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CCiCap Awards Suggest SpaceX Favored Over Other Competitors

In May of this year, SpaceX became the first company to rendezvous with and be berthed to the International Space Station. Photo Credit: NASA

By Jim Hillhouse & Jason Rhian

A recent series of articles appearing on the website Parabolic Arc raises questions about NASA’s management of NASA’s Commercial Crew program. In particular, concerns are being voiced as to how the Commercial Crew integrated Capability (CCiCap) milestones and their awards were determined and why the amounts of the first few milestones are so generous.

NASA’s CCiCap program is designed to hand off responsibility for transporting U.S. astronauts to destinations in low-earth-orbit, primarily to the International Space Station (ISS). NASA announced CCiCap participating companies on Aug. 3, 2012. Although NASA has yet to publicly release the CCiCap milestones and award amounts, that information has been made public thanks to the efforts of Doug Messier’s Parabolic Arc.

The following chart was sent to AmericaSpace and confirms what the first two milestones were and when they were accomplished, but does not state the amount of the awards. Image Credit: SpaceX

The first four months of the 20 month CCiCap program appears to some to be front-loaded in the manner in which milestone awards are scheduled. Within the first 4 months, SpaceX will receive $165 million, or 37.5 percent of its total award amount, for reaching the first four of the firm’s 14 CCiCap milestones; Boeing will receive $126.9 million, or 35.3 percent of its total CCiCap funding, for reaching the first three of its milestones; Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) will receive $75 million, or 27.6 percent of its CCiCap funding, for reaching the two of its milestones.

NASA Administrator and former space shuttle astronaut Charles Bolden recently visited NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to highlight the efforts of the agency’s commercial partners – including SpaceX. Photo Credit: Julian Leek / Blue Sawtooth Studios

The first two CCiCap milestones for SpaceX have garnered the most interest by those questioning NASA’s rationale in creating the CCiCap milestone schedule and awards:

  1. CCiCap Kickoff Meeting. SpaceX will hold a kickoff meeting at the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, CA, or a nearby facility to review the current state of existing hardware, processes and designs, describe plans for CCiCap program execution during both the base period and the optional period and lay the groundwork for a successful partnership between NASA and SpaceX. Scheduled: August 2012  Award: $60 million
  2. Financial and Business Review. SpaceX will hold a financial and business review to accomplish verification of financial ability to meet NASA’s stated goals for the CCiCap program by providing NASA insight into SpaceX finances. Scheduled: August 2012  Award: $20 million
Boeing cst 100

Boeing CST-100 spacecraft docking with ISS. Photo Credit: NASA

A review of the CCDev 2 Milestone Schedule provides a better appreciation of how much larger and front-loaded the CCiCap funding levels appear to be. When the same companies, SpaceX, Boeing, and Sierra Nevada, completed the first milestone under the second phase of the Commercial Crew Development (CCDev2) contract, the awards were as follows: SpaceX $10 million, Boeing $10 million, and Sierra Nevada Corporation $12.5 million. The second milestone awards for CCDev 2 were SpaceX $5 million, Boeing $10 million, and Sierra Nevada $2.5 million. In the first four months of CCDev 2, the first 4-5 milestones had been reached and the companies had been awarded, SpaceX $40 million, Boeing $42.5 million, and Sierra Nevada $30 million. Because the speed at which CCiCap awards are paced dwarf those CCDev 2, concerns are being raised in Congress and in the aerospace industry as to the manner in which the CCiCap milestones schedule was developed.

Because the CCiCap announcement by NASA was made after Congress had adjourned on Friday, August 1, neither the House of Representatives nor the Senate have had an opportunity to reaction to news of the CCiCap participants nor the awards milestones. There are already rumblings of a closer look by Congress when it returns as to who and how the CCiCap milestone dates and awards were created.

After SpaceX sent the milestone chart provided, it was asked for clarification regarding the dates and amounts for the milestones listed above. SpaceX has not responded to these repeated requests.

Dreamchaser ISS DOCKING

Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser docking with ISS. Image Credit: Sierra Nevada

 

59 comments to CCiCap Milestone Awards Raise Questions

  • Joe

    Jim,

    I notice in one of your comments at Parabolic Arc that you state the Dragon up mass capability to be 6 Metric Tons (13,200 lbs.). This agrees with the Space X website which lists Dragon up mass as 13,224 lbs.

