Author Topic: Dumbacher on SLS, Asteroids, Mars, etc.  (Read 11928 times)

Offline ChileVerde

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Dumbacher on SLS, Asteroids, Mars, etc.
« on: 03/27/2013 01:28 pm »

There's an interesting interview with NASA's Dan Dumbacher in AmericaSpace today (with a precursor yesterday). I'm putting this pointer here as the overall thrust seems policy-like, but a moderator might want to move it elsewhere.

http://www.americaspace.com/?p=33312
http://www.americaspace.com/?p=33236 (Has comments.)

Space Launch System Truths and Misconceptions
By Jason Rhian
March 27th, 2013
"I can’t tell you which asteroid, but there will be one in 2025," Bolden asserted.

Offline yg1968

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Re: Dumbacher on SLS, Asteroids, Mars, etc.
« Reply #1 on: 03/27/2013 02:02 pm »
Quote
AmericaSpace: When this discussion broke out on AmericaSpace it became a very heated debate. Before we really got too involved we wanted to get our facts straight, which is why we contacted NASA Headquarters. One of the questions that was asked of us was, ‘If NASA saw that they could conduct these missions less expensively using smaller commercial launch vehicles—perhaps with more launches—would NASA be willing to do this?’ Would you say, ‘Look, SLS is great, but we can do it less expensively using either the Delta IV Heavy or the Falcon Heavy’? If NASA crunched the numbers and discovered it could put the mass it needed up on say six Delta IV Heavy or Falcon Heavy launches instead of one SLS, would you do that?

Dumbacher: “If we could do it for less—that is the key. Our analysis using the best data that we can lay our hands on says that there is a trade off with the amount of payload delivered per launch, launch cost, and also the complexity of on-orbit operations, and this begins to impact crew safety as well. If I start to put it up in smaller pieces, then that means there has to be more on-orbit operations that are necessary to get everything attached. And, by the way, that means that the crew will have to contend with longer exposure time in the space environment, radiation exposure, micro-meteorites, and so forth. All of that starts to play into the equation, so I think that gets lost sometimes in the debates that you’ve experienced. All of the considerations need to be factored into the analysis. It’s not just a cost equation, and, in fact, it takes a dramatic reduction in launch costs for smaller launch vehicles to be competitive from a cost perspective. You have to recognize that it is not just a per-unit cost; you also have to include the infrastructure on the ground to manufacture and assemble all of those extra launch vehicles.”

Not a very convincing answer...
« Last Edit: 03/27/2013 02:11 pm by yg1968 »

Offline Lar

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Re: Dumbacher on SLS, Asteroids, Mars, etc.
« Reply #2 on: 03/27/2013 02:06 pm »
Not a very convincing answer...

I'll go further, he's actually making the case for Falcon if you read between the lines... :)

Quote
"It takes a dramatic reduction in launch costs for smaller launch vehicles to be competitive from a cost perspective"

Check. Compare fully costed price per kg... don't forget to factor in all the wasted development cost from CxP.

Quote
"you also have to include the infrastructure on the ground to manufacture and assemble all of those extra launch vehicle"

Check. Already paid for, for the most part, the Hawthorne plant is cranking out stages.

This guy is a high level administrator. Of course he's going to speak the party line, he likes his job.
« Last Edit: 03/27/2013 02:40 pm by Lar »
"I think it would be great to be born on Earth and to die on Mars. Just hopefully not at the point of impact." -Elon Musk
"We're a little bit like the dog who caught the bus" - Musk after CRS-8 S1 successfully landed on ASDS OCISLY

Online Chris Bergin

Re: Dumbacher on SLS, Asteroids, Mars, etc.
« Reply #3 on: 03/27/2013 02:36 pm »
Top interview there. Times like this you need managers to show some fight, like Mr Decastro over Shuttle retirement.

Didn't see much fight from Mr Dumbacher. Maybe it's his style.
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Offline deltaV

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Re: Dumbacher on SLS, Asteroids, Mars, etc.
« Reply #4 on: 03/28/2013 12:45 am »
I'm surprised AmericaSpace didn't ask about whether NASA would be willing to launch on a cheaper launch vehicle with the same performance as SLS. For example three SLS LRB in a "heavy" configuration (plus upper stage) would have almost as much mass to orbit as SLS.

Offline JohnFornaro

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Re: Dumbacher on SLS, Asteroids, Mars, etc.
« Reply #5 on: 03/28/2013 11:53 am »
From the article:

AmericaSpace: "There are some folks who feel that SLS does not have a specific destination. Is this perception valid? Or is it inaccurate?"

