Notes on the House FY 2014 NASA Budget

Orion Orbits Moon SM

The House Commerce, Justice, & Science Appropriations, or simply CJS, Subcommittee FY 2014 budget[1], which includes funding for NASA, was approved by the full House Appropriations Committee on July 17. Accompanying the budget is a report that details the budget and other Congressional mandates. I have always found the budget report to be the most interesting part of the budget process because it shows not only the actual spending, but the concerns and priorities of Congressional appropriators. The FY 2014 Report[2] is no different. Here are my notes from the report.

Notes

House CJS FY 2014 Appropriations Report

Sections

SLS

(Note: Within the portion covering the Exploration budget, p. 64–65, is language expressing frustration with NASA’s apparent resistance to follow past appropriations language directing the development of a 130 mt capable SLS. The House report strongly directs NASA to continue to built towards a 130 mt capable SLS and directs the Agency to report on its progress.) The Committee remains committed to the development of the full 130 metric ton SLS capability, which is necessary for NASA to achieve its most challenging beyond Earth orbit (BEO) exploration goals. In order to achieve this capability, NASA has laid out a development plan to evolve from a 70 metric ton capability to 130 metric tons, and the Committee has supported this plan on the condition that NASA would not allow its near-term efforts to crowd out investments in upper stage development and the advanced booster system needed to complete the full evolution. Unfortunately, NASA continues to defer or descope activities needed to advance substantially beyond the initial SLS configuration with the interim cryogenic propulsion stage. As a result, the program would likely reach a plateau with the achievement of the 70 metric ton capability.

For this reason, the Committee continues to urge NASA to allocate additional funds to SLS elements like advanced booster risk reduction, J2–X engine development, and/or upper stage development, all of which are required for the program to progress beyond the initial configuration. In addition, the Committee directs that, to the maximum extent possible, NASA should ensure that all vehicle development funding leverages existing investments; promotes efficiency through commonality of design and simultaneous development; and minimizes the need for redesigns or other costly changes affecting future SLS vehicle configurations.

To give the Committee more insight into the level of effort being dedicated to each component of the SLS, NASA shall continue submitting quarterly reports on SLS spending by major program element, as first required in the statement accompanying Public Law 112–55. NASA is also directed to report to the Committee on potential uses of the 130 metric ton SLS configuration for purposes beyond NASA’s own human exploration program, including human spaceflight commercial partnerships and the support of robotic scientific missions. This report shall be provided no later than 120 days after the enactment of this Act.

Orion

(Note: Within the portion covering the Exploration budget, p. 65, is language noting that the funding levels will allow Orion to meet all milestone, based on NASA’s own numers.) The recommendation for MPCV is consistent with the Independent Cost Assessment for fiscal year 2014 and, according to NASA, will keep the program on track for all upcoming MPCV project milestones.

Commercial Crew

(Note: Within the portion covering the Exploration budget, p. 65, is language regarding changes to be made in the CCP program.) The overriding purpose of the Commercial Crew Program (CCP) is to restore domestic access to the International Space Station (ISS) as quickly and safely as possible, and the Committee expects that NASA will manage CCP funds in a manner that is consistent with that goal. This will require pursuing all development and certification work beyond the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) base period through Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR)–based contracts; making strategic decisions about the number of industry partners to retain in the certification phase; and finding ways to incentivize greater private investment by industry partners in order to reduce the government’s financial obligations for the program.

ISS

(Note: Within the portion covering the Space Operations budget, p. 65, is language regarding the extension of ISS operations beyond 2020.) The Administration continues to discuss, but has not yet reached a decision on, extending its commitment to the ISS beyond 2020. This decision has major programmatic and budgetary implications for the rest of the agency and should therefore be made as expeditiously as possible in order to reduce uncertainty and enable better long-term planning.

In order for extension to be a tenable policy, the ISS’s annual operating costs of nearly $3,000,000,000 must be reduced[emphasis added], but the Committee currently lacks the necessary insight into ISS operational expenses to identify major cost drivers and evaluate opportunities to achieve savings. NASA shall report to the Committee on its efforts to realize cost savings in ISS operations (including cargo and crew supply) over the budget runout period. The report, to be submitted no later than 180 days after the enactment of this Act, should describe possible cost reducing actions, the programmatic and budgetary impact of such actions, and any barriers to implementation.