    However, if the article linked below is accurate, you will note that the Space X contract for Dragon up mass is “up to 7,300 lbs.” a minimum 45% reduction.

    http://www.spaceflightnow.com/news/n1208/24cots/

  • cui bono

    This seems a bit conspiratorial. SpaceX is worthy of being ‘front-loaded’ as they are the guys with the rocket that works and the capsule that has flown. NASA must have a high degree of confidence that their test flights will be on schedule and on budget.

    Least risk – give them the money now and let them get on with the job.

    • So, just to understand, you’re perfectly ok with handing out to a company $60M for holding a meeting and $20M for signing a document? I ask because…well, since you’re so generous with doling-out money, I’ll quit what I’m doing and come work for you!

      Front-loaded funding is for purchasing long-lead items or R&D, all of which can become the long-pole in the tent and hold-up progress. SpaceX’s first two CCiCap milestones are not for long-lead purchases or R&D. I think that’s why the folks we’ve talked to seem unhappy with the CCiCap milestone schedule.

      And given SpaceX’s history in both TacSat-1 and COTS, that is of being perennially 2-years behind schedule and over-budget, why would you assume SpaceX’s test flights will be on schedule and on budget in CCiCap? Just to refresh everyone’s memory, TacSat-1 was a case of “Fool me once, shame on you,” while COTS was of, “…fool me twice, shame on me.” So I don’t know many people in the business, even those who “like” SpaceX, who believe that SpaceX is going to suddenly hit the nail on the head on CCiCap.

  • D. Messier

    NASA has released redacted versions of the CCiCAP agreements with all three firms. They’re on the NASA website in PDF at http://commercialcrew.nasa.gov/page.cfm?ID=38 I think these documents were put up on the day of the announcement or maybe the next day. I can’t really take any credit for sleuthing on this one.

    The only document that isn’t there is the Selection Statement. NASA officials said they wanted to brief applicants first and predicted it would be up in a week to week and a half. It’s clearly taking longer than anticipated. The agency has posted these statements for CCDev in the past.

    • Well, I’ll tell you one thing Doug, you’re better at Google searching, or something, than am I. Thanks for the link and for getting this information out to everyone.

      • Ferris Valyn

        With all due respect to Doug (and he does produce some great stuff) finding these contracts was not particularly hard. NASA put them on their commercial crew website. And NASA said they would be on the Commercial Crew website on their telecon announcing the Commercial Crew awards.

  • ModerateChuck

    Since Cui Bono is so generous, could I get $100k for holding a meeting???

  • Joe

    Yes you really should check before talking. I will give you the Space X contract link again.

    http://www.spaceflightnow.com/news/n1208/24cots/

    I will also give you the key quotes (so you will not have to go to the trouble of reading the entire article):
    - “SpaceX has a $1.6 billion contract for 12 resupply missions through at least 2015.”
    - “Each flight will carry up to 7,300 pounds of internal and external cargo to the space station …”

    So the up mass number is a maximum and the cost per pound is a minimum.

    As to the rest of your post, I am doing quite well financially, thanks for the concern. But tell me one thing are you capable of addressing a technical issue without resorting to lame attempts at personal insults?

    • Joe, those contracts were let years ago, when it wasn’t particularly clear that there even would be a working Dragon or Falcon 9 to carry it, nor even an Antares. They were an expression of confidence that even any faltering commercial cargo providers would outperform NASA and Ares.

      • Joe, given that at the time (late 2008) Ares I was ten billion dollars in the hole with an estimated 10 billion dollars left to spend and a flight date of 2015 or later, it was the smartest move ever.

        It would be a hell of a deal at $100,000 a pound, since the only alternative would be the Progress, and Griffin more or less had forbidden EELV use. As far as the contract are concerned, there was no risk because COTS development was on milestones and CRS payments are not made with no deliveries. Now I can understand your need to rewrite history, but it isn’t going to fool anyone who was involved in the COTS and CRS process, and if you have a problem with the costs you are more than welcome to compete with the next round with your rocket as well, Joe.

        • Joe

          “It would be a hell of a deal at $100,000 a pound”

          OK, so much for your credibility.

          But tell me more. Would it have been “hell of a deal” at $1,000,000 a pound? How about $10 Million?

          • Considering that Constellation had a cost to orbit of infinite dollars per pound and Griffin refused to utilize the EELVs, yes.

            Nice strawman there, Joe.

            • Joe

              You said the “commercial” space flight cargo transport would be “hell of a deal” at $100,000/lb.

              - Currently the Space X contract at $18,000/lb. is $1.6 Billion for three years. Increasing that to $100,000/lb. would make that approximately $9 Billion (or $3 Billion per year).

