Author Topic: One Percent for Space - What would a sustainable budget look like?  (Read 4750 times)

Offline Arthur

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There has been talk of a hypothetical 1% of the budget dedicated to Space.  Assuming that such a budget were a reality, I was wondering how it should be divided to create a long-term sustainable man-in-space program.

What percentage should go to research & development of new hardware?
What percentage should go to actually building hardware to launch?
What percentage should cover sustaining operational expenses?
What percentage should go towards purely scientific research?

Is there any theoretical data buried among the “billions and billions” ;) of posts on nasaspaceflight.com?

I can’t be the first person to wonder what “mix” is optimal for long term sustainability of a space program.

Offline Jim

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There has been talk of a hypothetical 1% of the budget dedicated to Space.  Assuming that such a budget were a reality, I was wondering how it should be divided to create a long-term sustainable man-in-space program.


The way to have a "long-term sustainable man-in-space program" is not to have the government fund it and not have a "1% of the budget dedicated to Space". 

Offline Arthur

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The way to have a "long-term sustainable man-in-space program" is not to have the government fund it and not have a "1% of the budget dedicated to Space".

Meh.
The option for a private funded sustainable man-in-space program has been on the table since March 22, 1952 … when Wernher von Braun, Fred L. Whipple, Joseph Kaplan, Heinz Haber and Willy Ley laid out “the vision” in a series of articles in Collier’s Magazine.  The last 70 years of private sector progress has been underwhelming.

However, that still avoids the basic budget balance question for sustainability (irrespective of the source of funding). 
What is the ratio of research/development : construction : operation (ignoring pure science for a commercial venture) for long term sustainability?
« Last Edit: 07/02/2022 06:33 pm by Arthur »

Offline Jim

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Meh.


That just means lack of a more intelligent response.

Offline Jim

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However, that still avoids the basic budget balance question for sustainability (irrespective of the source of funding). 
What is the ratio of research/development : construction : operation (ignoring pure science for a commercial venture) for long term sustainability?

wrong.
A.  There is no such thing.   ROI is not determined by such a ratio.
b.  The source of funding does affect "sustainability".  As long as the government funds NASA at any rate, it is "sustained" and ROI does not matter.
c.  The way to have a "sustainable" program, it to get the government out of the funding aspect of it and let market forces drive it.  Only the market is going to create a true need.
d.  There isn't any requirement for the government to have a "long-term sustainable man-in-space program"
« Last Edit: 07/02/2022 06:46 pm by Jim »

Offline Arthur

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You convinced me.
I wrote Congressman Bilirakis to defund NASA so that private ventures could take the lead.

Offline tea monster

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You convinced me.
I wrote Congressman Bilirakis to defund NASA so that private ventures could take the lead.
(eye roll)

It has been discussed to death in other parts of this forum that NASA is completely beholden to it's government paymasters, who have used the agency to score political points rather than create a sustainable and expandable future for Man in space. To fix that, you probably would have to dismantle NASA and create something else with a separate funding source. An agency that controls it's own plan and agenda, rather than following the whims of Senators who think in pork rather than the rocket equation. Good luck figuring out what that is and where the money is coming from.

It is only now that SpaceX has taken the lead to develop a vehicle that can bring cheap and reliable access to orbit like the space shuttle was supposed to do and didn't achieve. At any time over the last 50 years, one of the large aerospace companies could have developed something like starship. They produced dozens of studies for just such a vehicle. Nobody over the last half a century did anything about it, though they knew it was the way forward. So just saying that we're going to hand it over to private industry isn't a cure-all either. Maybe now that SpaceX and RocketLab have shown that they are committed to furthering our access to space, private industry might be the way forward. We'll see.

« Last Edit: 07/02/2022 09:05 pm by tea monster »

Offline tea monster

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NASA's current approach to crewed space flight has been a slow-motion trainwreck for decades. Maybe pare NASA down to automated probes and basic research and give human access to space to someone or something else. Again, what or who that is would be a matter of a great deal of debate.

