NASA Makes Improvements to Orion Heat Shield With Data Gathered From EFT-1

A manufacturing development unit of Orion’s heat shield is being built at Lockheed Martin’s facility in Denver. Engineers are using the unit to verify the new heat shield manufacturing process before it is used on actual flight hardware. Photo and Caption Credit: Lockheed Martin

A manufacturing development unit of Orion’s heat shield is being built at Lockheed Martin’s facility in Denver. Engineers are using the unit to verify the new heat shield manufacturing process before it is used on actual flight hardware. Photo and Caption Credit: Lockheed Martin

Engineers working on NASA’s Orion capsule are taking a different approach to building the heat shield that will fly on Exploration Mission (EM) – 1. The next version Orion heat shield will be able to withstand the extreme environments Orion will encounter on the second unmanned flight test traveling deeper into space. Engineers gathered data from Orion’s maiden flight, Exploration Flight Test (EFT)- 1, to determine the improvements that need to be made before the next unmanned test flight.

Engineers are building the next version Orion heat shield in blocks rather than in one single massive structure. The top layer of the Orion heat shield protects the crew module from the extreme temperatures experienced during reentry. The layer will be made up of about 180 blocks and built in stages to make the manufacturing process less labor-intensive. This improvement to the heat shield design will save money and cut the current manufacturing time by about two months. Valuable data from EFT-1 will ensure a successful EM-1 mission when Orion launches atop NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket on a circumlunar journey no earlier than November 2018.

Delta-IV Heavy carrying Orion lifts off from Cape Canaveral on Exploration Flight Test (EFT) - 1. Photo Credit: Alan Walters/AmericaSpace

Delta-IV Heavy carrying Orion lifts off from Cape Canaveral on Exploration Flight Test (EFT) – 1. Photo Credit: Alan Walters/AmericaSpace

“The heat shield we put to the test during Orion’s flight test last December met every expectation we had and gave us a tremendous amount of data on its thermal and mechanical performance,” said Mark Kirasich, Acting Orion Program Manager. “But the process of building the heat shield as a single piece for that flight also gave us insight into how we could improve the way we build this essential element of the spacecraft.”

Orion is NASA’s next generation spacecraft that will serve as the exploration vehicle to take astronauts Beyond Low-Earth Orbit (BLEO) and deep space. Orion is designed to carry a crew of four to distant planetary bodies, provide emergency abort capability, sustain a crew for a long duration of time, and ensure safe reentry from space. Engineers are working hard to design an Orion capsule that provides a safe environment from launch to landing and recovery.

In the future, NASA will use Orion to fly a manned mission to Mars, but before that can happen the vehicle must undergo years of intense testing. December’s unmanned flight test provided engineers with important insight on spacecraft performance and how well its systems functioned in the harshness of space. Engineers took the insight gathered from EFT-1 and applied it to the manufacturing of the next Orion set to fly on EM-1.

The heat shield is one of the most critical elements of the Orion spacecraft. It serves as a literal “shield” from the extreme temperatures experienced during reentry into Earth’s atmosphere. The Orion heat shield used on EFT-1 experienced scorching temperatures close to 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit and speeds near 80 percent of what it will meet when returning from missions close to the moon. The interior of the capsule was kept at a comfortable temperature in the mid-70s during the chaotic return. Examinations of the heat shield after EFT-1 proved that it performed well within expectations, despite previous doubts regarding the Avcoat/honeycomb structure.

The heat shield used on EFT-1 was made up of a titanium skeleton with a carbon fiber coating that provided structural support. (This also gave the crew module its circular shape on the bottom.) A fiberglass-phenolic honeycomb structure with 320,000 miniscule cells was placed on top. Each cell was filled one-by-one, by hand, with an easily eroded material called Avcoat. The material is designed to wear away during Orion’s reentry through the Earth’s atmosphere. Once the small cell was filled by hand, it was placed in an oven to be cured, x-rayed, and then robotically altered to meet thickness requirements.

During the manufacture of the heat shield for EFT-1, engineers learned that the strength of the Avcoat/honeycomb structure was “below expectations” but analysis showed that it would work. The successful flight proved that the heat shield was able to withstand the extreme stress; however, EM-1 will put Orion in colder temperatures in space and hotter temperatures during reentry. At apogee during EFT-1 Orion was 3,609 miles from Earth. EM-1 Orion will swing around the moon (nearly 239,000 miles from Earth) on a much longer journey. Engineers know that the next version Orion will require a stronger heat shield.

