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House Strategic Forces Chair Raises CRS-3 Issues

2014 04 29 Rep Rogers Letter to SECAF and NASA Admin

To read the full letter, please click on the above image.

In an April 29th letter to Secretary of the Air Force Deborah James and NASA Administrator Bolden, House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chairman Mike Rogers (AL-3), whose district does not include any NASA facilities, raised concerns about the CRS-3 launch and requested the status of certification of new entrants into the EELV program. More specifically, Rep. Rogers’ letter raised under performance issues of both the Falcon 9 v1.1 launcher and Dragon spacecraft and questioned SpaceX’s statement that the CRS-3 launch was “perfect as far as we could tell.” SpaceX, in a comment to AmericaSpace on Rep. Rogers’ letter, stated that the Congressman’s data points were factually incorrect and that the performance of the Falcon 9.1 and Dragon was excellent. In his letter, Rep. Rogers raised two issues about the CRS-3 launch:

    The Falcon 9 v 1.1 CRS-3 launcher was short of the desired orbit and that the initial maneuver plan had to be changed to account for changed times and burn durations. According to reports, this may have been the result of booster under performance.
    The SpaceX Dragon capsule experienced a failure of three of its four thrusters (almost a full quad).

The Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chairman also requested of both NASA’s Bolden and Air Force Secretary James that,

    Any anomalies on the certification launches or related launches being performed for NASA, or commercial customers, by SpaceX; and
    Concerns, if any, the Air Force has had with regard to the certification of new entrants and how those anomalies and near-failures are factoring into the certification evaluation.

SpaceX, when asked to comment on Rep. Rogers’ letter, stated that the Falcon 9 delivered the Dragon spacecraft to its targeted orbit. According to Hannah Post, a SpaceX spokesperson, given the Falcon 9.1’s excellent placement, a pre-planned contingency burn was not required. Ms. Post went on to say, “The Dragon spacecraft was stabilized immediately on orbit and following a re-command sequence for a valve, Dragon successfully initiated all thrusters and arrived as expected at the International Space Station on Sunday, April 20th.” Concerning issues regarding the Falcon 9 second-stage on CRS-1, Ms. Post commented: “SpaceX did not attempt a relight of the second stage on the 2012 CRS-1 mission. This was due to pre-established flight rules with respect to ISS safety, required by NASA and agreed to by ORBCOMM. The ORBCOMM secondary satellite was deployed to orbit by Falcon 9, but it was done so at the lower altitude used by Dragon in order to optimize the safety of the space station mission.”

The responses by Air Force Secretary James and NASA Administrator Bolden to Rep. Rogers letter will be published here when available.

68 comments to House Strategic Forces Chair Raises CRS-3 Issues

  • Jeff Findley

    This letter seems to be nothing but spreading FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt). The fact is that there were enough reserves, margins, and redundancy built into Falcon 9 and Dragon to successfully accomplish this current mission. I’m all for DOD proceeding cautiously if they are to start using Falcon 9 to replace some EELV launches, but they need to be clear on what SpaceX needs to do to become “certified” and they need to be careful to not keep moving goalposts, which seems to be quite common in this industry.

  • Tracy the Troll

    This is just the beginning of fight that will come to SpaceX as they continue to make progress with space technologies and achievements that would threaten the entire space model of the DOD if they continue to try and pursue DOD space flight contracts. SpaceX must stop their government contracts as soon as they can effectively turn to profit from commercial applications only…Musk has said repeatedly that he wants to put people on Mars…This should be his main focus. Government as a client will only slow down SpaceX progress in that regard. Why he doesn’t understand that …is a mystery.

  • James B Franks

    Going to Mars is expensive; SpaceX must pull in as much revenue as possible to have sufficient funds.

    • Tracy the Troll

      James,
      NASA wants to send Battlestar Gallactica costing 50 Billion Dollars and land a craft the size of the shuttle on Mars surface which will cost another 10 Billion…Nasa will spend 500 Billion on this program with all expendable spaceships.. I think that Musk will do it for under a few Million…Because he can send reuseable F9Hs and Dragons to do the job and then bring them back take more people and supplies and then bring the craft back put them into local service and do this repeatedly…I do really think that he will do this in 5 years 10 at the most…

      • Even SpaceX now admits that reusability impacts payload mass—something astrodynamics aerospace engineer have said would be the case. In fact, a reusable F9 means 35% less payload.

