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NewSpace Troll Tactics: A Viewer's Guide (Part 1)

Image Credit: Whynne

Image Credit: Whynne

A recent comment posted to one of our articles came off as nauseating. This person didn’t like the fact that there actually was a news website that was stating negative things about a NewSpace company. He went so far as accusing us of being funded by this company’s competitors. No, we’re not kidding—nor were we surprised. However, this served as an opportunity to detail how NewSpacers behave, the tactics they use, and why.

Another NewSpacer attempted to further the “dialogue.” No one wants to listen to someone with no actual experience explain how much smarter they think they are than you. After a while, I asked myself, “Why am I bothering with this troll?” Rather than to see my investment of time go to waste, I’ve opted to turn it into this opinion piece. Please note that if you are a NewSpace troll you won’t like it.

The first thing we need to do is define what is meant by the term “troll.” This way, those guilty of these antics can’t deny that they, in fact, are trolls. An internet troll is defined as such:

Internet slang (pron.: /ˈtrl/, /ˈtrɒl/) — someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as a forum, chat room, or blog, for the purpose of provoking readers into an emotional response, disrupting on-topic conversation, or distracting attention away from the point at hand.

The next thing that we need to do is to provide examples of this behavior, as well as define why these individuals behave this way.

Gods of Bias: NewSpacers only value what the companies that constitute their philosophy do. Therefore, all achievements by NASA are deemed to be worthless. To hear a NewSpace troll tell it, NASA has only accomplished anything either by accident or by using billions of dollars as rocket fuel.

A NewSpace troll went on an anti-NASA rant and then tried to sound generous by saying, “I support all of the LEO activities!” Of course he supports NASA’s LEO objectives—the space agency is handing those activities to NewSpace companies. The thing is, these people are so divorced from reality that they don’t view this behavior as being at all biased. Being arrogantly oblivious—this is NewSpace.

The Downward Spiral: As an editor on a small, niche website, time is everything. I’ve lost count of the time I have wasted replying to trolls who demand that I “show them” this or that. What invariably happens is I look up the information and then show it to them (usually complete with links) and then they either deny everything or post links to blogs (generally not reputable media outlets) they swear contradicts what I just posted.

In this case, one can sit there and try to have a discussion with these people, but what will inevitably happen is you will highlight a flaw in their master plan. Rather than address it, they will counter with some real or perceived issue with your point of view. NewSpace trolls are incapable of dealing with any problems within their community. If you are hoping to have a dialogue with them about these issues, a rational conversation about the topics highlighted—forget it.

I’ve lost count of all the times I repeatedly asked NewSpace trolls to address the issues raised in my last op-ed. Sadly, none had the prerequisite maturity to do so—not one. The closest I got was a comment stating that he had not witnessed such behavior (naturally, NewSpace trolls not only ignore the poor behavior of their fellows, but they encourage it). Afterward, I tried to calculate how much time I had wasted trying to have a mature discourse with these people and realized that it was extensive.

Rewriting History:  To call NewSpace trolls arrogant doesn’t give depth to the problem. According to these individuals, NASA is useless (except for all that useless money the space agency is funneling their way). A perfect example of this was a recent post by a NewSpace fan who believed that NASA—the space agency that sent men to the Moon and gave us the Hubble Space Telescope and all of the probes and rovers that have exponentially expanded our understanding of the universe—was simply not up to the task of competing with NewSpace firms who, to date, haven’t launched a single astronaut. Here is his “unbiased” account of crew escape capabilities:

“As you’re well aware, the current crop of new vehicles are all going to be fitted with crew escape capability (NASA requirement) which should dramatically reduce that horrible possibility since requirement is from launch to orbit. I can wait an eternity if necessary to see such a thing not happen. But eventually I suppose it will. (The word “eventually” is in reference to when an accident will occur on a NewSpace crewed vehicle.)

“NASA’s Orion, who knows? They’re currently 4000lbs overweight and using the tower (old tech’) don’t have the same escape margins. They’ve also got to deal with SRBs on the first stage of SLS which increases the requirements due mainly to the continuing acceleration of the SRB after detachment of the capsule. If the SRB has blown to bits then the capsule has to escape the pieces and the resultant fireball. It’s a difficult issue.”

Here, in essence, is what this person’s take on the situation is. NewSpace, who has zero actual experience launching an astronaut, will probably never experience a failure and lose the crew. Even if an accident should occur, the tech they are using is so terrific that the crew will safely return to Earth under rainbows and everyone will eat cake. Whereas those poor astronauts in their misbegotten Orion capsule are doomed from the start! I mean, after all, they are only working with an agency that has launched over 150 successful manned missions.

I cannot thank the individual who penned the wonderful opinion above enough. I doubt there is a better example of NewSpace troll arrogance out there, and if there is I’m hard-pressed to find it. I mean, think of the mindless gall it takes to state that companies that have never launched anyone into orbit ever (or in the case of one NewSpace troll “evuh”) will naturally do it better than the space agency that has done it since 1961. The tragic thing? This person is so oblivious he can’t see how anyone would find this (and numerous similar) comment as what it is—patently offensive.

This tactic also involves mentioning numbers highlighting the “good” that NewSpace has done, while ignoring all the numbers that show the good that NASA has done. Trolls will hold up the two successful unmanned Dragon flights and willfully ignore the more than 150 manned missions that NASA has conducted, including the missions that sent 12 people to the Moon. They will also happily ignore Hubble, Chandra, Voyager, Spirit, Opportunity, Viking, Galileo, Deep Impact, Curiosity, and on and on. This is NewSpace.

Stay tuned to the second part of this opinion-based series tomorrow.

42 comments to NewSpace Troll Tactics: A Viewer’s Guide (Part 1)

  • Jason,

    I feel your pain. It is tempting to ascribe a particularly virulent strain of stupidity to many of the comments you allude to, but in fact, this phenomena is common on the net in general and is not restricted to some shills for New Space. Have a look at this recent piece:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/03/opinion/sunday/this-story-stinks.html?_r=0

    You are absolutely right that argumentation with these bozos is pointless; they do not want discussion, they want to overwhelm your blog with their spam, probably in the childish hope of “getting in the last word.”

    The “Delete” button is your friend.