Space Act Agreements

(Note: Within the portion covering the Cross Agency Support budget, p. 67, is language regarding the use of Space Act Agreements, or SAAs.) NASA conducts a substantial amount of business each year through the use of SAAs. Very little of that business, however, has received significant external oversight because SAAs are not subject to the same transparency requirements that govern traditional Federal contracts or grants. More information is needed by the Committee to assess whether NASA is consistently utilizing SAAs in an appropriate manner, including correctly justifying the selection of an SAA rather than a FAR-based contract, following clear conflict of interest policies and accurately valuing the agency’s contributions to unfunded SAAs to ensure a fair exchange of services.

The Committee understands that some of these issues will be covered in an upcoming audit by the NASA Office of Inspector General (OIG). In order to put in place a more enduring oversight structure, however, the Committee directs NASA to establish a publicly available database of active SAAs to serve as an information source analogous to usaspending.gov, which covers grants and contracts. The database should include a description of the signatories, duration, purpose, and terms (funded, reimbursable, non-reimbursable) of each agreement and the dollar value associated with all funded agreements. This database should be online no later than 180 days after the enactment of this Act. NASA shall also report to the Committee on the feasibility of including in the database the estimated value of NASA’s contributions associated with unfunded agreements. This report shall be provided no later than 90 days after the enactment of this Act.


  1. The full text of the House Appropriations Commerce, Justice, & Science Subcommittee’s FY2014 budget can be downloaded as a PDF.  ↩
  2. The full text of the House Appropriations Commerce, Justice, & Science Subcommittee’s Report on the FY 2014 Budget can be downloaded as a PDF.  ↩

22 comments to Notes on the House FY 2014 NASA Budget

  • mike shupp

    I detect a note of testiness in the report, as if the Committee would like to manage NASA a bit more directly — or maybe a lot more directly. Is this common with Congressional oversight of other, comparable sized technical programs — FAA modernization, for example, or the Navy’s Litoral Combat Ship development effort? Or is this zeal reserved for NASA? And has Congress demonstrated similar interest throughout NASA’s history, or is it a recent development?

  • Mike,

    You state a good point. Congress has been reduced, since Feb. 2010, to in-effect running our nation’s space program. I don’t think it was a role the body wanted.

    Short Answer
    I’m not sure if such directed language as we see concerning NASA is the norm. I doubt it. But then, the FAA, to take your example, hasn’t tried to defy Congressional will and intent. For example, when recently confronted with questions about NextGen, FAA Administrator Huerta moved quickly to assure Congress that it was acting as directed, though it may not be doing a bang-up job on NextGen.

    Long Answer
    For the last 3 years, Congress has made its desires and intentions clear to NASA on what our nation will to get back into space exploration in 1 authorization and 4 appropriations acts. The current authorization and appropriations bills making their way through Congress are consistent with past acts. There is no question in anyone’s mind as to the will of Congress when it comes to space. But NASA’s political leadership can’t seem to will itself to follow the Congressional mandates, otherwise known as laws, and have instead attempted repeatedly to substitute its will over that of Congress.

    This battle between Congress and NASA’s political leadership has created acrimonious relationship that stands-out as unique. Yes, Rep. Issa and AG Holder are at each other’s throats. But neither Rep. Wolf, Sen. Mikulski, Rep. Palazzo, Sen. Nelson, Rep. Smith, Sen. Rockefeller, former Rep. Gorton, nor former Rep. Giffords, all of whom either continue to clash, or have clashed, loudly with NASA’s political leadership and staffers, would be mistaken for being anything near as volatile as Rep. Issa. In late-spring through mid-summer 2011, the Democratic-controlled Senate full Commerce Committee subpoenaed NASA’s leadership’s email, computers, etc., and was prepared to approve contempt of Congress charges, making that leadership the first in NASA’s history to be so served and so threatened.

    The end result of all of this needless confrontation is that, simply put, members of Congress and their staffers do not trust NASA’s top two leaders and their staff. The general assumption is that when NASA states something about Orion, SLS, Commercial Space, SAA’s, or…well, take your pick, that the Agency’s leaders are either trying not be forthright, deceive or, not to put too fine a point on it, lying. Fulfilling the 130 mt capability for SLS, the Section 309 Report, or trying to slow-roll Orion stand-out as key examples.

    All of this has been a massive waste of time, energy, and attention for everyone. And some programs, because of the ill-suited alliances they made within NASA’s political leadership, are suffering.

