NASA's FY2017 Budget Request May Delay SLS Europa Mission Several Years

We are finally going back to Europa, but it may be a little later than planned. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute

We are finally going back to Europa, but it may be a little later than originally planned. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute

The recently announced new mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa, a highly anticipated return to this ocean world, may face a launch delay from 2022 to the late 2020s. The news comes amid the release yesterday of NASA’s fiscal year 2017 budget request, which provides substantially less funding than Congress had mandated last year.

The mission, which will include multiple flybys of Europa and possibly a lander, was granted $175 million by Congress last year, and NASA was directed to have the mission ready to launch by 2022. The new budget request from the Obama administration, however, includes only $49.6 million, much less than what Congress wants. According to NASA chief financial officer David Radzanowski, this “supports a Europa mission launch in the late 2020s.” Radzanowski made the remarks during a news conference yesterday, Feb. 9. About $1.5 billion, out of $19 billion for the total NASA budget, is earmarked for Planetary Science. As stated in the NASA fiscal year 2017 budget request:

“$1,519 million for Planetary Science, keeping on track the Mars 2020 rover and the next selection for the New Frontiers program and including formulation of a mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa.”

So why didn’t NASA request more funding? As Radzanowski noted, “Within our $19 billion request, to find an additional $150 million – whether within the science portfolio or abroad – we felt would upset the balance of the overall portfolio.” The $19 billion is the total NASA budget request for all missions and programs.

Artist’s concept of the Europa Clipper mission. Image Credit: NASA

Artist’s concept of the Europa mission. Image Credit: NASA

In order to have the mission ready to launch by 2022, a total investment of $194 million would be required for 2017, according to Radzanowski; he mentioned that this estimate has already been given to Congress.

The $19 billion for fiscal year 2017 also represents a decrease of $260 million from the 2016 budget. This would include shifting some funds from the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion programs to aeronautics and space technology. SLS would receive $1.31 billion, a decrease of nearly $700 million, and Orion would receive $1.12 billion, about $150 million less than in 2016.

Also in this budget request, $5.6 billion is allocated for Science, $8.4 billion for Human Exploration Operations, $827 million for Space Technology, $790 million for Aeronautics Research, $100 million for Education, and $3.3 billion for Safety, Security and Mission Services and Construction & Environmental Compliance and Restoration.

None of this is written in stone yet. The request will face significant opposition in Congress. As Radzanowski explained: “I understand that it’s not necessarily at the profile in some areas that Congress asked. This is the administration’s proposal as to how to provide a balanced NASA budget, both for exploration and across other areas.”

The spending proposals are a concern not just regarding Europa, but also other future planetary and human missions.

“We are deeply concerned about the Administration’s proposed cut to NASA’s human exploration development programs,” Mary Lynne Dittmar, executive director of the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, told SpaceNews. “This proposed budget falls well short of the investment needed to support NASA’s exploration missions.”

As Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Science Committee, also noted in a Feb. 9 statement: “This administration cannot continue to tout plans to send astronauts to Mars while strangling the programs that will take us there. This imbalanced proposal continues to tie our astronauts’ feet to the ground and makes a Mars mission all but impossible.”

The Europa mission is still in the early development stages, so talk of a definite delay is premature at this point. As has happened before, NASA may receive more money from Congress than it actually requests. NASA had made no requests for a Europa mission in 2013/2014, but Congress allocated $120 million anyway. In 2015/2016, NASA had requested $45 million, but received $275 million instead. Hopefully that trend will continue, because the Europa mission will be both ambitious and expensive. As of now, a flyby mission only (with 45 flybys of Europa) is estimated to cost $2.1 billion. Any budget cuts to the mission would push it into a launch later in the 2020s, something both supporters of the mission in the scientific community and Congress do not want.

Europa may have geysers of water vapor erupting from the ocean below, as in this artist’s conception. If so, they could be sampled and analyzed for possible evidence of life. Image Credit: NASA/ESA/K. Retherford/SWRI

Europa may have geysers of water vapor erupting from the ocean below, as in this artist’s conception. If so, they could be sampled and analyzed for possible evidence of life. Image Credit: NASA/ESA/K. Retherford/SwRI

This also leaves open the question as to whether the mission will include a lander. As stated in the budget legislation last year, “This mission shall include an orbiter with a lander that will include competitively selected instruments and that funds shall be used to finalize the mission design concept.”