    • Paul,
      First, thank you for visiting AmericaSpace. We think that by hitting delete, we’re trying to silence the opposition. We have a pretty strict policy about who can be “banned.” These folks ride that line – but are still pretty disgusting. You’re also correct, they’re everywhere, but when it comes to new & old – the majority of these people are in the NewSpace camp.
      Sincerely & with thanks, Jason Rhian – Editor, AmericaSpace

  • Noel Falconer

    I hope I’m not a troll, but judge for yourself:

    I recognise the great achievements of NASA BUT -

    I think it grossly over-expensive, bureaucratic, slow, unresponsive and unimaginative. I see a history of wrong decisions, excusable in themselves, but defended as correct when they clearly weren’t, so rectified late if at all. The key example is the Space Shuttle, that has bled money and talent from blatantly more economic endeavours, that needed complementary facilities like the Space Tug, that couldn’t be afforded because the SS was so wasteful. That, and abandoning the moon.

    I have no connection with New Space nor any other critic of NASA.

    • Noel,
      Review the tactics that will be detailed through Wednesday. I think you’re just one of the folks that have watched NASA wane & have grown frustrated. You don’t attack to further an agenda. So, no, I wouldn’t deem you as being one of these people.
      Sincerely, Jason Rhian – Editor, AmericaSpace

  • Karol

    Jason Rhian for Director of NASA!! You modestly assume that AmericaSpace is a “small, niche website” but your work is invaluable, and you speak for MANY of us Jason. You have the patience of a saint, with the soul of a warrior. The newspacers are outraged that the Administration could not de-fund NASA and put the resultant taxpayer largesse into a trough from which any newspace snake oil salesman with a good song and dance could dip his snout into. “Wanna retire on Mars in ten years? Here, have thirty or forty million!” Personally, I admire your integrity, intellect, and courage. We stand at your side, girded for battle with sword and shield at hand. Prepare for Gotterdammerung Jason, CARPE DIEM !!!

  • Coastal Ron

    Jason said:

    Another NewSpacer attempted to further the “dialogue.” No one wants to listen to someone with no actual experience explain how much smarter they think they are than you.

    Interesting. So how did you determine that you had more experience in that topic than they did?

    And what is “experience”? As an imaginary example, if someone has worked for NASA in a junior level, does that make them more “experienced” than someone that has worked in a senior level position for a private company?

    I’ve had years of management experience working for DoD contractors, including some of the biggest, and some of the smallest. I’ve worked RFP’s, and been responsible for revenue generation. None of that has been in aerospace, but does that “experience” mean that I can use my knowledge when talking about “OldSpace” and “NewSpace”? Or is that considered being a troll?

    Jason, you and I had a “conversation” yesterday, with lots of viewpoints exchanged. The topic started out with a discussion of whether Commercial Crew and the SLS were somehow related. I disagreed, you disagreed with me, and then off we went. In looking back, you were the first person to bring up the topic of “NewSpace”, which you like to use as a pejorative.

    In fact, when pressed, you even named companies some would consider as “OldSpace” in your list of “NewSpace”, so it appears that the definition you use is not universal.

    But I find it odd that people against “NewSpace” appear to be against entrepreneurism, which basically is capitalism. One can only imagine being called a troll for supporting the efforts of William Boeing and his fledgling airplane company back in 1910.

    And of course you overlook the fact that I support the efforts of any company to provide value and lower the cost of accessing space. I even support the good parts of ULA, which includes the studies they have done showing that we can do lunar exploration using existing rockets and space hardware based on existing technologies. How in any way is that being a “troll”?

    But maybe you just want to use the label of “troll” on those that disagree with you? Wow, that’s a low bar, huh?

    For myself, I keep looking for someone that is an SLS supporter than can explain to me where the funding stream will come from to actually use the SLS. Call me crazy (or a troll), but not only doesn’t the business case close for the SLS (and yes, you can have business cases for government programs), but we appear to be heading towards one of those massive “funding gaps” that the Augustine Commission said was endemic with large NASA programs.

    I think talking about how my tax money is being used is a good idea, but maybe you think that’s being a “troll”. If so, then that’s OK, I’ve been called worse, and I don’t even know you. But that doesn’t mean I won’t stop telling the world that they SLS does not make financial sense for U.S. Taxpayers, and it doesn’t make sense for those of us that really do want to explore everywhere in space, and as soon as NASA’s puny (and decreasing) budget will allow.

    • Ron,
      This isn’t about folks that disagree – it’s about how a certain set (yourself included) employ tactics that are pretty nauseating. Review my response to Noel. BTW, this series doesn’t delve into the specifics about the competing philosophies – so, the fact that you drag this type of info out? Falls into “bait & switch.”
      You need to review all of the Op-Ed before going off on a rant. If you don’t? You’ll only validate what I’ve already said or will say. Many NewSpacers did the exact same thing during our last Op-Ed. Looked at in its totallity? The antics of your camp – are pretty vile.

      Our “conversation” was similar to so many you’ve had on so many other websites with so many other people. You seek to cow, silence or bully those that don’t see things your way. It’s not what you’re saying Ron – it’s how you are saying it.

      To clue you in. People that disagree aren’t trolls. People that ceaselessly use the tactics we describe in this series (the worst ones have yet to be detailed) on a wide range of space-related sites? Ron, I think what has really got you upset is that you saw yourself in this article:

      The Downward Spiral: As an editor on a small, niche website, time is everything. I’ve lost count of the time I have wasted replying to trolls who demand that I “show them” this or that. What invariably happens is I look up the information and then show it to them (usually complete with links) and then they either deny everything or post links to blogs (generally not reputable media outlets) they swear contradicts what I just posted.

      In this case, one can sit there and try to have a discussion with these people, but what will inevitably happen is you will highlight a flaw in their master plan. Rather than address it, they will counter with some real or perceived issue with your point of view. NewSpace trolls are incapable of dealing with any problems within their community. If you are hoping to have a dialogue with them about these issues, a rational conversation about the topics highlighted—forget it.

      I’ve lost count of all the times I repeatedly asked NewSpace trolls to address the issues raised in my last op-ed. Sadly, none had the prerequisite maturity to do so—not one. The closest I got was a comment stating that he had not witnessed such behavior (naturally, NewSpace trolls not only ignore the poor behavior of their fellows, but they encourage it). Afterward, I tried to calculate how much time I had wasted trying to have a mature discourse with these people and realized that it was extensive.

