Author Topic: Possible cost-reduction possibilities for the NASA portions of MSR  (Read 90942 times)

Offline Robotbeat

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 39280
  • Minnesota
  • Liked: 25270
  • Likes Given: 12122
No, it makes even less sense now. Crew Dragon’s design is fixed, and they LONG ago deleted the movable offset mass thing that would’ve been needed for propulsive landing. Adding that back and qualifying all of that would cost a ton of money, plus it would need drastic changes to add enough propellant for the mission and for making it have an opening for the ascent vehicle and maybe a ramp for a rover, legs, etc. Money that could instead be used to just use Starship for its intended purpose.

Starships are pretty cheap to build with their manufacturing setup. They can probably crank out a basic ship for LOWER price ($50 million?) than a single new Dragon capsule (a fully kitted out ship for Mars landing may be more comparable). You would be saving no money with this approach, and probably not saving any time, either, if starting today. It would be a complete waste of resources.

People see the sausage making with Starship and assume anything else is easier. They just didn’t see (or remember?) the sausage making it took to make Falcon and Dragon… systems which were getting their start almost 20 years ago now and are mature (particularly Falcon).
« Last Edit: 07/03/2023 02:14 pm by Robotbeat »
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers. US law http://goo.gl/YZYNt0

Offline deadman1204

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1805
  • USA
  • Liked: 1481
  • Likes Given: 2544
Starship is going to Mars.  The first few will not leave the planet again so one of them could carry a decent sized direct return MAV on a gantry that swings out of the cargo bay.  Just have to get the samples up to be loaded and then launch straight off the gantry.

Doable ??
This kinda leaves out 99% of the mission. Lets say starship can make it there through deep space for 6 months and successfully lands standing up, and its engines aren't even damaged from all the debris.

Well now it needs more fuel to take off again. Hows that gonna happen? We're talking decades of work to perfect automated mining on mars with 150 degree temperature swings, processing, fuel creation, fuel storage (gotta somehow get the fuel up into starship), all sorts of things. Getting starship to mars is the easy part (and its not easy).

Offline Nomadd

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 8844
  • Lower 48
  • Liked: 60458
  • Likes Given: 1309
Starship is going to Mars.  The first few will not leave the planet again so one of them could carry a decent sized direct return MAV on a gantry that swings out of the cargo bay.  Just have to get the samples up to be loaded and then launch straight off the gantry.

Doable ??
This kinda leaves out 99% of the mission. Lets say starship can make it there through deep space for 6 months and successfully lands standing up, and its engines aren't even damaged from all the debris.

Well now it needs more fuel to take off again. Hows that gonna happen? We're talking decades of work to perfect automated mining on mars with 150 degree temperature swings, processing, fuel creation, fuel storage (gotta somehow get the fuel up into starship), all sorts of things. Getting starship to mars is the easy part (and its not easy).
Try reading the post you quoted.
Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who couldn't hear the music.

Offline deltaV

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2235
  • Change in velocity
  • Liked: 661
  • Likes Given: 2269
3 weeks ago Ars's Eric Berger had an article (https://arstechnica.com/space/2023/06/the-mars-sample-return-mission-is-starting-to-give-nasa-sticker-shock/) that included:
Quote
NASA and policymakers do have some options if they want to control the costs of the Mars Sample Return mission.

Foremost among them is having a competition for the development of the large lander that is the centerpiece of the missionóand which will probably comprise about half of the total cost.

ďWhy are we not putting out a call and having an industry competition for people like Lockheed Martin, SpaceX, Blue Origin, Astrobotic, Intuitive Machines, and whoever else?" one NASA source asked. "Theyíre already building landers. Why canít we ask them what they could do? JPL hasnít even asked. We should be using a commercial, milestone-based approach.Ē

Zurbuchen said that NASA's current administration should be seriously considering this alternative if the Mars Sample Return mission is to continue.

"If I were in charge, I would develop a commercial option for the lander and seriously consider taking it away from JPL," he said. "Recall, this would be the first stationary lander done out of JPL. All others were built by Lockheed and that was before new capabilities by SpaceX and others."

Zurbuchen was the Associate Administrator in charge of NASA's Science Mission Directorate 2016-2022.

