- Parabolic Arc
- June 2, 2023
NASA’s Uncertain Path Back to the Moon
by Douglas Messier
Nothing illustrates the changes wrought by the Trump Administration’s decision to move up the deadline for returning astronauts to the moon from 2028 to 2024 than a pair of contracts NASA awarded for the Lunar Gateway that will serve as a staging point for the landing.
In May, Maxar won a competitively awarded $375 million contract to build the Gateway’s Power and Propulsion Element (PPE). NASA released a source selection statement that detailed how officials evaluated the five bids they received and why Maxar’s proposal was superior to the others.
The source selection statement is designed to demonstrate that the process was fair, and that NASA made a decision that is in the best interest of the space agency and taxpayers. It would be a key document if any of the losing bidders decided to appeal the decision to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
NASA took a very different approach in awarding the contract for the Gateway’s Minimum Habitat Module (MHM) that will house astronauts. After paying five companies to construct habitat mock-ups, the space agency decided to make a single-source, non-competitive award to Northrop Grumman.
The reason? Northrop was the only company that could have the MHM in place in time for the 2024 landing date. Bidding out the project would take too long, the space agency said.
Northrop will adapt the Cygnus spacecraft it uses to ferry supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). Eleven of the expendable spacecraft have flown to the station.
The decision makes good on NASA’s pledge to move faster to meet the accelerated deadline. In skipping a competitive award process, the space agency used its authority under the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP-2) program, which it used for the habitat mock-up contracts.
Whether the MHM award will stand up against any appeals filed with GAO by the losing bidders remains to be seen. Bigelow Aerospace Founder Robert Bigelow has already publicly questioned the award.
Vice President Mike Pence’s announcement in March that the first human moon landing since 1972 would be moved up four years has, to borrow a cliche from Silicon Valley, disrupted the U.S. space program.
Speaking during a meeting of the National Space Council in Huntsville, Ala., Pence said that NASA Administration Jim Bridenstine had told him five minutes before the session began that the space agency had a plan to accomplish the new goal.
Yet, when it came time for Bridenstine to speak later in the meeting, he had nothing. There was no plan, no budget, no clear path to a landing in 2024. NASA apparently had not done any of the trades — comparisons of the costs, benefits and drawbacks of various mission architectures — that would have allowed the administrator to present anything remotely resembling a plan.
The lack of preparation — and, apparently, lack of prior consultation with Congress — have given the last four months an improvised quality. Bridenstine and his team have scrambled to fit a nine-year program into five at a cost that would be palatable to Congress and the Trump Administration.
NASA’s more leisurely schedule to land in 2028 was designed to avoid the “flags and footprints” approach that limited the Apollo program to six brief explorations of the surface before it concluded in December 1972.
Sustainability would be the key. The U.S. would return to the moon to stay using reusable vehicles and permanent habitats. While they were there, astronauts would test out the technologies needed for more ambitious human missions to Mars. And partnerships would be forged with private companies interested in mining lunar resources.
Bridenstine says those goals for the newly renamed Artemis program remain, although in a modified form.
American Flags & Footprints First
The plan that has emerged would schedule a flags and footprints landing for 2024 while postponing the development of elements that would enable sustainability to the 2025-2028 period. The initial Lunar Gateway has been radically scaled down, and reusable vehicles are being delayed.
The new plan front loads all the glory of a moon landing into a presidential election year (we’ll get to that in a moment) while back loading much of the expense and technological complexity on to whoever becomes president in 2025.
The change might also raise the total cost of the Artemis program. A plan that builds sustainability in from the start might be cheaper than one that adds it in later.
Retiring Political Risk
The accelerated lunar program has certain lit a fire under NASA, giving the space agency a sense of urgency that it hasn’t had in a long time. Strong support from the White House is often necessary to push big programs like Artemis forward.
Given the opportunity to return to the moon, NASA employees reacted with a lot of skepticism. Oh, not again! Presidents since Apollo have pointed to the moon, Mars and/or asteroids promising to send astronauts there. And yet, nobody has ventured beyond low Earth orbit (LEO) in nearly 47 years.
As Bridenstine has scrambled to develop a new plan, he has repeatedly reassured NASA employees would not be another example of Lucy Van Pelt pulling the football away from Charlie Brown as he tried to kick it — a gag seen in “Peanuts” comic strip and television specials.
The NASA administrator has argued that accelerating the moon landing would reduce the political risk to the Artemis program of constantly changing priorities that have resulted from new presidential administrations.
Bridenstine is right in one sense. It is doubtful Trump would be very enthused about a moon landing that can’t be accomplished during a hoped-for second term. For a man who has put his name on everything from hotels to steaks and wines, it’s the ultimate branding opportunity.
Because NASA has told Trump that it cannot accomplish a crewed flight to his preferred destination, Mars, before the 2030’s, he has rather reluctantly settled on the moon.
However, reducing political risk by accelerating Artemis assumes two conditions that are not yet in evidence.
The first condition is continuity of leadership: there’s no guarantee that Trump and Pence will be re-elected next year. A Democratic president with other priorities and no interest in rushing to the moon could enter office in 2021.
Back loading all the complicated and expensive elements of returning to the moon to the 2025-28 period has its own risks. Would a new president continue funding the program? A flags and footprints mission in 2024 might result in the same reduction in political and public support that followed the Apollo 11 landing in 1969.
The second condition that must exist — regardless of when the landing takes place — is bi-partisan support in Congress. If the support and the funding are not there, NASA will have a difficult time sustaining Artemis.
Bridenstine has said he has heard a lot of support for the 2024 landing from legislators of both parties. Other signs from Capitol Hill are not as encouraging, however.
The political rationale for moving up the moon landing is clear enough. Trump and Pence will campaign over the next 15 months on the promise of making NASA great again by landing astronauts on the moon during their second term. The program supports a lot of jobs in key states such as Florida, Texas and Alabama.
The plan would allow the president to retire in 2024 having put the Trump brand on the moon. Pence would run to succeed him as the man who spearheaded the effort as chairman of the National Space Council.
It would be a much easier plan to implement if Republicans still controlled both houses of Congress. But, the Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives last years makes it a much more difficult pitch.
Democrats are not inclined to support anything that helps Trump and Pence get reelected. In fact, House Democrats have just begun impeachment inquiry to remove Trump from office in the wake of special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony before Congress last week.
But, the skepticism goes far beyond their hatred of Trump. House Science Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (R-Texas) has criticized the administration for putting forth an “ill-defined crash program” without a compelling rationale to accelerate it by four years.
Pence has invoked China in justifying the new date.
“We’re in a space race today, just as we were in the 1960s and the stakes are even higher,” Pence said during the National Space Council meeting in March.
“Last December, China became the first nation to land on the far side of the moon and revealed their ambition to seize the lunar strategic high ground and become the world’s preeminent space-faring nation,” he added.
Johnson is among many in Congress who are not buying it.
“The simple truth is that we are not in a space race to get to the Moon. We won that race a half-century ago, as this year’s commemoration of Apollo 11 makes clear,” Johnson said.
“And using outdated Cold War rhetoric about an adversary seizing the lunar strategic high ground only begs the question of why if that is the Vice President’s fear, the Department of Defense with its more than $700 billion budget request, doesn’t seem to share that fear and isn’t tasked with preventing it from coming to pass,” she added.
What is this Going to Cost?
Cost is another concern. Initial press reports indicated NASA would have to spend $20 to $30 billion more over five years to land on the moon by 2024. That would be on top of NASA’s current $21.5 billion annual budget.
Bridenstine denied the amount was that high. He estimates NASA could accomplish a landing in five years for less than $20 billion in addition funding using commercial partnerships. However, he does not have any firm estimate yet.
One key element of the Artemis architecture that NASA has not awarded any contracts for yet is the lunar lander that will take astronauts to and from the lunar surface. Five years is not a lot of time to develop such a complicated vehicle.
Members of Congress have expressed concerns about Artemis raiding other NASA programs that have strong bi-partisan support. The Trump Administration requested that Congress give Bridenstine the authority to transfer funding from other programs to meet the 2024 deadline. The request received a cool reception on Capitol Hill.
There are also concerns about cuts in other parts of the federal budget. A Trump Administration plan to increase funding for Artemis by raiding the surplus in the Pell Grants program was strongly opposed in Congress. The grants fund college education for students with financial needs.
FY 2020 Budget Requests
For fiscal year 2020 that begins on Oct. 1, the Trump Administration requested funding increases for Artemis that would have required cuts in other parts of the agency’s budget. The administration subsequently submitted a supplemental request of $1.3 billion of new lunar spending that didn’t raid other programs.
The budget requests have received a cool reception from House Democrats. The House Science Committee has largely rejected the proposed increases for Artemis and the cuts in other programs.
The committee did not take up the $1.3 billion supplemental request, which was submitted only days before legislators voted on the NASA funding bill. Legislators will likely to take up the request at a later date.
The Senate has not weighed in on NASA’s FY 2020 request yet. Sen. Cruz, who chairs the Senate space subcommittee, has said he is working with fellow legislators on an authorization bill that lays out “a bold, visionary agenda for NASA and manned space exploration so that America continues to lead the world in exploring space.”
Cruz did not elaborate except to say that it would support the Trump Administration’s plans to send astronauts to the moon and on to Mars. Differences between the House and Senate spending bills would be worked out in a joint committee.
One positive bit of budget news is the Trump Administration and Congressional leaders worked out a two-year funding deal last week that will increase federal spending by $320 billion and raise the amount the government can borrow to fund itself.
The agreement still has to pass muster with the full Congress, so it’s not a done deal yet. But, it makes it possible that Congress will pass and the president will sign a federal before the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1. That has not happened in many years.
If there is no budget by Oct. 1, Congress would need to pass a continuing resolution (CR) that would keep funding at FY 2019 levels and prevent the start of new programs. Bridenstine has said a CR would be devastating to efforts to meet the 2024 landing date.
One key problem with Artemis is that nobody yet knows what the revamped program will cost. The Trump Administration wants Congress to provide initial funding now, but it doesn’t plan to reveal cost estimates for the program until it presents the fiscal year 2021 budget request in February.
Now, that’s not normally how these things normally work. Congress doesn’t sign on to supporting programs without solid cost projections. It’s not that the numbers will always prove correct, but members need something to base their decision on.
Trust us, the Trump Administration is telling Congress. Bridenstine, who became a space policy expert while serving in the House before being appointed NASA administrator, has credibility on Capitol Hill. He has even won over Democratic members who opposed his confirmation, largely based on his denial of global warming.
Trump is far less credible, particularly among Democrats. As of June 10, Trump had made 10,776 false or misleading statements since taking office 869 days earlier. That is an average of 12.4 statements per day, a rate political analysts say is unprecedented in American politics.
During his speech in March, Pence vowed to use “any means necessary” to accomplish the moon landing by 2024. That he made that vow in Huntsville was seen as a threat to the Marshall Space Flight Center, the NASA center there that oversees development of the perpetually delayed and over budget Space Launch System (SLS) that will launch moon missions. Get the program on track, or heads will roll.
Earlier this month, Bridenstine made good on the threat. The administrator removed William Gerstenmaier from his post overseeing Artemis and NASA’s other human spaceflight programs.
Gerstenmaier was shifted into an advisory role that is probably his first step out the door of an agency where he has worked for 42 years. Former NASA astronaut Ken Bowersox took over as associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations in an acting capacity.
Christian Davenport at The Washington Post reports the change was removed due to additional delays in the moon program.
Industry officials said that [Vice President Mike] Pence and others in the White House have become livid about the agency’s lack of progress, particularly regarding the massive rocket known as the Space Launch System, or SLS, that NASA has been developing for more than a decade but has yet to fly. White House officials expressed their dismay to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine at a meeting within the last few weeks, according to a space industry official not authorized to speak publicly about internal deliberations.