      Sincerely, Jason Rhian – Editor, AmericaSpace

      • Coastal Ron

        Jason said:

        This isn’t about folks that disagree – it’s about how a certain set (yourself included) employ tactics that are pretty nauseating.

        Well then maybe you should be explicit in what exactly is “nauseating”.

        Is talking about alternate space architectures “nauseating”?

        Is talking about how inefficient and underfunded NASA is, but not talking about solutions, “nauseating”?

        I am a taxpayer, and a space enthusiast. I have followed and supported our efforts in space since the dawn of our space program (yes, I’m that old). Does that automatically make me a troll, or is it because I support solutions that don’t follow the “Time to kill commercial” agenda you have stated in our conversation yesterday?

        And let me make sure I understand what you mean by “commercial”, since NASA is by design a contracting agency that spends 85% of it’s budget buying from “commercial” companies. You specifically dislike commercial services, but you are perfectly fine with NASA using commercial companies to build and operate government-owned hardware.

        Is that correct? I just want to make sure I understand your definitions.

  • Borecrawler

    Coastal Ron,
    I am probably an “old spacer”, so I will try to explain what I think is bothering Jason Rhian. I don’t think he (or most fans of space flight) are in any way, shape, or form against enterprenuership! You have, in fact, created a straw man. I don’t even think they are against commercial space. What this article is clearly showing is the bias and lack of reason and civility that new space supporters use to further their agenda. We can (and should) have both strong NASA and commercial programs. I also believe you are entitled to state your opinion on SLS in a polite and well thought out manner (although, I will still disagree with you wholeheartedly, I would welcome the dialogue). NASA’s budget is puny and decreasing and that’s a shame. I just don’t think the problem is SLS. The real issue is the lack of support shown by the current administration and partisanship causing us to lose our focus on what’s important. I worry about the funding stream too-but lack of money is not a reason to cancel SLS. Forget the debt ceiling-let’s raise the space ceiling!

    • Coastal Ron

      Hello Borecrawler. You said:

      I am probably an “old spacer”, so I will try to explain what I think is bothering Jason Rhian.

      I consider myself a “spacer”, since I don’t really care who provides “value”, just that the money we spend produces something of value. There are things that old, large aerospace companies do that I like, and things that new, small aerospace companies do that I like. Neither is ever 100% right, but that is life in general, so my biggest hope is that we learn from our past and use that to make a better future. That includes space exploration.

      I don’t even think they are against commercial space.

      Yesterday Jason said “Time to kill commercial.“. You interpret is as you want, but his dislike for “NewSpace”, which is commercial by nature, is pretty evident.

      I also believe you are entitled to state your opinion on SLS in a polite and well thought out manner (although, I will still disagree with you wholeheartedly, I would welcome the dialogue).

      I’m a numbers guy. It comes from the work I have done, where I’ve had to cost out things from Bills-of-Material (BOM’s) and Estimates-to-Complete (ETC’s) to factory revenue projections. For space related stuff, I have focused on costs & funding issues, and I have yet to find anyone that has any clue about how NASA can afford to use the SLS within the historical budget it has. I have yet to find anyone that can show any evidence that Congress actually plans to fund any use for the SLS too. How in the world can asking basic questions like “can we afford to build and use the SLS” be somehow bad?

      Can you explain that?

      The real issue is the lack of support shown by the current administration and partisanship causing us to lose our focus on what’s important.

      Except for Bush43 and the VSE/Constellation effort (which even Bush43 didn’t fully support), no President since Kennedy has successfully proposed leaving LEO. Republican or Democrat, Congress is not enamored with either redoing Apollo or venturing beyond the Moon. Polls show that the public is not clamoring for us to leave LEO either, and the public barely supported Apollo prior to the Moon landings.

      Space to most people is not a priority.

      I worry about the funding stream too-but lack of money is not a reason to cancel SLS.

      Do you know how many programs NASA has started and then had cancelled because there was not enough money to finish them? Doesn’t that worry you as a taxpayer? I don’t mind a little risk, but I can’t tell you how many people have blithely said that it’s OK to build the SLS but not be able to launch anything for years (or even a decade). Does that make sense to you? Shouldn’t we have an exploration plan that matches our needs to our abilities?

      Forget the debt ceiling-let’s raise the space ceiling!

      I understand your enthusiasm, but the reality in the Republican House today is that they are more likely to cut NASA’s budget than to provide any increases. Even the President is not proposing any major increases. We have to live within the budgets we have, not the fantasy budgets we don’t have.

      Now please tell me, what part of what I have said sounds like I’m a “troll”.

      • Joe2

        “I consider myself a “spacer”, since I don’t really care who provides “value”, just that the money we spend produces something of value.”

        Yes I agree and thats why I am in favor of canceling commercial crew efforts to the ISS and not extending the ISS past 2020 as it provides little “value” and funding 3 companies for the same thing is a waste of taxpayer money -and I am one of those taxpayers. For the billions being spent on the ISS and commercial crew to support it each year, we could spend that money on furthering exploration BEO, for example on a moon lander. I have asked several times what value we are getting by continuing to fund the ISS and I never get an answer. NASA will only have so much budget and we need to stop funding things that provide no real value or no longer do.

        See Ron – I can play that game too of straw man arguments and diversion

        Jason – you are spot on. Looking forward to part 2.

        • Coastal Ron

          Joe2 said:

          Yes I agree and thats why I am in favor of canceling commercial crew efforts to the ISS and not extending the ISS past 2020 as it provides little “value”

          and

          I have asked several times what value we are getting by continuing to fund the ISS and I never get an answer.

          You have a good question, and this is really where I think the dividing line is in the space community. It’s not “NewSpace” vs “OldSpace”, it’s really ISS vs SLS. Do people think we are ready to venture out beyond LEO and stay there?

          For the ISS stuff, I’m not sure who you have asked, but NASA has a website that lists all the experiments that have been done on the ISS, which was designated by Congress as a National Laboratory in 2005.

          To me, the ISS is the least expensive place for us to learn how to live and work in space. We are learning a lot about how things work in zero-G, and how they fail – basic stuff we need to know if we’re going to be operating far from home doing BEO exploration. We’re also learning about how to keep humans healthy during long-duration zero-G, and the ISS partners think they have that solved for 6-month stays, and they are getting ready to test it out on two crew that will be staying in space for one year. Sounds boring, but this is solid science type stuff.

