NASA Awards SpaceX $30 Million for Successful Dragon Pad Abort Test Milestone

A mockup SpaceX Crew Dragon takes flight for the company Pad Abort Test at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on May 6, 2015. Photo Credit: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace

A mockup SpaceX Crew Dragon takes flight for the company Pad Abort Test at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on May 6, 2015. Photo Credit: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace

NASA has officially declared SpaceX’s recent Crew Dragon Pad Abort Test (PAT) a success, awarding the Hawthorne, Calif.-based company $30 million for completion of that very important development milestone under their Commercial Crew integrated Capability (CCiCap) agreement with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

The flight test, which took place May 6, marked a big step forward as SpaceX aims to deliver U.S. astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS), aboard a U.S.-manufactured spacecraft, and from U.S. soil, for the first time since the nation’s space shuttle fleet retired from service in 2011.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon prototype parachuting back to Earth after a successful Pad Abort Test at Cape Canaveral AFS on May 6, 2015. Photo Credit: John Studwell / AmericaSpace

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon prototype parachuting back to Earth after a successful Pad Abort Test at Cape Canaveral AFS on May 6, 2015. Photo Credit: John Studwell / AmericaSpace

“This test was highly visible and provided volumes of important information, which serves as tangible proof that our team is making significant progress toward launching crews on American rockets from America soon,” said Jon Cowart, partner manager for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. “The reams of data collected provide designers with a real benchmark of how accurate their analyses and models are at predicting reality. As great as our modern computational methods are, they still can’t beat a flight test, like this, for finding out what is going on with the hardware.”

Launching off a specially made truss to simulate the spacecraft atop a Falcon-9 rocket from Space Launch Complex-40, the 21,000-lb prototype capsule took flight quickly under 120,000 lbs of axial thrust from its eight SuperDraco engines, which are intended to carry astronauts to safety in the event of an emergency on the pad or during ascent (16,000 lbs of thrust each, compared to 100 lbs of thrust each with the original Draco thrusters on Dragon 1).

The eight SuperDraco engines, which are built directly into Crew Dragon’s walls, are the first fully 3-D printed engines intended for space to ever be developed.

After ascending 3,500 ft in six seconds, the PAT Dragon jettisoned its trunk and deployed a pair of drogue chutes, followed by a trio of main parachutes and splashdown less than a mile offshore of the launch site, minutes later.

The vehicle was outfitted with hundreds of instruments and sensors for data collection, and even had an instrumented mannequin as the sole passenger, providing SpaceX with important data and other information regarding the stresses put on the mannequin—information that will be critical in ensuring development of an abort system that prevents serious injury to crews.

Dragon’s PAT should provide SpaceX significant data in the areas of Sequencing, Closed-Loop Control, Trajectory, and External and Internal Environments. The PAT demonstrated the proper sequencing of the pad-abort timeline as well, serving to validate the execution of multiple critical commands in a very short period. Trajectory data for both maximum altitude and downrange distance from the pad was gathered as well, including data on various internal and external factors to Crew Dragon to help ensure safe conditions for crew transport.

“This is the first major flight test for a vehicle that will bring astronauts to space for the entire Commercial Crew Program,” said Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX. “The successful test validated key predictions as it relates to the transport of astronauts to the space station. With NASA’s support, SpaceX continues to make excellent and rapid progress in making the Crew Dragon spacecraft the safest and most reliable vehicle ever flown.”

The approval of the PAT milestone payment follows NASA’s authorization for Boeing to begin work toward its first post-certification mission with the CST-100 crew capsule, which also received a multi-billion dollar NASA contract for crew transport to and from the ISS. The company recently received the first of up to six orders to execute a crew-rotation mission to the ISS, which NASA stressed does not necessarily imply that a Boeing CST-100 capsule will fly ahead of a SpaceX Crew Dragon.

Crew Dragon recovered just offshore of its launch site. Photo Credit: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace

Crew Dragon recovered just offshore of its launch site. Photo Credit: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace

SpaceX will conduct one more abort test, an In-Flight Abort atop a Falcon-9 rocket launch, using the same Crew Dragon prototype capsule, later this summer.

Both SpaceX and Boeing are expected to begin carrying out the first operational crewed flights for NASA in 2017, but that is dependent on NASA funding, which is dependent on the federal government. The debate is still ongoing in Congress, but it appears that NASA’s Commercial Crew Program will receive several hundred million dollars less than what the space agency and the White House requested for FY2016, which will likely delay America’s return to human spaceflight from U.S. soil once again.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden had this to say about it:

“I am deeply disappointed that the Senate Appropriations subcommittee does not fully support NASA’s plan to once again launch American astronauts from U.S. soil as soon as possible, and instead favors continuing to write checks to Russia. By gutting this program and turning our backs on U.S. industry, NASA will be forced to continue to rely on Russia to get its astronauts to space – and continue to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into the Russian economy rather than our own.”


WATCH! AmericaSpace Dragon PAT Video Compilation 

 

Be sure to “Like” AmericaSpace on Facebook and follow us on Twitter: @AmericaSpace

 

Missions » ISS » CCDev » Crew Dragon PAT »

103 comments to NASA Awards SpaceX $30 Million for Successful Dragon Pad Abort Test Milestone Under CCiCap

  • Gary Church

    “Both SpaceX and Boeing are expected to begin carrying out the first operational crewed flights for NASA in 2017-”

    Very little possibility of that happening. By the time these taxis are operating the space station to nowhere will be on it’s last legs. The NewSpace fans waiting in line to buy their private Bigelow space station vacation will be in for a disappointment: nobody is going to invest a penny in space tourism because there is not a chance of making it back.

    And that will be the end of U.S. LEO space stations. China might orbit a few tin cans but after decades of these worthless money holes swallowing billions their time will finally be over.

    Likewise the Mars farce will finally be exposed when it is admitted that cosmic radiation requires a massive water shield and nuclear propulsion. There is only one place to acquire shielding, assemble, test and launch any interplanetary missions. After the SLS flies people will start asking why we are not going to the Moon with our Moon rocket.

    • You quote my story “2017 launch date” then explain why you think it’s unlikely, even though I clearly explained that date likely slipping anyway…

      • Gary Church

        Actually Mike, I did not explain why I think the delay is likely- you did by clearly explaining the funding problem. My comment was concerning the billions spent on these taxis when they will only be used for a few years- it will have been cheaper to never have spent the money on them and just paid the Russians.

      • john hare

        This could be the acid test of whether SpaceX is willing to invest internal funds in a commercial manner, or if the company is focused on the NASA contracts. There are so many people vehemently arguing each side that a test case would be illuminating. I’m a SpaceX fan that is careful about taking press releases at face value, hoping for one outcome, but not holding my breath. The posts on this site have been as fair and honest as one would wish, of course some of the comments make up for it.