              - Currently the Orbital Sciences contract at $43,000/lb. is $1.9 Billion. Increasing that to $100,000 would make that approximately $4.5 Billion (or $1.5 Billion per year).
              In total for the next 3 years the combined cost for light cargo delivery to the ISS would be $4.5 Billion per year (26% of the total current NASA Budget).

              - Assuming that crew transport would be equivalent (a very friendly assumption for “commercial” space) that would make ISS crew/cargo 52% of the entire NASA Budget and you consider that to be “hell of a deal”. There are no “Straw men” only facts.

              “Considering that Constellation had a cost to orbit of infinite dollars per pound”

              Since we are talking about “Straw men” perhaps you could provide a source for that rather extraordinary statement, but I doubt it.

  • Joe

    “Those are quotes from an article, they are not the contract…there is nothing in the contract that says the Dragon cannot carry “more”…I have not read the contract in some time but I am pretty sure that is the case.”

    You have not read the contract that was just announced in some time, how interesting. Would you care to supply a copy so that others can read it?

    “Glad you are doing well financially but that did not answer the straight forward question…did you lose a job on the shuttle?”

    No, I did not. Is that plain enough for you or does everyone need to send you copies of their tax returns?

    “Anyway it doesnt matter. My side has won, the anti commercial pro shuttle people have lost…its over. we are doing it a different way now See how it works out RGO”

    If you have “won”, why are you so angry?

  • Joe

    Robert,

    This will be my last post on this subject, as it is getting ridiculous.

    I do not doubt there may have been many drafts of such a contract “out there” for some time, but those (whatever they may have said) are drafts.

    The article is based on what was presented by Administrator Bolden August 23, 2012. It would be hard for any sane person to believe that the author of the article would make up details like:
    - “SpaceX has a $1.6 billion contract for 12 resupply missions through at least 2015”
    - “Each flight will carry up to 7,300 pounds of internal and external cargo to the space station”
    regardless of that author’s (not my) politics.

    And that drives the numbers:
    - $1.6 Billion for 12 flights equals $133 Million/flight (rounded down to the nearest million)
    - 7,300 lbs. per flight (and that is granting Space X the maximum). Divide 7,300 lbs. into $133 Million and you will get $18,219/lb.

    Like it or not that is just the way it is.

    If that makes you angry, anguished, or just ticked off (whatever you want to call it) facts are still facts.

    Now, I have plans for the evening.

    Have a nice holiday weekend.

  • Jim Hillhouse

    RGO, Shuttle costs were $500M a launch.

    Also RGO, you have an interesting take on “victory”. Let’s review where we are in human spaceflight.

    In February 2010, breaking a campaign promise made in Titusville on August 23, 2008 to continue Constellation and to close The Gap, the President proposed to kill NASA’s HSF program in favor of solely depending upon commercial space companies for crewed space access. How did that turn-out? Well…

    The retired and reclusive Neil Armstrong became one of the leading critics of the President’s space policy.

    Charlie Bolden and Lori Garver earned the historical ignominity of being the first NASA Administrator and Deputy Administrator to be subpoenaed by Congress, and no less by a chamber under the control of their own President’s Party.

    Today, Orion and SLS constitute over $3B of NASA’s budget while Commercial Crew only north of $500M.

    The President’s annual NASA budget is, almost as an after thought, voted-down in both chambers with no fanfare.

    NASA is today run not by the White House but by the House and Senate Authorization and Appropriations committees.

    RGO, with “victory” like that, who needs defeat!

    If there is any “victory”, it is an unsought one of having created bipartisan unity within both otherwise very partisan chambers in opposition to the President’s plan to fund commercial space efforts at the expense of the nation’s HSF program.

    With that in mind, I look forward to many more of your “victories”.

    • Ferris Valyn

      Jim – what would it take for you to stop repeating the false accusation (demonstratively false) that Obama has NOT broken any campaign promise?

      • Ferris,

        You’re fooling yourself if you don’t think Obama was promising the moon when he told Space Coast voters that he was going to work to close The Gap.

        The only Gap being discussed on the Space Coast and in aerospace circles in the spring through fall 2008 was the building gap between Shuttle retirement and IOC of Orion/Ares-1, the only domestic replacement for the Shuttle.