When the Space Force was announced, I wondered if maybe they could have the money and the drive to do what was required to push human space flight to the next level. Although much sniggering was directed their way, they do have a lot of money and a mandate to protect our interests in orbit. Maybe they will take the torch and develop a cheap, reusable way of getting cargo to orbit that isn't mired in 1970's technology and pork barrel politics. That's a really big 'maybe'. I'm not really suggesting that this will happen. I just can't see any other way that government is going to achieve this. NASA is just not capable any more.

Private enterprise might do it. If there aren't any setbacks, roadblocks or other things that get in the way.

The future is very much (pardon) up in the air.
« Last Edit: 07/02/2022 09:46 pm by tea monster »

Online edzieba

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c.  The way to have a "sustainable" program, it to get the government out of the funding aspect of it and let market forces drive it.  Only the market is going to create a true need.
"The market" serves only the need of direct profit, but there are more needs than just profit that are no less "true".

All the currently operating manned spaceflight systems are driven by government demand. Some are direct government programmes (corporate relationship: "here's the thing we want built, go build it"), some are government service provision (corporate relationship: "here's the service we want, go supply it within these parameters") but all would not exist without that demand. No bucks, no Buck Rodgers, and the profit from purely private missions alone (Inspiration 4 and the future Polaris missions) is not yet sufficient to have sustained the entire Dragon 2 development programme. And I think few would dispute that of currently operating manned spaceflight systems Dragon 2 is almost certain to have had the lowest development cost.

What private industry can do, and has done for centuries, is take advantage of infrastructure, services, and the surrounding economy and industry, that can be - driven from local small scale to integrated national-scale - or set up from whole-cloth - by government intervention, be it by top-down direction or by demanding and more importantly funding services that are not economically viable as profit-driven businesses. This has been demonstrated to great effect by the Interstate Highway System, or the New Deal public works programmes. Or the current manned spaceflight programmes.

The government 'getting out' of manned spaceflight would result in the shuttering of Starliner, Axiom, large portions of SNC's spaceflight programmes (Dream Chaser and CLD work), and many other programmes. Dragon 2 might survive, but I can just as well see SpaceX dropping it to focus on Starship.
If 'getting out' instead does not mean that, and instead means continuation of CRS, Commercial Crew, and CLD, then what's being called for is not the government 'getting out' of funding manned spaceflight but instead a change in government contracting.

Offline StormtrooperJoe

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NASA's current approach to crewed space flight has been a slow-motion trainwreck for decades. Maybe pare NASA down to automated probes and basic research and give human access to space to someone or something else. Again, what or who that is would be a matter of a great deal of debate.

When the Space Force was announced, I wondered if maybe they could have the money and the drive to do what was required to push human space flight to the next level. Although much sniggering was directed their way, they do have a lot of money and a mandate to protect our interests in orbit. Maybe they will take the torch and develop a cheap, reusable way of getting cargo to orbit that isn't mired in 1970's technology and pork barrel politics. That's a really big 'maybe'. I'm not really suggesting that this will happen. I just can't see any other way that government is going to achieve this. NASA is just not capable any more.

Private enterprise might do it. If there aren't any setbacks, roadblocks or other things that get in the way.

The future is very much (pardon) up in the air.

I disagree. I think NASA in the past decade has done more to improve it's HSF program of any decade except perhaps the 60's. Nasa started with Commercial Cargo, then Commercial Crew, and in the relatively near future we will see commercial space stations and commercial space suits(although admittedly the suits seem like they will still be insanely expensive), and a commercial manned lunar lander(HLS). Yes SLS exists, and yes, it is throwing away mind-boggling amounts of money, however, it seems like it will soon be the exception to the rule. Even then, Nasa is funding Starship via HLS which means they are also funding a practically drop-in replacement for SLS.

Heck, even Bill "Ballast" Nelson has come out and stated his support for shifting to firm fixed-priced programs and stated that cost-plus contracts are a plague on NASA. I could hardly find a better sign that Nasa is moving in the right direction. I think that even if Nasa is not quite where we want it yet, it is clear that they are on a positive trajectory when it comes to how it goes about its spending, which is more than I can say about pretty much any government agency I can think of.