        Not sure what else you’re talking about. Maybe provide some links to the “Battlestar Galactica” that NASA is sending to Mars?

        • Tracy the Troll

          Jim,
          I heard Musk say that the reuse model will loose 40% of payload capability but he will lower the cost by 60% just for the first stage reuse that it should more than make up for it…

          NASA has said all along that going to Mars will be a planetary project with several partners from Earth…All we have to do is look at previous International Space Projects like the ISS which was originally expected to cost $20B US and ballooned to over $100B US and took an extra 10 years… Isn’t the SLS/Orion costs already north of $7B US already? And that is just to get to LEO… NASA says it will cost about $100B US and be ready to go 2035 and they want to land something the size of the Space Shuttle on the planet and they will have International Partners…So by using ISS as a go by I am assuming a crew of 25 going to Mars from all the main partners with a landing crew of 7 to 10…This will morph into $500B US easily and probably be delayed to 2050 for NASA to do it…This will have such big Risk both financial and political that the redundancy requirements will 5 layers deep.

          • Well, I had not heard he would discount reusable flights by 60% a launch. That gets the F9.1 price below $50M, which is a good deal, so he should find plenty of customers.

            The money that has gone into Orion/SLS isn’t just for LEO. The system is really designed for beyond LEO, otherwise the initial SLS Block I would have a lower payload than 70 mt, which is far and away beyond what is needed to get Orion to LEO.

            Yes, a Mars mission may cost around $100B, which was also the the lower end estimate for what ISS cost and less than Apollo’s inflation adjusted $125M. Cost of the program doesn’t drive risk-reducing redundancy; reducing risk is what drives cost.

            Orion will cost more than Dragon or other spacecraft. But it’s risk margins are below, and it’s capabilities greater than, those of others.

            • Tracy the Troll

              The SLS/Orion would not be part of a Mars Mission ….All new architecture would be built for the new International partners. It will need to have a crew of 25 maybe more because each partner country will send a crew member and will participate in building the architecture….

              • Tracy, it is fiscally unlikely Orion will not be used both as the delivery vehicle and as a lifeboat/return. Reengineering a new crewed craft for the roles for which Orion has been developed would be fiscally and prohibitive.

                • Tracy the Troll

                  Jim,
                  Remeber this Nasa Mars Mission will be a State Dept Program….no price is too much for peace…..Now you can understand how this will get to 500B US$……This will be billed as Earths greatest accomplishment…

      • Joe

        Tracy,

        “I think that Musk will do it for under a few Million…Because he can send reuseable F9Hs and Dragons to do the job and then bring them back take more people and supplies and then bring the craft back put them into local service and do this repeatedly…I do really think that he will do this in 5 years 10 at the most…”

        Musk says a lot of things. You are hypothesizing that Musk will use the (as yet non-existent) Falcon 9 Heavy as the launcher for a Mars program. You may have heard him say that, but that is now “so last Tuesday”.

        As of this February:

        http://www.universetoday.com/108966/mars-space-colony-rockets-could-be-ready-in-10-years-spacex-ceo/

        He plans on using a reusable Super Heavy Lift Vehicle so large it will dwarf the Saturn 5:

        ““We need to develop a much larger vehicle, which would be a sort of Mars colonial transport system, and this would be, we’re talking about rockets on a bigger scale than has ever been done before. It will make the Apollo moon rocket look small,” said Musk in a recent CBS interview, referring to the 363-foot (110-meter) behemoth that was the Saturn V.”

        Noted for your amusement that it is Musk, not NASA, that is using Battlestar Gallactica terminology (Colonial Transports).

        • Tracy the Troll

          Joe,
          Nasa will partner on the Mars Mission….The ship taking all the partner astronauts will be at least 25 person crew maybe more…Musk will diliver them via Dragon to a BA330 that will transport them to Mars….A Dragon will put them on Mars….Musk will never get to build his Colonial Transport…It wont be needed….A judge just lifted the russian rocket engine import restriction…..big surpise

          • Joe

            Other than the last one (about the Atlas V) which is verifiably true, do you have any sources for all these assertions?