        So, when Obama said on Aug. 2, 2008, “That’s why I will help close the gap and ensure that our space program doesn’t suffer when the Shuttle goes out of service by working with Senator Bill Nelson to add at least one additional Space Shuttle flight beyond 2010; by supporting continued funding for NASA; by speeding the development of the Shuttle’s successor“, or on that same day when he said to the Orlando Sentinel, “I know it’s still being reported that we were talking about delaying some aspects of the Constellation program to pay for our early-education program. I told my staff we’re going to find an entirely different offset, because we’ve got to make sure that the money going into NASA for basic research and development continues to go there.”, there wasn’t anyone on the Space Coast who didn’t understand crystal clear what Obama was talking about. Jeff Foust did an excellent job of reporting on Obama’s change in heart over Constellation in The (not so) big switch.

        I do understand the need for dramatic revisionism; the man promised a lot and delivered very little for the nation’s space program. Don’t take it from me. Read the transcript of the speech itself.

        Here’s the key money quote, Partial Transcript of Obama Aug. 2, 2008 Titusville Speech:


          We cannot cede our leadership in space. That’s why I will help close the gap and ensure that our space program doesn’t suffer when the Shuttle goes out of service by working with Senator Bill Nelson to add at least one additional Space Shuttle flight beyond 2010; by supporting continued funding for NASA; by speeding the development of the Shuttle’s successor; and by making sure that all those who work in the space industry in Florida do not lose their jobs when the Shuttle is retired – because we cannot afford to lose their expertise.

          More broadly, we need a real vision for space exploration. To help formulate this vision, I’ll reestablish the National Aeronautics and Space Council so that we can develop a plan to explore the solar system – a plan that involves both human and robotic missions, and enlists both international partners and the private sector. And as America leads the world to long-term exploration of the moon, Mars, and beyond, let’s also tap NASA’s ingenuity to build the airplanes of tomorrow and to study our own planet so we can combat global climate change. Under my watch, NASA will inspire the world, make America stronger, and help grow the economy here in Florida.

        Now, answer the following questions:

          1. If not Constellation, then what replacement to the Shuttle was Obama talking about? Commercial Crew? Didn’t exist then.

          2. Where’s the promised resurrected National Aerospace Council?

          3. And how about that jobs promises…

        • Ferris Valyn

          Jim,

          You need to work on your formating and coding, since it looks like I said something I didn’t. Please fix that

          Second, regarding the replacement to the space shuttle – define for me what the space shuttle is. Is it merely a transportation system between Earth’s surface to LEO? Is it the primary budget item in the NASA budget? Is it a mini-space station that allows for extend stays in space? All of these things descibe the space shuttle and it raises the question of how you define the space shuttle invariably raises the question of what actually a replacement is.

          Further, there have already been multiple “space shuttle replacement” – VentureStar, SLI/OSP, X-30/NASP to name a few. Each one was a “shuttle replacement”, and of course, none of them actually flew (kindly like “replacement” #4 – Constellation).

          The point is, the answer to your first question, what replacement was he talking about, the answer should be obvious (particularly when you add in the other facts and comments from earlier in the year). The answer was whatever actually ended up replacing the shuttle, rather than what was the current plan du’jour for shuttle replacement. Then Senator Obama had, on multiple times, said he wanted to have a discussion about NASA going forward, and locking himself into an end solution before he had all of the data would have been a mistake (as any good manager will tell you). In short, the answer was TBD then, because the situation required serious reveiw. And thus, he didn’t lock himself into Constellation, or COTS-D, or reviving the VentureStar, or reviving SLI, etc.

          The point I keep hammering you on, and you keep trying to ignore, is that without saying Constellation, or Ares I, or Orion, or something like that, there was not a direct corilation between Shuttle Replacement and Constellation. In short – I know precisely what he said. And the reason for stating it how he did.

          As for the resurrected National Space Council – Ok, I’ll give you that, although I am now of the opinion that reviving that may not be the best thing. (and for the record, I was VERY in favor of that in 08 – I wrote a piece on Space Review about it).

          As for the jobs – that one goes directly on the shoulders of Congress. When the president proposes to spend money on transition costs related to job losses, and Congress doesn’t fund it, repeatedly – well, forgive me, but the President is not all powerful, as you are aware.

          • What is, is? You don’t know what the Shuttle, as it’s commonly termed, is? Here’s a helper. http://www.nasa.gov/shuttle/

            In August 2008, there was only one replacement for the Shuttle, all other programs at that time save Constellation having been canceled. Stating otherwise is disingenuous. Honestly, do you think that Obama even knew about Venture Star?

