ULA and Lockheed Sway Between Successes of the Past and Problems in the Near Future

GPS IIF-11, the Air Force's penultimate GPS IIF series satellite is encapsulated inside an Atlas V 4-meter payload fairing. Photo Credit: ULA

GPS IIF-11, the Air Force’s penultimate GPS IIF series satellite is encapsulated inside an Atlas V 4-meter payload fairing. Photo Credit: ULA

The scheduled Oct. 30 launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station of a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas-V rocket carrying the Boeing GPS 2F-11 navigation satellite marks a tale of two eras. The Atlas-V on Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41) is poised for liftoff at 12:17 p.m. EDT at the opening of a 19-minute launch window, flying in the 401 version with no solid rocket motors. Its $245 million payload is the 11th of 12 GPS IIFs. The final IIF satellite arrived on the Cape earlier this month, and is scheduled to launch on another Atlas on Feb. 3, 2016.

On the positive side, Friday’s launch will mark three Atlas-V missions within the span of a month, two from Cape Canaveral and one from Vandenberg AFB in southern California.

More broadly there have been five years of flawless ULA launch operations to orbit 10 Boeing GPS Block IIF spacecraft using six Delta IVs and five Atlas-Vs. This is part of 100 successful missions flown by the two Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle designs since 2002.

The Air Force's GPS IIF-11 satellite, encapsulated inside a 4-meter payload fairing, is mated to an Atlas V rocket at the Vertical Integration Facility or VIF. Photo: ULA

The Air Force’s GPS IIF-11 satellite, encapsulated inside a 4-meter payload fairing, is mated to an Atlas V rocket at the Vertical Integration Facility or VIF. Photo: ULA

ULA also counts in older Delta-II missions, bringing the total GPS navigation spacecraft launched successfully by the company to 59 prior to the Oct. 30 flight.

ULA has taken a celebratory stance in the wake of its 100th success and ULA and Air Force personnel involved in the EELV program of course deserve the highest of praise. But the ULA hoopla in its public statements over the recent past make no mention of the very serious problems and challenges ULA and Lockheed Martin face in the fast approaching new era of tremendously advanced GPS III satellites and how they will be launched—with ULA or SpaceX or both.

Congress, the U.S. Air Force, and ULA are locked in a budget and hardware debate how to extract themselves from a program where costs are soaring and the Atlas-V’s Energomash RD-180 engine production is controlled by increasingly hostile Russia.

The ultimate solution beyond 2020 will be development of the new ULA Vulcan rocket. But to make that transition work, ULA needs to fund as many as 22 more RD-180s with federal money it does not yet have, according to USAF Secretary Deborah Lee James. Another problem is that it’s currently illegal to buy more Russian engines.

If that dynamic situation remains, ULA Chairman, Tory Bruno told a group in Florida last week that ULA will not bid on the GPS III launch contracts, leaving the Air Force with SpaceX as the sole launch provider for GPS III and other military space payloads. The Air Force does not want that to happen.

But Lockheed Martin is also in trouble as lead contractor for GPS III, after the Air Forced switched away from Boeing that built the highly praised GPS 2Fs.

Although GPS III spacecraft are to be revolutionary compared with the IIF capability, the situation with GPS III and its Raytheon led “OEX” ground system is so bad, that throughout the summer the Air Force and Government Accountability Office (GAO) have conducted a deep probe of the program.

What they found is so troubling that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has just given the GPS III program his “America’s Most Wasted” award.

In his Oct. 23 citation, McCain noted that in 2010, after two companies produced prototypes, the Air Force chose Raytheon to continue OCX development, estimated at the time to cost $886 million and be completed within six years. “But poor contractor performance and fundamental weaknesses in DOD acquisition and software development practices now threaten the delivery of OCX,” both McCain and the GAO agree.

McCain says the newly completed GAO report “finds that the Air Force’s GPS III OCX ground-based operational control system is expected to be delivered nearly four years late at more than double its original cost. The contract for OCX program will require an additional $1 billion—now estimated to cost taxpayers nearly $2 billion at completion—and will take four years more than planned to address the preventable management and technical failures.”

Moreover, it is likely the program will experience further delays and waste additional taxpayer dollars because the program continues to suffer from what GAO refers to as ”systemic issues.”

McCain says: “The Air Force proceeded with OCX development without knowing enough to make key program decisions—for example, it picked a design and awarded a contract before formally launching the program. Both the Air Force and Raytheon had a poor understanding of cybersecurity requirements, despite the fact that OCX is critical to the cybersecurity of the entire GPS.”

Artist's impression of a Block IIF GPS satellite in orbit. GPS IIF-11 is scheduled to launch this Friday. Image Credit: U.S. Air Force

Artist’s impression of a Block IIF GPS satellite in orbit. GPS IIF-11 is scheduled to launch this Friday. Image Credit: U.S. Air Force

“OCX—like other DOD programs—must incorporate standard requirements related to cybersecurity, but Raytheon didn’t take that requirement seriously in this case, hoping instead for a waiver, but the Air Force and Raytheon accelerated development even as the program struggled.” McCain added.

“In 2012, despite knowing that Raytheon had serious problems developing software, the Air Force authorized systems engineering activities at the same time as software development occurred, leading to rework and further delays instead of efficiency. In 2013, the Air Force paused to research root causes and fix the program, and subsequently believed it had identified and solved them. Unfortunately, the root cause(s) for software problems remain unclear and present continued risk today,” the Senator said.