This is not the first announced change to occur to the Orion heat shield after EFT-1. In January, NASA and Lockheed Martin decided to include an advanced 3-D woven thermal protection fabric to the Orion heat shield for the next test flight, EM-1. This woven fabric will provide astronauts extra protection from scorching temperatures when returning from deep space. The 3-D woven textile will be placed in compression pads that fit between the Orion crew module and service module. The pads will absorb the structural loads generated during launch and spaceflight operations.

The Orion heat shield that flew on Exploration Flight Test 1, December 2014, arrives at Marshall Space Flight Center for machining and post-flight evaluation. Photo Caption and Credit: NASA

The Orion heat shield that flew on Exploration Flight Test 1, December 2014, arrives at Marshall Space Flight Center for machining and post-flight evaluation.
Photo Caption and Credit: NASA

As described in a previous AmericaSpace article, the multifunctional Quartz “preform” material will be used in thermal protection system (TPS) that keeps the temperature regulated inside the spacecraft. The 2-D pads used on EFT-1 are only good for return from low-Earth orbit (LEO). The ones used on EM-1 must be able to withstand a fiery reentry at speeds near 24,000 mph. Bally Ribbon Mills of Bally, Penn., is responsible for producing the material.

More work on the Orion crew module is underway at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, La. Lockheed Martin engineers performed the first weld on the Orion spacecraft pressure vessel for EM-1 on Sept. 5, 2015. Engineers saved 700 pounds of mass by reducing the number of welds on the pressure vessel from 33 to seven.

Orion is set to launch aloft the maiden voyage of the SLS rocket on EM-1 no earlier than (NET) November 2018. A two-person piloted EM-2 mission previously slated for August 2021 has been delayed due to budget issues with a target of NET April 2023. A critical design review for NASA’s Space Launch System was completed back in July and considered “right on track” for it’s first launch carrying EM-1 in 2018.

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Missions » SLS » EFT-1 » Missions » SLS » EM-1 » Missions » SLS »

37 comments to NASA Makes Improvements to Orion Heat Shield With Data Gathered From EFT-1

  • Jim Hillhouse

    It’s important to keep in mind that NASA’s 2023 no earlier than projected launch for EM–2 is predicated on FY 2016–2020 outyear Orion funding at levels projected by the Administration’s FY 2016 budget. The 2023 EM–2 launch date ignores the higher funding levels that Congress has in the past appropriated. Given that Congress is almost certain to continue funding the Orion program at levels authorized in the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 (SLS too), the chance of a 2021 EM–2 launch is very high.

    Funding for NASA’s programs of record are currently guided by the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 (PL 111–267) that was passed on September 29, 2010 over the strenuous objections of the Obama White House by over 72% (304/118) of the then-Democratic controlled House and unanimous consent in the then-Democratic controlled Senate, before being signed into law by President Obama. As there is no superceding authorization, the 2010 Authorization Act remains in force today, providing the guidance for all subsequent and current appropriations bills.

    The White House budget request for NASA’s Orion Program has since FY 2012 been significantly below authorized levels, a funding difference that remains to this day.

    Presidential Request and Appropriated Funding for the Orion Program

    Fiscal Yr––WH Request––Appropriated––Additional Appropriated
    FY 2012 $1.0102B $1.2000 $ 189.80M
    FY 2013 $1.0249B $1.2001 $ 175.10M
    FY 2014 $1.0268B $1.2003 $ 173.20M
    FY 2015 $1.0528B $1.1940 $ 147.20M

    For outyear FY 2017-2020, Orion program funding requests by the White House, which tends to read as a political “wish list” for the White House, remain $70-$80M below authorized levels. The White House outyear requests for Orion vehicle development, a subset of Orion program funding, will obviously be even lower. House and Senate appropriators who fund NASA do not seem inclined to go along with the White House’s requested funding level for the Orion program.

    Presidential Request vs. Authorized for the Orion Program

    Fiscal Yr–-WH Request––Diff Authorized––% Diff
    FY 2016 $1.0960B $- 104.0M -8.7%
    FY 2017 $1.1198B $- 80.2M -6.7%
    FY 2018 $1.1229B $- 77.1M -6.4%
    FY 2019 $1.1267B $- 73.3M -6.1%
    FY 2020 $1.1380B $- 62.0M -5.2%

    Based on the history of appropriations for the Orion program, it is unlikely that Congress will agree to the White House’s lower funding levels for Orion, which would put the NET of EM-2 in 2023. If the Orion programs appropriations funding history is any guided, the Orion program will be funded between the coming fiscal year (2016) and 2020 at levels far higher than those estimated by the Administration for through 2020. That additional funding from Congress, Gerstenmaier grudgingly acknowledged could move EM-2’s launch date by a year or more.

