Author Topic: American Leadership in Space Technology and Advanced Rocketry Act  (Read 10071 times)

Offline Rocket Science

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Remember when the Obama administration wanted NASA to become (revert back to) a renewed cutting edge R&D role in rocket propulsion and those same congressional folks pooh poohed all over it... I find it hard to suppress my laughter sometimes if it wasn't so sad...
"The laws of physics are unforgiving"
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Offline woods170

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Remember when the Obama administration wanted NASA to become (revert back to) a renewed cutting edge R&D role in rocket propulsion and those same congressional folks pooh poohed all over it... I find it hard to suppress my laughter sometimes if it wasn't so sad...

The Obama administration recognized that it made no sense for NASA to be in the rocket building business. Unfortunately, the folks in US Congress lacked that insight. That has led directly to the mess called SLS & Orion.
« Last Edit: 04/24/2018 06:45 am by woods170 »

Offline Rocket Science

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Remember when the Obama administration wanted NASA to become (revert back to) a renewed cutting edge R&D role in rocket propulsion and those same congressional folks pooh poohed all over it... I find it hard to suppress my laughter sometimes if it wasn't so sad...

The Obama administration recognized that it made no sense for NASA to be in the rocket building business. Unfortunately, the folks in US Congress lacked that insight. That has led directly to the mess called SLS & Orion.
Agreed, focus on commercial for the immediate needs of LEO and the servicing of ISS. For HSF into deep space the plan was for a 5 year study into new technology R&D, example: to reduce travel to Mars and exposure to radiation... Makes me wonder where the agency would be now and tech developed without congressional redirection backwards..
"The laws of physics are unforgiving"
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Offline PhotoEngineer

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As someone who has seen many of today's rockets which are in development up close, and also spent a lot of time at MSFC, they are definitely holding their own in the advanced tech dept.  A lot of the things they work on get percolated out to industry - and perhaps the first time you hear about them is in a SpaceX press release.  Being able to try new ideas without worrying about return on investment is incredibly freeing, and the industry needs that to keep pushing forward (in combination with a strong commercial sector).

Just my 2 cents.

Can you give some examples?

The work being done to improve GRCop AM for example. A lot of the work for alloy development was done at Glenn and then the build / hot fire testing at MSFC.  This work led directly to the RL10 copper chamber, notice the press release never mentioned the foundation of NASA work that helped out. http://www.rocket.com/article/aerojet-rocketdyne-achieves-3-d-printing-milestone-successful-testing-full-scale-rl10-copper


Offline ChrisWilson68

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As someone who has seen many of today's rockets which are in development up close, and also spent a lot of time at MSFC, they are definitely holding their own in the advanced tech dept.  A lot of the things they work on get percolated out to industry - and perhaps the first time you hear about them is in a SpaceX press release.  Being able to try new ideas without worrying about return on investment is incredibly freeing, and the industry needs that to keep pushing forward (in combination with a strong commercial sector).

Just my 2 cents.

Can you give some examples?

The work being done to improve GRCop AM for example. A lot of the work for alloy development was done at Glenn and then the build / hot fire testing at MSFC.  This work led directly to the RL10 copper chamber, notice the press release never mentioned the foundation of NASA work that helped out. http://www.rocket.com/article/aerojet-rocketdyne-achieves-3-d-printing-milestone-successful-testing-full-scale-rl10-copper

Thanks.  Of course, in your original comment you said a SpaceX press release, but this is an Aerojet-Rocketdyne press release.  I wonder if the kind of work MSFC does these days is more relevant to AR than to SpaceX.

Of course, SpaceX is based on a foundation of basic research done by NASA and many other organizations.  I'm just wondering how relevant what MSFC does today is to what SpaceX does today.  My sense is that they've diverged and that they are following very different paths at this point, for the most part.

Offline PhotoEngineer

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As someone who has seen many of today's rockets which are in development up close, and also spent a lot of time at MSFC, they are definitely holding their own in the advanced tech dept.  A lot of the things they work on get percolated out to industry - and perhaps the first time you hear about them is in a SpaceX press release.  Being able to try new ideas without worrying about return on investment is incredibly freeing, and the industry needs that to keep pushing forward (in combination with a strong commercial sector).

Just my 2 cents.

Can you give some examples?