    • Neil Shipley

      I’m sorry, there’s so much wrong with this post it’s hard to know where to begin so I’ll just take just a couple.
      Where is the evidence that NASA is trying to slow-roll Orion? Fact is that program is eating money and running into technical issues such as highlighted in the recent GAO report and that is where the real issues rest. Not lack of money or intent but technical challenges and incorrect technical decisions eg. the massively labour-intensive heat shield for one.
      SLS? Designed by Congress, legacy systems so legacy cost, insufficient funding and no funded missions.
      CCiCap meeting milestones and only falling behind due to reduced funding being less than requested.
      Enough said.

      • There’s so much wrong with your comment it’s hard to know where to begin. NewSpacers can’t have it both ways. Either SLS/Orion is inefficient because it will only be used once every other year for budget reasons or the program is being slow-rolled for budget reasons. Where’s your evidence the program is “eating money?” By all accounts the program is on time & on budget. Why is it you ignore SLS/Orion are meeting their milestones (you made sure to mention that commercial was)?

        The heat shield is going to fly next year. The type of heatshield being used is different than others on capsule-based designs & as such requires time & manpower. It’s disingenuous at best to turn a technical issue into serious flaw as you have attempted to do.

        As for SLS being designed by Congress? That’s NewSpace rhetoric. SLS is being designed by Boeing & NASA. Get it right & stop with the propaganda. Also, don’t spread that nonsense of SLS not having any missions. SLS is being built for Mars. In the short-term it’ll be used to go to an asteroid & potentially the Moon. If you still can’t accept that, you’d best avoid the two-parter we did: SLS: Truths and Misconceptions. A NASA official details that this NewSpace tact/argument – isn’t truthful. You sound like Susan Rice, you’d be better served by not uttering factually inaccurate talking points.

        Neil, what you’ve done is ignore the good things with SLS/Orion, detailed the bad & then made sure to highlight budget issues with commercial. Could you be any more transparent? Typical NewSpacer, demand all other efforts be cancelled to prop up commercial.

        Yes, enough said, you’re obviously biased, have failed to review all the facts (which don’t originate from sources supporting your beliefs) & have outed yourself as someone happy to demand SLS’ be cancelled for funding issues – while bemoaning your sacred cow’s (commercial space) funding woes. Whatever happened to Private Companies putting their own skin in the game? I guess that’s just more NewSpace propaganda. In the end they want to be subsidized by the U.S. taxpayer & can’t succeed otherwise.

        It’s one thing to do hide your own “side’s” shortcomings, it’s another to come here & try & act like your side is perfect, to ignore its failings (NewSpacers brag about how fast commercial will be – if that’s so – then how come they’re only launching at the rate of about 1 launch per year?) to bemoan issues that in fact aren’t issues (heat shield). Why not be honest? Why don’t you just say: “I want my side to get everything, therefore I want the other side defunded. It’d be better than what your currently doing.

        Sorry Neil, but when you attack one of our articles using information with holes in it, ignore one element while highlighting another & obviously using cherry-picked talking points? Don’t expect a warm response. Everybody has their opinions, formed from facts & figures. But, apparently, it takes a NewSpacer to act as if their opinions are 100 percent factual & to attack anything (& everything) that runs counter to this. If this behavior says anything – it says that the movement is insecure, probably with good reason.

        Contrary to what my comments might suggest, I want commercial efforts to succeed. However, the proof is in the pudding. If not for SpaceX? Private-Public arrangements like COTS & CRS would likely have been deemed a failure & the programs would have been cancelled. Instead of being grateful that hasn’t happened – you demand those providing the funds that prop up these efforts surrender their one human space exploration initiative to funnel dollars to your companies. Neil, Sequestration already saw that the knives are out for commercial – let me give you some friendly advice – biting the hand that funds you? Not smart. You’re only providing those opposed to commercial with more ammo. Unfortunately, this appears to be a concept difficult for NewSpacers to grasp.

        • Karol

          Jason, you and Jim are far more knowledgeable in the area than I, but didn’t SpaceX make “incorrect technical decisions” eg fuel slosh and staging problems, causing severe malfunction? Weren’t those problems resolved by experienced engineers, foremost amongst those NASA experts, thereby saving SpaceX and preventing it’s probable demise upon a third serious failure?

          • Karol,
            “Severe” is a bit of a stretch, but yes, they had issues in those areas. It’s my understanding that SpaceX might have ignored some of the historical technical data that NASA & other experienced firms knew of. It’s my opinion this stems from a desire to be different from the establishment.