In an interview Thursday evening, Bridenstine strongly denied that, saying, “If they are frustrated with the agency’s efforts, they haven’t communicated that to me because we’re moving out to get to the moon in 2024.” He added: “I just want to be clear — this was my decision. I didn’t get this from the White House at all.”
There had also been tension between Bridenstine and Gerstenmaier, officials said. Bridenstine repeatedly had said, for example, that he would not cut other programs within the agency to fund the moon program, known as Artemis. But Gerstenmaier contradicted him during an advisory council meeting, saying recently, “We’re going to have to look for some efficiencies and make some internal cuts to the agency, and that’s where it’s going to be hard,” he said, according to SpaceNews.
The National Space Council declined to comment, but an administration official said, “This was an internal NASA decision, and Administrator Bridenstine’s statement speaks for itself.”
Bridenstine said that he thinks “very highly” of Gerstenmaier, said there was no tension between them and praised Gerstenmaier’s 42 years of service to the agency. But he added that he had been thinking about making a change for some time and had grown weary of the repeated schedule delays and cost overruns of the hardware needed to meet the White House’s 2024 mandate.
Politico also reports
Gerstenmaier’s abrupt reassignment this week from the space agency’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate came after a “blow up” with Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard over additional delays with the Space Launch System rocket and Orion capsule, a space industry insider with direct knowledge tells us.
NASA has since acknowledged that the first flight of SLS and Orion around the moon without a crew has slipped from 2020 to 2021. Some sources say the mission will not occur until late 2021.
Such a delay could endanger the 2024 landing date. NASA plans to send a crew around the moon on the second SLS/Orion flight. Astronauts would utilize the Lunar Gateway as a staging location to land at the lunar south pole on the third flight.
It should be noted that NASA is building SLS against the wishes of Trump’s predecessor. In 2010, the Obama Administration canceled the Constellation program, which included the Orion spacecraft and two Ares rockets derived from space shuttle technologies.
In the place of Constellation, the Obama Administration proposed the Commercial Crew program to carry astronauts to the International Space Station and a research program to develop a new heavy-lift vehicle for deep-space missions.
Congress balked. Under a compromise, Orion was saved while the smaller Ares that would have launched it on flights to the space station was canceled in favor of commercial crew. The heavy-lift Ares rocket for Orion missions into deep space evolved into the shuttle-derived SLS.
Thus, it is difficult to determine how much Gerstenmaier is to blame for Artemis’ problems, and how much can be attributed to the complicated SLS booster that Congress insisted NASA build. It remains to be seen whether a change of leadership will move Artemis along any faster.
A Commercial Approach
On inference that many people drew from Pence’s “any means necessary” threat in Huntsville was that SLS itself was on the chopping block if there were further delays in the Artemis program.
That’s the path that many commercial space advocates want NASA to take. Some believe it’s the only way for the space to meet the 2024 deadline. Canceling SLS and moving Orion to commercial rockets would free up billions of dollars for lunar landers and surface elements, they argue.
Following Pence’s announcement, Bridenstine suggested SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy could be used to send Orion on an un-piloted mission around the moon instead of SLS. He later said a NASA study indicated the option would take longer than using SLS.
In late May, Bridenstine announced the space agency would be sticking with its existing architecture.
“SLS and Orion is the only system that gives us any chance of getting there in 2024,” Bridenstine said. “We’ve looked at everything, we’ve considered everything and SLS and Orion, that is the system. And once it’s developed, we will use it over and over and over again.”
Bridenstine has said NASA plans to use commercial launchers to build and supply the Lunar Gateway. But, SLS remains at the heart of the Trump Administration’s accelerated lunar program.
Canceling SLS with a presidential election looming next year would be politically risky. It would put a lot of people out of work in key states that Trump and Pence would have to carry in order to win re-election.
Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby strenuously opposes any effort to cancel the giant rocket. The powerful Republican legislator chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee and serves on the subcommittee that approves NASA’s budgets. Shelby also led the fight against the Obama Administration’s cancelation of Constellation.
Shelby is not the only member of Congress the Administration would anger if it were to cancel SLS. The program enjoys broad bi-partisan support there.
And, in Summary
So, here’s where we are four months after Pence’s surprise announcement that the Trump Administration was moving up the moon landing by four years:
- NASA has settled on contracts for two elements of the Lunar Gateway;
- a budget agreement provides hope for additional funding, but it’s too early to know how much NASA might get;
- Bridenstine has made a vague cost prediction for additional funding (under $20 billion) without providing any details;
- Congress is being asked to approve a substantial down payment based on trust;
- House Democrats have no trust in the president, no desire to see him re-elected, and are not convinced the United States in a new race to the moon with China;
- the political risk of canceling SLS and moving Orion to commercial boosters before a presidential election is extremely high;
- moving the landing up four years doesn’t necessarily retire other political risks;
- NASA hasn’t awarded any contracts for the landing vehicle that would take astronauts to and from the lunar surface; and,
- the entire program remains tied to a launch architecture that is enormously expensive and whose first flight has slipped again.
That’s one helluva way to run a railroad. It remains to be seen whether NASA can build one that can get two astronauts to the lunar surface in five years.
162 responses to “NASA’s Uncertain Path Back to the Moon”
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The lack of preparation —and, apparently, lack of prior consultation with Congress — have given the last four months an improvised quality.
Surely, you mean the last 30 months. Oh, you’re just talking about NASA, not everything that the administration has done. Uh, yeah – improvised.
Bridenstine has said he has heard a lot of support for the 2024 landing from legislators of both parties.
They lure him into the cloak room, where they whisper sweet nothings into his ear. Then things happen that we won’t speak of here. But sweet Jim’s very upbeat. Ignore the tears and the bruises. What was that Fiona Apple song?
The plan would allow the president to retire in 2024 having put the Trump brand on the moon.
He’s stopped talking about a third term?
Pence would run to succeed him as the man who spearheaded the effort as chairman of the National Space Council.
Ivanka has changed her mind about running?
Democrats are not inclined to support anything that helps Trump and Pence get reelected.
Other than running a Hillary2 campaign with Joe Biden as the stand-in. I think that may count as helping.
Initial press reports indicated NASA would have to spend $20 to $30 billion more over five years to land on the moon by 2024.
Initial press reports indicated NASA would have to spend $30 to $40 billion. Bridenstine gave the $20 to $30 billion estimate to Congress, then started throwing out the maybe-less-than-20 line in interviews that same day, thereby demonstrating that he’s just making stuff up.
During his speech in March, Pence vowed to use “any means necessary” to accomplish the moon landing by 2024..
“I’d hate to see anything unfortunate happen to Ivanka.”
“Pence would run to succeed him as the man who spearheaded the effort as chairman of the National Space Council.
Ivanka has changed her mind about running?”
It’s only rocket science. Nothing to it really.
Gerstenmaier in his SLS Status Report testimony before a Congressional hearing in December, 2014 gave that distinct impression – everything was under control and there were no problems. He told those legislators that the SLS was a challenging project but all KDPs and CDRs had been met. I’m sure they went away from that hearing thinking that the project was in good hands. The trouble is of course that none of what Gerst said turned out to be the case.
because at the time…no one cared when SLS flew
Yes, things can change in a political instant.
But really, does anyone that understands space policy care when SLS flies? It’s like caring about when the Princess Flying Boat would fly.
Because if SLS flies then NASA is going to try the program with it or claim they can…
The Gang Of Three’s (Trump/Pence/Jimbo) only hope is a Hail Mary from SpaceX’s Starship. NASA is starting to put bits and pieces together (surface suits & communications) but are still way way short on surface accommodation(s). The minute they order the mobile surface habitats, as per the prototype tested in the desert in 2009/10, to be built by Tesla, then you’ll know for sure that they have put your money on Starship. Good luck with that, it’s going to be needed in spades. 🙁
That Hail Mary is the thinnest of hopes. What is the chance that NASA will certify Starship for human transport in time for a 2024 trip to the Moon? That seems so unlikely as to be unworthy of consideration, even without the politics.
But it’s only necessary for NASA to certify it if they send astronauts aboard it. Otherwise it only needs a FAA license to fly to the Moon. And remember, VP Pence has been very careful to say American Astronauts, not NASA Astronauts, so NASA may well end up watching it on TV with the rest of us.?
True, but someone has to pay for it. For SpaceX to foot the bill themselves, Musk would have to decide that putting people on the Moon, and by doing so showing up NASA, was on his critical path.
Thomas has replied to you, Emmet, exactly as I would have. How much would SpaceX charge for two round tickets to the Lunar surface? A million a piece? Couple of million a piece? Ten million a piece? All chicken feed to NASA. Don’t forget Pence would spring it out of his own pocket, if it would help contribute towards his occupancy of the Oval Office of The White House in his own right, which it certainly would. Regards, Paul.
They would charge more than that. Once it’s in LEO, Starship needs to be refueled before it sets out for its roundtrip journey to the Moon’s surface. It will take 4 or 5 additional Starships to ferry up the fuel, or one really busy one. Think of the range fees. Lots of launch/landing pads, or one really busy one.
They also have to source the spacesuits. Those people are going to want to get out, walk around, snap some selfies, leave some footprints, plant a flag, stack up some bags of poo. You know, moon stuff.
Of course, they’ll need to rappel down the 60+ feet from the crew section to the surface, then hoist themselves back up later. In those spacesuits. Is there an elevator? The patent is pending on Jeff’s Blue Moon dune buggy hoist.
It will take some doing, and more than one SHS built on a beach. It will cost some real money. That’s assuming Elon Musk wants to get Ivanka elected. She gets the credit for Starship too, right? It’s all one happy Reich. Or do we even have elections at that point?
I figure Don Jr.will be named the Arch Duke of Nevada. Eric gets Sealand. Pence gets the night of the long knives.
Forget the political fallout, Emmet, that will be a total mine field. Forget the “patent” on a hoist, a hoist is a hoist, they have been around for centuries. Any attempt to “patent” a hoist will likely go the way of the “patent” of landing a booster upon a vessel at sea (apparently Bezos didn’t learn anything, the time he got kicked by that mule). Lastly, they won’t be the only ones going along on that ride. To fulfil Pence’s directive, they only have to go tourist, and, with no age restriction, if they are old enough, they just might qualify for a pensioner discount. 🙂 Paul.
apparently Bezos didn’t learn anything, the time he got kicked by that mule
Bezos was going to an old playbook when he tried to patent landings on a sea vessel. Back when the web was young and Amazon was younger, he successfully enforced his “One Click Shopping” patent against Barnes & Noble, despite the fact that it was a trivial and indeed intended application of Netscape’s Common Gateway Interface, which to this day is the backbone of interactive web pages.
But in the mid 90s, federal judges were not very savvy about the world wide web, the public at large was not engaged, and I guess Amazon’s lawyers were slicker. Barnes & Noble were forced to make their checkout system more difficult to use. Never mind what the CGI for Dummies book said. Jeff Who’s got a patent. They never recovered.
So when Jeff saw SpaceX doing what Blue Origin had intended to do but never got around to (still haven’t), and still smarting from his failure to block the LC-39a lease, he trotted out the old patent trick. Jeff’s not in a race with anyone. This isn’t a competition. We’ll fly when we’re ready. But let’s just shut these guys down anyway. But this time lots of people were paying attention, SpaceX was disrupting an entire industry, and the judge was more amenable to looking at prior art. Maybe he was a reader.
a hoist is a hoist
This is a special hoist, Paul. It’s a Blue Moon Hoist, designed to work in 1/6 gravity in a regolith rich, hard vacuum environment. There has never before been a hoist like this one. Our attorneys assure us that we have a strong case.
What you may be able to patent is the type of hardware construction, if unique, e.g. dust resistant electric motor/gearing (winch), etc.. What you can’t patent is 1/6 gravity/vacuum operation effects, gearing reduction, electric winch operation, swivelling boom, etc. etc. etc.. (a hoist is a hoist).