The work being done to improve GRCop AM for example. A lot of the work for alloy development was done at Glenn and then the build / hot fire testing at MSFC.  This work led directly to the RL10 copper chamber, notice the press release never mentioned the foundation of NASA work that helped out. http://www.rocket.com/article/aerojet-rocketdyne-achieves-3-d-printing-milestone-successful-testing-full-scale-rl10-copper

Thanks.  Of course, in your original comment you said a SpaceX press release, but this is an Aerojet-Rocketdyne press release.  I wonder if the kind of work MSFC does these days is more relevant to AR than to SpaceX.

Of course, SpaceX is based on a foundation of basic research done by NASA and many other organizations.  I'm just wondering how relevant what MSFC does today is to what SpaceX does today.  My sense is that they've diverged and that they are following very different paths at this point, for the most part.

I was talking this past week with an industry professional who was railing against SpaceX for not giving credit to those people who helped it out. So it's still very applicable.

An example for SpaceX is the Merlin engines, the first generation of them was basically the NASA Fastrac engine developed by MSFC. It definitely helps your R&D if your baseline is an engine that has already been successfully tested.
« Last Edit: 04/28/2018 10:11 pm by PhotoEngineer »

Online Coastal Ron

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I was talking this past week with an industry professional who was railing against SpaceX for not giving credit to those people who helped it out. So it's still very applicable.

Elon Musk and Gwynne Shotwell thank NASA all the time, and have for years. Most times you hear them praising NASA when they are at a pre/post-launch event. I'd say they are very honest about what they have received.

Quote
An example for SpaceX is the Merlin engines, the first generation of them was basically the NASA Fastrac engine developed by MSFC. It definitely helps your R&D if your baseline is an engine that has already been successfully tested.

I think everyone knows this in the space community, and since SpaceX has been using the Merlin engine for launches since 2010, how often does SpaceX have to remind everyone about this? SpaceX has matured Merlin quite a bit since the -1A that was based on FASTRAC, and FASTRAC itself was an outgrowth of the Apollo LEM Descent Propulsion System. What is the acknowledgement requirement here? What makes sense?

Just like everyone knows about PICA-X being developed based on what NASA Ames Research Center developed in the 1990's. But NASA has also talked about how innovative SpaceX has been in improving PICA.

So SpaceX does talk about where they have received great technologies to use as starting points, but would you say that NASA does an equal job of talking about how much SpaceX has improved upon those technologies? And created new ones like 1st stage reusability? I think NASA does acknowledge the progress of SpaceX, but I wonder if that industry professional would feel the same way?
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline woods170

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An example for SpaceX is the Merlin engines, the first generation of them was basically the NASA Fastrac engine developed by MSFC. It definitely helps your R&D if your baseline is an engine that has already been successfully tested.

That is cutting corners big time.

SpaceX took the FASTRAC design as a starting point for Merlin 1A. However, FASTRAC had a few shortcomings. Tom Mueller and his team got rid of those and applied several dozen other improvements. The result was Merlin 1A, which was FASTRAC in cycle only. Just about everything else had been changed, modified and improved.

Indeed, it helps when your R&D baseline is an existing engine. But stating that Merlin 1A was basically a FASTRAC copy is anything but correct.

Offline AncientU

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Is there any Marshall Advanced Rocketry legacy to the FFSC Raptor methalox engine, or the additive manufacturing technology that is being used to make them (and Merlins, SuperDracos) so efficiently?  How about thrust-to-weight ratios over 200?  (Fastrac was 30... 2klbs, 60klb thrust.)  Repeated starts/flights without refurbishment, repeated air starts of kerlox and methalox engines, supersonic retro-propulsion, etc. ...?

Maybe it would be easier for someone in the know to just list all of the MSFC Advanced Rocketry achievements -- say in the last ten years -- so we'll all know why this 'honor.'  A link to a current summary? MSFC web pages only talk about SLS as ongoing, Saturn V in the beginning.
« Last Edit: 04/29/2018 08:36 pm by AncientU »
"If we shared everything [we are working on] people would think we are insane!"
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Offline PhotoEngineer

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Now we have a discussion!  ;)

SpaceX is doing amazing work, I love it and love seeing where they are pushing the limits of technology.

Remember the original question was how do places like NASA MSFC add value to companies like SpaceX, so very glad to see a lot of people aware of some of the contributions. 

Regarding NASA talking about SpaceX iterating and improving on the base technology, aside from their spinoff reports I have never seen NASA talk about improvements another company made - doing so seems like a good way to get into legal trouble.

