Author Topic: I can Guarantee how the SDLV could be made by the 2009-2012 Administration  (Read 14148 times)

Offline kraisee

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I've been batting this around in my head for a number of days now and I think I may have just worked out an absolute guarantee to securing the next Administrations funding support for NASA on the SDLV program to get us back to the moon.

Bear with me and let me explain myself fully.   It's fairly complicated, but I'll try to explain it step by step.

CEV:

The CEV is irrelevant to this particular discussion.   It will be made, and it will be the primary means of getting crews into space.   It will fly some time around 2012 no matter what other plans are decided, so I am deliberately leaving CEV and its launcher, CLV out of this discussion.


Current Plan & Concerns:

The Current Plan:

* NASA's Current Plan is initially to fly up to 19 (probably 8 - 13) more Shuttle flights to 'finish' a cut-down ISS by the end of 2010.

* In 2011 NASA then plans to redirect all the money it was spending on STS operations and using it to fund the 7-year long process of designing, testing and building a new 125 ton capacity Shuttle-Derived Launch Vehicle (SDLV), which I will refer to from now onwards as "Magnum".

* Magnum will become operational some time in 2018 and will then open the door to flying to the moon again.

* We will have a first attempt at a moon landing late in 2018.


Concerns:

When STS retires it will free up $5.9Bn of cash currently required for flying Shuttle.   NASA will want to redirect that money into developing Magnum and the associated Lunar mission hardware over the next 7 years (2011 to 2018)  to be able to fly the first return to the moon mission in 2018.

As it stands today, it will be the choice of the new government elected in 2008 to serve between 2009-2012 as to whether it will let NASA keep those funds, or whether to take some or all of them away and use them elsewhere instead, like for Social Security or Medicare.

NASA and the current White House Administration are very scared of this possibility.   So they are contemplating alternatives which would circumvent it entirely.


Alternative:

Accelerate the plan:

The alternative plan gaining momentum for a variety of reasons would be to bring the Current Plan timeline forward by about 5 years and start the building of the new Lunar hardware in 2006 instead of 2011, funded by retiring STS now.

This plan has a number of serious advantages and very few disadvantages.

Pros:

* ISS can be fully completed in 2014, not just the cut-down variant Shuttle will leave by 2010, but the entire station as was originally planned with a full crew compliment and real scientific returns.

* The US could return to the moon far earlier than previously announced - by the end of 2012.

* The Mars program can be started 5 years earlier than at present.

* The budget will be far less constricted compared to the Current Plan and other important projects such as JIMO can be persued in addition to the manned Lunar program.

* All current staff can be retained throughout the transition period and all will be useful in creating the new infrastructure for the new program.

* The risk of flying Shuttle 19 more times, at the current proven success rate, would indicate a less than 1:5 chance of all 19 flights being successful.   Transfering to an inherantly safer launch vehicle would be safer for the ISS modules and the partners.


Cons:

* International Partners on the ISS project will have to wait 3-4 more years for their modules to be launched in return for having the fully operational station.

* There will be a 3.5 year gap between now and the next American crewed vehicle to launch, instead of only 2 years.


The Political landscape of 2009:

We don't know which government will be in power in the US in 2009.   But indications aren't positive that they will be pro-NASA's new plan.   In fact, both parties seem quite hostile right now.   The Democratic candidate in the last election was vocally in support of restricting NASA's role to a purely robotic exploration one.   The Republicans on the floor of the house today appear to be in favour of gutting NASA's budget to pay for hurricane relief - completely ignoring the thousands of workers from those regions who are employed by NASA.

If the new Government in 2009 were to choose badly for NASA and pull the plug on developing Magnum *before* it is ever started, it is far simpler to kill than if the development program is already half-way completed.

The negative fallout from cancelling a NASA launch vehicle before it is ever started is nowhere near the positive reaction the public would have to sinking lots of fresh money into programs the public already wants.

NASA hasn't got a chance if that policy comes about.

So what is the alternative?


