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Falcon Heavy: Uncertain Case for Lunar Exploration

Illustration of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy launch vehicle. Image Credit: SpaceX

There have been occasional suggestions that NASA should scrap its Space Launch System (SLS) in favor of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy for fulfilling its beyond low-Earth orbit needs [1]. The claim forwarded by some is that the as-yet-untested-and-unflown 53 mt low-Earth orbit (LEO) (200 km @ 28°) Falcon Heavy is now “cheaper” than the as-yet-untested-and-unflown SLS. Furthermore, canceling the SLS would supposedly save NASA $10 billion—money that could otherwise be used to fund such programs as the Commercial Crew integrated Capability (CCiCap), to conduct a flight test of Orion on a Falcon Heavy, and to focus on building a small-scale space station in the area near the Moon. One issue not addressed by proponents of canceling SLS is whether it is a good idea to couple a nation’s human exploration spaceflight capabilities to a private company. An issue which appears to be altogether ignored, is the Falcon Heavy’s small lunar payload capability and the impact this would have on an already complex and risky endeavor such as lunar exploration.

According to SpaceX, the Falcon 9 Heavy, also called the Falcon Heavy, will have a 53 mt (metric ton) payload capacity to LEO of 200 km with an inclination of 28° [2]. Such a LEO payload capability will be impressive, allowing SpaceX to launch nearly twice the payload of a Delta IV Heavy or an Atlas V, and to do so more cheaply than either. But when it comes to launching payload to a geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) or beyond, the Falcon 9 Heavy falls far short of either the Delta or Atlas launchers. With a GTO payload of barely over 12 mt, the Falcon 9 Heavy is at least 1 metric ton, or 1,000 kg, under what either the Delta IV Heavy or Atlas V can deliver to the same point in space.

The Falcon 9 Heavy is, much like United Launch Alliance's Delta IV Heavy, a triple-bodied version of the company's Falcon 9 launch vehicle. Photo Credit: SpaceX

The Falcon 9 Heavy is, much like United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV Heavy, a triple-bodied version of the company’s Falcon 9 launch vehicle. Photo Credit: SpaceX

The Falcon 9 Heavy’s GTO payload deficiency relative to the existing EELV launch vehicles has other down-stream effects as to its appropriateness for beyond-Earth orbit (BEO) crewed exploration. It is safe to assume that the Falcon Heavy’s low-lunar orbit (LLO) payload capacity will not top much above 10 mt [3]. How will the Falcon 9 Heavy’s meager LLO payload capacity enable a meaningful return to the Moon? And why even talk about the Falcon Heavy as a possible launcher of crewed lunar exploration when each of the Delta IV Heavy and Atlas V launchers can send over 1,000 kg more than the Falcon Heavy to the Moon? Moreover, while the Delta IV and Atlas V have extensive flight histories, the Falcon Heavy has no such experience.

Advocates of using the Falcon Heavy don’t just want to rewrite who takes us beyond-Earth orbit, but more fundamentally how such missions are built. Reliance upon the Falcon Heavy for launching a beyond-Earth exploration program means some hard choices as to mission architecture. Traditionally, crewed exploration beyond low-Earth orbit has focused on minimizing complexity, and therefore risk and cost, by using a heavy-lift rocket (HLV). The logic behind using an HLV for lunar exploration in the past was that fewer launches correlated to less risk. The Falcon Heavy’s 10 mt capability means that any lunar exploration program will have to be one of assembling pieces/parts in low-Earth orbit, where the Falcon Heavy’s (LEO) 53 mt payload capacity can really shine. Some have claimed that centering a beyond-Earth exploration program on the Falcon Heavy does not mean ending the Orion spacecraft program. They point this out because Orion is the only spacecraft designed from the ground up for beyond-Earth exploration. Certainly, a Falcon Heavy can place an Orion crewed and service module in low-Earth orbit. But several additional launches will be needed to send Orion and her crew to the Moon. A lunar crewed mission using the Falcon Heavy would mean assembling, at necessary LEO locations, a crewed vehicle, a lander, a trans-lunar injection stage, a stage to get the crewed spacecraft and lander into LLO, and possibly a separate stage to enable the crewed spacecraft to return to Earth [4].

While supporters of an all-commercial approach frequently tout the company's laudable accomplishments - they just as frequently ignore the limitations of both the Falcon Heavy launch vehicle as well as the Dragon spacecraft. Photo Credit: SpaceX

While supporters of an all-commercial approach frequently tout the company’s laudable accomplishments, they just as frequently ignore the limitations of both the Falcon Heavy launch vehicle and the Dragon spacecraft. Photo Credit: SpaceX

One problem with a non-HLV approach to lunar exploration is that if a replacement Falcon Heavy and payload are not handy, any launch failure could very well mean a scrubbed mission. So a non-HLV approach necessarily means an inventory of not just a spare Falcon Heavy, but of duplicate spaceflight hardware—or designing hardware and refueling stations such that a delay of weeks or months would have only a marginal impact on the mission. Solving all of these unknown-unknowns (or unk-unks in engineering speak) associated with multiple launches, assembling a mission in LEO, in-space refueling at an orbiting location, among others flowing from a non-HLV approach to beyond-Earth exploration, could see the cost advantage of using the relatively unproven Falcon Heavy largely, if not completely, evaporate.

A beyond-Earth exploration program using the Falcon Heavy in an HLV architecture has its own downsides and associated costs. In order to enable the Falcon 9 Heavy to be a capable beyond low-Earth orbit launcher, funds will certainly be needed to create a new cryogenic second-stage. This will be needed because, in its current configuration, a Falcon 9 Heavy could not even launch one 11.6 mt Unity node module, much less a 20 mt Bigelow BA 330 Nautilus module. Even with a brand new second-stage, reliance upon the Falcon 9 Heavy to build, visit, and maintain a lunar orbiting outpost will dictate doing so in very small chunks; the number of launches will then begin to add-up, as will the complexity, risk, and cost. A Falcon Heavy cannot place an Orion spacecraft even in high-Earth, much less lunar, orbit. So reliance upon the Falcon 9 Heavy for beyond low-Earth missions in an HLV-based lunar mission architecture would only set NASA up to cancel Orion and go with Dragon for our nation’s crewed space exploration needs.

As it currently stands, neither NASA's Space Launch System nor SpaceX's Falcon Heavy have a proven track record. However, it would take multiple launches to accomplish what SLS could in a single flight. Image Credit: NASA

As it currently stands, neither NASA’s Space Launch System nor SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy have a proven track record. However, it would take multiple launches to accomplish what SLS could in a single flight. Image Credit: NASA

While it may be true that the Dragon spacecraft has a heatshield capable of allowing the spacecraft safe reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere, little else of Dragon is crew, much less lunar mission, capable. SpaceX’s Dragon is currently a participant in NASA’s commercial crew and cargo programs. One goal of NASA’s commercial crew program is to enable spacecraft built and operated by commercial space companies to get crews to and from the International Space Station by late 2017. But the requirements for a crewed spacecraft tailored for low-Earth orbit are different than those for beyond-Earth orbit. For one, a LEO capable spacecraft need only be capable of hours of operation, where a lunar spacecraft needs a capability of days. This means that the use of the Falcon Heavy as a means to returning humans to the Moon very likely means funding further enhancements, and verifying those enhancements to the Dragon spacecraft. As with over 90 percent of the funding for Falcon 9 and Dragon, this additional financial burden would fall upon NASA’s, and therefore the U.S. taxpayer’s, shoulders. Even with an enhanced Falcon Heavy launcher and Dragon spacecraft, more than one Falcon Heavy launch would still be needed to support a crewed lunar landing mission. Several Falcon Heavy launches would be needed to build a lunar orbiting outpost.

NASA's SLS has the full support, to include funding, of Congress, as such, efforts to cancel the system in lieu of one that favors the company that SpaceX supporters approve of - is not likely to occur. Image Credit: NASA

NASA’s SLS has the full support, to include funding, of Congress. As such, efforts to cancel the system in lieu of one that favors the company that SpaceX supporters approve of is not likely to occur. Image Credit: NASA

Or NASA could send a crewed lunar mission or build a lunar outpost with far fewer SLS launches. That’s because the very first iteration of the SLS, the Block I, will carry twice the payload of a Falcon Heavy to the Moon. The SLS Block II will have a lunar payload capacity nearly 3–4 times that of the Falcon Heavy, depending upon what engines are selected for the SLS’s advanced booster.

Beyond the SLS’s substantial payload advantage for lunar missions, the question of cost remains. Are 3 or 4 Falcon Heavy launches really cheaper than just one SLS Block II launch? That is a hard question to answer given that both launchers are still effectively “paper” rockets. In factoring launch costs, there is the cost of the launch vehicle, the launch pad, launch support, and post-launch management, just to name a few.

The bigger problem for those wishing to end the Space Launch System program is that it is currently ahead of schedule. According to John Elbon, Boeing VP & General Manager, Space Exploration, “We’re on budget, ahead of schedule. There’s incredible progress going on with that rocket” [5]. Canceling a rocket that is ahead of schedule would be difficult at best. Given that Congress has, over three votes, not only supported SLS but increased its funding over amounts sought by the Obama Administration, the odds of opponents getting SLS canceled are slim-to-none.

Space Launch System opponents suggest that the SLS program should cancel until a mission requiring such a rocket is identified. John Shannon, also with Boeing, recently stated, “This ‘SLS doesn’t have a mission’ is a smokescreen that’s been put out there by people who would like to see that [program’s] budget go to their own pet projects. SLS is every mission beyond low Earth orbit. The fact that NASA has not picked one single mission is kind of irrelevant” [6]. It bears mentioning that a good part of the reason there is no meaningful mission for the Orion-SLS is because the Obama Administration has not agreed with Congress that, as Congress noted in its 2010 NASA Authorization Act, cislunar space is the next step in our efforts beyond Earth and that the SLS is an integral part of that step.

Moreover, both short- and long-term missions for SLS have emerged in recent months. Within the 2014 FY Budget Proposal Request, NASA was directed to retrieve an asteroid, place it in lunar orbit, and then send astronauts to study it. The vehicle of choice is SLS. During a recent interview, NASA Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems in the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate Dan Dumbacher stated on AmericaSpace that the long-term mission for SLS was to send astronauts to Mars.

 

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  1. A Rocket To Nowhere (Aviation Week & Space Technology, April 18, 2013  ↩
  2. Falcon Heavy Overview  ↩
  3. SpaceX did not respond to AmericaSpace inquiries concerning the Falcon Heavy’s LLO payload capacity.  ↩
  4. SpaceX did not respond to AmericaSpace inquiries concerning the Dragon trunk’s trans-Earth injection capability.  ↩
  5. NASA’s Mars-Bound Mega Rocket on Track for 2017 Test Launch  ↩
  6. Boeing Executive Defends SLS as Only Deep-Space Option, John Shannon quote  ↩

349 comments to Falcon Heavy: Uncertain Case for Lunar Exploration

  • Ferris Valyn

    EELV Super heavy
    And you aren’t going to Mars on a single SLS launch

    • It’s all about lifting mass. Even at 150 mt, the SLS wouldn’t be “big” enough to lift all the mass for a crewed Mars mission.

      First, there are no mission architectures for crewed missions approved for Mars. But, basing my opinion on past work done for crewed missions to the Red planet, it would take 2-3 SLS B-II launches at a minimum for a crewed mission there. And all would need to be launched in a short period of time, say within 2-weeks. Thank goodness there are two launch pads that could launch SLS, 39-A and 39-B.

      The closest correlation to using the Falcon Heavy for Mars would be the work NASA-JSC did in the late 90’s based on using the then available Deltas.

      The number of Falcon Heavy launches needed to support a crewed Mars mission would be a factor of four to that of SLS B-II. So instead of 2-3 SLS launches, 8-12 Falcon Heavy launches would be needed to support a crewed mission to Mars. About half would need to be launched in a short period of time, say within 2-weeks to a month.

      At the end of a presentation of NASA’s Mars via Delta launcher architecture, one Apollo-era NASA Center Director exclaimed, “Bullshit!” and then dissected why it wouldn’t work. His reasons came down to launch frequency, mission management, spare hardware requirements (to make up for a failed launch), etc.

      • Ferris Valyn

        You haven’t really addressed my first point Jim.

        • Yes I did. Please read my response again.

          As for EELV Super Heavy, I think dealing with two paper rockets at once is enough. But if someone finds non-NASA funds for Super EELV, then I’ll be glad to repost.

          • Ferris Valyn

            (My first point was EELV super heavy)

            If we are arguing paper rockets, then we are really talking about 3, not two.

            Second, my point is that you go back to when the selection process of SLS was taking place, the commercial option was locked out. Thats a problem

            • Ferris,

              Honestly, I’m not trying to be argumentative, but I haven’t heard a peep about EELV Super Heavy out of anyone on Capitol Hill dealing with space either in authorization or appropriations. So EELV Super Heavy isn’t even a “paper rocket”, it’s a SciFi rocket.

              I’m not going to debate what was done in 2010. You know the history of that period as well as most here.

              We have a gov’t owned rocket rather than a commercial rocket for the same reason we don’t have United Airlines or FedEx as a replacement for the Air Mobility Command. It’s bad policy to hinge a national goal, in this case beyond Earth exploration, on the whims of commercial companies whose loyalties are to its shareholders, not the American people. You say that’s a problem. I disagree. Maybe someday Congress will come around to your way of thinking? But I doubt it.

              • Ferris Valyn

                Jason – part of the reason its not being debated is that people have fallen into discussing specific architecture rather than actually looking at the broader situation. Its like this debate about propellant depots vs HLVs – its a stupid debate. You need both (to a point). The real question is whether the systems you deploy are being stove-piped and siloed, or are they part of an integrated plan.

                As for “bad policy to hinge on the whims of commercial companies” – we do it for launching satellites for the warfighter.

                • Ferris,
                  You seem to have a lot of hate for “warfighters” or at least a dislike. Am I misreading your comments?
                  Jason

                  • Ferris Valyn

                    Yes, you are.

                    I’ve gotten use to the term warfigher, largely because I hear it get mentioned among DOD discussions.

                    When I intend to insult people, or have hatred, its much clearer

              • Ben Harrison

                We have a gov’t owned rocket rather than a commercial rocket for the same reason we don’t have United Airlines or FedEx as a replacement for the Air Mobility Command.

                We have the Air Mobility Command because the military has known and sustained need for dedicated transport into places commercial carriers don’t go, or to do things (like refueling) that commercial carriers don’t do. NASA doesn’t currently have that situation.

                My view is that the question should not be whether we should rely on the SLS or the Falcon Heavy. If asked, I would say neither, since I agree with those that say we should use a space exploration system that can use many different launchers, not one.

                But while ULA and SpaceX would do fine financially by sharing space exploration duty with each other and other countries, NASA could not afford to build the SLS and not use it for every single planned mission, regardless if it makes financial sense or not. That to me is a bad situation to put NASA in, and a bad deal for us taxpayers.

      • The number of Falcon Heavy launches needed to support a crewed Mars mission would be a factor of four

        Since we’re comparing paper rockets to each other…

        You got me thinking about this Jim.

        It would take exactly five FH launches to send twelve colonists to mars in less than ten years for one billion dollars.

        Mars One has other infrastructure that might be included but is independent of this comparison.

  • Ferris,
    He doesn’t say SLS will send a mission to Mars using a single SLS – so why are you putting words in his mouth?
    I think any rational person would understand that it would take multiple SLS launches – but far, far less than Falcon Heavy.
    Sincerely, Jason

    • Ferris Valyn

      My point is 2 parts

      1) Why is multiple launches ok for Mars, but not for the moon? And how many launches are ok, and how many are too many?

      2) If you need it to go to Mars, why discredit the idea of using that technology to go to the moon?

      • Good point. The fewer launches, the less risk and complexity, thus cost. So any Mars mission should have as few launches as possible. 2-3 launches will be lower risk, less complex, and less expensive than 8-12 Falcon Heavy launches.

        SLS was designed as an HLV for cislunar space, per Congress’ 2010 NASA Authorization Act.

        I assume, based on its performance, that the Falcon Heavy was designed with LEO access as its focus.

        Both rockets could be uprated to support greater payload capacity.

        But it is an impossibility for a Falcon Heavy to lift as much cargo as an SLS, and therefore require fewer launches, in support of a mission beyond low-Earth orbit.

        • Ferris Valyn

          So, then in your version of future history Jim, it would seem that Space is forever reserved for stunts.

          And any sort of large scale development, or utilization, is not going to happen

          • Ok, I’m at a loss as to what your point is?

            And how did you filter the source for your response out of my reply?

            • Ferris Valyn

              A few things are what led me to this

              1. Number of launches influence the risk and complexity, and the cost. But they are not the only factors, or arguably even the biggest factors.

              2. For development to happen, and settlement, you have to assume a very high number of launches. Not 2-3, or 8-12, but at least on the order of 1 a week. I know that number scares the living daylights out of a lot of people, but we get flight rates up to that, you know prices will come down.

              3. By designing your exploration program, which should actively help development and settlement, in a way that creates a silo, all you can do is stunts.

              Its very much like the pioneering doctrine that the Space Foundation talked about recently. You’ve got to have utilization and transition.

              As for my point – as long as people are happy with stunts, and are willing to pay for it, then there is no problem. Me, I want something bigger/better

    • Ferris Valyn

      The other question is why make this about Falcon Heavy, and Falcon Heavy alone?

      This is precisely the same stuff that AmericaSpace claimed when it came to Augustine and commercial crew.

      • Ferris,
        Because the argument was raised on Av Week & the two parts compared were SLS & FH. If you got a beef with that take it up with Av Week.

        Secondly – the only “stuff” & “stunts” here – are pointing out issues you don’t like. Tough. If one side has to handle it’s flaws – then your side has to also & there are plenty of them. My advice? Start fixing the problems & stop trying to shout down everyone that points them out.
        Jason

        • Ferris Valyn

          1 – Didn’t see that article (or at least, I am drawing a blank). IMHO, based on what you are saying, they’d deserve a comment as well.

          2 – If you are saying I need to take an active role in trying to improve things – why do you think I work in the space field?

          Fundamentally, its not this rocket vs that rocket, or even this technology vs that technology. Its how do you integrate the various pieces in a way that creates the cycle towards large scale space development/settlement.

          • Ferris,
            Contrary to what you might think – your opinion isn’t the only valid one out there. Arguing with everyone that disagrees with you doesn’t improve a thing. It’s part of the reason I don’t respond much anymore. People such as yourself only accept one point of view generally – everyone else has to be shown how dumb they are to disagree with you. This endless cycle of one-ups-manship – is tiring & it never accomplishes anything.

            If you don’t think it’s about one rocket or the other? Then you haven’t been paying attention. You yourself stated a while back that space is as divided as U.S. politics (& along those same lines sadly).
            Jason

            • Ferris Valyn

              Jason,

              I haven’t claimed that my opinion is the only valid one. As for arguing with everyone – I’d argue that it does. Very simply, because it that is how minds are changed, and new ideas are formed, and people get informed. I’ve made this point before – its not about arguing with you, its about making certain all points are actually addressed. I have no expectation, or hope, of convincing you. Rather, its my hope/expectation that someone who reads Americaspace will read the comments, and understand its not nearly as clean cut. Again, I’ve said it before – AmericaSpace isn’t about news, its about activism.

              And its not about one rocket or another. Thats where the battleground is, I grant. But the underlying issue isn’t about the rocket, but its about goals and strategies

              • Ferris,
                Actually? When you act like that – it just demonstrates how insecure someone is. As for it not being nearly that clean cut? No kidding. I’d argue if AmericaSpace is about anything that it’s about counter-activism.

                As someone that drives by the endless stream of foreclosed houses & closed businesses along Florida’s Space Coast, I have to say that if it takes the destruction of an entire community, many of the businesses therein & the infrastructure to be destroyed – just so your personal favorite company(ies) can succeed? Then the price is too high.

                I love what SpaceX has accomplished, but this “all my way” philosophy is childish. The Op-Ed that caused this response is more of the same from NewSpacers- & it’s getting tired. Jim is correct when he said the following:

                “We have a gov’t owned rocket rather than a commercial rocket for the same reason we don’t have United Airlines or FedEx as a replacement for the Air Mobility Command. It’s bad policy to hinge a national goal, in this case beyond Earth exploration, on the whims of commercial companies whose loyalties are to its shareholders, not the American people. You say that’s a problem.”

                As I’ve said before – I truly don’t have a problem with what your side is working to accomplish – but the manner in which you’re going about it – is, at the very least, selfish. The door has been opened to you – make the most of it – but stop tearing down everything you feel threatens you. It’s good that we don’t have all our eggs in one (commercial) basket.
                Sincerely, Jason

                • Ferris Valyn

                  Jason,

                  You’ll have to explain to me a difference between activism and counter-activism. The difference I see is you have your point of view, that you want people to agree with, and I have mine.

                  As for the situation in Florida, a few points
                  1. You wanna see a bad situation, come visit what happened to my old home state of Michigan.
                  2. Its not about “personal favorite companies”. I said again and again that what I am arguing for is a specific philosophy, that will make a better space enterprise for the nation. Companies that embrace that philosophy are to be commended, and those that don’t, well, you can guess my thoughts.

                  Oh, and we do have all of our eggs in one basket. Its just for the warfighters, and the science probes.

                  • Ferris,
                    Counter-activism is a response to activism. While I try to make AmericaSpace mainly a news outlet – when we hear the usual comments from the usual suspects – I have little problem with our website issuing a response. Actually? I have mine – and parts of yours. I try to see multiple peoples points of view.

                    Sorry, while you’re correct you have espoused a philosophy, you posted from a particular point of view on this article. One that defends the anti-SLS – pro-FH point of view.

                    Uh, no we don’t. We have the warfighters, the science probes, the commercial ISS-bound groups (CCiCap, CRS, COTS) & then we have the human exploration initiative – SLS & Orion. Again – cherry-picking hurts your argument.
                    Jason

                    • Ferris Valyn

                      My point is that we are solely dependent upon the commercial market to deploy satellites for the military. That, in many respects, is way more important than what NASA does. And we trust commercial space to do that. So we are putting people’s lives at stack if the various military satellites don’t get delivered.

                      So yes, in this case, we are

                    • Ferris,
                      Lives at stack? I think that while I might not be understanding you all that well – you’re sometimes less than clear about what you’re saying. Actually, scratch that, this goes back to what I was saying earlier, that while these should be conversations – they never really end up that way. It seems to just devolve into one person trying to one up the other. Look, I think we need SLS, need SpaceX & need a diverse market of launch providers. However, what I have a problem with is when someone states that a company, philosophy, whatever – should be given preference over another. In some cases competition might be required to be locked out – but as long as that’s the exception & not the rule – I’m okay with it in terms of endeavors like human space flight.
                      Sincerely, Jason

                    • Ferris Valyn

                      Well, I suppose I could’ve said at steak, and had even more fun… :D

                      (Yes, I meant stake). What I am getting at is that our modern military couldn’t function without the satellites that are deployed. There have been more than a few discussions about a Pearl Harbor in space, because satellites could be damaged or taken out (I know a few years ago there were reports that the Chinese had temporarily blinded a US satellite, or something – don’t really remember). The point being, those satellites are vital to the soldiers. And yet, we trust the deployment of those vital assets to a commercial company. This means that a national goal (enabling soldiers to have good data, contact with other troops, etc) to commercial companies.

                      As for giving preference of one philosophy/company/whatever – Seriously? That underlies a lot of how our society is organized. Elections are predicated that some person is given more preference for how they believe society should be run. The selection of various procurement is done by favoring a particular vehicle (the YF-22 vs the YF-23, the selection of an SDLV vs an evolved commercial, etc).

            • Ferris Valyn

              I think I should sign my comments as John Lilburne 2.0

              • Ferris,
                Given you’re not willing to use your real name anyway – what difference would it make?
                Jason

                • Ferris Valyn

                  Actually, Ferris is my real name – it just happens to be my middle name

                  • So your name is Aaron Ferris Oesterle? Sorry, but as often as you try to explain it – it still means you’re posting under an alias. I know you disagree. Here’s where my past comes into play – I’m former law enforcement. You post under Ferris Valyn – but the “real” world knows you as Aaron Oesterle – sorry that’s an alias. Valyn isn’t your last name & when someone alters their name – there’s usually a reason for it. Even though it isn’t – it at least lends itself to someone trying to be dishonest.

          • Right after “AvWeek” in the first sentence, you’ll see a link to a footnote. Search AvWeek’s website for “A Rocket To Nowhere” or go to the April 18, 2013 edition of AvWeek and you’ll see it in the op-ed section.

  • Ben Harrison

    One issue not addressed by proponents of canceling SLS is whether it is a good idea to couple a nation’s human exploration spaceflight capabilities to a private company.