Regarding MSFC work into rockets without refurb, yes definitely.  Air starts and supersonic retro propulsion definitely benefited from NASA groundwork - involving a number of the centers (Glenn, Ames, Armstrong, etc).  Lot's of papers around on this subject.

If you want to see all the nitty gritty details of the exciting work being done, come to the JANNAF/AIAA conferences if you can!
« Last Edit: 04/29/2018 10:03 pm by PhotoEngineer »

Online Coastal Ron

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Remember the original question was how do places like NASA MSFC add value to companies like SpaceX, so very glad to see a lot of people aware of some of the contributions.

Two ways:

1. Doing what they are already doing, which is also part of their original charter - making NASA personnel and facilities available when required.

2. Having a detailed and constantly updated understanding of what the private sector needs are.

NASA has been doing #1, but I would be surprised if they are doing #2. And unless they are getting out and understanding what the industry would want from NASA, NASA will have no idea how to be of help in the future. They can only be reactive, not proactive.

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Regarding NASA talking about SpaceX iterating and improving on the base technology, aside from their spinoff reports I have never seen NASA talk about improvements another company made - doing so seems like a good way to get into legal trouble.

From my viewpoint in the public, everyone is thanking everyone quite publicly. SpaceX talks often about the help NASA has provided, and NASA talks often about what they are learning from industry partners like SpaceX - with NASA specifically talking about what SpaceX has done with PICA-X and retro-propulsion.

Which is why I don't understand when someone thinks not enough credit is being acknowledged.

Quote
Regarding MSFC work into rockets without refurb, yes definitely.  Air starts and supersonic retro propulsion definitely benefited from NASA groundwork - involving a number of the centers (Glenn, Ames, Armstrong, etc).  Lot's of papers around on this subject.

The challenge any R&D has is making sure it looks like it can be relevant in the future. And some of the R&D has to be focused on potential near-term uses, otherwise it's difficult to understand the ROI of the taxpayer spending.

Which is why #2 above is so important, because in order to understand what NASA SHOULD be working on, it needs to understand what is important for the future. And certainly part of that needs to come from industry, and hopefully some from academia too.

There is a tremendous shift going on in the aerospace sector, and I'm not sure the politicians that control NASA understand how to maximize on that for the benefit of America.

My $0.02
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline AncientU

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Problem with #2 above is that NASA Marshall is no longer in front of the industry... it is years behind and falling further back.  Cannot develop[ technology for the twentieth century that anyone will need in the twenty-first.

NASA not only needs to study and understand what the industry will need in the future, it has to have the chops to develop it.  Spending its time and money on the likes of SLS/Orion is a waste as far as furthering advanced rocketry.  Marshall should go look at BFR/BFS and decide what technology they can develop to get out ahead of that beast.


"If we shared everything [we are working on] people would think we are insane!"
-- SpaceX friend of mlindner

Offline spacetraveler

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Marshall should go look at BFR/BFS and decide what technology they can develop to get out ahead of that beast.

Well, that's not really up to them. Like any NASA center, they simply carry out policy, they don't make it. SLS is the current work they've been directed to do.
« Last Edit: 05/01/2018 05:29 am by spacetraveler »

Offline john smith 19

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Now we have a discussion!  ;)

SpaceX is doing amazing work, I love it and love seeing where they are pushing the limits of technology.

Remember the original question was how do places like NASA MSFC add value to companies like SpaceX, so very glad to see a lot of people aware of some of the contributions. 
No. It was actually an observation of how parts of Congress want to mandate things and the OP's view that Marshall is not that relevant to modern US LV development, which is why this is in the "space policy"

Politicians trying to get out in front and 'lead':
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The “American Leadership in Space Technology and Advanced Rocketry Act” would designate NASA MSFC as providing “rocket propulsion leadership” for the US. The “Commercial Space Support Vehicle Act” covers licensing of vehicles that support comm’l launches. http://bit.ly/2ICVLGj
https://twitter.com/jeff_foust/status/975897395794935808

Quote
The legislation designates Marshall Space Flight Center as NASA’s lead center for rocket propulsion and establishes it as essential to sustaining and promoting U.S. leadership in rocket propulsion and developing the next generation of rocket propulsion capabilities.

And it's not April 1st yet.


Quote from: PhotoEngineer
Regarding NASA talking about SpaceX iterating and improving on the base technology, aside from their spinoff reports I have never seen NASA talk about improvements another company made - doing so seems like a good way to get into legal trouble.