Congress wants a lander included in the mission, and, of course, that would be an exciting development. That will be determined, however, by the how the budgetary process plays out.

As noted by Texas Congressman John Culberson, who chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee (with jurisdiction over NASA):

“This number, this year, is the largest vote of confidence that Congress has ever given NASA. There’s enough money to do everything on their plate. Until now Europa has had no advocate. NASA headquarters was prepared to let the Europa mission die. But I have always believed there is life on other worlds, and I have wanted to have a hand in helping to discover life on other worlds.” He later added, “I told them to do whatever it takes. All of humanity is going to want to know what’s under the ice.”

"Chaos terrain" on Europa, where material such as salt comes up to the surface from the ocean below. Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“Chaos terrain” on Europa, where material such as salt comes up to the surface from the ocean below. Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

That, in a nutshell, is the impetus behind a mission back to Europa: to search for evidence of possible life in its subsurface ocean. In fact, Europa has more water in its ocean than all of Earth’s oceans and seas combined. Having a global ocean beneath its outer ice shell makes Europa an exciting target for astrobiologists. Evidence from previous missions and Earth-based telescopes suggests the ocean is salty and very similar chemically to Earth’s oceans. On Earth, even where covered by ice at the poles, the oceans are teeming with life. Could the same be true for Europa? The ocean floor of Europa is also thought to be in contact with the rocky core, like on Earth, which could provide needed mineral nutrients, and there is some evidence for hydrothermal activity. Even in the deepest parts of Earth’s oceans, such hydrothermal vents become oases for vibrant ecosystems. The lack of sunlight has not prevented that, so it is possible that some forms of life could also exist in the darkness of Europa’s ocean.

There is also now evidence that salts or other substances from deep below can make their way to the surface, leaving behind deposits which can be analyzed. These are found predominately in regions known as “chaos terrain” where the surface is highly fractured and jumbled. According to astronomer Mike Brown: “We think we might be looking at salts left over after a large amount of ocean water flowed out onto the surface and then evaporated away. They may be like the large salt flats in the desert regions of the world, in which the chemical composition of the salt reflects whatever materials were dissolved in the water before it evaporated.”

It was also previously reported that there may be water vapor “geysers” on Europa, similar to the ones discovered on Saturn’s moon Enceladus, which also has a subsurface global ocean. If so, they could also be sampled, the same way the Cassini spacecraft has already done several times at Enceladus. They haven’t been confirmed yet, however, and are likely smaller and fainter than those on Enceladus.

“When we had Galileo at Jupiter we didn’t look for plumes because we didn’t know they were there,” said Jim Green, who oversees NASA’s Planetary Sciences division. “They were probably all over the place, and we probably missed opportunities all over the place. We were just too ignorant to recognize the opportunities.”

There may even be active plate tectonics on Europa, another geological phenomenon which helped life on Earth to prosper and evolve.

The new Europa mission will make 45 close flybys of Europa to study its surface and interior in unprecedented detail, including taking many high-resolution images and probing the subsurface with ice-penetrating radar. A magnetometer would also study the moon’s magnetic field which would allow scientists to determine the depth and salinity of its ocean. The mission is part of NASA’s new “Ocean Worlds Exploration Program” which also includes Enceladus and Titan. Titan has rivers, lakes, and seas of liquid methane/ethane on its surface and a probable liquid water ocean below, similar to Europa and Enceladus.

Additional information about the fiscal year 2017 budget request is available here.

 

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54 comments to NASA’s FY2017 Budget Request May Delay SLS Europa Mission Several Years

  • Joe

    We’ve seen this movie. We know how it ends.

    First the administration submits a budget that lowballs SLS/Orion and highballs commercial.
    Then Bolden gets in front of the press and says something to the effect of “if only those dastardly meddlers in Congress would fully fund ‘the President’s vision’, then we could stop flying Americans on Russian rockets a year sooner”, continuing his weird practice of being Obama’s man at NASA rather than the actual Administrator.

    Congress will then look at the budget and say something to the effect of “ha ha ha… no.” and proceed to fund SLS/Orion and commercial in a manner consistent with prior years, which is SLS/Orion much higher than the administration’s request and commercial modestly lower.
    And then the President, not willing to spend political capital on something he and his core political team basically don’t care about (so much for the ‘vision’), signs the budget anyway.