    I thought we already relied on a single private company for our strategic surveillance launch needs?

    The government relies on companies for critical services all the time, so why is this any different?

    • Ben Harrison

      I need to clarify my last sentence.

      I’m not advocating that the government should rely on just one launch system when we do decide to go to the Moon or Mars. My question is more related to what appears to be a preference for government launch systems over private companies.

      In the article, Mr. Hillhouse says “One problem with a non-HLV approach to lunar exploration is that if a replacement Falcon Heavy and payload are not handy, any launch failure could very well mean a scrubbed mission.

      I don’t see how relying on the SLS is any better than relying on just the Falcon Heavy, since if the SLS gets grounded then that puts all of NASA’s exploration on hold too. Why not build the exploration elements to fit on many different launch systems?

    • I believe that both Boeing and Lockheed both built and launched surveillance hardware.

      • Ben Harrison

        Yes, in the past, when they were competing with each other.

        But today the government only uses United Launch Alliance for all their critical defense needs. I know that ULA is a joint venture, but still that means the government is OK with relying on the private sector for their most critical launch needs.

        I’m not advocating relying on one company for anything critical, but that also means that relying solely on the SLS would be equally bad.

        Shouldn’t the goal be to develop an exploration system that isn’t dependent on any one launch system?

        • For launch needs, you’re correct. It’s ULA all the way. But the history behind that is revealing.

          In the 1990’s, the EELV program was meant to create a group of launchers that could not only launch the big payloads that DoD needs up in space, but also capitalize on the booming launch market. Some call that period Commercial Space v 2.0. Under the EELV program, Boeing and LockMart developed with gov’t money the Delta IV and Atlas V launchers. And then, the floor fell-out from under the commercial satellite market. Private space companies started filing Ch. 11 re-org and then Ch. 7 liquidation. All of the sudden, neither Boeing nor LockMart had the volume of launch business they’d counted on to keep launch costs low. In fact, by 2003, both informed DoD that they were tired of loosing money and were ready to throw-in the towel and shutter their launchers. SecDef and the White House got the FTC to approve the merger of Boeing and LockMart into ULA. This is how we ended up with one launch company.

          SpaceX pricing is premised on the same idea that large numbers of launches will through economies of scale lower launch costs and it has priced that into the cost of Falcon and Falcon Heavy. The launch frequency for SpaceX is not currently, however, anything close to ULA’s. I’ll guess that means SpaceX’s launch rate is less than what is needed to get economies of scale to start working in its favor. So for my part, the jury is still out as to whether SpaceX’s business assumptions will prove to be any more valid that those of the Commercial Space v 2.0 era. But with Falcon 9 1.1 coming out this summer, we’ll see.

      • Also, SpaceX appears to be set to get a piece of that pie as well – so wouldn’t that make it three – not one?

        • Ben Harrison

          SpaceX will likely be the second private company that the Pentagon relies upon (Orbital likely the third), with no government launch capability as a backup.

          And I think that’s the point that a lot of people make, is that our government is not adverse to relying 100% on the private sector for critical services. NASA’s needs are not more important than the defense of our nation, so space exploration does not have to be a government-only activity.

  • Karol

    I was delighted to learn that “the odds of opponents getting SLS canceled are slim-to-none.” Are the key players in the Senate and House, i.e. Sen. Shelby (R. Ala.) aware of this excellent analysis by Jim? Does the REAL Space Act have much chance of passing given the current divisive climate in Washington, and if so, will it have a positive impact on the SLS such as giving NASA a for sure, concrete goal? Thank you for the excellent article, and for your kind consideration.

    • Karol,

      It’s cruel irony to Orion/SLS opponents that space is one of the few issues Congress can, and regularly does, act on in a bipartisan manner. Senate Appropriation Chair Mikulski gave a speech recently outlining why Orion, SLS, JWST, and some other programs, beyond reasons of national security, have to be funded, which boils down to a need for bipartisan support to make her Committee work. She wants JWST and that means giving Shelby SLS. Orion seems to have broad support all-around. And so on.

      In the fights between 2010-2012, it also hasn’t hurt that, even with steady funding at promised levels, both COTS participants were over 2 years late and both needed a $118 million infusion in May 2011. Complaining that a program you’re targeting for cancellation is late and over-budget while at the same time your program is late and over-budget yourself removes a lot of credibility. It will take years for commercial space to rebuild its credibility with Congressional members and staffers.

  • Tracy

    Does anyone know if the SLS will be a “reusable” system? Won’t the HF9 be a “reusable” reducing the cost by at the least a factor of 1 and at the most 2?….So won’t we have scenario where multiple launches could be used spreading the risks?

    • Ferris Valyn

      At most, the SLS would reuse the Boosters (I don’t believe they are, but I really don’t remember)

      • Ferris is correct for SLS Block-II.

        The first two SLS launches, which are Block-I’s, will use 5-segment boosters derived from the Shuttle and Constellation’s Ares 1 programs. While those SRB’s used to launch SLS could be reused, just as they were for Shuttle, I am under the impression that they will not be because of cost. There’s a lot of legacy Shuttle SRB hardware literally laying around the KSC and Canaveral area, so there’s no need to go to the expense of cleaning and reusing flown SLS hardware.

        With the advent of the SLS Block-II, reusability is sacrificed for performance, part of the price in jumping from a 70 mt to 130-150 mt LEO payload.

    • Tracy,
      How many Falcon flights have demonstrated their reusability? Oh, right – none. While it’s exciting to see the pretty CGI videos & PowerPoints – until you demonstrate a capability it can’t be banked on as you & others are trying to do.
      This is a problem with many whom I’ve dubbed “NewSpacers” – they buy into slick advertising & begin stating what “Will” “Would” & “Should” happen – as if it already has. When SpaceX demonstrates this capability – then you can use it – not before.
      A lot of people were hoping the Conestoga, Roton & Delta III would be awesome vehicles – but they weren’t.
      Jason

      • Tracy

        Well…It does look like we are passed the pretty CGI videos & PowerPoints…It does look like SpaceX has been doing some pretty serious R&D with their Grasshopper test vehicle and they have announced that they will start incorporating that tech by the end of this year for the first stage with a full propulsed landing in 2014…This is t0 be followed by the dragon return capsul and then the 2nd stage…So it does look very much like that is the direction they are moving and very rapidly… Why would SpaceX work on propulsed landing if they were not going to reuse the hardware? Does the SLS not plan on pursuing this direction…??? Isn’t Blue Orgin going with a reusable system as well? Does it not seem strange to you that all of these new space companies are pursuing a reusable system …and Boing/Lockheed are not?

        • Tracy,
          I believe I mentioned that SpaceX would be working to test out this concept next year. Regardless, sending Grasshopper a few hundred feet into the air – and having a first stage fly all the way back to the launch site – are two very different things. To date, that concept – exists only in pretty CGI video & PowerPoint presentations. Until they can demonstrate it – it’s not much more than that – sorry.
          From what I heard last (and this might have changed) no elements of SLS are reusable (I thought that the boosters would be – but it turns out they won’t be recovered).
          Besides SpaceX – which other companies are producing reusable systems?
          Sincerely, Jason

          • Tracy

            Jason,
            SpaceX has always maintained that they are going to Mars and the only way to do so is to reuse their systems and to reuse their systems they must propulse the landing….This is the only way they can get the costs down to send thousands of people to Mars…I do not think that SpaceX survives as a company if they do not go reusable… Blue Orgin will go reuseable…So will the next venture of Burt Rutan StratoLaunch and Reaction Engines..I am sure their are many others…I just don’t see the SLS ever being completed…and that might not have ever been the plan anyway…So I guess we will find out if SpaceX can do so pretty soon.

            • XCOR is planning a reusable orbital vehicle as well. We’ll never open up space if we continue to throw the hardware away.

            • Hi Tracy,
              Here’s the thing – you might be right – but you might also be wrong. I try not to bet on what “will” happen. That’s what I’ve really been trying to say. It’s great that there are so many folks excited about the proclamations of the various new space companies. However, until they start doing what they say they will? Their words are just air. Today’s SpaceX can easily be tomorrow’s Constellation Program. Let me reiterate – I have zero problem with folks getting amped about what these companies are doing – I do have a problem when these folks act like it has already occurred & talk to others as if they’re stupid for not agreeing with them. Sorry, but until it happens – it doesn’t & shouldn’t count.
              I’m not trying to shoot holes in these folks’ enthusiasm – what I am trying to do is have them be a little more cautious. Making definitive statements on specifics that have yet to happen as if they already have – has no place in this business.
              Sincerely, Jason

              • Tracy

                Jason,
                The progress of SpaceX has been pretty significant. The Dragon capsule is already crew rated…But not yet for NASA. NASA just signed the Russians up for 6 more seats to the ISS @ $70M per seat….SpaceX could deliver 7 seats plus a ton or two of cargo for that price…But NASA is not ready for that yet and besides dealing with Russia is more of a Political issue…than just commerce…FH9 demo is due to occur this year…Are you convinced that SLS ever launches…even once? I mean even in the throwaway market FH9 is 25% the cost of SLS …so they could launch 4 FH9s for the price of 1 SLS…Sooner or later…even congress won’t be able to excuse that math

                • Tracy,
                  I know, we’ll be having an article about the new Russia extension up tomorrow. But to be honest? I haven’t seen anything stating that Dragon had been given a crew rating (I might have missed it). Could you provide a link please?
                  Here’s the thing – you might have missed my conversations a while back with Ferris. If the FH can be as terrific as all of its fans are trying to make it. If it can do what you all say it will, be as cheap as that & still accomplish deep space exploration initiatives? Then I would be happy to see it take SLS’ spot.
                  See, here’s the thing, unlike some, I really don’t care what launches the missions so long as they take place. What I do have a problem with – is when one side or the other talks how much better one is over the other – when neither have flown. As a journalist? I hate it when NewSpacers talk about future events – in the present tense. Until the FH launches, until it does all the spectacular things you claim it will? It’s all PowerPoints to me.

                  • Tracy

                    Jason,
                    No Nasa has NOT Crew rated the Dragon…I am just going by what Musk said when asked about the internal condition of the capsule on the first test Dragon flight when he said it would have been a fine and comfortable flight if it had been crewed which it was always designed from the ground up to be crewed…so I interperet that as being crewed capable….As for NASA certification…Remember the cost if the Falcon 1 was $300M and the cost of the Enviromental and Launch threat Assessment Report a Nasa requirement was $500M….As for your continued reference to Powerpoint…They both are fabricating hardware so I think we are “PAST” the Powerpoint stage…

                    • I have heard that Dragon was designed from the get-go to be crew-ready? Dragon was designed after Columbia and the subsequent CAIB recommendation that crew abort be something that NASA never again omit. So where is the abort capability, the motors, the crew couches, the software, and other factors that go into that, on Dragon?

                    • I have heard that Dragon was designed from the get-go to be crew-ready?

                      That was in terms of the human-rating documents available at the time. But “human-rating” and “crew ready” are two different things.

                      So where is the abort capability, the motors, the crew couches, the software, and other factors that go into that, on Dragon?

                      They are in development (though couches have already been tested, by the astronauts — did you miss the pictures?). That’s what NASA is paying for.

                    • Oh, I did see the pictures of the Dragon couches. So those were tested and rated for a given g-rating? I mean, I ask because, looking at them, I saw no means of shock mitigation, just to mention one point. But I guess that means SpaceX really is ready to go. And so it’s time to cut its commercial crew funding. Good thing too; that extra hundreds of millions can go to…hmmm, let me think here for a sec…oh, Orion or SLS.

                • I’m going to paraphrase what Joe2 said; if SpaceX’s Dragon
                  is ready for a crew—is SpaceX the source, or at least fanning the
                  flames, of this rumor—then why is SpaceX about to get hundreds of
                  millions in future commercial crew funding? It would be wrong for
                  SpaceX to spend money it doesn’t need, especially in light of
                  NASA’s tight fiscal situation and if those funds would be used to
                  help others, just as such funding has helped SpaceX. It’s time to
                  graduate the company from the commercial crew program. And drop its
                  incessant bleating about gov’t indemnification. These questions
                  really should be sent to Ed Mango, SpaceX’s media relations, and
                  the House-Senate appropriations committees. And maybe we need an
                  article? “SpaceX Fans Declare Company’s Spacecraft Secretly
                  Crew-Ready” But only in the most narrow sense of defining
                  crew-capable does SpaceX meet the crew-ready standard. Yes, you can throw
                  some beanbag chairs in the Dragon, a couple of O2 bottles, bolt the
                  hatches, and lite ‘er up. Sure, the cargo—these aren’t
                  astronauts—won’t even have the minimal spacecraft control, abort
                  mode, even spacesuits, and other safety capabilities that even the
                  Mercury or Shuttle astronauts had, but who needs all that in the
                  new era of commercial space? And yes, if there’s a pad or launch
                  ascent event, if all of Dragon’s computers get fried, or some other
                  event occurs, there will be the loss of crew. But hey, SpaceX is crew-ready and that’s just the risk the flying public will have to accept. Right?

              • that’s just the risk the flying public will have to accept

                I have no idea what the phrase “the flying public” means. The “public” are not going to be flying in Dragon. The only people who have to accept the risk are those who fly, and those who pay for the flight. Different people have different risk tolerances for different rewards. There is no “right” number.

      • A wise old engineer

        Jason,
        Please dial back the snark in your reply. You asked during your “NewSpace Troll” posting series for a civil discussion on technology options, but with this whole comment thread you are violating your own request.

        Ferris is being very calm and logical with his comments, please return the favor.

        • AWOE,
          You’re correct. My apologies, after listening to the NewSpace hyenas tell me we should place all of our faith in company’s with no actual experience? Well, let’s just say my patience is wearing thin. It also helps prove my point, when you have people who will say/do anything – it tends to anger those who want a civil discourse – & poisons the conversational well.

          So again, you’re correct. Having said that – I was stunned by Ferris’ question. Reread it for yourself – that’s not logical. If you’re going to tell NASA to do something – then you need to fund it properly. Ferris asked “Why?” I mean, come on. Ferris is an incredibly bright person – that type of comment is beneath him.
          Sincerely and with thanks for the course correction – Jason

  • whiteflash

    what about cost per pound, a fully reusable falcon heavy would be easily better than SLS in that respect

    • Cost-per-payload mass is only one cost metric. And how costs are discriminated into launch costs is more art than science.

      But here are some numbers.

      Falcon Heavy: $128M/10mt = $12,800/kg
      SLS Block-II: $500M/38 mt = $13,158/kg

      The cost of a Falcon 9 Heavy only need increase $3.5M and suddenly the cost per payload mass is equal. But total cost per payload mass may already be equal or weighted towards SLS’s advantage. Here’s why.

      Multiple launches means higher mission costs due to increased support in both personnel and infrastructure. So what’s the added cost of supporting 2-3 extra launches that are needed for a Falcon 9 Heavy to get a mission to the Moon? Likely far more than a mere $3.5 million.

      • Ben Harrison

        I see the Falcon Heavy price comes from their website, but where does the quoted SLS price come from? Is that just a guess of what the cost of building one SLS rocket will be, and does it assume some amortization of the development costs too?

        I mention that because if part of the justification for using the SLS is because it’s less expensive, then the total amount of money spent on the SLS should figure in the total price. You can’t ignore billions in development cost.

        That way when you compare the pros and cons, extra assembly would be a con for smaller rockets, but higher development and operational costs might be the a con for the SLS.

        Also, there is an Aviation Week article referenced for this article, but the link doesn’t go to the Aviation Week website. Is it an online article?

        • Nobody at this point knows the launch cost of an SLS. The $500M number is one that has been bandied about. As for DDT&E costs amortization, since nobody is using FASB amortization rules, I guess that depends on some things such as expected lifetime of the SLS. I’d peg that at somewhere around 40 years or more. Another wrinkle is that some of the costs associated with the SLS program would have been incurred by NASA anyway and need to be removed from the total SLS development cost being amortized.

          But one thing that also needs to be done is to figure-in the development costs of the Falcon series of launchers. The gov’t paid for over 90% of these expenses. And that was just the cash portion. Also to be accounted for would be the in-kind costs such as personnel and facilities. So while the Falcon DDT&E costs don’t have to be factored by SpaceX into the launch costs. But to even the field, they should be.

          • Ben Harrison

            I guess that depends on some things such as expected lifetime of the SLS. I’d peg that at somewhere around 40 years or more.

            40 years is a long time for a government transportation system, especially one that doesn’t have any non-government paying customers. I’d suggest one decade, or about 20-30 flights as a starting point, since if it can’t be a better choice within that amount of time, chances are it won’t ever.

            So while the Falcon DDT&E costs don’t have to be factored by SpaceX into the launch costs. But to even the field, they should be.

            The total value of the SpaceX COTS contract was around $400 million, and that included the Dragon spacecraft plus the Falcon 9 rocket. Since the government accounts for that under the ISS resupply costs, I don’t see how any government money can be directly attributed to Falcon Heavy. We don’t want to double account.

            • Oh, I don’t know, Shuttle lasted over 30 years and its only real customer was NASA.

              SLS currently doesn’t have a lot of customers because we haven’t had an HLV of its capabilities since the early 1970’s. Give it time.

              COTS was initially $448M (GAO-09-618). In May 2011 another $236M was added-in (GAO-11-692T), making the final tally for gov’t funding of COTS was $684M. Neither of these numbers include in-kind, or really off-book, assistance NASA gave to both SpaceX and OSC to help them along. And don’t forget the CCDev funding, which in the case of SpaceX besides funding the crew-rating of the Dragon spacecraft, is going into crew-rating the Falcon.

              Remember, we’re going to be comparing the crew-rated SLS with the crew-rated Falcon Heavy. The $128M price is for a non-rated FH. The crew-rated price will be higher.

              • Ben Harrison

                Interesting that you would use the Shuttle as an example, since the Shuttle is an example of where the projected cost savings never materialized. It was supposed to only cost $118 per pound to orbit, but we know that was really far, far higher.

                I think it was also a good example of where the costs were so high we couldn’t afford anything else. A lot of people don’t want a repeat of that with the SLS.

                COTS was initially $448M (GAO-09-618).

                You are lumping in Orbital’s share of the COTS program. I went back and looked, and the total SpaceX received was $396 million to develop the entire resupply system.

                And don’t forget the CCDev funding, which in the case of SpaceX besides funding the crew-rating of the Dragon spacecraft, is going into crew-rating the Falcon.

                The COTS work was for cargo resupply, and the CCDev is for crew transportation. Unless you plan to refund money back to those accounts when a NASA entity buys a Falcon Heavy flight, then you can’t double account for those costs.

                Remember, we’re going to be comparing the crew-rated SLS with the crew-rated Falcon Heavy.

                The justification for the SLS you have been using for this article is how much mass the SLS can lift versus the Falcon Heavy. If it can’t do that well, then whether or not it is human rated is besides the point since we’ll have so many other options we could use to get humans to space.

              • What is is that you imagine is being done to the Falcon to “crew rate” it?

        • Hey Jim,
          I noted the bad link too – however I found the original source upon searching – could you place a link to where everyone can read it? Thanks!
          Sincerely, Jason

          • Ben Harrison

            Mr. Hillhouse provided a link to the article, but for whatever reason the article title on the website says “a href=”http://www.aviationweek.com/awmobile/Article.aspx?id=/article-xml/AW_04_01_2013_p66-563151.xml” title=””>Kill The Space Launch System To Save Human Spaceflight“, not “A Rocket To Nowhere”, and the date on the online article is April 1st, not April 18th as it states in the footnote.

            • Yes, I typed an extra “8” in the date; the original date of the Wilson’s op-ed was 4/1/2013.

              The title of his op-ed in the print-edtion of AvWeek was “A Rocket To Nowhere”.

  • Whiteflash,
    Given that neither SLS or FH have ever launched – where is your evidence to back that claim? First the FH has to fly, then it has to demonstrate the capability of complete reusability. Either rocket could be a complete success – or both could be a fiasco – until they fly? Well, let’s just say your comments are not based on a proven track record – merely on what you hope will happen.
    Jason

  • whiteflash

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xUvbh-Z8Abk

    When this concept of VTVL is integrated into the FH and its fully reusable, the price per pound to LEO will drop by many orders of magnitude. With that in mind wouldn’t launching many FH into LEO to assemble a spacecraft be more cost effective?

    And its true that FH hasnt launched yet (due to start this year) but Falcon9 is a (so far) proven system, and FH is for the most part 3 F9 strapped together which reduces risk by having mostly the same componants being used for FH.

    Another interesting article on Falcon Heavy that is definitely worth a read and produces some interesting points. http://www.nss.org/articles/falconheavy.html

    And for the record I support both the SLS and FH. And I did enjoy the article well done!

    • I’ll make you a gentleman’s wager, say a bottle of fine bourbon, that the Falcon Heavy will not launch this year. You game? It’s one of those bets where neither minds loosing, the kind I like.

      The payload mass penalty for a reusable first-stage is high. As I note in the article, one rule of thumb is that for ever 1 kg mass increase on the first-stage, you loose 3 kg of payload mass.

      A fly-back first-stage to a remote area will be hard enough, but SpaceX wants to bring the Falcon 9 first-stage back to Florida. And while that area may not have the population density of New York, it is none-the-less a populous area. So building a reusable first-stage will mean a fuel reserve beyond that needed to return to the pad, redundant reaction control, along with its plumbing and fuel, redundant controls, etc. The mass penalty of all of this is why a lot of people are scratching their heads about this idea.

      The mass ratio of single-stage-to-orbit is about 2-3% where it can be up to 8-10% for non-reusable rockets. To cut payload mass by 50% or more is not something most rocket companies want to do. An order of magnitude change in launch costs will be needed to offset that. I’m a bit dubious as to wether the reusable VTVL Falcon 9 first-stage will ever really sees the light of day. It would be a great step forward if it did. Maybe I’m still chaffing at seeing the crash of the SSTO efforts in the 1990’s.

      Every single Falcon 9 launch has been a white knuckle event, not that any launch isn’t. But I know that I’d like to see several Falcon 9 launches sans anomalies such as an oxidizer shut-down, engine explosion, altering a bell nozzle, etc. With practice comes perfection, so there’s that.

      • Lars

        “Every single Falcon 9 launch has been a white knuckle event, not that any launch isn’t. But I know that I’d like to see several Falcon 9 launches sans anomalies such as an oxidizer shut-down, engine explosion, altering a bell nozzle, etc. With practice comes perfection, so there’s that.”

        Jim, kindly point out the F9 anomalies in the last launch.

  • Whiteflash,
    Returning a first stage from orbit & sending a test vehicle a few hundred feet into the air (Grasshopper) – apples vs. oranges. Again, you’re stating what might happen as if it already has. This is a problem that a number of NewSpacers suffers from. How do you know it will drop by orders of magnitude? How many examples of this occurring do you have? See what I mean? You bought into the pretty video & tried to turn it into “proof.” A number of variables could happen – it could turn out great – it might not work at all – or only work in some areas. We don’t know yet. Musk has stated they will try to have the first stage return to the launch site in 2014 – I’m going to do the safe thing – and wait until they do it before I label it. Right now? There’s no proof.

    Also, you’re mistaken. While FH is based off of the F9 – having 27 engines – makes things far more complicated – & far less “proven.” Sorry – it doesn’t work that way. The components that work in a nine-engine configuration could turn into a hairball in a 27-engine configuration. Research the Soviet N-1. Numerous engines makes things tricky.
    I hope they accomplish all they say they will – but until they prove they can do it – I’m not just going to say they’re successful at it.
    Sincerely and with thanks, Jason Rhian – Editor, AmericaSpace

  • [...] will have a 53 mt (metric ton) payload capacity to LEO of 200 km with an inclination of 28° [2]. Such a LEO payload capability will be impressive, allowing SpaceX to launch nearly twice the [...]

  • Bill hubeny

    Well said Rhian! SLS and FH have thier place and purpose. They should not conflict with each other.

  • whiteflash

    @Jim i do agree, they most likely wont have FH launched by 2013, prolly early 2014. And id love a gentlmens wager!

    “With practice comes perfection, so there’s that.” Totally agree, and the F9 will give practice to alot of FH elements. Where the SLS center portion of the rocket has never flown at all (although the engines are from the space shuttle, hopefully improved)

    @Jason Just for the record ive been an electromechanical engineer for 5 years and i do understand how some of this stuff works :). And that im not proving anything, just offering another perspective showing potential development of new technology with VTVL.

    Just a thought, I wouldent call people “newspacers”, puts up a mental barrier to new people that would be interested in space that shouldent be necessary :)

    And i do agree that proof of the entire system working is needed before everyone jumps for joy, as with any engineering endeavor, but the ambition to drive towards these ideas (nasa isnt even trying from what i understand) things that people think are “just pretty videos” give people something to look forward to, even if it doesnt work, dedicated people are puttin in a REAL effort.