Regarding MSFC work into rockets without refurb, yes definitely.  Air starts and supersonic retro propulsion definitely benefited from NASA groundwork - involving a number of the centers (Glenn, Ames, Armstrong, etc).  Lot's of papers around on this subject.

If you want to see all the nitty gritty details of the exciting work being done, come to the JANNAF/AIAA conferences if you can!
IIRC NASA was able to eliminate about $50m  from its retro propulsion study when SX just fired its engines in the upper atmosphere as part of its attempts at booster fly back.

NASA is 11 centers many of which do great work.  Glenn especially for alloys, Ames for TPS etc. They offer unique very large facilities that would be difficult to duplicate anywhere else. These are valuable resources available to the whole US aerospace (we sometimes forget NASA does aircraft as well).

But NASA is not allowed to control what centers it can shut down (by Act of Congress) something which AFAIK other Federal agencies (the other 21) are empowered to do.

So the question is what does Marshall do  that's so important to NASA and HSF?

Because if we're talking "competence" let's remember they accepted both Boeing and LM's proposals for SSME US without checking if that was in fact possible. let's also remember that due to the structural changes in the US rocket industry that most of both companies is now housed in ULA, which would have been the  logical place to go to get SLS built in the first place.

But you might say ."But these were thy guys who built Apollo."
Well, no their grandfathers were those guys.  North American Rockwell built Shuttle in California. These guys built the Ares 1-x. A dummy 2nd stage on a Shuttle SRB with a dummy 5th segment. It took them half a decade to do so and it was still unimpressive in terms of its ability to carry astronauts.

Or maybe we should consider the J-2X?  It was remarkably difficult to find much on the original J-2X (almost like someone had weeded the archive). A LH2/LO2 engine that didn't need cool down or a gas generator and was "full flow" at reasonable chamber pressures? That accepted 2 phase flow? That (right at the end of the programme) cracked how to eliminate the cartridge starts, opening the way for unlimited on orbit restarts. That was ground breaking. 

And what  of the modern J-2X. Basically a Delta engine (allegedly impossible to human rate)  with RL10 nozzle extensions "magically" human rated by the addition of the LH2 turbo pump from a J2?

Engineering competence starts by choosing a good simple design. Segmented SRB's sort of promise this, but segmented SRB's had already killed 6 US astronauts. That should have given competent engineers very serious pause for thought about such an architecture. Perhaps seeing if there was a way to shut down the engine now it's a single stick? apparently not.  :(

So what does Marshall do that's so unique and how competent is it?
« Last Edit: 05/02/2018 07:20 am by john smith 19 »
BFS. The worlds first Methane fueled FFORSC engined CFRP stainless steel structure A380 sized aerospaceplane tail sitter capable of flying in Earth and Mars atmospheres. BFR. The worlds biggest Methane fueled FFORSC engined CFRP stainless steel structure booster for BFS. First flight to Mars by end of 2022. Forward looking statements. T&C apply. Believe no one. Run your own numbers. So, you are going to Mars to start a better life? Picture it in your mind. Now say what it is out loud.

Offline john smith 19

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SpaceX took the FASTRAC design as a starting point for Merlin 1A. However, FASTRAC had a few shortcomings. Tom Mueller and his team got rid of those and applied several dozen other improvements. The result was Merlin 1A, which was FASTRAC in cycle only. Just about everything else had been changed, modified and improved.
On that basis the Merlin is a "development" of the F1 on the Saturn.  :(

It is actually very hard to find (or do) a truly new development in the rocket engineering field that hasn't been tried at some time or other.
BFS. The worlds first Methane fueled FFORSC engined CFRP stainless steel structure A380 sized aerospaceplane tail sitter capable of flying in Earth and Mars atmospheres. BFR. The worlds biggest Methane fueled FFORSC engined CFRP stainless steel structure booster for BFS. First flight to Mars by end of 2022. Forward looking statements. T&C apply. Believe no one. Run your own numbers. So, you are going to Mars to start a better life? Picture it in your mind. Now say what it is out loud.

Offline woods170

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SpaceX took the FASTRAC design as a starting point for Merlin 1A. However, FASTRAC had a few shortcomings. Tom Mueller and his team got rid of those and applied several dozen other improvements. The result was Merlin 1A, which was FASTRAC in cycle only. Just about everything else had been changed, modified and improved.