Finish half, so they can do the rest:

If the alternate program were expedited immediately, you can guarantee political support for it in the next White House.

Not because it looks bad closing down a development program well underway which promises the moon (which would look bad compared to killing it before anything is started), but because it promises the moon landing will occur within just four extra years.

And that is the most important factor:

IT IS WITHIN THE FIRST TERM OF THE NEW PRESIDENT


A successful moon landing about 3-6 months before an election would pretty much wrap up a candidates chances of re-election, wouldn't it?

If NASA starts work on Magnum now, it can put three years of hard graft in before the end of 2008, leaving only 4 years of work to do.   By 2009 the project will have some serious momentum built and NASA can show the new Administration how close they are to landing on the moon late in their term.

NASA should be able to accomplish the goals in the 7-year timeframe it already expects to, so by starting now, you can plan the first lunar return mission to occur before the election of 2012.

And that absolutely, 110% guarantees you the full and vocal political and financial support of everyone in the 2009-2012 White House, whoever they are.

It's a true done-deal.

But ONLY if you start the ball rolling immediatey and change direction right now.

NASA can start the work immediately and still fly STS a few more times.   I'd suggest stocking-up the ISS one last time before Shuttle is retired and expediting a very high-profile final flight to repair Hubble.   That would keep many staff occupied during the initial stages of the transition while the concepts are finalized and the development work is ramped-up.   But you must retire all the Shuttle's in 2006 to free up the budget.   Then take it and go all-out with Contractors to get the SDLV going flat out by the end of 2006.   The Contractor empire has as much to risk as anyone else if Magnum were to be cancelled.

It doesn't require a faster program of development than is already planned, just an earlier beginning.

So, if I may be frank to anyone watching in the upper reaches of NASA - this plan is truly excellent, and it offers a really interesting opportunity which no other plan could offer.

Retire Shuttle now and guarantee the moon early, a fully operational ISS and serious Presidential support well into the next decade.   It makes political, financial, scientific and employment sence, and you'll virtually guarantee that all NASA's budget commitments will be met for the next decade at least.

You'd be crazy not to do this.

Ross.
"The meek shall inherit the Earth -- the rest of us will go to the stars"
-Robert A. Heinlein

Offline Dogsbd

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Ross, you need to present that plan before Boehlerts' committee :)

Good stuff!!


Offline FransonUK

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"I'd suggest stocking-up the ISS one last time before Shuttle is retired and expediting a very high-profile final flight to repair Hubble."

Two flights? What an horrendous waste of money it would be to have gone through hell and back to get three Orbiters back and ready and then do a "take up the food, brig back their shit" mission and then one damn risky flight to Hubble.
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Offline UK Shuttle Clan

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Good point, there's vast hidden costs with turning around and saying two flights. What about all the ETs at MAF? All the work at KSC to get ready for many more flights, etc.etc

Would only work if STS-121 was still a foam problem, but that would rule out a HSM.

Offline Martin FL

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kraisee - 7/11/2005  12:07 AM

Concerns:

When STS retires it will free up $5.9Bn of cash currently required for flying Shuttle.   NASA will want to redirect that money into developing Magnum and the associated Lunar mission hardware over the next 7 years (2011 to 2018)  to be able to fly the first return to the moon mission in 2018.


Good read, but where did you get 5.9 billion, I assume per year, being freed up?

Offline Ad Astra

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It's nearly 2006. We're not talking 20 years time, we have to start now and then not run into a tight, unsafe timeline that would damage the chances of reaching our 2018 Moon Target. The other question posed here is the cash. We need not deal with the ISS anymore, let's look beyond that and serve our exploration needs.

Offline Dobbins

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FransonUK - 7/11/2005  9:33 AM

"I'd suggest stocking-up the ISS one last time before Shuttle is retired and expediting a very high-profile final flight to repair Hubble."

Two flights? What an horrendous waste of money it would be to have gone through hell and back to get three Orbiters back and ready and then do a "take up the food, brig back their shit" mission and then one damn risky flight to Hubble.