“All along the way, the Air Force overstated progress to the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), presenting overly optimistic Air Force cost and schedule estimates that conflicted with independent DOD cost estimates—both of which the OSD accepted without sufficient scrutiny,” both the GAO and McCain agree.

“For the OCX program to succeed and deliver the capability that not just our nation, but the entire world depends on, the management and technical issues noted by GAO must be addressed,” said McCain

“The Defense Department should take immediate steps to identify all remaining developmental challenges, assess whether the existing program of record and contractor are capable of meeting program requirements in a reasonable timeframe and at an appropriate cost, and identify and hold accountable those responsible for program mismanagement,” McCain said in his America’s Most Wasted citation.

The new GPS 2F-11 spacecraft will replace GPS 2R-10, launched in late 2003 on a Delta II into Slot 2 of the E-Plane in the GPS constellation.

The Atlas-V will fly a trajectory directly up the U.S. east coast, overflying Newfoundland prior to release three hours 23 minutes after launch just north of the Antarctic coast south of Australia in a 11,047 nautical mile circular orbit, inclined 55 degrees to the equator.

Follow the launch countdown and liftoff LIVE on launch day HERE.

 

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Missions » GPS » Missions » GPS » GPS 3 » Missions » GPS » GPS IIF-11 »

51 comments to ULA and Lockheed Sway Between Successes of the Past and Problems in the Near Future

  • Colorado

    “The Air Force proceeded with OCX development without knowing enough to make key program decisions-”

    The only way to know what is really going on is to go out on the golf course with the players and use a pentagonese interpreter. The game has been played for so long and the unwritten rules evolved into such a web of deception that the average citizen would not understand what they are hearing.

    Of course the result of this quasi-semi-psuedo-just-don’t-call-it-corruption is plain to see.

  • Colorado

    “The ultimate solution beyond 2020 will be development of the new ULA Vulcan rocket. But to make that transition work, ULA needs to fund as many as 22 more RD-180’s-”

    The system being gamed is assured access. The Delta IV variants and the all-important heavy is perfectly capable of flying all the needed payloads. But all the players lined up to try and make a killing by using good ole American competition as the excuse. SpaceX is supposedly pricing everyone else out but they MUST open the DOD treasure chest if they are to survive because the ISS is not going to last forever- and there is not enough of a civilian market to keep them going without NASA dollars.

    What a mess.

  • shawn

    its not illegal to procure RD180 engines. This is not a factual statement. What Congress in their infinite wisdom has done(and John McCain in particular) is limit what missions can use them. They can be purchased and used for commercial missions all day long. The restrictions apply only to using them for national defense missions. This is a cynical Space X lobby play plain and simple. Does it hurt the Russians? No. Does it hurt the United States? Yes. I guess Space X’s business plan has become more important than our national defense.

    • Joe

      “I guess Space X’s business plan has become more important than our national defense.”

      Interesting to hear from other people who get it.

      • Colorado

        The first rule in all these games is obfuscation- make everything so complicated and difficult to understand that the citizenry no longer has anything to say about where their tax dollars are going- or why industry is no longer paying them a living wage.

        • Joe

          The point of my comment was specifically about SpaceX.

          Most of their Internet Fans would tell you SpaceX priorities are: The much talked about Mars Colony and Commercial Crew/Cargo.

          However, if you look at where most of their real effort appears to be going (as opposed to what they talk about and make CGI Special Effects videos about) it would seem it is more interested in trying to take over the American Military Satellite Market.

          If that business plan were to leave them the only approved launcher for such payloads, would it really bother anybody.

          It should.

          • Colorado

            Oh, I get you Joe and certainly get Elon;

            ob·fus·cate
            ˈäbfəˌskāt/
            verb-
            render obscure, unclear, or unintelligible.

            His groupies hold to a very specific NewSpace playbook that is all about trolling and space clowns and evil OldSpace NASA as the ultimate evil. But SpaceX the company is all about taking those ISS dollars and using them to launch commercial satellites for profit and, yes, opening that DOD treasure chest. Ask the average American what is going on concerning the space program, civil and military, and it becomes….clear….that it is all obscure, unclear, or unintelligible.

            • Colorado

              and I forgot to mention, I remember when Musk was in Seattle promising to build a fleet of 4000 LEO internet satellites. In fact, I lived a few blocks from the tower where he was and was staring out my window at it that night. It was all B.S. Like almost everything that SpaceX has promised.

            • Tim Andrews

              I don’t think it takes all that much cleverness to figure out that Musk is trying to ensure as much business for his company as possible, that’s what most corporate leaders do.

              At least from what I’ve seen even the most blinded-to-reality Musk sycophants are aware he’s trying to capture as much market share as he can, from NASA, DoD and commercial customers.

              • Joe

                “At least from what I’ve seen even the most blinded-to-reality Musk sycophants are aware he’s trying to capture as much market share as he can, from NASA, DoD and commercial customers.”

                Agreed. What I said was “Most of their Internet Fans would tell you SpaceX priorities are: The much talked about Mars Colony and Commercial Crew/Cargo.” but that if you look at where most of their real effort appears to be going SpaceX seems more interested in trying to take over the American Military Satellite Market.

                As far as I can tell most of those internet fans would be happy if SpaceX could put ULA out of business and take it all, leaving only one Military Launch Provider.