On that basis the Merlin is a "development" of the F1 on the Saturn.  :(

Yes, in that Merlin 1A uses a gas-generator cycle, like F1.
No, in that Merlin 1A has several design features that very much set it apart from F1. For example: pintle injector.
It is also this that sets Merlin 1A apart from FASTRAC. Merlin 1A uses the same design-choices as FASTRAC, but not the same design.

Offline AncientU

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SpaceX took the FASTRAC design as a starting point for Merlin 1A. However, FASTRAC had a few shortcomings. Tom Mueller and his team got rid of those and applied several dozen other improvements. The result was Merlin 1A, which was FASTRAC in cycle only. Just about everything else had been changed, modified and improved.

On that basis the Merlin is a "development" of the F1 on the Saturn.  :(

Yes, in that Merlin 1A uses a gas-generator cycle, like F1.
No, in that Merlin 1A has several design features that very much set it apart from F1. For example: pintle injector.
It is also this that sets Merlin 1A apart from FASTRAC. Merlin 1A uses the same design-choices as FASTRAC, but not the same design.

Merlin 1A is ancient history. 
How about Merlin 1D technology -- mass, thrust, T/W ratio, cost, 3D fab parts, regen nozzle, face shutoff, ... -- how similar to FASTRAC is that?  What has MSFC done with FASTRAC since 2000?
"If we shared everything [we are working on] people would think we are insane!"
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Offline Jim

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As someone who has seen many of today's rockets which are in development up close, and also spent a lot of time at MSFC, they are definitely holding their own in the advanced tech dept.  A lot of the things they work on get percolated out to industry - and perhaps the first time you hear about them is in a SpaceX press release.  Being able to try new ideas without worrying about return on investment is incredibly freeing, and the industry needs that to keep pushing forward (in combination with a strong commercial sector).

Just my 2 cents.


Not really.   Most of MSFC is not research but bodies supporting SLS.

Offline woods170

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SpaceX took the FASTRAC design as a starting point for Merlin 1A. However, FASTRAC had a few shortcomings. Tom Mueller and his team got rid of those and applied several dozen other improvements. The result was Merlin 1A, which was FASTRAC in cycle only. Just about everything else had been changed, modified and improved.

On that basis the Merlin is a "development" of the F1 on the Saturn.  :(

Yes, in that Merlin 1A uses a gas-generator cycle, like F1.
No, in that Merlin 1A has several design features that very much set it apart from F1. For example: pintle injector.
It is also this that sets Merlin 1A apart from FASTRAC. Merlin 1A uses the same design-choices as FASTRAC, but not the same design.

Merlin 1A is ancient history. 
How about Merlin 1D technology -- mass, thrust, T/W ratio, cost, 3D fab parts, regen nozzle, face shutoff, ... -- how similar to FASTRAC is that?  What has MSFC done with FASTRAC since 2000?

How similar you ask? That's easy. Cycle only. In almost every other aspect it is a completely different beast.

As to what MSFC has done with FASTRAC since 2000? The answer is: nothing. There were no takers for it. Not even SpaceX because Tom et al. decided to do an independent development (Merlin 1A). Fastrac has been mothballed indefinitely.

Two of the engine bells developed for FASTRAC ended up as a table bases at MSFC:
https://www.nasa.gov/centers/marshall/about/star/star140820.html#fastrac
« Last Edit: 05/01/2018 05:47 pm by woods170 »

Offline john smith 19

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As someone who has seen many of today's rockets which are in development up close, and also spent a lot of time at MSFC, they are definitely holding their own in the advanced tech dept.  A lot of the things they work on get percolated out to industry - and perhaps the first time you hear about them is in a SpaceX press release.  Being able to try new ideas without worrying about return on investment is incredibly freeing, and the industry needs that to keep pushing forward (in combination with a strong commercial sector).

Just my 2 cents.


Not really.   Most of MSFC is not research but bodies supporting SLS.
Which does beg the question "If SLS went away what would there be left for those people to do?"
BFS. The worlds first Methane fueled FFORSC engined CFRP stainless steel structure A380 sized aerospaceplane tail sitter capable of flying in Earth and Mars atmospheres. BFR. The worlds biggest Methane fueled FFORSC engined CFRP stainless steel structure booster for BFS. First flight to Mars by end of 2022. Forward looking statements. T&C apply. Believe no one. Run your own numbers. So, you are going to Mars to start a better life? Picture it in your mind. Now say what it is out loud.

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