        • You bring up a good point John, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out CCP is being underfunded intentionally for the exact reason you said.
          Can’t argue with your point either Gary, but America needs our own vehicles again, anything less is absolutely unacceptable for any country that sells itself a a “leader”

          • Tim Andrews

            I would think it the goal was to see if the Commercial Crew providers would continue on their own, the full Commercial Crew budget would be cut. The cutback currently proposed is sized well to fit a NASA downselect to a single provider, which some in congress have called for.

            • Joe

              I think you are on the mark Tim.

              The congressional assumption is probably that the one provider selected would be Boeing, but the politics could be tricky.

              In any case such a fiscally enforced down select would be educational.

              If SpaceX were to be selected, Boeing (as Mike Killian says elsewhere)would almost certainly drop out.

              Question is, what would SpaceX do if Boeing is selected?

              Matt McClanahan suggests below that – “Perhaps SpaceX could put Raptor, Falcon Heavy, and Brownsville efforts on pause or a slowdown and shift that money to Dragon for a couple years.” Problem with that is that those efforts are:

              (1) Likely assumed (by SpaceX)to be more short term profitable than Commercial Crew.

              (2) At least partially funded by money from the Commercial Crew project (not suggesting anything illegal, just that money is fungible).

          • Gary Church

            “-America needs our own vehicles again,-”

            There are currently two operational crewed vehicles, one Russian and one Chinese. We have built four- Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and the Shuttle. Right now we are trying to build three at once. Out of all six of the operational vehicles only one ever left Low Earth Orbit and went anywhere. That was 40 years ago and at that time the first Russian LEO space station was built. We retreated into LEO after the Moon and sent up with one launch a dry workshop space station with about as much interior space as the 200 billion dollar 20 year in the making space station to nowhere. The Shuttle took us nowhere and killed two crews. Columbia spawned the abomination that is now NewSpace.

            The ice on the Moon is the critical enabling resource that will support a permanent human settlement Beyond Earth Orbit. The vehicle and launcher to support that settlement should be the central focus of all space advocates. Instead, the two places that are the most useless dead ends imaginable, LEO and Mars, are being sold to the public as the future. The NewSpace business plan is the worst thing that has ever happened to space exploration and settlement.

            It is sad and unless the next administration points NASA back at the Moon I will likely not live to see any human beings leave Earth again.

            • Ivan

              Gary,

              I can tell you are PRO-MOON – and that’s ok. But what’s the problem with MARS? To make things a bit clear for you.

              Radiation on moon is MUCH higher then MARS – there is no AIR pressure what so ever, and that makes any out-door activity crazy (and costly) compare to Mars out-door activity.

              Mars temperature is super friendly compared to MOON.

              Lack of gravity makes moon dust much bigger problem then MARS dust (based on curent informations we have from robots missions to mars and human missions to MOON).

              Your biggest REASON to go to MOON is “Making POWER for Humanity” – I am not even sure what type of power you are talking about (Let’s say you are are talking about Helium-3 Reactor), how you will transfer all that power to earth? (There is zilion other problems with this type of reactor as well!)

              If you would use some type of Laser beam or Microwave power transmission at best you are looking at 85% efficiency – and tests we did so far was only less then 100 KM distance wise. (I am sure you know how far Moon is!)

              On top of that you have Earth-based rectenna to collect all that power, and each station would need to be several kilometers across. And you would need many of them, since MOON is moving around earth, so you cant just beam power to USA directly (or any other location).

              Another issue, we have no clue about environment type of issues that would happen when this “beams” would be sent – health wise, local issues, people issues bla bla bla. You name it, it’s there.

              Moon base alone – would cost around $100+ Billions. – To put all this extra hardware + reactors + what not – price would jump to $200+ Billions if not more.

              The SOLAR power plant built at California – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Topaz_Solar_Farm
              Costed around 2.1-2.3 Billions – it can power around 150-160k households. (So that’s 3-5 people per house).

              For 200+ Billion you can build around 80+ this type of plants (Quick math 12.8 milion households x 4 people = 51-ish million people in USA) and they would ALL be in USA.

              I am sure above number is much higher and cost is less, cause price for SOLAR PV is droping like crazy (projection is around 25 Cents/Watt By 2020).

              Everything above aside. I also see you are frustrated about “space program” not goin that far. I agree with you! Space station is a bust. But Moon it self? It’s not that far as well!

              So, again, I would like us to see (As Human race) – go from Earth – to Moon and Beyond. But goin to Moon to build power plant? That’s just crazy, it makes no sense what so ever economy wise.

              I am not attacking you (for some reason you always write in your replays that people are attacking you) – I am just trying to see economy + benefit (simple ROI) on your idea. (I worked in power industry) – right now it’s not there.

              Thank you for your time!

              • Gary Church

                I can tell you are PRO-Mars – and that’s not ok. To make things a bit clear for you;

                The ice on the Moon is the key enabler for any permanent human presence Beyond Earth Orbit. Mars is a farce.

                • Gary Church

                  “But goin to Moon to build power plant? That’s just crazy, it makes no sense what so ever economy wise.”

                  Gerard Kitchen O’Neill would disagree.

                  • Ivan

                    Hello Gary,

                    With all due respect – he died at 1992 – that’s 20+ years ago. Maybe he would change opinion today? (Maybe not, but you your argument that someone who is dead would not agree MOON vs MARS – so I cant ask him for his opinion).

                    Economy wise, nobody opinion is need it. It’s a math issue. (You invest $1 and you get $xxx amount in return).

                    ROI = return on investment

                    So, I am talking about business – making money.

                    Explain me with words – data – and data alone, why would making power plant on moon make a difference for humanity.

                    Even Einstein was wrong on some issues, regardless how brilliant he really was!

                    • Gary Church

                      “Explain me with words – data – and data alone, why would making power plant on moon make a difference for humanity.”

                      The only remedy for global warming is to beam down the power to run civilization from space. Building more power plants on Earth just creates more greenhouse gases- the sad truth is that manufacturing solar and wind energy assets incur a tremendous carbon penalty. It is a vicious circle with only one solution; build the solar power satellites on the Moon and beam down the power to run civilization from space. Since you are an obnoxious naysayer this will just excite you into more scintillating prose- so have at it.

                      O’Neill was not wrong- he proposed space solar as a remedy to the environmental effects of the energy industry long before it became the issue it is now.

                • Ivan

                  Dear Gary,

                  can you be more specific.

                  “The ice on the Moon” in what perspective? Did you miss the part – where I wrote that MOON is radioactive?

                  First layer of EVERYTHING on Moon is radioactive – who would work to get that watter out ?

                  Also read this: http://www.space.com/18753-mars-radiation-manned-mission.html

                  Please tell me next.

                  Let’s say we have MOON BASE (and we have watter and we have all this other things you say are cool and need it).

                  What is next step? Would we then go to Mars or somewhere else?

                  If you are MAIN-IN-CHARGE – what would be next step after Moon ?

                  Also, why is Mars farce?

                  If we would have RIGHT NOW – base on MARS – why would that be bad for humanity?