Dumbacher: "The way we at NASA look at it is, the ‘horizon’ destination that we are going to is Mars—sending humans to Mars is the goal that we are working toward. There are a number of different ways that we can accomplish this, and we’re still looking at the various tradeoffs as to how we conduct that. … That’s currently what we are doing right now is to research the various ways that we can send humans to Mars and then bring them safely back home."

Translation:  Yes, the perception is valid.

This translation is verified by Dumbacher's later comment: "Let me back you up a little bit. We haven’t made any commitments -- to any missions."

The sooner everybody starts telling the unvarnished truth about things, instead of spinning and ambiguating, the sooner we could get HSF moving forward.
« Last Edit: 03/29/2013 12:06 pm by JohnFornaro »
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline ChileVerde

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Re: Dumbacher on SLS, Asteroids, Mars, etc.
« Reply #6 on: 03/28/2013 02:53 pm »
As long as we're identifying our favorite passages from the interview, here's mine:

Quote
Dumbacher: “Some of the destinations that we are looking at between here and Mars are, obviously, the Moon, the area around the Moon, and of course some asteroids. This will serve to get us ready to go to Mars and its moons. Now, the one thing that we want to make sure that everybody understands is that there is a fundamental capability that we need to have to get to any of those destinations. We need to get crew beyond Earth orbit, and we need to get crew home from beyond-Earth orbit—and that’s the role of Orion. Orion gives us about a 21-day capability; now that is obviously a short time, but what is missing in that is that we will eventually have to develop what we call the habitat module, or ‘the habitat.’ The astronauts would stay in this for the longer-duration missions, and Orion would be attached to the habitat. It would remain ‘quiet’ (essentially powered-down) once we got the astronauts to the habitat, and it would be reactivated once we needed to get the astronauts back home.”

I.e., just like we've been saying, Orion by itself is not a deep space vehicle and is not intended to be one. So, again just like we've been saying, NASA is going to have to procure a DSH by some means if it wants to do anything beyond three-week missions in cislunar space.

There is as yet no hint that NASA has a DSH in its program, so one wonders how the oft-declared NEO mission in 2025 is supposed to be done.  My own speculation is that NASA is trying, or plans to try, to get an international partner to supply it.  But, in any case, they don't have a lot of time to develop and demonstrate a DSH, so however it's to be done some celerity is needed.
"I can’t tell you which asteroid, but there will be one in 2025," Bolden asserted.

Offline Hauerg

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Re: Dumbacher on SLS, Asteroids, Mars, etc.
« Reply #7 on: 03/28/2013 03:01 pm »
"... you also have to include the infrastructure on the ground ..."
But if you do this and consider the expected flight rates, how can you still be in favor of SLS??
I simply do not get it.

Offline ChileVerde

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Re: Dumbacher on SLS, Asteroids, Mars, etc.
« Reply #8 on: 03/28/2013 03:15 pm »
From the article:

<snip>

This is validated by Dumbacher's later comment: "Let me back you up a little bit. We haven’t made any commitments -- to any missions."

It would be interesting to know how that comment is to be squared with Dr. Holdren's Congressional testimony last week:

Quote
Statement of Dr. John P. Holdren
Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy
Executive Office of the President of the United States
to the
Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
United States House of Representatives
on
March 19, 2013

<snip>

And of course NASA is committed to carrying out the President's goal of conducting a human mission to an asteroid by 2025. That mission will benefit from current efforts to detect, track, and characterize NEOs by speeding the identification of potential targets for exploration. And in return, such a mission will generate invaluable information for use in future detection and mitigation efforts.

Alas, I lack the casuistic skills needed to address the question.
"I can’t tell you which asteroid, but there will be one in 2025," Bolden asserted.

Offline JohnFornaro

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Re: Dumbacher on SLS, Asteroids, Mars, etc.
« Reply #9 on: 03/29/2013 12:49 pm »
I.e., just like we've been saying, Orion by itself is not a deep space vehicle and is not intended to be one. So, again just like we've been saying, NASA is going to have to procure a DSH by some means if it wants to do anything beyond three-week missions in cislunar space.

There is as yet no hint that NASA has a DSH [or lander, I might add] in its program, so one wonders how the oft-declared NEO mission in 2025 is supposed to be done.  My own speculation is that NASA is trying, or plans to try, to get an international partner to supply it.  But, in any case, they don't have a lot of time to develop and demonstrate a DSH, so however it's to be done some celerity [celery? celebrity?  sorry.] is needed.