Offline libra

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Lori Garver book, cough.

Offline Jim

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An agency that controls it's own plan and agenda,


No gov't agency can do that.  They are alway beholding to congress.

Offline Jim

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You convinced me.
I wrote Congressman Bilirakis to defund NASA so that private ventures could take the lead.

Don't need to defund NASA, just don't expect Apollo type goals and projects. Think NASA more like NACA and doing space science and technology missions.

Offline Jim

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When the Space Force was announced, I wondered if maybe they could have the money and the drive to do what was required to push human space flight to the next level.

No, not their task either.  Again,  Space Force was basically just a headquarters change.   It wasn't a charter to charge off into space.  It is still the military and the government.  It works with the same contractors as NASA.
« Last Edit: 07/03/2022 01:13 pm by Jim »

Offline Jim

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c.  The way to have a "sustainable" program, it to get the government out of the funding aspect of it and let market forces drive it.  Only the market is going to create a true need.
"The market" serves only the need of direct profit, but there are more needs than just profit that are no less "true".

All the currently operating manned spaceflight systems are driven by government demand. Some are direct government programmes (corporate relationship: "here's the thing we want built, go build it"), some are government service provision (corporate relationship: "here's the service we want, go supply it within these parameters") but all would not exist without that demand. No bucks, no Buck Rodgers, and the profit from purely private missions alone (Inspiration 4 and the future Polaris missions) is not yet sufficient to have sustained the entire Dragon 2 development programme. And I think few would dispute that of currently operating manned spaceflight systems Dragon 2 is almost certain to have had the lowest development cost.

What private industry can do, and has done for centuries, is take advantage of infrastructure, services, and the surrounding economy and industry, that can be - driven from local small scale to integrated national-scale - or set up from whole-cloth - by government intervention, be it by top-down direction or by demanding and more importantly funding services that are not economically viable as profit-driven businesses. This has been demonstrated to great effect by the Interstate Highway System, or the New Deal public works programmes. Or the current manned spaceflight programmes.

The government 'getting out' of manned spaceflight would result in the shuttering of Starliner, Axiom, large portions of SNC's spaceflight programmes (Dream Chaser and CLD work), and many other programmes. Dragon 2 might survive, but I can just as well see SpaceX dropping it to focus on Starship.
If 'getting out' instead does not mean that, and instead means continuation of CRS, Commercial Crew, and CLD, then what's being called for is not the government 'getting out' of funding manned spaceflight but instead a change in government contracting.

I meant NASA goes to the marketplace to meet its needs vs building and operating its own systems.  That includes space stations too. 


Offline MGoDuPage

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c.  The way to have a "sustainable" program, it to get the government out of the funding aspect of it and let market forces drive it.  Only the market is going to create a true need.
"The market" serves only the need of direct profit, but there are more needs than just profit that are no less "true".

All the currently operating manned spaceflight systems are driven by government demand. Some are direct government programmes (corporate relationship: "here's the thing we want built, go build it"), some are government service provision (corporate relationship: "here's the service we want, go supply it within these parameters") but all would not exist without that demand. No bucks, no Buck Rodgers, and the profit from purely private missions alone (Inspiration 4 and the future Polaris missions) is not yet sufficient to have sustained the entire Dragon 2 development programme. And I think few would dispute that of currently operating manned spaceflight systems Dragon 2 is almost certain to have had the lowest development cost.

What private industry can do, and has done for centuries, is take advantage of infrastructure, services, and the surrounding economy and industry, that can be - driven from local small scale to integrated national-scale - or set up from whole-cloth - by government intervention, be it by top-down direction or by demanding and more importantly funding services that are not economically viable as profit-driven businesses. This has been demonstrated to great effect by the Interstate Highway System, or the New Deal public works programmes. Or the current manned spaceflight programmes.