  • whiteflash

    and id love to see more articles along these lines everyone, if Jim or Jason have some id love to learn as much as i can about this, equations that relate closer to the actual physics of rocket technology would be great too, i know some, not enough i think :)

  • The dynamics of the SLS center tank, or core stage, are pretty well understood since its diameter of 8.3 m is the same as the Shuttle ET and the construction, e.g. the intertank, baffles are similar. Part of the justification for sticking with an 8.3 m diameter was to keep retooling costs and unk-unk’s down.

    Turns-out that, because of the new machinery to build the tanks, NASA could pretty quickly bump the SLS core diameter up to 10 m at some later date. That would sizably increase the performance of the SLS.

    Also, as you note, the RS-25’s (SSME’s) continue. But so does the GNC, engine controllers, and a lot of other hardware used to guide and control the launcher.

    The Falcon 9, by using RP-1/Lox, is basically a Delta III Heavy, although such a launcher never existed. For its designed use, missions to LEO, it’s sacrifice of cost over performance is fine. Trying to turn it into a cost-effective launcher with a decent escape velocity (C3=0) payload is going to be interesting.

  • whiteflash

    Interesting. Im constantly looking for more detailed (hard to find) information on these tools being developed for space travel, do you guys have any links to sources of information? Id love to see it!! Is anyone here an aerospace engineer too? Im looking into going back to college for that! :D

  • The FAA used to get it’s telecom assets from Ma Bell. This would include radars, AG radio, vortacs et al. At the time, TMO was a single person at a desk with a phone to order services. Then Ma Bell was broken up and the FAA decided it needed to be a private phone company. At the time, many years ago, when I worked for them they were actually the fourth largest phone company in the country. I did support work for a new contract that basically put them back to that person with the phone ordering services.

    Except for the military, the government should not be in the business of providing it’s own services. That is best done with competitive bidding from private companies in competition.

    SLS vs. FH isn’t the argument. They are different and should not be compared. What the argument should be is what is the best way to meet objectives? Which requires us to first define the objectives.

    Simple. Sending people and robots BEO. Robots are simple… single launch with a launcher big enough to do the job. Both SLS and FH are too big for that, so that is not the topic. Which leaves sending people BEO.

    For that you need to forget the launch vehicle for a moment and consider the actual orbit to orbit architecture.

    You want that vehicle to be as low mass as possible to reduce rocket equation costs, but it needs to be safe and comfortable for long trips. It should stay in space and it’s cost amortized over many missions. This is not a Dragon or Orion capsule. This is more like a Bigelow BA330 or bigger. Which is going to be around 40mt dry mass, 60mt for passengers and supplies and 500mt for fuel (roughly, actual mission requirements would vary.)

    Looking at it that way, SLS (70mt or 150mt) is overkill. 50mt is more than enough. What we need is more competition with the FH from other companies in this payload range. SLS is not that competition (government agencies should never be in competition with private companies as this is very similar to an antitrust situation.)

    We will eventually have systems with greater payload mass but that should develop as the business case is made, not before. I don’t know about others, but SpaceX appears to be actively developing new engines for when they are needed. The Merlin 1D is just part of that progression.

    We need to be growing the market so there is room for more companies in competition with SpaceX.

    Until the government has a military mission it should not be in the business of making launch systems. The X-37B is one example where there is a mission (secret, but still there.)

    • Obviously, I don’t consider, nor do many others, NASA a pure civilian agency. It’s mission has national security overtones in ways that most federal agencies, including the FAA, never has nor will.

      Consider this. Nobody around the world cares if China or South Korea has better fiber optic Internet than does America. But it will be a very different world they day the Chinese land on the Moon and we have no capacity to do so. So in that light, I would no more want NASA to be at the mercy of commercial operators controlling its access to beyond Earth missions any more than I’d want the State department, NSA, NRO, or DoD in such a position.

      If you look at the mission architectures that have come out of studies from Stafford to Augustine I, you’ll see why we have the current partial lunar capabilities in the pipeline that we do with Orion and SLS. In order to reduce mission risks, we’re going to start-off exploring the Moon by repeating Apollo 8, then followed by landing missions, and slowly expand from there. You won’t see that in the Administration’s space policy because they have some very strange anti-Moon thing going that nobody seems able, including the Administration’s representatives, to explain.

      To people who have worked on lunar mission architectures for decades from many different angles, a 130 mt vehicle is the bare minimum, not overkill. It is these experts, and they aren’t just NASA folks but included Norm Augustine, who along with the Senate and House space staffers, put together the current Orion/SLS architecture.

      • Ferris Valyn

        1) You can view NASA however you want, but it is a pure civilian agency.

        2) Actually, many people around the world, and many people in the US, care about the fiber optic.

        3) I’ve previously pointed out how the DOD is at the mercy of commercial operators.

        4) The fundamental problem and reason we can’t go back to the moon right now is very simple – the budget doesn’t allow for the development of a lander, particularly one like Altair, and SLS.

        5) Not everyone, including NASA, agrees you need. Certainly not Chris Kraft and Tom Moser ( http://www.chron.com/opinion/outlook/article/Space-Launch-System-is-a-threat-to-JSC-Texas-jobs-3498836.php ). And the Augustine report does not say you need a bare minimum of 130 mT. It said you needed heavy lift, but could do so with a 70 mT option (and you could do it commercial)

      • 130 mt vehicle is the bare minimum, not overkill

        Only for Apollo type missions with everything in a stack. The whole point is that’s not the best way to do a mission.

        When you extrapolate potential missions the point becomes obvious, because doing it the Apollo way means nothing but bigger launch requirements every step of the way.

        Change that to putting things dry in orbit, then refueling and your missions can get larger and larger without ever really needing a new launch system (but they will eventually be built anyway because they do have economic benefits when the market is large enough to support them.)

        • Ken,

          Not to be argumentative, the people I’ve talked to at NASA-JSC since my undergrad and graduate aerospace engineering days in the 1990’s have maintained that the HLV approach was the one that presents the lest risks and therefore costs for any exploration mission beyond low-Earth orbit. You say that is not the case.

          So that leaves me asking about your experience in mission architecture and planning, just to begin with. Because unless you’ve bent code like they have, weighed the plethora of options, have put people on a stack, lit it, and successfully brought them back from the Moon, I think you should more heavily weight their considerations against your own than the above statement reflects, at least to me. If you don’t, I’m curious why?

          • You’re allowed to be argumentative Jim, but remember those that said they didn’t know anyone that voted for Nixon (when he took 49 states?) People live in bubbles.

            HLV does represent less risk from a certain perspective (several actually, but none of them address the overall risk to mission.)

            Whatever the risk of one launch, multiple launches for that same system would be obviously higher, which misses the point entirely.

            One launch is a binary risk. If it fails, you lose everything.

            Multiple launches means you lose just one of many, it doesn’t cost you the entire mission (which really doesn’t start until all the launches are over.) The launch that counts is the one that starts in orbit.

            That launch from orbit, in a much lower stress environment than surface launch, defines the size and scope of the mission. It’s not limited by the size of the ground to orbit launch. It is not restricted by the size of the SLS.

            If your mission is dependent on the ground system, it will always end up obsolete. It will always need to be scaled up for some future mission not yet considered.

            The advantage of a single big launch is system integration on the ground. The advantage of multiple launches is avoiding obsolescence. That moves us into the future.

          • Really think about it. The reason for the SLS is the actual argument against it!

            It’s actual proof of my argument. Why do we need the 70mt launcher? Because using it’s one launch ideology, anything less can’t do the job? So them we need a 130mt launcher for the same reason. Down the road we need a 200mt launcher based on the same argument.

            This is insanity. We are talking about a 9mt Orion which means anything that can put an Orion in orbit is BIG ENOUGH.

            We only need a 23mt launcher when we launch a BA330. The fact that we have bigger launchers is simply extra gravy.

            Allowing the private sector to gradually create larger launchers makes sense (and allows the laws of economics to work the way they were intended.)

            If we’re attacked by space invaders, perhaps things would be different and you can call me short sighted.

  • Another point. 2 or 3 SLS launches a year does not support the mission architecture I described.

    SpaceX says they will do a launch about every three weeks. How realistic is that? Since their current manufacturing capability with 1600 employees is currently about half of that, they could do 8 launches per year right now. They don’t because they aren’t just about that. They have bigger goals in mind.

    8 launches is about one mission for the architecture I’ve described where only one of those launches is mission critical so it’s very low risk. They don’t do hydrogen engines so they’ve eliminated that issue as well.

    • SpaceX has a history of pushing the outer edge of the envelope in…I’ll call it marketing its message. I have followed the company for a long time, having been initially very optimistic about its chances to change the launch industry as we know it. That was in 2003. Since then, the company has been a lot of talk but little action. I recall SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell exclaiming during her testimony before Senator Nelson’s Senate Subcommittee on March 10, 2010 that SpaceX would be ready to fly astronauts within three years of signing a contract. Never mind that subsequently SpaceX was very nearly three years behind schedule in fulfilling its COTS milestones. And that in March 2013 it was only on its CRS-2 mission when it should have been on something like CRS-6 or 8.

      If SpaceX is geared currently for 8 launches per year, then I have to ask, “Where’s the beef?” Why has its CRS flight-rate for the last 2 years, 1 1/2 to 2 launches per year, been so tepid? SpaceX is supposed to have 5 launches this year. If it succeeds, that will go a long way for the company showing doubters like me that it can step-up to the plate and play in the big leagues.

      So why don’t we wait a bit, say another couple of years, and see if SpaceX is all that it’s saying it is? As Reagan would have said, “Trust, but verify.”

      • They have the manufacturing capability of doing 8 launches per year right now, but they are engaged in many activities beyond that. The most important thing they are doing is trying to get a new launch location that they control. That’s when things will get into high gear, but that’s still a few years away.

        Shotwell was was absolutely right in 2010 about it being 3 years away (and that was with schedule padding.) They could fly astronauts right now, but have chosen not to.

        Since 2010 they’ve qualified the superdraco abort system, created a prototype (w/ 8 Dragon nostrils), installed seats and life support. They are ready to test when they can fit it into a busy schedule which includes Grasshopper success after success and orbital tests of recovery in the next two years.

        They do talk a good game, but for anyone paying attention they are actually accomplishing more than they are talking about. Wait until they actually unveil MCT.

        • Ken,
          First let me state that I support SpaceX’s efforts. As I have stated repeatedly, they’ve earned my respect. However, I have a bit of issue with your “busy schedule” comment. Given that they have a manifest which at one point had like 16 launches a year – but only launch 1-2 times a year – I think they might want to finish their current project before moving on to the next. This does not include their efforts to have the F9 first stage be reusable. TO me that seems to be part of what F9 was supposed to do from the start – but hasn’t.
          So, sorry, but I actually have been paying attention. They’ve been signing contracts left-and-right – but haven’t launched all that much (five times since 2010 – around 1.5 launches a year on average). And, yet again, people can unveil whatever they like – but until it flies & develops a proven track record – those big reveals – don’t mean too much. As of said before, too many get all excited when companies make announcements. I get excited when they actually fly.
          Sincerely, Jason

          • This isn’t about announcements, it’s about company fundamentals. You are absolutely right that they need to get performance to meet current obligations. Otherwise they will begin to lose contracts.

            Much of their performance issues have been out of their control. This is why they need a launch site that is more in their control. Unfortunately, that will take a few years but it is in the works and will with absolute certainty be done.

            • Ken,
              Yes, actually, it is. Stating anything that hasn’t happened yet as if it already has – is a very risky proposition. A lot of the issues you mention (but don’t detail) revolve around requirements placed upon them at the sites they launch from. Sorry, but I tend to like some oversight/regulation of what is in essence a missile. It’s a safety issue.
              All I’m saying is that you really need to stop making definitive statements about events that have yet to take place. There are people that were planning to have dinner at the World Trade Center on Sept. 12 2001.
              That’s a real problem I have with NewSpacers attitudes. They state things that haven’t happen as if it were historical fact. They follow & defend their selected companies with all the fervor of a Branch Davidian. Me? I wait until a group actually does what it says it will. That’s why SpaceX has my respect. It wasn’t the slick animation of the F9 first stage returning to Earth, it wasn’t the announcement that the company had signed a contract & it certainly wasn’t anything Elon Mush has said – it was the fact that they said they were going to launch – & they did so. It was the fact that they encountered problems – & then they worked through them & completed the mission.
              I know looking at things this way might not be too sexy – but it also tends to help when today’s SpaceX – becomes tomorrows Rotary Rocket Company, or Kistler or…
              Sincerely, Jason

              • You make an excellent point, but it includes a hazard. Everything that happens didn’t before it did. You have to have some people looking past the edge a bit or you would have no progress at all.

                Yes, it is possible that FH will never fly. It is possible that SpaceX will go out of business. You might be surprised at how much I agree with you regarding the future of those that are only memories today.

                But to me, FH is much more than a paper rocket because it’s not something altogether new. It may take longer than they estimate. They may even change direction entirely as they did with the F5 as market conditions and technical abilities were better understood. The future certainly is hard to predict.

                Personally, I’d like to see more billionaires with Elon’s vision making boasts and failing. Lot’s more.

        • Ken,

          Where do you get information to support your statement that SpaceX could launch a crew now? That the company was ready to do so as of March 2013 when it was only on CRS-2 at that time? What is the source of your information?

          So I sanity checked your statement with a NASA HSF friend who occasionally interacts with the commercial crew folks on a technical level. And his comeback is that SpaceX can most certainly not fly astronauts as of now. The Dragon does not conform to hardly any of NASA’s current human rating guidelines, even the commercial ones. Let’s focus on abort. SpaceX has no abort system, not a pad abort, not a ascent abort, no abort whatsoever. There is no way for a crew to interact with the Dragon spacecraft. I’ll stop there as I think that’s enough.

          Is SpaceX to take literally over a billion in commercial crew funding when it doesn’t need it? Because, as he put it, that money could very well be used elsewhere.

          • SpaceX could have launched a crew on the very first Dragon flight, had they chosen to risk it. As Ken Bowersox said, scuba tank and a beanbag chair.

            • Folks,

              I think we have to first agree on what we mean by a crewed spacecraft.

              What is not meant is that it is just a pressurized volume into which the crew is locked and is literally spam in a can. After Columbia, after CAIB, the goal was to, as Griffin said, never place a crewed spacecraft next to a cryogenic tank, never again not have pad and ascent abort, and never depend upon God’s grace for crew safety during launch and reentry. That failing alone cost 14 people their lives and years off our nation’s space program. Any suggestion that we send a crew up in a craft that does not offer abort, beyond all the other stuff, is DOA with Congress, who is footing the bill for this shindig called commercial space.

              SpaceX, Boeing, and Sierra Nevada are taking, and going to continue taking, gov’t money because none can afford to pay for the crew-rating of their spacecraft to today’s post-Columbia standards.

              • Now that I think about it, what is Sierra Nevada’s Dreamchaser’s abort option? Is rubber and laughing gas going to cut it? They can’t fire up those engines until after separation.

          • Where do you get information to support your statement that SpaceX could launch a crew now?

            From the results of the actual flights.

            The Dragon does not conform to hardly any of NASA’s current human rating guidelines

            Guidelines that don’t exist in any actual single document. Elon has stated repeatedly that they looked at every specification they could find and over designed the Dragon from the start to exceed those requirements. Your friend is wrong.

            The abort system is well down the road of development with many milestones already announced. The space shuttle had no abort system so obviously it’s not an actual requirement.

            There is no way for a crew to interact with the Dragon spacecraft.

            Already developed. I’ll see if I can find a link since that would be useful for including in your upcoming article.

            Is SpaceX to take literally over a billion in commercial crew funding when it doesn’t need it?

            SpaceX has to choose priorities. NASA wants a crew vehicle. Shouldn’t they pay for what they want?

            • The human rating guidelines do not exist as a single document, but none-the-less they do exist. And if Elon followed that, then where’s the abort system?

              Dragon has an abort system already developed and tested? Haven’t seen that video.

              • Not being a single document has implications. It means you have to decide if any particular item should be included or not.

                The abort system is based on super dracos and you can watch videos of them being fired if you like. They have a least one Dragon with eight installed. What they haven’t yet done is a complete system test which means wasting one F9. That is coming, but everything already exists.

              • I’m having some difficulty finding a good link, but this article points out that…

                [A NASA team] also evaluated the layout of the vehicle’s controls and instruments.

                Considering they build their own not just triple redundant boards (3×2) and the software to remotely control the craft already exists remotely controlling the Dragon from inside the Dragon is a done deal. The I.S.S. crew controls the craft as well. Crew control is not an issue.

              • Also mentioned is the schedule for testing the LAS includes both Dec 2013 and Apr 2014. NASA expects crews to fly in 2017, but SpaceX crew should fly by 2015. We shall see.

        • Joe2

          “Shotwell was was absolutely right in 2010 about it being 3 years away (and that was with schedule padding.) They could fly astronauts right now, but have chosen not to.”

          Really? Thats good to know that they no longer need any commercial crew funding. Someone needs to alert Mr. Bolden that there will be no need to slip Commercial Crew schedule into 2017 since SpaceX could fly astronauts “right now”.

          • Absolutely Joe2. The holdup is not SpaceX. The holdup is NASA. NASA is paying for further development because it is what they require. Another example being they will only use new ships. The Dragon is a reusable capsule. SpaceX would be happy to use them for more than one launch and will, just not to NASA, instead they will sell them to other customers.

      • Matt McClanahan

        I’ve been wondering about the pace of CRS launches. It’s been suggested that it’s evidence SpaceX isn’t up to the task, and there’ve been questions about why they aren’t carrying very much. But looking at ISS’s current situation, I’m not sure how much cargo and frequency of trips from SpaceX it actually needs. It’s being serviced by four separate vehicles with the potential for a fifth if & when Cygnus completes its demonstration flights. It would seem, and I would love to hear more on this from someone who knows, that ISS is pretty flush for cargo capacity at the moment, and SpaceX flights simply aren’t being scheduled with high frequency right now because they don’t need to be.

        That said, ESA won’t be flying ATVs after flight five, and it sounds like JAXA will be winding up its resupply flights after two or three more as well. Presumably at that point Dragon would be called upon to lift more with greater frequency?

        • Matt,
          Good point, I asked Shotwell about this during the lead up to CRS-2 & she stated SpaceX would exceed the 20MT requirement under the CRS contract. As you highlighted, both ESA & JAXA’s interest in the ISS appears to be waning, so perhaps SpaceX will be tapped to pick up the slack. At this time, we don’t know.
          Sincerely, Jason

  • So according to that article (thanks for the link) $3b per year will be spent giving us about $1b per launch. Which will send a capsule around the moon in four years.

    I could spend $3b a lot better.

    The FH is scheduled to be on the launch pad before the end of 2013 and will have it’s maiden launch in 2014. Don’t bet against it.

    $200m puts a six crew ship in orbit (BA330 class) by the beginning of 2015 at the latest. This is not some cramped capsule. It can hold enough supplies for a serious lunar surface mission. We built a lunar module in the 60’s. How hard would it be to build a lunar SSTO that is just fuel and go? (and doesn’t leave half of itself on the moon.) The BA330 class ship should be able to hold enough fuel to resupply that lunar SSTO.

    This doesn’t come anywhere near spending $3b per year (more like $500m to $1b) and we actually can start figuring out how to use lunar resources to reduce costs further. We might even make that ship a lunar cycler so we eliminate even further a major part of our fuel cost for lunar missions. Now you want even smaller ships to resupply it putting many launch systems within the specs.

    It does not require the SLS. You could hardly even use SLS for this.

  • Engineer

    IMHO, Ken has it nailed.

    Over the years 2012 through 2022 there will be, what, two SLS launches? At what total cost to the taxpayer? After that, what will the costs be just to *own* SLS? How much will it cost to own the system and launch two SLS flights per year? How much can be spent on development of payloads at the same time? How much has it cost to just develop Orion? Is this really opening up space … is this really sustainable?

    We’re very likely going to end up with another “litter of ritual monuments” – if we’re lucky.

    I’m not so interested in where commercial launch services will be in the next year or two, but where they will (or could) be in 2022 when SLS is (maybe) starting to fly once a year or so.

  • I have no idea whatsoever where this 1-2 flight rate for SLS comes from, but it certainly isn’t from engineers at MSFC working on SLS, JSC engineers who’d be planning such missions, and MAF engineers who’d be building the SLS hardware.

    If NASA is the source of that number, you have to bear in mind that the Agency is run by a dynamic duo that managed to be the first NASA leadership team threatened with indictments, which were over their efforts to slow-roll SLS. So any numbers coming out of that den on SLS are suspect at best.

    If you get to know the Orion spacecraft and some of its engineers, yes, the spacecraft does open up space in ways that no other can do. It is a jump in capability over others that Apollo was to Gemini. And the reason that I use that comparison is that there were those in the 60’s who said that we didn’t need Apollo, that we could go to the Moon with Gemini, and it’d be cheaper, much as today’s New Spacers like to say that Dragon can take us back to the Moon.

    We’re getting SLS and Orion, the debates such as this notwithstanding. In 10 years we’ll know if those two systems were as enabling as many suspect they will be. I’m betting they will be; you’re betting they won’t be. TBD.

    • Ferris Valyn

      Could it be coming from the accountants who have to make the numbers work?

      More importantly – How many asteroids are we going to get Jim? Because right now, we don’t have the funding to build something required to go to the moon. If you are going to need more than 1-2 per year, you have to actually do something with them.

      Second, NASA is either an authoritative source for data or not. You’ve cited NASA as such. And now you are saying they aren’t authoritative. Which is it?

      • Might those accountants be associated with OMB’s Shawcross or NASA’s Robinson, both of whom have a strong desire to kill both Orion and SLS?

        From what I hear, this “asteroid thing” is DOA. The asteroid rendezvous mission never got traction within NASA, but the asteroid capture mission is a laughing stock.

        How do you parse NASA info? Here’s how I do. If info is filtered through the top chain, then I treat the data the way Congressional staffers do, as suspect. After all, it was Bolden and Garver who were subpoenaed and threatened with indictment by the Democratic-controlled Senate Commerce Committee back in May through August 2011 over their efforts to slow-roll SLS. Truly trend-setters, this was the first time NASA’s leadership had ever faced that challenge.

        When I talk to a NASA engineer or read an AIAA or AAS paper, I take that as valid unless proven otherwise.

        And Ferris, why do Orion SLS critics always assume that the billions currently going into those programs will continue to be spent on DDT&E after those systems are operational? That’s over $3B there. Why do they assume that ISS funding will not be liberated for other uses after ISS is closed-down in the early 2020’s? That’s another $4B. We can afford a very nice lunar exploration program on $5-$7B annually.

        • Ferris Valyn

          To answer your questions
          – multiple people who look at the numbers

          As to how I parse it – its simple – all info is suspect. Constellation should’ve taught us that.

          As for why we think more money will be spent on DDT&E, a few points

          1) We don’t believe that it will arrive at the cost and time that its claimed at (again, we can discuss the numerous instances of programs not delivering on time and on budget – see Constellation)
          2) We also don’t believe that it will be operating at the lower costs you seem to believe it will be at (look at shuttle, look at Constellation).
          3) I am not convinced that ISS is going to be shut down in the early 2020s (although I do hope that the funding associated with it can change).
          4) If NASA closes down ISS without producing something of value, I will bet you NASA will not survive the thrashing it gets (you spent how much, and delivered nothing).
          5) Presume it all goes according to plan – you get it operational in 2021, ISS is eliminated in 2020 – you still have to spend how long and how many years until you have a lander? 3-4 is my guess. What happens during that time?

  • whiteflash

    Im curious what the real differences are between the Orion system and the Apollo capsule that got us to the moon, could someone go into detail on that?

    • Whiteflash,
      Jim Hillhouse is working on an article that will compare all the different capsule-based systems. It should be up by the end of this week or starting next.
      Sincerely, Jason

      • I really look forward to that. Here’s something I hope he includes in the mix…

        Orion: crew 2-6, mass 9mt, volume 9 m3.

        BA330: crew 6, mass 23mt, volume 330 m3. Add another 2 mt for propulsion.

        The second option is a lot more expensive (9mt vs. 25mt) but to actually do something in space 9m3 vs. 330 m3 is a huge difference when you consider 6 mo. to 1 yr. missions.

        Just something to consider.

        Also you need about 2.5mt to 5mt per person in supplies for 6mo. to a yr. So perhaps 10 m3 per person for supplies.

        • Whitefish and Ken,

          The article Jason references will include a basic comparison of Apollo and all of the current BEO-possible commercial spacecraft in the works currently. This will be about the crewed module, not the CSM combo since the commercial crew spacecraft SM’s are optimized for LEO missions. And the net habitable to total pressurized volume numbers are skewed in favor of the commercial spacecraft as well. A LEO net habitable volume will be noticeably less than that for a BEO mission.