    NASA’s budget requests, past and current, can be found at https://www.nasa.gov/news/budget/index.html

    • Joe

      Jim,

      Thanks for the clarification.

      The situation can get frustrating:

      (1) The Administration “short sheets” the Orion Budget and instructs NASA to derive a schedule based on the arbitrary (and – as you point – out not likely to be enacted)budget reductions.

      (2) The general press then reports the “schedule delays” as if they were the result of technical problems and that misinterpretation is then used by the administration to attempt to discredit Orion.

      Nice to see a news source report the whole story.

      Thanks again.

  • James

    “Funding for NASA’s programs of record are currently guided by the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 (PL 111–267) that was passed on September 29, 2010 over the strenuous objections of the Obama White House by over 72% (304/118) of the then-Democratic controlled House and unanimous consent in the then-Democratic controlled Senate, before being signed into law by President Obama.”

    NASA Authorization Act of 2010 (PL 111–267) is a pretty good law and should be read carefully by anyone who doubts that NASA’s leadership, despite the President’s inane declaration of “been there, done that”, is supposed to be planning on leading international missions to the Moon.

    And strangely enough that good space law doesn’t say NASA is supposed to ‘give away or rent out for forever and a day’the enormous and extremely useful Launch Pad 39A, which is needed for NASA’s efficient dual SLS Lunar mission launches, to the President’s ‘annoited Martian political friend’who appears to want a near monopoly on Cape Kennedy Space Center advertising for launches of super-sized rockets.

    The odd goals of a presidentially ‘annoited Martian political and advertising monopoly’on Launch Pad 39A, and a near, or possibly the reality of an actual, large launcher private monopoly at the Cape Kennedy Space Center, are simply some effective ways to sabotage the full implementation of the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 (PL 111–267).

    Aesop the fable teller might wink and claim it could all simply be a bizarre and quasi-official Presidential ‘Hail Mary pass’ to resurrect Howard Hughes, the good ship ‘Hughes Glomar Explorer’, and Project Azorian to enable a defacto ‘private monopoly’to mine and claim the most resource rich parts of the Moon.

    Nonetheless, a President that tries hard to delay, disrupt, defund, or make unlikely the full implementation of a broadly supported law that he himself signed is sending a strong and clear message to all Americans that no one, especially the President or his ‘political huckster Martian friend’, needs to respect our laws.

    Our President’s attempts to avoid fully implementong the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 (PL 111–267) send a sad message to older folks who have “been there, done that” with another President who also thought he didn’t have to follow American laws and ended up resigning in disgrace.

    • Arth

      The Congress could’ve added a line in the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, that forced NASA use pads 39A & B only for launches of the SLS/Orion system & support systems. And a 20 year lease is not a monopoly. It’s not a laughing matter when the “Clown of 2002,” the subject of many board room & bar jokes, forces a change in the business strategy of all the major launch services providers 10-12 years later.

      Our system of “checks & balances” seems to be working as the framers of our government intended it to work.

  • James

    “And a 20 year lease is not a monopoly” but it certainly does disrupt the ability of NASA to do dual SLS Lunar missions in the 2020s and early 2030s and to make full use of the Orion spacecraft, doesn’t it? But that was precisely the goal of the President’s ‘super sweet deal’ for his ‘Martian political friend’ to ‘rent out’ or ‘get’ the enormous launch pad 39A, wasn’t it?

    Substitute a “Clown of 2002” space ‘fantasy Mars program’ for NASA’s legally mandated SLS/Orion based cislunar and Moon exploration and development program, and maybe even close down NASA,and hopefully ‘save some money’ for his wonderful social welfare programs. What a ‘deal’ for the President and his political ‘minion friend’!

    The Martian “Clown of 2002” has the full backing of a President most folks don’t trust.

    And the ‘minion clown’ is defacto ‘supporting’ the lame duck President in trying to stop the full implementation of a broadly bipartisan law, the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 (PL 111–267), that the President signed.

    Is the “Clown of 2002” spitting in the face of Congress, one of his most important customers and financial backers?

    And the “Clown of 2002”, despite his many empty boasts and billionaire ‘friends’ and the full backing of the President and NASA, still hasn’t built a launcher that is as reliable as the Atlas V…

    Instead, the “Clown of 2002” appears to still be digging deeper into the pockets and space assets of American taxpayers to fund and ‘monopolize’the ‘Martian Clown show of 2015 and beyond’.