    • Tim Andrews

      Yes. The objections to use of the RD-180 on DoD flight are not unfounded, but those were objections that should have been held strong years ago, when the decision was still being made to manufacture under license or buy from Russia. Ending dependence on them now is still a good idea, but Congress’ deadline for doing so before a replacement is ready is just plain unrealistic. What is the sense in cutting off the supply out of fear that the supply might one day be cut off, as opposed to building an alternative and switching to it to avoid dependency?

      • Colorado

        “What is the sense in cutting off the supply-”

        A SpaceX monopoly is what sense it makes- don’t you get it?

        • Tim Andrews

          I find it hard to believe that SpaceX has the power to lobby against ULA and get Atlas V blackballed off what will amount to at least a half-dozen launch contracts, yet somehow ULA and SpaceX together can’t manage the lobbying power to get Commercial Crew fully funded, with Congress cutting them back by the cost of just one or two of those DoD launches.

          Like any other serious aerospace company leader plays what influence he has in Washington, but he’s not pulling all the strings.

          • Colorado

            “I find it hard to believe that SpaceX has the power to-”

            A campaign contribution goes a long way when the only payback required is to be made an invisible associate director of a meagerly funded space agency. Where do you think the infamously blunt “been there” speech came from?

            Certain politicians took exception to this and decided to preserve the heavy lift infrastructure (and the jobs and votes of constituents) and the war over funding the SLS has been going on ever since. You will find endless Delenda est Carthago comments by SpaceX fans for the obvious reason that a Super Heavy Lift Vehicle does not fit into the NewSpace LEO business plan.

            You will also note the NASA administrator wailing that “NASA IS DOOMED” unless we go to Mars while simultaneously doing everything he can to strangle the SLS program. It is obvious who his real boss is- the guy who wants to eventually sell his own version of the SLS. So transparent.

            I find it “hard to believe” that you are so naive.

            • Joe

              “You will also note the NASA administrator wailing that “NASA IS DOOMED” unless we go to Mars while simultaneously doing everything he can to strangle the SLS program.”

              That is an interesting point. I read the space.com article about Bolden’s speech to the Center for American Progress (an unusual choice of venue).

              Not much of a conspiracy theorist (have always liked the old adage – Never suspect a conspiracy, when simple incompetence will suffice as an explanation.)

              But, to at least be trying to seem to be pushing Mars so hard while trying to first cancel and then underfund SLS (which they still list as the primary launch vehicle for such a mission) is a bit schizophrenic.

            • Matt McClanahan

              On the subject of campaign contributions, for those who are curious about the numbers on how much money different space industry companies spend on campaign contributions and lobbying, the data is well documented on the excellent OpenSecrets website.

              It only takes a couple quick lookups there to see that Boeing and Lockheed Martin are among the top 20 lobbying spenders across all industries, and have been for most of the last ten years.

              In terms of PAC spending (direct campaign contributions), they’ve separately outspent SpaceX by a factor of between 14 and 29 in the election cycles from 2012 to 2016 (obviously the 2016 numbers aren’t final yet). For example, in 2014, SpaceX’s PAC contributions totaled $250k, Boeing and Lockmart’s were $3.7M and $4M respectively. The website can provide additional details about individual donors and recipients.

              • Joe

                That is an apples to oranges comparison since Boeing and Lockheed Martin lobby for all of their non space related military and civilian interests at far higher rates than they do on their space related interests, where SpaceX lobbies in their very narrowly defined area of operations.

                • Colorado

                  Typical NewSpace propaganda; Boeing and Lockmart spend so much more for lobbying….right?

                  But just for space? No.

                  You are misleading and deceiving Matt, plain and simple.

                  “ULA of Denver spent about $670,000 on lobbying efforts in 2013. That figure is up from the $120,000 the company spent in 2010, according to the site.

                  SpaceX of Hawthorne, Calif., spent $1.1 million on lobbying in 2013, including hiring former U.S. Sens. John Breaux and Trent Lott. The company’s lobbying costs have risen steadily from about $568,000 in 2010.”

                • Matt McClanahan

                  To an extent I’d agree, but I don’t believe politicians isolate how they view a company based on which specific interest a company’s contributions may have been made in. Boeing dollars are Boeing dollars, not “Boeing Commercial Airplanes” dollars. Congressmen who sit on separate committees overseeing spaceflight and defense (which is relatively common) aren’t going to treat a company favorably in one context but not the other when they receive a contribution, are they?

                  Could a clearer picture be drawn from looking at which representatives oversee which areas of interest for these companies, and then comparing how they voted with contributions received? It’s possible, but of course it’d never be the whole picture. There’s just too many influencing factors. We’ll never be able to conclusively draw a line from a campaign contribution to a particular policy outcome or an invisible government position as was suggested.

                  • Joe

                    You are right that it is not possible to quantify the effectiveness of lobbying.

                    But SpaceX targeting their contributions to specific politicians and then schmoozing them about very tailored interests is certainly a major part of the equation.

                    If you are a politician and you are being “arm twisted” by SpaceX when you know that is their entire interest and then by Boeing and Lockheed when you know they have many other interests on which you will have a chance to accommodate, which will you give priority?