The government 'getting out' of manned spaceflight would result in the shuttering of Starliner, Axiom, large portions of SNC's spaceflight programmes (Dream Chaser and CLD work), and many other programmes. Dragon 2 might survive, but I can just as well see SpaceX dropping it to focus on Starship.
If 'getting out' instead does not mean that, and instead means continuation of CRS, Commercial Crew, and CLD, then what's being called for is not the government 'getting out' of funding manned spaceflight but instead a change in government contracting.


This is a thoughtful answer that I think can drive this thread towards a useful discussion. Two core issues would need to get defined though:

1) Setting aside the phrase, "..there has been talk...."  (Talk from whom? Anyone credible that can make it happen politically? Is there a groundswell of support among one or both political parties to make funding of spaceflight/exploration a major priority now?)...... What does the OP mean by "1% of the budget" and "on space"?

Overall federal government spending will be about $6 Trillion for FY 2022, so that'd be roughly $60 billion. But keep in mind most of that $6 Trillion is for required spending & entitlements. Only about $1.5 Trillion is "discretionary", making that annual budget about $15 Billion---which is significantly less than what NASA gets today.

What does the OP mean by "space"? Is that NASA's annual budget only? Or would that include the US Space Force? NOAA? Any other agency that might have some activities related to space launches, etc?

Need to defined paramaters before any big discussion begins.


2) What's the purpose of federal spending on "space"? This thread has already started addressing that topic. I'm definitely in the mode like edzieba in that the US government certainly has a ROLE, but it isn't necessarily to just to subsidize the space industry with pork projects & 1970's technology programs.

A)   I do think NASA has a role in doing primary earth science/astronomy research that answers core questions about the nature of the universe.

B)  I also think NASA & the DoD/USSF has a role in what I'd call "buying down risk" in a very broad way to help foment sustainable commercial space activity & US government capabilities in the future.  That "buying down risk" can come in the form of small-bore highly theoretical research, like researching new space propulsion technology, cutting edge human life support technology, etc. Deveoping imaging/communications/warfighting capabilities for use by the USSF, etc. through DARPA, JPL, Skunkworks, etc.

But it can also come in the form of creating some basic "space infrastructure" like the interstate highway system.  For example, upgrading & expanding the Eastern Range/KSC to be a true 21st centruly "Kennedy Space Center 2.0" that can handle 1,000 launches per year, far more robust launch/landing/servicing capability, etc.

 

Offline RoadWithoutEnd

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If the 21st century in spaceflight has taught us anything, it's that an out-of-context budget number for NASA as a whole doesn't mean much.  The agency does many amazing things with relatively modest resources, but in other areas is milked like a cow by thinly-veiled military programs and bottomless-pit pork projects with no appreciable public benefit.

The key questions to answer are who gets paid, under what conditions, and what they're asked to do.  If the answers are the same, then the outcome will be the same regardless of overall budget.  If, however, much more were directed to broad-based technology R&D, and only sane contracting regimes were allowed (i.e., ones a rational person could say are aimed at getting good work), then even a flat budget would seem in practice to have grown tremendously.
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Offline Robotbeat

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I'm honestly coming around to the idea that Ares/SLS/Orion sucking up all the money (and not delivering) was actually awesome for NASA as it meant NASA had to do commercial crew and HLS, which NASA wouldn't have done if they were well-funded.

More funding doesn’t always equal more accomplishments. I actually kind of think NASA has enough money.
« Last Edit: 09/02/2022 12:34 pm by Robotbeat »
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Offline bad_astra

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With a guaranteed budget you might see a lot of rot set in. I'm all for NASA having a large budget, even more than 1% if need be. . I lost my silly libertarian dreams a long time ago. But an agency needs purpose and good direction.

You can't have a Dan Goldin cheering when the budget is cut and mistakes sent in as he's wanting the agency to stretch like some scifi polymer in every direction. You can't have a Truly who thinks he can approach Congress and ask for an eye-popping amount of money for a program that doesn't meet their own goals or help their constituents.