“Our attorneys assure us that we have a strong case” – be careful, self interest can be very deceptive.
I cannot see your reply to me on my 1,2,3,3, reentry…but enjoyed it
Two 3’s sorry I am out by the pool here in Manila…
Aside from all the technical challenges are the money ones…but…
Having said that. SpaceX does not go all that fast…really they dont 🙂
It got marked as spam, apparently.
And along the way MUsk needs to
1. Master on orbit refueling of cryos’ 2) demonstrate rapid turn around 3) build a functioning crew quarters, 3) build space suits, 4) build stuff to do on lunar fuel recovery, 5) demonstrate that…and some others but those are the tough ones…assuming he masters reentry…
Suits aren’t a problem. ILC Dover already has a new design and they aren’t the only supplier. Musk can buy all the suits he wants, especially once SLS is dead. Who else would they sell to? NASA hasn’t bought any new suits of any kind in quite awhile.
Or he returns with a couple tons of Moon rocks to sell collectors to pay for it.?
Once a private company puts peple on the Moon, moon rocks will go from the rarest of things to curios. Certainly, there will be a market. SpaceX may want to look into an Amazon storefront. Jeff Who can handle fulfillment. One day free delivery with Amazon Prime.
Yes, but the couple of metric tons from the first flight will likely hold their value. And Elon Musk only has to sell then for $250 a gram (as compared to the $400,000/gram paid for an Apollo sample), to make $500 million.
Given that the development cost of the Starship will be paid by its use for launching satellites, and the “Dear Moon” mission, that should be enough to cover the expenses of a lunar landing. Add in some other D.D. Harriman strategies like selling media rights (This is your CNN reporter reporting live from the Moon!) and including souvenirs (first day covers flown to the Moon?) and he may well make much more than flying it under the NASA flag.
LOL. And finds out that the rocks didn’t even pay for 10 percent of the trip
Thomas, Bob’s right, unfortunately. It’s a huge, huge ask, what Musk/SpaceX has planned. So much development, so little time (self imposed). But, if any organisation can pull it off, it will be SpaceX. I, for one, hope they do and leave all the naysayers lost for words. Regards, Paul.
There’s been plenty of time. Raptor has been under development for at least seven years and SHS for at least four. It’s hardly as though Musk just started all this last week. There’s still plenty for SpaceX to do but it’s hardly as though the bulk of the work is still before it.
As for the naysayers, I greatly fear there is nothing short of death likely to shut them up. Capt. Bob is starting to eerily resemble Gary Church in his monomania and insistence on continually denying things that have plainly already happened.
FWIW, I have started thinking more that he is mainly taking the con side of the debate as there is virtually no one coherent doing that.. He does seem to believe SpaceX is over hyped and is IMO more anti-fan than anti-SpaceX., In the Venn diagram my position is often outside of both bubbles scratching my head.
Though he is over the top and beyond logic in many areas, I wouldn’t put him in a class with the author of the Gary Church posts.
No, he’s far from being Gary 2.0 yet. But the trend line is certainly in that direction even if the pace is slow. On certain things, Capt. Bob just seems to be dug in and immovable, like one of those leftover Japanese infantrymen in the So. Pacific who was still fighting for the Empire long after it had disappeared.
Also, for somebody who claims to have a job, he sure spends a lot of time on these forums. My excuse is I’m a retiree. If he’s actually an airline Capt., I worry he’s shorting his sleep. His occasional lapses into incoherence and invented grammar and spelling make me worry I’ll get up some morning and his name will be all over the news as the pilot of a flight that’s gone missing somewhere.
I think NASA would have a very difficult time slow-walking a Starship certification for human-crewed flights if the thing has already been to orbit with people a few times. I think Musk would allow a decent interval for NASA to make their determination while unmanned flights proceeded. But if Trump, Pence and Bridenstine are still occupying their current chairs – as I expect will be the case – then I don’t see any likelihood of a NASA freeze-out of Starship given the recent fates of Gerst and Hill. That’s especially so if SLS is already dead.
There is not a chance starship or whatever its name is today will carry people before 2025 or latter. MUsk cannot even get D2 flying
Get yer SpaceX failure predictions here! Limited time offer!
Even an additional $4 billion/year for NASA would be a tremendous accomplishment. NASA’s last year-to-year budget change of $4 billion was a decrease back in 1970-71. Unfortunately, that’s also why I think this is doomed – there’s no reason to believe Congress is suddenly going to loosen the purse strings that much when they’ve never done that in the 50 years after Apollo.
It’s not going anywhere as long as Shelby is in the Senate. However, he’s 85 years old, and there’s a not insignificant chance he dies or retires before 2024.
Generally agree, but there are nuances.
First, it is true that even if the Republicans keep the Presidency and Senate and take back the House in 2020 – not an inevitable, but still a quite plausible prospect – NASA isn’t getting any $4 billion/yr. raise. But with SLS all but certain to remain a hangar queen until well into 2021 and SpaceX’s SHS looking increasingly likely to make an initial jaunt to Earth orbit in 2020, the facts on the ground – as well as the facts not on the ground – will most probably be hugely different a mere year hence, plus or minus a bit. That could make a huge difference in the allocation, if not necessarily the top-line amount, of NASA’s budget for FY 2021.
If SHS flies and SLS doesn’t, Richard Shelby is entirely likely to find himself playing the Ted Stevens role in a remake of the Bridge to Nowhere story, only this time it will be the Rocket to Nowhere. Shelby, like Stevens was, is a high-mileage, influential senior “Bull of the Woods” with a lot of sway in the Senate. But not as high-mileage as Stevens was in 2005 when a pet project of his, the $400 million Gravina Island Bridge, suddenly became the “Bridge to Nowhere” in late-night talk show monologues and on satirical websites. The only thing definitely known to be able to overpower a senior elected official is he, or his pet project, becoming a public laughingstock. If the Late-Night Jimmies, as I like to refer to them, start aiming their barbs at SLS after SHS flies, Shelby and SLS are gonna get rolled like a drunk in an alley.
And you are also correct to point out that Shelby isn’t going to live forever. He’s 85 now and it’s not by any means impossible that he will receive the news of SHS’s initial orbital jaunt as an unwanted 86th birthday present.
Stevens was a mere downy-cheeked youth of 81 when the Gravina Island Bridge first drew down the lightnings of cruel mirth upon itself and its principal backer. He managed to keep it on a sort of life support limbo until he died five years later. And such is the neutron star-like inertia of the U.S. Congress that the Gravina Island Bridge was not formally removed from life support and allowed to pass on in its sleep until Stevens was five years in the ground. But the trajectory was inevitable from the time the project achieved notoriety/infamy.
SLS isn’t likely be any different except in the brevity of its limboed slide toward actual death. Shelby may or may not last longer before expiring than did Stevens, but the SLS seems all but inevitably fated to go the way of the Gravina Island Bridge, just faster.
Given that SLS’s annual, recurring, budget has been roughly five times the entire one-time proposed cost of the Gravina Island Bridge, it’s a much larger animal and, when wounded, will attract a correspondingly bigger pack of predators looking to pull it down and tear off large bloody pieces of the beast.
As SLS goes down, count on its supporters, and NASA more generally, to try to defend the carcass until it can be consumed within the organization. This seems likely to happen to at least some degree. Even a minority chunk of SLS’s erstwhile $2 billion annual budget would buy a lot of things – habs, manned lunar vehicles, a lunarized bulldozer or two, nuclear reactors and solar panels for power, multiple landing missions by SHS with the first ones being unmanned cargo prepositionings and the later ones being manned – at reasonable prices from corporate entities not belonging to the NASA Legacy Contractors Club.
In such a scenario, the political problem of attempting to get even a possibly friendly Congress to heavily boost NASA’s budget goes away and is replaced by the much more tractable business of redistributing as much of SLS’s erstwhile budget allocation as can be kept to work and things that will actually advance the Artemis goals on, or ahead of, its notional schedule without requiring any NASA budget boost.
spaceX right wing
fan boy babble
in the meantime SpaceX cannot make Dragon2 work
IMO duheagle is making a valid point with his “public laughingstock” theory. Recall Howard Dean’s ‘scream’ moment and Dan Quayle’s misspelling of potato. Those men were ripped to shreds and powerless to prevent it.
And in thinking about the changes that five years can bring, Grasshopper was flying then. It didn’t make nearly as big a dent in the daily news cycle as the Starhopper is doing today. It’s become a player on the national stage. How many more flights will it make before NASA even gets the SLS on the stand for its green run test?
There is zero chance in a GOP senate that SLS is ever going to be “a rocket to nowhere”…for so many reasons…not the least of which is that the GOP is always OK with funneling money to various industrial complexes that they like, and they like the space industrial complex…
Furthermore its not going to be made that because of “Starship” or whatever its called this week. If MUsk could do half of what he claims he can do, and do it in some remote world on the schedule he claims…he might get a public bubble.
But he cannot. So far nothing he has done has been game changing, his Dragon2 went up in a pile of smoke…and it was claimed it was more or less ready to carry astronauts (Kook space suits in clouded) and if he keeps talking about flying star whatever in under a year…well fortunately not many people care
Look SpaceX is starting to look like Tesla…yeah they have a neat rocket and yeah it probably has lowered cost some…but its no where near a game changer…and at any moment something bad could happen.
Go to any site, including this one and people talk like Star whatever is a reality…its no more a reality then SLS is or isnt
The GOP Congresscritters, like their Dem counterparts, are certainly not above doing naughty things when they think no one’s looking. When it’s readily apparent that a lot of people are looking, the picture changes.
After SHS flies and SLS doesn’t, more and more people will be looking. And, as I said, if the Late Night Jimmies latch onto SLS-Orion as a punching bag, it’s pretty much over.
As to what Musk says and does, he, and his people too, have said they expect to have SHS in orbit by next year and be carrying paid-for payloads by a year after that. We’ll just have to see if they can deliver. I think they can. The good news is we won’t have all that long to wait for the trend line to become clear and only modestly longer until actual events settle who’s right about particular matters, one at a time.
So what happens when they dont?
Ask me again if that happens. In the meantime, you might want to give a bit of consideration to what happens when they do.
That is my issue with Elon. The timelines he offers…never come true…I’ve learned to take his talks as “aspirational” which is a software geeks term for “inshallah” (or god willing…which means never) or “I hope” or “we wish”
And when what he is aiming for technically comes through…it under performs badly.
It is an impressive feat landing the first stage…it took them forever and they still miss some…it was as impressive as NASA and the gang putting together the shuttle system…and it took them forever and was dangerous and neither SLS or FAlcon have changed much. (To be fair falcon has finallly got the cost to orbit “going down” but no where near what Elon has often claimed)
The game is up on Falcon so now he is moved to star whatever. “He thinks” the engines should do this, or the cost to operate the vehicle will be that…or it will fly this frequently” but he said similar things about FAlcon and 1) what has happened took forever to come true and 2) is no where near what he was claiming
As for D2. Had Boeing blown up a capsule you would be all in a twitter 🙂 about it…and so would I. The difference is that I think the same thing about SpaceX
If star whatever goes to orbit and comes back in a year…I will be the loudest one cheering. Then we can see where it goes from there. I am not really worried it will happen. With Elon, it never has
What has “underperformed badly?”
“It took them forever.” Not really.
It took a year and seven Grasshopper flights before an ocean soft landing was tried. It didn’t work. The Grasshopper and F9R Dev1 work continued for another year and so did attempts to soft land in the ocean. Two out of three of those worked. Then the first droneship was delivered. There were no droneship successes and two failures that year (2015), but an LZ-1 landing was stuck in Dec. Then, four months later, there was the first droneship success. From Grasshopper to first droneship success took about 3.5 years. Not exactly “forever.”
Not exactly dangerous either so I have no idea where that came from. The droneships are uncrewed for a reason.