          And I understand that people want to explore beyond LEO (as do I), but are we ready? Sure we could redo Apollo, and create a bunch of disposable hardware for temporary stays on the Moon. But we’ve done that already, and that is why the Constellation program, as put forth by Michael Griffin and his “Apollo on steroids” approach, was so underwhelming. $100B would not have provided any of the hardware infrastructure we will need to STAY away from Earth – not just visit.

          For those of us that don’t like the SLS, it’s because it’s being built far in advance of any known need. But we do know that if we’re going to be operating out beyond LEO, that we’ll need fuel depots, autonomous tankers, SEP tugs, and a whole host of other hardware to enable reusability, keep costs as low as they can, and have safe travels. Essentially the SLS is consuming our feedstock and keeping NASA from developing the key technologies it thinks it needs to explore beyond LEO.

          And this is not me talking. This is NASA’s Future In-Space Operations (FISO) Working Group saying it. On their 3/7/12 report “NASA Space Technology Roadmaps and Priorities“, you won’t find an HLV listed as the gating item for space exploration.

          We’ve had an outpost in space, continuously occupied, for over 12 years. For me, if we’re not prepared to try and best that record with the next destination we go to, then we’re not pushing ourselves enough, and not setting our goals high enough.

          And, if you’ve really been paying attention, this whole discussion really involves Boeing vs Boeing, and Boeing vs Lockheed Martin, not “OldSpace” vs “NewSpace”. “NewSpace” is only in a supporting role, just like it is on the ISS (which is Boeing for those keeping score, as is the CST-100).

    • Borecrawler,
      Exactly.

      Ron,
      While you might have cleaned up your current comments (although you’re still feverishly working to steer the conversation away from the behavioral flaws rampant in your movement) – your previous ones have mirrored the “Bait & Switch” & “Downward Spiral” tactics employed by trolls. This is a tactic employed to waste time, confuse the key points raised & to generally bully the person into agreeing with you.

      You didn’t address a good many of the points I raised in my posts last evening, instead you attempted to change the subject. You did so again today. Sorry Ron, while I appreciate your excitement about your favorite companies – I don’t appreciate the tactics you use to further your agenda.

      Borecrawler is correct. As I stated in my previous replies – I support enterprenuership, the concept of commercial access to orbit & so on. What I don’t like is people skewing the facts, folks who’re happy to hinder exploration efforts – just so that their pet companies can get cash. I said so last night. I also said that I’d like SpaceX, SNC & Bigelow to handle LEO (& in Bigelow’s case some BEO efforts). But, you ARE a troll – you ignored ALL of my repeated statements about that – & went on a massive rant when we called you & yours on the behavior that is starting to cost your movement it’s funds.

      Rather than beat up the messenger Ron, you & those like you might want to ask yourselves why you’re consistently biting the hand of those that funded you? As I said (repeatedly) – the political winds are always changing. This time? They blew back in your faces & rather than deal with the stench of your antics – you’re trying to make this someone else’s fault.

      NewSpace has been gleefully burning bridges. Now that folks have grown tired of this behavior & have cut off the tap – you guys still can’t act right. You still insult & attack. Ron, rather than skim over my replies & go on a tirade, you might actually want to READ them – you will find that we really aren’t that far apart. It seems you’re determine to hone on the things we disagree about in an effort to make me a mental clone of yourself. Sorry, you need to realize that everyone doesn’t share your opinions – & learn to show some respect. Until that day? NewSpacers won’t have the support they need to survive. Unfortunately, NewSpacers are very bitter & will never see anything they’re doing as wrong &, typically, they will just blame someone else for their problems.
      All the best.
      Sincerely, Jason Rhian – Editor, AmericaSpace

      • Coastal Ron

        Jason said:

        While you might have cleaned up your current comments (although you’re still feverishly working to steer the conversation away from the behavioral flaws rampant in your movement)

        My movement? Is there a club that encompasses what I stand for? If so, I’m not on the mailing list and they haven’t invited me to any of their meetings. Or, and I’m just spitballing this, you could be confusing my support of cost-effective space exploration with a “movement”. If that’s the case, then guilty as charged.

        And if what I advocate for is a “movement”, then what do you call what you do? Lack of a movement?

        Seems to me that since you are so anti-NewSpace, that you could be said to be pro-OldSpace. Is that bad? If you see NewSpace as a pejorative, then I’d say “yes”. But since I define “OldSpace” as those companies that don’t take risk in pushing the boundaries of space exploration – that use NASA purely as a source of revenue – then we have an interesting situation here. I see “OldSpace” as removing potential funds from space exploration (by not being innovative and contributing their own funding), and you see the same with “NewSpace”.

        That’s not to say that Boeing and Lockheed Martin are bad. I’m a capitalist, and I’ve worked for large corporation before. It’s just that Boeing and Lockheed Martin (and others) could do a lot more for space exploration, but they are caught up in the profitability conundrum that affects most large public companies – they are not incentivized to take lots of risks. Look how much Boeing is being punished in the public for bringing a brand new airplane design to market (i.e. the 787). That’s likely why they opted to update the 737 instead of completely replace it, which is what it looks like they will do for the 777.

        What I liked about the COTS/CRS program was that NASA was able to mitigate risk, and for those companies that did what they said they would do, they got the reward they were promised (i.e. to make money on the CRS contract). RpK was kicked off for not doing what they said they would do, and SpaceX did what they said they would do, so that proved the system worked. Who cares whether it was “NewSpace” or “OldSpace” companies that did the work?

        You are obsessed with characterizing “NewSpace” as “bad”, if not by company then at least by “movement”.

        I’m obsessed with getting value for my tax money, which for space exploration means “how can we get the most space exploration for the available money”. You’d think we’d have more in common, but apparently we calculate “value” differently.

  • [...] Gee, Jason Rhian seems to be trolling his own web site. [...]

  • Leonidas

    Jason, you rock and you rock hard! It’s such a big pleasure to read your posts and op-eds as always!

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “‘NASA’s Orion… They’re currently 4000lbs overweight.. They’ve also got to deal with SRBs on the first stage of SLS which increases the requirements due mainly to the continuing acceleration of the SRB after detachment of the capsule. If the SRB has blown to bits then the capsule has to escape the pieces and the resultant fireball. It’s a difficult issue.’”