    Eventually folks in Congress may get tired of the billionaire ‘Martian minion’ trying to ‘monopolize’ America’s space assets and delay NASA and America’s Program of Record at the expense of NASA’s international leadership in Lunar exploration.

    Yep, time will tell.

    • Joe

      Also note that SpaceX “profits” (derived mainly from the taxpayers) are being used to buy up bonds in another government subsidized Musk operation Solar City (thus increasing that company’s supposed “value”).

      http://cleantechnica.com/2015/03/31/90-million-solarcity-bonds-purchased-elon-musks-spacex/

      http://cleantechnica.com/2015/07/24/spacex-buys-additional-75-million-bonds-solarcity/

      With the Falcon 9 grounded (and thus going further and further behind in its CRS responsibilities) and only 15 years to go until 2030 (Musk’s stated date for establishing a Mars Colony) it would seem there would be better ways to use that money (if Musk were really as much of an altruistic visionary as his supporters assert).

      • James

        Several American and international launchers are much less complex and should be more reliable and sucessful in ‘competing’ against, and most likely outlasting by several decades, the ‘President’s Martian minion’s’ over-hyped ‘quasi-governmental’ and ‘privately’ funded ‘Rube Goldberg launcher’.

        • Arth

          Well, let’s hope that the “Several American and international launchers are much less complex and should be more reliable and sucessful in ‘competing’ against, and most likely outlasting by several decades, the ‘President’s Martian minion’s’ over-hyped ‘quasi-governmental’ and ‘privately’ funded ‘Rube Goldberg launcher'” are able to improve their technology & lower their prices to get more space related businesses going. We can see that with the Russians dropping their Proton prices to $65 million.

      • Arth

        Once the contractors are paid by any government agency, then, they can use the profits anyway they want. By the same analogy, most of Lockheed’s & 99% of ULA’s profits comes from taxpayers. I don’t hear these companies executives complaining when they get their annual bonuses at taxpayers expense. And to be honest, Musk’s 2030 Mars Colony is as much science fiction and cheerleading to keep people fired up about space exploration as anything else. Mars depends on having a Lunar Orbit architecture to test out the systems that will be used for exploration. No matter what Obama says, there is no Mars anything without the moon first.

        • Joe

          “Once the contractors are paid by any government agency, then, they can use the profits anyway they want.”

          I never said they couldn’t. What I did say was that if Musk were all that serious about space, with the Falcon 9 grounded, there are more expeditious ways of spending the money than propping up one of his other (government subsidized) enterprises with the 21st Century Billionaire’s equivalent of kiting checks.

          “I don’t hear these companies executives complaining when they get their annual bonuses at taxpayers expense.”

          Pointing to what you consider to be other bad behavior to justify bad behavior is a weak argument at best.

          “And to be honest, Musk’s 2030 Mars Colony is as much science fiction and cheerleading to keep people fired up about space exploration as anything else. Mars depends on having a Lunar Orbit architecture to test out the systems that will be used for exploration. No matter what Obama says, there is no Mars anything without the moon first.”

          About that were are in complete agreement.

        • Tim Andrews

          “Once the contractors are paid by any government agency, then, they can use the profits anyway they want.”

          You’re both making an assumption that SpaceX’ business with NASA has generated enough profit to make that feasible – while SpaceX’ critics frequently make claims that the company is operating at a loss.

          The SpaceX $165M investment came right after a $1B investment round with Google as the primary investor. It seems far more plausible (at least to me) that not only was this the source of the funds, but that it was likely with the support of the investors, judging by how quickly it happened.

          • Joe

            “The SpaceX $165M investment came right after a $1B investment round with Google as the primary investor. It seems far more plausible (at least to me) that not only was this the source of the funds, but that it was likely with the support of the investors, judging by how quickly it happened.”

            So, the “investors” gave SpaceX $1B and wanted SpaceX to immediately invest 16.5% of it in Solar City? That is interesting speculation, but why not just invest directly in Solar City if that was their desire?

            I will refrain from speculation of my own, but money is (excuse the cliché) fungible so here is an interesting question:

            SpaceX CRS contract (on which they are currently – to put it politely – underperforming) if for $1.6B, how much has SpaceX already been paid on CRS for services not rendered?

            • Tim Andrews

              “why not just invest directly in Solar City if that was their desire?”

              It’s likely their desire was to invest in SpaceX, but it’s also quite reasonable to want to see a reasonable return on capital that’s not planned to be needed for a period of a few years. If that return can be gained while benefitting a company that’s at least related by management if not other ties, that’s all the more beneficial. If Solar City goes belly up in the meantime – bad choice – but that’s the risk with anywhere a couple hundred million dollars is placed when setting it aside for expenses that haven’t hit yet.