“neither SLS or FAlcon have changed much” WTF? Falcon, of course, has changed hugely and done so a number of times over its nine-year operational history. What SLS has to do with any of this I’m sure I haven’t a clue.
Since the first recovery successes, only four have been lost that weren’t intentionally expended – about one a year on average. The first was a droneship failure that happened two months after the initial success. Two more were the first and third FH center cores. The second FH center core landed okay, but toppled later in heavy seas. One was an attempted LZ-1 landing that had to be put in the ocean after an uncontrollable roll started when the grid fins lost power. Altogether, there have now been more recoveries than expendings. Pretty decent record I’d say.
If Boeing had blown up a capsule, I’d mainly figure that the entire Starliner engineering staff would be in a state of catatonia and getting their nutrition via feeding tubes and intravenous drips. SpaceX just fixes whatever was wrong and gets back on the horse.
Despite which, of course, Elon has never really done anything. Right.
It hard to blow up a capsule when it never flies.(LOL) To date Boeing has not even done an abort test on a Starliner let alone flown one. And they just delayed it again.
You are not reading my post or doing the old GOP trick of responding to what you want to respond to
Falcon has underperformed on several venues including lowering of cost..they have reversed the cost spiral but are far away from the cost numbers Elon has claimed…same with reusability
In that way they have not really changed the world that much
NASA was prudent to stop the nonsense of crewed dragon rocket landing…it would have taken spaceX years to work it out
Anyway off to Istanbul…a two day in Manila is wonderful
Just responding to what you wrote – as always. At least when I can actually figure out what it is you wrote. You have a marginal tendency, on occasion, toward word salad. I hope – along, I’m sure, with your passengers – that you’re getting enough rest.
Falcon 9 has reduced launch costs by at least a factor of four. The current basic price is $50 million. What number has been missed?
You’re out there in the weeds at about 8 sigma anent your belief that reusability doesn’t work or make things cheaper. A cult of one.
Given prior relevant experience it wouldn’t have taken SpaceX especially long to work out propulsive landing of Crew Dragon 2. If NASA hadn’t gotten a sudden bug up its arse and put the kibosh on it, D2 propulsive landing would already be a thing.
Never been either place, but Filipinas are, on average, the best-looking women on the planet, so I think I’d be inclined to prefer Manila to Istanbul myself.
if that is true then the old claim that “cheap access to space is what is holding space development back” is false…because it has not changed the launch cadence or clients at all.
LOL D2 propulsive landings would not be happening anymore then D2 would be flying now. they would still be crashing them trying to make it work
Manila is one of my favorite cities…of course part of the family is there…and we have some financial interest there as well. 🙂
The U.S., alone, launches more than double the number of orbital missions a year as it did a decade ago. And much of the difference is accounted for by clients who wouldn’t have been able to afford to launch their stuff at the prices that prevailed then.
Arguing alternate histories of D2 isn’t something that’s ever going to be settleable. We’ll just have to see how things go with the propulsive landings of the much larger SH and Starship vehicles, the latter of which will be carrying people within a few years.
first off you are confusing vehicles launched from the US with “the U.S. alone launches…” this may be a semantics thing but…
what Musk has done, and it is impressive is to dry up the launcher market outside of the US ie he has taken the foreign market from Ariane and the Chinese and brought it back to the US
but the backlog of those launches is gone and Musk rate is slowing down a lot
what musk has failed to do with the price point on the Falcon is EXPAND the clients who are launching things. In other words there were X private payloads from Y users doing Z things…those numbers are all pretty static especially Y users.
He has made a “modest” dent in the small sat market. the launch where the Sherpa put up a lot of payloads was impressive and expansive…but I suspect that wont ever happen again, as no one made money on it (neither SpaceX or the Sherpa people)
the great hope always is that the small or distributed sat market is about to take off…but so far…well its all internal to Musk and some of the other large companies
even Tom Matula admits this…his explanation is some gobbly gook about price point which is a kind way of saying the launches are not cheap enough yet
musk sees this as he has moved on to star whatever its name is…
which is the multi billion dollar gamble between him and Bezos …
If Musk makes it work then he owns the launcher market…if Star whatever is no more successful at price reduction then Falcon…he is out of business because BO will rule the market
you and other Musketeers assume that its all going to go Musk way. OK thats fine and you might be right but you assumed that with F and you were wrong.
its what free enterprise is good at
Yes free enterprise is very good at eliminating businesses that can’t cut it, when allowed to work. If BO leaves SpaceX and Starship in the dust, it is a win for space fans everywhere. It should be about moving forward rather than who does it. My concern about BO is that they are not current in orbital class vehicle operations. And if Podunk Spaceliners beats them both, even better.
Yes free enterprise is very good at eliminating businesses that can’t cut it, when allowed to work.”
I dont quibble with that to much…but “my” statement would be “free enterprise is very good at eliminating businesses that cannot measure the market, if the market place is allowed to function”
the greatest “flaw” in SLS is not the bad design nor the other issues…it is the reality that like the shuttle before it, it has frozen the development of the market …there is thanks to SpaceX, BO and some other players at the lower level a geniune market development going on…and someone is going to “niche” it correctly…if the market is allowed to function
SLS freezes that in all respects
“. My concern about BO is that they are not current in orbital class vehicle operations”
I dont have that concern. SpaceX acquired it at least in launchvehicles by checkbook and BO has a solid check book.
both Musk and Bezos have a completely different approach to market filling…and free enterprise should be allowed to judge which one works
Shuttle froze the market because NASA conducted a two-decade jihad against any upstart launcher company that stuck its head above ground. Columbia put an end to that – finally.
SLS hasn’t done likewise, nor did Constellation before it, because neither ever got to operational status. You can’t beat something with nothing.
Constellation, being long dead, has no chance of ever flying. SLS, chronically bedridden as it has been, looks to have virtually no chance of doing better, though the sheet will not be pulled up over the incipient corpse until at least after the 2020 election.
BO and SpaceX had the good fortune to have founders with sufficient early funds not to need any outside investors – into whose ears NASA would have whispered vile things had they come calling for due diligence. Columbia killed all that along with its seven occupants.
BO and SpaceX would have been okay anyway, like as not. Bezos has never sought outside investment and Musk’s early outside investors were all part of his old Silicon Valley posse and wouldn’t have cared what NASA thought anyway.
Still, Columbia was a break for both companies – and many others not, then, yet born. A macabre break, but still a break. So the seven martyrs of Columbia can be said, in a very real sense, to have given their lives for NewSpace. As such things go, that certainly isn’t the worst epitaph one could have.
To say that SpaceX got its launch vehicles “by checkbook” – implying Musk just wrote checks for everything like some sort of Richie Rich – is to pretty much invert reality.
Much of the reason SpaceX was able to build rockets for pennies on the dollar compared to the legacy builders was precisely because Musk wasn’t Richie Rich. Every dime had to be sweated. Every potential economy investigated.
The result was a rocket engine with many world-beating specs that could be produced for a cost in the upper six figures each, instead of eight, and an entire vehicle that could be produced for a very low eight figures, instead of nine.
Musk is, if anything, improving on his record as a world-class scrimper, established building the Falcons, anent SHS. He has learned to squeeze a nickel so hard he can stamp “E Pulribus Unum” with his bare thumb.
BO does have a solid checkbook. More solid than most that are backed up by national sovereignties. That may have proven to be as much a hindrance as a help in both getting to flight and in making any money once there. We’ll see.
The market – at long last – will have more to say about all this than a metric buttload of allegedly learned opinion and conventional wisdom.
My money would be on the hungry guy with hustle if there was any way I could put it there.
In 2008, there were 15 orbital or deep space launches by the U.S. In 2018 there were 34. For the world the numbers were 63 and 111, respectively.
The increase has been substantial, driven by the advent of two new low-cost providers, SpaceX and ISRO, and by price reductions by legacy players such as ULA, ArianeGroup and other higher-cost providers in reaction.
The launch market does exhibit price elasticity of demand. As smallsat launcher firms come on-line this will simply become more apparent.
not really no…you will notice the launch cadence is slowing down the backlog is done
Total launches worldwide, as well as anent individual nations, vary up or down from year to year but the trend line has been indisputably up for the past decade. I don’t make the numbers up.
So far, SpaceX has reduced the cost of launch, but the market for launches has not expanded in response to the lower launch costs. Why not? It could be that 1. there is so much inertia in the market that we simply haven’t seen the response yet. Or 2. perhaps there simply is no market expansion to be had. We’re already doing in space what can be profitably done in space. Or 3. launch costs have not fallen enough to effect the market.
I lean toward the first hypothesis. The market for launches has not increased yet.
Over the past forever, launch has been the tail wagging the dog. The big money has been in satellite manufacturing. The bigger money has been in satellite operations. Yet the number of satellites launched and the design of those satellites has been heavily influenced by launch cost, which never improved because the technology of launch stagnated. The high cost of launch encouraged exquisitely engineered, extremely long lived satellites, which made every launch an enormous gamble.
So Musk is doing two things. He’s building Starship. It’s called Starship, by the way. People are calling it Starship. Some people go with SHSS or something like that, but Starship seems to be the popular usage. BFR is still an option as well. Not that I’m complaining. I kinda enjoy it, in fact. You do you. But keyboard macros fell out of style years ago, so you’re probably doing a lot of extra typing. You don’t want to end up with snark induced carpal tunnel.
The other thing Musk is doing is he’s going into the satellite manufacturing and satellite operations businesses.
He was always going to build Starship anyway. Go back to ten or twelve year old audio and video recordings, and you will hear him speaking of his plans to build a super heavy, fully and rapidly reusable rocket in order to drive down the cost of launch to the point where sending lots of people to Mars is feasible.
If SpaceX does produce a super heavy rocket that is fully and rapidly reusable and either the first or the third hypothesese enumerated above, or some combination of the two, is true then the market will expand and Starship will capture a lion’s share of the expanding market and SpaceX will flourish. And the tail will no longer be wagging the dog.
Musk’s hedge on that bet is SpaceX’s entry into the satellite manufacturing and satellite operations markets. Those are big and bigger markets already. Lot’s of players. No growth needed. SpaceX is coming into those markets with an advantage. They can launch their own satellites at cost. On the other hand, these are highly competitive, mature markets, so this move is no slam-dunk. SpaceX really has to execute.
I don’t know where SpaceX gets the money to develop Starship and the mega constellation simultaneously, but I don’t really understand how he got both a rocket company and a car company going on just 180 million. He did that. I expect him to do these other things. Whilst memeing. Maybe that makes me a silly fan boy. If I am a silly fan boy, I became one 10 or 12 years ago when I first listened to those recordings. Not because Musk had accomplished what I considered to be great things, but because he intended to try.
Other than noting that the launch market, worldwide, has actually expanded since SpaceX came along, I find nothing to disagree with here.
“If star whatever goes to orbit and comes back in a year…I will be the loudest one cheering.”
No you won’t. And one muted “Congratulations. Good job, SpaceX” would not only not equal “the loudest one cheering”, it would barely begin to begin to dig you out of the anti-SpaceX hole you’ve bunkered yourself in (and built a new wing to in this very comment section). Anyway, you’ll mostly just grapple with your cognitive dissonance until your mind manages to work it into some way that you were “right all along”.
Not that you need it, but here’s a freebie: Easiest out — it takes 18 or 24 months to launch the biggest, most capable spaceship in history, one that actually can be operated at affordable prices — “See, I told you they’d be late! I was right all along.”
Moving your goalposts can work, too. “The loudest one cheering”, come on, man
You Musketeers are wonderful…you sit around designing mars bases that will never be built, spaceship layouts and lunar bases…all that will never be built…and now you are composing things to say for something that has not even been done
You are kind of children
Anyway when star whatever its name does go to orbit in under a year from you and other Musketeers can evaluate my evaluation of the performance.
I realize that the unlikelihood of it happening will not stop you from continuing to imagine the moment…and trying to figure out when it doesn’t happen who and what is to blame…but in the meantime I am up and tasked with the real job of taking about 300 people from Manila to Istanbul…while you putter around planning your home on Mars.