            The answer was not TBD as to what would replace the Shuttle. What you wrote in the 4th paragraph is just defining deviance down. Man…come on. The program of record, the one everyone and their dog knew on the Space Coast, was Constellation. If then candidate Obama had said he’s going to replace the Shuttle with something we don’t yet have but it will enable us to explore the heavens as never before, it was have been met not with rapt applause but with…well, silence likely.

            • Really, Robert, first you question Armstrong’s criticism of Obama’s 2010 HSF change as without merit but imply your criticism of NASA’s HSF is full of merit. You go on to question that the only motivator of those on the Space Coast is jobs, not that America’s space program should be pre-eminant. As Beethoven once asked, “Muß es sein?”

              The Administration’s space team’s, like your, complete disdain for opponents’, including Armstrong’s, space workers’, member’s of Congress, et al., reasons for opposing the President’s space policy is the reason Senate and House members and staffers who deal with NASA have become so utterly fed-up with the leadership there. It’s why Congress swung so solidly in opposition and eventually vanquished the President’s space team’s HSF policy. And you call this a “victory”. What a victory…

            • Technowelfare is a good term to describe what SpaceX has been receiving FROM NASA lately. Thanks for sharing it Robert.

        • I doubt in August 2008 Space Coast and pro-space voters were aware of a policy document that didn’t see the light of day until Dec. 08, over a month after the election. So that isn’t germane to the point Ferris was raising, which is that Obama didn’t promise to continue Constellation.

          As someone who worked with policy people on the McCain campaign, what the policy folks have and what the candidate commits to are very different things. I’m sure Garver was aware of what you folks were up to. And she may have even pre-cleared it with Obama. But she didn’t pre-clear it with Nelson. And if Obama did make that speech knowing about this policy, that he was going to kill Shuttle and Constellation, then that only strengthens the point I made, that he misled the Space Coast and pro-space voters.

          It wasn’t just the anti-Obama people who call his Aug. 2 Titusville speech a promise, so did Biden and Nelson on several campaign stops.

      • Ferris,

        I know you don’t agree with it – but there are many who feel the Obama campaign broke promises to support NASA. His efforts to cut NASA’s planetary missions budget (as part of his FY 2013 Budget Proposal) have only served to further prove that Obama has broken his promises.

        Sincerely, Jason Rhian

  • Jim Hillhouse

    You’re right to vote for Obama. Romney is definitely not going to continue the policies of favoritism for some companies that currently exist within NASA. 

    “The POTUS annual budget for NASA is like all his budgets cashiered by a GOP house…”

    True, today. But it was a Dem-controlled House that was the most aggressive in shutting-down the President’s commercial
    Crew initiative in 2010. Rep. Gorton wanted a full-blown investigation of Garver and Robinson. Then and today, Dems run the Senate and its Committees. It was Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D, WV) who as Chairman of the full CJS Committee subpoenaed NASA’s top-two. And Senate Appropriations’ Mikulski who, working closely with Shelby, zeroes out the President’s NASA budget. 

    So the opposition isn’t partisan, not by a long shot. It’s very broad, very bipartisan, and very bicameral. 

    “As for Armstrong?  Who cares…he is/was an out of touch person who was big on reliving the glory days of a top down NASA that really did not have much staying power…”

    Really, are you serious about this statement?

  • cui bono

    Robert, you’re absolutely right. The best thing IMHO would be for NASA’s budget to be a replaced by a series of X-prizes or commercial milestones for LEO operations and BEO exploration.
    NASA is too unwieldy, too pork-driven and too stuck in the past to be remotely effective. We need entrepeneurs in spaceflight, not bureaucracies.

    Jerry Pournelle puts it much better than I can:
    http://www.jerrypournelle.com/chaosmanor/?p=1992

  • Joseph

    Jim

    IF these numbers are about right for SpaceX’s resupply missions (~ $18K/lb), this does look fairly poor, at least when looking at the numbers for other systems given by the link below.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_orbital_launch_systems

    To be sure there is some apples to oranges comparisons here but I bet some of the costs listed don’t factor in a block buy of 12 either.

    • Joseph,

      According to NASA, as of 2011 it cost $450M to launch a Shuttle.

      With the average cost of a Shuttle launch of $450M and a payload of 53,000 lbs, resulting in a payload to LEO cost of ~$8.4K/lbs, it looks like we’re moving backwards when looking at a payload to LEO cost of ~18K/lb for Dragon.

      Now I know why RGO is so upset.

      • Max payload numbers are of course best case. Still useful for comparison of payload delivery cost guesstimates.