                    • Matt McClanahan

                      Honestly, I’m not sure. I’m rather glad that I’ve never been part of that political system where contributors and lobbyists are more important than constituents. And obviously we’re drifting a bit off topic, but I enjoy a good thought experiment. I also appreciate that while we tend to have different views, we can discuss them in a respectful manner, and maybe even learn something along the way.

                      So, what’re the biggest deciding factors? Well, second to the contributions from the companies at issue, I’m representing my state or district, so what does each given company brings to my state/district, in terms of employment, tax revenue, capital improvements, prestige, etc?

                      What’s the opportunity cost? Do I need to worry about how popular/unpopular a given company is in my state/district when I’m up for re-election?

                      If I’m representing a state/district where, say, Boeing and SpaceX both have a presence, what would motivate me to pick SpaceX if Boeing had a bigger presence or suggested that they might become bigger (possibly in a totally different industry) in the near future?

                      Unfortunately, though, our advancement of space exploration as a nation seems to be too abstract for most voters to factor in as an election criteria, or as a concern that they bring to their representatives. I agree with you that discussing these topics on these websites, visited by a small fraction of the public, has very little chance of changing anything. I do it anyway partly to exchange information, and partly hoping that eventually things may change, and all this could save the next round of interested parties some time rehashing these topics.

                    • Joe

                      Matt,

                      We have developed a pretty comprehensive list of the conflicting motivations that can go into making political decisions, will now list only two more then “shut up” on the subject.

                      (1) An already in place ideological perspective. The Obama Administration came into power wanting to end the American HSF program, but no politician wants to go into the History Books with the notation – American Space Program: Begun by John Kennedy in 1960 ended by (Fill in the Blank) in (Fill in the Blank) in the write up.

                      I do not know exactly why this is the Administration’s desire, but that is where Musk fit into their plans: (a) Musk gives them (relatively speaking) a little money, (b) In return they gives Musk a lot of money. (c) Musk spins his happy horse (bleep) stories of colonies on Mars by 2030, distracting the general public from what is actually happening.

                      Musk, in the meantime, gets billions in tax payer funding to pursue his actual (and much more prosaic) goal: domination of the Commercial/Military launch market, all heavily subsidized by the tax payer while claiming to be commercial. I have never seen Musk as some James Bond level movie villain, but rather a con artist who has learned to work the system. You can see similar activity behind his other tax payer supported “commercial” ventures Tesla Motors and Star City.

                      (2) An honest mistake. I would put John McCain into this category. I believe him to be (very) wrong in his position on the RD-180 (which is where this conversation started), but I do not believe he is doing it for nefarious reasons.

                      Campaign contributions may have bought SpaceX lobbyist access to him, but he honestly (however erroneously) believes he is doing what is in the best interest of the country. Paradoxically, he is doing exactly the wrong thing for all the correct motivations.

                    • Colorado

                      Excellent post Joe. Outstanding.

                    • Colorado

                      “American Space Program: Begun by John Kennedy in 1960 ended by Richard Nixon in 1972”

                      https://iceonthemoon.wordpress.com/2014/12/14/when-we-lost-the-stars/

                      I will give the peanut farmer equal blame for going so cheap since I believe he is the one who signed the check for a Saturn V class launch vehicle that could only go to LEO, then bring right back most of the mass it lifted, and did not have an escape system.

                    • Joe

                      “ended by Richard Nixon in 1972”

                      Perhaps, other would disagree.

                      But hypothetically accepting that assertion to be true, I think we can agree that Nixon took no blame.

                      That is what Obama is (I believe) trying to do now. Shut down all real HSF efforts and leave the infrastructure in such a state that any successor will find it time consuming and costly to restart.

                      At the same time (with Musk’s help) keep the illusion of a new “commercial” program that will lead to an expansive future in space going until he leaves office.

                      Then his successor can take the blame.

                    • Colorado

                      “But hypothetically accepting that assertion to be true, I think we can agree that Nixon took no blame.”

                      Well, my “hypothesis” is that LEO is not really space. The NewSpace types of course reject that notion- to put it mildly.

                      I voted for Obama because I thought there might be some slim possibility of him ending our adventure overseas. And I was never fond of the party of the rich. I like McCain for the simple fact that he makes it a point to NOT wrap the defense industry in the flag and instead calls them out for their profiteering. Mostly- but even he got a sweet deal for his state due to the F-35.

                      As I said, I will give Nixon AND Carter equal blame for the end of the space age.

          • Joe

            “The objections to use of the RD-180 on DoD flight are not unfounded, but those were objections that should have been held strong years ago, when the decision was still being made to manufacture under license or buy from Russia.”

            Again agreed. Do not know enough about the history of those talks. Were the Russians amenable to a manufacturing licensing agreement?

            “I find it hard to believe that SpaceX has the power to lobby against ULA and get Atlas V blackballed off what will amount to at least a half-dozen launch contracts,…”

            No, but SpaceX considerable lobbying power combined with some in Congress wanting to showboat a serious national security matter may very well have that power. The result, if that happens, will be the same.

            • Tim Andrews

              “Were the Russians amenable to a manufacturing licensing agreement?”

              As I understand it, before General Dynamics was folded into Lockheed Martin, they had secured the rights to use the RD-180, and that included rights to manufacture, with a plan for Pratt & Whitney to do US manufacturing of the engine, but that never materialized due to costs of starting up a production line being so much higher than buying them from an existing production line. I believe the right to manufacture the RD-180 expires sometime in the next few years, taking that option off the table.