I agree,

NASA is already under heavy criticism because of the GAO report on finances. Suddenly canceling the STS after spending a lot of money on getting the Shuttles ready to fly again would be like throwing gasoline on a fire. You would have a lot of people claiming that this proves that NASA is just "wasting the taxpayer's money" and can't be trusted with the funds for ESAS.

John B. Dobbins

Offline FransonUK

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Not omly that Dobbins, but imagine the fire caused not long after Griffin told the public that NASA has been wasting US tax money for the last 30 years! Not a clever PR stunt.
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Offline To The Stars

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I agree with your reasoning Kraisee. The whole atmosphere around the NASA budget says this is the right path to take.

Offline Dobbins

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FransonUK - 7/11/2005  10:27 AM

Not omly that Dobbins, but imagine the fire caused not long after Griffin told the public that NASA has been wasting US tax money for the last 30 years! Not a clever PR stunt.

I've never been a fan of the STS or the ISS. I would love to see both programs terminated to expedite the ESAS if, and that is a huge if, I thought doing so wouldn't create political problems for NASA  The thing is I do think abruptly canceling these programs would cause problems. I think it would make financing for the ESAS even more unlikely. That there is a far greater likelihood of Congress simply taking the money for the STS and ISS and transferring it to some other government program than there is of Congress letting NASA keep the funds and use them for the ESAS.

John B. Dobbins

Offline Peter NASA

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The likelyhood of NASA cancelling the STS program before 2010 are totally zero. Any documents, rumors or intrigue are simply over zealous comments from people who wish this was not the case. Sorry for coming across hard, but I should know, and do.

Offline Chris Bergin

We won't be imposing "what is and what isn't" on anyone here.

Offline Dogsbd

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Peter NASA - 7/11/2005  2:12 PM

The likelyhood of NASA cancelling the STS program before 2010 are totally zero. Any documents, rumors or intrigue are simply over zealous comments from people who wish this was not the case. Sorry for coming across hard, but I should know, and do.

Welcome to the site Dr. Griffin!!

;)


Offline Chris Bergin

Heh, I wish. If so, I'd be PMing him asking: "Please can I have an interview, please can I have an interview, Please can I have an interview."

Offline Peter NASA

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Sorry, I'm just used to the vultures surrounding the STS program, and no, I'm not Dr. Griffin ;)

Offline gladiator1332

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It appears NASA is going to have to come to a decision, as both plans include some pretty big consequences. However, it appears with the current plan NASA may get nothing at all. Shuttle will be retired in 2010, and the CEV is cut by the new administration, thus were left with robots and hitching rides on Kliper.

It appears that right now the White House wants to can the Shuttle a little sooner. With the question of fewer flights, and allowing NASA to purchase Soyuz spacecraft from Russia, it would only lead you to believe they want to get rid of the Shuttle.

In a way your accelerated plan is rather logical, and it seems the safest political route. However, I am unsure it will go over well internationally. However, with the current plans there are modules that are not going to be launched, with your plan everything planned goes up. I don't see how this can be viewed as NASA being unable to finish a job. When, in the current plan, they leave the ISS uncomplete. With your plan we axe the Shuttle, but still get the station done.

I love the Shuttle and think its a great spacecraft, however, if NASA's goal is the Moon, there is just no place for the Shuttle.

Offline lmike

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gladiator1332 - 7/11/2005  2:55 PM
...
However, I am unsure it will go over well internationally. However, with the current plans there are modules that are not going to be launched, with your plan everything planned goes up. I don't see how this can be viewed as NASA being unable to finish a job. When, in the current plan, they leave the ISS uncomplete. With your plan we axe the Shuttle, but still get the station done.
...