        But let’s do this exercise. Cut Shuttle payload in half to 26,500 lbs. Being very, very generous here, let’s keep Dragon/Falcon 9 payload at its most at 13,000 lbs.. In an interesting outcome, the launch cost numbers still don’t balance-out in Dragon/SpaceX’s favor, being $2,000/lbs more than Shuttle.

        Now, being less generous, let’s factor into Dragon/Falcon 9 the amortized DDT&E, support, redesign, and infrastructure costs that were factored into the space.com article numbers you linked to, and guess what happens? Dragon/Falcon 9 launch cost go up.

        This is something the commercial folks don’t like to talk about but will of course if pressed; they have gotten a full-pass on the need to amortize DDT&E costs, both direct and in-kind of their launchers. The money given to them by NASA was a gift, free. NASA never got that sort of gift from Congress.

        I saw a presentation once in which Aaron Cohen, former Shuttle project chief and JSC head, go into how the need to amortize DDT&E costs, as well as factor-in the center support cost, really made Shuttle appear more expensive than it was. This same treatment was not done to the Mercury, Gemini, or Apollo programs.

        • Joe

          “A reasonable comparison between the shuttle and a commercial resupply mission is a ninja turtle for the shuttle. absent the mass of the “turtle” we are talking about 20K or so (give or take a few pounds) of payload as upmass. (the total up mass including the Turtle would be more like 28 but the turtle empty weight doesnt count any more then the Dragon shell does).”

          Wow actual word salad. I had heard it existed verbally, but never expected to see it in writing. Thanks.

          Word salad is a mixture of random words that, while arranged in phrases that appear to give them meaning, actually carry no significance. The words may or may not be grammatically correct, but the meaning is hopelessly confused.

          • An inaccurate word salad too. And a case of postmodernism, as Errol Morris said,


              “…that suggest that there is no such thing as truth, that the truth is up for grabs, relative and subjective. Narrative does not trump all; it does not trump the facts. The facts are immutable. You may not be able to apprehend them or they may be elusive, but they are there.
  • And you do know Romney’s space policy? Seen it, have you?

    • Joe

      Of course he has. Just like he has a copy of the signed Space X cargo delivery contract (you know – the one that contradicts what the news articles say). But just like that “contract” he cannot show it to you because it’s a secret.

      • Joe

        Then it should be easy for you to provide a link.

        Why don’t you do it?

      • There he goes again…talking as though he’s privy to the workings of the Romney campaign when I can promise, in this case, he is not.

        Let me put this simply; in this area of discussion RGO…You. Are. Wrong.

        Give it time. The General campaign is just beginning RGO.

        • Now RGO, you’re being funny. You know I’m not a part of the Romney campaign…I’m far to liberal as a Republican to fit in.

          But I do have acquaintances who have been working with him for some time. All good folks.

          If you read Mathews’ piece, it quickly becomes apparent that he couldn’t get an interview with anyone in the Romney campaign or one of its surrogates. So Mathews went and interviewed Jeff, who certainly doesn’t have an inside track, and former Rep. Walker, who worked for Newt, and is likewise not a Romney insider, especially after blabbing to Mathews.

          If, or when, Romney does produce his
          Space policy, it will be at a time most useful. But right now, the chances are good that the eastern counties of the I-4 Corridor, Brevard, Osceola, Lake, Velusia, Seminole, or Orange will not tilt to Obama, so there’s no need. Rather than releasing some dry space policy dehydrater, replaying Obama’s 2008 Titusville speech, with posters of quotes from that speech, would be the most effective campaign ad against the President. “Look what he did for you Florida!”, cue the broken promises.

          • RGO, you’re putting words in my mouth and being a bit pedantic. First, I didn’t say one way or the other.

            I did say that I have acquaintances who are working with the Romney campaign in a policy capacity, that they are good people all, and doing good work. And if Romney wins, his people–of which I am not nor ever have been–will on their worst day provide a darn sight better leadership than that bunch currently at NASA HQ.

    • And you know this how? Yes, I’m stipulating that you don’t have any basis, because you have no access to the Romney campaign, to make that statement.

  • Joseph

    Jim

    One other interesting way to look at this (at least to me) is that at this price, the cost of the booster, which is I believe is still thrown away is less than one-third of the total cost and the other part – (which is supposed to be reusable) is greater than two-thirds of the cost. Makes one wonder how much is really being re-used.

    One last observation – when this thing is converted to support crew, that cost is only going to rise (in $/kg) when adding life support, an abort system, displays, crew seating, upgrades to the EPS system, etc. It looks like we are on track for a more costly (in $/kg) LEO system that is less capable (payload capability) than the one we just retired.