                  Here is what I know so far from what you said

                  Moon is good for next:

                  Power Reactor – send power to Earth
                  Watter

                  Mars is good for: (nothing – it’s farce)

                  Btw, there is much more watter on mars then on MOON – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_on_Mars

                  Thank you for your time and opinion!

                  • Gary Church

                    “What is next step? Would we then go to Mars or somewhere else?”

                    Actually a Moon base is NOT the first step. Wet workshops and robot landers ferrying water up to the empty SLS stages would be first. Assembling these workshops into true space stations with artificial gravity and massive radiation shields would be the second step. Placing these stations in GEO would replace the present satellite junkyard and capture a large percentage of that over 100 billion dollar a year industry. This would help fund continuing construction of space stations with nuclear propulsion systems- thus making them true spaceships capable of carrying nuclear weapons and replacing the strategic nuclear deterrent- the third step.

                    The fourth step after GEO stations and a spaceship fleet would be a Moon base and eventually space solar power component factories. With civilization powered by space solar energy then the fifth step would initiated- the construction of artificial spinning hollow moons (Bernal Spheres).

                    The sixth step would be to use beam propulsion of the kind being researched by Kevin Parkin to finally provide single stage to orbit commercial space travel and begin the mass migration of humanity into space as foreseen by Gerard K. O’Neill.

                    The seventh step would be to start sending these artificial moons to other stars. Considering the progress made in the twentieth century such star travel is possible by the end of this century.

                    • Ivan

                      Dear Gary,

                      the amount of money you are talking about here is in trillions. You are not talking about station – but STATIONS. Your “vision” is built based on 1960-70th and to be honest, that looks super cool, but cost to make something like that is huge.

                      It’s not even a money issue. Tech problem to solve are HUGE – we dont know how to make artificial gravity – (some part of it should spin ofcourse) – but tech for that, and know how – dont exist yet – we have idea how to do it, but nothing like that is really tested in ZERO G. Humans are super smart, but sometimes we need years just to test engine for rockets, while you would like to build stations that have all the things from SF movies (artificial gravitiy + plumbing for watter and everything you have in some day to day hotel you can visit at any time). We have problems building hotels on Earth! And we can fix it easy again and again, space is different!

                      I have NO problem with your vision, I like it. I want to go to other stars tomorrow. I want to be that person as well. But amount of things you need to get done is WAY outside of USA policy and even economy. It can only be done as WORLD project – even then it would be HUGE project for decades to come.

                      I still think Mars colony is better option, cause we could get it actually done, compare to your vision.

                      You talked about satelite industry and 100+ bilion industry. Arianespace saying they own 50-60% commercial lunches right now (Europ) so right now USA is late in game. Only possible option for that to change is SPACEX, if they lower the cost (and everything look like they will) – they will get alot of orders (leaving mars colony and everything out of the picture they are doin good business).

                      For commercial satelite business, SPACEX is something best that happen in last 10 years.

                      Again, I talked with people in space industry, the future is really goin to be in small satelites. CubeSat will be lunched more and more (the amount of CPU power you can put in today smartphone is more then some of the satelites have from 1990+ in orbit right now)

                      This CubeSat are 10x10x10 cm – and they are super easy to replace and they dont cost as big brothers. Big satelites are so complicated and everything must be just right, so I suspect, in future we will have less and less of big satelites and more and more of CubeSat.

                      Space SOLAR – it’s cool idea, but it’s really a dream. Can it be done? Sure. But cost wise, it would cost x1000 times then solar power plant on land.

                      Solar panels suffer about 5+ times the degradation they would on Earth – and there is 50-60% power loss transfer (from space to land). All this need’s to be installed (Just look how much time it costed to do it on ISS – and energy amounts are very small).

                      Moste things you say are very romantic. Your ideas cant be done on level you want. Humans never ever – worked side by side on level you are talking about – that is need it to make what you say happen.

                      It’s nice idea, and I would like to see it happen, but that’s not how it works.

                      Look at ISS – it’s a 100+ billion project (I am sure number is even bigger) And look how many problems we had (from tech to politics).

                      The part where you say – that NUCLEAR WEAPONS should be put in space is beyond normal.

                      You scare me.

                      What do you think rest of the world would think if USA would even do that? (I would asume you are American, cause the way you wrote it, seem’s you are).

                      History is FULL of nuclear accidents (lost bombs and what not) – why do you think it would be any different in space?

                      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_military_nuclear_accidents

                      Some of the bombs are still lost!

                      Please stop quoting some people who had some vision, that’s not data. That’s just ideas. Ideas are COOL – but they are just 1% of making something done. Hard work + resources + money + long term commitment = gives results.

                      I can quote you 100+ people who said flying cars will be normal thing by 2015 – but there is none around.

                      Bill Gates – richest person in the world was WRONG more then once when it comes to technology predictions, and he admit that.

                      Unless there is specific result, something to show of, whoever makes some predictions is just a prediction. It means nothing.

                      Same goes for me. I can argue something, but I would try to use specific data to back it, but I could still be way off and I admit that upfront.

                      So quoting some cool and smart people is just that, opinion.

                      Just like when Elon Musk say something, and the he get it wrong – it will happen again and again, but he is also not afraid to get his hands dirty and put money where his mouth are, so I respect person for that (Or any other).

                      Thank you for your time!

                    • Gary Church

                      Like all obnoxious naysayers, you are making stuff up left and right. I don’t know what to throw the B.S. flag on first. It is just too much really. This is really a waste of time so I am going to pass.

        • Matt McClanahan

          Well, they did it once already. SpaceX invested more in Dragon/F9 development under COTS than NASA did; NASA contributed $396 million and SpaceX, per Shotwell’s numbers at a few different speaking engagements, spent about $450 million in addition to that. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjlbNud-UQA#t=1139

          It’s also known that each of the commercial crew partners are investing their own money (per committee hearings and IG reports) but that exact percentage is proprietary. Gerstenmaier has been saying 10-20%, which isn’t terribly useful.

          It would certainly be nice to see both partners step up and invest much more of their own money. Perhaps SpaceX could put Raptor, Falcon Heavy, and Brownsville efforts on pause or a slowdown and shift that money to Dragon for a couple years.

          Boeing, for their part, I think has made their level of commitment to CST-100 clear. Almost exactly a year ago, they distributed 60 day layoff notices to their CST-100 workers in case they weren’t selected for CCtCap. To me, that doesn’t paint the picture of a company interested in investing more of its own resources.

          • Boeing has always said without shame that they would not invest in CST-100, they have no interest in being another Elon Musk

            • Gary Church

              As a corporate being Boeing does not experience “shame”- only a psychopathic desire for profit. The profit motive is poison to space exploration. The only revenue generator is satellites. Period. All this Ayn Rand in space libertarian fantasizing is completely crippling any progress. Only a supportive public can enable the vast governmental resources to create a cislunar infrastructure. At present the corporations want nothing to do with Human Space Flight because they are making money off defense. Defense is easy money and space flight is hard money. Only a policy decision at the highest level can affect this status quo. We must choose to go back to the Moon.