              “The result, if that happens, will be the same.”

              Yep I just happen to believe that there are a lot more politics at play than the man from South Africa secretly running the whole show from the shadows.

              • Colorado

                “-a lot more politics at play than the man from South Africa secretly running the whole show-”

                What you are not getting Tim is that the RD-180 represents millions in shareholder profits because they are getting them “cheap” from the Russians. We will NOT get them cheap from one of our own companies because they have to pay their workers in dollars and not rubles.

                SpaceX, with McCain in his pocket, wants to stop those shareholder checks. This would be fine except SpaceX is NOT going to Robin Hood that money to American workers- anybody that believes that is drinking the Kool-aid.

              • Joe

                Thanks for the information.

                There is generally more than one kind of politics going on in any big decision (especially if that decision seems counter empirical – Yeah, how is that for being polite).

                As I said above, I have always liked the old adage – Never suspect a conspiracy, when simple incompetence will suffice as an explanation.

                In this case Musk’s lobbying to try to fulfill his desire to monopolize the American Military Satellite Market combined with a truly impressive amount of incompetence by both the Administration and Congress would seem to be in play.

                • Colorado

                  “There is generally more than one kind of politics going on-”

                  Only one kind with you though. The NewSpace mob has their own belief system:

                  Arthur Hamilton CoastalRon • 7 hours ago

                  If you read most of the comments at Americaspace.com, you will think that Musk and SpaceX & the ISS is the cause of the cancellation of the Constellation program, the reason why SLS/Orion is not getting additional billions of dollars and why the Congress banned RD-180 use on future launches of NRO & DOD payloads.


                  Reply

                  CoastalRon Arthur Hamilton • 6 hours ago

                  Yes, they do attract that group of commenters. Space enthusiasts to be sure, but just not great with facts...


                  Reply

                  Etoh CoastalRon •

                  “NASA didn’t ask for the SLS.” Obviously the backstory of the “senate launch system” is complicated and involves external influence. However, it is hard to argue that the Ares V, from which SLS was evolved, was not NASA’s idea. The same budget/program mismatch that killed constellation could have been anticipated, if NASA weren’t expecting an expanded budget to accompany their ambitious new program.


                  Reply

                  CoastalRon EtOH • 18 hours ago

                  "However, it is hard to argue that the Ares V, from which SLS was evolved, was not NASA's idea."

                  NASA is an organization of over 17,000 people, so you can't say "NASA's idea", you have to point to the specific people or groups within NASA, and even outside of NASA, that make the decisions.

                  For the Ares V, that would have been Michael Griffin, who led the ESAS study that changed the direction O'Keefe had NASA going by using commercial launchers (i.e. Delta IV Heavy and Atlas V Heavy). And it's not a coincidence that Michael Griffin was also providing "consultation" to the Senate when they were spec'g out the SLS.

                  So no, NASA did not participate at all in the creation of the SLS, since President Obama - who as President ran NASA - did not want an HLV. The Senate, and specifically Senators Shelby, Hutchison, and Nelson, created the SLS.

                  "The same budget/program mismatch that killed constellation could have been anticipated..."

                  Who said it wasn't anticipated? The goal was not to create a transportation system for a known need, it was to spend money in the right political districts - and by that measure it has succeeded.

                  "...if NASA weren't expecting an expanded budget to accompany their ambitious new program."

                  The President creates the budget requests, not NASA. You have to understand that. Obama did not want the SLS, has not supported it, and has not supported creating missions for it beyond his original asteroid mission goal.

                  But what Obama got for going along with the SLS and Orion programs was very important to him - saving the ISS from a premature end (and an end to our research on how to survive and work in space), and the creation of the Commercial Crew program, which will have payoffs beyond the ISS program. So he took the deal, probably hoping like many of us that some fiscally minded congress people would finally realize what a waste the SLS and Orion programs are - it hasn't happened yet, but there is still plenty of time for that to happen...

                  • Colorado

                    “That group” tells the whole story. NewSpace has never been about anything but shilling for SpaceX and their private space hero. Anything and everything and anyone that competes or stands in the way of or criticizes that company is targeted by a legion of sycophants. This has been going on for years with hundreds of comments across the blogosphere every day. The public has listened to this big lie for so long that now the NewSpace infomercial is taken as “fact.”

                    Like the arch-troll said, “just not great with facts.”

                    So all the excuses and apologies about the NewSpace scam just being politics and business as usual gets me all kinds of unhappy. It is really the end of space exploration in my lifetime and excusing and apologizing for this cult of deceivers disgusts me.

                    • Joe

                      Have not encountered Coastal Ron (I am happy to say) since I stopped frequenting the (now defunct) Space Politics website.

                      About all I really have to say about this if any of us believes that we are having a Macro effect on public opinion/policy by posting on any of these websites we are deluding ourselves.

                      My own reason for reading this website is it gives good, broad spectrum news about space activities in general. I read and post in the comments section for two reasons:
                      (1) I hope (at least) to occasionally impart information to others.
                      (2) To receive information from others

                      Good examples of (2) can be found in this comments section:
                      (1) Tim Andrews gave me a short history of ULA’s use of the RD-180 engine (did not have to do my own research).
                      (2) You “connected the dots” about the administration claiming to be serious about going to Mars while trying to undercut the only hardware programs they say are supporting that goal (should have noticed that myself, but had not).