    This isn’t rewriting history. Your reader is raising legitimate concerns about real and potentially fatal problems on the MPCV program that have been reported in AvWeek, at nasaspaceflight.com, and elsewhere. If you’re really interested in and capable of defending the nation’s civil space program, you should directly address MPCV’s negative capsule mass margin for landing, negative SM mass margin for launch, parachute limits and failures, structural testing failures, and budget realism, as well as how MPCV can safely abort in an environment with two thrusting or deflagrating SRBs.

    By attacking the reader ad hominem instead of addressing these issues head-on, you’re effectively pretending that MPCV’s problems don’t exist. That way lies Challenger and Columbia.

    You should do better. Don’t shoot the messenger. Deal with the message.

    • Joe2

      Every program, every company has had its list of issues to deal with and how they deal with them will in part determine their success (or failure), but somehow I think you know that. Your post, continues the technique of diversion – I have seen this used in other posts that begin citing problems and then uses them to underscore their argument that NASA is going down the wrong path/should cancel the program (MPCV/SLS, etc)/blah blah blah. Its good to discuss issues, its good to discuss possible solutions – but that is not what you are and others are doing.

      “By attacking the reader ad hominem instead of addressing these issues head-on, you’re effectively pretending that MPCV’s problems don’t exist. That way lies Challenger and Columbia.”

      A disingenuous statement at best. Coupling that last statement to the first is another trick used by folks like you; implying that if the editor doesn’t somehow provide in depth coverage of a programs issues (real or not) that disaster will strike. If you had proof that NASA was ignoring these issues your statement might make sense; but using it here, in this fashion you did is low.

      • Dark Blue Nine

        “Every program, every company has had its list of issues to deal with”

        Handwaving. MPCV has big problems that it shouldn’t have at this stage of development. For example, MPCV should have substantial positive mass margins now. Not only does the MPCV not have positive mass margins, not only does MPCV not have zero mass margins, not only does MPCV not have slightly negative mass margins — the MPCV capsule has a mass margin of minus 20 percent for landing and the MPCV SM has a mass margin of minus 32 percent for launch. Those are nutty margins at this stage of development.

        “Your post, continues the technique of diversion”

        Call me crazy, but I think it’s more important to address real problems than debate whether some random reader should be labelled a “newspacer” or whine about all the ways in which “newspacers” annoy us.

        “Its good to discuss issues, its good to discuss possible solutions”

        Then let’s hear the solutions. How is the MPCV project going to carve out 20% of its capsule mass and 32% of its SM mass without busting schedule/cost and/or radically changing its requirements?

        “A disingenuous statement at best.”

        It’s not. These handwaving, ad hominem arguments are exactly the attitudes and prejudices that led to those accidents. Instead of dealing directly with issues raised by contractors, NASA managers handwaved the issues away and wasted their time discrediting the contractors instead of delving into the analysis. That’s exactly what the blogger is doing here with respect to the issues raised by the reader.

  • TrollFight

    Coastal Ron,
    you asked: “Do people think we are ready to venture out beyond LEO and stay there?”

    The unequivocal answer is yes, and we have been for decades. Please read this article by Dr. Robert Zubrin in SpaceNews. http://www.spacenews.com/article/vasimr-hoax

    In this article Dr. Zubrin dispels a number of the new technology “smokescreens” used by those who aren’t interested in expanding a human presence out into the solar system.

    This article can be understood even by those without a background in the related physics and engineering.

    • Coastal Ron

      TrollFight said:

      The unequivocal answer is yes, and we have been for decades. Please read this article by Dr. Robert Zubrin in SpaceNews. http://www.spacenews.com/article/vasimr-hoax

      Um, all that article talks about is how Dr. Zubrin doesn’t think the Vasimr is a space propulsion breakthrough, it says nothing about whether we have the full range of technologies needed to send people beyond LEO for long periods of time and keep them alive. Radiation, one thing he did mention, is just one of the many issues that the Future In-Space Operations (FISO) Working Group (which includes NASA personnel) has said need to be addressed. Have you read the list they have? It’s pretty detailed, and prioritized.

      But you bring to mind an interesting point. It’s not really a matter of CAN we leave LEO. I think we are capable of figuring out how to survive for long periods of time beyond Earth while doing various types of exploration.

      But we can’t AFFORD to build all the hardware needed for space exploration beyond LEO in one big lump. That’s the problem we have with the SLS, in that we can’t afford to build SLS-sized payloads at the same time we are building the SLS. The SLS is already being under-funded, so where is the money going to come from to build all the exploration hardware? THAT’S why the SLS shouldn’t be built at this time, because it’s going to sit around for years – years – waiting for something to do. If that isn’t waste, I don’t know what is…

      • TrollFight

        Coastal Ron, Zubrin’s article focused on the biggest excuses used by those who oppose sending humands beyond earth orbit. Namely propulsion, mission duration, and radiation.

        Yes, I’ve read many of the FISO group reports. There are no show stoppers to expanding a human presence to the moon and beyond. For long duration settlement on Mars, the only set of low TRL technologies that will need significant further developement effort is In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU). Ironically, the large amount of money going into the low earth orbit human spaceflight program is only delaying potential progress in that area.

        • Coastal Ron

          TrollFight said:

          Zubrin’s article focused on the biggest excuses used by those who oppose sending humands beyond earth orbit. Namely propulsion, mission duration, and radiation.

          He mentioned them, but all he said was that he didn’t see a problem with propulsion and radiation. Regardless, saying that it’s not a problem is not the same as proving in practice that it’s not a problem. That is the difference between solving things before we go (i.e. the ISS 1-year crew duration test) and assuming we know how to solve a situation. If we’re going to spend ten’s of $Billions on space exploration, I’d like to know ahead of time.

          There are no show stoppers to expanding a human presence to the moon and beyond.

          I guess you missed where I said I didn’t think there would be. But in actuality there is one massive “show stopper”, and that is the amount of money available for space exploration. And there are two ways to solve that – 1) Slowly build up our capabilities with the available budget, and 2) Hope that Congress massively increases NASA’s budget. #2 won’t happen.

          For long duration settlement on Mars, the only set of low TRL technologies that will need significant further developement effort is In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU).

          There are many levels of ISRU, but regardless, landing on Mars on the first flight out is out of the question, so ISRU is pretty far down the list of things that we need before that. For instance, without fuel depots and autonomous tankers we’re never going to be able to get to Mars in a large enough force to do anything there, or stay in orbit. Building an unusable/unaffordable HLV doesn’t solve that problem since we can be maturing those technologies without an HLV.