            • Tracy the Troll

              Joe and Jim
              Confusing yes…. NASA only builds Mission Architecture. The SLS/Orion is for the Asteroid Catch and Return….To go to Mars NASA has already said publicly that it will Partner with the International Community to go to Mars…Whoever they Partner with will want to put a crew member on that ship..I am thinking 20 to 25 of the Largest Countries in the World…NASA has said they want to put something the Size of the Shuttle on MARS as a Landing and return Vehicle from the Planet….To Pull this off with a global build will take 35 years and 500 Billion Dollars…Because it can not fail or crash….Musk on the other hand will take a crew of 4 to 7, a few dragons attach them to a Bigelowareospace BA330 as a Transport Ship to Mars use the Dragons to land on Mars and as return. All of this can be done in 5-10 years +/- at a cost of less than $1B US… Repeat this process every two years for Millions as he already has the operational architecture in place…I don’t see the need for the CMT or Coloional Mars Transport with the BA 330 doing the same job…

  • Ryan Cole

    It’s also insanely biased because: a) it only focuses on F9 issues and not also issues that happen with other EELV rockets. b) It does not analyze overall mission reliability, just issues that did not effect primary mission performance. c) the only f9 1.1 issue, the rocket the air force would be using was insignificant.

  • Joe

    Hi Jim,

    Posting this was bound to bring the SpaceX support troops out in force.

    For the Musk acolytes:

    If you have confidence that this just “seems to be nothing but spreading FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt)” then why is it necessary to try to denigrate the questions?

    Why not just let NASA and DoD answer the questions?

    • Joe,

      You’re right; I knew this would raise the hackles of the SpaceX crew, which is why I mentioned SpaceX’s comment in the main paragraph and included it in full at the end. I didn’t want this to be a hatchet job against SpaceX.

      I want to be fair to SpaceX. But I also want there to be a discussion about claims serious enough to get a House Armed Services Subcommittee Chair to to write both the AF Sec. And Bolden. None of us is likely in a position either within the AF or SpaceX to know definitively whether Rep. Rogers’ claims are true or not. That’s why I, like I’m sure many who have heard such claims over the years, hope that the response from the AF Sec. Can help clarify the situation.

      To the SpaceX folks I would just like to say that, if these claims are bogus, time and vindication are on your side. If you work for SpaceX, don’t let this or any other chatter do anything but motivate you to do your best work.

      Jim

      • Jeff Findley

        There are parts of Rep. Rogers’ letter which are clearly misleading at best and outright lies at worst. This run-on sentence is a stand-out, “It has also been reported that the SpaceX Dragon Capsule had experienced a failure of three of its four thrusters that could have had significant consequences for the astronauts on the International Space Station, whose reserves of food and other supplies had been depleted.”

        • Joe

          Which parts are supposedly:

          (1) “misleading at best”
          (2) “outright lies”

          If the part about ISS resupply being critical is deemed (by you)to be either, it would be a good idea to note that as recently as last December NASA was forced to ask Orbital Sciences to accelerate its launch schedule to make up for SpaceX shortfalls.

          http://www.spacenews.com/article/launch-report/37077pressure-mounts-on-orbital-sciences-with-spacex-likely-unavailable-for

          • Jeff Findley

            The first part of the sentence sounds an awful lot like CRS-2 when Dragon had trouble initializing three of the four quads. But, that problem was worked and in a few hours, all four of the quads were initialized.

            The second part of the sentence says of ISS, “whose reserves of food and other supplies had been depleted”. This makes it sound like astronauts on ISS would have run out of food if CRS-3 had not been successful. In the article you cite, it says, “Even if both SpaceX and Orbital should be unavailable in December, Suffredini said ISS is well provisioned and could ride out a missed delivery.”

            • Joe

              “The first part of the sentence sounds an awful lot like CRS-2 when Dragon had trouble initializing three of the four quads. But, that problem was worked and in a few hours, all four of the quads were initialized.”

              So you are speculating that the congressman may be confusing CRS-3 with CRS-2, but that is only speculation. Do you consider that sufficient reason to accuse the congressman of being intentionally misleading and outright lying?

              “The second part of the sentence says of ISS, “whose reserves of food and other supplies had been depleted”. This makes it sound like astronauts on ISS would have run out of food if CRS-3 had not been successful. In the article you cite, it says, “Even if both SpaceX and Orbital should be unavailable in December, Suffredini said ISS is well provisioned and could ride out a missed delivery.””

              The last part was true in December because the ISS logistics people had allowed for some delays in CRS deliveries by using the Space Shuttle (before its grounding) to “stock up on supplies”. But that stockpile is steadily being depleted due to delays by both the CRS launch providers.