          • Gary Church

            “To me, that doesn’t paint the picture of a company interested in investing more of its own resources.”

            http://www.law360.com/articles/636290/spacex-can-t-jettison-mass-layoff-class-action

            “-the idea that so many workers were found to be low performers at once was “absurd.” Instead, he said, the company was trying to conceal a layoff from potential big-name, big-money investors.”

          • Malmesbury

            It’s all quite simple (at least to me)

            Congress wants a down select to 1 traditional aerospace prime (Boeing), doing full on cost plus under FAR. It’s embarrassing for them to say they want the most expensive possible option, so they are playing games. And they want it to fly after the election – even un manned. Otherwise it is seen as a threat to Orion.

            COTS was a problem for the traditional stakeholders – Congress found themselves being asked to vote money for a program which they did not control. Under the SAA system, NASA decided which companies were in the next round. Worse yet, the companies were free to spend the money in whichever part of the country they wanted. This effectively bypasses the entire Washington complex – if Congress can’t micro manage who gets exactly what money, why would any one need them (after the initial vote)? Why would anyone donate?

            If you want hilarity, consider this. Congressional aides are muttering about investigating why Commercial Crew *isn’t* slowing down – enough. Apparently, the companies aren’t getting the message – they are persisting in trying to fly before the election.

            • Joe

              “If you want hilarity, consider this. Congressional aides are muttering about investigating why Commercial Crew *isn’t* slowing down – enough.”

              An interesting assertion, do you happen to have a link as to where you received this information?

              • Malmesbury

                Friend of a friend who is a very junior guy on the Hill. He knows I like the space stuff, so he sends me the crazy goings on he hears in the low level meetings every now and again.

                That Congress wants a down select to Boeing and full FAR isn’t even vaguely secret in the political world. They aren’t openly saying they want to delay CC until after the elections – just in the back rooms.

                • Joe

                  “That Congress wants a down select to Boeing and full FAR isn’t even vaguely secret in the political world.”

                  Agreed. That isn’t even a secret in the nonpolitical world. The nefarious motives you assign to them wanting it are another matter. Another possible explanation is that they do not think paying to develop two vehicles to fly two missions/year to the ISS is a wise investment. You may disagree with that assessment, but that disagreement does not prove they differ with you for reasons of corrupt politics as you imply.

                  “They aren’t openly saying they want to delay CC until after the elections – just in the back rooms.”

                  I will pass on evaluating what a “Friend of a friend who is a very junior guy on the Hill” told you about what congressional aides are “muttering about” in “the back rooms”.

                  • Malmesbury

                    It’s not nefarious – not to them. They see a program being run by the Executive branch, without their usual input. They want the usual way of doing business.

                    The money they push around, is in their view, a careful balance to reward/invest in the “right” areas of the economy. The space thing is, to most of them, a fun byproduct.

                    The attitude of the SLS partisans on the Hill toward CC is pretty public as well. The irony being, of course, that SLS only missions to Mars, or even to the moon will require multiple launches. Having smaller, cheap providers in the mix for cargo and manned access while assembling the missions in LEO is an obvious benefit…

                    • Joe

                      “They see a program being run by the Executive branch, without their usual input. They want the usual way of doing business.”

                      What is the matter with those guys?
                      What do they think the Legislative Branch is supposed to be – A co-equal branch of government?

                      “The irony being, of course, that SLS only missions to Mars, or even to the moon will require multiple launches. Having smaller, cheap providers in the mix for cargo and manned access while assembling the missions in LEO is an obvious benefit…”

                      – There is very little chance of LEO Assembly for Lunar Missions using even the Block I SLS. Even with the Block I SLS the most likely approach would be the Dual Launch Architecture presented to the Augustine Commission by John Shannon (which the Commission ignored).

                      – Any Mars Mission Scenario is far enough in the future as to be a mute point as of now.

                      Therefore even if there were multiple providers of crew/lite cargo to LEO they would not be used for Lunar operations and (at best) not for a long time (if at all) for any Mars scenarios.

                    • Gary Church

                      “Having smaller, cheap providers in the mix for cargo and manned access while assembling the missions in LEO is an obvious benefit…”

                      LEO is a dead end- it is obviously ridiculous to waste resources on taking some lego blocks and a couple gallons of gas at at time a couple hundred miles up with inferior lift hobby rockets. The only efficient way to send a worthwhile payload a quarter million miles across cislunar space is directly with a Super Heavy Lift Vehicle with hydrogen upper stages.

                    • Joe

                      Thanks for the help Gary.

                      Your extra exemplary informed input is always appreciated.

                    • Gary Church

                      “Even with the Block I SLS the most likely approach would be the Dual Launch Architecture-”

                      You know my view on what should be the next step very well Joe- the Ehricke/von Braun wet workshop in lunar orbit with robot landers bringing water up for shielding. With everything following that.

                      Unfortunately there is not a hint of anything even close to this except for the proposed “Skylab II” and that is not a lunar platform, is a dry workshop, and does not utilize water from lunar ice as radiation shielding.

                    • Joe

                      OK Gary, but what does that have to do with what Malmesbury said and I was replying to?

                      Or does what other people are talking about matter, according to you?

                    • Joe

                      Gary,

                      On a more conciliatory note, nice touch giving Ehricke partial credit for the wet workshop concept.

                    • Gary Church

                      There is very little chance of LEO Assembly for Lunar Missions?

                    • Joe

                      “There is very little chance of LEO Assembly for Lunar Missions?”

                      Not when using a launch vehicle with a minimum 70 Metric Ton to LEO payload capability.

                      As per the pitch given to the Augustine Commission by John Shannon (which it should always be noted the Commission did not refute but ignored) using one launch with the crew vehicle and another with a lander, then having them use an LLO rendezvous/docking is far more efficient.

                      If you are trying to build a lunar base one way cargo missions using the same 70 metric ton vehicle is still more efficient.

                    • Gary Church

                      Absolutely.

                    • Joe

                      Well, what do you know; we actually agreed on something.

                      Have a nice evening.

        • Tim Andrews

          This would be the second acid test then. Weren’t both Boing and SpaceX officially put on hold at one point during the SNC lawsuit? Neither contractor laid off their staff.

        • Gary Church

          “The posts on this site have been as fair and honest as one would wish, of course some of the comments make up for it.”

          http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-hy-musk-subsidies-20150531-story.html#page=1

          Go ahead and call the LA times dishonest. Every time I talk about SpaceX not being the free market miracle it claims to be I am excoriated.

    • Tim Andrews

      With as much pork as there is in the ISS, I can’t imagine congress doing anything but repeatedly extending its mission, as they did with the Space Shuttled. I will be utterly shocked if they actually abandon it in 2024.

      • Gary Church

        “I will be utterly shocked if they actually abandon it in 2024.”