          Boeing and SpaceX haven’t disclosed their net habitable pressurized volume for a couple of reasons, but the big one is that they probably don’t know what their habitable volume would be for BEO missions as they are optimized for LEO.

          Orion’s net habitable volume is 8.95 m3, as optimized for BEO missions, and its pressurized volume is 19.56 m3. The reason for the large drop is partly because Orion has a toilet! No doodie bags for future space travelers to the Moon.

          SpaceX starts-off with 10 m3 total pressurized volume, which is slightly less than the Apollo 10.3 m3. However, since Dragon won’t have the huge strapdown inertial system that Apollo had, I’d expect for BEO missions that its net habitable to total pressurized volume to follow Orion’s, giving Dragon an approximate net habitable volume of 4.58 m3.

          Boeing’s CST-100 really is Apollo CM v 2.0 in a lot of ways. I have reached-out to them for their internal volume numbers and some other info. It’s sad how little Boeing has said about the CST-100 publicly.

          I won’t talk about Dream Chaser since it’s a LEO only spacecraft.

          • Personally, I don’t completely get the idea of Dragon BEO. Anyone considering it has to include an inflatable module to make it work. I understand we are all grasping at scraps of information… and regardless of our perspectives we are all on the same side with regard to wanting more to happen in space.

            • I’ve been told by people who’ve worked with him that Elon just wants to go to Mars, and he figures that can’t move fast enough unless SpaceX takes the place of NASA’s internal spacecraft and launcher programs. So SpaceX’s CEO and lead designer pushes the company and its employees to make some otherworldly claims that just cause people in the space business to raise their eyebrows and shrug.

              SpaceX is moving forward as a launch and cargo supplier, but its progress has definitely not kept pace with its rhetoric. And that’s led to a credibility issue for the top management. And SpaceX’s CEO Musk almost has a God-given talent for pissing-off the wrong people.

              I think everyone that has worked with the SpaceX technical talent are impressed with their hard work and their ability to make things happen. The joke I still hear is that at NASA 5 people do 1 job while at SpaceX 1 person does 5 jobs. Still, NASA is the risk-averse place it is because people have died.

              • Gaining maturity while in the public eye is not for the timid.

                I worked with a guy that made his millions in his twenties and was like a younger version of Elon.

                I didn’t handle him well (but did get a $20k severence which was nice.) The 5% of his company that I was promised (but not notorized… I should have gotten that done during the honeymoon period) would have provided a nice retirement today.

                So yeah, Elon has a big mouth, it comes with the type of person he is (or in my case, my young boss pre-announcing the product I was working on putting enormous pressure on him rather than keeping it a quiet in house development.)

                But Elon performs and will keep performing (even if not at everyone’s expectation level.) He will surpass their expectations barring some catastrophe.

          • Ben Harrison

            The reason for the large drop is partly because Orion has a toilet! No doodie bags for future space travelers to the Moon.

            No doubt that Orion is built for exploration, and the commercial capsules strictly for transportation. Beyond the powerpoint proposals that have been used to show what the Orion is capable of doing by itself, most of the exploration proposals I’ve seen don’t have the crew living in a capsule.

            At most future travelers would need to live in a commercial capsule from lunar orbit to Earth, but otherwise wouldn’t they be living in a dedicated crew module of some sort on the way out and while they stay there?

            • Orion is a direct result of Apollo thinking (direct throw.) Commercial capsules are a direct result of step wise thinking.

              We need to be thinking of the next step which is not the Orion capsule, but an actual, never to land, completely reusable space SHIP. Which means lot’s of internal volume for the least mass.

              By not having to launch it for each mission you can ease the mass requirements. Perhaps not the 40 mt I envision, but perhaps triple the volume for twice the 9mt weight of the Orion.

              • I had friends who worked on Mars Cycler for Buzz. It was an interesting idea.

                I’m just not sure it’s a good idea, not at least at this point where we really are mid-stream, to trash our current architecture in the (unfounded, IMHO) hope that we can find savings while creating a whole new mission architecture.

            • Ben,

              Some of the architectures, such as asteroid rendezvous or Mars, show 2 Orions and a habitable volume. That redundancy of Orions is there for a reason of reducing mission risk of loss of crew. What if one of those Orions starts to fail or is damaged? What if the habitable volume has issues or an accident? Orion is in essence a lifeboat on those long missions. You don’t want a crew of 4 stuck in an Orion for a long voyage. But if all else fails, they can do it and survive. The flip-side of that coin is not a conversation you’ll have with NASA or Congressional folks.

              • Ben Harrison

                Some of the architectures, such as asteroid rendezvous or Mars, show 2 Orions and a habitable volume.

                What you’re saying is that no matter where we want to go, for safety’s sake it will take multiple launches of the SLS?

                If assembling a mission in space for safety’s sake is OK with the SLS, then I’m not sure why it’s not OK for smaller rockets.

                Once the biggest rocket is no longer big enough for the mission, then the focus should be on figuring out what the best tradeoffs are for cost and capability. I think that step was skipped by Congress, and once NASA is locked into the SLS they won’t have the ability to use lower cost options.

                That is the main concern I’ve heard in the space enthusiast community, not whether it’s NASA vs SpaceX, but sustainable versus unsustainable. As I mentioned earlier, I wouldn’t build an exploration system based solely on the Falcon Heavy anymore than I would want one built solely for the SLS.

                As you mentioned earlier, no one has stepped forward to use the SLS, but it has been almost three years since the SLS was signed into law. I seem to recall that the planetary director at NASA said that they had no plans to use the SLS, so that leaves human exploration as the only use, and Congress hasn’t seemed too excited about doing that.

                How long can we wait before we find out it wasn’t the right time to build the SLS? That we should have waited until we had exhausted the capabilities of our current rockets like Atlas and Delta?

        • I’ve been focusing on the potential uses for the BA330 for so long I never gave much thought to the Sundancer. It turns out to be less mass and more volume than the Orion.

  • Neil Shipley

    Not on this blog. Everyone’s having too much fun debating the merits or otherwise of a couple of virtually non-existent launch vehicles :)

    • Neil Shipley

      Actually, I’m not being accurate. Much more actual hardware and no doubt software is flying for FH as part of F9 and even more when the next F9 1.1 launches. SLS has nothing flying.

  • A lot of the issues you mention (but don’t detail) revolve around requirements placed upon them at the sites they launch from. Sorry, but I tend to like some oversight/regulation of what is in essence a missile. It’s a safety issue.

    The details are endless, aren’t they?

    There is another side to that regulation coin, business risk. Which is why this is progress.

  • Ben Harrison

    I’m not trying to shoot holes in these folks’ enthusiasm – what I am trying to do is have them be a little more cautious. Making definitive statements on specifics that have yet to happen as if they already have – has no place in this business.

    This article is about contrasting the differences between the SLS and the Falcon Heavy, and certainly the tone of the article is about how much more capable the SLS will be.

    No doubt Mr. Hillhouse is enthusiastic about what the SLS will be able to do with it’s unique qualities, but I’m not sure how that is different than those that are enthusiastic about what the Falcon Heavy will be able to do with it’s unique qualities.

    And what could be said about “definitive statements on specifics that have yet to happen as if they already have” could be said about the SLS too.

    It certainly is an article of faith by SLS supporters that a long list of missions will soon be funded by Congress so that the SLS doesn’t end up with nowhere to fly after it becomes operational. Yet SLS supporters remain resolute in their belief that the SLS is both necessary and good.

    Just like back on the Apollo program, enthusiasm is what sustains people during the years leading up to the real missions. For both SLS and commercial space supporters it will be the same.

    • Ben Harrison

      I goofed and didn’t hit the right reply button for my post above. I was addressing a post much further up from Mr. Rhian.

    • Ben,
      In terms of SLS & FH? Actually you’re right. Neither have flown & until either do so – making definitive statements about how either of them fly is wrong.
      However, whereas you attempt to paint this as an article as based on faith – I’d correct you & say it’s one on faith – backed with cold, hard numbers. You also don’t seem to be keeping track – SLS has two missions – asteroid by 2021 & Mars by 2030s. That’s not faith – that’s what the president has directed NASA to do. Of course, the last president gave NASA a mission too – so we’ll see how far this one gets.
      The thing I would take from this article is – don’t throw stones if you yourself live in a glass house. Both SLS & FH have issues, both have yet to fly & the history of each has yet to be written. However, some of us, place a little more “faith” in an agency with over 150 manned flights under its belt – than a company that has, to date, never flown a single person in space.
      Sincerely, Jason

      • Ben Harrison

        While the President is in charge of running NASA, Congress has to fund what he proposes, and even the author of this article says many in NASA don’t think much about the asteroid goal. Maybe that’s why Congress hasn’t funded it yet? Who knows.

        But you have faith it will eventually be funded, as well as the many other missions that it will take to keep the SLS busy. Time will tell.

        As to having “faith” in NASA, I think I’m a bit older than you, and I have always had faith in NASA. I watched the Moon landings, and watch NASA TV when I can. I am a NASA enthusiast.

        This is not about NASA the organization, it’s about the choices being made about a rocket and how we’ll be able to use it for space exploration. And if I had to name a foil for the SLS, it would be the Delta IV Heavy, not the Falcon Heavy, so SpaceX is not even involved. And ULA has a lot more experience with rockets than NASA does.

        • Ben,
          Pretty much yes. So what we have is a space agency that keeps getting directives, gets them cancelled or unfunded. It’s ridiculous. Actually? I don’t have faith it will be funded. You’re making assumptions. Read my last post again.
          Ben, it’s not that I don’t have faith in NASA – it’s after seeing the space agency yanked this way & that for the last eight years? I don’t have faith in the politicians. This job requires that I live at KSC/CCAFS, travel to NASA HQ, Utah (DM-2) test fire & more. Sorry, watching it on TV is nice – living it is something else.
          As for the DIVH being a “foil” for SLS – I’m guessing that you mean multiple launches of the DIVH? Because the Delta Heavy doesn’t even come close to the 130MT that SLS can boost to orbit.
          Sincerely, Jason

          • Ben Harrison

            I don’t have faith it will be funded. You’re making assumptions. Read my last post again.

            Apologies if I misinterpreted, but when you said “SLS has two missions – asteroid by 2021 & Mars by 2030s. That’s not faith – that’s what the president has directed NASA to do.”, it seemed like you felt it was a sure thing that they would be funded. But I see what you mean.

            I don’t have faith in the politicians.

            You are not alone in that, that’s for sure.

            Sorry, watching it on TV is nice – living it is something else.

            I have to disagree with you there. We’re both tax paying citizens, and neither of us has anymore ownership over NASA than the other. Just because I don’t have the same access that you do doesn’t make my opinions about my space agency any less, nor yours any less either. Definitely a perk of the job though, huh?

            Because the Delta Heavy doesn’t even come close to the 130MT that SLS can boost to orbit.

            The 130MT number is a fictitious requirement. For that matter, 70MT is fictitious too. Real requirements come from customers, and right now there are no funded missions and no customers building hardware.

            This really does get to the heart of the matter though, since as Mr. Hillhouse points out, the lift available determines the space architecture. Industry papers I’ve read have said we can explore the Moon and go on to Mars using Delta IV Heavy sized launchers, but larger sized launchers would be even nicer.

            The debate is whether “nicer” is affordable, and that is where politicians come in, since they have to agree to fund everything the government does. So far no one knows, only that so far they haven’t agree to spend the extra money for a succession of missions that use the SLS. Doesn’t mean it won’t happen, just that they haven’t done it so far. One way or the other, this upcoming funding law will give us a hint.

            • When I said that “living it is something else” – you (again) misinterpreted what I said. It was meant to convey that seeing the rockets launch on TV is nice – but being there, interviewing the people in charge, talking to officials behind the scenes – provides a far deeper understanding of the internal mechanisms involved. I’ve seen a number of people commenting here who have no actual experience, have never been to the sites, in & around the vehicles – but then act like they know more than those of us that do this for a living. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.

              As to the weight requirements being “fictitious” – when sending crewed missions to beyond LEO? They’re not only not fictitious – they’re a requirement. This is a typical tactic of those that want one type (their own) of some thing to be approved. Anything that counters that is useless, irrelevant or in this case “fictitious.” It’s been estimated that the spacecraft that will be needed to go to Mars will need to be at least as large as the ISS. Multiple launches increases the risk that a key mission element can be lost & therein the mission jeopardized.

              NewSpacers talk about “customers” – I ask you did the Saturn V have customers? Outside of NASA – no. Did the Gemini spacecraft have customers? Nope. Did Mercury? Uh-uh. See, that’s the problem, and it’s really disingenuous to try to put something into the equation that has no place there. This is a govt. owned/operated endeavor – it’s not about customers & the sooner folks stop trying to convert SLS into something it isn’t – the better off we’ll all be. In short? Nice try. The “customer” -is the U.S. government.

              Those that told you that either the FH or DIVH can accomplish lunar or Martian missions? Are probably doing so to further their own agenda. Why? Because it isn’t the truth. If you mean multiple launches? Again – that runs a big risk & the cost of multiple launches is often ignored by those pushing this ideology.

              It isn’t about nice – it’s about being pragmatic.

              • They’re not only not fictitious – they’re a requirement.

                Jason, they are only a requirement if you start with certain assumptions. You are an honest person so you must agree.

                It is not the facts that are in question. It is the assumptions. Let me prove this with an example.

                It’s been estimated that the spacecraft that will be needed to go to Mars will need to be at least as large as the ISS.

                This is an huge assumption. It’s an assumption compounded on other assumptions. If you start with this assumption and others (like: the construction of the I.S.S. itself is the model for building this mars ship) you end up with a false conclusion.

                It only takes one counter-example to prove this assumption wrong.

                I’ll give you two (not that either is the mars mission I propose.) Zubrin’s 2 person Dragon to mars mission and Inspiration Mars. Neither requires a I.S.S. mass (450mt) ship.

                Ok, three. My own proposal is to send two (for redundant safety) 40 mt ships (ea a BA700 w/ life support for 24. In my opinion sending few colonists means a suicide mission and we are not serious. More at a time also reduces the cost per person.)

                This ship only requires one launch on a FH (Bigelow doesn’t make a BA700 but it is a scaled down BA2100 and easily could.)

                After that, all other launches are fuel mainly, along with supplies and finally crew. While that ship is in orbit it is a profitable destination as an alternative to the limited capacity of the I.S.S.

                Thus it actually finances it’s own mar expedition while being fueled.

                It doesn’t require any in orbit assembly. The whole thing goes to orbit on a single FH launch.

                For fuel, $/kg becomes a very useful metric and your calculations say the SLS and FH come out about the same. You can draw your own conclusions from that.

                We have to start with some assumptions. All we’re saying is it doesn’t have to be those that are taylored to the SLS.

                • Ken,
                  I believe deep space exploration missions (Mars) currently need SLS. I’m not sold that a system that would require numerous launches is viable. So, no – I don’t agree with you – but yes I am honest.

                  Actually? It’s based on what people eat, breathe, poop & pee. Sorry. Long duration missions = mass.

                  And neither of those to me are viable missions, or at least they aren’t much more than stunts (try saying Inspiration Mars isn’t a stunt with a straight face).

                  So, you’re a NASA official or someone who dictates policy? Wow! If you’re not – then I have to refer to what Dirty Harry said about opinions…

                  Sorry, Ken, but I don’t put much confidence in vehicles that haven’t flown – SLS included. All of these proposed launchers sound exciting – but time will tell which of them actually lives up to the PowerPoints.

                  Moreover, you talk about assumptions, then say how if one element can be disproved then the assumption is false – then go on & on about your personal beliefs & opinions! Here’s a question. How many astronauts have been inside any of Bigelow’s inflatable structures in space? Oh, that’s right… See what I mean? You base your belief structure – on what hasn’t happened yet. Me? I wait until things start to fly, for them to succeed, fail, break & show how they react in the really-real world.

                  All I’m saying is until all these commercial concepts makes it into the real world – I want a backup. Right now that’s SLS. Once FH, Bigelow others validate their designs, once they’ve been shown to work with people in them in the environment intended for them – then I’m happy to allow them the opportunity to change the paradigm.

                  What I got from your comments is you’re trying to convince me that a proposed launch vehicle, one with 27 engines in its first stage alone, produced by a company that has never flown a single person – will automatically be better than a more simple, powerful one being developed by the space agency that has completed more than 150 missions. – You can draw your own conclusions about how arrogant that sounds.

              • Ben Harrison

                Those that told you that either the FH or DIVH can accomplish lunar or Martian missions? Are probably doing so to further their own agenda.

                And those that are saying the SLS is the only way are not furthering their own agenda?

                Here are two examples that you can judge for yourself if they are “lying”, or they are offering real alternatives.

                The first is United Launch Alliance, who has more experience than NASA in launching rockets. On their website they link to a study they did in 2009 called “Affordable Exploration Architecture 2009“, which is a very detailed proposal for a supporting lunar operations over a 3-year period. They used their Atlas V and Delta IV Heavy in the study, but said any comparable rockets could be used.

                They addressed boil off and in space assembly, and I don’t think anyone could claim that they are not believable.

                The other example I would point to is the Future In-Space Operations workgroup, which is a a consortium of participants from NASA, industry and academia, and they have a number of studies that they publish. One recent one is called “Evolved Human Space Exploration Architectures Using Commercial Launch and Propellant Depots“, which goes into great detail about boil off and reliability, and shows that by using a mixed fleet of commercial launchers we can go to the Moon and Mars for far less money than if we used an architecture that relies upon an HLLV like the SLS.

                And let me pose you this question. Does it matter if someone has “an agenda”? If they can show that we can go to the Moon or go on to Mars for 1/2 to 1/3 the cost of an SLS-based system, isn’t that worth considering?

                Or does money not matter, and all that matters is we have to use the SLS?

                • Ben,
                  Nice try. To state that a launch vehicle like the FH can launch 100+ MT? on a single flight – is a fallacy of the highest order. I haven’t said anyone was “lying” – & find it pretty sickening you’d put words in my mouth like that.

                  I’ve already stated I don’t care which vehicle accomplishes the mission – so long as the missions get done. I guess I have to repeat myself.

                  Yes, it does matter. If they’re pushing something that isn’t viable – then that’s a problem. Again, neither have flown. The FH – will have 27 engines in its first stage. Research the Soviet N-1 to see a good example of how launch vehicles with that many engines – run into issues fast.

                  Finally! You’re asking the right questions. If they can show it – then (yet again) I have no problem with a multi-launch FH system replace SLS. However – they have to prove they can do it first. The reason that the govt. didn’t throw all its support behind the emerging commercial market (stay tuned for an article that shows this was probably a good idea) is that they didn’t want deep space exploration efforts tied to an unproven concept such as commercial.

                  I know it’s a difficult concept for you to grasp – but the FH has to actually prove itself – the same goes for SLS. I know you’re trying to warp my statements into a declaration we should support SLS regardless but you’re both wrong & failing in your efforts to twist what I have been saying.

                  Let me reiterate (yet again) – I believe launch vehicles have to be developed that maximize the possibility of success, while limiting complexity. I don’t care if that’s FH or SLS. Get what I’m saying straight & stop twisting my words. The last person to repeatedly do so was banned. I have zero tolerance for people who shove words in my mouth.

                  • Ben Harrison

                    Jason, when you said earlier “Why? Because it isn’t the truth.”, that to me said that you thought either I was lying or that I was being lied to.

                    How else should that phrase be interpreted? Isn’t the opposite of “truth” a lie?

                    But I’m OK with calling this a misunderstanding if you are.

                  • Ben Harrison

                    To state that a launch vehicle like the FH can launch 100+ MT?

                    I don’t know where you are getting that.

                    I provided two peer-reviewed industry studies that show we can do large scale space exploration using commercial rockets, and that also show using commercial rockets would be far less expensive than using the SLS.

                    If you have questions about the details, then I would contact United Launch Alliance about their study, and Dr.

                    • Ben,
                      You stated FH could do what SLS could.

                      I can produce peer-reviewed docs all day. What invariably ends up happening is, because they disagree with the “other side’s” point of view – they’re called flawed, problematic, etc.

                      You asked, “If they can show that we can go to the Moon or go on to Mars for 1/2 to 1/3 the cost of an SLS-based system, isn’t that worth considering?” – I have to ask – have you even BOTHERED to read what I’ve been saying?? I’ve only said as much like SIX times!

                      You ignore my comments about FH viability, ignore my statements that any system needs to prove itself, ignore the complexity of FH, ignore that neither it (nor SLS) have flown, ignore that Bigelow’s modules have never been tested with real people in them. You also repeatedly ignored that I said if FH proves itself, I have zero problem with it being used in place of SLS. So, the real question is – why are you ignoring all of that? What you appear to want is for me to just parrot everything you type, to mimic someone who has admitted he has no practical experience in the field. Sorry Ben, you’re just going to have to accept that someone who actually works around these things expects to see them prove themselves before he supports them.

                      The points I raised about having any launch system prove itself – is a sound idea. Studies, PowerPoints, CGI videos are nice – but until you get people in the hardware to prove them out – I don’t place as much value in them. Sorry, I require things act as advertised & until they actually fly – I don’t just buy the company line.

                      So allow me to conclude that I’ve stated repeatedly that if & when FH proves itself – I could care less SLS gets canned & NASA goes with it. If using caution, if having a launch vehicle (whichever) actually prove itself before having people fly on it is such a abhorrent concept that you have to attack those that suggest it – then one must ask why? I’ve already said that they should be considered – after they fly, after they prove their viability. One can only surmise that you’re being intentionally obtuse.

                      I didn’t ask any questions to you, Dr. (Whoever you didn’t provide a name). This last comment, is condescending & snarky & is the reason why I’ve opted to respond in kind.

                  • The comment wasn’t stated – it was implied by Ben.

                    Short term mission for SLS – asteroid – long term – Mars. Not sure if that’s what you were stating, about “no mission described.”

                    At some point, some people are going to have to give NASA the budget it needs to conduct the missions set before it.

                  • Ben Harrison

                    Apologies. Apparently I did something wrong, and my post cut off. The full text:

                    To state that a launch vehicle like the FH can launch 100+ MT?

                    I don’t know where you are getting that.

                    I provided two peer-reviewed industry studies that show we can do large scale space exploration using commercial rockets, and that also show using commercial rockets would be far less expensive than using the SLS.

                    If you have questions about the details, then I would contact United Launch Alliance about their study, and Dr.

                  • Ben Harrison

                    Guess I’m character limited? Here is the next part:

                    Both studies do in fact address your statement above that said “Again – that runs a big risk & the cost of multiple launches is often ignored by those pushing this ideology.

                    I would also like to point out that the author of this article, Mr. Hillhouse, has stated that multiple launches of the SLS will be required even for a simple mission like the proposed asteroid visit. You even stated that the spacecraft that will go to Mars will likely be as large as the ISS, and that means lots of launches and space assembly.

                    We will never have a rocket big enough to launch a sizable mission to anywhere by itself. Assembly in space, and refueling in space will need to become commonplace, so we might as well get competent at it.

                    And I’ve have stated over and over, I don’t want an exploration architecture that is based on just the Falcon Heavy. I don’t know how many times I have to say that. We need an exploration architecture that can be supported by the multitude of Delta IV Heavy size rockets. And if you don’t think Delta IV Heavy is a dependable enough rocket, then I think you’re mistaken.

                    • No, you’re not.

                      Actually, I just reread most of the article – I don’t see where Jim ever said it’d require multiple SLS launches to conduct a simple mission (such as the asteroid). Can you please show me what you’re referring to? Because it doesn’t sound like anything I edited.

                      To your Mars mission point? Yes, it’d take more than one SLS launch to conduct such a mission – with FH? Judging by the 53MT (FH) to 130MT (SLS) numbers? The number of launches would what? At least double under the method your pushing? You seem to be all-too-happy to ignore is that with greater complexity – comes greater problems.

                      I think the viability of refueling such a mission would have to be proven as viable. After that? I’d probably agree with you. Until it’s proven – it’s not. Sorry.

                      It’s funny, I’ve repeated myself how many times – sucks when people don’t pay attention to you – doesn’t it? Actually? I have some faith in the DIVH. Why? Because it’s actually FLOWN!!! I’ve attended two launches. The concept you’re avoiding – is that with multiple launches – comes a multiplication of risk.

                      Look, I appreciate your enthusiasm, but you’re obviously not listening to me.

                    • Ben Harrison

                      The reference to Mr. Hillhouse’s comment on multiple launches is at his “April 30, 2013 at 12:58 pm” comment.

                      To your comment “You seem to be all-too-happy to ignore is that with greater complexity – comes greater problems.“, those peer-reviewed studies show that the likelihood of success with multiple backup launchers is actually higher than relying solely on the SLS.