The question becomes what do we want that budget for. If we are interested in establishing and maintaining the infrastructure of human presence points in the high frontier, long term that may go beyond NASA's bounds, but short and mid term that's what we're left with. And that's fine. I don't want to be paying Bezos for my weekly breathable atmo allotment on his station out of my company paycheck. In that regard government will be the only real way to uphold individual rights off-world.

When enough of an off-world infrastructure is established that the raw materials and labor come from off-world to maintain it, the idea is going to have to be revisited by necessity. Money isn't going away but monetary value, the absolute chaos of the commodities and insurance markets in those frontier years are something I doubt anyone can pin down with clarity. But that's beyond the 1% budget question.

It's not so much the money (though it IS about the money too), but oversight on how it's spent.

I do think NASA should be prevented from developing its own launch vehicles in the future. MSFC shouldn't have that kind of congressional pull, anymore. That doesn't mean it should not continue to expand the state of the art. Imagine if the money (or even a good fraction thereof) NASA had put into SLS had went into developing a nuclear thermal stage for EELV class launchers instead? We can only dream.


« Last Edit: 09/02/2022 01:42 pm by bad_astra »
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Offline Robotbeat

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The Greybeards really don't like Goldin, but his direction was ultimately the right one. He basically presaged NewSpace, commercial crew, SpaceX and its RLVs, and the commercial HLS.

And as far as what the money would’ve/should’ve been spent on if NASA hadn’t had SLS, well, it probably would have been a lander project handled by Marshall. So again, maybe wasting all that money ended up a good thing because the lander HAD to be commercial.
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Offline libra

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Private-Public-Partnerships. A strange way of running a space agency and a human space flight program, really. But maybe that's a "necessary evil" to quite literally... kick NASA HSF in the correct direction.

(just for the fun of it: "public private partnerships"+NASA presently brings 16 000 results).

https://www.google.com/search?q=%22private+public+partnership%22NASA&client=firefox-b-d&sxsrf=ALiCzsYB4JKhbzTcDKh4L8iX1SYNiuqbDQ%3A1662135220985&ei=tCsSY4XTO4-_xc8P3c-k2A4&ved=0ahUKEwiF_aibwPb5AhWPX_EDHd0nCesQ4dUDCA0&uact=5&oq=%22private+public+partnership%22NASA&gs_lcp=Cgdnd3Mtd2l6EAMyCAgAEB4QCBAHOgkIABAeELADEAhKBQg8EgExSgQIQRgBSgQIRhgAUMcFWMcFYNoIaAFwAHgAgAFZiAFZkgEBMZgBAKABAcgBAcABAQ&sclient=gws-wiz

Offline RoadWithoutEnd

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I'm honestly coming around to the idea that Ares/SLS/Orion sucking up all the money (and not delivering) was actually awesome for NASA as it meant NASA had to do commercial crew and HLS, which NASA wouldn't have done if they were well-funded.

More funding doesn’t always equal more accomplishments. I actually kind of think NASA has enough money.

We got very lucky in the timing of SpaceX's rise coinciding with that period.  If it hadn't been there and at just the right point in its development, the commercial programs would have fizzled.  So we should never be comfortable with giant albatross programs that turn NASA's purpose on its head and depend on being saved from outside.  The agency's future relevance rests on how effective it can be at finally banning cost-plus contracts, and how rigorously it's allowed to enforce the terms of better ones.

The Greybeards really don't like Goldin, but his direction was ultimately the right one. He basically presaged NewSpace, commercial crew, SpaceX and its RLVs, and the commercial HLS.

All Dan Goldin did was tell NASA to "do more with less," which was completely inane MBA mumbo jumbo when not backed up by structural reform in contracting.  He literally just gave the contractor base permission to front-load more of their costs into overhead and start projects they had no plan to finish, back-loading the consequences as far into the future as possible (up to and including Mars EDL, lol!).