In commercial world, every time there is a delay with the launch, the payload owner turns on the meter, and the launch provider (mostly via insurance) pays for the time the payload sits on the ground.  So, a difference in launch dates of 3-4 years could run up quite a tab.  However, I don't think there is something similar with the ISS agreement.  However, the partners might want to re-write the agreement if the construction plan is so drastically changed to cover their... erm, backs.  That's another thing... the dates.  This plan seems to assume the "best oucome".  However, NASA's and contractor's ability to complete the ESAS hardware on time and within budget cannot be assumed.  So, the plan has to provide for contigencies "what happens if SDHLV is not finished by ..., something blows up, there is a money shortfall, etc...  

The partners will see as this as a "bird in the hand" situation.  The STS sequence exists, the system is safer than ever (due to all the money we've spent on it), and will finish the ISS by 2010, on the other hand the SDLHV and a whole bunch of new untested hardware doesn't exist, will be brand new and undebugged as well as the STS, when it *will* exist, and who knows if it even will exist due to internal US politics, and to top if off it'll only finish the ISS by 2015...  

I'm not saying the accelerated plan is bad, I'm actually leaning towards it (+ditching the ISS altogether, unless the Centrifuge flies)  just looking at it from another angle.  I guess it's a matter of trust.  (However, the ISS partners might want to get a promissory note or something, that if the SDHLV doesn't fly with their modules on time, NASA pays back agreed damages.  Even as a US taxpayer I'd find that fair*)

*And, hey!  What an awesome incentive way to keep NASA on its toes and busy to get the SDHLV and stuff flying ahead of time!

Offline Colby

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Well, what if we offered them some incentives. For example, if Kibo is launched, but Columbus isn't by the Shuttle before retirement, then the NASA timeshare on Kibo could be given to ESA until we launch their module on SDHLV.  We could also offer rides onboard the CEV to the ISS and possibly add ESA or JAXA astronauts to a few Moon missions, free of charge. Just some ways of paying back our international partners!

Colby

Offline kraisee

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Colby - 7/11/2005  4:32 PM

Well, what if we offered them some incentives. For example, if Kibo is launched, but Columbus isn't by the Shuttle before retirement, then the NASA timeshare on Kibo could be given to ESA until we launch their module on SDHLV.  We could also offer rides onboard the CEV to the ISS and possibly add ESA or JAXA astronauts to a few Moon missions, free of charge. Just some ways of paying back our international partners!


That's one direction I'd take.   Offer ESA and JAXA the opportunity of a ride of an astronaut to fly on a fairly early moon-bound mission if they'll agree to wait the few extra years for ISS completion (and it would be full completion, not cut-down as is currently planned).

I would also put forward a general idea to the internatinonal partners, of replacing some of the older modules of the ISS to ensure it stays operational longer.

See which idea goes over better, and go with it.

Ross.
"The meek shall inherit the Earth -- the rest of us will go to the stars"
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Offline kraisee

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Peter NASA - 7/11/2005  2:12 PM

The likelyhood of NASA cancelling the STS program before 2010 are totally zero. Any documents, rumors or intrigue are simply over zealous comments from people who wish this was not the case. Sorry for coming across hard, but I should know, and do.

While I get a suspicion you may be a significant figure from your statements, the chance of STS cancellation just simply is not zero.

If Discovery has another flight annomoly on STS-121, we're looking at about another year of down time and we all know it.

And if ANY of the remaining set of STS missions were to go very badly (God forbid), we all know that would almost certainly force the STS program to be terminated permanently. Not to mention political and public support for everything NASA does would wane considerably.

Further, in that scenario there would be no other plans in any state of readiness able to transition the staff to.   I guarantee thousands of pink slips across the organization if that happened.

And Peter, I'm not a vulture.   I love the space program.   I have radically changed my personal life around because of that love, and been forced to spend more money than you'd believe in order to be allowed the priviledge of living in the shadow of KSC.

But I'm not blinded by rose coloured glasses.

Shuttle will be retired within the next 5 years, one way or the other.

All I and my contact are saying, is that we all get FAR more back if we do it sooner rather than later.

Ross.
"The meek shall inherit the Earth -- the rest of us will go to the stars"
-Robert A. Heinlein

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