                      The reverse of your comment is also true. If an SLS crashes, it takes a higher percentage of the mission to the ocean floor. Is that good?

                      I think the viability of refueling such a mission would have to be proven as viable.

                      NASA wanted to do that, but Congress gave them the SLS instead.

                      If we can’t refuel in space we’ll never go far. How far can you go in your car without refueling? Buying a new car every time you run out of gas is too expensive, as it would be in space. Refuel and reuse is the future, and the sooner we prove it out, the less expensive exploration will be.

                      Money is important, so let’s figure out how to spend less of it so we can do more exploration. Isn’t that the goal?

                    • Jim Hillhouse

                      I’d love to have the references to those AIAA papers.

                      When I was in engineering graduate school, I had the treat of attending meetings in the mid-to late-90’s with NASA exploration folks and ex-NASA old-timers where multiple launch architecture to Mars was debated. The youngsters kept saying that the idea would reduce the need for an HLV, that costs could go down, that risk was better managed. And then the rebuttals came in from the old timers and it wasn’t pretty. Multiple launches breeds complexity, thus risk, and therefore costs to reduce that risk. The take-away was that it has been so long since a crewed mission so far away has been attempted that anyone telling you they know the costs, risks, etc. of such missions is full of hooey.

                      A multi-launch mission would be as likely scrapped as a single-launch mission in the event of an accident, with one caveat. To keep the multi-launch mission a go, you’d have to have a spare launcher and mission equipment on hand, thus raising mission costs.

                      I know you’re earnest in your beliefs that HLV is not the least risky way to do crewed space, but all of this is academic. Before Orion-SLS, Congress funded Constellation five years in a row. After the re-architecting of human space flight, Congress has funded in three votes, and is about to do so again this year, the Orion-SLS architecture, which you can think of as Constellation v 2.0. It is the space policy of this nation. Trying to argue against it, or worse tear it down, is a waste of time and effort. It’s a case of letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. And the only people these efforts against Orion or SLS help are the nuts who don’t want our nation to spend even one red cent on space so long as someone is in need of federal assistance.

                      Here’s what New Space advocates do need to focus on. None of our International partners wants to spend what little HSF money they have to maintain a nearly generation old LEO space station after 2020 but instead want to go to the Moon. And the partners are not shy in stating this. The New Space community needs to stop worrying about Orion and SLS and start worrying about finding an commercial justification for ISS beyond 2020 that will make-up for the lost funding that is to come. Otherwise, the decision to retire ISS in early 2020 will be made and the whole reason for the current commercial crew program evaporates, as will its funding. First crewed commercial flight will slip into mid-to-late-2018 after the appropriators refuse the President’s FY2014 $821 million request for commercial crew. There are some on Capitol Hill wondering if this experiment is even worth the billions commercial crew will need before it’s done given that it will only provide American access to ISS for fewer years that the fingers on one’s hand.

                  • Ferris Valyn

                    (Im replying to something Jason said, in this thread, but I can’t reply directly)

                    Jason, why, at some point, do people need to give NASA the budget it needs to conduct the missions set before it? Why?

                    • Ferris,
                      That has to be the single-most ignorant thing you’ve ever uttered. If you give someone an objective – then you should be required to fund it properly. I know common sense isn’t common – but really?

                    • Ferris Valyn

                      (Insulting others?)

                      Yes, in theory, you should be required to fund it properly. I don’t deny that. But what is the forcing function that DEMANDS that they fund it?

                      And, as long as we are discussing this, why is the reverse not also worth considering – if you won’t fund it properly, why not change the objective?

                      The following Jeff Greason video I think is worth mentioning

                    • Ferris Valyn

                      (This was in reference to Jason’s comment on if you set an objective, shouldn’t you fund it properly, and it is out of order – just providing clarification)

                    • Sorry Ferris, the usual suspects had really gotten on my nerves when I responded.

                      You & I have different standards. If you give someone an objective – it should be funded properly. As to the forcing function – our government is the single largest blockade in terms of conducting deep space exploration.

                      It would depend on what that objective is. I think if NASA is directed to go to the Moon, Mars or beyond – then having them directed to provide funding to emerging commercial companies to go to LEO – that’s too radical a change. Having HSF efforts adapted to include a modular designs with commercial companies competing to accomplish the end objectives – wouldn’t be. To me, it depends how how much the objective changes. If NASA is directed to go to Mars, but then it’s determined that’s too ambitious & they should start at the Moon? Fine. If the inverse is true – fine. But keep exploration – exploration & commercial/LEO – commercial/LEO. If you keep yanking NASA around by its nose – it won’t ever finish anything it starts. Doing so gets you the agency we currently have, one slow to accomplish much of anything as it doesn’t know what it will be told to do after the next election season…

                      You didn’t provide a link.

                    • Ferris Valyn

                      Jason – again, I am not arguing that it shouldn’t be funded at necessarily levels (we can debate what that is another day). I am saying, what will force Congress to do that? Let me give a very clear example.

                      Bolden was speaking at an STA luncheon on capital hill this week, that I attended. At somepoint, discussion turned to the science funding, and in particular a Europa mission. I am sure you are aware about the $70 million that was appropriated for an Europa mission, in the recent appropriation law, of $70 m. Bolden said something to the effect of “I talk to a lot of people, and not one things we can do a Europa mission for $70 m.”

                      Which brings me to my point – what should/would force Congress to fund NASA at the required levels to succeed at the objectives?

                      And the flip side is this – suppose sequestration doesn’t go away? Then what? If it looks like NASA’s getting cut down to a $15 Billion agency, what do you change?

                    • Ferris,
                      If you’re asking my opinion, I don’t think anything other than a massive crisis would force Congress to bring funding up to required levels. In fact, that seems to be the only way to accomplish anything – by having it become an emergency. I believe this is what you’re asking. It’s been a busy day & my eyes are getting bleary.
                      Sincerely, Jason

                    • Ferris Valyn

                      Close enough.

                      And out of curiosity – what if NASA is forced to absorb a $1-2 Billion cut thanks to sequester. What would you like to see happen?

                    • If that occurs, what I’d want to happen is something you won’t like. If our sources are correct, if some of the international partners involved on ISS are thinking about moving on? Coupled with the prospect it could be deorbited as early as 2020 – I think we should allow the commercial companies, some of which have boasted about how much “skin they have in the game” & said they don’t need NASA – the opportunity to prove it. I think if NASA has to eat the Sequestration amount – the first things to go would be the funds to commercial.

                    • Ferris Valyn

                      Jason – a few points

                      1) I was talking more in terms of objectives, not specific programs.

                      2) What next, since that won’t be enough

                    • Objectives – ISS/LEO. Sorry, I’m pro exploration. We’ve been circling the Earth for the past four decades. Time to move on.

                      I think cutting ISS/Commercial should accomplish this.

                    • Ferris,
                      Nevermind, now I see it. Thanks.

  • As long as the ideology is what it is, then the SLS is absolutely and without any doubt what-so-ever required. Just imagine the size of the rocket needed to send our first colony ship to Centauri!!!

  • Certainly, a Falcon Heavy can place an Orion crewed and service module in low-Earth orbit. But several additional launches will be needed to send Orion and her crew to the Moon

    Is this true? Why not Orion, Service Module and Earth departure stage as well (we seem to have an additional 40mt or so to work with?)

  • Joseph Traina Jr

    I have not read through but a few of the comments as there are so many, but I don’t understand why both these rockets can’t exist. The way I see it and I believe the whole point of SLS is beyond Earth exploration, while private companies handle low Earth orbit stuff. Was Falcon Heavy’s purpose ever stated to be exploration of cislunar space? Or is it to handle large satellite and other payload launches to LEO that are currently monopolized by ULA?

    Something else I wonder is will SLS even make it to completion? I hope it does, and it is fully utilized for missions that expand human presence into space. I also want SpaceX to succeed in their endeavours as well. The universe is a huge place and there is room for everyone!

    Last thing I want to say is I frequent this site and really enjoy the posts. I knew as soon as I saw this article though that there would be heated exchanges between Jason and some “Newspacer”. I almost always skip out on reading the comments because I get so annoyed when people argue with him without listening to what he has to say and blast him for his opinions on things.

    • Leonidas

      I have to fully agree with you Joseph! I really, for the life of me, can’t understand what’s the fuss with all this SLS v. Falcon thing! Why does it always have to be ‘either this or that’? Why can’t it be ‘why not both?’ It’s a theme that is being played out in the space community constantly these days. Personally, I wouldn’t want a space program where NASA launchers are the only player, as much as I wouldn’t want one where commercial launchers are the only player. The space program would be better off with both. And why ever really compare SLS with any commercial launcher like Falcon? They are really different things, having different purposes. If the main argument for comparison is launch costs, flexibility and performance, then there’s really no argument at all, because neither Falcon nor SLS have flown. And until they do, the whole debate is moot. I really don’t understand why people have such a difficulty understanding this. Don’t have people something better to do than arguing for hypothetical things that haven’t happened yet?

      You really have to admire Jason for taking up with it and his patience!

      • Leonidas

        …And when I say Falcon, I mean Falcon Heavy!

      • Leonidas,
        Not sure if it’s patience or stubborness. I never thought that expressing caution could be taken so wildly the wrong way. The main reason we can’t have both though – does have an answer. There aren’t funds for SLS & a manned initiative using FH. The pro-FH folks want FH to get SLS’ spot & are upset it isn’t being given serious consideration.
        Sincerely, Jason

        • Leonidas

          Well, Jason, I’d argue that if Falcon Heavy materialises and proves itself to be everything it’s being said it will, then third-party customers could easily materialise and ask its services, so FH could then thrive outside of the confines of NASA. I mean, if you create a product that rocks and it covers a much unfulfilled need, then what’s stopping you from going on addressing the needs of a vast customer base that eagelry waits what you’re delivering? Isn’t that a valid assumption?

          • It’s a valid assumption – but one that is filled with a lot of “coulds” in it. In short, there are any number of things that “could” happen – but until they do – I’m not willing to bet the farm on them…

            • Leonidas

              I understand your point of view Jason and agree with you. Actually my argument was somewhat ironic. My meaning was, why FH proponents feel threatened by SLS? If FH is such a hot product and does all these wonderful things that no other launcher in the market does, then it will have risen above all and there will be no shortage of customers and there will be no need for it to feel threatened by anyone.

              • I can’t speak for anyone else, but as an “FH supporter” (in the sense that I think it will be a good thing if it happens), I don’t feel at all “threatened by SLS,” nor do I consider Falcon 9 “threatened by SLS.”

                FH will succeed, or not, regardless of what happens to SLS. I oppose SLS because as a taxpayer, it’s a vast waste of money for a vehicle that is unnecessary to get beyond LEO, that is unlikely to ever fly, and if it does, it will be unaffordable to operate. As a space enthusiast, I oppose it because it is sucking up funds for things that we actually need to get humans beyond earth orbit, such as propellant storage technology development, reusable landers and deep-space vehicles.

                • Leonidas

                  IMHO, being an SLS or HLV ‘supporter’ doesn’t make you an anti-FH. For me the whole debate is moot anyway. And with the current and projected funding I’m skeptical that any progress could be made in a short amount of time either on SLS or commercial crew.

                  Being a space enthusiast myself, I think that the current debate is irreleant. There is a number of deeper issues down the road that aren’t even touched. A major one is, for what reasons should we reach deep space in the first place and what we’ll do when we get there. Is it to advance our economic and cultural sphere of influence as a spacefaring civilisation, or just do a couple of exploratory and science missions for a small group of people of scientists and enginneers?

                  We should begin to wonder, now with the advent of private enterprise in space, as to why aren’t space entepreneurs haven’t devoted themelves to investing big on space transportation technologies and infrastructure? What incentive do they have for doing so anyway? What will they do when they reach the Moon or Mars? With our current international laws (aka the Space Treaty), they have none. The Moon is for all intents and purposes, just barren real estate with no value. Can entepreneurs claim private ownership of land in another celestial body, to attract them to invest and formulate a business plan for exploitation or commerce? There’s plenty of potential profit to be made in LEO, but beyond that, besides the promise of asteroid mining and resources, what?

                  There’s a paradigm shift that has to be made first on how we view space. Is it a place where we can go and settle, so that we have a reason to invest in all the expensive and long overdue space transportation systems needed, or is it just a place for the scientists and the engineers?

      • Joseph Traina Jr

        Thanks for the response Leonidas. I’ll admit I’m just a casual observer of what is going on with NASA and commercial space companies, so to me it makes sense that both can exist. I don’t think it would be practical for NASA to use SLS for LEO activities, and I don’t think it is reasonable to keep paying Russia to get US astronauts to the ISS. I thought that is where the Commercial Cargo and Crew programs come into play. NASA uses SLS for bigger and better things, while SpaceX and others handle the “routine” LEO stuff. I understand now all of this is a matter of funding, so I am confused as to where all of these programs stand at the moment.

  • I’m not sold that a system that would require numerous launches is viable.

    Good. Jason, I am so glad that you stated this so clearly. I hope you appreciate that I do pay attention to what you say. I will focus on just responding to this one statement.

    So that I don’t mischaracterize you, let me first clarify what I think you are saying…

    You are not saying all missions must require just one launch. You are saying that when there is a choice between fewer or more launches, fewer are to be preferred. All things being equal, I absolutely agree with you. You even go further…

    I have no problem with a multi-launch FH system replace SLS.

    But reasonably, you want proof. For example, any change has to be tested.

    SpaceX has plenty of experience seeing the result of changes and they’ve had a history we can assess. It’s one of the impressive things about the company. We have all witnessed them fix those things that have come up (like the residual thrust that was a result of an engine upgrade from ablation to active cooling.)

    The FH has to prove itself, no question. 27 engines is quite something. Anyone suggesting something like that out of the blue would be considered nuts. Even they have plans to replace 9 with 1 sometime when they can.

    So why would we even consider it viable?

    Answer: For the same reason that the Soviet N-1 is not viable. (Read this answer carefully to avoid being mislead by it.)

    The FH seems viable because IT IS NOT a new rocket. It is 3 cores that all have a record.

    Like the Saturn V before it, it has a 100% record (for primary missions) and both have demonstrated engine out performance. Neither system had enough flight for accurate statistics, but with that proviso, we can make some projections.

    I project Jason, you will become a SpaceX and Falcon Heavy fanboy one day. ;-) Because I am paying attention.

    Maybe not, but thanks for hosting this discussion. I will address other issues in other comments.

    • No, not saying one launch – but the fewer launches the better.
      While the F9 is gaining a solid record – when you strap three together & require them to work in unison? Sorry, I’ll feel better after a few launches & I’m not interested in betting the manned space program on it until then.
      You try to use the success rate of the F9 & transpose it to the FH – sorry it doesn’t work that way. In fact, that’s borderline disingenuous.
      I’m already a SpaceX fan – because they’ve demonstrated they can do what they say they will. When they develop a record on FH – I’ll be a fan of that too. See? That’s the problem. Some folks attempt to paint someone who is stressing caution – as being anti-Fh or whatever. When in fact we’re not. You & others are taking me out of context, apparently trying to make it so that I’m saying I’m anti-FH & pro-SLS. Actually, for those who actually bother to read – I’m pro -whatever works. Stop expecting me to choose sides. If you’d been really been paying attention? You’d see I’ve said that I’m for whichever system can accomplish the mission – on at least one of more occasions during this conversation. It’s not that I’m pro-SLS – it’s that you & others are anti-SLS & don’t understand that there are some who feel we should have a powerful backup in place, that we shouldn’t place all our bets on what some say they will or won’t do. Let me reiterate (again) I’m gaining faith in SpaceX – but I have more faith in the agency that has conducted over 150 manned missions – than a company that hasn’t flown a single person into space ever. I’m really sorry this is such a difficult concept for some to grasp.

      • I hope you will be careful claiming I take you out of context. I work very hard not to do that. Also, if I do happen to, please provide an example and I will thank you in all cases.

        I think the main objection is that some see you as a SLS fanboy which doesn’t even have a Falcon 9 analogy to it’s FH.

        Saying NASA has an impressive history, which it does, does not mean the outcome (whichever , up or down) is likely. You can’t ignore their many failures and cost over-runs and just focus on their successes.

        • Here’s why I think you & others take me out of context, because I’ve said the following a couple three times – but it seems that these statements are ignored because they aren’t FH slobbering love affair-type comments:

          So allow me to conclude that I’ve stated repeatedly that if & when FH proves itself – I could care less SLS gets canned & NASA goes with it. If using caution, if having a launch vehicle (whichever) actually prove itself before having people fly on it is such a abhorrent concept that you have to attack those that suggest it – then one must ask why? I’ve already said that they should be considered – after they fly, after they prove their viability.

          Ignoring NASA’s history in favor of a group that by comparison has none is to someone who respects experience as much as I do – nonsensical. If you want to talk failures – you might want to address Falcon 1’s current rate of 3 out of 5 launches being failures. You can’t ignore their many failures & cost over-runs and just focus on their recent successes.

          • I can’t speak for others, but I haven’t ignored what you’ve said. You’re absolutely right that the proof is in the pudding.

            You should also know that some do not consider them (F1 launches) failures precisely because they led to where we are today.

            • Ken,
              Let me touch on something there. I guarantee that the customers flying payloads on them – consider them failures. Moreover, you stated earlier that we shouldn’t turn a blind eye to NASA’s failures – so let me say to “some” that if NASA’s failures need to be remembered then so do these.
              Jason

              • But perspective must be exercised as well. The F1 was a development program that met its objectives; which I repeat, is proved by where SpaceX is today.

                The 3 customers that lost payloads accepted the risks knowing it was a development program and in the last case as a secondary payload on the F9 they are on record that they were very happy with the results since they got the data they needed while the satellite survived in the wrong orbit.

                Nobody is forgetting the SpaceX failures. I even consider them a good thing because going forward, Elon isn’t going to forget them either. But having perspective demands we recognize that a few million lost in development is not even in the same category as billions NASA lost in programs that never went anywhere.

                A lack of perspective of that magnitude is appalling. Please don’t be that person.

                • Don’t be the person who is willing massage away failures – while chiding NASA for theirs. This biased behavior – is appalling.

                  You call SpaceX’s failures a “good thing” – but don’t seem to give that same courtesy to NASA – that says a lot. I don’t think given this double standard you have any moral authority to talk the way you have. You know what they call people who expect one standard for one group – but don’t hold others to that same standard – don’t you?

                  You blame NASA for programs that never went anywhere – happily ignoring that most of these programs – were decided by the politicians. If you were honest – you’d point the blame where it belongs.

                  Your comments are becoming increasingly condescending and your willful bias is disappointing. Until recently your comments have been on-point & polite. But recently you’ve taken to responding to those that disagree with you as if they’re dolts or have some type of behavioral issues. Ken – don’t be that guy.

                  • You blame NASA for programs that never went anywhere – happily ignoring that most of these programs – were decided by the politicians.

                    I wasn’t really assigning blame at all. My point was one of these things is not like the other. I really don’t see how that is a controversial point. Which you are actually conceding when you talk about who should get the blame.

                    I’m a guest on your site. If I’m not welcome to disagree I will not offend you with any more comments.

                    • Sure you can disagree, but just don’t insult when you do it (this is a long thread & given that’s not you M.O – I don’t think you did, you’re almost always on-topic & polite). However, I still feel if you’re going to give private space firms a free pass on their failures. You might at least not want to mention how NASA should be held to a higher standard. Given how many NewSpace firms collect serious funding from NASA? That’s not the right way to further the conversation.

                      I get the point you’re trying to make about differentiating between the two, how the levels of scale are different. However, when one shows this double standard, well lets just say it isn’t helpful in terms of placing the best light on that argument.

                      And yes, the govt. abuses its power & meddles where it shouldn’t.

                    • you’re almost always on-topic & polite

                      Thank you. I do try. I’ll have to work on that ‘almost’ part I guess.

                      As a guest I feel it is my responsibility to say things that enhance the conversation. I don’t always reach that goal of course.

                    • Ken,
                      Usually? You only veer off when you think someone is insulting you. So, I guess I can say – always polite.
                      Sincerely, Jason

      • rktsci

        No, not saying one launch – but the fewer launches the better.
        Perhaps not. JSC S&MA has done an internal study that shows how an architecture with a propellant depot that is filled via commercial launch can be more reliable than other alternatives. Their basic proposal was to compete the fuel launches, select 2 vendors and pay on delivery. Then launch the transfer vehicle and fuel it. Then the crew comes up in an Orion and departs. You can make the fuel deliveries the most reliable part of the whole sequence by only requiring “n of m” missions to get there.

  • Now to address another issue. Why do I use a BA330 that has never flown or had human occupants as a baseline?

    Because you have to start somewhere and they have published specifications. I’d be very happy if they had competition that published their own specs.

    Because not all paper vehicles are the same.

    • I can appreciate that. However, I’ve seen commercial companies come & go, NASA initiatives come & go – so I don’t believe it until it flies. I don’t place any value in words, studies or presentations – until they enter the real world. Sorry, that might be overly-practical but if space flight is fueled by anything these days – it appears to be fueled by disappointment & plans that never materialize.

      • Bigelow has had a major downsizing (and has since grown a bit.) They may go out of business, but that doesn’t mean we can’t use their specs as a baseline even if they did go out of business.

        We could just stop considering the future…

        Nah, ain’t gonna happen.

        • I’ve even gone farther than most (or any) in projecting a BA700 which not only doesn’t exist, probably never will.

          But I feel confidently justified in doing so because of what does exist. Two modules in orbit, and the BA330 and BA2100 specs. of a proven scalable design.

          All supported by one of those billionaires.

        • Who is saying we should stop considering the future? However, one billionaire’s offerings do not encompass the totality of the future.

  • You try to use the success rate of the F9 & transpose it to the FH – sorry it doesn’t work that way.

    Not entirely, to be sure, but it would be a different story if the F9 never existed.

    In fact, that’s borderline disingenuous.

    Careful there Jason. It’s not proper to call someone a liar that isn’t. I personally take quite offense to that precisely because I am a lover of truth.

    I know how the give and take can get heated. I hope I always show you the respect you deserve. Being human is a tough job. You will of course, choose how much respect you give me.

    When I am wrong, and you point it out specifically, be assured I will be thankful.

    • I said borderline didn’t I? Sorry.
      I’m really frustrated by folks who are happy to overlook the lack of NewSpace firms resume & will happily accept most anything they say. When NASA, an agency with a 50 year history of accomplishing missions makes a statement? Those same folks (not saying you) roll their eyes & act like NASA is the one with no record…
      So, apologies if I pushed the “red line” but others have been hyper-disrespectful & arrogant & after listening to it for, well for a while now, I’m a little less polite than I would normally be.

      • You did say borderline. I noticed and I did appreciate it. Thank you.

        I think it’s been a great discussion.

        Wouldn’t it be nice if they all picked up the pace and did in months what we’ve had to wait years for?

        As that old joke goes… patients, donkey, patients.

  • You & others are anti-SLS

    I believe that is a fair statement. Is anti-SLS justified?

    The main objection is that it cost too much and that $3b annually could better be spent toward the space exploration objective. We also have legitimate reasons not to trust the $500m per launch cost and suspect it will be at a minimum, twice that.

    A secondary objection is that the government should not be in the business of building rockets that commercial industry is capable of providing. I have not heard of any RFP for a 130mt rocket.

    The assumption that we need a certain lift capacity when we don’t is unsustainable because the same argument can be used for ever larger rockets. NASA has a history of spending billions down the toilet. That’s what the anti-SLS crowd objects to.

    • Joe2

      “A secondary objection is that the government should not be in the business of building rockets that commercial industry is capable of providing.”

      I have seen statements like this before and I believe they are a bit misleading. SLS is being built by commercial companies (Boeing, ATK, Pratt & Whitney, etc) under the direction of NASA. Yes, NASA is heavily involved and perhaps some of its centers are providing various pieces (just a guess on my part) as well as use of facilities but I believe it is commercial companies doing most of engineering, manufacturing, etc. If someone has a better understanding of the SLS program and knows otherwise, please correct me (and provide details…).

  • I think the viability of refueling such a mission would have to be proven as viable.

    There’s that pudding again, ;-) , but let me address a side point.

    Any future in space includes refueling. The sooner we start building experience (embodied in many people rather than few) the better.

  • [...] article is reposted from AmericaSpace.com with permission of the publisher. Opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily [...]

  • Ben Harrison

    Mr. Rhian, while the focus of this article is SLS versus Falcon Heavy, my view is that is a false choice. Depending solely on one or the other exclusively is a bad choice. No backup for either if they are grounded.

    You stated above “You stated FH could do what SLS could. I can produce peer-reviewed docs all day.”, meaning studies showing an HLV is better for space exploration than smaller rockets. If money is no object, then of course everyone would agree with that.