        The ISS is deteriorating. It cannot remain in operation without billions being spent on essentially rebuilding it piece by piece. It was supposed to close shop this year and maintenance problems will multiply until the crew can no longer keep up. I will be utterly shocked if it lasts till 2024.

        • se jones

          >The ISS is deteriorating…essentially rebuilding it piece by piece…utterly shocked if it lasts till 2024.

          As usual, that’s an utterly preposterous statement. All airframes and sub-systems require regular maintenance, ISS is no different.

          Once the Commercial Crew vehicles are available for “lifeboat” duty, the ISS crew will be incremented to increase available crew time for maintenance duties. Plans are underway to do the space equivalent of a “C check” on each module in turn. Obviously, the Quest Joint Airlock and the PMAs will go first, as they are subject to cyclic pressure & mechanical loads.

          Look: the USAF is still flying B-52s that rolled off the assembly line in the early 1960s. I personally trust my life on a regular basis to hardworking old C-130s (and the occasional Beech 18) of 1960s vintage. The ISS sails serenely in a benign environment compared to the brutal life of an LC-130 Ski-Bird.

          There’s no rational justification for your statements, from either operational experience with high-time airframes, or engineering considerations.

          Oh by the way: what is a “{lunar polar “frozen” orbit}” ? Please enlighten us, your fans are dying to know.

          • In case Mr. Church is not inclined (or unable) to answer your question fully, there are four special orbit inclinations for so called “frozen orbits” around the Moon where the orbit eccentricity does not change under the perturbative influence of the lunar mascons: 27°, 50°, 76° and 86° as well as their corresponding retrograde orbits. Lunar satellites in orbits with inclination that differ from these values quickly become very eccentric and intersect with the lunar surface (i.e. the satellite crashes) unless the satellite uses its propulsion system to maintain the orbit. “Lunar polar frozen orbit” refers to stable lunar orbits with inclinations of 86° or 266°. Hope that helps.

          • Gary Church

            http://www.cbsnews.com/news/nasa-looks-to-post-2020-international-space-station-operations/

            “I personally trust my life on a regular basis to hardworking old C-130s-”

            It aint a C-130.

            My “fans” already know what a lunar polar frozen orbit is. Do your own homework.

          • The real issues with continued ISS operation are exceeding designed lifespan, cost to operate the station, and that budgetary impact on other space exploration priorities.

            By 2025, Zvezda and Node 1 will have been in orbit for 20 years. I have read variously that ISS modules are designed for around a 20-year lifespan. I have been told by those who worked on Freedom that the station wasn’t designed to operate beyond 2025-2030 without major work.

            ISS costs are ballooning. Congress has since 2011 requested that NASA work to keep annual ISS operations cost to around $3.5B for the foreseeable future. NASA naturally ignored Congress. Today, ISS ops costs are around $4B and by 2020 the Obama Admin. projects such costs to be around $4.5B. ISS is literally gobbling up funds that could be used for beyond earth exploration.

            And the issue of cost isn’t just affecting NASA; our ISS international partners have been telling anyone who would listen, including NASA’s Bolden and OSTP’s Holdren, that they don’t want to spend what little human spaceflight funding available on maintaining an over 35-year old LEO facility–they want to go to the Moon.

            In 2025, Orion and SLS will be operational and have already completed and unmanned and manned lunar fly-by and a SLS Block II will have just launched the Europa probe. We will be back where we were in 1968 of having a huge lifter and a spacecraft that can explore the Moon and set the stage for exploring Mars a decade later. At that point-in-time, I am willing to bet that it will be hard to form a congressional consensus to keep our LEO space station aloft. Having served its purpose, it will be de orbited. Unless, that is, someone finds a way to operate it as a commercially self-sustainable orbiting outpost.

            • Gary Church

              “Unless, that is, someone finds a way to operate it as a commercially self-sustainable orbiting outpost.”

              Unless we get some good ole C-130 boys to git er done that is not going to happen. When Columbia was lost in 2003 the entire LEO space program should have been dumped and NASA should have gone back to the drawing board. Instead of making the tough call the space agency continued down the same dead end road it has plodded since the end of Apollo.

            • Joe

              A good point Jim.

              It is interesting to note that the Mars first (and only) crowd use a similar argument against a Moon Program – that a Moon Base would become a recurring expense preventing further space activity.

              That would be only be true if the base is supplied exclusively from Earth. Making use Lunar Resources changes the situation.

              I am a long time proponent of Lunar ISRU, but until recently had reservations about the practicality of making lunar operations largely self sustaining. Fortunately, something recently has developed that removed those reservations. It was not anything that is usually considered in these types of discussions, but additive manufacturing (3D Printing). With the advent of 3D Printing it is now possible identify practical means to produce most components (even complex replacement parts) on site of Lunar materials.

              With that situation, a Lunar Operation can be (not an impediment, but) an enabler of further more extensive space activities.

              • Gary Church

                Printers require stock. You can’t just feed rocks into it and spit out parts that can be assembled into a machine. There is a long list of stuff that has to be on hand before any lunar factory can start production- even if it uses magical printers. And there is a long list of other stuff that has to be on hand to support the technicians to support the lunar factory. So it all depends on exactly how many tons a year of this prerequisite stuff can be soft-landed to make the long lists of other stuff that has to be on hand for both the factory and the technicians. The prerequisite stuff will take a couple decades to get on site. Then another couple decades to get the factories in operation.

                That is just to make a Moon base self-sufficient. If you want to actually manufacture products like solar power components or spaceship propulsion components then it will require a completely separate mirror program with 6 to 8 Super Heavy Lift Vehicle launches added to the basic lunar program.

                In my view the 6 to 8 launches a year are what is sustainable and the best path is to scale up the launch vehicles into the 15, 20, and eventually 30 million plus pounds of thrust range. As I stated, adding “mirror” operations over the years will cut the half a century plus timeline in half and then some. Perhaps first a west coast launch infrastructure to increase the schedule to 12 to 16 launches and then licensing an Asian and/or European cooperative to increase it again to 18 to 24.

                What is essentially possible but no one will admit is that by redirecting 5 or 10 percent of the DOD budget into such a program within a couple decades we could be throwing twenty-five or more 100-ton Earth Departure Stages at the Moon every year. This seems mind boggling but when keeping in mind DOD programs like the one trillion dollars over the next half century for the F-35 stealth fighter and another trillion over less than half that time required to replace our decrepit strategic nuclear forces- it is not so shocking. The 9 billion a year in perpetuity spent on Reagan’s Ballistic Missile Defense scam is just one more of many examples. Basing the nuclear deterrent in deep space on human-crewed spaceships would require a Moon base and make it a done deal.

                We have the money- the public is just so conditioned to the high pitched screaming over the NASA budget never ever being raised that they just don’t get it.

                • Joe

                  Thank you for your input.

                  Apparently in you reading of Gerard O’Neill’s work you chose to skip the work he did on Lunar Boot-Strapping.

                  I will stand by my original statements.

                  Have a nice weekend.