            As to your second question, let me say the following: If it wasn’t for SpaceX – the commercial crew/cargo movement’s folder would only have a single test flight to crow about (Antares). SpaceX made a small handful of rookie mistakes – but they’ve seized on them, made the needed changes & proven the design of not only their launch vehicle – but their spacecraft. They’ve managed to achieve all major mission objectives & have traveled to the ISS 3 times. In short? You can’t argue with success. Having said that? There are many flights (Cassiopeia & the test flight of FH come to mind) that haven’t happened. To date, SpaceX has only been able to launch about a mission a year. When reviewing the early flight manifests, SpaceX had as many as 12-16 missions a year (if memory serves there was supposed to be 7 flights this year). That hasn’t happened. Before the howler monkeys come out these were not COTS/CRS missions by-and-large and therefore should not have been impacted by Sequestration.

            In short, private/commercial/NewSpace – whatever you want to call them – have begun to show promise – but nowhere NEAR the amount that justifies the haughty, arrogant attitude its supporters display. Moreover, if the movement is going to survive & succeed – it’s going to need allies. You don’t get allies acting this way.

            I know that your questions weren’t pro NewSpace, but this is what came to mind when I read your comments. I’m going to state it again, I think NewSpacers (for want of a better name) have shown promise, now? I think they need to show some humility.
            Sincerely and with thanks, Jason Rhian – Editor, AmericaSpace

            • Leonidas

              It’s not about (NewSpace) being better than the establishment. It’s all about money. Money is tight, sequestration is upon us, there’s only so much to go around, so it comes down to how much money one party gets. IMHO, it’s always about money.

              I think that many of the Newspacers that howl about the so-called NASA’s ‘inneficiency’ in all other areas except Commercial Crew, in reality just want all the pie for themselves. As you point out Jason, that’s largely hypocritical. Those NewSpacers choose to ignore the fact that Commercial Crew is just a part of NASA’s bigger strategy concerning exploration-handing out LEO activities to private firms, while NASA focuses on BEO. They choose to compare completely different things (Commercial Crew/SLS)that are meant for entirely different purposes-a true apples vs. oranges comparison- and they manage to proclaim that somehow apples are better than oranges!

              It’s always deeply sad, to see parts of the space community fight against one another for who gets how much money. Reading all the damning comments about Constellation and SLS, one would thing that those projects are the most incompetent and useless use of tax dollars in all of history of mankind!

              But when you ask those same howling NewSpacers as to why they choose to ask and get all these money time and again for their cause, from the supposedly immensely ‘inefficient’,’incompetent’ and ‘pork-ridden’ NASA, there’s no response-and there wil never be one.

              • Leo,
                You combined together two different responses. I didn’t say funding issues were about NewSpace being better than the establishment. I said the reason why they didn’t incorporate heritage technical designs into the Falcon 9 was because they don’t want to be like the establishment.

                Couldn’t agree more.

                It’s not just sad – it’s self destructive. We’re our own worst enemies. I’ve been following SLS/Orion & contrary to the hyenas’ comments – SLS/Orion are only “bad” because they want the funds that are going to SLS/Orion – to go to their pet companies. NewSpacers were the furthest things from ISS supporters – until their coffers were being filled due to the station. Now? It’s the best thing since sliced bread.

                Exactly, Noobs (one of my phrases for NewSpacers). Tear down NASA with every breath & action – but are all too happy to hold out their hand for cash. As much as I value what the commercial efforts are trying to accomplish, the hypocrisy of the movement’s supporters says it all. We sorely need a dearth of companies providing launch services & we need the cost of access to orbit to drop. But the attitudes of the movement’s supporters makes one want to have nothing to do with them. One comment a while back held this website accountable for Congress. It was all vitriol. I drafted a response, using the commentors own words & phrases to respond. He called it an “emotional rant” – well, given that I used his own words? What does that say?

                With that, I noted Sequestration has served notice to a good many NewSpacers that their attitudes have consequences & have noted a slight change in behavior. I hope for the movement’s sake, that this is indicative of an attitude change. Perhaps they’ll finally stop burning bridges & try to build a few. Thanks Leo.