  • TrollFight

    Dark Blue Nine,
    You’re taking Jason’s comment about rewriting history out of context. He was referring to those who ignore NASA’s long history of success and only mention their challenges to claim they can’t do anything right. He never said that NASA’s new development programs don’t have challenges, new spacecraft almost always do.

    With respect to the “legitimate concerns” you mention:
    The 4000lb excess referenced in the Aviation week article is not a significant concern because it’s for a conservative weight estimate of the 2017 lunar mission, which contains food, water, extra radiation shielding, toilet, ect…

    That mass estimate is conservative because it was extrapolated from the EFT-1 vehicle, which has conservative structural design margins as it’s the first test flight and it will prove the new technologies, materials, and design techniques going into Orion.

    Sensor data from the EFT-1 mission will be used to safely reduce structural design margins and shed a lot of weight off the vehicle’s next design evolution for the 2017 mission to the moon.

    The “structual failures” you mentioned were a few hairline fractures found on an internal stiffening segment after proof pressure testing. Those were due to a stiffer than expected segment. As the article mentions such hairline fractures were also found on ISS modules when they were proof pressure tested.

    The launch abort system is powerful enough to save the crew from an out of control or exploding rocket, whereas those in development for other vehicles cannnot. It’s also jettisoned after launch so all that mass doesn’t need to be carried with you into deep space.

    • Coastal Ron

      TrollFight said:

      The [MPCV] launch abort system is powerful enough to save the crew from an out of control or exploding rocket

      The Air Force wasn’t so sure. They were concerned that the LAS would not be able to pull spacecraft far enough from an exploding SRM to ensure that the parachutes wouldn’t be melted. That is just one of the disadvantages in using solid-fueled boosters on human transportation systems.

      …whereas those in development for other vehicles cannnot.

      I’m not sure where you get that idea. NASA certainly thinks that their LAS systems will be safe enough. And since they use liquid-fueled engines – and no solids – the rocket engines can be commanded to shut down so the rockets don’t continue to chase the spacecraft after their LAS has been activated (like they do with the SLS).

      • TrollFight

        Coastal Ron, please read what I said more closely.
        I was referring to the superior capabilities of the Orion abort system vs. those of other vehicles in development. Orion and the commerical crew vehicles have two very different missions, and both have abort sytems optimized for their specific mission.

        I specifically referenced the ability to escape an out of control or exploding booster, not one that failed in such a way that it did not explode or could still be commanded to shut down (liquid boosters can indeed fail in this fashion).

        Just a technicality, but on SLS the solid rockets will not “chase after” the escaping crew vehicle like on Ares-1 because they are jettisoned and steer away from the central stack.

        • Coastal Ron

          TrollFight said:

          I was referring to the superior capabilities of the Orion abort system vs. those of other vehicles in development.

          No, all you said was “The launch abort system is powerful enough to save the crew from an out of control or exploding rocket…“. Where did you say anything about “superior”, and how can that be quantified between four different vehicles and three different rockets?

          Just a technicality, but on SLS the solid rockets will not “chase after” the escaping crew vehicle like on Ares-1 because they are jettisoned and steer away from the central stack.

          The two failure conditions that are the most challenging for the SLS/MPCV LAS are when it needs to abort just prior to SRB jettison (i.e. the SRB’s are still pushing the stack) and when a SRM has exploded. That is what is driving the need for a such a massive LAS tower (IIRC it’s about 20,000 lbs).

          Liquid fueled rockets don’t have either of those conditions (i.e. the engines can be turned off and the fuel is not sticky & burning), so the abort modes are less dangerous.

          • TrollFight

            Coastal Ron,
            you are playing silly word games.

            Liquid fueled rockets cannot necessarily be turned off. It depends on the particular failure mechanism. They of course can’t even be turned off in time to even prevent an explosion if you don’t detect the problem fast enough.

            To cite a very recent example, the spaceX engine’s combustion exploded on their 2nd COTS mission, and the computer responded only after the explosion to shut off propellant flow to that engine.

            With respect to an SLS abort, the solids are jettisoned if there is a problem detected with the launch system. You are incorrectly assuming they stay on the vehicle until their scheduled separation. It was also this way on shuttle (if there were a problem detected the solid motors are immediately jettisoned). Of course, as I mentioned previously this doesn’t do any good if the failure isn’t detected promptly.

            It is true that if a solid motor actually explodes, it can fling burning propellant that can pose a serious fire hazard to the ground and a spacecraft’s parachutes. However, true solid rocket explosions are extraodinarily rare compared to liquid motor explosions. This is due the slow burning nature solid propellant.

            • Coastal Ron

              This comment violates AmericaSpace commenting rules and has been removed.

              • TrollFight

                Coastal Ron, you are incorrect.

                The combustion chamber “depressurization” was due to a failure in the casing:

                “There was a material flaw that went undetected in the jacket of the Merlin engine, resulting in a breach … causing depressurization of the combustion chamber, then the flight computer recognized that depressurization and commanded shutdown,” said Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX, during a press conference Thursday.

                Here’s the link:
                http://www.spaceflightnow.com/falcon9/005/130228engine/

                Also, you cherry picked my statement, in full it read:
                “Liquid fueled rockets cannot necessarily be turned off. It depends on the particular failure mechanism.”

                There are of course many failure mechanisms for which an EDS CAN detect, initiate abort, and shut down the rocket. If not we wouldn’t bother with designing them would we?

                On a more general note, I was not trying to insinuate that the proposed CCDEV abort systems are inadequate. They are more than adequate for their intended missions in my opinion. I WAS explaining the difference between them and the exploration mission abort systems.

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “You’re taking Jason’s comment about rewriting history out of context. He was referring to those who ignore NASA’s long history of success”

      What does a “long history of success” have to do with whether MPCV can have 20% of its capsule mass and 32% of its SM mass removed without busting schedule/budget and/or radically reducing requirements? Either there’s a solution or not.

      And to be brutally honest, NASA has not has a successful launch vehicle development since Shuttle in the 1970s. I would not use a workforce from a generation-and-a-half ago as proof that an organization can still do what that workforce used to do. In fact, the long string of NASA launch vehicle development failures since the 1990s (X-33/VentureStar, SLI, OSP, CEV) would seem to indicate that the current organization is not up to the task in the current environment.