                      It is interesting (in a pathetic way) that Coastal Ron and his buddies feel compelled to say disparaging things about this website and it’s commenters, but I feel no compunction to respond in kind. They are not important enough to waste the time and bandwidth.

                    • Colorado

                      “-if any of us believes that we are having a Macro effect on public opinion/policy by posting on any of these websites we are deluding ourselves.”

                      When people interested in space go on websites they read the comments and it eventually has a HUGE effect on public opinion. Slowly but surely the word spreads and NewSpace evangelism is exactly why the public is so “deluded” and deceived about space policy right now. You think the cult of Musk is not having a “Macro effect”?

                      So don’t waste time your precious time Joe but don’t tell me I am deluded. I take it as an insult.

                    • Joe

                      Was not trying to insult anybody.

                      Simply stating an opinion.

                      No offense was intended.

                      Good Night.

                    • Arth

                      Nice research Colorado.

  • James

    Yep,

    “I guess Space X’s business plan has become more important than our national defense.

    Interesting to hear from other people who get it.”

    Yikes!

    Too much truth from Colorado, Shawn, and Joe!

    Woe is your reward! Such a pursuit of truth will get you banned from the Internet’s ‘pseudo Martian huckster monopoly universe’ and assure your continued freedom of thought!

    I suspect that the ISS is going to last a long time and be expanded with new modules.

    With a likely future of having more traffic going to LEO and the Moon, and the ending of the ‘huckster’s’ current ‘easy access’ to NASA budget dollars, needed SLS and Orion resources, and very valuable publicity in a little over a year due to no more ‘political help’ from the current lame duck President, the ‘pseudo Martian’ could face some serious competition from a wide diversity of very capable national and international ‘commercial’ and ‘noncommercial’ launchers.

  • Jeff Wright

    I don’t mind ISS–heck I’d like to see SLS launch monster modules to it over time.

    I think ULA nneds to get with Dynetics and build Pyrios on their own dime. Over-powerful yes, but so is Falcon and R-7 at the time.

    Bringing back the F-1, having as small a part count as possible–and having growth potential is better than some re-usable engine pod that is going to be an engineering nightmare–the rocket equivalent of the goblin fighter the B-36 was to carry.

    Too much in too small a space.

    • Colorado

      The pressure-fed booster recovered like the shuttle SRB is the missing piece. At least as powerful as the 5 segment and double that would be better. No such thing as “over-powerful.”

      LEO needs to be left far behind….again. We came back to it after 1972 to keep Human Space Flight going and have been stuck going in circles ever since. Beyond Low Earth Orbit (BLEO)the radiation environment means massive shielding is required- and the only place to get those thousands of tons of tap-water is the Moon.

      The counter-intuitive but correct path is to FIRST go to the lunar poles and dip that water out of the shallow gravity well of the Moon. Fill up the radiation shields of assembled space stations in lunar orbit and transit them back across cislunar space into GEO to replace the satellite junkyard.

      That is the beginning- and it is not what NewSpace is talking about.

    • James

      “Congress, the U.S. Air Force, and ULA are locked in a budget and hardware debate how to extract themselves from a program where costs are soaring and the Atlas-V’s Energomash RD-180 engine production is controlled by increasingly hostile Russia.”

      And we do need to keep the ISS well-supplied and productively flying as a testing laboratory for many of the systems the world is eventually going to need for folks in GEO, on the Moon, Mars, and Ceres.

      In case some folks haven’t noticed, we seem to have trouble in even ‘routinely’ getting cargo to LEO, let alone ‘routinely’ getting satellites, cargo, and people to GEO and the Moon.

      Perhaps simple and high reliability pressure fed rocket engines on boosters could improve launch success rates.

      The Orion Service Module has a pressure-fed rocket engine.

      The Apollo Service Module had a pressure-fed rocket engine. NASA’s Apollo Lunar Module Lander had a pressure-fed descent engine and a pressure-fed ascent engine.

      Beal Aerospace tested in 2000 their pressure-fed BA-810 rocket engine that produced 3,600 kN, or 809,300 pounds, of thrust in a vacuum from burning hydrogen peroxide and kerosene.

      Using that already tested pressure-fed BA-810 engine may offer both low cost and high reliability that may be difficult to routinely achieve with costly and complex staged combustion rocket engines.

      If a low-cost pressure-fed booster using BA-810 rocket engines is unacceptable, the use of hydrogen peroxide as an oxidizer for that engine could also offer the useful option of using H2O2 to power reduced temperature turbo-pumps for the BA-810 rocket engine and thus significantly increasing the ease of reusability for such a BA-810 powered booster.

      See: ‘High Density Liquid Rocket Boosters for the Space Shuttle’ By Steven S. Pietrobon

      And: ‘Hydrogen Peroxide / Kerosene, Liquid-Oxygen/ Kerosene, and Liquid-Oxygen / Liquid Methane for Upper Stage Propulsion’ by S. Krishnan Universiti Teknologi Malaysia

      • john hare

        Pressure fed is a reasonable preference for boosters given the general experience with turbopumps for rockets. I would suggest that much of the cost and complexity of current turbopumps though is the legacy attitude toward their design and operation. The turbine people, pump people, thrust chamber people, and all the other required disciplines are compartmentalized and do a very difficult job while constrained by the requirement of all the others.