    This series of events is followed by the customary mob of anti-SLS/Orion folks railing for the end of SLS at a date a little further to the right on the timeline. It is topped off by a group prayer that invokes the next president canceling SLS/Orion, even though Congress’s composition that’s protected them for years isn’t changing.

    Nothing to see here folks, move along.

    • Conway Costigan

      “-continuing his weird practice of being MUSK’s man at NASA rather than the actual Administrator.”

      Stop putting Obama in Musk’s shoes- the president could care less about space- it is just political payback for that campaign contribution. The right side of your brain is overwriting your perception of reality Joe. The rest what you wrote….completely accurate and I can only agree with you.

      The best angle of attack on space policy is non-partisan. It is such a confusing mess right now that left and right does not really matter. It just so happens most of the SLS gang is right and I have to support their agenda. No matter who gets elected my views on space will not change. How about you?

      • Joe

        Thanks for the Psychoanalysis (it is truly amazing how many people on the internet are experts at defining the mental state of people they have never met), but the statement “…being Obama’s man…” is simply factual. The policy is Obama’s

        Does the policy benefit Musk? Yes.

        Did Obama put the policy in place due to Musk campaign contributions? At least partially in all probability, but is has more to do with Obama’s ideological antipathy to HSF.

        In the 2008 Democratic Primaries he told the Houston Chronicle Editorial Board he was not convinced that “sending bodies into space” was an efficient means of space exploration. Interestingly his distaste for HSF seems to have now spread to robotic probes as well.

        As far as the next elections are concerned, there do not seem to be any candidates in either party that are favorably disposed to Space.

        Some are hostile:
        (a) Trump.
        (b) Sanders.
        (c) Paul (now out of the race).

        The rest, at least as far as I know, are not on record in any specific manner.

    • Leonidas Papadopoulos

      Great summary of the situation Joe!

      The administration’s statements accompanying the FY2017 budget request that the latter somehow enchances the US’s investment in space exploration is political spin at its best, one that’s almost Orwellian. It’s a very good thing that Congress views the new NASA budget request as DOA.

      As for the presidential candidates from either side and their commitment to space, I don’t hold my breath either.

      Best regards.

  • john doe

    “-more to do with Obama’s ideological antipathy to HSF.”

    Who is defining a mental state now? You might think it is “simply factual” but a single sentence on the record does not make it so. I simply disagree with your “analysis.” You could be right or I could be and he just does not waste any time on it. We may never know which of us is closer to the truth.

    I am hoping Hillary is going to be the queen of outer space. Call me crazy but I am still hopeful the space-solar-power-as-the-only-cure-for-global-warming-angle will work. Unfortunately, if she makes Lori Garver her space adviser the writing will be on the wall and it will all be over. That could very well be the turning point in history akin to what Zubrin wrote about with his Chinese supership parallel. I would then most likely give up on space and turn my attention in a different direction. I am thinking cryopreservation. There was an article the other day about freezing and thawing out a rabbit brain with no damage. I immediately called the company and they said the article was not completely accurate; but it is still tremendously exciting. And freezing people does connect with space travel- as in star travel. What do you think Joe?

    • Conway Costigan

      Oops, sorry for the john doe. It is me, I was on a different browser and it used an old handle.

  • Joe

    “Who is defining a mental state now? You might think it is “simply factual” but a single sentence on the record does not make it so.”

    Such statements followed by the actions of the last 7+ years are what is called evidence. If you choose to ignore the evidence that is your privilege.

    “I am hoping Hillary is going to be the queen of outer space.”

    Don’t know if you have seen the old B movie, but the queen in question was a bad guy. Might want to check your pop culture references. As for hoping, you have the right to hope anything you want; but the fact that she considers Garver a possibility for NASA Administrator should give anyone cause to be skeptical.

    Suspended Animation (in one form or another) is always appealing to anyone interested in the future. Would really love it if were to become a reality, but have not come across any reason to believe it will become practical anytime in the foreseeable future. For what ever it is worth, I hope I’m wrong about that.

    • Conway Costigan

      You want to blame it on the community organizer with a law degree instead of Musk. Go with that- whatever feels good. It is obvious to me who is behind it.

  • Tracy the Troll

    Conway,
    Won’t the Hobby rocket allow for Space Based Power systems? I read somewhere that Japan has a system ready to go…Just needs 1500 launches…

    Joe,
    I wonder if SLS is really a cover for some black ops space program that we no nothing about and will be cancelled when the next president comes in because they completed the work…I mean I hope the money is funneled into something that actually is doing something in a reusable sense.