While the failure of "Faster, Better, Cheaper" was one of the early factors leading to growing skepticism about Oldspace, the system as a whole has not fundamentally changed.  They've been forced by SpaceX's performance to basically build a "guest room" in the system for reality, letting authentic projects move forward in parallel with the politically-designed program, but the program of record continues to be largely built around systemic waste and malfeasance.

And as far as what the money would’ve/should’ve been spent on if NASA hadn’t had SLS, well, it probably would have been a lander project handled by Marshall. So again, maybe wasting all that money ended up a good thing because the lander HAD to be commercial.

If that much money were directed into technology development from the ground up, similar to NACA and the modern CC regimes, that would be the ideal situation.  What happens from something like that would be a supernova of progress across a wide array of areas.
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Offline Robotbeat

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I'm honestly coming around to the idea that Ares/SLS/Orion sucking up all the money (and not delivering) was actually awesome for NASA as it meant NASA had to do commercial crew and HLS, which NASA wouldn't have done if they were well-funded.

More funding doesn’t always equal more accomplishments. I actually kind of think NASA has enough money.

We got very lucky in the timing of SpaceX's rise coinciding with that period.  If it hadn't been there and at just the right point in its development, the commercial programs would have fizzled.  So we should never be comfortable with giant albatross programs that turn NASA's purpose on its head and depend on being saved from outside.  The agency's future relevance rests on how effective it can be at finally banning cost-plus contracts, and how rigorously it's allowed to enforce the terms of better ones.

The Greybeards really don't like Goldin, but his direction was ultimately the right one. He basically presaged NewSpace, commercial crew, SpaceX and its RLVs, and the commercial HLS.

All Dan Goldin did was tell NASA to "do more with less," which was completely inane MBA mumbo jumbo when not backed up by structural reform in contracting.  He literally just gave the contractor base permission to front-load more of their costs into overhead and start projects they had no plan to finish, back-loading the consequences as far into the future as possible (up to and including Mars EDL, lol!).

While the failure of "Faster, Better, Cheaper" was one of the early factors leading to growing skepticism about Oldspace, the system as a whole has not fundamentally changed.  They've been forced by SpaceX's performance to basically build a "guest room" in the system for reality, letting authentic projects move forward in parallel with the politically-designed program, but the program of record continues to be largely built around systemic waste and malfeasance.

And as far as what the money would’ve/should’ve been spent on if NASA hadn’t had SLS, well, it probably would have been a lander project handled by Marshall. So again, maybe wasting all that money ended up a good thing because the lander HAD to be commercial.

If that much money were directed into technology development from the ground up, similar to NACA and the modern CC regimes, that would be the ideal situation.  What happens from something like that would be a supernova of progress across a wide array of areas.

On Goldin for another minute: Goldin pushed for a public/private partnership for X-33/VentureStar. It wasn’t purely a NASA affair but an investment by Lockheed. And that it failed was actually a good thing: it was a bad design that would’ve been very cost inefficient even if it worked, just like Shuttle. F9 has already met or exceeded the VentureStar cost *goals*. If it had been a NASA-only program, it would’ve probably continued until flight. It was a real bummer for those who worked on it, but this approach formed the basis of commercial cargo and crew programs later on.

That people are still resistant to acknowledging that Goldin was right about this are not able to see cancellation of a dead-end approach as anything but failure overall, when it in fact succeeded and prepared the ground for the likes of SpaceX. Ability to fail is good. What was needed that Goldin didn’t have was competition between at least 2 actors in order to achieve resilience to failure.
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Offline deadman1204

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Government certainly has a place - it can help create and support an emerging industry - like how NASA is trying to get something going with commercial stations.

However, big nasa owned plans like sls/shuttle/apollo/ect will always be the same thing, because no matter how well meaning they start, the big named contractors and congress will turn it into a huge money grab - where the program becomes designed to keep shoveling money to contractors.