              Is SpaceX actually underperforming on the contract? Certainly they’re underperforming on my expectations as a taxpayer, as is Orbital. But was mission success criteria for payment? Aren’t the CRS contracts paid on a per launch basis? If so, what would they have been paid for that hasn’t been rendered?

              • Joe

                “It’s likely their desire was to invest in SpaceX, but it’s also quite reasonable to want to see a reasonable return on capital that’s not planned to be needed for a period of a few years.”

                Then, since we are speculating, why not give SpaceX the money in installments rather than have SpaceX invest the money for them? Still seems a little strange to me.

                • Tim Andrews

                  With the caveat that it is purely my speculation…

                  Two reasons.

                  One, it’s not a small thing to do an investment round for a large company – doing it fewer times is better. I’ve only dealt with them in smaller companies and it’s not simple there, I expect at the billion dollar level it’s orders of magnitudes larger in what impact it has on execution of existing contracts, pausing new contractors, getting the other shareholders on board, etc.

                  Two, having money “in the bank” (or in the bonds in this case) is a whole lot easier for planning future growth than hoping to raise money in the future to finish a project started today.

                  Google cut back its plans for satellite Internet then dumped a lot of capital into SpaceX, SpaceX turned around and immediately and announced plans for a satellite Internet constellation. A lot of new media reported it as unusual that SpaceX was going toward satellite Internet while Google had backed off of it, ignoring the connection that Google now owns a chunk of SpaceX. It makes sense to me that if Google’s investment wasn’t about getting cash return if SpaceX goes public, but rather getting satellite Internet service in place, some of that money would be going to early development of the first test satellites and all the legal wrangling associated with them, and some of it would be set aside toward later expenses of launching those test satellites and perhaps some of the first satellites of the constellation, should the tests go well. If setting it aside, bonds a good way to go – choosing bonds from a related company is just the incestuous shell game Musk seems to use when he’s able to leverage one project to help another.

                  • Joe

                    A caveat of my own: I am an engineer not a financial manager.

                    What appears to have happened is Musk took money SpaceX has received (from whatever sources) and used it to buy bonds from Solar City (another of Musk’s enterprises that seems to need the money).

                    Your speculation may very well be true (or not) and I will assume it is legal in the business sphere.

                    Still it seems to me like the kind of thing that, if some poor shmuck did it to make a mortgage payment on their house and the investors lost their money; said shmuck could end up in civil court.

                    • Tim Andrews

                      “Still it seems to me like the kind of thing that, if some poor shmuck did it to make a mortgage payment on their house and the investors lost their money; said shmuck could end up in civil court.”

                      If done without the blessing of the investors, yes. That’s why I suspect that since it came right after the investment round that it was done with the approval of the investors.

                    • Joe

                      “That’s why I suspect that since it came right after the investment round that it was done with the approval of the investors.”

                      Hi Tim,

                      You may be correct (or not); obviously neither of us really knows for sure.

                      One thing I know for sure we have beat this subject into the ground.

                      Maybe we will find out someday.

            • Tim Andrews

              Follow-up to that last post…

              Per the Los Angeles times, SpaceX was paid 80% of the fee for CRS-7, as Orbital was paid only part of the price for its failed delivery. It definitely appears that the payments are based on performance as contracted, and that of that $1.6B for SpaceX’ contract they haven’t paid the whole sum up front, but are paying per launch.

              • Joe

                Do you have a link to that LA Times article?

                Also, just in case Jim Hillhouse is keeping track, it would be interesting to hear what he knows about this. He generally is well informed on this kind of thing.

                • Tim Andrews

                  Sure, http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-space-station-hearing-20150709-story.html

                  Yes, more illumination on the contract structures (for both Commercial Cargo and Crew) would be appreciated.

                  • Joe

                    Thanks for the link.

                    The part that interests me is this (from the article):

                    “A NASA spokeswoman said the agency does not reveal specific fees it pays to contractors.”

                    So NASA paid 80% of the “fee” for CRS-7, but will not say how much the “fee” was.

                    I have worked on a number of NASA contracts in the past and in all cases the amount of money being paid was open material right down to the hourly rates paid for Equivalent Persons (EPs).

                    I have heard rumors (with no verification) that both SpaceX and Orbital were paid a considerable amount (up to half the total of the contracts) just for proving they could get to the ISS.

                    I know somebody is going to say private companies have the right to keep their private deals private, but NASA is not a private company.

