Author Topic: One Percent for Space - What would a sustainable budget look like?  (Read 4740 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 »

Offline 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.
Walk the road without end, and all tomorrows unfold like music.

Online 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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Online 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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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

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