                Sincerely, Jason Rhian – Editor, AmericaSpace

                • Leonidas

                  You’re exactly right Jason. I wasn’t all that very clear in the first part of my post though. I didn’t want to indicate that you mentioned that funding issues made NewSpace better than the establishment, but anyway, that’s nitpicking I guess…

                  Yeah, I remember that ’emotional rant’ post thread a while back. And after that, AmericaSpace seemed to go very quite on commentary, and it seemed rather odd at the time. Didn’t know the site was accountable for Congress. Really hope things are OK now! The space community wouldn’t be the same without AmericaSpace, and on a personal note, I’d be losing a beloved news outlet.

                  • Leonidas

                    Sorry, I meant to say very quiet on commentary…Darn, it’s 3 a.m. in the morning here!

                  • Leo,
                    Yeah, I didn’t know we were responsible for Congress’ actions. NewSpace supporterss fail to grasp how their attitudes are causing so many to turn away from them. This person was stating that the people who had so viciously attacked the other “side” should now be aided by those they attacked. If you go out of your way to abuse someone – guess what? they ain’t going to help you when you’re in need. That’s just the Arc of reality.
                    Things are great, especially since we have far less NewSpace trolls to contend with.
                    I appreciate the kind words. I really want to support both sides, but there is just no two ways about it – NewSpacers attitudes stink. They act so reprehensibly that I’m beginning to want them to fail (I’m a big believer in karma).
                    Having got that off my chest. I have noted that a good many hyenas have piped down since sequestration. Perhaps that got a clue about how to act? One can only hope.
                    Sincerely, Jason Rhian – Editor, AmericaSpace

            • Karol

              Jason, I apologize for the lack of clarity in my previous post. I agree with both you and Leonidas the NASA should be shown more respect for what it has done, what it is doing, and what it can do. I find the NewSpace mantra of NASA is old, bureaucratic, and inefficient to be quite annoying, particularly when the funding provided newspace companies is so vociferously demanded by supporters who then balk at admitting how much of the “commercial” space cost is being paid by taxpayers. I’ll no doubt be pilloried by NewSpacers, but I believe that there were other alternatives to the outright cancellation of the Constellation program and the Vision for Space Exploration. At least we had a goal, something to strive for, not merely “maybe an asteroid capture, or landing, or something, out there, somewhere.” How many members of the general public really know if NASA has clear and definite goals for human spaceflight, where, when and why? I’m probably overstating the situation, but NASA still has a great deal of “residual” popularity with the American public from better days. It would be politically unwise for a President to eliminate NASA outright, but it could be made to suffer a “death of a thousand cuts” by shifting funding away from NASA’ Orion/SLS to NewSpace, failing to provide achievable clear goals and timelines, permitting leadership that is less than enthusiastic about working with Congress, etc. If NASA was made irrelevant, it could simply be de-funded into oblivion. What then? A space program of billionaires sending millionaire cashtronauts on sub-orbital joy-rides, cargo and crew taxied to the ISS in LEO for . . . how long? Will “commercial” space send a crew to Mars? Doesn’t “commercial” mean paid for by investors in hopes of return on investment? I, for one, have yet to see the financial analysis on a “for profit” “commercial” Mars mission. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I don’t believe that the current administration has served NASA, and space supporters, very well. As Dale Jacobs said, we bought into “The Hope” . . . now what? Another concern is that if there is a NewSpace company tragedy in space, will John Q. Public opening his lunchbox here at the Ford Rouge Assembly Plant differentiate between the NewSpace company and NASA, or will it just be, “Hey Ed, didya’ hear some guys died in space, ya’ know NASA, the space program. Damn, what’re we there for anyway”. Sorry for the rant Jason, thanks to you, Jim, and AmericaSpace I have a venue so I don’t wander about the streets muttering to myself (scares the hell out of the neighborhood kids and little old ladies when I do that). Please continue your excellent work, you provide invaluable insight and information to be found nowhere else. With sincere respect and highest esteem, Karol