I love the folks who are arguing over the design of the flame trenches at the mars base. 🙂
Yes, just like NASA and all it’s view graph Mars missions?
BTW Istanbul to Manila is exactly the type of point to point market Starship is designed for. Who knows, maybe in a few years it will replace your outdated and polluting jetliner. ?
Yes, you didn’t have the hotels offering discounts and encouraging the SpaceX fans to come out any party while SpaceX builds the future.
Reports are the D2 will be ready by the end of the year to take astronauts to the ISS. Meanwhile we still wait on Boeing even doing a simple pad abort test for the Starliner, something SpaceX did years ago.
I have a lot of respect for your comments, Bob, but, that last line is bullshit and falls way below your usual very high standard. And, you know it. Regards, Paul.
They cannot make D2 work. They blew one up…on the verge of taking people in it. Their development time has been on par with Boeing…I dont see “super program” here
It’s already August – just barely. Your mantra is beginning to sound just a wee tad desperate. I don’t think the next six months – or less – are going to be a happy time for you.
either Boeing will be first or none of them will fly…but The next six months will be a great time for me. I am now a Dreamliner test pilot as well as 77X. plus the next time I go to the mother ship again I get to fly the Starliner sim again 🙂
Bob, Dragon 2 worked fine except for the Super Draco plumbing possibly after re-entry?. It sucks. It should never have happened. That plumbing should be bullet proof. The only time that plumbing should be compromised is when the Dragon 2 is crumpled and the occupants are already “bugs on the windscreen”. I get it – and so has SpaceX, it’s being fixed. Regards, Paul.
I am not sure how you say that…really
Dragon2 had as best as I can tell no life support systems, no crew interface electronics, and of course no abort system. (And there maybe more but I’ll stop at those three)
I dont get how this qualified as a successful test flight of anything but the shell…
If they goofed so badly on the abort system, then its prudent to ask what they have missed in the life support and crew interface systems…and why the test flight occurred without them?
I test fly airplanes (or did primarily before my current job…and still do so now)…yeah we could take the plane up without the PACKs that provide life support and wear pressure O2 mask etc but I would hardly call the plane “ready for passengers” without those systems being run
The D2 that went to ISS had a life support system, it just couldn’t be tested to any great extent because there was no crew to exercise a lot of its features. There was no crew interface electronics because there was no crew, not because they don’t exist. The capsule also had an abort system – eight SuperDracos and a full load of propellant. That system doesn’t get used on a nominal mission, which DM-1 was.
I guess I need to ask you the question that sci-fi writers get all the time – “How do you come up with all those crazy ideas?”
Soaking a space capsule in seawater after launching it into space and then shaking afterward does tend to be hard on the plumbing…
And in the inflight abort test SpaceX isn’t simply simulating a booster failure, they are actually rigging the booster to fail at Max Q. They want to see if the abort computer will be faster than the ground controller at hitting the abort button.
They want to see if the abort computer will be faster than the ground controller at hitting the abort button.
to the best of my knowledge there has never been an abort of a human rated spacecraft triggered by a ground controller…and the one for neither D2 or Starliner works that way
It’s being fixed right now. It’ll fly soon.
Posting such obvious nonsense on a public forum makes me wonder whether you’re a closet masochist or something. Or maybe it’s just that denying things that have already happened has become a habit with you.
It wont fly this year…
We’ll compare notes New Year’s Eve.
Shelby alone being gone…ie his defeat, death or whatever wont ensure SLS stops…
No, but it will take a lot of the wind out of support for it. He’s a very senior Senator in a position where he wields a ton of power over NASA’s budget. The person who replaces him won’t have that.
It doesn’t matter…by that time the argument will be what it is now. “If we stop we waste all this money”
I don’t think the general public is going to feel like pushing on when they can see SLS is already “waist deep in the Big Muddy” as the old song says.
The money’s already been wasted. How much support do you think there’s going to be, even in Congress, for ostentatiously wasting still more when SHS is already flying, hasn’t cost the taxpayer anything, and can do SLS’s alleged job way more often and for far less money?
Good article, Douglas
It would have benefitted from deletion of lefty spin, DNC talking points and the mawkish portrayal of Bill Gerstemaier, possibly the longest serving terrible manager in NASA history, as some sort of put-upon victim of the Orange Demon Trump and his cruel minions.
That said, the overall thrust of the story is basically correct. There really is no way the Program of Record, if pursued in the currently contemplated NASA-business-as-usual fashion, is going to result in fresh American bootprints on the Moon by 2024. That is because, even if NASA were somehow restored to its condition of vigorous youth ala the 1960’s, it would still have to rely on legacy contractors who would continue to be incapable of the necessary hustle.
But, as Yoda once said when others thought all was lost, “No. There is another.” Super Heavy-lift launch vehicle, that is. The weirdly unacknowledged 800-pound gorilla in the room is SpaceX’s rapidly coalescing SHS, prototypes of which are now a-building in two separate locations in TX and FL. It is truly a wonder of our age that so many, both within and outside of NASA, still seem to harbor the conviction that, for all the shiny bent metal to be seen in Boca Chica and Cocoa, SHS is a mere “paper rocket” while the hapless and perpetual hangar queen SLS is, in some sense, more “real.”
It’s more than a bit ironic that Elon Musk will be the one who pulls what are now seen to be Trump’s, Pence’s and Bridenstine’s Artemisian chestnuts out of the fire, but the fact is that Musk owns far clearer title to those chestnuts than anyone else.
spacex fan boy babble twice in the same thread
And replies from the anti-fan. The exchange varies from informative to boring to predictable to ridiculous . Unfortunately, it’s an unknown grab bag, though with enough content to make it worth following.
Thank you for your support…I am an anti fan…I am not a fan boy for a guy whose nothing of schedules is to make them up as he goes…and every “blow up” is “we were testing…lol
I’m not sure you should consider it support. I’m more often against you than for you in these discussions. I think it is good that there is no monolithic viewpoint here. I’ve seen sites where the only comments published share a single viewpoint and I consider them to be non-functional even when I share that view.
I happen to be a Musk fan. Doesn’t mean I think he walks on water.
You and most fans have an unrealistic view of what is likely to happen
Well, it won’t be all that long before we find out who’s being unrealistic.
And being vested in anti-fan distorts your reasoning. I’m vested in seeing what happens rather than screaming it is or isn’t. Or in some cases arguing that it hasn’t happened when it has.
Thank you. Thank you. I’ll be here all week. Be sure to try the brisket.
I think its more than twice now.
“Artemisian chestnuts” — welp, that’s the 21st century for ya ;D
> “It would have benefitted from deletion of lefty spin, DNC talking points…”
I know it’s not the way you would have written it, but so what? I mean, who are you? You want to dispute anything on a factual basis, do so. Enough of this dripping sarcasm and disdain. We know you’re right wing/liberatarian/whatever. No need to constantly remind us.
> Super Heavy-lift launch vehicle, that is. The weirdly unacknowledged 800-pound gorilla in the room is SpaceX’s rapidly coalescing SHS, prototypes of which are now a-building in two separate locations in TX and FL. It is truly a wonder of our age that so many, both within and outside of NASA, still seem to harbor the conviction that, for all theshiny bent metal to be seen in Boca Chica and Cocoa, SHS is a mere “paper rocket” while the hapless and perpetual hangar queen SLS is, insome sense, more “real.”
I had it in an earlier draft but removed it because once you mention it, you have to go all in or not at all. Too many theoreticals and what ifs? This could be an entire story in itself. Just to mention a couple of issues:
It’s irrelevant right now. If Trump and Congress are unwilling to give up SLS for a rocket like Falcon Heavy that’s already flying, they’re not even going cancel it for something that for now is just a hopper.
Elon’s schedules are not credible. Just ask NASA. SpaceX is still trying to get a crewed Dragon to fly. Years behind schedule. I know you blame NASA, but even you know it’s not all them. It wasn’t NASA that blew up a capsule in the test stand. That was SpaceX with a shitty design.
Crew Dragon isn’t an isolated case. Why do you think Tesla’s stock is in the toilet? Everything Elon promises there is exaggerated. Schedules are never met. Steady profitability is elusive. His promise of 1 million robotaxis on the road next year is unbelievable. Private at 420/share?
NASA is responsible for that. Nor is any government agency. Exaggeration isn’t a bug, it’s a feature.
Why do you think Tesla’s stock is in the toilet?
The stock gyrates because its value is entirely predicated on investor sentiment. The company’s fundamentals are pretty good. It is in a growth phase, when achieving quarterly profits is beside the point. Do you recall how Amazon was criticized for never making a profit, year after year for almost 15 years? How did that work out?
Is Tesla doubling output year over year? Yes. Is it performing well relative to its competitors? Yes. The Model 3 dominates its segment of the car market. Is it expanding into new markets? Yes. There’s a new plant in China that will go into production next year. Is it achieving its primary goal, accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles? Yes.
Elon’s schedules are not credible.
I am informed that SpaceX has scheduled a Boca Chica Beach road closing for the 200m hop on August 12, with backups on the 13th and 14th. That doesn’t mean the hop will occur then. All rocket development schedules slip, as far as I can tell. But SpaceX does get things done.
Tesla fan boy talking points. it never occur to fan boys that Tesla might be structurally unprofitable, that it seems unable to sell the Model 3 at a profit, or that Elon has mismanaged the company. They are untroubled by his lies and stock manipulations.
As for the 200m hop scheduled for August….doesn’t mean anything. So what? He’s talking about going to Mars, he hasn’t been able to get people into orbit yet.
Tesla isn’t structurally unprofitable any more than Amazon was as it was busily taking over the retail world. Musk, like Bezos, understands the long-term value of minimizing booked profit in favor of maximizing capex and expansion until sufficient market share is achieved.
Starhopper’s first hop meant it could fly, translate and land without tipping over or crashing. A good first outing for a vehicle with appreciably different dimensions and physics than an F9 1st stage. The 200 meter hop scheduled for, it seems, Aug. 12 means, most likely, that the flight duration, altitude and translation envelopes all get stretched a fair amount and progress gets made.
After that, my personal prediction is hop 3 will be to a full kilometer and translation may take it out over the water and back. Hop 4 will probably be to the 5 klick ceiling imposed by Starhopper’s current FAA license and may also involve some additional substantial translation and return. There might be some short hovers at intermediate altitudes to check wind influence as well.
That, in my view, is likely to be it for Starhopper. Hop 4 will probably occur before the end of Sept. In the meantime, the Starship prototypes will be buttoned up and completed, then readied for their own more ambitious series of hop tests while the first Super Heavy is fabricated.
Very late this year or early next it should be Super Heavy doing most of the hopping. Then, probably around mid-year or maybe 3Q, the first all-up orbital test of the whole SHS stack, including an SH return-to-launch-mount and re-entry and landing by Starship, should occur. It might well carry a big payload of Starlink birds and deploy them before coming back down.
Getting to orbit, the Moon and Mars is a stepwise process. NASA didn’t just suddenly get to those places absent intermediate steps either. Should NASA also not have talked about these goals in advance of achieving them? I think not.
I do wish Musk had sold Tesla to GM
Bob Lutz seems to think the era of owning sporty cars is drying up–with uber-pods being the way to go.
I miss the old Detroit spy photos and concept cars of the past.
The future isn’t what I thought it would be.
Tesla, like SpaceX, is, in Musk’s view, part of his effort to save the world. He’s not going to sell it. Given that it continues to grow rapidly, it’s hard to see why he would.
And if he ever did, it’s hard to imagine it would be to a fading monstrosity like GM. GM has dumped half its marques in the last 30 years and has still managed to continue shrinking badly enough that Ford surpassed it in sales a few years ago for the first time since Henry Ford the original was still running the show in Dearborn. The gap continues to widen.