                  • Gary Church

                    Having actually performed maintenance out in the field I understand that those people who casually cite concepts like “bootstrapping” have never been out in the middle of nowhere trying to make the impossible happen.

                    • Joe

                      You often site Dr. O’Neill as the ultimate expert, as you did in this comments section at June 13, 2015 at 6:43 pm

                      “Gerard Kitchen O’Neill would disagree”

                      I did not originate the bootstrapping reference Dr. O’Neill did.

                      Here s a reference from the Space Studies Institute (SSI) which he founded:

                      http://ssi.org/introduction-to-research/research-report/

                      “New Routes” Study
                      In 1980, SSI conducted a major systems study that has influenced all of our subsequent work. The study results were published by the AIAA in an article entitled, “New Routes to Manufacturing in Space.” This study introduced the essential concepts of scaling and bootstrapping, which will enable us to start with a small, single “seed” component on the Moon and in space that could grow with a doubling time of 90 days using partial self-replication techniques.”

                      If you contact the AIAA I am sure they could provide you with a copy.

                      If you do not believe the research exists here are links to a couple of other papers referencing it:

                      http://www.rfreitas.com/Astro/GrowingLunarFactory1981.htm

                      http://adsabs.harvard.edu/full/1992lbsa.conf..397M

                      It is not I who “casually cited” bootstrapping but your own guru Dr. O’Neill.

                      I actually have great respect for O’Neill and his work, but you have this attitude that everyone has to be correct 100% of the time (that is they must agree with you 100% of the time) or they are simply wrong.

                      O’Neill believed in Lunar Bootstrapping (in fact he may have originated the concept), you say “people who casually cite concepts like “bootstrapping” have never been out in the middle of nowhere trying to make the impossible happen”.

                      You and O’Neill cannot both be correct on this topic (and by your way of looking at things; if someone is wrong on one thing,they are wrong on all things).

                      So is O’Neill wrong about Lunar Bootstrapping?

                      If he is wrong about Lunar Bootstrapping how can he (by your 100% or nothing way of looking at things) be right about anything else?

                      Will you now stop citing him as the ultimate authority?

                • “Basing the nuclear deterrent in deep space on human-crewed spaceships would require a Moon base and make it a done deal.”

                  Except that doing so would violate the terms of multiple international treaties, be incredibly destabilizing and do absolutely nothing to make this country safer. Quoting the well-respected space expert James Oberg on the basing of nuclear weapons in space:

                  “Stationing weapons in space for use against ground targets has long ago been recognized as far more expensive and less flexible than basing them on Earth, say, in a submarine. Even planning a space-to-space attack can take hours or days or longer for the moving attacker and target to line up in a proper position. This goes double for nuclear weapons: putting them into space on a permanent basis was last taken seriously in the Sunday comics in the late 1950’s. So these accusations seem to confuse proposed projects (usually already rejected—that’s why the proponents go public with their ideas) or even Hollywood science fiction for actual hardware.”

                  Bottom line, basing nuclear weapons in space is an incredibly stupid idea that no serious military expert embraces… PERIOD!

                  • Gary Church

                    Treaties are amended.
                    And the best place for nuclear weapons are weeks and months away from Earth in deep space. Period. What is “incredibly destabilizing” is our present situation with all our land based silos precisely targeted, our submarines vulnerable to detection by new technologies such as sea gliders, and the vulnerability of our no longer 24/7 in-the-air bomber force that was stood down many years ago.

                    Bottom line, having weapons capable of incinerating several hundred million human beings on hair trigger alert with only minutes to decide the fate of civilization is a situation it would be incredibly stupid to allow to continue. Not to mention that spaceships would not only make deterrence far safer but would also allow asteroid and comet impact threats to be deflected.

                    Of course some people have the imagination of a box of rocks and so little common sense they cannot understand what deterrence is actually about.

                    • “Of course some people have the imagination of a box of rocks and so little common sense they cannot understand what deterrence is actually about.”

                      Yes, military experts have no idea how deterrence works. Thanks for clearing that up for all of us.

                    • Gary Church

                      “-military experts have no idea how deterrence works.”

                      You obviously have not been around many “military experts.”

                      I spent 23 years watching them screw things up. You don’t have a clue.

                    • We are all well aware of what you think about experts who do not support you rather interesting ideas on space. Thanks for the input 🙂

                    • Gary Church

                      “We are all well aware of what you think-”

                      Who is “we”?

                      It is always so interesting to me when others multiple personalities come out to play.

                    • Apologies if I spoke out of turn for other posters. They are free to jump to your defense if they are so inclined.

                    • Gary Church

                      I don’t need anyone defending me Andrew. Not from you anyway.

                    • Well, you asked who “we” are. If others disagree with my statement “we are all well aware of what you think about experts who do not support you rather interesting ideas on space”, the others here that collectively make up “we” are free to state otherwise.

                    • Joe

                      I understand what Andrew means and I agree with what I think is Andrews intent.

                    • Gary Church

                      “I agree with what I think is Andrews intent.”

                      I think you do to.

                    • John hare

                      I’m obviously not starting anything contrary to Andrew. A self designated expert on everything is not convincing against people with actual education experience and thought on the subject.

                    • Gary Church

                      “A self designated expert on everything-”

                      That would be you doing the designating/insulting.

                    • Well, this thread is perfect evidence of what you think about experts in the field with whom you disagree (and no one has disagreed with my earlier statement on that subject so far). As for who is “doing the insulting”, the evidence from the comments of just this one article alone speaks for itself:

                      Gary Church
                      June 13, 2015 at 9:16 pm
                      “Since you are an obnoxious naysayer this will just excite you into more scintillating prose”

                      Gary Church
                      June 14, 2015 at 2:09 pm
                      “Like all obnoxious naysayers, you are making stuff up left and right.”

                      Gary Church
                      June 12, 2015 at 10:04 pm · Reply
                      “The smartest of them all- so able, and such a nag.”

                      Gary Church
                      June 13, 2015 at 7:39 pm · Reply
                      “Of course some people have the imagination of a box of rocks and so little common sense they cannot understand what deterrence is actually about.”

                      Gary Church
                      June 13, 2015 at 8:57 pm
                      “You don’t have a clue.”

                    • Gary Church

                      Thank you for self-identifying as the insufferable nag you are. Try not to infer any legal action against this website if they don’t ban me. You and your buddies tried that before, remember?

                    • Additional examples of your on-line insults are really not necessary. As for your accusation about legal action, I have never made any such threat implied or otherwise against this or any other web site for any reason. I know the law and know that any legal action for comments made on a web site like this would be a huge waste of time and money that would resolve nothing. But if you want to add libel to your repertoire of on-line abuse, please feel free to do so.

                    • Andrew has made no such legal threats, and it would be laughable at best if either of you did. I’m getting tired of babysitting, when I spend as much time moderating the BS as I do focusing on producing content there is a problem.

                    • I concur with Mike; Andrew has never made any legal threats to AmericaSpace.com.