              • Karol,
                No need for apologies. I understood what you were saying. The one thing that I’d request is that you not behave the same manner as NewSpace supporters do. I too am (very) guilty of allowing their antics to drag me down to that level – but it does not serve the big picture objectives.
                I too feel that there were any number of alternatives to the cancellation of Constellation & the VSE. I also feel that the 2nd Augustine Committee, by design, had what it could propose limited. This provided NewSpacers with manufactured ammo & allowed for Constellation to be cancelled. To say that Obama has a “Vision” is a gross miscarriage of honesty. No you’re not overstating a thing. Obama could have demanded that VSE CxP be restructured as was done with the JWST. He could’ve had the Orion capsule redubbed the Obama capsule for all I care – but to cancel 7 years of work & billions in invested funds? Sorry, reviewing these actions & then attempting to state he’s anti-waste – it doesn’t pass the smell test.
                I’ve already stated what my thoughts are as to what the outcome will be following the first NewSpace manned disaster. All the bile, insults & vitriol they’ve pumped out over the years – is going to come back to haunt them.
                Having said that? I like the idea of commercial handling LEO activities as NASA pushes outward. If getting to the Moon becomes like what we see in LEO today? Then you hand that to them too. NASA would serve as the pathfinder & commercial takes over operations when the foundation has been built. The problem with this idea? Is that it makes sense & it means that commercial gets a slice – instead of the whole pie. Silly me.
                Sincerely and with thanks, Jason Rhian – Editor, AmericaSpace

                • Leonidas

                  Bless you Karol, you nail the point right in the head!
                  You summed up my thoughts exactly!

                  As an ‘outsider’ (meaning a non-US citizen living outside of the US), I was thinking along the same lines. For my money, the Obama administration couldn’t care less about space. And since closing NASA outright, would be a political suicide, the next best thing if you want to dismantle the space program, is to defund and defocus it-exactly what has been happening for the past couple of years. That doesn’t make the previous Bush administration automatically the ‘good guys’, since it announced the plan but walked away without funding it, but at least there was a plan.

                  But I guess if you state things like that, it makes you an ‘anti-american’ nowadays, to people…

      • Neil,

        First, a little historical context.

        In late September 2010, President Obama signed the NASA Authorization Act of 2010. Within that act was Sec. 309 that directed NASA to,

        Within 90 days [due approx January 2011] after the date of enactment of this Act, or upon completion of reference designs for the Space Launch System and Multi-purpose Crew Vehicle authorized by this Act, whichever occurs first, the Administrator shall provide a detailed report to the appropriate committees of Congress that provides an overall description of the reference vehicle design, the assumptions, description, data, and analysis of the systems trades and resolution process, justification of trade decisions, the design factors which implement the essential system and vehicle capability requirements established by this Act, the explanation and justification of any deviations from those requirements, the plan for utilization of existing contracts, civil service and contract workforce, supporting infrastructure utilization and modifications, and procurement strategy to expedite development activities through modification of existing contract vehicles, and the schedule of design and development milestones and related schedules leading to the accomplishment of operational goals established by this Act. The Administrator shall provide an update of this report as part of the President’s annual Budget Request.

        Stories emerged from those in the Orion program in the early spring of 2011 that some in NASA’s political leadership offices were do all they could to slow-roll Orion and SLS. By the summer of 2011, the full Senate Commerce Committee, under the chairmanship of Sen. Jay Rockefeller, threatened to subpoena NASA because of serious delays by NASA in compliance of Sec. 309 of the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 as, by then, it was well over 8 months late. Sec. 309 of the Act. After NASA refused to comply with Congressional directives outlined in the above-linked letter, the full Commerce Committee issued a subpoena, a first for NASA. The subpoena revealed a lot that was going on internally that was not kosher. Even after the subpoena, NASA’s political leadership continued to obfuscate and mislead, as the linked article indicates (SLS could fly in 2017, not 2032). Commerce Committee Chair Chairman Rockefeller informed the White House that the Senate Commerce Committee was prepared to issue a contempt of Congress, and, based on what the Committee knew, that some in NASA’s leadership were in legal jeopardy. Why did NASA resist publishing its Sec. 309 report? Because that report would signal the beginning of Orion as a BEO exploration vehicle and the SLS and the launch vehicle to do the job.

      • Neil,

        I have read GAO-13-276SP, pages 54-55 covering the Orion program. I also know a person or two associated with the Orion program at JSC.

        So tell me what you think the technical problems are. And I’ll tell you whether you’re correct or not.

  • Neil Shipley

    I’m sorry if I have again upset dyed in the wool NASA fans but it’s not NASA versus NewSpace whoever they are, it’s about programs and whether they are being executed successfully.

    Congress isn’t helping either by underfunding both sides. The relatively recent GAO report indicated evidence of both technical, schedule and funding issues on SLS, JWST, and MPCV which are the major NASA programs. In addition, NASA still can’t provide even an indicative estimate of what SLS is going to cost other than to say tens of billions.
    If they did one on COTS and CCiCap they would come to similar conclusions but the big kicker here is that the NASA funding is pretty much fixed and any schedule slippage resulting in cost increase is picked up by the commercial partners.
    This isn’t the case with the other NASA programs.