              • Jeff Findley

                True, but “being depleted” is not quite the same in my mind as “had been depleted”, which is what Rep. Rogers wrote.

                ISS resupply is certainly a complicated endeavor, but it is “international” and other nations continue to fly resupply missions on Progress, ATV, and HTV. A failure of any of those missions would certainly result in some schedule shuffling and manifest changes, but I would not consider that to be “significant consequences for the astronauts on the International Space Station” as written by Rep. Rogers.

                I suppose interpreting what Rep. Rogers wrote depends greatly on your point of view since actual numbers weren’t included in the letter. But, I still consider the ISS statement to be misleading at best since in my mind “reserves of food and other supplies had been depleted” sounds quite dire to me.

                • Joe

                  I do not know how much of the stockpile is gone by now, but I do know when last I talked to some acquaintances (several months ago) some logistics types were getting concerned.

                  By the way the ATV has flown its last flight, so other than CRS there is only Progress and HTV now.

                • I believe that the ISS resupply issues in the Congressman’s letter are a side-show to his real goal. His real point is the bring into members’ minds doubt of what SpaceX is saying by raising concerns of what really happened. Sowing that doubt and peeling-back the onion on SpaceX then forces SpaceX’s lobbyists into defense and off offense. I’m hearing that it is working.

                  But SpaceX isn’t stupid and had to know that once it sued the AF the gloves were off. Confidential events coming to the fore are what happens when you sue the gov’t arm responsible for monitoring your every space activity. Those who were willing to sit on the sidelines while ULA was being attacked are now taking sides. This effort may undo years of marketing and lobbying by SpaceX. And don’t be too surprised if there’s a counter-suit from ULA. Glass houses…

                  • Joe

                    This is certainly going to be interesting (hopefully not in the sense of the old Chinese curse – may you live in interesting times).

                    Having been observing this ongoing soap opera for some time now (as a payload type), it is possible to know that when the Bush Lunar Program options were being debated ULA (at least parts of it) and “New Space” were allies (of a sort) in attacking any Shuttle derived architecture.

                    Now “New Space” (as represented by SpaceX at least) is attacking ULA and ULA is starting to fight back.

                    I just hope when this bravo sierra is over the country has some sort of launch capability left (did not really enjoy Moscow that much).

                  • Jeff Findley

                    What you described is sowing FUD. When I’ve seen this sort of attack on an opponent, it’s usually done because the facts that are out in the open are too hard to dispute.

                    • Joe

                      “His real point is the bring into members’ minds doubt of what SpaceX is saying by raising concerns of what really happened.”

                      I am sure Jim can answer this quite well on his own, however, I will say the following:

                      Pointing out differences between what some organization (in this case SpaceX) says they are accomplishing and what is actually being accomplished is not spreading FUD (or whatever acronym you want to use). It is simply pointing out differences between promise and performance.

                      Also (and I mean no ad holmium attack by this), using the same acronym over and over again tends to have a diminishing effect.

                    • Right on the dot, Joe. I could not have said it better.

                    • Were what the Congressman described untrue, yes, this would be FUD. But there has been too much chatter over the years that I am left with the old adage about smoke and fire.

                      As for making this case in the open, that won’t happen. SpaceX filed what many now recognize as a frivolous defamation lawsuit against Dr. Joe Fragola in an effort to “quiet” him, and would have very likely lost its defamation claim. Given the demonstrated litigious nature of SpaceX, nobody is going to come-out publicly to dispute the company’s version of events. So it’s a battle being fought in the shadows. Unfortunately for SpaceX, that is not the battleground the company is used to controlling.

                      As I said below, SpaceX’s lawsuit against the Air Force is causing people, who were otherwise content to sit on the sidelines, to now get involved. The more people talk to me about the Air Force’s reaction to the lawsuit, the more I am left with the view that this event may be the company’s worst nightmare. The only thing that could make it worse is a House hearing to “clear the air” about its rocket’s and spacecraft’s past performance.

  • Lars

    The claims that the CRS-3 Dragon was delivered in a lower than intended orbit appears to be a bald-faced lie.

    But that’s how you know that they are running scared…

  • Jeff Findley

    The fear mongering in the letter came through loud and clear: “It has also been reported that the SpaceX Dragon Capsule had experienced a failure of three of its four thrusters that could have had significant consequences for the astronauts on the International Space Station, whose reserves of food and other supplies had been depleted.”