Offline RoadWithoutEnd

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On Goldin for another minute: Goldin pushed for a public/private partnership for X-33/VentureStar. It wasn’t purely a NASA affair but an investment by Lockheed. And that it failed was actually a good thing: it was a bad design that would’ve been very cost inefficient even if it worked, just like Shuttle. F9 has already met or exceeded the VentureStar cost *goals*. If it had been a NASA-only program, it would’ve probably continued until flight. It was a real bummer for those who worked on it, but this approach formed the basis of commercial cargo and crew programs later on.

VentureStar had all the hallmarks of being set up to fail.  It was an administrative decision rather than reflecting a broad-based change in program, and there was no special demand from the Shuttle industrial base to transition to a new vehicle.  In fact, part of the pitch for VentureStar was that its ground needs would be less than Shuttle's, which would make it actively antagonistic to the Shuttle jobs base.  Nothing resembling the likely investment was ever lined up. 

It was a case in point of what "Faster, Better, Cheaper" really meant...faster to start a new program, cheaper funding for it, and all the easier to cancel it 10% of the way through.  The contractors still get their money, and cancellation is early enough in the process that it doesn't leave too much of a stink on the overall program, but no project ever reaches the final test of operations.

What came into the vacuum of X-33 was not SpaceX, it was Ares/SLS: A quintupling-down of the very problem that finally ended the post-Apollo NASA paradigm.  Not "Faster, Beater, Cheaper," But "As slow as possible, as expensive as possible, and as unreliable as possible," becacause it will never be held accountable budgetwise or in flight.

The pain of being confronted by that outrage is what splintered the NASA community and drove energy to SpaceX.
Walk the road without end, and all tomorrows unfold like music.

Offline libra

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All-rocket hydrogen SSTO whatever its shape would need a bare minimum of 0.90 prop mass fraction to make orbit with a smallish payload. Aerospike was to help the design closing, but it was also a heavy engine. Every single percent of prop mass fraction lost makes a big dent in the vehicle delta-v and de facto, payload to orbit.

So that 1996 decision was stupid (and doomed) whatever happened.
Now, the game played by Lockheed was pretty outrageous (from memory of this forum thread readings, don't ask me where).

MDD, by virtue of the DC-X, had a DC-Y & DC-1 phased approach a bit more reasonable, and overall, a better shape to start from.

Still, I really doubt they could have pulled it by 2001, or at all. All-rocket SSTO is such a b*tch (excuse the swearing) and late Goldin era NASA, on the HSF and launcher fronts, was quite dysfunctional - ISS huge costs overruns, mistakes leading to STS-107, and that big RLV fiasco. Shuttle budget was cut by 20% during the 1990's (from memory).

Goldin did wonders (at least early on) on the unmanned and robotic fronts: EOS, Goddard, JPL really needed a serious cleanup. It really soured after 1998, notably the great Mars disasters.
But on the HSF / RLV / Shuttle / ISS front, lots of mistakes were made.

Offline MGoDuPage

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I’d like to bring this thread back to what I THINK the OP intended it to be: an exercise in theoretical resource allocation with maybe a touch of whimsy.

For you hard nosed realists, let’s more clearly define some parameters:

1) Let’s say the “1%” indeed means 1% of the total annual federal budget. For our purposes, $60 Billion annually, adjusted for inflation each year.

2) To sidestep the “gotta placate Congress”, let’s say NASA’s current budget is an even $25 Billion, and that 100% of that is spent maintaining the “status quo”. That means SLS, Orion, ML-2, the whole kit & caboodle, is carried forward indefinitely so as to not rouse the ire of the “gotta save jobs in key districts”/“gotta maintain key technical competencies” gang.




BUT as a fun thought experiment, let’s presume for the remainder of the funds: $35 Billion annually adjusted for inflation, YOU dear posters, get to be Supreme Emperor Administrator of NASA. If given unfettered control over $35 Billion annually to advance American spaceflight, human activity in space generally, and scientific discoveries related to space and our solar system, how would you spend that sweet, sweet cash if given-say—a 25 year time horizon?

Offline tea monster

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I personally don't think that NASA is capable of producing a good human space flight roadmap. I love NASA and they are *capable* of great things, but the agency is treated as a political football to such an extent that I doubt seriously that they will be able to properly define such a roadmap and follow it meaningfully. Having said that...