Switching the lander to fixed-price would probably be better than the status quo but I don't think it would be ideal. If the lander, rover, or ascent vehicle fails and only the lander were fixed price then taxpayers would presumably be responsible for replacing at least some of components needed to try again. However if there's one fixed price contractor responsible for the whole mission then that contractor would be responsible for building everything needed to try again.

Offline Jim

  • Night Gator
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 37507
  • Cape Canaveral Spaceport
  • Liked: 21563
  • Likes Given: 429


Switching the lander to fixed-price would probably be better than the status quo but I don't think it would be ideal. If the lander, rover, or ascent vehicle fails and only the lander were fixed price then taxpayers would presumably be responsible for replacing at least some of components needed to try again. However if there's one fixed price contractor responsible for the whole mission then that contractor would be responsible for building everything needed to try again.

Just stop.  No where does anything mention fixed price.  "commercial, milestone-based approach" is not fixed price

Offline deltaV

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2235
  • Change in velocity
  • Liked: 661
  • Likes Given: 2269
No where does anything mention fixed price.  "commercial, milestone-based approach" is not fixed price

To me "commercial, milestone-based approach" is referring to programs like Commercial Crew and HLS which use fixed-price milestones. If "commercial, milestone-based approach" doesn't mean that what does it mean?

Online VSECOTSPE

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1493
  • Liked: 4724
  • Likes Given: 2
To me "commercial, milestone-based approach" is referring to programs like Commercial Crew and HLS which use fixed-price milestones. If "commercial, milestone-based approach" doesn't mean that what does it mean?

Competition (not sole-sourcing) where two or more providers are funded through stages of design and development and can be downselected/turned off at each stage.

As long as the agency has credible alternatives and is willing to use them, fixed price contracts are not required to manage costs.

Itís when the agency has sole-sourced from the get-go or downselected to one provider very early that the remaining provider has the agency over a barrel and can abuse cost-plus.
« Last Edit: 07/16/2023 06:21 pm by VSECOTSPE »

Offline joek

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4875
  • Liked: 2787
  • Likes Given: 1099
To me "commercial, milestone-based approach" is referring to programs like Commercial Crew and HLS which use fixed-price milestones. If "commercial, milestone-based approach" doesn't mean that what does it mean?

There's "commercial", "milestone-based", and a few other qualifiers that may apply (e.g., "product" vs. "service", "fixed price" vs. "cost+whatever"). Contracts such as commercial crew and HLS involve a mix: the DDT&E phase and the service delivery phase. The DDT&E phase is fixed price milestone based (you satisfy milestone X you get $Y); whereas the service delivery phase is fixed price, which can also be considered a type of milestone (deliver X you get $Y).

Some nuances there not intuitively obvious to the casual observer; details here (and specifically definitions). Warning: quite a slog; people make careers out of navigating FAR.

In any case, think the sense of your question is reasonable: Why can't they do this new Y like X (COTS, CCDev, HLS, etc.)? Short answer: they could. With end with that, as don't want to take this dicussion down a rabbit hole debating the minutia of FAR. Hope that helps clarify a bit. Back to your MSR discussion.

Offline Don2

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 538
  • Liked: 298
  • Likes Given: 0
I don't think there are many contractors who could put together a credible bid for a Mars lander. Companies that haven't delivered a successful space project should be excluded, so goodbye Blue Origin. Companies need large project experience, so goodbye Rocketlab. EDL and hypersonic flight experience seems to be limited to Lockmart (Orion capsule), Boeing (X-37 and Starliner) and SpaceX (Dragon) . Rocket powered lander experience is just SpaceX and Lockmart. Those would be the two main competitors. Northrop Grumman made an good job of JWST, so they might be able to put together something. Boeing might try to bid, but they seem to have be making a mess of everything and should probably be relegated to being a subcontractor.

If SpaceX tries to offer Starship, then why would you want to spend science dollars on a vehicle that others are already committed to paying for? It's better to be a free rider on other people's investments.

Offline Robotbeat

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 39280
  • Minnesota
  • Liked: 25270
  • Likes Given: 12122
I don't think there are many contractors who could put together a credible bid for a Mars lander. Companies that haven't delivered a successful space project should be excluded, so goodbye Blue Origin.
...didn't prevent them from being selected for HLS, which is even bigger.