    Just where did this come FUD come from? Even if it were true (it’s not), what in the world does the Dragon spacecraft have to do with certification of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle for use by DOD?

  • Mark

    A quick internet search of Rep. Rogers shows that among his top campaign donors is Lockheed Martin. It’s not hard to connect the dots…

    • Joe

      You can connect all kinds of dots.

      For instance Elon Musk is a big campaign contributor to President Obama and Senators Feinstein and Durbin (who attempted to get the Atlas V grounded).

      http://www.americaspace.com/?p=56744#comments

      Do you doubt their motives as well?

      • Mark

        I don’t trust the motives of all politicians and corporations. If you’re asking whether corporations that make large campaign contributions ask for favors in return, I’d say yes.

        • Joe

          You made a statement that strongly implied Congressman Rogers was only asking his questions because Lockheed Martin has contributed to his campaign.

          I was asking if you would apply similar “logic” to President Obama, Senator Feinstein and Senator Durbin all of whom have been politically helpful to SpaceX after receiving campaign contributions from Musk.

          You still have not answered that question?

        • Both SpaceX and other aerospace corporations make donations to politicians and have lobbyists. For example, Sen. Dick Durbin and Sen. Diane Feinstein are SpaxeX’s BFF’s. Sen. Shelby is certainly ULA’s BFF.

          • Mark

            I thought I did answer. Yes, the same logic could be applied.

            • Joe

              - Since all politicians (at the national level anyway) receive campaign contributions.

              – Many of those contributions are from sources wishing said politician to vote their way on some issue or other.

              – The country really is in big trouble if you are correct and they all (from the President to the newest member of the House or Senate) act only on those contributions and not any conviction as to what they think (rightly or wrongly) is best for the country.

  • Doug Booker

    Just did a little research on Wikipedia. The first launch of Atlas V was August 21, 2002. The fifth launch was on March 11, 2005. That’s a span of 2 years 9 months (33 months). SpaceX launched first Falcon 9 v1.1 on September 29, 2013. The fifth is scheduled for May 10, 2014. That’s a span of only 8 months. The first four were successful and completed their assigned missions. I was worried about their flight cadence but looking at their record compared to the ULA Atlas I think they are doing pretty good. So what is Rep. Rogers issue other than loss of campaign donations?

    • Doug,

      The F9.1 is an evolutionary step from the F9, not a new rocket. So your comparison of the launch delay of just developed A5 to F9.1 is apples-to-oranges.

      A better comparison is the A5 to the F9. The F9 was originally to fly in 2007 and to be supplying ISS by 2010. Instead, it didn’t launch until 2009 and didn’t start ISS supply runs until late 2012. SpaceX’s 12 CRS flights were to end in 2015 but won’t be concluded until sometime in 2017.

      Here’s more data. All of the CRS flights were to be on the F9, whose launch price started at $27M but grew to $55M, still a huge bargain. Now CRS missions are on the F9.1 that, according to the latest quote for a DOD mission, has a price of $90M, or a nearly 58% increase in cost, but only carrying 35% more payload than, the original F9. Even then, the F9.1 is a bargain.

      The Falcon 9 is not some miracle of development compared to the A5. Both have taken years to develop and certify. Rocketry is hard.

      • Lars

        Jim, I see the point you are trying to make, but to paint the “A5″ as something brand new is not correct.

        The Atlas V was *heavily* based on the Atlas III. Same RD-180. Same (or nearly identical) Centaur upper stage. Basically the only significant change to the core vehicle was the increased size/diameter of the first stage. One could make a convincing argument that the F9v1.1 (Not 9.1 BTW) is just as much of a development from F9v1.0 as the Atlas V was from Atlas III.

        • Yes, the A5 was based on the sale basic arch. of the A3. I didn’t bring it up because it was so long ago. And that doesn’t help Doug’s point—the A3 first flew in 2000 and then in 2002, a mere two years apart.

          Maybe I should have compared the A3-A5 transition to the F9-FH. The FH was supposed to launch in 2012 but won’t until early 2015.

          Again, no after how you cut it, despite the marketing hype, SpaceX launchers are not repeatedly reaching orbit materially faster than what Lockheed did for Atlas. The points SpaceX fanboys should be solely focused on are price and the company’s very flat management structure.