"Lander?", the casual observer might ask. It strains credulity to think that we'd send up a crew, capsule and DSH, and then just swing by the asteroid, without, well, "landing" on it. And taking what are known as "samples".   With geologically trained humans, and their vaunted superiority over robots to quickly identify which samples would be best; to quickly change plans as the facts on the ground become known; and to multi-task in a way that a specialized piece of instrumentation could not.

Cue the gravity well crowd.  Of course it's easier for the "lander" to get on and off the asteroid.  But the function is "landing", and the low gravity well brings brings a different set of problems as compared to a lunar landing.

It would be only fair for the astros to stay on the asteroid for a week, just like they would do on the next human lunar mission.  So, what's the mission profile?  No lander, and fly around looking at the asteroid, and maybe doing some up close and personal spectroscopy?  Land on the asteroid for a week, and walk around taking samples?  Or, land on the asteroid once a day, for a week, and walk around taking samples?  The "commute" profile.  They won't be roving, so there is a casually observed cost savings, but they will have to lug around their equipment.

A human tended asteroid lander will have all the functionality and equipment handling capability as a lunar lander, but for the rover.  In addition, it will probably have to have the ability for multiple starts and stops; it might be a large asteroid that couldn't be walked around sufficiently from one landing point.  The lunar lander won't need the capability of multiple starts, but would need a rover.  The delta-vee requirements are way down in the trade space between the two landers.  If the asteroid lander only makes one landing, then it will have to carry provisions for a week, just like the lunar lander.

Interestingly enough, it is probably the case that a lunar lander will cost about the same as a DSH and an asteroid lander, which is the trade space.  The three week capsule is already sufficient for the lunar mission, thus no DSH necessary.

As it turns out, I do have the necessary casuistic skills to address this question.

The only way they can justify a human asteroid mission is by artificially constraining the trade space to an asteroid mission, by presidential fiat.  Everytime they are asked to justify the mission, they say, "We’ve heard the president say that he wants NASA to go to an asteroid".

I suppose they heard that at the water cooler?

I maintain that the best analytical tool for comparing a human lunar mission and a human asteroid mission is an armchair, along with a critical human occupant.

The Oval office doesn't have an effective armchair to undertake this comparison, because the occupant is not using his comparatively expert critical skills.  To quote the honey badger, "He don't care".
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline Proponent

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Re: Dumbacher on SLS, Asteroids, Mars, etc.
« Reply #10 on: 03/29/2013 02:56 pm »
There is as yet no hint that NASA has a DSH in its program, so one wonders how the oft-declared NEO mission in 2025 is supposed to be done.  My own speculation is that NASA is trying, or plans to try, to get an international partner to supply it.  But, in any case, they don't have a lot of time to develop and demonstrate a DSH, so however it's to be done some celerity is needed.

How about this, from Aviation Week: "NASA Wants $100 Million to Catch an Asteroid."  Maybe the plan is:

  1. Hijack an asteroid and park it at lunar L2;
  2. Send a crewed Orion up on an SLS to visit it.

I should re-read the Keck study on asteroid theft before commenting further -- but I'm certainly not going to let that stop me from commenting right now!  If this could all be done by 2025, then it could actually accomplish the official goal of sending a crew to an asteroid by 2025 (and Admin. Bolden has made comments to this effect before), even if in a way that would truly satisfy only a lawyer.  The robotic asteroid snatch is supposed to cost under $3 billion, which is likely much cheaper than developing a deep-space hab module for astronauts going to an NEA ($100M is just the size of NASA's coming initial request, according to Aviation Week).  All in all, I'd say that this is the first halfway interesting idea for what to do with Orion/SLS that isn't completely implausible from a cost perspective.

On the other hand, I think this is a good idea pretty much only in the context of wanting to find something to do with Orion/SLS (causuistry...).  But I'll withhold my objections until I've reviewed the Keck paper.
« Last Edit: 03/29/2013 03:21 pm by Proponent »

Offline Proponent

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Re: Dumbacher on SLS, Asteroids, Mars, etc.
« Reply #11 on: 03/29/2013 03:27 pm »
The Keck paper is attached below.

Offline ChileVerde

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Re: Dumbacher on SLS, Asteroids, Mars, etc.
« Reply #12 on: 03/29/2013 03:45 pm »
On the other hand, I think this is a good idea pretty much only in the context of wanting to find something to do with Orion/SLS (causuistry...). 