      “The 4000lb excess referenced in the Aviation week article is not a significant concern [because they can] reduce structural design margins and shed a lot of weight off the vehicle’s next design evolution…”

      That 4,000lb is 20% of the capsule’s mass. The capsule should have positive mass margins at this point in development because there will be more mass growth between now and design freeze at CDR. Not only does the project not have positive mass margins for landing, it has to dig itself out of a 20% negative mass margin hole. That’s nuts, and will almost certainly require substantial schedule/budget growth and/or a major drawdown in requirements.

      The SM is in even worse shape. It’s 1,400lb overweight, which is 32% of its dry mass. It’s hard to see how that closes without fundamentally resizing the vehicle and/or its mission.

      “The ‘structual failures’ you mentioned”

      The MPCV project is not going to “reduce structural design margins and shed a lot of weight” when the project is having “structural failures” in testing. They need to be adding (a little) mass to address those failures, not take a lot of mass out of the structure.

      “The launch abort system is powerful enough to save the crew from an out of control”

      Reference? Link? Analysis?

      “or exploding rocket”

      SRBs don’t “explode”; they deflagrate. The deflagration itself is not the issue. The problem is that all that hot solid fuel gets exposed and the resulting radiant heat is enough energy to melt the parachutes on MPCV’s (or any other) capsule.

      “whereas those in development for other vehicles cannnot.”

      Of course they can’t. They don’t have to deal with two of the highest thrusting solid rocket motors ever built flying out of control in the event of an abort. And they don’t have to escape the radiant heat bubble of two of the largest solid rocket motors ever built deflagrating in the event of a termination command during abort.

      “It’s also jettisoned after launch so all that mass doesn’t need to be carried with you into deep space.”

      I’m no sure what this has to do with anything, but it’s worth noting that the LAS jettison is a potential failure mode in and of itself. You don’t want to try to reach orbit, reenter, or land with the LAS still attached.

      • TrollFight

        Dark Blue Nine,
        You complained that Jason wasn’t addressing some concerns you obtained from online news articles, and so I explained to you what the articles were actually referring to and why the issues weren’t serious as you assumed.

        You then completely ignored just about everything I pointed out and reiterated your opinions, which are based on partly on ignorance and partly on distortion.

        Yes, there is a set of solutions to the lunar mission mass projections as I previously explained. The EFT-1 Orion flight vehicle (which is well within its mass requirements) was intentionally overdesigned (again for for the reasons I mentioned). If the mass savings were intractable then the requirements would have been changed (like they have been many times already as the program grows in scope). In the article about the lunar mission mass issue NASA stated it was “not intractable”.

        You’re assumption that the structure requires additional mass becuase an internal section was too stiff is incorrect. Additional material will not fix that. The solution is to modify the geometry of that piece. The article mentions that to fix the vehicle they simply cut out that internal section completely (to avoid crack propagation presumably), and are bridging the section with an aluminum plate to help take up some of the stress from removing that part of the structure.

        You said:
        “And to be brutally honest, NASA has not has a successful launch vehicle development since Shuttle in the 1970s.”

        NASA has been flying the shuttle ever since then. There hasn’t been any need fully embraced new design effort until now. In fact the interim cancelled developments you mentioned were regarded as a threat to the shuttle.

        Also, your basic premise there is wrong because all launch vehicles and spacecraft are designed by the private sector. NASA specifies the requirements (they will for commerical crew as well), but the design work is done by private industry.

        The deflagration you mentioned means that the rocket fully exploded (i.e. due to fragmented propellant plugging the nozzle), and this is exceedingly rare compared to the rate of catastrophic failures on liquid rocket engines. Even if it does happen, risk to the spacecraft is only a concern when the rocket is nearly on the pad, and even then the debris would need to reach the distant capsule and take out at least 2 of the 3 parachutes.

        “It’s also jettisoned after launch so all that mass doesn’t need to be carried with you into deep space.” The purpose of this comment is to mention one of the reasons a tower type of abort system is selected for a capsule designed for deep space exploration.

  • Jason, I’m here because Rand linked to this piece. This probably being the first time I’ve read you I’d like to share my perspective.

    It seems you’re determine to hone on the things we disagree about

    This statement floored me; being very revealing. Are you just looking for yes men?

    Focusing on the disagreement is exactly how you move a conversation forward. While it’s nice to have people agree, that doesn’t move the conversation forward at all.

    People are not perfect, nor are their arguments. Sometimes, things that seem distractions are used to illustrate larger points. I’ve read many comments in various places by Ron and have never considered him to be trolling. I do however, read in your comments a frustration that you are unable to control the arguments (shall I list examples from just this post?)

    Criticism, when civil, is a good thing. Let’s not paint with too large a brush in calling people trolls. If someone is off topic, tell them. You don’t need to argue with them.

    • Ken,
      No. Again, it’s not what you say – it’s how you say it. As I’ve said (repeatedly) – disagree with me all you like – but don’t behave the way described in this series. I’m not sure why certain people have such a hard time grasping this. If you only had issue with twelve words in an Op-Ed that was over 1,000 words in length – I guess I did okay.

      The tactics described don’t allow for civil disagreement. Exactly the opposite – they’re used to stifle dissent. That’s the whole point of this series.

      List whatever you like, just make sure that you also list the times that I’ve told someone that I don’t agree with them & that we should move on, that no, in fact, their posts don’t constitute trolling, etc. Should I list those for you?

      Correct – what I’m trying to highlight, & you seem to be defending – are the UN-civil posts. I think that’s where the confusion is setting in – I’m talking about the types of behavior that don’t engender conversation, that are meant to (as you put it) control it, to cow those that don’t agree into silence.

      It appears this series is upsetting a good many people, for various reasons. Good. These tactics are nauseating & I’m sorry that we don’t appear to agree on that. Cyber-attacks, spam, ad hominem attacks – these are what you’re defending Andrew – not civil conversation. Actually read the Op-Eds.
      Sincerely & with thanks, Jason Rhian

      • If you only had issue with twelve words

        I’m a guest on your piece of the internet and it would be impolite on my first post to fisk you. What you’ve done here is make a strawman argument. This is especially egregious mis-characterization because I did mention I could have gone on. I hope you understand I’m trying to be clear without being insulting.