                    This information is being kept from the public, is it being kept from Congress as well?

                    • Tim Andrews

                      “I have heard rumors (with no verification) that both SpaceX and Orbital were paid a considerable amount (up to half the total of the contracts) just for proving they could get to the ISS.”

                      My impression also has been that it was comparable to the Commercial Crew approach, with milestone payout for proving they can do it – essentially meaning that less of the development needs to be amortized over the successive launches – and then the remainder on a per-launch basis.

                      “I know somebody is going to say private companies have the right to keep their private deals private, but NASA is not a private company.”

                      Yes, regardless of what SpaceX reports and to who, it does not seem legit for NASA’s expenditures to not be public.

  • James

    If “Mars depends on having a Lunar Orbit architecture to test out the systems that will be used for exploration. No matter what Obama says, there is no Mars anything without the moon first”, then logic suggests you are wrong in claiming:

    “And to be honest, Musk’s 2030 Mars Colony is as much science fiction and cheerleading to keep people fired up about space exploration as anything else.”

    Why?

    Because the President’s ‘Martian minion’ has in fact managed to get a twenty year monopoly of a key NASA asset, the enormous and very costly to replace, Launchpad 39A that is needed for efficient Orion Lunar Missions that use dual SLS launches.

    By the ‘minion’s’ ‘getting’ Launchpad 39A and effectively and cheaply disrupting the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 (PL 111–267)’s legally mandated SLS and Orion Lunar mission options, the ‘minion’ has managed to insert his overly complex ‘Rube Goldberg launcher’and ‘Rube Goldberg heavy launcher’ directly into the path of future NASA missions to cislunar space and the Moon.

    And getting folks and supplies to the Moon is where the real money is initially going to be made.

    Read the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 (PL 111–267).

    Mars isn’t even ‘on the table’ so any huckstering about Mars isn’t “science fiction and cheerleading” but is instead a complete and utter nonsense diversion to enable a classic ‘bait and switch con game’.

    So it seems that ‘getting’ Launchpad 39A and all the ‘Mars huckstering’ is actually about the President and ‘his minion’ running a ‘con game’ to assure his ‘minion’s’ place ‘at the Lunar table’ and better yet, a good chance at monopolizing ‘commercial’ flights to the Moon, and even ‘controlling’ cislunar development missions, despite the fact that the ‘minion’ hasn’t even managed yet to build a launcher as reliable as the Atlas 5 and is the ‘huckster’ who helps the President break or ignore America’s very relevant space law in order to facilitate an old-fashioned ‘monopoly con game’.

    And probably the world’s space leadership folks look askance at our President and ‘his minion’s’ ‘monopoly space con’ plan for the Moon.

    • Arth

      Man, you really hate SpaceX, huh? Congress never put into law that NASA couldn’t lease out one of the pads. And come on, if NASA needs a crew launch vehicle for the Orion Crew Vehicle for LEO, it can use the Delta IV. Which can be human rated for about $300 to $500 million. This will make it possible for NASA to maximize cargo/habitat/Earth departure stage launches on the SLS, while launching the Orion on Delta IV or the FH. I really don’t see what all the hype is about leasing out pad 39A. If SpaceX didn’t need it, then, Bezos would’ve had it. ULA could’ve bid for it, but, it wasn’t their business plan at the time. Regardless, NASA is better off with this current set up. NASA can use Delta IV Heavy and FH to support any SLS launch of crew/cargo to LEO/BEO.

  • James

    “Man, you really hate SpaceX, huh?”

    No ‘man’, I don’t.

    However, some folks get tired of the endless stream of nonscientific Mars cult nonsense used to promote SpaceX in attempts to substitute its narrow corporate financial interests over the broad democratically decided interests and goals of the American taxpayers.

    Please stop using the “hate” political smokescreen excuse. The “hate” and ‘haters’ mantra is currently being loudly over-used by those who staunchly defend the wisdom and legality of illegally keeping many national security emails on the private server of a Secretary of State and ‘friend’ of the President.

    And strangely enough, those critical thinking folks who believe that the NSA, the President, and a whole lot of others knew full well for several years about that easy to hack private server of the Secretary of State, and its illegal and ‘rich’ treasury of national security emails, are labeled as ‘haters’ who ‘hate’ the former Secretary of State.

    However, I really do dislike the behavior of the President and his ‘billionaire minion’ in setting up a ‘de facto monopoly scam’ by using a historically unique, enormous, and valuable government luanchpad that was paid for by American taxpayers.