Oh, yes, very much so. That and looking like they're carrying out the POTUS' direction.  However, as I noted in the Live Event section, I think that there could be a way of making lemonade with this scheme.  Basically use the pet asteroid as a venue for developing a DSH over time -- a variant of the EML1/2 station idea. Whether that will actually be done is TBD.
"I can’t tell you which asteroid, but there will be one in 2025," Bolden asserted.

Offline Proponent

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Re: Dumbacher on SLS, Asteroids, Mars, etc.
« Reply #13 on: 03/29/2013 03:52 pm »
[A]s I noted in the Live Event section, I think that there could be a way of making lemonade with this scheme.

I agree that some good things could come out of this and, if SLS is a given, I don't have a better idea.

At the risk of going OT, suppose appearing to follow in the direction set by POTUS weren't a concern.  What use of SLS would you prefer?
« Last Edit: 03/29/2013 03:53 pm by Proponent »

Offline ChileVerde

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Re: Dumbacher on SLS, Asteroids, Mars, etc.
« Reply #14 on: 03/29/2013 04:41 pm »
At the risk of going OT, suppose appearing to follow in the direction set by POTUS weren't a concern.  What use of SLS would you prefer?

You're right, this is getting a bit OT for the Dumbacher thread.  Maybe best to start another one in Space Policy.
"I can’t tell you which asteroid, but there will be one in 2025," Bolden asserted.

Offline muomega0

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Re: Dumbacher on SLS, Asteroids, Mars, etc.
« Reply #15 on: 03/29/2013 04:46 pm »
Quote
AmericaSpace: When this discussion broke out on AmericaSpace it became a very heated debate. Before we really got too involved we wanted to get our facts straight, which is why we contacted NASA Headquarters. One of the questions that was asked of us was, ‘If NASA saw that they could conduct these missions less expensively using smaller commercial launch vehicles—perhaps with more launches—would NASA be willing to do this?’ Would you say, ‘Look, SLS is great, but we can do it less expensively using either the Delta IV Heavy or the Falcon Heavy’? If NASA crunched the numbers and discovered it could put the mass it needed up on say six Delta IV Heavy or Falcon Heavy launches instead of one SLS, would you do that?

Dumbacher: “If we could do it for less—that is the key. Our analysis using the best data that we can lay our hands on says that there is a trade off with the amount of payload delivered per launch, launch cost, and also the complexity of on-orbit operations, and this begins to impact crew safety as well. If I start to put it up in smaller pieces, then that means there has to be more on-orbit operations that are necessary to get everything attached. And, by the way, that means that the crew will have to contend with longer exposure time in the space environment, radiation exposure, micro-meteorites, and so forth. All of that starts to play into the equation, so I think that gets lost sometimes in the debates that you’ve experienced. All of the considerations need to be factored into the analysis. It’s not just a cost equation, and, in fact, it takes a dramatic reduction in launch costs for smaller launch vehicles to be competitive from a cost perspective. You have to recognize that it is not just a per-unit cost; you also have to include the infrastructure on the ground to manufacture and assemble all of those extra launch vehicles.”

Not a very convincing answer...
Agree.

Do what for less than what?

Where are those NASA studies showing cheaper alternatives than SLS?

Mission goalpost shift
The concept was to launch ~70 to 80% of the mission mass before the crew for the moon and Mars (1.5 Launch Constellation and five, no six flight Mars DRM 5) to LEO.

Goalpost Shift:  Now launch the crew directly to L2/lunar rather than LEO in one launch so that Orion can spend 21 days BLEO.  Now how does that help certify hardware for a 180 + 180 days round trip to Mars again?  for the Asteroid? to the moon?  Will cargo and crew be mixed again contrary to CAIB with the SLS/Orion combo?  How does abundant chemical reduce trip times?  ...{snip}...

Trade on mission mass:
Presented in the Making the Business Case Close for SLS   Even at the low price of 1B/year, the case does not close.


Quote from: Dumbacher
To summarize, the three points that have been raised about SLS are as follows:
    1 — NASA does not want SLS and is working on it because it is being forced to do so. This statement, from the very highest levels within NASA, does not appear to have any basis in fact. Quite the contrary, NASA has stridently stated the exact opposite.
    2 — There is no mission for the heavy-lift booster. In the short-term this is somewhat accurate. However, Dumbacher addressed this as well. SLS is going to be used to send humans to Mars.
    3 — NASA cannot afford SLS. In actuality, the space agency is monitoring the expense of both SLS and Orion to make sure that they remain within NASA’s allotted budget.