  • ToddA

    Full disclosure: I do not work for ULA or SpaceX, nor do I receive any financial benefit from the operations of either. I further do not have personal relationships with any of their employees. I don’t know Rep. Rogers, but his son was a neighbor of mine when the son was in law school. I am an American, a taxpayer, and a strong supporter of a robust space program.

    It’s fair to say that anyone in politics or dealing with politicians has their hands in someone’s cookie jar. Recent Supreme Court decisions have come down on money being another form of speech, so anyone beyond the level of village council is likely getting money from someone with a lobbying interest, regardless of their party affiliation or lack thereof.

    Joe – you undermine anything you have to say when you zing an ad hominem attack against those who support SpaceX and its work. There is plenty to respect in what they have accomplished thus far.

    SpaceX does itself no favors when it plays the political hairsplitting game of ‘it was perfect’, when they could have stated more accurately that ‘all the mission objectives were met’. SpaceX certainly has had teething problems in developing their hardware. They have also designed their systems to be both fault tolerant (thus both failure and success on the same mission) and sufficiently redundant that they can be made more cheaply. It would not surprise me to see a somewhat higher rate of minor failures on SpaceX missions as a result.

    It would be helpful to compare the frequency and type of issues on flights of Falcon 9 v1.1, Atlas 5, and Delta 4 at the same stages in their development cycles. That would seem to be the fair way to compare these apples.

    All that being said, both ULA and SpaceX (and any other potential launch service providers) deserve a fair shot at supplying launches for the US government. Reliability and price both count, though more weight needs to be placed on the former.

    While raising the issue of the Russian RD-180 engine on the Atlas 5 is apt, considering the current and likely future behavior of one V.V. Putin, it does come across as a bit of a easy dig from Musk to hammer it home. With ULA have two year’s of engines already on hand, it will be quite awhile before they will need to purchase any more. Who knows where the political situation will be by that time.

    • Joe

      “Joe – you undermine anything you have to say when you zing an ad hominem attack against those who support SpaceX and its work. There is plenty to respect in what they have accomplished thus far.”

      After reviewing my posts in this discussion, I can find only one thing that could be construed as an attack (ad hominem or otherwise) and that was the use of the term acolytes.

      (1) Full Definition of ACOLYTE – one who assists a member of the clergy in a liturgical service by performing minor duties, one who attends or assists, follower.

      (2) Examples of ACOLYTE – a popular professor dining with a few of her acolytes, a highly influential economist whose acolytes can be found at many major universities.

      You may consider it an ad hominem attack, but I believe it is an accurate description and not even insulting (unless of course someone wants to take it that way.

  • ken anthony

    Yes, the knives will come out. Dinosaurs have the most to worry about.

    SpaceX will continue to profit as it has even before a single launch (people that don’t understand accrual accounting need not respond.)

    I’d like to see some real competition to SpaceX. They are about to open up new markets that most can’t even imagine today.

    Fighting politically is just a side show. ULA in it’s very existence started this fight. SpaceX is simply responding and world events have just forced them to respond as they have.

    SpaceX lost early rounds due to a ridiculous ‘standings’ argument. Now they are not so easily dismissed.

    I am very sincere when I say I wish SpaceX had some real competition. It’s not healthy for the industry that they don’t.

    • Joe

      Perhaps “Dinosaurs” have the most to worry about. The question is who are the Dinosaurs?

      Could they be those that say things like:

      “ken anthony May 7, 2014 at 2:12 pm

      Real makers are LMAO at those thinking 3D printing is the silver bullet.

      Non makers can understand 3D printing. What they don’t understand is it only changes things on the fringes. Give a blacksmith a hunk of metal (which s/he can pull from dirt) and they can make almost anything. Hand that off to a machinist and you don’t need to add almost.

      The problem is attitude, not technology.

      That’s not to say 3D printing isn’t great and shouldn’t be included. It should. But it makes people stupid. It has it’s place. That place does not replace some long existing methods of manufacturing that are still far superior.”

      “But it makes people stupid.” The same sort of thing that was said about compact electric calculators when they replaced slide rules.

      “SpaceX will continue to profit as it has even before a single launch (people that don’t understand accrual accounting need not respond.)”

      The fact that you revel in the idea that SpaceX may have been making a profit “before a single launch” (that is before it did anything useful) is very instructive.