    As was noted above by Jim Hillhouse, “Funding for NASA’s programs of record are currently guided by the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 (PL 111–267) that was passed on September 29, 2010 over the strenuous objections of the Obama White House by over 72% (304/118) of the then-Democratic controlled House and unanimous consent in the then-Democratic controlled Senate, before being signed into law by President Obama.”

    A ‘pseudo Martian’ billionaire working with a space policy disgruntled and highly partisan President have managed to constrain, limit, or sabotage many of the mission options for the legally mandated SLS/Orion system and given that ‘minion’ billionaire’s future extremely large boosters a near monopoly on cislunar and Lunar missions and a unique and extremely valuable corporate ‘branding opportunity’.

    What other company or billionaire can afford to build a launchpad that is historically, commercially, and technically equal to Launchpad 39?

    None.

    How is a ‘pseudo Martian’ billionaire’s monopoly on Launchpad 39A and diminished NASA launch options, including the removal of any launch on need backup option for the SLS/Orion system and the elimination of Dual SLS Lunar Mission Launch Options, a benefit for for the American taxpayer that is paying for and owns the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 (PL 111–267)’s mandated SLS/Orion system and that system’s enormous and quite useful Launchpads 39A and 39B?

    If Launchpad 39B is seriously damaged and put out of operation during a launch failure, will the SLS/Orion Lunar transportation system be grounded for months or even a year or longer?

    Why would anyone expect anything different than a non-democratically decided ‘large launcher monopoly’, that ‘backstabs’ and ‘shackles’ the SLS/Orion system, from a billionaire ‘pseudo Martian’ and our highly partisan President who has managed to help the rich get much richer while the average taxpayer has gone economically backwards and gained a huge public debt burden during his administration?

    Read the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 (PL 111–267).

    Yep, I do have “strenuous objections” to a billionaire capitalist substituting his narrow financial monopoly interests for those of our legal Program of Record SLS/Orion system that was carefully designed to advance America’s critical diplomatic, scientific, technical, economic, and strategic security interests on the Moon and in the rest of cislunar space.

    • Arth

      “If Launchpad 39B is seriously damaged and put out of operation during a launch failure, will the SLS/Orion Lunar transportation system be grounded for months or even a year or longer?”

      Shuttle was grounded for 3 years for each of it’s accidents. If SLS fails during launch, the investigation will take approximately 3 years. If SLS experiences an Antares style explosion, it will be equivalent to a small nuclear bomb. Just like NASA’s archives stated that if the Saturn V had exploded on the launch pad, it would’ve been equivalent to a small nuclear bomb.

      The lease of Pad 39A was lawfully legal whether it would’ve been ULA, Blue Origin, Orbital ATK or any other American company. Crying about it won’t help.

      • James

        So enabling a de facto large launcher monopoly for the President’s ‘huckster friend’ by renting out for twenty years Launchpad 39A, an enormous Moon Mission Launchpad which is needed for efficient dual SLS Lunar missions and launch on need SLS/Oion backup capabilities, is exactly what NASA’s leadership is legally required to do? That must be quite a ‘law’!

        Please show us the American law that says precisely that enabling a de facto large launcher monopoly by the President’s ‘political huckster friend’ is NASA’s priority task, and exactly how such a ‘political friend of the president’ ‘Launchpad 39A monopoly encouragement law’ clearly overrides NASA’s leadership carefully and fully implementing the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 (PL 111–267).

        Who is “crying”?

        Is it the ‘monopoly billionaire’ who built the not yet reliable and overly complex ‘Rube Goldberg launcher’?

        Yep, maybe the ‘President’s minion’ should be crying. His ‘friend’ ‘dishing out’ lots of taxpayer money and national assets to him is fortunately enough a lame duck, and not very trusted, President that won’t be able to ‘give out’ any ‘such wonderful favors’ after the next election.

        Pity the poor “crying” ‘anointed monopoly minion’.

  • john hare

    “”The lease of Pad 39A was lawfully legal whether it would’ve been ULA, Blue Origin, Orbital ATK or any other American company. Crying about it won’t help.”‘

    The various blogs have various slants. This one is vested in Orion/SLS with the articles and comments mostly following along. It is best to read multiple sources to somewhat find the real story. The crying and selective reporting is to be expected here. Facts are facts, but each source will select the ones they prefer to a greater or lessor degree. Orion/SLS is a political space program and advocates will influence opinion as best they can.

    • Joe

      Hi John,

      “Facts are facts”

      True and here are a few:

      (1) Of the competitors for 39A only SpaceX insisted on exclusive rights to the Pad.
      (2) Blue Origin specifically proposed NASA and Blue Origin share the Pad.
      (3) NASA (under direction from the current administration) selected the only proposal that denied NASA the use of 39A, then told Congress that a limiting factor on SLS launches was that they only had access to one Pad.