  • Joseph

    While not to the ISS, STS-93 did carry the Chandra X-ray Observatory. The observatory plus its IUS was listed at 22,753 kg or ~ 50,000 lbs. The altitude listed for that mission was 153 nmi, ~ 50 nmi below the ISS minimum. Not sure if that was the planned altitude or the actual altitude due to the pre-mature shut-down of one of the engines on STS-93.

  • Joseph

    The overall capability for the Shuttle is pretty impressive all things considered (although I will admit I not a fan of being stuck in LEO and pouring more money into this part of HSF going forward). Based on the discussions here these commercial system do certainly look like a step backwards in terms of cost ($/kg) and capability. I am though looking forward to more posts from their supporters telling us keep looking as the emperor does indeed have new clothes. LOL!

    According to one of NASA’s ISS managers, at its current inclination, the Shuttle could have carried ~ 36,000 lbs maximum to the ISS. Jim – using your analysis, that makes the numbers even worse for commercial providers. Note that the shuttle could launch with its full payload capacity to the ISS, before the ISS inclination was changed to bring in the Russians. I can’t say that would have ever been needed (maybe it was at one time during one of the many design incarnations of the ISS….) so some could argue we had excess capability that was costly from an ISS only perspective in the end.

    • Here are some numbers from Jim Oberg,


        1. STS performance to SS Freedom at 28 degrees, standard altitude, was
        baselined at 36,000 lbs.

        2. Switching to 51 degrees reduced payload about 8,000 lbs, to 28,000 lbs.

        3. Performance enhancements (super lightweight tank, others) boosted
        performance to 51 degrees back to 36,000 lbs, the same as Freedom had at 28
        degrees.

        4. Applying the same performance enhancements to a theoretical space station
        launch to 28 degrees gives about 48,000 lbs, still within the envelope of abort
        landing safety.

      One thing not discussed is the mass penalty for the 23.15° inclination change for Dragon. SpaceX says that Dragon has a 6mT LEO payload capacity, but that is at 28°. According to SpaceX in 2009, at 51.6°, there is a roughly 6% payload mass penalty for LEO (51.6), so Dragon payload is likewise penalized at 5.6mT, or a roughly 6% drop. However, since the Shuttle had a 22% mass penalty for LEO (51.6), and since the Falcon 9 had yet to fly in 2009, I’m highly skeptical of such rosy numbers from SpaceX.

      I think, and yes, this is just my opinion, that SpaceX is lofting only ~3mT to ISS because of abort limitations. Dragon is rated at ~3mT for return. Maybe it’s cheaper to make sure that every Dragon can return and be refurbished than maxing ISS mission payloads to 5.6 mT.

    • Joseph,

      A good observation and one I had not caught. The fact that the numbers haven’t lined up for the commercial guys is one reason why Congress was once resistant, now opposed, to handing the nation’s HSF program over, as the Obama Administration wished. Another NASA team probably would have the enough credibility with Congress to continue as planned under Space Act agreements, but after the current round of CCiCap, NASA’s Commercial Crew program will start being run under a federal contract because there is zero trust in the veracity of NASA’s leadership. Yes, NASA is doing all it can to drag-out Orion, but the worst-case scenario for the current NASA team and their apologists is that Orion proceeds apace, reaches full human-rating after ETF-1 in 2014, making it ready for duty years before the current CCiCap awardees. Some here will say that could never be possible; theirs is more a prayer than statement of fact.

      • Jim, the numbers, no matter how bad, are still an order of decimal magnitude better than Constellation, Ares V and Orion. There is no substance to your arguments.

        • Joe

          So no matter what the number are they will be ”an order of decimal magnitude better than Constellation, Ares V and Orion”.

          That does not make any sense at all, unless you are changing the estimates for “Constellation, Ares V and Orion” on a sliding scale to make them “an order of decimal magnitude” worse than whatever “commercial” space is (which is of course dishonest).

          By the way, what is “an order of decimal magnitude”?

  • Joe

    “Dragon can do one thing that the Shuttle cannot…evolve into an ACRV.”

    The Oler Method – when losing in one debate, try to change the subject.

  • Note to all – comments that use words like “idiotic” or “stupid” – will be dumped. If you’re incapable of having a rational argument without using these words – expect no one to see them – because they will be removed.

  • Mr. Oler,

    If you cannot have a civil conversation you will be banned from this website. You seem to have an issue with how you address others – I would advise you to fix it. If your points are so strong then you should be able to make them without resorting to name calling, insults and ad-hominem attacks. Only individuals with the weakest of arguments resort to that type of behavior.