Orion/SLS are all dead ducks. Kill off the program and if there is political fallout from "maintaining technical parity" for the undead leavings of a 1970's space program, then make sure the usual suspects get new contracts to do new things that actually take us forward.

Programs such as deep space vessels and planetary landers should have at least two providers funded under a commercial crew style procurement model. Where NASA travels, I want it to leave viable, useable infrastructure so that commercial entities can use what NASA has trail-blazed to continue operations on their own. NASA should be doing the expensive, dangerous things, but should do it in a way that you set up a scaffolding that business and academics can climb and use after your pioneer missions. Make sure your "Giant leap for mankind" actually follows in the "One small step'. Apollo was HALF A CENTURY AGO. It’s way past time to level-up.

If I were God-Emperor of NASA,there would be four cornerstones to my crewed space flight plan.

1. Get up. This is getting cheaply and effectively to orbit. I think that Starship will have this down pat. We will see. There is no reason that other players like Neutron can't also get in on the fun. SSTO would be fun if you can pull it off, but a well-planned TSTO should be the norm. Aim for an airline-style operations model. Fly often, standardise, reduce costs and improve safety. Getting up and down to a point in space like the orbit of a space station or a lagrange station should be all this vehicle does. It does it well, cheaply and reliably. It is not a deep-space cruiser. That is a different job that requires a different vehicle.

2. Stay up. Following the procurement policy of the orbital transport vehicle, develop a means of living in space. Not just for a few months at a time. How can humans actually live for long periods in space? Hab modules that people could call a home in space. Do we need a rotating habitat for gravity? How do we mass produce those cheaply and safely? How do we power these modules both at Earth and elsewhere in the solar system? That is going to include heavy-duty power sources. We are going to need a way of keeping people alive in space for long periods of time that doesn’t just involve putting them into a tuna can and sending them home when their eyesight/muscles start to atrophy. That might involve creating some kind of large rotating space station or even, eventually, a small-scale O’Neill colony.

Maybe pioneer a low gravity hospital in space treating heart patients. That would help with developing medical and life-support systems as well as keeping vulnerable patients alive.

A side-effect of all this activity will be teaching us to manufacture large structures in space, which is going to benefit everything else.

3. Go forth. I would have a two or even three track program to develop a way of getting out of Earth orbit and travelling to other planets quickly. Track one would be more conventional. Ion/plasma propulsion and nuclear thermal. Track two would involve high-speed travel using more exotic methods such as fusion, lithium salt rockets or fission fragment afterburner propulsion. Take these out of the lab and develop them to a man-rated systems, then use them. Possibly create a vehicle we can call ‘The Sled’ which would be akin to the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter. It would be a testbed for different power and propulsion systems. One of it’s test objectives would be to cart power-hungry and sophisticated robot probes to various destinations in the outer solar system and return to Earth after dropping them off. The bigger and more power-hungry the payload the better. We eventually want to hook a hab and a lander to this thing and take a crew out to Jupiter or Neptune.

4. Get down. Possibly using a lot of the tech from from the ‘Get Up’ program. Develop a landing vehicle for both crew and cargo that can be stored in space for a few months then can descend and land on nearly any body in the solar system. It should be as destination-agnostic as possible. Titan, Mars and Venus are going to be special cases, but anywhere else should be fair game.

The end game to all of this is to have people working and living in space properly, not just in a collection of tin cans. We can travel anywhere in the solar system in a reasonable amount of time. We can be pretty sure that after a half-year space journey, that the crew will still be alive though they haven’t been resupplied from Earth. We can descend to and ascend from most bodies in the solar system that are Earth-sized or smaller. Once we have achieved all this, we can truly call ourselves an interplanetary species. We’ve spread to several bodies in the solar system in case anything happens to the Mother planet. We may even have discovered that Earth isn’t the only abode of life in the solar system. I would say that all that would be worth 1% over a quarter century at least!

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