    But as you yourself have pointed out, money is a huge issue. Congress won’t fund any human BEO missions, and no missions for the SLS.

    And that is why using commercial rockets is better at this point than the government building it’s own. And as those peer review studies show, a space architecture using the fleet of proven commercial rockets already available – ignoring Falcon Heavy completely – would be as safe and doable as if we used an HLV.

    If I had my choice, I would implement ULA’s exploration proposal I listed above.

    But that seems to be a choice that is ignored by SLS supporters, and they only want to point the finger at SpaceX.

    Why not use Delta IV Heavy and Atlas V? Even at their inflated prices they are a better deal than the SLS, and ULA has far more experience than NASA in launching rockets.

    I look forward to your article on launch systems, and I hope Delta and Atlas get prominent attention.

    • Mr Harrison,
      Your telepathy needs work. You’re again taking my words & manipulating them into something they aren’t. What I meant was, any side can produce peer-reviewed docs all day to show how they’re right & the world is wrong. So, I don’t place a lot of value when someone (you) posts a link to a study.
      Anyone familiar with the current economic crisis knows money is a serious consideration. However, (& this is a point you’ll probably ignore) it makes more sense to spend more for something that can actually conduct a mission – than for something that can’t. The point I’ve (repeatedly) tried to make – one which you have missed, ignored or can’t wrap you head around. Is these vehicles need to be tested – before we sign off on them as the next best thing. I fail to understand how such a simple concept is so hard for you to grasp.

      So now you’re in Congress? Otherwise, how do you know what Congress, current & future won’t do? You really, truly, deeply, need to put down the crystal ball.

      Again, since you’ve ignored my previous comments allow me to say this with a bluntness that should register. I – DON’T – CARE – WHICH – VEHICLE – CONDUCTS – THE- MISSION – AS- LONG – AS – THE – MISSIONS – GET – DONE! There? Was that simple enough for you? You’ve ignored all the other times I’ve said it. That means FH, DIVH, SLS – whatever.

      My advice Mr. Harrison is you worry less about rockets & stick with something you have problems with – reading comprehension. Because to date, I’ve said the above no less than three times. Also, you seem to “interpret” what people write in ways that better suit you – but are not what they were meant to state.

      The problem is – you’re trying to paint me into one camp or the other – when the only one of us that suffers from this malady – is you. You just admitted it with your ULA comment. You’ve worked to turn my comments into being anti-SpaceX (despite my repeated comments to the contrary) or pro-SLS. When all I’ve been saying is whatever launch vehicle is tapped – needs to be proven as capable of conducting the mission laid before it, I have to ask you Mr. Harrison – why are you WILLFULLY ignoring all the times I’ve stated this? Why are you so desperate to warp my comments into something they’re not? I find your behavior in this regard to be repellent. I’m sorry to be so blunt, but it’s gotten to point where, after saying something over & over again that all I’m left with is being rude.

      • Ben Harrison

        You are right Mr. Rhian, I didn’t respond back to you. My apologies. Long thread of comments going.

        To your comment:

        The point I’ve (repeatedly) tried to make – one which you have missed, ignored or can’t wrap you head around. Is these vehicles need to be tested – before we sign off on them as the next best thing.

        But is that really the situation here? Delta IV Heavy is operational, as is Atlas V. And ULA has proposed extensions of them to boost their capabilities. Is there any doubt about them?

        The SLS, and it’s predecessor the Ares I & V, are all new vehicles. Untested in real flight. However Congress has mandated that the SLS will be used for future exploration. No if’s, and’s, or but’s. It’s the SLS only.

        In order to find out if the SLS really is needed, we have to spend over ten years and $30 billion, then we have to build payloads that only fit on the SLS, and then we have to see whether the SLS is really the right rocket for our needs.

        That is completely backward for how we increase the size of transportation systems here on Earth.

        For instance, the Boeing 747 was in response to customer demands for more volume through the same airports. The much large container ships of today are in response to the need to lower costs per trip.

        We could have done a space exploration test using Delta IV Heavy to see if we could do in-orbit assembly and refueling, and then decided if it was going to work. But that wasn’t what Congress did. They ignored NASA’s budget request for testing out future exploration capabilities like refueling, and decided an HLV was what was needed.

        Though what you say makes sense, it didn’t happen, and with the cost of the SLS and SLS sized payloads, NASA won’t get the money from Congress to test alternatives. NASA will be locked into the SLS for years to come, whether it’s too expensive or not.

        • Hi Ben,
          Yes, SLS has – because that’s the way that space exploration has been conducted since Apollo. Whereas so many want this paradigm to change – Congress is unwilling to place human space exploration in the hands of ULA (research the how’s & why’s of how ULA was formed). SpaceX is newer than either Boeing or LMCO, so they have a while before folks are comfortable with their products. However, this conversation was between FH & SLS.

          Plus how many extra launches would be entailed by conducting a lunar mission with the DIVH? I think that if the payloads could be made to be interchangeable & inexpensive, then multiple launches would work.

          Your comments about SLS – are on point. Both SLS & FH are all-new. You can add another potential group to that – but that’s not how the conversation was started (this article was a response to an Av-Week Op-Ed).

          Ben, you don’t feel that SLS is needed for Mars’ missions – others do. Both can point to studies that prove their view is correct. Whose should we agree with?

          How many customers are trying to build colonies on Mars? How many spaceports are on Mars. Sorry, I don’t think’s that’s the best comparison. I too think that exploration initiatives should be more open, more modular. However, blaming NASA, working to chastise the agency for things put in place on it by Congress – is less than fair.

          I agree with your next-to-last paragraph almost in totality. Great points. I truly wish things were more open, flexible, modular. However, I want us to explore too, for us to begin building an infrastructure and for us to be safe while we’re doing it.

          Congresses’ come & go – maybe we’ll get one that will put NASA on a modular path for exploration. I know it’s hard – but hang in there.

          • Ben Harrison

            Congress is unwilling to place human space exploration in the hands of ULA

            Can you show where Congress actually addressed that? Or expressed that specifically?

            They sure don’t have a problem relying on ULA for our nations most important space assets.

            Ben, you don’t feel that SLS is needed for Mars’ missions

            I’ve never said that, and NASA likely won’t be going to Mars for decades to come.

            I’ve said that if money wasn’t a concern, an HLV would be preferable over what we have today. But money is a concern, a huge concern, and many of us don’t see that Congress is ready to use the SLS enough to make it’s investment worthwhile.

            It’s all about affordability Jason, and Congress has not shown that it’s willing to support a space exploration program that fully utilizes the SLS.

            When will we know if they will? If you can’t answer that, then you should be doubting the SLS is a solution to anything.

            • It’s funny how certain people can express their opinions – but whenever I do so – I’m asked to cite references. Jeez, the double-standard is sad. Let me ask this. How many crewed missions has ULA been tapped to conduct (don’t say EFT-1 – that’s unmanned). I’m stating that, historically, the govt. hasn’t used them to do so.

              Maybe not, but you sure have implied it.

              Yet again, you try to paint me as some die-hard SLS-supporter. Ben, please don’t start ignoring what I’ve repeatedly said (again) – it’s very disrespectful & disingenuous. You know I have said that neither SLS nor FH have flown & both have to prove themselves. So why are you trying to act like I haven’t stated that repeatedly? Shame on you. Just because someone points out perceived flaws in your thoughts – doesn’t automatically make them a supporter of the other “side.” This behavior isn’t a solution to anything. Stop putting words in my mouth.

              • Ben Harrison

                It’s funny how certain people can express their opinions – but whenever I do so – I’m asked to cite references.

                I only asked because you stated that was the reason why ULA was not considered as an alternative to the SLS. If it was true, then that was something I was not aware of, and it would be important information in this discussion. Is it true, or did I misunderstood what you meant, and that it was an assumption on your part?

                How many crewed missions has ULA been tapped to conduct

                Exactly! Congress short-circuited the requirements process, and decided on an HLV without a full review of the downstream consequences.

                But since I know you’ll cite NASA as having experience going back to the 60’s, it would only be fair to point out that Atlas was used for Project Gemini. And since Atlas is also the choice of Boeing and Sierra Nevada for crew, and is one of our most reliable rockets, I don’t think anyone would doubt it or the Delta IV would be unsafe to carry humans.

                These are legitimate questions you ask Jason, and they should have been asked about the SLS too before Congress committed us to it.

                Yet again, you try to paint me as some die-hard SLS-supporter.

                Well my apologies if I have it wrong, it’s just that you have not indicated any disbelief that the SLS is not the best choice.

                For instance, you say ULA and SpaceX have to prove themselves before they can be trusted, but regardless, you say that commercial rockets are too small. I’m not sure where you’ve expressed support for anything but the SLS for what NASA should be pursuing today.

                I’ve been wrong before, so maybe I’m wrong now?

                • The citation you request – is answered by my comment about how many crewed missions ULA has been tapped to conduct.

                  The Atlas was used on Gemini as part of Agena – which was an unmanned target spacecraft used to practice rendezvous. I have no doubt that the Atlas V & DIVH could be used in such a capacity (back during Constellation it was my hope the DIVH would be used to launch the CEV).

                  Given how many times I’ve stated as much over the past few days, acting like you are just hearing about it now? Is a tad…inaccurate. Actually? I’ve REPEATEDLY stated that both FH & SLS have to prove themselves first. So, it seems, at best, you’re selectively reading my posts. Actually? The DIVH has never flown a human – so yes, it has to prove viable, as does FH & as does SLS. There are some (myself included) that don’t care who makes the rocket.

                  See, there you go again. I said (& I’m repeating myself again) I’M NOT SOLD ON MULTIPLE LAUNCHES TO CONDUCT DEEP SPACE MISSIONS. That’s not the same as saying that I feel these rocket’s are too small. You really, massively, truly, incredibly, need to stop taking people’s comments out of context.

                  The one example I can cite about building a spacecraft on orbit is the ISS. It took what? 13 years to build it? And that was with the shuttle’s massive payload bay! Supporters of this method ironically complain about how long it is taking SLS to get flying & the length of time between missions. How long do you think it’d take to construct the spacecraft needed using rockets with smaller capabilities than SLS?

                  Lastly, I’ve repeatedly said SpaceX has earned my respect the old fashioned way – they earned it. However, FH is going to have to go through that some process – it’s going to have to fly before it gains my respect. The F9, DIVH, DIV medium, Atlas V & Delta II all have earned my respect – by flying. If there are vehicles I don’t have faith in – it’s because they haven’t flown. Yes, you’re wrong – as I’ve said as much, several times over the past few days. You’ve missed each & every time I’ve stated as much – choosing to highlight sections of what I said – instead of reading the whole thing.

          • Ben Harrison

            Congresses’ come & go – maybe we’ll get one that will put NASA on a modular path for exploration. I know it’s hard – but hang in there.

            That’s a big “maybe”. It’s also something like a $40 billion bet.

            The two studies I pointed out earlier would have allowed us to be out exploring far sooner with the same NASA budget, and we could have focused a far larger percentage of the budget on exploration hardware.

            As of today NASA is spending $0 on exploration hardware.

            Maybe you have faith in Congress to approve a continuous series of human BEO missions, but it’s been over 40 years since a Congress has done that all the way through completion. What has changed?

            • Jeez & here I was just trying to be positive & encourage you to hang in there. I have no control over Congress – do you?

              Are you still on about your favorite studies? I have a load I can drag out – that doesn’t mean I expect the world to believe as I do & adopt them. My advice? No matter which side you’re on in terms of space – expect disappointment.

              Orion & SLS are considered exploration hardware. What you should say is: “As of today NASA is spending $0 on exploration hardware – that I personally approve of.”

              I have no faith in Congress, in the President, in NewSpace, OldSpace or humanity in general. Again, you’re putting words in my mouth. In fact, you’ve misrepresented much of what I’ve stated, you’ve ignored other elements repeatedly over the past few days. I’ve already told you to stop doing this. Let me be clear. – It’s ticking me off. I’ve tried to be nice to you but the tone of this comment is rude given the comment it is responding to. Mind your manners.

              • Ben Harrison

                Jeez & here I was just trying to be positive & encourage you to hang in there.

                Yes you were. I guess the sequester for NASA and many other things does not give me much hope right now. Plus, since I feel the SLS is likely to harm NASA far more than benefit it, that’s why I feel the way I do.

                I want NASA to succeed, and want the U.S. to be out exploring space. You certainly have shown that you do too, we just have different views on how that should happen.

                Are you still on about your favorite studies?

                I only point them out because people have said that space exploration can’t be done with anything less than an HLV, and that’s not the consensus within NASA or the aerospace community. Some do think that, but it has not been proven. I only brought it up to show that if Congress had wanted to answer the question about whether an HLV truly was needed, we had proposals that could have been used to test them.

                Orion & SLS are considered exploration hardware.

                A rocket moves mass, it doesn’t explore. Most of the SLS ends up on the ocean floor, which I wouldn’t call the exploration space.

                The MPCV is more nuanced. Though it could be used for exploration, it lacks an airlock and many other features needed in a true exploration vehicle. I consider it transportation, since it’s main function is to get crew to and from the exploration location, and to act as a lifeboat in case something goes wrong. The MPCV will be supplanted by real exploration vehicles once a real mission is funded.

                • I had high hopes for the VSE. In this business? – Get used to disappointment. Yes we do have different ways of going about it. I want a modular path, one that can incorporate different vehicles & designs. Those that prove to be viable fill needed positions. Those that don’t – go away.

                  People also believe in Bigfoot. You shouldn’t let what someone with a keyboard (myself included) says affect your decisions & thoughts. You raise a good point. The biggest Achilles heel that NASA has? Is the government that controls what it does.

                  Ben, (sighs, rubs his eyes) without a rocket, whichever rocket – you’re not going to go into space & explore. NASA & its reps have stated that SLS will be used to send Orion to an Asteroid & Mars. Sorry, but you don’t like SLS & Orion & are trying to parse things, to massage words to better suit your worldview. Just because you don’t like them does not mean that their purpose is not to conduct exploration missions. The use of the word “real” – is childish. Just because you don’t like it – doesn’t make it less “real.” What you or I personally consider something – is irrelevant. It’s also pretty arrogant to think you can state something is what you think it is – & then expect the world to agree with you. These systems stated purpose is for exploration. Personally? I don’t see certain spacecraft & launch systems as viable (I’m not going to say which as that will open a can of worms). However, the companies producing those systems say they are, they say there is a market for them. Great. Prove it. In essence, that’s what I’m recommending you try. Give folks the benefit of the doubt, or perhaps a better way to look at it is – give the systems you don’t like – enough rope to hang themselves with.

              • Ben Harrison

                I have no faith in Congress, in the President, in NewSpace, OldSpace or humanity in general. Again, you’re putting words in my mouth.

                I don’t mean to, but I guess this gets back to the sense I get from you that there is no acceptable alternative to the SLS. Please do tell me if I’m wrong. Is there something other than the SLS that you would advocate for to replace the SLS today?

                A smaller exploration architecture? A transportation system that is not owned by the government?

                And let me point out that you have assumed that I support Falcon Heavy as a replacement for the SLS, which I don’t. I didn’t take it personally, because these discussions can be pretty comprehensive and deep, and keeping track of what everyone says is pretty time consuming.

                If I ask a question that infers something that isn’t right, please do tell me. I’m just trying to understand everyone’s motivations and points of view, and that can only be done by asking questions. Apparently not always worded clearly.

                • Today? I don’t think so. I just wish that we could invest in a variety of concepts, allow them to grow & fail – but the funds aren’t there. Moreover, the one thing I’m against is having NASA constantly given missions, having them cancelled, given new missions, having them unfunded and on & on.

                  Actually Ben, I assume you support ULA, that’s what your comments have led me to believe. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

                  My motivation? is to see humanity explore deep space. To see us build an infrastructure, step by step ever outward. I give less than a damn which rockets & spacecraft get us there. I hope that’s clear enough.

  • The New Space community needs to stop worrying about Orion and SLS and start worrying about finding an commercial justification for ISS beyond 2020 that will make-up for the lost funding that is to come.

    I believe many see it differently. The serious players don’t expect the government to be a reliable source of revenue. They expect to replace the I.S.S. rather than extend its life.

    Bigelow thinks there may be a demand for his Alpha station. He’s just waiting for the crew vehicle that will be able to take people there and back (perhaps by 2015, but certainly by 2017.)

    This will be very embarrassing for NASA. In just a few years, the $150 billion I.S.S. may be replaced by an $500 million Alpha station with twice the crew capacity.

    This is also likely to create some blowback on the SLS as well.

    • The serious players don’t expect the government to be a reliable source of revenue. They expect to replace the I.S.S. rather than extend its life.

      Well, were it not for the gov’t, none of the commercial space companies would have anything more than PowerPoint rockets.

      Your statement sounds eerily like the 2004 Futron study on space tourism which has become more SciFi script than anything in 9 short years. But as long as those pursuing those dreams aren’t trying to fund them via NASA’s human spaceflight program, what do I care.

      This will be very embarrassing for NASA. In just a few years, the $150 billion I.S.S. may be replaced by an $500 million Alpha station with twice the crew capacity.

      I think the embarrassment will be the other way. There’s no economic justification for commercial access to LEO outside of NASA. Otherwise, as commercial space companies, at least in name, SpaceX and Sierra Nevada would have investors beating a path to their doors to get a seat. They are not experiencing that. Quite the opposite.

      In June 2010 Elon said, “Also, under no circumstances would SpaceX be seeking a financing round from the taxpayers. That doesn’t make any sense. That was several hundred million dollars ago. He’s right, of course. It makes no sense for the gov’t to be funding the DDT&E of assets that it will neither own nor control.

      But most importantly for those who support the notion of “commercial space”, is why Elon went back on his word? That’s a question that New Space should focus on like a laser.

      In the end, WSJ’s Andy Pazstor will be more right than Musk–to get Dragon ready for crews, and not just NASA crews, as it will take far nearer to $1B of gov’t money than Elon’s quip of none.

      http://www.pehub.com/73752/elon-musk-weighs-in-on-wsj-piece-and-future-of-spacex/

      • Ben Harrison

        It makes no sense for the gov’t to be funding the DDT&E of assets that it will neither own nor control.

        The government does that all the time, especially when the product or service isn’t already available in the commercial world. Companies also do this quite frequently when they contract with other commercial companies for custom products and services. This is not an issue with Commercial Crew.

        • So I’ve been in the oil & gas business for 25 years and software business for the last 5. Now, I have to tell you, nobody ever paid me to drill a well of which I subsequently owned all of the production. And nobody but nobody has ever approached me and paid me to write an iOS app that I would own, from which I would solely profit, and which the entity who paid me to create it would still have to pay to acquire it.

          COTS and CC inherit their programatic, procurement really, structure from the EELV program. One could argue that EELV inherited its structure from what became the C-17 program. But there are differences. NASA, the AF, NRO, etc. all buy a Delta IV or an Atlas V. Same with the C-17. Never before has the U.S. gov’t paid private enterprise money for DDT&E and then paid rents (money) to use products for which the gov’t paid very nearly all of the funding.

          EELV has been an abysmal failure financially. Both Boeing and LockMart nearly shut-down their EELV lines because they were bleeding so much red. That was because the economic assumptions that underlay the EELV program of an explosion of launch business never materialized. Because the volume of launches was so much lower than expected, launch costs did not benefit from expected economies of scale. This caused launch prices to rise to the point where vendors who might have wanted to launch on an EELV simply couldn’t afford to do so. So in the end, the EELV companies Boeing and LockMart were left with the gov’t, the program’s anchor customer, as pretty much the sole customer. By 2003, they were ready to throw in the towel.

          By 2005 ULA was created by DoD through the merger of the Boeing and LockMart EELV launcher systems. Naturally, SpaceX sued to stop this merger, but thankfully was rebuffed on national security grounds. Imagine where we’d be had SpaceX succeeded in stopping ULA’s creation?

          A lot of old-hands who’ve been to this rodeo before see too many similarities to EELV and commercial crew. And that’s what’s causing concern. Now, if the “commercial” space companies were spending their own investors funds, rather than suckling very nearly solely from the government, this wold be a moot issue. But that isn’t the case. And the New Space community needs to answer why investors seem so reticent to invest in “commercial” space. And I hope everyone does catch the irony of that last sentence.

          • Now, if the “commercial” space companies were spending their own investors funds, rather than suckling very nearly solely from the government, this wold be a moot issue.

            They are not “suckling very nearly solely from the government” and they are “spending their own investors funds.” This is calumny.

            • Rand,

              What’s the ratio of gov’t to private funding for:

              1) SpaceX
              2) Sierra Nevada
              3) Boeing

              According to Musk in 2011 Congressional testimony, nearly 10% of SpaceX funding as a whole has been from private sources. That means the gov’t has funded over 90% of SpaceX development so far. And I think we can agree that SpaceX is the high-water mark in the ratio of gov’t to private funding for commercial space.

              For commercial crew, given that NASA has already spent $1.156B on commercial crew in FY11-FY13 and the President plans on spending $3.4252B on commercial crew in FY14-FY18, for an estimated total gov’t outlay of $4.5812B for commercial crew, the percentage of gov’t funding is asymptotically 100%. Bear in mind, in June 2010, Elon said that he wouldn’t seek any more gov’t money because, “It doesn’t make sense”.

          • And nobody but nobody has ever approached me and paid me to write an iOS app that I would own, from which I would solely profit, and which the entity who paid me to create it would still have to pay to acquire it.

            Then you’re doing it wrong. Ask Bill Gates about his early relationship with IBM. This may also explain any discrepancy between your net worth and Bill’s.

            Every programmer I know keeps his own intellectual property. Even when they sign a contract that explicitly says they don’t. It’s one of the nasty truths of the s/w business.

          • Ben Harrison

            So I’ve been in the oil & gas business for 25 years and software business for the last 5. Now, I have to tell you, nobody ever paid me to drill a well of which I subsequently owned all of the production.

            Obviously you are in the wrong business if you want to own the fruits of your labors.

            Just to be clear, that is “humor”.

            But I don’t see how that changes the fact that in many commercial and government business arrangements, that the customer pays for a supplier to develop a capability. One of the more public examples I have seen in the news is Apple fronting their suppliers money to build their factories. Happens all the time.

  • There’s no economic justification for commercial access to LEO outside of NASA.

    Six nations that have signed agreements with Bigelow disagree with you. But we really don’t need to speculate because in a few short years this question will be answered.

    I don’t know how you can say taxpayers paying 300 times for half the capacity could not be an embarrassment for the govt. even if Bigelow never gets a single customer.

    [If] not for the gov’t, none of the commercial space companies would have anything more than PowerPoint rockets.

    In order to believe that you have to completely ignore what SpaceX did before the govt. was ever involved. Plus, the govt. isn’t just handing over money to SpaceX like it was some university. They are paying for service which is an entirely different thing.

    Development of the super dracos would have been delayed if the government didn’t require a LAS, that’s all. The Dragon doesn’t need it to fly crew. The government wants it and pays for a small part of it’s development. This is a bargain, unlike much of the governments wasteful spending.

    The govt. is a customer. They ask for more than most customers are asking. They pay for that. The government isn’t just handing them candy.

    • Six nations that have signed agreements with Bigelow disagree with you.

      Was that before or after Bigelow laid-off nearly half its staff in late 2011 in large part due to the realization that commercial crew wasn’t going to happen as fast as thought.

      Who are these governments?

      Let’s do a thought experiment as to the so-called commercial driver that you argue exists for commercial crewed LEO access:
      1) What’s the product or service driving private enterprise funding to commercial crew?
      2) How much private investment has been put into commercial crew?
      3) How does the funding of 3) match-up to the annual VC funding of Silicon Valley in 2012Q4 of $3.166B and all of 2012 of $11.628B? (I know the answer but want you to see it for yourself)
      4) Why the very, very large orders-of-magnitude difference?
      5) So if there is a compelling commercial interest in, why the trouble in raising private capital?

      https://www.pwcmoneytree.com/MTPublic/ns/moneytree/filesource/exhibits/Q4%202012_Full%20Year%202012_MoneyTree_Summary_Report.pdf

      In order to believe that you have to completely ignore what SpaceX did before the govt. was ever involved.

      So let’s review what SpaceX did before the gov’t got involved. Well, it turns-out, not much. Elon did start Falcon 1 on his own. But it took $115 million in seed funding from the NRL’s TacSat program to get the company over the finish line.