        A systems engineering approach could yield pump fed systems comparable to pressure fed in cost, and comparable to current pump systems in performance. It is the fragmented nature of current and legacy design methods that drive much of the cost/complexity problem. A liquid fuel regeneratively cooled turbine for instance can operate at much higher temperatures than any current system. The liquid exiting the turbine blades through the cooling holes can also do film cooling for another boost in available turbine inlet temperature. The turbine coolant, having been boosted to higher pressures in the turbine blades as a second stage pump, can exit into the preburner at higher pressures than the impeller supplies. This allows a fairly low tech staged combustion. There has been some low dollar, cold flow testing of the concept.

        No one should take my word for any of this. One might however, consider the possibility that there are better methods available not only for each of the sub-systems in current engines and vehicles, but also in the combining of those systems to eliminate some and simplify others. One obvious example is using self pressurizing propellants to eliminate the cost and complexity of helium pressurization. The performance hit of MW-32-O2 vs MW-4-He in the pressurant gas might be partially made up in the simplicity, and with pumps that will accept a lower inlet pressure to the inducers towards the end of the burn.

        • Colorado

          “A systems engineering approach could yield pump fed systems comparable to pressure fed in cost, and comparable to current pump systems in performance.”

          A pressure-fed does not even HAVE a turbopump. It defies logic that it could be comparable in cost. Your suggestion that turbopump cost is due to a “legacy attitude” is not valid; the cost is due to the cost.

          Once again, there is no cheap but plenty of people promising something for nothing. The age old appeal to greed. I am not trying to be malicious about the NewSpace fascination with DIY hobby rocketry- it just needs to be said bluntly and in no uncertain terms that for Human Space Flight Beyond Earth Orbit the first consideration is not cost- it is scale. The basic building block of any Human Space Flight program is a massive booster.

          Like undertaking a North Atlantic crossing in a tree-bark canoe, space travel is impractical without the minimum conveyance necessary. The laws of physics and materials science have not changed since Apollo and the Saturn V was actually just barely large enough to accomplish the minimum mission and only then using Lunar Orbit Rendezvous. This is why NewSpace has had such a ruinous effect on any prospects of leaving Earth again. There is no cheap.

          The work-around for Super Heavy Lift Vehicles- LEO assembly and propellant depots- is an impractical fantasy.

  • James

    Could Rocket Lab’s Rutherford rocket engine, with its electric motor powered propellant pumps, be capable of using H2/LOX, Kerolox, Kerosene/H2O2, Propane/LOX, or Methane/LOX depending on what is available?

    Is the Rutherford the useful all around rocket engine it appears to be?

    With Lithium hydride as the fuel and water/hydrogen peroxide as an oxidizer, an Isp of close to 400 amy be doable.

    See: ‘ARNE – SUBLUNAREAN EXPLORER’ By M.S. Robinson, J. Thanga, R.V. Wagner, and V.A. Hernandez 2014

    Using nanoparticles of Lithium hydride mixed with kerosene as the fuel and H2O2 as the oxidizer might be quite doable for a pressure-fed engine.

    Imagine a pressure-fed F-1B rocket engine without any turbopumps…

    • john hare

      My earlier reply to you could have been condensed as, “there are many systems in a launch vehicle, and pumps are only one of them.” The alternatives you listed may be the way of better launch economy whether it be different pump types, or pressure fed, or fuel changes, or combinations of them.

      My main focus is that getting costs down is required for seriously moving forward from the overpriced methods of today. Very little increased space activity will happen without cost reduction. That cost reduction will never come from mandating One True Solution to the exclusion of all others. The pumps I have worked on can be dismissed as hobby hardware, unless I am eventually successful. Even then, it will still be one system out of many in an LV.

      • James

        “That cost reduction will never come from mandating One True Solution to the exclusion of all others.”

        I agree. And that is precisely why the President offering the “One True Solution” that directly contributes to ‘ensuring’ the profits of his ‘huckster friend’ and his ‘friend’s’ ‘private club of billionaire monopoly rocketeers’ is dangerous.

        Perhaps the President can continue to ignore our relevant space law. He did ignore national security laws and sent emails to his Secretary of State’s private server in her New York home. Maybe the President thinks he is ‘above and beyond’ the law. President Nixon also thought he was ‘above and beyond the law’.

        The ‘rocketeer club of billionaires’ can ‘politically work with’ the President to increase ‘the club’s” potential ‘large launcher’ profits by de facto mandating ‘the club’s’ “One True Solution” while eliminating by ‘slow rolling or sabotaging’ the bipartisan supported pro Lunar exploration space law and its mandated SLS and Orion and at the same time making sure ‘the club’ gains a twenty year monopoly of the unique, enormous, and valuable Launchpad 39A that is needed for dual SLS launches and the taxpayer pays most of the costs for developing ‘the club’s’ ‘universal cult spaceship’.

        Perhaps one should “Never suspect a conspiracy, when simple incompetence will suffice as an explanation.”

        But if the money of the ‘club of rocketeer billionaires’ is ‘on the table’ or ‘under the table’ then “simple incompetence” is a flimsy cover for ‘pure monopoly greed’ in full motion ‘under the oddly moving covers’ of ‘money politics makes for strange bed partners’.

        Right now there is a lot of false and silly ‘weeping and wailing’ about the RD-180.