  • Note to all. Comments meant only to insult others will be yanked – if you do it repeatedly you will be temporarily banned. If, like Robert G. Oler, you have to stoop to insulting the dead – you will be banned – permanently.

  • Karol

    A post on the 9/4 AIAA Daily Launch states that it was pointed out in the 9/1 Orlando Sentinel that “Romney largely ignored” NASA at the convention “heightening anxiety even among some Republicans about how a Romney administration would impact NASA and the Kennedy Space Center.” As a voter who is deeply concerned about the future of our space program, would anyone care to make a prediction about the future of human space flight, planetary science missions, and commercial space under a Romney administration versus an Obama administration? I cannot think of a more informed, intelligent group of individuals to pose this question to than readers of, and contributors to, AmericaSpace.

    • Hi Karol,

      While politics are really Jim’s field of expertise I’m disappointed that the Orlando Sentinel would say something that is factually inaccurate. While Romney did not mention NASA per se – he did spend a portion of his speech remembering Neil Armstrong and mentioned how the first steps on the Moon impacted us all. having said that, Romney is also the guy who said he would fire an executive who proposed a multi-billion Moon base.

      As to a prediction about the future of NASA? If it keeps going the way that it is, with a space agency yanked this way and that every four years – we won’t have a space program much longer. Sorry, but would you work on a project that the oncoming administration might cancel in four years? Obama cancelled the work of thousands, wasted billions of dollars (somewhere between $9 & 14 billion) that had already been invested not to mention seven years worth of people’s work. Who is to say Romney won’t do the same? More time and money wasted and people forced to start all over again. Could we blame anyone for avoiding NASA if this continues?

      Sincerely, Jason Rhian – Editor, AmericaSpace

      • Karol

        Jason, thank you very much for your prompt, kind, and considerate reply. I too share your well-founded concern about our space agency being “yanked this way and that every four years”. Perhaps there is a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel (and it isn’t the 4:27 express freight train out of Omaha). According to the AIAA Daily Launch (and I’m sorry Jason, I forget which day it was posted) Congressman Frank Wolf (R. Va.) is crafting legislation which he hopes will somewhat “de-politicize” NASA, provide a more stable, long term source of funding more in keeping with the long term planning necessary for space missions, and institute a Presidential appointment, Congressional confirmation process for a longer term for the NASA Administrator, much like that of the Director of the FBI, hopefully providing greater continuity and professionalism. Perhaps someone from AmericaSpace could interview Rep. Wolf or a staff member about this legislation? It seems like a step in the right direction. Alas, hope springs eternal . . . Best wishes Jason, Karol

        • Hey Karol,

          Short of Romney having his own “Titusville 2008″ speech, this is what you can expect from Mathews for the remainder of the campaign. The problem for Mathews is a lack of access. He couldn’t get an interview with a Romney campaign official or surrogate during the convention, so he did what was in his mind the next best thing. He made news by interviewing those with no attachment to the Romney campaign talking about what they thought Romney should or should not do. Not very revelatory for most readers, but I guess from Mathews’ perspective it was better than nothing.

          Romney won’t talk about space until doing so reaps the maximum advantage, which depends upon how Florida is tilting in October. I know that can be frustrating.

          From talking to a couple of acquaintances who work for the Romney campaign on space, I get the sense that he is not going to pull an Obama and recognizes that Congress has spoken (loudly) on what it wants in a space program that balances national and commercial human space flight with robotic exploration. And we’ll be lucky in that Romney at least has a feel for budget numbers and knows that $18B doesn’t move the needle on a $1.5T budget deficit. Also, I don’t think a Romney Administration would stand for the extra-legal efforts that the President’s people at NASA have engaged in to thwart Congressional intent for Orion and SLS. In this area, NASA’s top leadership have truly been exploring new territory that I’m sure all of us hope is never again.

          If Rep. Wolf gets the backing of his Senate colleagues, his reforms for NASA will be a fait accompli. The one thing the President’s people at NASA have done to Congress is demonstrate very tangibly that the status quo is not workable. If Griffin were still at NASA, Garver, Robinson, and others doing their bidding would be having a much more difficult time.

  • Hi Mike,

    I actually stole that from Robert G. Oler (who was using it to describe NASA space workers) – I in turn, turned it around and used his term to ask how is what’s going on between SpaceX and NASA any different?

    Sincerely, Jason