    • Joe

      “Won’t the Hobby rocket allow for Space Based Power systems? I read somewhere that Japan has a system ready to go…”

      If you are saying that Japan has 1,500 component payloads for a Space Based Power System built and ready for launch, that is to (put it politely) a dubious assertion.

      “…Just needs 1500 launches…”

      There is an old joke:

      Question: How do you put four elephants in a compact car?
      Answer: Easy, two in the front and two in the back.

      “I wonder if SLS is really a cover for some black ops space program that we no nothing about and will be cancelled when the next president comes in because they completed the work…I mean I hope the money is funneled into something that actually is doing something in a reusable sense.”

      Seriously Tracy, the X-Files is a fictional TV series; not a documentary.

  • Short-sighted thinking by the president and Congress. The New Horizon success should serve as an impetus for funding the Europa mission immediately. We can’t afford to delay the exploration of a moon that promises a wealth of scientific returns for the investment.

    • Conway Costigan

      Anything that will get the SLS into production I have to support, however, I take the long view concerning exploration missions; humans need to go exploring.

      True spaceships capable of traveling to the outer planets and back with a psychologically acceptable mission time (5 years?) would have to attain speeds of over 100,000 miles per hour. They would also require an artificial gravity system and thousands of tons of water shielding to not only protect astronauts from cosmic rays but also serve as a grow medium for closed cycle life support systems.

      The only such construct that can accomplish such missions would use nuclear pulse propulsion (H-bombs). The only place to acquire shielding, assemble, test, and launch such missions is the Moon. Trying to do anything with NewSpace in LEO is a complete dead end.

      So if I was the next president’s space adviser I would council her to divert all funds possible into a Moon return and cislunar infrastructure.

      • Leonidas Papadopoulos

        As a space advocate, I would also fully support such a plan, for that would only make sense. With current technology, the utilisation of cislunar space and lunar resources is the way to go forward and of course nuclear propulsion is a no-brainer. These plans go back to the 1960’s and one can only wonder what the state of the human spaceflight program would be today had the Saturn V/Apollo infrastructure not been trashed away. I view SLS/Orion as a way to regain that wonderful capability back. The laws of physics haven’t changed for the last 50 years and we haven’t made any alternative revolutionary breakthroughs in space access yet.

        Artificial gravity should have been pursued vigorously. There’s just no way that humans can remain healthy in space for prolonged amounts of time without it. Actually, we haven’t even tried to scale up the concept to see how it works and what the effects on humans are. Any serious plans to expand humans outwards into the Solar System requires the use of nuclear energy, artificial gravity, utilisation of the Moon, solar energy and ISRU. Anything less means to just kid ourselves. At least that’s my personal view.

        There’s a more basic issue though, of why should the US have a national human spaceflight program in the first place. The only sensible answer IMHO is space settlement and colonisation and that hasn’t been addressed at all on a national level. If that basic question isn’t answered, then NASA will always lack direction and strategy. Unfortunately I just don’t see any presidential candidate willing to commit to such a thing. I would be very much happy to be proven wrong though.

        • Conway Costigan

          Thanks Leonidas,
          The only angle I have come up with is Hillary deciding the only way to save us all from climate change is to adopt Gerard K. O’Neill’s solution and build space solar power stations on the Moon. While she is at it she might as well put all those nuclear warheads on spaceships Beyond Earth and Lunar Orbit (BELO) so they are not only off hair trigger alert but also able to deflect asteroid and comet impact threats. This would redirect that trillion plus dollar amount earmarked for new missiles, bombers, and submarines for space. The Russians and Chinese would have to honor our commitment and do the same. Might as well visit the outer solar system with them.

        • Conway Costigan

          Thanks Leonidas,
          The only angle I have come up with is Hillary deciding the only way to save us all from climate change is to adopt Gerard K. O’Neill’s solution and build space solar power stations on the Moon. While she is at it she might as well put all those nuclear warheads on spaceships Beyond Earth and Lunar Orbit (BELO) so they are not only off hair trigger alert but also able to deflect asteroid and comet impact threats. This would redirect that trillion plus dollar amount earmarked for new missiles, bombers, and submarines for space. And while we are getting those lunar factories started cranking out pulse plates and power stations we can put some GEO telecom space stations up to replace the present junkyard and acquire that 200 billion dollars a year in revenue for investment in cislunar infrastructure. Of course, the NewSpace clowns go completely nuts when such state sponsored projects are proposed.