I’m guessing the next marque to go over the side will be Buick as GM continues to settle slowly in the water. When GM starts hinting at shutting down or selling either Chevy or Cadillac, you’ll know the end is near. Ford and Tesla could well be the only two U.S.-based car companies left in less than a decade.
The hop means nothing…just nothing…there are people out there who think Elons’ new rocket is going to orbit in under a year…well there are some here
Meanwhile he cant fix DRagon 2…
He’s already fixing Dragon 2.
He is trying to…so far there is no firm date for either the fix or the testing…he wont fly this year. Probably most of next year
The in-flight abort test will certainly fly this year. As to the first mission with crew, that’s going to be a NASA call and the traffic situation at ISS will play a role as well. But, with Gerst gone, I’m more optimistic than before that SpaceX will manage to get a crew to ISS in Nov. or Dec.
Not a chance
Watch the skies!
The 10 meter dish and the new telescope mount are up…plus I can now link the dish with my cousins in the PI and Germany…and soon my new 5 meter dish in Pristina and the 3 meter one in istanbul 🙂
Assuming no one in any of those places decides you’re a spy with your own communications network hiding in plain sight. You work in a notoriously paranoid and xenophobic part of the world.
It appears NASA is in the process of reviewing both Boeing and SpaceX. Boeing’s first uncrew Starliner test flight has been pushed into October which it means they probably won’t be sending any crew to the station either this year.
NASA puts SpaceX, Boeing ISS flight test dates ‘under review’
By Amanda Kooser
July 30, 2019 10:55 AM PDT
Remember Boeing has a higher curve to climb as they will also be testing what is basically a new rocket on their first demonstration flight as the Altas booster has never flown with a twin engine 2nd stage before.
There were whiffs of this from my friends when I was home…but I was busy with the 10 meter dish 🙂
No one is worried about either rocket…they are both fairly stable and both companies get “how to launch them”
What the concern is is that both companies have missed things in development that in retrospect should have been obvious or found in lower level testing…and NASA HSF particularly Jimbo is getting cold feet about “how safe” both vehicles are. I think that there safety review which is on going and is actually run by a pretty competent person they brought in an outsider…is finding some things that “spooked them”
The rockets are not the issue…you harping on the two engine centaur…wow you just dont know much about technology…and test flying.
You are right, any college intern could design a new twin engine upper stage for the Atlas. It’s no big deal. No need to test it, it will work on its first flight.
I didnt say that…they probably had some college interns on the project, but the Centaur engine is one of the most reliable in the world and the staff that works it one of the most competent.
It is exactly that very type of hubris that leads to failure. Hearing that just makes the case for a couple of test flights stronger.
Would you, perchance, happen to know the name of the outsider brought in to do that safety review? I assume you’re talking about the review of “safety cultures” at Boeing and SpaceX that was called for last year.
If you know anything about who might be involved in this new engineering review that would be nice to know too.
I’ve looked for both and can’t find squat.
yes oddly enough I do
Are you willing to share?
I’d already figured the Boeing unmanned test was going to be NET Oct. because of a preceding launch from the same pad. This just adds to the uncertainty anent both vehicles. But when you take the King’s shilling, you do the King’s bidding. More hurry up and wait is at least not going to be any novelty to we long-suffering watchers of the Commercial Crew program.
Well said Doug…SpaceX is becoming a big Ponzi scheme…and you are right the D2 capsule design sucks
You don’t seem to understand what a Ponzi scheme is. Regular readers of these forums already know you don’t understand what SpaceX is.
I understand both
I’m sure you think you do. Test pilots are supposed to be very self-confident after all. But the great ones, like Yeager and Armstrong, aren’t much given to popping off without pre-flighting their mouths.
Who am I? I’m just a guy in front of a screen and a keyboard with an Internet connection, same as you.
If I’d elected to go through all the spin, innuendo and outright falsehoods in your post I’d have needed at least ten times the space you used and I’d still be typing.
But since you ask, here’s one. You write:
A Trump Administration plan to increase funding for Artemis by raiding the surplus in the Pell Grants program was strongly opposed in Congress. The grants fund college education for students with financial needs.
The clear implication is that the Trump administration was going to deprive students of tuition assistance in order to fund its Moon program. That’s been the DNC talking point since the Trump administration broached the idea.
Except that it isn’t true. The surplus being targeted exists – and has been growing for years – because legislators like to appropriate more money for the Pell program than it needs so they can send out press releases patting themselves on the back for increasing the funding for the program.
The fact of the matter is that, due to long-term demographic changes, there are fewer potential college students these days and all the ones who qualify for Pell Grants already get them. The surplus in the program’s account is never going to be used to send anyone to school, it’s just going to accumulate – a monument to virtue-signalling Congresscritters looking to gin up an annual dose of feel-good PR for themselves they can tout at election time.
The Trump administration figured to tap these permanently idle funds for another worthy purpose. What they got was the predictable shitstorm of lies from the Democratic Congressional Caucus and their stenographers in the mainstream media.
This baseless vituperation was entirely gratuitous because Trump wasn’t even proposing to keep all these swell folks from continuing their annual charade of “increasing” the Pell Grant funding and building up the surplus again. Imagine the Holy Ned that would have ensued had Trump tried accompanying the transfer of surplus funds to Artemis with a prohibition on appropriations for the Pell Grants program significantly in excess of established need. Whew boy!
You’re correct that Congress isn’t going to countenance cancelling SLS and Orion now. The political correlation of forces is not yet sufficient to make any such attempt feasible. The advent of Falcon Heavy has served, at least, to make the subject thinkable in official circles, but hardly a done deal. That will change once SHS flies.
Even then, a prompt attempt to cancel SLS-Orion might not succeed. So, in all likelihood, the attempt will be made a bit later, once SHS has flown a few more times and has expanded its operational envelope a bit – maybe with an initial outing by a tanker Starship to refuel a freighter Starship on-orbit following some epically large Starlink deployments. If all this occurs while SLS and Orion are still Earthbound and incomplete, the ability of SLS-Orion’s defenders to stave off cancellation is likely to fail.
That simply leaves the question of the relative timing of various events. Personally, I’m of the opinion that the first all-up test of the full SHS stack will take place in roughly a year – 3Q 2020. Between then and SpaceX’s already announced approximate target for commencing commercial flights of SHS for customers – mid-2021 – it is my belief that SLS-Orion will remain a hangar queen while SHS is busily sowing the heavens with Starlink birds and doing other neat stuff.
I think it’s safe to assume you don’t agree. “Elon’s schedules are not credible,” you say, citing Crew Dragon 2 and its purportedly “shitty” design while holding NASA blameless for any of the program’s delays.
The D2 design is not “shitty,” it merely proved to be not quite up to dealing with all the sadistic abuse SpaceX elected to deal it in testing. SpaceX has never been afraid to put the screws to its brainchildren or blow things up in testing and has acknowledged ruining a lot of Merlins, Raptors and other bits of hardware on test stands over the years.
Despite that, the company was caught out twice by recondite problems that struck F9 while in service after enough testing had supposedly been done. With D2, SpaceX has managed to generate its latest high-profile failure while testing was going on and not after entry into service. The cause is known and an inexpensive fix is in the works.
Tesla’s stock is not “in the toilet.” It closed today up more than $63 dollars per share over its record low close of just a few weeks ago. After trying for years to panic Tesla shareholders, Wall Street shortsellers finally managed to start a modest buffalo stampede a couple months ago, prior to Tesla’s very good 2Q numbers coming out. Emmett makes a more extensive case for Tesla below.
That’s just babble…the poll grant thing has been debunked so many times it is pointless to do it here…
SLS continues because Jimbo does not have the political horsepower to kill it, in his own caucus…and because it lives nothing will change at NASA.
But Dragon2 is a shitty design and its not NASA’s fault, its MUsk. MUsk and the gang could have made a Dragon 2 that really was just an upgrade of the Dragon design, which is pretty proven. But no.
But against the customers wishes the came up with this land landing scheme that they were unwilling to test to any reasonable level of failure, that redesign changed the entire nature of the vehicle and the test that it blew up in…was a modest test of its ability to do a basic abort.
The cause is not known and no one quite has a clue yet as to how to fix it…sorry your statement is just MUsk spin
In any event you guys act as if MUsk has actually changed the space world when in reality he has merely recreated a rocket with the reliability of Delta2 and a bigger payload. It has not lowered the cost of launch that much so that it has attracted new customers…and its unclear it will ever be reusable.
And you believe silly things like star whatever goes to orbit in under a year.
That’s just fan boy stuff
Handwaving and histrionics unleavened by any facts – as usual.
Nobody, including Trump, has the politcal horsepower to kill SLS now. I have, in fact, made that very point myself any number of times around here.
But the world is not cast in Lucite. It changes all the time. All kinds of things are impossible – until they suddenly aren’t.
The Dragon 2 design was fine. NASA had no objection to the powered landing idea for the first three years SpaceX was working on it. The sudden objections only arose after Boeing got into trouble with its own development schedule and its partisans within NASA needed to gin up some way to jam up SpaceX long enough to allow for some catch-up.
NASA was, in essence, breaching its contract with SpaceX by suddenly insisting on a lot of changes not originally allowed for and insisting that a lot of testing SpaceX had already developed ways to do cheaply be done in expensive ways instead. SpaceX knuckled under because what choice did they have, really. I think the massive ramp-up in SHS effort that followed was motivated by never wanting to be in such a position again.
The test during which the D2 failed was anything but modest, it was brutal. And it uncovered a previously unsuspected failure mode – which is now being fixed. It’s known and has been explained. Ditto the fix. It’s also, no doubt, still being meticulously studied to death for future reference.
You are more and more coming to resemble one of those street crazies who shout random gibberish at passers-by.
Non of that is true
NASA has no objection to a powered landing now…as long as SpaceX test various normal and non normal operation. SpaceX took awhile to get the booster landing correct, I suspect it would have taken two or three splats to get the capsule landing correct…
What NASA wanted was reasonable…its just spaceX didn’t want to pay for it.
The last test where D2 failed was typical of an abort. It was standard stuff…they failed. They would have failed in the first powered landing test to…
NASA suddenly had all sorts of BS objections to powered landing, including the idea that holes in the heat shield for landing legs was somehow beyond the pale. SpaceX intended to do a lot of propulsive landing tests, and did. But it wanted the “final exam” to be a Cargo Dragon 2 return mission – which NASA had originally approved and then reneged on.
There wasn’t anything “standard” about the DM-1 D2’s last test. It was strictly a SpaceX special. The vehicle was mounted on a giant paint-shaker and subjected to twice the estimated vibration load predicted for a booster RUD. Be sure to tell me when Boeing ever runs a test like that on Starliner – especially one that’s been to space and come back.
It seems quite likely the eventual cause of the check valve backflow that caused the D2 explosion will be traced to the brutal vibration environment of the test. As that would not apply in any nominal return from orbit, your breezy confidence in SpaceX’s failure seems misplaced.
No it was not a spaceX special it was a standard test for an abort.
And you are lying or uninformed about the powered landing. SpaceX had no intention of paying for the test necessary to run the entire abort profile…none. They were willing to do one full up test, if NASA paid for it risking a cargo dragon…and they wanted no performance penalties if the thing went bang.
Using words like “brutal” just show how much of a fan boy amateur you are. 🙂
Can’t be all that standard if Boeing isn’t going to do it.
The use of Cargo Dragon 2 re-entries and landings to prove out propulsive landing was part of the deal from the get-go. NASA was okay with that until they suddenly weren’t. The excuse was that NASA didn’t want to risk scientific downmass. Not putting any in, or not putting any in that was irreplaceable at least, was suddenly not an option.
I’m not aware that the Commercial Crew program ever included any performance penalties. The main “penalty” for a failed such test landing would be the loss or serious damage of the vehicle – which is SpaceX’s property, not NASA’s – and which SpaceX would have had to pay to replace. Not a bad incentive not to crash I would say.