      Why do you suppose that is?

      If you consider acknowledging that to be “crying and selective reporting”, I would suggest you are doing more than a little “selective reporting” of your own.

      • John hare

        $30B and two decades until first real mission for SLS/Orion from original start. At least I’m aware of my own biases.

        • Joe

          That is certainly the way the administration has set it up, but not the way it has to be.

          Notice you did not try to refute any of the facts stated in my post, will leave it to others to decide how aware you are of your own biases.

          We have been through all these issues before and I have no desire to risk meta carpal tunnel syndrome repeating them.

          In your original post you say:

          “The various blogs have various slants. This one is vested in Orion/SLS with the articles and comments mostly following along. It is best to read multiple sources to somewhat find the real story. The crying and selective reporting is to be expected here.”

          So you feel that not only the posters but the reporters on this site are unable to be aware of there own biases (something you feel you are uniquely qualified to do).

          My interest in this conversation is ended.

          Have a nice day.

          • John hare

            Nor did you try to refute mine.

            • Joe

              Actually I did refute yours.

              You said:

              “$30B and two decades until first real mission for SLS/Orion from original start.”

              I replied:

              “That is certainly the way the administration has set it up, but not the way it has to be.”

              The situation you described is totally artificial. Created by the administration to make Orion/SLS (which the administration never wanted, but the Congress forced on them) look as bad as possible. If you were as aware of your own biases as you claim to be you would know that.

              Now, you managed to provoke one more response on this subject; but that will be it.

              If you insist on playing by the “he who post last wins” rule have fun, but you will be playing by yourself.

  • Colorado

    I certainly hate SpaceX and their LEO/Mars dead-end flexible path to nowhere. My hate is derived from the deception and gutter tactics the NewSpace mob has flooded the blogosphere with for close to a decade. I do hate. It is funny that for a while anybody who criticized Musk or SpaceX on any of the popular space forums was quickly accused of being some guy named “Gary Church.” Lately there are other voices of dissent on the net and the infamous excluded one is no longer the center of derision:)

  • James

    Perhaps the best explanation for the ‘pseudo Martian’ billionaire’s and President’s ongoing and systematic attacks to delay, sabotage, or marginalize the mission options for the Orion, and eliminate dual SLS launches and launch on need backup SLS/Orion missions while ignoring the full implementation of the Legal Program of Record and the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 (PL 111–267) and enabling a de facto large launcher monopoly for the President’s ‘anointed minion’ can be found in a the monopoly philosophy Genghis Khan, who lived from 1167-1227 and was the founder and emperor of the brutal Mongol Empire:

    “It is not sufficient that I succeed – all others must fail.”

    Greatly reducing the SLS/Orion mission options and capabilities while ‘giving away’ a de facto monopoly to ‘El Presidente’s’ political ‘minion’ is exactly you might expect in a ‘banana republic’s space agency’ that actually acts as a convenient publicity agency for ‘El Presidente’s’ and his billionaire ‘cult leader’s’ deceptive and zigzagging ‘Lost in Space’ ‘monopoly Lunar scam plan’.

  • James

    See:

    NASA = Mars = Delusional by Paul Spudis October 2, 2015

    And the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 (PL 111–267).

    Currently, and maybe for the next 30 to 40 years, Mars isn’t ‘on the international and national space table’ and everyone who pays close attention to economic, political, and scientific realities and PL 111–267 can understand why a private club of billionaires is trying hard to marginalize or eliminate the SLS/Orion system and other potential competitors in order to facilitate the political efforts of the club of billionaires in permanently taking over or ‘ripping off’ an even much larger percentage of NASA funding and assets in order to make monopoly money on the Moon and the rest of cislunar space.

    This ‘club of monopoly billionaires’ hasn’t yet figured out how to efficiently eliminate the national space programs in Russia, Europe, China, India, and Japan, but they are doing a pretty good job at sabotaging the SLS/Orion and the international space leadership potential of NASA and America.

    If India, or another nation, ends up being the ‘most profitable’ producer of launchers, launch services, spacecraft, and related economic activities or international space leadership, then the ‘club of monopoly billionaires’ will simply offshore most, or all, of its wonderful ‘monopoly space business’ to that nation and say “Don’t cry beloved America, maybe we’ll bring our space monopoly back to you someday…”

    Yep, complete fools are much wiser than those who trust monopoly billionaires.