1- The "official" NASA response without performance and cost data (reason for ITAR?) is:  NASA has compared numerous HLV only launch vehicle trade studies and have arrived at five advanced engine development programs (J2X, SSME, 5 seg SRM, composite 5 SRM, and a liquid booster to replace the 5 seg SRM and the 5 seg composite SRM) as the cheapest HLV option forward to launch a 20 mT capsule on a 130 mT HLV. ???

2-One cannot afford even a scaled back asteroid mission set and a few trips to the moon, so lets get started on that Mars colonization rocket and multiple engines today.

3-Orion and SLS fit in the budget.  No mention of $$ for missions, payloads, technology development.  Brought to you by.....i guess NASA?

See HLV Evolution for more details.
« Last Edit: 04/01/2013 01:04 pm by muomega0 »

Offline Proponent

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Re: Dumbacher on SLS, Asteroids, Mars, etc.
« Reply #16 on: 03/29/2013 05:12 pm »
Will cargo and crew be mixed again contrary to CAIB with the SLS/Orion combo?

I'm an SLS critic and I generally agree with your arguments against it, but I don't think this particular one is fair.  IIRC, the CAIB's point was that one shouldn't put a crew at risk just to deliver a cargo.  In this case, however, both crew and cargo are needed, so a crew is going to be put at risk anyway.  Whether the crew and cargo go up on the same vehicle isn't by itself important.

Of course, whether the crew goes up on a rocket with a good, long track record, like a Delta, Atlas or possibly by then a Falcon, rather than on a rarely-flown one like SLS is relevant to crew safety, but that's a separate issue.
« Last Edit: 03/29/2013 05:13 pm by Proponent »

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Re: Dumbacher on SLS, Asteroids, Mars, etc.
« Reply #17 on: 03/29/2013 08:18 pm »
There is as yet no hint that NASA has a DSH in its program, so one wonders how the oft-declared NEO mission in 2025 is supposed to be done.  My own speculation is that NASA is trying, or plans to try, to get an international partner to supply it.  But, in any case, they don't have a lot of time to develop and demonstrate a DSH, so however it's to be done some celerity is needed.

How about this, from Aviation Week: "NASA Wants $100 Million to Catch an Asteroid."  Maybe the plan is:

  1. Hijack an asteroid and park it at lunar L2;
  2. Send a crewed Orion up on an SLS to visit it.

I should re-read the Keck study on asteroid theft before commenting further -- but I'm certainly not going to let that stop me from commenting right now!  If this could all be done by 2025, then it could actually accomplish the official goal of sending a crew to an asteroid by 2025 (and Admin. Bolden has made comments to this effect before), even if in a way that would truly satisfy only a lawyer.  The robotic asteroid snatch is supposed to cost under $3 billion, which is likely much cheaper than developing a deep-space hab module for astronauts going to an NEA ($100M is just the size of NASA's coming initial request, according to Aviation Week).  All in all, I'd say that this is the first halfway interesting idea for what to do with Orion/SLS that isn't completely implausible from a cost perspective.

On the other hand, I think this is a good idea pretty much only in the context of wanting to find something to do with Orion/SLS (causuistry...).  But I'll withhold my objections until I've reviewed the Keck paper.

My only concern would be that if you're bring the asteroid to L2...do you really need SLS and Orion to visit it? What Inspiration Mars is trying to do may be pushing the envelope for FH/Dragon, but an L2 visit seems not too far of a push for SpaceX.

~Jon

Offline Lar

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Re: Dumbacher on SLS, Asteroids, Mars, etc.
« Reply #18 on: 03/29/2013 08:25 pm »

My only concern would be that if you're bring the asteroid to L2...do you really need SLS and Orion to visit it? What Inspiration Mars is trying to do may be pushing the envelope for FH/Dragon, but an L2 visit seems not too far of a push for SpaceX.

Base Dragon doesn't have an airlock so either total evacuation or an auxiliary module of some sort would be required to do EVA. But ya, not that much of a stretch
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Offline JohnFornaro

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Re: Dumbacher on SLS, Asteroids, Mars, etc.
« Reply #19 on: 03/30/2013 12:35 pm »
How about this, from Aviation Week: "NASA Wants $100 Million to Catch an Asteroid."  Maybe the plan is:

To lie about the costs from the very beginning?

In the comments after that article, Tonya (on 03-29-13) pretty much tells the naked truth:

"The title is quite misleading and should be, 'NASA wants $100m to study asteroid capture'."

AvWeek is a disinformation service.
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

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