Author Topic: One Percent for Space - What would a sustainable budget look like?  (Read 4739 times)

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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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.

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.
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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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