Of course NASA would pay for the mission. Going up, it would be a standard CRS freight haul. NASA pays for those. The landing test would take place on the coming home leg.
But the propulsive landing descent profile called for a “burp” test of the SuperDracos at high altitude to establish correct function. If anything was amiss, the plan was to land in water with parachutes. NASA had originally endorsed this, then suddenly decided the only acceptable risk anent powered landings was none.
That wasn’t going to happen in any case as parachutes can also fail. But it served to jam up SpaceX long enough for Boeing to make up some of the distance that then separated the two firms.
Boeing does not have to do it, the shape of the capsule is well understood…its Apollo CM all over.
SpaceX came up with a method of landing, then when the customer wanted it tested in X way they refused so the customer did. Now they are stuck
There is no cargo dragon 2 now…you are mixing the stories up..
SpaceX is shoddy on their testing…it took them awhile to get the first stage landing correct…and it would take them awhile to do that with the DRagon2 capsule…including a few that go splat.
That’s what they do
What does the shape of the capsule have to do with how well it can stand being shaken like a maraca?
There’s no such thing as sympathetic magic you know. Making something the same shape doesn’t mean it’ll work the same. If that was true, all those cargo cults in the South Pacific would have been overflowing with “cargo” long since.
Your second para is incoherent. As near as I can make out, you think the argument between NASA and SpaceX was something like an argument between a hooker and her john – who does what to whom and who gets paid. I don’t think so.
And, yeah, there is a Cargo Dragon 2. It’ll be like a Crew Dragon 2 but with no controls, no seats, lots of racks and no SuperDracos. It’ll have the same mold line. It’ll use the same trunk. It’ll dock the same way to the same ISS ports. It’ll make its first flight to ISS as CRS-21, currently scheduled for 2H 2020. The SpaceX rep on the panel at the pre-launch presser for CRS-18 explained all this at some length in response to questions from the assembled and phone-in journos.
SpaceX wasn’t “shoddy” in testing propulsive landings of F9 S1’s, it simply didn’t get it right on the first try. Just because the snowflake engineers at your favorite company have to retreat to their safe spaces and suck their thumbs for a year at a time whenever something happens that’s off-script doesn’t mean real grown-up companies have to do do that.
Landing a capsule under parachutes isn’t remotely as tricky as landing a giant rocket stage under power. SpaceX has done the former about 20 times now without a failure. From a recovery standpoint, a D2 and a D1 are pretty similar. Nothing’s going to go “splat.”
“You’re correct that Congress isn’t going to countenance cancelling SLS and Orion now”
I’m not so sure.
Remember, there are some in the DNC that may attack space spending just because Republicans support it–a la’ Culberson…
The ultimate nightmare is for the DNC to not only kill off SLS–but to then tax the hell out of Musk and Bezos to the point that both SpaceX and Blue Origin go under. Then you have nothing.
This is why I want New Spacers to have the backs of Old Space (and vice versa, Gary) and work together as a unified front.
If the Democrats get elected and follow Lori Graver;s recommendations (maybe even making her the new NASA Administrator…) to turn NASA into a climate change agency, complete with a “Climate Corps” HSF may well be limited to the ISS while SLS/Orion/Gateway all get scrapped as no longer relevant to its new mission.
Forget new crewed missions in space. NASA should focus on saving Earth.
By Lori Garver July 1, 2019
“NASA could create a Climate Corps — modeled after the Peace Corps — in which scientists and engineers spend two years in local communities understanding the unique challenges they face, training local populations and connecting them with the data and science needed to support smart, local decision-making.”
“Assigning NASA this task would require an Apollo-scale change — but could be accomplished within its existing mandate and by shifting funding priorities.”
So Lori has imbibed the Climate Kool-Aid too, eh? Too bad. I always thought she was underemployed as Bolden’s segundo. But in the hive of intersectional identity politics box-checking that was the Obama administration, she just didn’t check enough boxes.
If it were up to her–al NASA would have been about would be launching Delta IIs with umpteen different weather sats.
SPSS–now that’s another thing.
It is certainly true that the vast majority of political opposition to space spending by the government has come from Democrats. Walter Mondale and the late William Proxmire come readily to mind, but there have been, and remain, many others with lower public profiles.
But Democrats have also punched well above their weight in establishing the pork-ization of government space spending and the system of perverse incentives that has led us to the current threadbare state in which a corrupt, shrunken, lazy, entitled and enfeebled legacy aerospace industrial base – and, even more worrisome, the overall defense industrial base – finds itself.
So, no, I don’t see much genuine confluence of interests between NewSpace and OldSpace. Absent government’s massive thumb on the scales, NewSpace would already have supplanted OldSpace and at least some of NewSpace might also have spread out into military hardware production in the same innovative ways space has been addressed.
That still needs to happen and soon. Unfortunately, there are far too many Republicans pathetically eager to place the good of their major campaign contributors above the good of the nation as a whole.
The legacy MIC has no right to continued existence and profit in perpetuity regardless of what it does or – as the case has increasingly become – doesn’t do. Corporations may be, in certain ways, legally persons, but we emphatically don’t owe them the compassion lavished on actual humans. When they get old, sick and infirm, we need to put them on ice floes and float them away. Young and vigorous companies should take their places.
The reason the U.S. rose to become what it is and has stayed at the world’s forefront is because we are more innovative than other nations. This has been true since the days of Ben Franklin and Eli Whitney. If we lose that, we lose the essence of ourselves. Our well-being and liberty will soon follow.
That is why the stagnation of space technology, only recently broken, is a matter of such concern. It is mirrored, at much greater scale, in the realm of military technology which has also been stagnant for decades.
The U.S. Navy made great technological strides during WW2 and in the 20 years following. Since then, it has been largely marching in place while also shrinking. The sole exception has been GPS.
The Air Force is also largely stuck in neutral. The last really new thing it helped birth was stealth over 40 years ago. The Navy handed USAF GPS which has become its main force multiplier in an era when USAF is also shrinking. This was accomplished over the strenuous objections of USAF brass of the 80’s who didn’t see the point until the Army rubbed their noses in GPS during Desert Storm.
The criminal neglect of in-space warfighting capability and doctrine by USAF has, of course, become infamous and legendary.
Would things go badly if the Democrats took over? Sure. I’m personally of the opinion that the accession to power of the current brainless mob of progressive socialists would result in the destruction of the nation were it not first to be far more likely to result in a second Civil War.
Would Musk and Bezos be particular targets? About that I’m less concerned. Bezos is a Democrat himself. Musk is largely apolitical but checks a lot of Democrat boxes anent Climate Change[TM]. Still, with the nation as a whole going rapidly into the crapper under Democrat control, it hardly seems likely either would escape unscathed.
Fortunately, that seems, for a variety of reasons, to be unlikely to happen – at least anytime soon. There are a lot of things that will contribute to what I see as an epoch-making rejection of wack-a-doodle leftism in 2020 but the biggest is the current suicidal Democratic embrace of open borders. That may be the one thing that peels away enough black and legal immigrant voters in 2020 – and keeps them peeled away – that the Democrats will never again be a competitive national party, just a bi-coastal rump concentrated in major urban centers.
I will, needless to say, be making whatever small contribution I can to making that happen next year.
More generally, the future of humanity in space is nil so long as it depends mainly upon spending by governments – ours and every other one. For that reason, it is imperative that some kind of critical mass be reached with respect to sustainable business models in space that can grow and extend on their own without reference to government largesse.
I have already published a broad-brush sketch of such in The Space Review some years ago and am working on more detailed notions I hope to publish at greater length in the, I hope, not too distant future.
Simply put, government is too limited and inefficient because of structural political and institutional limitations to ever support a self-sustaining human presence in space of more than token size. It’s business or bust where the rest of the known universe is concerned.
There is, and will continue to be, political opposition to this vision and that opposition is, and will continue to be, bi-partisan. OldSpace is too locked into the government contracts uber alles mindset to want to be of any significant assistance in advancing a genuine future for humanity in space. And even if it wanted to be – as Tory Bruno at ULA sometimes seems to – it lacks the fundamental ability to any longer make useful contributions.
NASA, as I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, is also more OldSpace-y than NewSpace-y in its structure and instincts. Parts of it, in fact, are active impediments to genuine progress, MSFC being the biggest and worst of these.
NASA will continue to have a role for some time, but it needs to be a steadily diminishing one. It certainly needs to be denied any sort of gatekeeper role anent what the NewSpace private sector does on its own dime.
“Simply put, government is too limited and inefficient because of structural political and institutional limitations to ever support a self-sustaining human presence in space of more than token size. “
Now that I don’t agree with. SPSS–had somebody of Rickover’s mojo in the Military pushed for it–could have been a game changer.
When ABMA was forced out by the USAF–any real hope of a true space force vanished for decades.
I want a Manhatten project for space.
So you want a blaze of expensive glory followed by a half century of stagnation?
If Starship works–things take off. If it doesn’t, we will have SLS at some level.
Stagnation would be EELV only payloads.
Considering that SpaceX can launch dozens of ERLV’s (Evolved Reusable Launch Vehicles) per year and ULA can even launch a few actual EELV’s, while SLS will be doing well to maintain even a one-per-year pace – with a vehicle that has about the same lift capacity to LEO as Falcon Heavy but costs 10 times as much – I’d say the stagnation would be all in the direction of SLS.
ERLV–that a nice acronym you’ve started….
I get disagreed with a lot. I’d be more interested in hearing a convincing case about how I’m wrong.
Do you mean Space Solar Power Satellites (SSPS)? Those aren’t going to be practical for terrestrial use until the last aggressively expansionist Earthside regime with access to ASAT’s is put down for the long dirt nap. That’s going to take awhile.
Rickover was a singular figure who only succeeded because the post-WW2 USN was suddenly desperate to do anything with the word “atomic” or “nuclear” in it. Even so, he faced massive pushback from shellback admirals who didn’t like his ideas, his demeanor or the fact that he was a Jew. The Navy has always been the most New England Waspy of the U.S. uniformed services and a bastion of the genteel anti-semitism that has gone along with that. It still is in some ways.
We don’t need a Manhattan Project for space, we need an Industrial Revolution there.
The Administration did propose using Pell Grants surplus funding. It got sharply criticized for it in Congress. And the Pell Grants help fund college education for poor students.
These are three related factual statements. You need five paragraphs to demonstrate bias in these factual statements?
You missed the larger point. Spending more money on the moon threatens other priorities both within the NASA budget and elsewhere in the federal spending. The Pell Grants controversy was an example of the larger point. That’s all.
The whole argument about whether Pell Grants should have a surplus or whether it was right to raid it to fund the moon program was another argument for another time. It was sufficient for this story to demonstrate that legislators will protect against raids on other programs.
When I ask who are you, I mean WHO are you? It’s easy to sit in a keyboard and a monitor all day and opine about this, that and the other thing while hiding in anonymity. It takes much more courage to attach your real name to them. We can’t put any of the comments to a name or a face, or evaluate if you have any idea what you’re talking about.
You are correct that what you wrote is factual – as far as it goes. It’s what you left out that transforms a small collection of individual truths into a composite lie by omission.
It generally does take a lot longer to tell the whole truth than to tell whatever selected subset of it will produce the reader misdirection intended. As Mark Twain said, “A lie can travel half-way around the world while the truth is still lacing up its boots.”
I’ve now told you above what my name is and why it isn’t my Disqus user ID.
How that will aid you in evaluating what I have to say in future is less clear. Try simply evaluating what I have to say in terms of facts and logic rather than “who I am.” If I’m right, it doesn’t matter who I am. Contrariwise, if some eminence grise with a string of alphabet soup following his name tells you that all cats have a third eye, you are free to think him a dolt – and should – despite his pile of credentials.