      • ken anthony

        Very instructive it would be to anybody with a clue. Being profitable before launching a single rocket is how we have today’s SpaceX. It is quite likely they wouldn’t exist today had they not.

        You suggest I am the dinosaur because I don’t consider 3D printing to be the second coming? Hey, if it makes ya feel good…

        You do realize you’ll look like Flintstone if they ever do come up with star trek replicators?

        The fact is, anybody with manufacturing experience in the real world knows that 3D printers have application but can’t compete with production techniques that will continue to outpace 3D printers. Perhaps 3D printing will have the equivalent of line printing (multiple extruders across one axis. Even then they would not keep up with other methods already in use.

        This isn’t PC vs. Mainframe. That you think it is, is what’s telling.

        • I can only say what NASA MSFC has seen in the benefits of 3D printing. In particular, 3D printing seems to result in a better output of a complex part such as an injector more quickly and cheaply than traditional means. Perhaps one key differentiator between 3D and traditional manufacturing of precision parts would involve complexity and unit number.

        • Joe

          “Very instructive it would be to anybody with a clue. Being profitable before launching a single rocket is how we have today’s SpaceX. It is quite likely they wouldn’t exist today had they not.”

          So please, inform the clueless; how did SpaceX make all this money without providing a service. Was it from the subsidies the government paid them to develop their hardware?

          The rest of your tirade is long on over the top assertions and lacking in any specifics to back up those assertions. Therefore it is pointless to respond to it.

          • ken anthony

            How did SpaceX make all this money without providing a service?

            This is why engineers should not comment on finance. It’s called accrual accounting. One of the advantages of my career path is it includes working with small (and big) businesses from installing turnkey systems in Manhattan to working for Intuit. Which experience allowed me to help my ex-wife earn her MBA.

            Was it from [govt.] subsidies

            No, but you keep beating that horse.

            lacking in any specifics

            Because it is not my intent to give you a course in manufacturing; however, one example: Injection molding is how you manufacture parts in quantity for low cost. Additive is how you do it slowly for high cost. That’s a specific example in case you don’t realize it.

            • Joe

              In case you do not know it trying to insult people while claiming to have expertise you say they do not have, does not answer specific questions.

              Talking to you is pointless

              • ken anthony

                Joe, you also have an obligation not to take offense.

                This is the greater obligation because it’s impossible to say anything that someone else can not take offense to.

                What is pointless is not being able to get beyond your own offense. I will continue to think better of you than you seem to think of yourself. Get over it.

                • Joe

                  Thanks for the psychoanalysis, another area of your expertise I suppose.

                  I will pay attention to your posts if you ever answer a question with more than an appeal to your own (supposedly omnipotent) authority.

                • Joe

                  I just saw your post in the comments section of Leonidas’s article on 3D printing.

                  Based on that, please consider my post above inoperative.

                  You might also want to check out my reply there as to what I think some of the advantages of 3D printing specifically to aerospace are.

  • Jeff Wright

    Mike Rogers 3rd district may not include any NASA facilities, but being an Alabamian, and having the Decatur Delta IV plant less than a day’s drive..well.

    SLS, on the other hand, thought of as an Alabama project, will actually employ a lot of folks near the Big Easy hurt by Katrina.

    I wish Musk all the best. Let him take LEO, and SLS take BEO for now.

  • Bill

    If you’re ULA, this is a mission success: “on June 15, 2007, NRO L-30, experienced an upper-stage anomaly when the engine in the vehicle’s Centaur upper stage shut down four seconds early, leaving the payload—a pair of naval signals intelligence satellites—in a lower than intended orbit. However, the customer, the National Reconnaissance Office, categorized the mission as a success.” (from Wikipedia)

    If you’re Space X, you deliver your payload to its intended orbit, and ULA lobbyists get the HASC/SFS Chair to ask NASA and DOD for a proctology report.

    I’m no SpaceX fanboy, but this *not* equal treatment under the law.

  • Kent Millhouse

    Congressional challenges, competitors maligning their performance, trolls posting misinformation?

    Congratulations SpaceX, you have truly made it to the space industry big dance. Now play the game like a big boy, your achievements will win out. as will your failures.

  • Tracy the Troll

    Jim,
    With the recent development of Russia pulling out of ISS and Russia restricting the use of the RD-180 to non-military missions… What do you think happens to NASA and the future Manned Mars Mission? Does the US go it alone?

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