                    • Gary Church

                      I could go back and cut and paste from the archives to show the conversation INFERRING legal action Mike. But that is more Andrew’s style.

                      To you it is BS but to me it is just handing back what is being thrown at me. People want to make comments concerning my views then they will get something in return- if they don’t like it then they have the option to not comment about me. Then the BS will stop. You will please notice it is all ad hominem- I state my views and do not return fire until they take shots at me. I will not be a punching bag for condescending creeps to poke at with remarks like “incredibly stupid” and “self-designated expert on everything.”

                    • Gary, this comic sums up the futility of “handing back what is thrown”. If I continued with every single person who told me that I was wrong, or worse, and who knows, they may be proven right someday :-), I wouldn’t be able to do anything other than respond. To me, the continued back-and-forth is a waste of time. Neither you nor your criticism are going to change each other’s opinion.

                      Here’s a great comic reflecting this.

                      https://xkcd.com/386/

                      Duty Calls!

            • Matt McClanahan

              There’s also the issue of the solar array wing, each section of which has a 15 year design life, after which its power output will be 20% less. And of course that efficiency will continue to decline steadily. The first of the four arrays of the wing is already 15 years old, and to the best of my knowledge there are no replacements on the ground.

              • Gary Church

                “All airframes and sub-systems require regular maintenance, ISS is no different.”

                “The first of the four arrays of the wing is already 15 years old, and to the best of my knowledge there are no replacements on the ground.”

                The space station to nowhere is not a “airframe” you can drag into a hangar and tear apart with an army of mechanics. The pressurized crew compartments cannot be de-pressurized, stripped and inspected or treated for corrosion or cracks. The radiation and micrometeorites it is exposed to are aging it by the minute. It is conceivable that a giant balloon could be used to envelope it, and then in this pressurized environment technicians could flounder around in the microgravity trying to accomplish something- but it would of course be a fantastically expensive undertaking.

                It is not a serene sanctuary peacefully drifting over the Earth- that is a completely preposterous characterization. It is a risky place to live and something bad has to happen sooner or later- just like the shuttle. The inconvenient truth is that it is a tremendous waste of resources going around in endless circles- going nowhere.

                The sooner it burns up and pieces fall in the ocean the sooner people will be on the Moon.

                • >serene sanctuary peacefully drifting over the Earth

                  I said “in *comparison to* the brutal life of a Ski Bird”.

                  ISS modules don’t need to be depressurized and stripped in order to do inspections. Based on the extensive development documentation and load test records, selective racks, panels and other hardware can be moved to gain access to the areas of most concern.

                  Thanks in large part to Boeing’s engineering of the 787’s large composite airframe and wings, failure analysis by acoustic emission has evolved from experimental into a mature technology. Installing FAAE transducers on the inner structure of the ISS would produce valuable engineering data for future designs as well as potential warnings of impending trouble.

                  • se jones

                    FAAE is applicable to any complex Aerospace structure, sensitive transducers and strain gauges feed powerful signal processors and essentially “listen” for the characteristic sounds of crack propagation, some systems actively ping the structure.

                    Keeping the aging ISS functioning is a valuable opportunity to apply innovative solutions to manned spacecraft maintenance, lessons learned can be applied to future vehicles that will need to be maintained for indefinite periods far from home.

                    Engineers look at problems as opportunities to learn and then apply solutions to future projects. Others, relish problems because they root for failure.

                    This reply and others I’ve made, are for any interested lurkers who might find this interesting, Mr. Church is incapable of learning anything or participating in an adult email exchange.

                  • Well, I’ll say it: thanks for the useful info, se jones.

              • Joe

                Matt McClanahan,

                “There’s also the issue of the solar array wing, each section of which has a 15 year design life, after which its power output will be 20% less. And of course that efficiency will continue to decline steadily. The first of the four arrays of the wing is already 15 years old, and to the best of my knowledge there are no replacements on the ground.”

                That is essentially correct. Under Space Station Freedom (SSF) the station life was to be 30 years. When that morphed into ISS the station life was reduced to 15 years, primarily to reduce the number replacement parts to save money. There will also be shortages of other On Orbit Replaceable Units (ORU’s) on the American segment. There is (at least used to be) a unit devoted to establishing new contracts to build new ORU’s, but it is a difficult process.

  • Kudos to Alan Walters for the beautiful time-lapse image.

  • “Maintenance is not done on the fly or in a vacuum. Emergency repairs are dangerous and a different animal entirely and confusing the two just adds another layer of absurd.”

    Well, I guess all your dreams of exploiting lunar resources to construct cities in space that build solar power stations and nuclear-pulse propulsion spacecraft destined to the outer solar system and the stars beyond are all dead since it is inevitable that they and all the infrastructure required for them are all going to require maintenance to be performed “on the fly or in a vacuum”. Thanks for clearing that up for us.

  • Gary Church

    Devastating.

  • Actually what is obvious is that you do not like ISS and are willing to discount any possible solutions to keep it running even if it means making outrageous statements that logically preclude even your own vision of our future in space. Good luck with that 🙂

    • Gary Church

      Possible solutions and outrageous statements…..riiiight.

      It is not “my” vision of “our” future. It is your perceptions that are center mass here. And it is obvious you are looking down a long narrow tunnel and there is little likelihood of that changing. Aside from whatever gratification you are getting from this incessant harassment, your tunnel vision in regards to my comments displays an insatiable need to be the smartest guy in the room. Good luck with that because I doubt you can find your own behind with both hands.

      • Stick and stones, Gary.

        • Joe

          This is not likely to serve any useful purpose, but maintenance (both EVA/IVA) are already done on the ISS.

          • Gary Church

            Thanks Joe.

            • Gary Church

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Space_Station_maintenance

              As I said, confusing emergency repairs with maintenance….is confusing. Taking some electrical connecters off and cleaning them once a month is also not the same thing as extending the life of components by complete disassembly of major items and treating corrosion and repairing damage to the basic structure. That is “maintenance” that will extend lifetime and the mean time between failures and is NOT done in a vacuum or in space. The man-hours add up quick and any kind of serious maintenance means the ISS crew will soon be doing nothing but trying to keep it operating. I doubt NASA is going to send up metalsmiths and welders instead of scientist-astronauts. Do you disagree with that Joe?

              • Joe

                I agree with your definitions.

                However, with the use of On Orbit Replacement Units (ORU’s) parts that require more extensive repairs can be replaced without need for that level of repair.

                For ISS (at east when the Shuttle was still available)these units were returned to the ground for rework. The military uses a similar approach in the field(the units are called Line Replacement Units – LRU’s – there).

                As facilities in space get larger and more complex the need to do full refurbishment in space and the need to build new ORU’s on site will be necessary if the facilities are to avoid being prohibitively expensive. That is the reason I earlier referenced the potential advantages of 3D Printing.

                • Gary Church

                  “On Orbit Replacement Units (ORU’s) parts that require more extensive repairs can be replaced without need for that level of repair.”