Quote
Companies need large project experience, so goodbye Rocketlab.
Nah, they have experience there and are soon going to get more. They've been selected for 2 spacecraft to Mars in 2 years, plus a spacecraft to Venus (atmospheric probe) in 2025. They have deep space experience with CAPSTONE to the Moon.
Quote
EDL and hypersonic flight experience seems to be limited to Lockmart (Orion capsule), Boeing (X-37 and Starliner) and SpaceX (Dragon).
You're forgetting VARDA/Rocketlab have a capsule that has already launched and will return in a couple weeks. RocketLab's experience with storables is a good fit, actually. There's also all the CLPS providers.
Quote
Rocket powered lander experience is just SpaceX and Lockmart.
Every CLPS provider is doing this. There are like at least 2 that will fly this year.
Quote
Those would be the two main competitors. Northrop Grumman made an good job of JWST
You've got to be pulling my leg, here. Were you asleep the entire time JWST was under development? They managed to get it launched and it didn't fail, but it literally cost 10 times what they originally claimed. The whole point of an alternative approach is to make the mission cheap enough that it won't get canceled outright. ...
Quote
If SpaceX tries to offer Starship, then why would you want to spend science dollars on a vehicle that others are already committed to paying for? It's better to be a free rider on other people's investments.
?? That's literally the opposite. Wouldn't you DEFINITELY want to spend money on a vehicle others have committed to paying for? That's almost the whole point of commercialization: the fixed costs and NRE are spread over multiple providers, so it'd cost a lot less to use things which have multiple uses. You just pointed out WHY Starship would be a good choice! For Goddard's sake, you're trying to save the mission by reducing costs, not spreading the wealth to expensive defense contractors!
« Last Edit: 07/17/2023 03:09 pm by Robotbeat »
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers. US law http://goo.gl/YZYNt0

Offline Robotbeat

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 39280
  • Minnesota
  • Liked: 25270
  • Likes Given: 12122
To me "commercial, milestone-based approach" is referring to programs like Commercial Crew and HLS which use fixed-price milestones. If "commercial, milestone-based approach" doesn't mean that what does it mean?

There's "commercial", "milestone-based", and a few other qualifiers that may apply (e.g., "product" vs. "service", "fixed price" vs. "cost+whatever"). Contracts such as commercial crew and HLS involve a mix: the DDT&E phase and the service delivery phase. The DDT&E phase is fixed price milestone based (you satisfy milestone X you get $Y); whereas the service delivery phase is fixed price, which can also be considered a type of milestone (deliver X you get $Y).

Some nuances there not intuitively obvious to the casual observer; details here (and specifically definitions). Warning: quite a slog; people make careers out of navigating FAR.

In any case, think the sense of your question is reasonable: Why can't they do this new Y like X (COTS, CCDev, HLS, etc.)? Short answer: they could. With end with that, as don't want to take this dicussion down a rabbit hole debating the minutia of FAR. Hope that helps clarify a bit. Back to your MSR discussion.
Yeah, I've seen fixed-price contracts be extremely expensive especially when sole-sourced. The contractor will front-load the risk and cost (and profit) to the "cost estimate" phase, which could easily cost just as much as the actual work. You have to have competition (and ideally, cost-sharing) to make it actually better.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers. US law http://goo.gl/YZYNt0

Offline Jim

  • Night Gator
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 37507
  • Cape Canaveral Spaceport
  • Liked: 21563
  • Likes Given: 429

In any case, think the sense of your question is reasonable: Why can't they do this new Y like X (COTS, CCDev, HLS, etc.)? Short answer: they could.

Those are for a service.  MSR is not a definable service like the others.  NASA is buying hardware.
« Last Edit: 07/17/2023 03:18 pm by Jim »

Offline Robotbeat

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 39280
  • Minnesota
  • Liked: 25270
  • Likes Given: 12122

In any case, think the sense of your question is reasonable: Why can't they do this new Y like X (COTS, CCDev, HLS, etc.)? Short answer: they could.

Those are for service.  MSR is not a definable service like the others.  NASA is buying hardware.
That was the plan for HLS, too. Until they didn't have money for it. HLS is lunar sample return.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers. US law http://goo.gl/YZYNt0

Offline Jim

  • Night Gator
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 37507
  • Cape Canaveral Spaceport
  • Liked: 21563
  • Likes Given: 429

In any case, think the sense of your question is reasonable: Why can't they do this new Y like X (COTS, CCDev, HLS, etc.)? Short answer: they could.