I don’t accept unsupported assertions and arguments from authority from anyone and neither should you. But you seem more impressed by such things than I am. You are, for instance, adamant that the ravings of a cabal of well-credentialed liars with PhD’s proves we’re all going to die of Climate Change [TM] unless Something Is Done. I don’t know how old you are but I’m plenty old enough to remember equally impassioned diatribes from decades past by eminent men of letters and science who also turned out to be errant cranks. Paul Ehrlich comes to mind. And Bertrand Russell.
You also seem to take it for granted that anyone with the government is automatically far more objective and credible than someone from the private sector. That seems to apply especially in the case of private sector space companies in contrast to NASA.
I’m equally sure you regard all your ideologically-based blind spots and false beliefs as simply common sense. Twain had something to say about that too. “Common sense,” said he, “is the collection of prejudices one has managed to accumulate by the age of 18.”
A composite lie by omission? Good grief.
The point was that Democrats had concerns about using funding from other programs both within and outside NASA to fund the lunar program. The attempt to use the Pell Grant surplus was an example. End of story.
It was not necessary to go off on a tangent as to the arguments for and against such a move. That wasn’t the point of the piece. If I got off on that side argument, I might have well asked if the Pell Grant surplus should have been reprogrammed within the education budget.
As for the rest of this response….please try to stick to the subject at hand. Yeah, I know you have a lot to say about a lot of things, but maybe do your commenting about peripheral matters elsewhere.
The speculation about what happens if… there are more SLS delays and Elon somehow keeps to schedule with Starship are just beyond the scope of the story which dealt with the near-term political and financial decisions about Artemis.
Fine to comment on it here, would be vastly more courageous if you didn’t hide behind some alias, but reasons already explained I didn’t go into it. This piece was hard enough to write and organize.
I’m not hiding. I’ve always been quite willing to tell people who I am when asked. Or challenged. Or insulted. My name is Dick Eagleson. I’ve been writing and commenting under that name over at The Space Review for several years as that site doesn’t use Disqus as its comment tool. The frequent visitors to this site who also read and comment over there know who I am.
The “duheagle” alias came about because I don’t like spelling my name with an underscore in it and I established my Disqus account over a dozen years ago during a time when the software was being shirty about accepting user ID’s with embedded spaces for some reason. Pretty obviously that’s no longer the case, but I’m not aware of any mechanism via which to retroactively fix things now or I would have done so long since.
I’m reasonably certain I’ve explained this to you at least once before, but I’m not about to waste time wading through my considerable comment history here to try to find where and when. Far faster just to repeat things now.
Sorry. You probably did.I apologize.
Here’s the thing: The ‘this is how you should have written it’ complaints get irritating sometimes. This was a very complicated piece to write, I spent a lot of time on it, and there were things I had to leave out. I realize it’s not the way **you** would have written it, but you didn’t write it.
I appreciate your comments here. I realize we don’t always see eye to eye, but you add a lot to the discussion. I apologize if I offended you. My memory is not as good as it used to be.
its an excellent article…and good analysis
the only purpose of this effort is to increase the NASA budget by X amount of billions on a permanent basis…thats to funnel additional money to the contractors in red states.
then when the lunar trip doesnt happen and assuming (not likely) Trump gets a second term…Trump can always as he does blame someone else.
there is zero chance of a lunar mission in 24 or 25
Your political predictions seem about as likely to come true as your space-related ones.
Name me one political prediction I have gotten wrong. Trump always blames others
You seem to pretty well assume he’ll be defeated in 2020. Or maybe you don’t. To be honest, I don’t recall any political predictions by you other than the one above that I commented on. You toss frequent insults at Trump, of course, but those aren’t predictions.
You dont recall any predictions but yet claim mine are wrong? Brilliant
I dont assume Trump will be defeated at all. He is an incumbent, that is an immense advantage and he is a clever divider.
Dems are working through a message process that could either work or flounder…
But …it feels as if a political cycle is coming to an end. And like 80 feels like a new one is trying to start. Now it could fail…Carters “reboot” failed in 80…but anyone who assumes anything about the 2020 election is the first three letters in the word.
Trump could also be starting a new political cycle of right wing extremism…
The Democratic Party has to come together around either an old Clinton/Obama message or find a new one..the GOP on the other hand has come together under a Trumpian message…and as a result of that is splintering. There will be (this is a prediction 🙂 ) more GOP house retirements coming as the Demographics become more and more hostile to right wing policies…and Trumps base while solid is small…that is OK as long as the Dem coalition stays like Obama left it…but thats the binary choice.
I have never mixed the insults I gladly hurl at Trump with predictions. Trump is a liar, a cheat, a divider, and has no grasp of what America is special for. Nor do the people who support him
As for his space program…it is all Trump. Skin deep and barely capable at that 🙂
It’s time to head to the pool and catch the sunset …I love Manila…and my second cousin and his family are joining me. 🙂
I said I didn’t recall any except the one you now seem to be denying you made. Whatever.
Trump is a “divider” but the party of identity politics is just one big smiley happy huggy family. Got it. I guess it’s my fault I don’t see much of Hugh Beaumont in Joe Biden or of Barbara Billingsley in Elizabeth Warren.
I think politics is closer to being a random walk than it is to being cyclic.
Nonetheless the loony-tune stuff coming from the Democrats these days may actually occasion the end of an era if not a cycle – the effective end of the Democrats as a party after two centuries. The Prog crazies have taken over and the Democratic Party, like everything else the Progs take over – higher education, publishing, much else – is in the process of being destroyed. Just the open borders thing would be good for at least 40 years in the wilderness by itself, but just to make sure, the Progs have tacked on legalized infanticide, wealth confiscation, free health care at America’s expense for the entire world and the overthrow of the Industrial Revolution to sweeten the pot.
At worst, the Republican Party has frayed a bit at the edges. The tiny band of remaining NeverTrumpers have gone out into the wilderness and mostly been eaten by bears. There are some aspects of Trumpism, such as it is, that will likely leave lasting ideological marks on the Republican Party – trade policy, mainly – because success achieved by defying conventional wisdom always gets assimilated eventually, just not immediately.
I, like most Trump supporters, have a very clear idea of why the U.S. is special. If you also do, then you would appear to be the only Democrat in the country who does. None of the people running – if that’s the word – the Party these days seems to think the U.S. is special at all. Except specially bad.
The Trump space program has its problems alright. But none were of his making and he has at least put people in charge who seem to have a genuine desire to shift NASA’s transmission out of neutral and go somewhere. With a little help from their friends, that seems entirely capable of happening.
I’d still like to see Orion fly on a Falcon Heavy, but starship might be up and running before NASA could do anything.
Here’s the problem I see with D2 carrying crew this year. SX did the paint shaker test. Why they did the test of course I don’t know, but I’ll trust that they had good reason to. It failed. Spectacularly. It seems to me that unless you duplicate that test again, including any events to include launch, orbit, and splashdown leading up to the test, you don’t really know if any fix actually worked. More importantly, you also have no idea if there were other problems the test would have revealed that it didn’t because the capsule went boom.
To use a software analogy, if you find a bug when running a test suite, you fix the bug. But you certainly don’t then ship the product without running the test suite again to insure that 1) you actually fixed the bug, 2) you didn’t introduce additional bugs by fixing the original one, and 3) that the original bug didn’t prevent you from finding more bugs down the line.
There is no way to have any real confidence in a fixed capsule that hasn’t been retested, because there is no way to know what other problems the shaker test would have revealed.
So unless SX can do a retest soon, one which duplicates the conditions of the original test, I don’t see crew being carried anytime soon.
Hoping that you fixed it is not good enough.
I think SpaceX fans mostly agree with this. Test the crap out of everything possible before flying people.
You say all this as though you have had some sort of revelation that you are still, for some reason, certain will escape the dimwitted cowboy engineers at SpaceX. Try not to break your arm patting yourself on the back.
As to the substance, there is certainly a quite obvious and not very incrementally expensive or time-consuming way forward:
1) Make sure the “paint shaker” still works. If it doesn’t, fix it.
2) Paint shake the new D2 now slated for the in-flight abort test – incorporating the mods to prevent recurrence of the original failure – while running the same tests as were run on the D2 that went boom. If it survives unscathed, that’s good. If not, obviously, it’s back to the autopsy table.
3) Assuming no new boom, do the in-flight abort test. That won’t require a re-entry, but it will test the system that failed on the ground in flight, dirty the new D2 up a bit and give it the same seawater dunking as the first one.
4) Fish it out of the drink, replace the one-time-use-only burst disks, fill the abort thruster propellant tanks back up, put the thing back on the paint shaker and do all the same tests again. Again, if it passes, approve it for flight with crew. If not, back to the autopsy table.
5) Fly crew on the next new exemplar of the modified design off the assembly line. The blow-up only happened when the abort system was activated after being re-entered, soaked in seawater and paint shook. If we’ve reached this point without a second blow-up, we’ve established that a nominal mission poses no risk of a repetition because the abort thrusters are never fired on such a mission and DM-1 was such a mission. The in-flight abort test will have established that the mods made after the explosion will prevent a recurrence on a new capsule if it has to make an actual abort. This makes it safe to fly crew on a new capsule. If they have to abort, we already know that should work. DM-1 demonstrated that there should be no problem for the rest of the mission if the abort system is never used. And on a nominal mission, it never will be.
6) After the first crew returns from its mission, replace the burst disks and refill the tanks on that D2, then re-run all the paint shaker tests for a third time on a flown, re-entered, sooty, browned and seawater soaked vehicle. If no boom, then it’s as safe as it’s gonna get anent the abort system blowing up. If it blows up, back to the autopsy table.
There you go. Maximum opportunity to test at minimal cost and maximum safety for crew flights with no untoward delays to schedules. No hope required.
I figure SpaceX already has all this stuff planned out because I’m not a rocket engineer and they are.
You say all this as though you have had some sort of revelation that you
are still, for some reason, certain will escape the dimwitted cowboy
engineers at SpaceX.
No, I’m pretty sure they will see it my way, given that as you keep saying ad nauseum, they are descended from a software company mindset, and that that is a good thing. I didn’t have any sort of revelation.
Try not to break your arm patting yourself on the
While I’m not double jointed, I am pretty flexible. I doubt I’ll be breaking an arm anytime soon. As an aside, were you born this snarky, or did you hone the skill over many years of commenting on blogs on the net?
As for the test regimen you lay out, it sounds pretty good, but it doesn’t exactly reproduce the circumstances leading up to the last boom. Also I don’t quite understand why one would need to replace the burst disks and refill the tanks in step 6) of your notional test battery, if the abort system never fired in the first place since they were replaced prior to step 5).
Snark is my natural response to pomposity and/or unreasonable assumption of superiority. The latter was my take on your original comment.
The test regime outlined was only intended to reproduce the circumstances of the exploded D2 at the end. In between, it simply establishes if subsets of those circumstances – identical to conditions that would attend either a nominal or an aborted crewed flight – are dangerous or not without putting crew at risk to find out.
And you got me on that last item. No need to replace something that hasn’t been used.
Snark is my natural response to pomposity and/or unreasonable assumption of superiority
That’s pretty rich, given that you come off as the most pompous/superior acting person on these boards.
I’ll chalk that opinion up to the fact we frequently disagree. Including about this.
Pomposity is an unwarranted assumption of personal grandeur. The paradigmatic example is probably John “Do you know who I am?” Kerry.
Show me a place where I’ve ever sounded like that.
Superior acting is closely related and is characterized by arrogance, condescension and the assumption that the height of one’s pile of personal credentials is sufficient to carry any argument.
Capt. Bob is a textbook case. “I’m a big-deal test pilot and you’re not. You’re just some nobody fan boy. So you can’t possibly be right about anything having to do with aerospace if you disagree with me.” A very high percentage of his posts are minor variations on this theme.
That, also, is not my style.
Your arguments only serve to further prove my point 🙂
Your response serves to support mine. And also that you can’t distinguish between arrogant pomposity and narrative confidence. I lay things out and show my work.