                  Gary Church
                  June 12, 2015 at 9:19 am · Reply

                  “I will be utterly shocked if they actually abandon it in 2024.”

                  The ISS is deteriorating. It cannot remain in operation without billions being spent on essentially rebuilding it piece by piece. It was supposed to close shop this year and maintenance problems will multiply until the crew can no longer keep up. I will be utterly shocked if it lasts till 2024.

                  • Gary Church

                    “-the potential advantages of 3D Printing.”

                    A several thousand ton, several hundred foot diameter metal disk made of lunar titanium is the ultimate prize. When those start being manufactured on the Moon then the entire solar system will be open to human exploration. It will be possible to lift millions of tons of goods from the lunar surface into cislunar space.

                    Not “my vision”; it was thought of long ago by people like Stanislaw Ulam, Freeman Dyson, and Gerard K. O’Neill.

                  • Joe

                    “A several thousand ton, several hundred foot diameter metal disk made of lunar titanium is the ultimate prize. When those start being manufactured on the Moon then the entire solar system will be open to human exploration.”

                    That would indeed be something.

                    For a start I will be happy when they can produce fuel injectors for rocket engines:

                    http://3dprint.com/51525/3d-printed-rocket-engine-injectors/

                    And RPCMS for electrical power systems:

                    https://www.nasa.gov/externalflash/ISSRG/pdfs/electrical.pdf

              • Ivan

                Dear Gary,

                your are correct when you say ISS need’s alot of work. But do you think your space stations would take any less work ?

                Just to remind you, Russian space stations had also list of problems: http://www.russianspaceweb.com/mir_close_calls.html

                One of them was even Fire onboard as well collision.

                Any space station (or lots of them as you want them) would need to have army of people (robots or whatever) to keep them running and working. If we dont have budget for ISS (and we dont) – who will have for this other stations that you wana to build?

                Also I wana to thank you for calling me “obnoxious” witout providing any counter-data, and attacking me directly as person.

                Thank you for your time!

                • Hi Ivan,

                  Let’s just say, you won’t have to worry about such insults anymore. Thank you supporting our site and look forward to your insights

                  • Ivan

                    Dear Mike,

                    Thank you on update. I was not insulted. I can only be insulted or hurt by person who I give power to do so in my privat life. When Gary say things he say, it’s saying more about him, then people he is saying to them.

                    Thank you for great site. I like to read good articles as well GREAT discussions on topics, as long everyone provide productive argument without personal attacks.

                    I like different opinions as well new perspective on subject. I think only way to progress is always to question everything, from our selfs, to just about everything we know or do!

                    Thank you for your time!

                    • Ivan,
                      If you (or any lurkers) are still interested in the structural sensors and life extension of the ISS, here are a couple of links for you:

                      Invocon makes state-of-the-art wireless sensors of the type I referred to, The ISS was launched with several hundred of their strain gauge & accelerometer sensors pre-installed.
                      http://www.invocon.com/apps/IVC_on_ISS.html

                      Here is a link to just one of the hundreds of papers published each year in the field of “Aging Aircraft Structural Health Monitoring”
                      http://www.me.sc.edu/Research/lamss/pdfnew/Journals/J30_SHM-IJ_V1_N1_2002.pdf

                      Because of condensation on the interior walls and structure in the ISS modules, corrosion inspection, clean-up and repair is a constant concern (there are even bacteria like Desulfovibrio vulgaris that secrete acids causing “Biocorrosion”, also known as microbiologically influenced corrosion (MIC).

                      The image linked at the bottom, leads to a picture of Chris Hadfield (the singing astronaut) placing ultrasonic sensors on an ISS wall.
                      There are guides available from JSC shower where racks are located and how to remove the racks and insulation covers to gain access to the inside module walls.
                      What is needed is just more manpower to get the full inspections & clean-up done, then update the sensors with improved new versions. We need the CCP flying ASAP…write your congressman.

                      http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/news/ubnt_prt.htm

                      [Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield, Expedition 34 Flight Engineer, installing Ultra-Sonic Background Noise Test sensors behind a rack in the Destiny laboratory of the International Space Station]

                      http://www.nasa.gov/images/content/733067main_chris_226.jpg

    • I think there are a lot of people in and out of NASA who look at ISS as a valuable experience in learning how, or how not, to assemble structures in space, work within a large international community, and operate from multiple control centers. But like any structure, it was designed to be operational for a given period of time. And by 2024, with nearly 20 years in-orbit, ISS’ time will be drawing to a close.

      With those two decades in orbit, the cost of maintenance will be putting increased upward pressure on an ISS budget that Congress today finds unappetizing. But the cost of replacing large parts such as solar arrays, modules, and nodes will likely be simply too much.

      Neither NASA nor the commercial space companies, who currently are most in need of ISS as a destination, have come-up with is a plan to replace large parts of ISS, work that should have begun at least by now. In fact, efforts over the decades to get any commercial space outfit interested taking ISS over has fallen on deaf ears. I am unaware of any activities to replace ISS elements.

      NASA seems, as an agency, to have accepted ISS mid-2020’s end. Its post-2024 plans now focus on exploring beyond LEO again, something its plans for post-2024 reflect. And the commercial space community seems to want to focus its efforts to get SpaceX Falcon Heavy to launch one or Bigelow space habs. ESA’ Dordain has made it clear that it will not continue funding ISS beyond 2024.

      It’s just my opinion, but in funding nearly $3.5B annually for Orion/SLS and related efforts, Congress seems more than willing to push forward with a beyond Earth exploration effort. The same cannot be said for commercial or private space activities. I think at this stage, after paying for COTS and CCP out of NASA’s budget, it would be wise for the commercial space sector to seek funding for items such as space habs from sources other than Congress, such as the private sector.

      In 2025, as the lunar program spins-up, we’ll look back on ISS as a great step on our trek outwards.

  • Gary Church

    “NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne teamed up to create and test the 3D printed rocket engine injectors at the heart of the system, and they say selective laser melting, a process where laser beams melt fine metallic powders and fuse them together into three dimensional shapes, was used to build the American-made alternative to foreign-built engines.

    “We believe the AR1 is the best, most affordable option to eliminate U.S. dependence on foreign sources of propulsion while maintaining assured access to space for our nation’s critical national security and civil space assets,” says Linda Cova, the executive director of Hydrocarbon Engine Programs at Aerojet Rocketdyne.”

    500,000 pounds of thrust is pretty crummy. 1.5 million is the half a century old benchmark. Pathetic. Not a fan of any of this hydrocarbon rocket hype….except this 3D printing of rocket injectors using lasers is an eye-opener. You would think metal powder would be much easier to produce on the Moon than sheets/blanks/ingots of stock metal. I don’t know much at all about that so I will go with you on this one Joe. Fascinating. Thanks.

    And the solar array- everyone thinks of it as just simple panels with some wires. That is quite a complex system. I did not know there was quite so much to it outside of the pressure compartments. I see trouble ahead.