Those are for service.  MSR is not a definable service like the others.  NASA is buying hardware.
That was the plan for HLS, too. Until they didn't have money for it. HLS is lunar sample return.

Irrelevant.  This is not HLS.

Offline Jim

  • Night Gator
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 37507
  • Cape Canaveral Spaceport
  • Liked: 21563
  • Likes Given: 429

To me "commercial, milestone-based approach" is referring to programs like Commercial Crew and HLS which use fixed-price milestones. If "commercial, milestone-based approach" doesn't mean that what does it mean?

No, it doesn't.   It just means a competed contract in the commercial market.

Offline Robotbeat

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 39280
  • Minnesota
  • Liked: 25270
  • Likes Given: 12122

In any case, think the sense of your question is reasonable: Why can't they do this new Y like X (COTS, CCDev, HLS, etc.)? Short answer: they could.

Those are for service.  MSR is not a definable service like the others.  NASA is buying hardware.
That was the plan for HLS, too. Until they didn't have money for it. HLS is lunar sample return.

Irrelevant.  This is not HLS.
How is it not relevant? The situations are nearly identical. NASA didnít consider a privately developed lander until forced to it by lack of funding. The US funding part for MSR is largely the ascent vehicle and its lander. The Earth return capsule is a relatively small part of the funding, and ESA is handling the host spacecraft/transfer vehicle for it.

MSR needs to stay within a $5B budget cap. SpaceX got $3B for Artemis 3 and a demo mission for it.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers. US law http://goo.gl/YZYNt0

Offline Robotbeat

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 39280
  • Minnesota
  • Liked: 25270
  • Likes Given: 12122
I think there is a good chance that NASA is able to keep within the $5 billion cost cap without going to an extreme measure like HLS had to. But if that fails, then the situation with HLS is remarkably similar.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers. US law http://goo.gl/YZYNt0

Online DanClemmensen

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 5581
  • Earth (currently)
  • Liked: 4390
  • Likes Given: 1791
I think there is a good chance that NASA is able to keep within the $5 billion cost cap without going to an extreme measure like HLS had to. But if that fails, then the situation with HLS is remarkably similar.
How was the HLS award an "extreme measure"? NASA put out a contract and asked for bids, and three companies submitted bids. SpaceX  chose to bid at $2.9 B, which was (apparently) intended to be enough to cover the HLS incremental costs plus a profit. NASA did not "have to" do anything. The only "extreme measure" was the subsequent Appendix P award that was forced on NASA by congress because the Starship HLS money did not go to the right zipcodes.

Offline Robotbeat

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 39280
  • Minnesota
  • Liked: 25270
  • Likes Given: 12122
It was extreme because this is not at all what NASA had originally planned, ie with Constellation (etc). The baseline lander for Artemis was a more traditionally developed 3 stage lander and the cost would likely have been about $30 billion. They didnít have anywhere near that much money, since SLS, Orion, and ISS were using the funding. Itís partly why the Obama administration balked at Constellationís lunar landing and wanted the reduced cost ARRM mission that kind of became Gateway. The money was used up. They couldnít fund a traditional lander.

HLS was a sort of hail-Mary to try to get the cost down. They barely had enough to fund Starship, which was the cheapest bid. They got lucky, but Starship is still pretty high risk in terms of development risk.

I think thereís a lot more scope for cost reduction in MSR.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers. US law http://goo.gl/YZYNt0

Offline joek

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4875
  • Liked: 2787
  • Likes Given: 1099
Those are for a service.  MSR is not a definable service like the others.  NASA is buying hardware.

NASA could define MSR as a "definable service", just as they have any number of others involving development (if not buying hardware), followed by delivery of the service; see, e.g.,. COTS, CCDev, etc. Whether that is possible given the current state of MSR is another discussion.

Tags:
 

Advertisement NovaTech
Advertisement Northrop Grumman
Advertisement
Advertisement Margaritaville Beach Resort South Padre Island
Advertisement Brady Kenniston
Advertisement NextSpaceflight
Advertisement Nathan Barker Photography
0