        Replacing the RD-180 is quite doable, but the main issue in doing that would mean ‘stepping on powerful toes and claws’ or ‘ending the undue political influence’ of the potentially extremely profitable “One True Solution” offered by the ‘private club of billionaire monopoly rocketeers’.

        And if you remember the movie ‘The Rocketeer’ that is set in the world’s economically troubled year of 1938, there was always the “One True Solution” Nazi cult followers causing all kinds of trouble.

        The world of 2015 also has some serious economic problems.

        Somehow democracy and the rule of law always ends up in serious trouble when some billionaires decide that their monetary gains should have the highest political priority, and that messy and nasty reality is currently the de facto situation in our world of 2015.

        Yep, if there is real money ‘to be made’ out of insider politics and economic troubles, ‘monopoly billionaires’ never hesitate in supporting all kinds of crazy cult “One True Solution” ideas in order to continue to have ‘guaranteed’ access to as much of the public’s money as is possible because ‘obviously’ the ‘logic’ of ‘power politics’ dictates that those tax dollars should be theirs.

        Why should we expect anything different?

        • Colorado

          “That cost reduction will never come from mandating One True Solution to the exclusion of all others.”

          “I agree.”

          James, the one true solution the NewSpace movement is so worried about is the what dumps their LEO hobby rocket business plan in the trashcan. That one true solution is what landed the U.S. on the Moon before. We have now gone almost full circle back to it except we have stopped short of naming the Moon as the best destination.

          • James

            “we have stopped short of naming the Moon as the best destination”

            Nah!

            The broadly bipartisan and pro Moon exploration NASA Authorization Act of 2010 (PL 111–267) as well as the Lunar mission capabilities built into the design bones of the SLS and Orion systems make the Moon as the logical next destination and nothing the President can do gets Mars even near the international negotiating table.

            Empty Mars talk and helping to ‘slow roll or sabotage’ the SLS and Orion and ‘grabbing onto a twenty year monopoly’ of the enormous and quite useful Launchpad 39A while digging deep into the taxpayers pockets to fund the ‘huckster’s universal cult spaceship’ is simply ‘the club of billionaire rocketeers’ putting on a thin ‘Martian camouflage cover’ to gain the time required to build the new large launcher needed to ‘sew up’ the ‘insider monopoly track’ on launching LEO, GEO, and Lunar missions, satellites, and human spacecraft.

            And the extensive ‘delaying and sabotaging tactics’ need to continue because the current ‘not so reliable’ ‘huckster launcher’ is most likely not going be anywhere near sufficient for the various profitable large launcher cislunar missions expected and needed by ‘the club of billionaire monopoly rocketeers’.

            Unfortunately for ‘the billionaire club’, lots of low cost, and perhaps much more reliable, national and international heavy launchers are possible and some are actually being designed.

            What many of the ‘NewSpace movement’ folks really hate are the ‘older players’ who know that the ’empty Mars talk scam’ doesn’t have Congressional and international and scientific support.

            Remember the September 23, 2014 article titled ‘Alliant says can replace Russian launch engine for U.S. satellites’ by Andrea Shalal Rominger wherein it is noted, “ATK’s proposal would replace the RD-180 engine and surrounding rocket stage without altering the rest of the Atlas 5 system.”

            How dare ATK, or what is now Orbital ATK, make such a reasonable and useful offer to resolve a supposedly pressing national security launch issue?

            Under this President, National Security Interests, including our space law requiring NASA led international Lunar missions, play second or third or fourth fiddle to the ‘many farcical needs’ of Hillary Clinton having a private server in her home loaded with lots of sensitive National Security emails, the nonscientific cult of the President’s ‘political huckster friend’, and the ‘monopoly appetite’ of the ‘private club of billionaire rocketeers’.

            Yep, under this President America’s National Security has become a warped and strange joke that I don’t find a bit humorous.

            Of course, the real question is, “Will the next President continue this foolish and risky ‘cislunar monopoly space game’ with ‘the huckster’ and his private ‘billionaire rocketeers club’, or will the new President fully implement the pro Moon exploration NASA Authorization Act of 2010 (PL 111–267)?”

            • Colorado

              “we have stopped short of naming the Moon as the best destination”

              Your dissertation on why the “nah” does not change the fact that Mars, not the Moon, is the official agency “horizon goal.”

              “-the ‘many farcical needs’ of Hillary Clinton having a private server in her home loaded with lots of sensitive National Security emails, the nonscientific cult of the President’s ‘political huckster friend’, and the ‘monopoly appetite’ of the ‘private club of billionaire rocketeers’.”

              Your hyperbole is really self-defeating. You need to tone it down James. I am guilty of using “hobby rocket” and “space station to nowhere” but your terminology is just too outlandish. You need to change your style.

              There is no ‘huckster’s universal cult spaceship’ or ‘club of billionaire rocketeers’ and making stuff up like this leaves you open to ridicule and by association I and the very few others who are no friends of NewSpace will suffer for your big mouth. So tone it down please.

  • Colorado

    “Very little increased space activity will happen without cost reduction. That cost reduction will never come from mandating One True Solution to the exclusion of all others.”

    Completely contrary to logic, self-defeating and the end of Human Space Flight.
    Divide et impera.

  • […] Sen. McCain, who heads the Senate Armed Services Committee, said earlier the $2 billion OCX program could incur and additional $1.6 billion in costs with delays approaching four years (AmericaSpace Oct. 29, 2015). […]