      SpaceX was supposed to launch TacSat-1 by May 2004. It said it was ready in May 2005 to do so from Vandenberg. Upon review by the AF West Test Range of SpaceX’s Falcon 1 systems engineering documentation (there wasn’t any, and no, I can’t reveal the source of that), SpaceX was kicked-out of Vandenberg. This is hard to believe–these jokers wanted to launch an untested Falcon 1 next to a Titan IV carrying a $1.5B national security asset payload. It turns-out that the AF’s concerns about the possibility of a Falcon 1 “launch anomaly” were valid. Between 2006-2008, SpaceX lost 3 Falcon 1’s. That first loss, had it occurred at Vandenberg, would have cost the US that Titan IV and SpaceX its business. So SpaceX in a way owes its survival to the Air Force’s actions of excluding it from launching at Vandenberg for 7 years. By the time SpaceX was ready to actually launch TacSat-1 in late 2008, OSC had launched TacSat-2 two years before. So the Air Force ended the TacSat-1 launch. Hard to make this stuff up.

      • “Time and unforeseen circumstance” effects everybody. Last I checked, SpaceX is part of everybody. I’m rather happy with how it turned out for them.

        Bigelow lay-offs

        Just means that Bigelow was managing his business, but you count it as something bad? Yes, he had expectations others did not meet. This is what happens in the real world.

        Who are these governments?

        United Kingdom, Netherlands, Australia, Singapore, Japan and Sweden.

        Go to Bigelow’s site and you can add others like the UAE.

        How much private investment has been put into commercial crew?

        Enough. A significant amount for those involved. Take your pick. You go ahead and keep believing it’s all about government spending. To expect a company not to be infected with some govt. money at this time is completely unrealistic. It’s like saying the airline industry is invalid because they once carried the mail. In a couple of years I promise I’ll get back to you on this.

        We will not know what the market is for the Alpha Station until it’s in orbit and customers step up (ask Jason about future speculation.) All I said was that some people see the future of I.S.S. differently, which you didn’t refute because you can’t (nobody could, it was a very carefully chosen phrase.)

        You also did not address my points that…

        I don’t know how you can say taxpayers paying 300 times for half the capacity could not be an embarrassment for the govt. even if Bigelow never gets a single customer.

        Emphasis added.

        • rktsci

          Bigelow has had several rounds of layoffs over the years. Food for thought.

          • Bigelow isn’t the only game in town. Others may implement his plans but haven’t announced, as he has, that they would do so.

            At this early stage of the game things don’t tend to run smoothly. It’s like when I managed restaurants as a kid. A store with 20 employees is much easier to deal with than one that only has ten.

  • These links provide funding info…

    Here and here.

    • This stops with 2014 funding. You’re missing 2015-2018 funding.

      Also, you’re missing the President’s outyear estimated funding requests, as detailed in the FY14 NASA Budget. Between FY14 and FY18, the President expects to spend a total of $3.4252B on commercial crew.

      FY 2014 PRESIDENT’S BUDGET REQUEST SUMMARY

      • I didn’t include funding in 2025 either.

        • With the end of ISS ($4B annually), Orion DDT&E ($1.2B annually) and SLS DDT&E ($2B annually), that leaves $4B – $6.2B for crewed exploration beginning in the early 2020′s. Even at $1B per launch, that’s 4 – 6 missions annually.

    • Interesting. You don’t have any response to the points I asked you to address.

      That’s ok. I think it’s going to be a great article down-the-road, “Commercial Space Unable To Find Private Funding Gov’t Steps-In To Save The Day”

      • Gov’t commercial crew funding:

        Fiscal Year Funding
        FY11-FY13 $1.156B
        FY14-FY18 $3.4252B
        Total Funding $4.5812B

        You’re stipulating that the above mentioned private sources are investing anywhere near $4.5812B? You’re going to have to provide some numbers to back that up.

        • Now you’re offering a non-sequitur. The fact that the government is spending billions to satisfy its own needs does not mean that “Commercial Space Unable To Find Private Funding.” It has extensive private funding. Of course no one is going to offer private funding for a customiozed hyperexpensive system for which there is only one customer. Why would they? Let the customer pay for it.

          • Soyuz flights between 2015 through 2016 cost $424M, or $70.7M per astronaut, for 6 astronauts.

            So here are some interesting numbers.

            Cost Comparison of Commerical Crew to Soyuz Costs
            Commercial Crew Cost $4,5812M
            Current Cost Per Soyuz Seat $ 70.7M
            Resulting Number of Seats 65
            Number of Astronauts Flying Annually 4
            Number of Years 16
            Number of Astronauts Flying Annually 8
            Number of Years 8

            Maybe commercial crew isn’t such a bargain after all? And if $4.5812B were turned-over to Orion and SLS, how much sooner would SLS and Orion be done? How much sooner could we start liberating their DDT&E funds of $3.2B annually to fly our 3 SLS missions (I’ll use the nonsensical and undocumented $1T/SLS launch number for now)?

            As it is, Orion will be done by 2016 and SLS by 2017, months, maybe years, before the first commercial crew mission.

            • Ben Harrison

              As it is, Orion will be done by 2016 and SLS by 2017, months, maybe years, before the first commercial crew mission.

              I thought the human-rated version of the SLS won’t be ready until 2021? Has that changed?

              Or are you implying that Congress would throw money at accelerating a human-rated version the SLS, but not provide adequate funding for Commercial Crew?

              • Ben,
                A unmanned SLS is slated to fly Exploration Mission 1 – in 2017. A human-rating means a vehicle has met the requirements to fly a crew. NASA wants to test the rocket before an actual crew flies on it.
                No, that’s not what he’s implying. In fact, that seems to be nothing more than the typical anti-SLS rhetoric. I’m curious – why is it that almost every time someone makes a comment about SLS – the knee-jerk reaction from some is to makes some negative, insecure assumption like this? It really paints those making them in an unattractive light.
                Jason

                • Ben Harrison

                  Mr. Hillhouse seemed like he was comparing apples to apples, which for the MPCV would be a human-rated MPCV and SLS. To my knowledge that combination won’t happen until 2021 at the earliest. Why else make the comparison he did?

                  Commercial Crew doing their demo flights in 2017 would still be years ahead of a MPCV/SLS human-rated system.

                  As for “the typical anti-SLS rhetoric” comment, aren’t we all advocates here? You are certainly pro SLS, and I am certainly not. Although the reason why I am not an SLS advocate is not for the reasons you are for the SLS. Or at least from what I can tell.

                  I think the SLS is too expensive to build and operate, and I don’t see Congress ever allocating enough money to ever use the SLS enough to merit it’s cost. You have even talked about the lack of money from Congress, so though you may not agree, you can see where I get my concern.

                  You seem to see the SLS as the only viable way to do space exploration. That was why I pointed out the industry papers that showed NASA and the aerospace industry think space exploration can be done with current launch systems. Not that it’s somehow “better” than using an HLV, but less costly today and less costly than using the SLS version of an HLV.

                  • Orion’s schedule is artificial. Sources will not go on the record, but in addition to them I know engineers who work on Orion and they are adamant it could be crew-rated by 2016 or earlier. NASA’s delay of such tests as the launch abort are a case in point; that test was ready to be conducted last year but NASA management had other idea. Also, Beth Robinson, NASA CFO, per her newfound religion of the Anti-Deficiency Act, seems to habitually require higher ratios of set-aside money for projects like Orion and SLS, but not so for others. Case in point, she holds back 20-25% of Orion and SLS funds when only holding 10% for such programs as JWST. Just one more effort on her part of withering the vine on Orion and SLS. Never mind that neither SLS nor Orion are even close to being candidates for cancelation, and that in the last two appropriations acts funding NASA, and one sense of Congress vote, that Congress has expressed, literally, its support and backing for SLS and Orion.

                    Most of those within NASA with whom I’ve talked say that everyone is just hunkering-down, doing their jobs, and waiting for the Terrific Trio (Bolden, Garver, Robinson) to finally be tossed-out. Those same program managers and engineers say that once this occurs, once Administration officials aren’t working full-time behind-the-scenes to hold-back Orion and SLS, that progress will accelerate.

                    • whiteflash

                      why would people EVER delay Orion and SLS if they have the funding and the manpower to make it happen earlier???!

                    • Politics. The Administration doesn’t want Orion-SLS. Congress does want Orion-SLS. NASA’s leadership was Aug. 2011 subpoenaed, and came close to a contempt of Congress vote, over its violation of the 2010 NASA Auth. Act, Sec. 309 in their efforts to hold-back the SLS. That Sec. 309 delay was itself to blame for the first test of SLS in 2017 rather than 2016.

                    • whiteflash

                      Thats literally clinically insane, politics is an asylum

                    • whiteflash

                      thanks for the clarification

            • rktsci

              Orion won’t go to ISS. That mission was dropped a while back.

        • Your stipulating that $4.5b is only being spent for development and none of it is payment for services?

          • Look at the way the budget is organized.

            There are two key line items for our purposes,

            Exploration
            Space Operations

            COTS funding fell under Exploration, subsection Commercial Cargo, just as Commercial Crew is currently a part of Exploration Budget. The numbers I quoted were from Exploration, Commercial Space, Commercial Crew.

            All ISS operations costs are under Space Operations. CRS currently falls under Space Operations, not Exploration. That’s because it falls under ISS Operations. When (if) commercial crew contracts are let for commercial crew missions to ISS, those will also fall under the ISS budget within Space Operations, just as Soyuz purchased seats do now.

            • COTS was payment for cargo delivery that included development milestones (which were mostly demonstration of ability to provide service rather than direct development costs.)

              Soyuz purchased seats is also payment for a service.

              So you yourself are saying most of this money is payment for service and not a majority of development costs.

      • Ben Harrison

        “Commercial Space Unable To Find Private Funding Gov’t Steps-In To Save The Day”

        Funny but not corrent Mr. Hillhouse.

        It was the Bush and Obama administrations – the government – who asked the private sector to support the ISS with supplies and crew. The government issued RFP’s and awarded contracts base on the private sector responses.

        The private sector is not asking the government to fund anything beyond what the contracts call out for.

        How is that “saving the day”?

  • Ben Harrison

    From Mr. Hillhouse further above:

    I know you’re earnest in your beliefs that HLV is not the least risky way to do crewed space

    For me, no, I think we can do safe space exploration using either commercial launchers or the SLS. The real issue commercial space supporters are concerned about is summarized nicely by Mr. Simberg from his post above:

    FH will succeed, or not, regardless of what happens to SLS. I oppose SLS because as a taxpayer, it’s a vast waste of money for a vehicle that is unnecessary to get beyond LEO, that is unlikely to ever fly, and if it does, it will be unaffordable to operate. As a space enthusiast, I oppose it because it is sucking up funds for things that we actually need to get humans beyond earth orbit, such as propellant storage technology development, reusable landers and deep-space vehicles.

    It’s all about how much money is available for NASA to use for space exploration.

    Mr. Rhian touched on that above when he said:

    At some point, some people are going to have to give NASA the budget it needs to conduct the missions set before it.

    It appears that even ardent SLS supporters recognize that there is not enough money to use the SLS.

    I guess the question I have for SLS supporters is when will the missions that justify the need for the SLS appear?

    And how long do we wait before finding out there really isn’t enough of a need for an HLV, and that we should have used Delta IV Heavy and our other existing rockets instead?

    • With the end of ISS ($4B annually), Orion DDT&E ($1.2B annually) and SLS DDT&E ($2B annually), that leaves $4B – $6.2B for crewed exploration beginning in the early 2020’s. Even at $1B per launch, that’s 4 – 6 missions annually.

      • Ben Harrison

        OK, you say there will be enough money to launch the SLS, but what about the money for the payloads it’s supposed to fly?

        When will there be enough money to start building payloads and missions for the SLS, and how long it will take before they are ready to fly?

        A small NASA mission like the Mars Science Laboratory took seven years from when the winning proposal was selected to when it launched, and the MSL only weighs one ton. Payloads and missions that merit the SLS will be far larger and more complex.

        And Congress doesn’t seem interested in hearing about a series of large missions that require the SLS.

        Because of these indicators, that’s why many believe that the goal in Congress when they created the SLS was to support jobs in Alabama, Texas and Florida, not to do space exploration.

        Two questions for you:

        1. When will Congress approve to fund the steady stream of missions that will be needed to justify the need for the SLS?

        2. More importantly, what are the indicators you see that make you believe that Congress will gladly fund a series of missions to move something like a million pounds of mass to space every couple of years, when people like you want to throw away the million pound space station we spent so much money on?

  • Just to be clear to everyone, this wasn’t my comment,

    FH will succeed, or not, regardless of what happens to SLS. I oppose SLS because as a taxpayer, it’s a vast waste of money for a vehicle that is unnecessary to get beyond LEO, that is unlikely to ever fly, and if it does, it will be unaffordable to operate. As a space enthusiast, I oppose it because it is sucking up funds for things that we actually need to get humans beyond earth orbit, such as propellant storage technology development, reusable landers and deep-space vehicles.

    • Just to be clear to everyone, this wasn’t my comment.

      Who said it was?

      • Ben Harrison did, though accidentally. See the comment above mine.

        • No, he didn’t. He was quite clear that he was quoting me.

          • Ummm…ok, where does he mention that he’s quoting you? Read his comment again Rand. Ben, this is not meant as a slam against you.

            Ben’s Comment:

            From Mr. Hillhouse further above:

            I know you’re earnest in your beliefs that HLV is not the least risky way to do crewed space

            For me, no, I think we can do safe space exploration using either commercial launchers or the SLS. The real issue commercial space supporters are concerned about is summarized nicely by Mr. Simberg from his post above:

            FH will succeed, or not, regardless of what happens to SLS. I oppose SLS because as a taxpayer, it’s a vast waste of money for a vehicle that is unnecessary to get beyond LEO, that is unlikely to ever fly, and if it does, it will be unaffordable to operate. As a space enthusiast, I oppose it because it is sucking up funds for things that we actually need to get humans beyond earth orbit, such as propellant storage technology development, reusable landers and deep-space vehicles.

            So Rand, where’s your name?

  • So Rand, where’s your name?

    ??

    The real issue commercial space supporters are concerned about is summarized nicely by Mr. Simberg

    To whom did you imagine he was referring?

  • Jeez! Rand, I stand corrected. Sorry.

  • Things are getting a bit busy and confusing in these comments. Was this addressed to me?…

    Interesting. You don’t have any response to the points I asked you to address.

    If so, what points? I’ll be happy to respond to them assuming they are something I feel comfortable expressing an opinion on.

    • These were the points I think those backing the viability of commercial space should at least glance at:

      1) What’s the product or service driving private enterprise funding to commercial crew?
      2) How much private investment has been put into commercial crew?
      3) How does the funding of 3) match-up to the annual VC funding of Silicon Valley in 2012Q4 of $3.166B and all of 2012 of $11.628B? (I know the answer but want you to see it for yourself)
      4) Why the very, very large orders-of-magnitude difference?
      5) So if there is a compelling commercial interest in, why the trouble in raising private capital?

      https://www.pwcmoneytree.com/MTPublic/ns/moneytree/filesource/exhibits/Q4%202012_Full%20Year%202012_MoneyTree_Summary_Report.pdf

      • Ok. I’ll take a shot…

        1) It varies depending on whose mind you want to read. Are you seriously suggesting the hundreds of millions currently being spent by individuals toward human space flight does not represent some kind of drive?

        2) I do not know. I do know it’s more diverse than I could answer and includes private funds of quite a number of millionaires and billionaires.

        3) I do not know. However, the small fraction I do know amounts to over a billion.

        4) Thanks for a simple question. Because of the stage of development. Silicon valley VCs have been around for a while. Private space is guaranteed to pass that level of funding in the years ahead. This isn’t speculation.

        5) Because all investments compete regarding risk and reward. We have not yet reached the point where the high cost has demonstrated a definite profit. [I assert and will have to wait for confirmation that:] This is about to change significantly in a few short years.

        SpaceX for example, has been profitable even before reaching orbit and ever day since. As markets develop, I hope to see others in direct competition with SpaceX beyond ULA.

        I misread Bigelows Alpha Station announcement which doesn’t include the cost of travel. So they expect $26m in profit per person, not the $6m I’ve been saying. This will change everything in a few years.

  • BTW Jim, I like your writing if not always your conclusions. I think a well written article on funding would be something I’d like to see. I want to express appreciation for your efforts (before it gets lost in this rough and tumble.)

    • The funding side is coming up.

      The most frustrating thing is that what we hear and what we’re able to journalistically state is like a 8:1 ratio. As an example, we knew as far back as late 2011 that commercial crew flights to ISS wouldn’t happen until late 2017 or early 2018, but couldn’t write about it because nobody would go on the record. We also were beginning to hear rumbles at that time that the ISS partners were ready to bolt ISS after 2020 because they want to go to the Moon. Now, 2 years later, those rumors aren’t rumors any more, not if you talk to ISS partner employees.

      So the numbers article won’t be near what I wish we could say. But what it says will to those who can follow the budget trend paints a picture that looks pretty bad. And that is, that commercial crew is expecting $821.4M over the next three years but will only maybe $550M during that time. That deficit of nearly $1B will seriously impact when commercial crew goes live. The only way around that is to down-select now. Members of Congress are telling NASA that it’s time to down-select commercial crew participants to 1 or 1 1/2. NASA is loath to do that because it will break the alliance that is barely keeping the commercial crew effort alive and because everyone knows who will loose in that decision–Sierra Nevada. Why SN? Boeing’s participation gives the commercial crew program a lot of street cred, and lobbying money, on Capitol Hill. Without Boeing, commercial crew just has Elon as a deep pocketed lobbying source. And Elon is about as popular as a basket of snakes at a picnic to many, and more importantly the most important, members of Congress on authorization and appropriations. For example, Elon basically went to war with Shelby. That. Was. Stupid.

      • I think your analysis that Boeing will get the down select is probably correct, but again that will lead to an embarrassing situation where Dragon crew is implemented anyway and does it for much less to private ventures.

        One lesson all private companies have to learn is that a contract is not a contract when it’s with the government. The government pays no penalty for screwing with the future of private companies.

      • Ben Harrison

        If there is a competition to down select Commercial Crew from 2.5 to one, don’t be surprised if the contract does go to SpaceX.

        Government rules and laws on contract awards are pretty non-political, and as long as the requirements are fact based and not skewed towards a political outcome, the best proposal will win.

        Right now my bet would be that SpaceX would have the best proposal, both on the technical side and definitely on the cost side. Even if Boeing had the better technical proposal, and the SpaceX proposal at least satisfied the requirements, SpaceX would be the clear winner on price.

        • If it were just a technical issue, Dragon should win hands down. But as Jim says, it’s not. The politics of the situation weighs heavy and Boeing is the 800 pound gorilla in that room.

          • Ben Harrison

            Everyone has to have a proposal that meets the technical requirements. That’s the first filter. But after that, price is a big driver, as is ability of the company to carry out the contract.

            I have not doubt Boeing would have a very strong technical proposal, and there is no doubt about their ability to carry out a contract.

            Which is why I say that SpaceX would win on price, since I think their proposal would also show that they have a solid solution and they have already shown they can carry out missions.

            Since bidding on contracts is governed by law, it would take meddling on the part of Congress to tip the scales in favor of one company or another. We didn’t see that on COTS, nor on CCiCap, and I’m not anticipating any meddling on Commercial Crew.

            I could be wrong, but for some strange reason I have faith in our government procurement process.

  • All,
    We all have our thoughts & opinions. I myself am guilty of getting emotionally involved in these discussions. I’m seeing a need to back off the rhetoric. Allow others to have opposing views – without talking down to them , using condescending & obnoxious comments. I have begun responding in-kind & I’d rather we discuss this as adults.

    If you can’t comment without making a snarky comment or talking down to them – don’t respond.
    Sincerely, Jason Rhian – Editor, AmericaSpace

    • During management training many years ago with the FAA it was pointed out that snarky individuals are exactly the personality types that get drawn into these areas. We are all our own worst enemies.

      • We’re also the worst enemies of what we’re working to accomplish. If we can’t get our act together – we’re never going anywhere.

      • No crewed spacecraft can dock with and transfer crews to ISS without a NASA’s commercial crewed rating. Gov’t crewed indemnification only covers those commercial crewed spacecraft meeting NASA’s commercial crewed rating. Currently neither of these points is I believe codified into law but would quickly be if SpaceX tried a stunt of flying a crew before Dragon had even the most rudimentary tests of its launch abort, parachute deployment, and other crewed rating tests. And no insurance company is going to give the company coverage it can afford without all of that work. In other words, SpaceX must get a clearance from NASA that it meets all of the commercial crew rating standards before it can fly a crew.

        • Why would it be a stunt if crew flew to a private destination, or even just to orbit, rather than the I.S.S?

          Jim, you may be right with regard to working within government purview. But there is an existence outside of that. Really there is. Really.

        • Ben Harrison

          In other words, SpaceX must get a clearance from NASA that it meets all of the commercial crew rating standards before it can fly a crew.

          Which is why no investor would risk their money funding a service for a customer that doesn’t have clear, unchangeable requirements. Congress hasn’t even released funding for the Commercial Crew service itself, so no company could be assured that Congress would provide funding even if the company pays for the development themselves.

          There is a reason the public/private partnership route is rarely used, and that’s because the government is an unreliable partner. And that’s mainly because of Congress, not the well meaning people in NASA and other agencies trying to do something for the greater good.

        • not sure if you’re aware

          Obviously you have not given in completely to the snark dark side. You can’t get the designation ‘Darth’ until you do. /end of lame attempt at humor to defuse a potentially explosive situation.

          Beyond that, retirement is not relevant to the point.

          What point? While NASA may create any rules in the future, the past indicates those rules had not yet been established. Do we know their future direction and impact?

          Beyond that, NASA is not the end of the story. They do not control all space activity or dictate how it will be done (regardless of their financial impact.)

          • Actually, it’s more like I’m tired of people unable to talk to others with respect & treat them how they’re treating others. I hate to sink to this level & have begun taking measures so that I don’t have to.

        • rktsci

          No crewed spacecraft can dock with and transfer crews to ISS without a NASA’s commercial crewed rating.

          Not if it docks to the Russian side.

          • A orbital crewed rocket operating from US territory will have to meet all of NASA’s commercial crew guidelines or it won’t be allowed to launch. If SpaceX wants to launch from some other site, it can’t be stopped. It also will see its funding vaporize.

            Also, don’t forget that, were there an accident on a non-NASA commercial crew rated launch, the launcher will be facing far more than civil fines, as will its leadership.

            • Wolfgang Pauli

              Not even wrong.

            • rktsci

              Commercial spaceflight launches from the US don’t require permission from NASA. They get a launch license from the FAA. Now, the FAA leans on NASA for some expertise, but they make the final determination on issuing a license.

              Now, if the launch is part of the NASA commercial crew program, they do need to get NASA’s signoff.

              And from what I read of the ISS agreements, as of a few years ago, the Russian docking port is under their control, not US. That’s how the various tourists got up there.

      • We all have blind spots. We also read things thru individual filters. I think it’s important to keep our agreements in front of us because we are all supportive of space. I mean, it’s part of your sites name for gosh sake. Personally, I think it’s important to try to embrace those that are often not so easy to embrace. Otherwise, blind spots may never be challenged which is kind of the definition of living in a bubble.

        With regard to high water marks: It is extremely important to understand how those that try and fail contribute to overall success. There would be no SpaceX without that level of risk which even Jim alluded to in showing how close SpaceX itself came to failure.

        You said you once had my level of enthusiasm. I bet it’s still there. I hope the industry has accomplishments that allow it out again. We all have opportunity to be better people. That includes people we don’t necessarily like.

        The future is often balanced on a knife edge and few of us can accurately predict it. However; I’m, very unusually for me, positive about the potential in the private space sector. I think most are pursuing dead ends, but enough aren’t.

        I also see a very large potential profit coming which is going to become a bandwagon others are going to jump aboard. The next decade is going to be very bright for us space cadets because we are getting very close to crossing a tipping point. We aren’t there yet and it could be derailed, but it’s not just a few sources. I really do believe it’s going to happen. [shhh... I didn't reveal this:] …and I’m a clinically depressed pessimist by nature.

        • Ken,
          I agree with much of your first graph. However, when someone is being intentionally misleading or is willing to misrepresent things to push an agenda – sorry but that’s not someone worth being embraced. Those actions are damaging & counter-productive.

          Thanks for the kind words.
          Sincerely, Jason

          • When it comes to snark, Rand is world class, but I’ve never, ever known him to be intentionally misleading. I’ve known him for most of two decades and have felt his sting many times.

            He is one of the good guys. Smack him around if you feel the need (but know it will come at a snark cost.) I find it is best to try to understand his viewpoint before responding. Knee jerk response is unfortunately common when snark is involved. Did I mention his is world class?