    Look, bottom line. I want the U.S. HSF back in space in a meaningful way in their own vehicles but NASA doesn’t need to be in the launch business when there are better and much less costly commercial alternatives available or that can be developed.
    So that’s not boots and flags but ongoing exploration and technology development. I just can’t see SLS and MPCV doing it for the above reasons but also because of the cost and inability to fly often. FGS NASA’s had to go and virtually beg ESA to develop a SM for the MPCV ’cause they don’t have the funds.
    But enough of that.

    In a post on another site I laid out the following as a broad roadmap:
    1. Technology (including cost reduction) – supports 2 and 3
    2. Missions – provides milestones to support 3.
    3. Exploration and ongoing settlement (not one off visits).

    That’s what I really want and I just can’t see Congress and NASA doing it with SLS and MPCV. Sorry I really want them to but someone please tell me how they can given the costs and flat (perhaps declining) budgets?

    • Neil,
      If it weren’t for SpaceX where would COTS/CRS/CCiCap be? Nowhere. Sorry, but your comments have been decidedly anti-NASA, pro NewSpace. Again – be honest. This first comment doesn’t pass the smell test.

      Agree with you about Congress, they’re no better than Obama in terms of mucking things up & yanking NASA this way & that.

      Although the scales are different, NewSpace companies severely understated their estimates as to cost. So, your “side” isn’t doing all that hot either. Developing a semi-new man-rated system is very expensive (as SpaceX is finding out).

      As to your comment about how the commercial partners would pick up the slippage – WRONG. That is a flat out falsehood. The overages were picked up by NASA & therein the U.S. taxpayer. Get your facts straight before you post propaganda.

      Why don’t you comment about how 90 percent (Musk’s own numbers) of the development cost of his company’s expenses to develop their “commercial” efforts – were paid for by the U.S. taxpayer? Why don’t you ADMIT that SpaceX is also likely paying far MORE than the other “commercial” competitors? You’ve done this before Neil – you’ve stated opinion as fact.

      Here’s what you either don’t understand or won’t admit. If SpaceX were to go bankrupt tomorrow? NASA would get none of the hardware they’ve paid for. When you’re paying for 90 percent of what a company does – shouldn’t you have ownership of at least SOME of it? While NASA might not need to be in the launch business – it does need to have an agreement in place that safeguards the U.S. taxpayer’s investment. What you support fails to do this.

      As to your comment about “flying often” – I hate to break it to you – but commercial is only flying at the rate of once a year. Before you complain about how inefficient NASA is – you might want to get commercial up to a whopping two annually.

      Neil your comment about NASA begging ESA? Is a falsehood – it was the other way around. ESA – approached NASA. If you have to make stuff up to “win” your debate – you’re not going to be welcome to post here much longer. Enough of that (lies) – is right. You’ve misrepresented & distorted the truth in the past and apparently have yet to learn your lesson. From our sources, what we understand happened is like this. ESA (& JAXA for that matter) have expressed a lack of interest in ISS & wanted to join NASA in its deep-space, crewed human exploration efforts. The joint NASA/ESA EM-1 effort came out of ESA’s interest – not NASA’s “begging.”

      http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2013/01/orions-atv-deal-esa-astro-em-2-mission/

      Also, given you’re not even a U.S. Citizen, sorry, but who cares what you want? This isn’t your tax money! I find it nauseating you’d come here, spread falsehoods & then act like you have a say in how our money is spent! You need to check your ego – it has a lot to do with why folks are starting to ignore NewSpacers more & more. The only thing that has upset this Space Supporter – is your penchant to make up facts to bolster your rapidly flagging argument. I find the fact that you will say anything offensive, telling & patently NewSpace.
      Jason Rhian – Editor, AmericaSPace

    • Leonidas

      Neil, I understand your points and I agree with some and I disagree with others. It shouldn’t be NASA vs NewSpace or whomever. Being pro-NASA, doesn’t mean being anti-commercial, and vice versa. IMHO, a robust space program is one that has a strong public-private relationship, where a public space agency does most (or all) of the pioneering R&D, lays all the groundwork, and when the trading paths are established, private industry comes in and follows on.

