuz, and I'd love to see it continue to fly (so much I can taste it). But there's only so much budget.

cheers, Martin

Offline MP99

But I must also say it's more than just a matter of how many launches, divided by the total cost, to get a per-launch cost; you'd be paying for a CAPABILITY. You keep a standing Army at a huge cost, hoping you never really have to send troops into battle; but you need the CAPABILITY to do so if the need arises, because you're protecting a huge value and investment--our freedom. Not trying to compare spaceflight to preservation of national security, of course, but just suggesting more has to be taken into account than simply an estimated per-mission cost. There's VALUE in preserving the CAPABILITY to ensure the ISS--something this nation has invested between $60 and $100 BILLION in developing, assembling and operating so far, depending on what costs you choose to include--can not only survive as a functioning spacecraft and habitat, but also be used to the fullest as a research laboratory--with who knows WHAT potential scientific and economic payoff over the next ten years.

How much of that capability will be required to operate SLS & MPCV, and what is the cost to maintain that across the gap, or to re-build it before test flights begin?

How much commonality would there be with maintaining Shuttle in the mean-time?

cheers, Martin

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