            • Well, here’s an example: Jim points out SpaceX serves as a high water mark because they’re conducting actual missions. Simberg then, in an eye-watering display of hypocrisy, asks him if he’s living in a “bubble” – & highlights companies he thinks show Jim isn’t paying attention to NewSpace “successes.” Problem being? Bigelow – no habs have ever carried a human. Blue Origin – no missions conducted. VG – No customers flown. XCOR – No customers flown, Planetary Resources – No asteroids mined, no missions flown. StartoLaunch – no missions flown. That is pretty lowe behavior. I feel sorry that anyone would think this sort of thing has to be accepted – much less tolerated.

              Jim holds up SpaceX’s earned success rate & highlights how it’s pretty much the only company on the map in that regard right now. Simberg? He points to company’s who haven’t – & then talks down to Jim, asking him if he’s living in a bubble. That’s low, reprehensible behavior. When I saw that, any credibility Simberg might have had – evaporated.

              He’s not a good guy from what I’ve seen. A majority of his comments have been inaccurate, misleading, disrespectful & biased. Those that willfully misrepresent the truth & then talk down to others while doing so – don’t belong here. Other websites have tolerated this kind of nonsense for a while now – we don’t. If he can’t act like an adult & has to misrepresent the truth to “win”: some argument – he’s out. Acting that way not only fails to move the conversation in a positive direction – it actually corrupts it with its dishonesty.

              • Problem being?…

                Are those companies failures or just pre-successes?

                Can you justifiably write them off even though money is being spent on them and they do have results even if not the one’s you specify?

                Now see my previous post on me being a buffoon. See you and Rand can have some common ground. ;-)

                • History teaches, they’re more-than-likely the former. Rand’s behavior is reprehensible. We want to have ppl respond to one another with respect – his every word engenders animosity. He brings out the worst. Sorry Ken, I wouldn’t expect to see much more from Mr. Simberg. It’s okay to disagree, but if you have to behave this way to win – you’ve already lost.

                  • History teaches, they’re more-than-likely the former.

                    Absolutely true. This is why I mentioned I see most as dead ends. But the important thing that must not be overlooked is without failures which is a result of risk you have no successes.

                    • We need to have some risk. But to shoehorn a launch vehicle into a role it wasn’t designed for? Sorry. I don’t agree with that.

                    • Ben Harrison

                      I’m certainly guilty of messing up where and to whom I’m responding – one of my bad responses is a couple of posts up. I guess that shows a popular thread?

                      What was this in response to?

                    • Not sure. Given the time frame, it’s prolly one of my more cranky responses. I’ve had my fill of Simbergs today – you & I seem to be communicating rather well – let’s just take it from here. Yes, whenever we discuss Orion, SLS, commercial – the conversations get – good.
                      Sincerely, Jason

                    • I don’t understand what you mean by shoehorn a launch vehicle into a role it wasn’t designed for?

                    • Ken, that should be fairly obvious. Folks want FH to be tasked to what SLS is currently slated to do. I’m not entirely certain that FH is the best vehicle for the job, even under a multi-launch plan.

                      The one example I can cite about building a spacecraft on orbit with multiple launches is the ISS. It took what? 13 years to build it? And that was with the shuttle’s massive payload bay! Supporters of this method ironically complain about how long it is taking SLS to get flying & the length of time between missions. How long do you think it’d take to construct the spacecraft needed using rockets with smaller capabilities than SLS?

                      Moreover, I actually agree with Ben, if you’re going the multi-launch route? Currently? I support the DIVH – as it has three engines, not 27 like FH – & has actually flown – unlike FH.

                    • I’ve already addressed that in a previous comment about not using the assembly of the I.S.S. as a example.

                      You don’t need a 450mt vehicle to go to mars. You can assemble a 40mt vehicle with all systems integration done on the ground and put into orbit with a single launch of a FH.

                      Then all we need is experience doing fuel transfer in orbit which we will need to do regardless of the launch vehicle.

                      While the FH will start with a 53mt payload, a relatively simple new upper stage (article link in a previous post above) might also make it a 70mt vehicle giving no advantage to the first version of the SLS. That variant may even fly before the SLS.

                      If that happens I think we lose the shoehorn altogether.

              • Jim said: “I think we can agree that SpaceX is the high-water mark in the ratio of gov’t to private funding for commercial space.”

                Not: because they’re conducting actual missions.

                Rand is correct regarding the wording. Is he correct in his criticism?

                Since many of the companies Rand listed are getting very little or no government funds, it must be correct regarding ratios.

                Can we see this cool, calm and objectively?

                • I’d like to say yes – but I don’t see how these companies, many of whom have nothing to do with govt. contracts – has to do with one who is getting substantial amounts. From what I’m reading Jim is detailing how SpaceX is probably the peak of the companies that are receiving government funds. Simberg points to a mixed bag, some have, most haven’t received government funds. He caps it off with more snark. When I make a mistake after getting honked off? He then makes everything I’ve stated “wrong” based on the fact that he threw me off with his comments. That’s not the type of individual I want commenting here. He doesn’t move conversations forward – he ruins them.

                  It’s been my experience that when people do what Simberg does – it’s disrespectful to others. No one likes to be talked to in that manner & it makes having a cool, calm objective conversation impossible. Therefore, he has no place here.

                  I need to apologize for misunderstanding what his comments were based off of. I also know, from experience, that he won’t apologize for his repeated obnoxious statements.

                  This serves as an example of how through insulting & angering people – you destroy the conversation. We’re not going to allow that on AS. He can behave this way elsewhere.

          • BTW, Rand considers me an economic / financial nonsense spouting buffoon. This is harsh. It hurts. It does not equate with my almost 40 years of work history. I wish he would respect me enough to criticize me with specificity. He may be wanting to spare me. I don’t know.

            Perhaps my buffoonery is an agreement you and Rand can build upon?… just trying to be helpful. ;-)

  • Leonidas

    I’m not talking about LEO private efforts. Bigelow has launched two modules in orbit but he also mentioned multiple times that lack of space transportation systems for LEO access is what is stalling his companies development efforts.

    As I said in my post, LEO has much potential profit value, that’s why companies like Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, XCOR, Sierra Nevada etc are trying to develop LEO vehicles.

    But my question is, after LEO what? We’ve all talked at some point about hotels on the Moon, and private trips to Mars. For bulding a private hotel on the Moon, don’t you have to first own the land you’re building on? I’m not a legal expert to know the answer, so I ask, does Bigelow or anyone else, have the legal clearing for claiming private ownership for real estate on a celestial body? I don’t know if the Outer Space Treaty is clear on that.

    Many people say that this Treaty is just a piece of paper, but it’s also followed by every major spacefaring government. So, looking at the long run, why would any private company want to build an Earth-Moon space infrastructure in the first place, if they can’t own a piece of land there, to exploit commercially, for permanent human settlement, commerce or whatever?

    That was the tonne of my post. How is space going to be opened up to the average person, if they can’t have property and real estate rights there? Why would a private company want to invest on Earth-Moon access and beyond, if they can’t have a valid return on investment? If someone is more knowledgeable on these legal subjects, I’d appreciate their input.

  • SpaceX … would have investors beating a path to their doors

    If they ever go public, which would counter Elon’s plans I suspect or they already would have.

    You don’t think investors would?

  • I agree that proponents of Falcon Heavy need to actually wait until it is flying before making claims about it. (Same goes for SLS, though.) Especially when it comes to price.

    I agree that Falcon Heavy is not a slot-in replacement for an SLS lunar exploration mission.

    I agree that there are launch vehicles which have better flight histories than any SpaceX launch vehicle.

    It’s not entirely apparent to me that avoiding Earth-orbit rendezvous mission modes makes any sense anymore. The arguments against it are straight out of the 1960s and no longer valid (if they were ever valid). The US (and Russia) has decades of experience doing assembly in low Earth orbit now. Solar-electric propulsion is available now and solar-thermal is not far off, as well as electrodynamic tethers and other options for boosting an assembled payload to higher orbits.

  • What if the FH was actually a 70mt launch vehicle as this article suggests?

    How does that compare with the SLS?

    Costing 1/5 to 1/10 for the same payload.

    Available years sooner.

    We live in interesting times.

    • See my repeated comments about launch vehicles proving themselves first.

      The only comparison I see – is that neither have flown.

      How do you know how much they will cost given that neither have flown? Costs tend to go up AFTER these vehicles fly, when they actual cost of operating & maintaining them is revealed. SO these “costs” – are currently fiction.

      How do you know it will be able to complete lunar missions years sooner – neither have flown?

      We live in annoying times. Ones that require we make people PROVE what they say they will do. Ken, you just ignored everything I’ve said about how I believe launch vehicles should be required to prove themselves first. Until either fly – the PowerPoints. wistful articles, CGI imagery & musings of “experts” – don’t amount to much as far as I’m concerned. I don’t place value in what people say. I could say I own a Unicorn ranch.

      • Ben Harrison

        If you’ve already covered this, please do point me to it. But what is it that you imagine will happen when Falcon Heavy proves itself?

        Since it already has three flights lined up by 2015, and a potential Mars flight in 2018, what if those all go successfully? What then?

        Are you advocating that Congress should then reconsider the SLS?

        Or are you advocating that the SLS should also be flown enough to be proven, and then enter into a competition between all the available proven commercial launchers?

        • I don’t “imagine.” I wait for it to happen. I’m a journalist – not a fortune teller. If it proves itself – then I’ll add it to the list of launch vehicles that should be considered for projects (Atlas, Delta IV, Falcon 9). Until then? It’s a paper rocket & stating it will or won’t do something – is arrogant & dangerous.

          What if? Is that what you base your space planning on – what ifs? I base mine on proven vehicles, numbers & facts.

          Yes, sure, if a multi-launch plan can be proven to construct a spacecraft in a reasonable time frame – then yes.

          I think what I would say (you’re the one who likes to use a crystal ball – I tend to avoid making predictions). Actually, I like the idea of having possible mission concepts be demonstrated & the most viable one wins.

          • Ben Harrison

            OK, good answers. And I forgotten that you are the editor of this site, so maybe I should be asking different kinds of questions.

            As a journalist, why do you think Congress skipped the evaluation process that would have taken into account our current proven rockets?

            And why do you think Congress has not yet funded any missions for the SLS? The President has proposed a number of missions, but none are funded, and it’s getting pretty late in the game for getting them ready by 2021. Have you heard any scuttlebutt about why they have been so reluctant?

            • To your Congress question – yes – but with a caveat. I think Congress was unconvinced about the viability of the commercial movement – & wanted a backup. I think they were disappointed that President Obama opted to cancel the manned human exploration program of record – & took pains to correct this real or perceived oversight.

              That’s a great question. Optimistically? I think Congress is waiting for the economic climate to improve. Pessimistically? I think that those that claim SLS is a “jobs creator” – might be at least somewhat correct.

              I did this during the last dust up – I’m going to reach out to my sources in Congress/NASA – and ask them your last question. Mainly? Because you’re not the only one asking it.

              But let me to do what I’ve stated I never do – & make a prediction. The NewSpacers who visit here, if they get a response that counters their personal beliefs – will just deny the validity of the statement. This isn’t me making a rude comment about how they will react – this is me citing my experiences during similar articles.

              Thank you for providing me with such thoughtful questions & for bringing up an issue (funding for missions) that has been raised repeatedly. I know that the response I get will provide great reading and I really appreciate that.

              • Ben Harrison

                I think Congress was unconvinced about the viability of the commercial movement – & wanted a backup.

                The SLS is not a backup, it’s the only way forward that Congress is considering.

                And at the time when Congress was mandating the SLS, the “commercial movement” in rocket launchers here in the U.S. consisted of Delta IV Heavy and Atlas V, which are owned and operated by Boeing and Lockheed Martin, and the much smaller capacity Falcon 9 v1.0 by SpaceX.

                The Falcon Heavy was not announced until the following year, so are you saying that Congress doubted the abilities of Boeing and Lockheed Martin? They were really the only commercial alternative at that point.

                Why is it when the term “commercial movement” is used, that people ignore ULA? I don’t understand that.

                It’s kind of like this article, where it assumes that it’s a SLS vs Falcon Heavy issue, but that totally ignores that ULA has detailed plans to upsize both Atlas and Delta beyond what the SLS can do.

                Why would Congress doubt that Boeing and Lockheed Martin could handle anything that NASA needed? They are the ones building the SLS and MPCV.

                No need to answer every question, but any thoughts in general?

                • What I meant was – Congress wanted a manned space exploration program – not to have place everything in the commercial basket.

                  I think Congress doubted COTS, CCDev. You need to broaden your field of vision.

                  Is ULA involved with COTS? Is it involved with CRS? The one commercial program (in terms of NASA) it’s involved with – is CCiCap – as a launch services provider. The thing is, commercial is, & probably incorrectly so, tied with many of the newer, smaller firms. Mainly because, without these efforts – they would more-than-likely lack the funding to accomplish much in a timely manner. SpaceX, I’d estimate, would probably be no where near as far along as it is – if not for the funds it has received from NASA. Because SpaceX is involved with both, their Falcon 9 is the king of commercial space right now. Look at how little progress the rest have been making. Orbital is only involved with cargo, SNC is only involved with crew – they’re lagging way behind SpaceX. Boeing? They don’t need commercial crew or cargo – they’re well established.

                  Boeing, Lock-Mart & ULA can & will survive without commercial cargo & crew.

                  I think that, as some are biased toward SLS or are biased toward SpaceX – you’re biased toward ULA. The article does not “assume” anything – it addresses comments made in the Av Week Op-Ed. I don’t appreciate it when people ignore that. This wasn’t a conversation we invented – it’s one we weighed in on. If you have issue with it – I suggest you take it up with the person who penned the Op-Ed. He made the argument between SLS & FH – not us. We just responded.

                  Personally? I don’t want this to be just about Boeing/LMCO – I want multiple companies competing as it drives down cost. My thoughts are – we spend too much time criticizing, tearing one another down about semantics & not nearly enough time working together. My thoughts are that until we stop this “us versus them” commentary – it doesn’t matter which vehicle is better – because none of them are going to get very far with people on the opposite “side” doing everything they can to tear them apart before they even launch.

                  • Ben Harrison

                    What I meant was – Congress wanted a manned space exploration program – not to have place everything in the commercial basket.

                    If the Constellation program wasn’t being cancelled, and the Ares I & V work didn’t exist, then maybe that would be the explanation. But what Senator Nelson said was that they didn’t want to lay off all those workers, and others said they didn’t want to waste the Shuttle technology base.

                    That is theory that many people have for why Congress didn’t officially look into any other alternatives to the SLS. Right or wrong, that is the perception.

                    I think Congress doubted COTS, CCDev. You need to broaden your field of vision.

                    If so, is there any evidence of that? No need to provide details, just that it is somewhere in the record for me to dig up. I like to find source material for what I depend upon.

                    But part of the reason I have questions about that is that that COTS & CCDev had nothing to do with BEO exploration, so it shouldn’t have been a factor.

                    Is ULA involved with COTS?

                    Both Boeing and Lockheed Martin submitted bids, and both lost. We’d have to ask Michael Griffin why.

                    Personally? I don’t want this to be just about Boeing/LMCO – I want multiple companies competing as it drives down cost.

                    As do I, but you know that won’t happen with the government owned SLS, since NASA won’t be allowed to use any other launcher, regardless of cost. And everything will be built for the SLS, not the existing rockets. The SLS is a closed exploration system.

                    • Obama’s decision decimated the infrastructure at KSC. If, as I even highlight in my previous responses, Congress pushed SLS to maintain the aerospace infrastructure at KSC/CCAFS? Good. Because if an entire community has to be destroyed just so one-two companies can succeed – the price is too high. There are some petty people who push the NewSpace movement. They didn’t get their projects approved, or weren’t taken seriously or whatever, now, they’re willing to do/say anything to tear NASA down & further their own agenda. If there is anything that makes me “anti-NewSpace” – it is this behavior. I’ve tried to be polite, but have failed recently & developed a knee-jerk response to some of the bitterness that comes out of that camp. I’m very disappointed at how these people act & even more disappointed that I let their negative behavior affect me.

                      More to your point. Obama wanted no human space exploration, all commercial (this is over-simplified but essentially historically accurate). Congress wanted to preserve U.S. human space exploration infrastructure, to not waste 7 years of work & more than $9 billion invested. Sorry, but I agree with that part of it. Do I think they planned to salvage human BEO efforts? Not entirely.

                      Perceptions are the problem. Almost every commentor here has expressed very polarized views & perceptions, they pick at the specifics that naggle them & refuse to see others’ points of view. Likewise, many appear unable to show any appreciation when members of the opposing “side” agree with them. I’m trying to see the points others raise however, when commenters harp on & on about certain things while completely ignoring what I post, twist it around in order to win some argument? That gets old – fast. Again, you need to look at what people are saying as a whole – not on tiny specific points.

                      Take a look at one of the key elements targeted by sequestration – commercial crew. If you need more proof that Congress is unsure about Commercial – it’s there, the comments have been made by members of Congress repeatedly. I appreciate what you’re trying to gather – but I don’t have time to do the research for you. Sorry. Moreover, your point about how commercial efforts should not be a factor with BEO – is ironic given that most of the anti-SLS crowd hail from the pro-commercial camp & would like nothing better than to see SLS cancelled & those funds going into their selected companies’ coffers. The way I see it, if the pro-SLS crowd is pushing back on commercial – it’s retaliation for the gross disrespect these people use as a daily currency. Payback – can be rough.

                      Thanks for proving my point about ULA & commercial. I think it’s unfair to blame everything on Mike Griffin.

                      Government owned Apollo, government owned shuttle. I know NewSpacers have a real beef with this – too bad. It’s not my call to make & if SLS can get us beyond LEO – I’m tentatively for it. NewSpacers act like the government owning SLS is some new thing. It isn’t, there are a ton of initiatives/programs/NASA efforts that the govt. “owns.” To act like this is some new thing is to be, at best, disingenuous. I see it like this, they feel threatened by SLS, or feel cheated they couldn’t bid on the effort & are willing to say or do anything to tear it down. If I come out in defense of SLS – it’s probably because the behavior, which is in some cases pretty reprehensible, makes me do so. I know this might be hard for some to grasp (not you in particular) but the ugly kid in the room often gains supporters/defenders when he’s insulted & beat up every day.

                      I’m well aware that SLS is a closed operating system. The question is – why are you trying to make me a SLS-supporter (yet again). This raises a severe problem I’ve noted lately.

                      I mention the behavioral problems of NewSpace as it has repeatedly reared their ugly head here. For a long while, I first took to trying to get them to change, but I’ve increasingly become frustrated and begun responding in-kind. This isn’t acceptable. As such, I’ve opted to whenever I see this type of behavior to put a halt to it then & there before it sends the conversation into the toilet. If folks can’t win their point any other way than by posting obnoxious comments – then they’ve already lost. We value all of our readers – & refuse to allow intelligent people be treated this way (I know this is wildly off topic from what you were saying – my apologies).

                      I’ve paid attention to how these long threads devolve, it usually starts with the two sides showing proof, numbers, studies, whatever that they feel show the other “side” is wrong. When the other side doesn’t proclaim them geniuses – they start slinging mud & calling names. The discussion gets heated, any valid points are lost in the emotion (I myself am guilty of this) and nothing of value really emerges other than more animosity between the two sides. I’m considering closing AS comments because of this. I just don’t see how calling people names or constantly telling each other how wrong we are accomplishes anything of merit.

                • Ben,

                  There is no possibility of uprating Delta IV Heavy beyond that of an SLS unless you allow the architecture of the Delta IV to advance while holding SLS at Block I. Here’s a link to the ULA study that discusses the outcome of an uprated ULA Delta IV Heavy,

                  http://www.ulalaunch.com/site/docs/publications/DeltaIVLaunchVehicle%20GrowthOptionstoSupportNASA'sSpaceExplorationVision.pdf

                  Now, look at the numbers on page 4 and notice that the C3=0 capability never reaches higher than around 38 mt. SLS B-II will meet or exceed that capability. And with the F-1 liquid booster and the already planned cryogenic second-stage, SLS would exceed that C3=0 capability.

                  Core booster diameter increase is one metric to increase payload lift. According to an MAF source working on SLS, the tooling for SLS can be pretty quickly changed to move the barrel diameter of the core stage from 8.3 m to 10 m, what many consider to be the optimal diameter for an HLV. I do not know whether such flexibility exists for the Delta IV; their highest rated variant requires a core diameter change as well. Change the SLS core booster diameter, which would, just as with such a change in the Delta IV have to go through a thorough DDT&E effort, would increase SLS payload significantly and far above any conceived variant of the Delta IV.

                  Lastly, not one significant subsystem on the current Delta IV or Atlas V is human-rated. That must also be built into any claim of substituting Delta IV or Falcon 9 for SLS. As Tom Stafford testified in March 2010, human-rating of the Titan rocket was not as nearly as easy as many thought it’d be, though it did make for a far more dependable Titan down-the-road.

                  • Ben Harrison

                    There is no possibility of uprating Delta IV Heavy beyond that of an SLS unless you allow the architecture of the Delta IV to advance while holding SLS at Block I.

                    My basic questions were oriented towards why Congress didn’t consider a non-government solution, or a non-HLV solution.

                    Since I think everyone would agree that Boeing and Lockheed Martin are far more able to build and operate a rocket on their own than NASA is, the size of the rocket is immaterial. Our aerospace industry is more than capable enough to build anything NASA needs.

                    Lastly, not one significant subsystem on the current Delta IV or Atlas V is human-rated.

                    As Mr. Simberg would say, you don’t human-rate pieces and parts, you human-rate the entire launch system. If that is true, then the SLS is not human-rated either, but at least the Delta IV Heavy has a lot of launch history to point to. The SLS doesn’t.

                    But just as a reference, the President of ULA, Mr. Gass, testified before Congress that both the Atlas V and Delta IV Heavy could be human-rated, and that the cost for Delta IV Heavy was around $1.3 billion.

                    I don’t see technical issues as a reason not to use Boeing or Lockheed Martin, nor even now SpaceX and Orbital. NASA is more than able to evaluate bids for technical competence, and as long as we dual source everything then the risk is pretty low.

                    However as long as we use the government-owned, single-source SLS, we have no options, and no way to use the private sector to lower launch costs for the next couple of decades.

                    Thank you for you time, and I’ll bow out now. See you on a future topic.

                    • My basic questions were oriented towards why Congress didn’t consider a non-government solution, or a non-HLV solution.

                      The definitive story as to the origin of the current space architecture hasn’t yet been written, but here’s some insight from someone who was there. As it turns-out, Congress was cognizant of efforts by ULA and SpaceX to have the future HLV architecture based on one of their launchers. It was obviously aware of side-mount Shuttle. All of those efforts were rebuffed for a variety of reasons.

                      http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=31548.msg1037781#msg1037781

                      President of ULA, Mr. Gass, testified before Congress that both the Atlas V and Delta IV Heavy could be human-rated, and that the cost for Delta IV Heavy was around $1.3 billion.

                      Yes, the current DIVH can be crew-rated for $1.3B and we’ve now got a crew-rated 29 mt LEO launcher. I’m ready for commercial crew money to go into that now.

      • Ken, you just ignored everything I’ve said about how I believe launch vehicles should be required to prove themselves first.

        I pointed out an article that said the FH may be able to do a 70mt payload matching the expected payload of the SLS.

        It’s a hypothetical question. I’m not asserting that either of the paper rockets will be have a payload of 70 mt. So I’m not ignoring you at all. I’m just asking what if?

        You sound like you don’t think I understand your point, but I certainly do. There is a world of difference between what has been done and what might be done. In that, I agree with you 100 percent.

        • If I sound like anything, it comes from being ignored, insulted, having my words twisted around & so on for the past week. Sorry, that’s liable to make anyone cranky. ;-)

          You missed a word in your 2nd point, was it “What of it?” “What about it?” or???

          BTW, SLS is slated to have its MT capabilities raised to 105 MT & then 130 MT. http://www.americaspace.com/?p=33312

          Sorry, I find when discussing this with some, it seems as if I repeat myself over & over – only to be told later on that I never said something or to have it ignored. My patience is wearing thin & I’m afraid my manners haven’t been what they should – apologies.

          • Ok cranky, I understand. You need to give yourself a break.

            Anyway, I have no idea about ‘be have’ except my diabetic neuropathy tends to do some of the spelling for me.

            I know about the SLS upgrades. I just wish we’d make better use of existing capabilities.

            I remember the Saturn V as a really great rocket, but it’s design and the stack it sent to the moon were based on the knowledge of the era it was in.

            I think Trent made an excellent point when he said above…

            It’s not entirely apparent to me that avoiding Earth-orbit rendezvous mission modes makes any sense anymore. The arguments against it are straight out of the 1960s and no longer valid (if they were ever valid).

            For example, the BA330 is just a bit too big for existing rockets, but not so big that it doesn’t encourage incremental growth which I see the FH as being.

            Going from 70mt to 130 mt may be ok, but perhaps stretches the definition of incremental? (No, I’m not ignoring the 105mt in between.)