      Youy’re exactly right that NASA shouldn’t just be ‘boots and flags’-it should be about opening the road to settlement. But to be fair, the inability to do so isn’t NASA’s fault. Correct me if I’m wrong, but since the days of Apollo, the only space policy that laid out a path towards space exploitation and settlement, and that was signed into law by multiple Congresses, was the Bush’s VSE. It wasn’t just Constellation. The core of the VSE was to add the Moon and cislunar space to our existing economic sphere of influence. Well, we all know VSE didn’t last long. (There was also the 1989 SEI, but that was DOA in Congress).

      What I’m trying to say, is that the public space program of a ‘flags and bootprints’ approach wasn’t NASA’s style and it wasn’t what NASA wanted to do. Every NASA plan that incorporated an aggresive approach towards HSF lunar and martian exploration that could lead to a sustained pressence in space, was cancelled by later administrations. Examples are plenty, going back to Nixon’s cancellation of NASA’s 1969 Space Task Group plans.

      So, the current situation of the space program isn’t NASA’s fault, but rather is a failure of leadership from various White Houses and Congresses over the course of many decades. Guess who votes for these administrations in the first place.

      As for your comment that private space vehicles will be better and cheaper, that still remains to be seen. Until crews start flying, as frequently, safely and affordably as their companies proclaim-it’s still an open question. That doesn’t mean that I’m against private efforts. I really want them to succeed! But I’ll cheer when I see the results start coming in.

      About technical issues concerning NASA’s projects, the fact that they exist doesn’t immediately mean that they are unsolvable problems. NASA’s history is one of overcoming problems. For example, the MSL Curiosity rover faced delays and technical/funding issues as well, but look where it is today. Heck, Apollo itself was a triumph over a horde of such huge technical problems and unknowns. Hubble’s repair was a huge technical issue overcame. Its safe to say that MSL Curiosity, Hubble and Apollo were largely successful.

      I also have a question for last. Since commercial is the way to go to space, and given NASA’s funding situation, why aren’t Commercial Crew partners funding their vehicle’s development all by themselves? If a huge profit for going to space already exists today, then why aren’t entepreneurs already there? Why can’t they just attract like-minded investors to share the costs and the later gains from the return on investment? Why do we have to rely on NASA’s funding towards Commercial Crew at all? Why aren’t we seeing already various commercial spaceliners doing routine orbital trips? To paraphrase Fermi’s famous paradox,’If the profit and the market for going to space is already huge and in place, then where are all the commercial routine trips?’

      • Leo,
        To your last question. Because if they tried to do so? They’d go the way of Rotary Rocket & Kistler. Shipley doesn’t want to answer awkward questions, he wants to see those he approves of rewarded & those he doesn’t defunded. It’s a tale as old as NewSpace 1.0…
        Thanks for all the good points Leo.
        Sincerely, Jason

      • Karol

        Leonidas, a truly exceptional, logical, well-written post. Well Done! (I especially liked your Fermi’s Paradox analogy). As you are well aware, it is common practice among sports teams to “trade” players between teams. Our State Department needs to propose a “trade” to the Greek government: We’ll give you 500 “American Idol” fans and 500 “So You Think You Can Dance” fans to be chosen later, for 1 Leonidas. That trade alone would raise our national average I.Q. by at least three points. (Yeah, I know the Greek government would never go for it since the trade is so lopsided in our favor). 🙂

        • Leonidas

          Karol, once again, I’m humbled by your heartfelt comments. They mean alot to me! The reason I wrote this post is that I’m really annoyed and frustrated with this feud between public and private sectors amongst the space community. And logic and reason seem to be so absent that it leaves me with an open mouth! And I’m also tired with all this NASA bashing anyway. If NASA is so ‘incompetent’ and the commercial guys think they can re-invent the wheel, then why all this fight to gain more NASA money? If I were in a position of power, I’d surely give the NewSpacers the boot! (Maybe it also helps that I’m outside the US and I view some things more objectively and cool-headed).

          As for the ‘trade’ you propose, I don’t think the Greek government would really mind! For them (and most of the Greek population), Ares (the Greek word for Mars), is just the name of a Greek soccer team, playing in the Greek football Premier League!

          Thanks again for all the wonderful company and exchange of ideas you provide here! It would be such a blast if all the like-minded individuals here on AmericaSpace could meet in person (maybe in a future Orion launch?).

          My heartfelt respect and warm regards to you as well! 🙂