        Behavior is very much subject to interpretation. The problem is in the definition of troll itself (“for the purpose of provoking“) Which means there must be intent. In other words, HOW you say something is not the end of the story. Some people really are trolls, but when you see someone trying to make a legitimate argument, that says they are not intending to be and by the strict definition are not.

        you seem to be defending – are the UN-civil posts

        For the second time in just one post you’ve mis-characterized me (suggesting this may be common for you and something to ponder.) I don’t believe I said anything that could be interpreted as defending uncivil behavior.

        We all have character flaws. Maturity comes from recognizing them and working to eliminate them. When somebody is trying to help another realize them, feeling the need to ‘counter-attack’ is a sign of immaturity.

        These tactics are nauseating & I’m sorry that we don’t appear to agree on that.

        A third mis-characterization (although not as bad as the first two.) That’s because we do have disagreement, but not that troll tactics are nauseating. On that point we would be in complete agreement.

        A troll is somebody that intentionally attempt to derail argument, not someone who (even if inept) attempts to move it forward.

        I understand you have a new post on this subject and I look forward to reading it. You have passion which is something I do appreciate.

        • Ken,
          I feel you’re cherry-picking certain elements that you feel you can easily “win”, while you seem to ignore the epidemic of bad behavior described.

          Ken, I respectfully disagree, if you look at the tactics described – I think most people would agree – that it details some pretty uncivil behavior. The “ignore them and they will go away” philosophy rarely works these days – so we again, respectfully disagree on how we choose to deal with it.

          You can call it a counter attack & immature if you wish, I merely choose to call them on it. Whenever we post an article critical in any way of NewSpace – we brace ourselves for more of what we describe. I don’t think of it as counter-attacking – rather, I view it as detailing & recording. The difference here is, rather than just resort to using their own tactics – we’ve documented them & displayed them & then called them what they are – wrong.

          To be honest Ken? I wish I had no need to document what I’m seeing & even less to write the Op-Eds. If this were an anomaly that’s how I’d treat it, but the behavior is nothing short of epidemic & in my view is hurting what should be a cornerstone of our space flight efforts.

          It’s also as I’ve said before, this comment I’m referring to? Is just the type of civil discourse we need. I do recognize the difference between a heated debate (Ron & I had one Sunday evening) – & troll tactics. All that I ask of you is that you review the tactics described and ask yourself: “Are these the actions of the future of human spaceflight?”

          Sincerely and with much thanks, Jason Rhian – Editor, AmericaSpace

          • Of course I’m cherry picking, generalized comments are how you get into the very trouble you’re describing.

            I agree, sadly, there is a lot of trollish behavior. Much of it is obvious and easy to spot. My point is that you have to be careful not to use too broad a brush.

            I’m adding you to my blog roll. I’ve looked around and while we may disagree here and there, we are both advocates of space. I hope we can disagree in ways that move the arguments forward.

            I also appreciate the nice clean look of your site.

            • Ken,
              Yeah, you’re right. I try to make the distinction, but as you said, it’s difficult. The problem I hit was, the article (it started out as one) was getting too long & the vitriol was getting too intense (we’d tried to ignore it or only respond on our comment page – but it didn’t help). So far, it has had a positive result, well except for one person, but other than that. I’m glad we ran it.

              Ken, I wish the people I described behaved as you do. We might not always agree, but that doesn’t mean we have to behave the way some others think is acceptable. If the majority of the comments/emails/phone calls I had received said that I was complaining about nothing – I would have dropped the subject. I’ll let you know – that it was the other way around. I’ve received dozens of “thank yous” from inside NASA & the space industry. What NewSpacers don’t get – is that a lot of people, those that NewSpacers should be courting as allies, have also seen the way they’re acting – and find it as bad, if not worse as we do. As much as trolls want to make this about how we “hate” NewSpace – it’s actually reverse – we’re trying to help them clean up their act.

              Sincerely and with thanks, Jason Rhian – Editor, AmericaSpace

  • Borecrawler

    I would like to address another troll tactic that seems to be prevalent across the space web. The trolls seem to create artificial “crises” that will possibly happen if we continue with SLS (or whatever program they are attacking). Example: “The MPCV has issues that will cause it to fail”. Do people seriously think engineers are unaware of the technical challenges needed to succeed? Their jobs (and astronaut’s lives) depend on it! Or how about Newspaces favorite enemy-SRBs! They attack them mercilessly at every opportunity. The only thing I can see wrong with them is that they are built by companies that Newspace doesn’t like. They love to throw technical jargon (which usually has no basis in reality) out to convince gullible citizens that anything they don’t like is unsafe. It seems interesting that NASA (in spite of Newspace’s loud anti-SRB lobby) continues to rely on them as both a cost-effective and reliable solution to going BEO.

    • Borecrawler,
      Ron appears to be using that one a bit. Other folks, whom I would not deem behaving this way, have also brought up the issue. While I don’t think SLS is perfect – I support exploration. That isn’t a blank check for NASA, that’s a, okay, the politicians have been leading you around by your nose – get the cost & management issues under control & move ahead. As I’ve said (and some have ignored) – we need more commercial companies. However, given that the tactics their supporters used are designed to distract? One has to ask – what are they trying to distract us from? The other tactics display a immaturity that makes one very nervous when knowing just how expense & in some cases precious the cargo they’re launching is.
      Essentially, what these tactics are designed to do (in most cases) is cover flaws within the community, possibly in the vehicles and who knows what else. What we need is a discussion of these issues, not a “Shut up they’re NewSpace and therefore cool – how dare you question them?” attitude.
      Sincerely and with thanks, Jason Rhian – Editor, AmericaSpace

  • Andrew,
    Read my reply to John Hare. There’s a difference between posting a rational argument as you’re trying to do & John Hare, Noel & others have done & trying to shoot the messenger or bully them into silence as those described here are attempting to doing.
    It’s not what they say Andrew – it’s how they say it. Feel free to argue with us all you like – but treat those that disagree with you with respect. So, sorry, but what you’re saying is that we should tolerate ad hominem attacks, being attacked, spammed, insulted & on & on. Sorry, but we expect commenters to actually act like adults.
    Maybe on other “sites” it isn’t used to describe the tactics employed – but not here. We’ve tolerated it long enough. If you act like a troll – you’re going to get called one.
    Sincerely & with thanks, Jason Rhian – Editor, AmericaSpace