          • Conway Costigan

            OOps. Sorry for the double post.

          • Joe

            “The only angle I have come up with is Hillary deciding the only way to save us all from climate change is to adopt Gerard K. O’Neill’s solution and build space solar power stations on the Moon.”

            That is a beautiful dream, but how much would you like to bet that Hillary Clinton (or any other candidate from either party):

            (1) Never heard of Gerard K. O’Neill.
            (2) Never heard of the Solar Power Satellite concept?
            (3) Thinks the idea of Lunar Resource Use is “comic book stuff”?

            As Leonidas said ” I would be very much happy to be proven wrong…”, but (sadly) doubt I will be.

            • Conway Costigan

              “That is a beautiful dream, but-”

              Jetliners bringing down towers and a black president make me believe anything can happen Joe.

  • Leonidas Papadopoulos

    There’s literaly an infinite amount of solar power that could be harnessed from space, not to mention the other kinds of energy sources in the Solar System and as a civilisation we are currently content to using and fighting over fossil fuels and some type of alternative ‘green’ energy solutions on a smaller scale at best. On top of that, you have the environmentalist groups screaming over the mistreating of the planet and its resources, while also advocating at the same time that the rest of the Solar System should be kept off-limits for fear of humans ‘destroying it like they did with Earth’ (the same-old tired cliche).

    This mindset is so self-contradictory that it’s almost laughable. What these people don’t realise is that the utilisation of space-based solar energy and extraterrestrial resources would free the Earth from the burden that they so much scream about. Unfortunately, this mindset is really prevalent among the public, academia and political cycles and its one that’s really difficult to overcome.

    In addition, there is a collective mass hysteria (justified to one degree) about the use of nuclear energy. Any use of the ‘N’ word and its utilisation in space on a mass scale and you would surely have people from all walks of life all over the world immediately suffer from apoplexy. When the Cassini probe was launched in 1997 there were many protests about its on board RTGs and their potential for polluting the atmosphere in the event of a failed launch. And Cassini only carried with it 33 kg of plutonium. You can only imagine the reactions should any politician suggest that we should redirect thousands of nuclear warheads in space to be used as power sources for space exploration and settlement. That’s not to say that I do not support the idea, I’m fully in support of realising Gerard O’ Neill’s plans. I’m just making an observation.

    Furthermore, there is a deep-seated irrational fear in the collective consciousness about space per se. As a result, the current zeitgest in society outside of the space community is that ‘space should be kept off-limits indefinitely until we solve all our problems here on Earth first’ (another worn-out, tired cliche).

    I have written about all these themes and their negative effects on space policy and space exploration in general in past articles here on AmericaSpace. In my personal view, overcoming these wide-spread negative beliefs, is orders of magnitude more difficult than meeting the engineering challenges of settling space.

  • Conway Costigan

    “-overcoming these wide-spread negative beliefs, is orders of magnitude more difficult than meeting the engineering challenges-”

    NewSpace is in my view now the single greatest obstacle. Everything required to colonize space is antithetical to the NewSpace business plan. Vast governmental resources applied to space public works, nuclear energy, and going back to the Moon with Super Heavy Lift Vehicles- all of these contradict what the Ayn Rand in Space crowd is chanting.

    • Vladislaw

      Commercial transportation leads, government infrastructure spending follows. They didn’t fund railroad tracks until there were engines, they didn’t fund modern roadways until there were automobiles, airports were not funded before commercialization of airplanes.

      Sorry to say but it will not be different JUST because it is space. 50 years have proven that. Once there is domestic transportation services and destinations and it is being utilized, the infrastructure spending will follow, as it ALWAYS has.

      • Conway Costigan

        So says the Ayn Rand in Space crowd. Except there has to be commerce for commercial transportation. There is absolutely nothing of value in space except 23,000 mile high cell phone towers. No destination. It is space and the old railroad and airport analogies do not apply.

        This is why NewSpace is the worst thing that has ever happened to space exploration. A certain celebrity scientist stated it perfectly. “The delusion is SpaceX is going to lead the space frontier.”

        • Tracy the Troll

          Joe, Conway and the Oldspace crowd:

          Please check out the link below Newspace will be providing the reusable rockets to make this a reality…Probably sooner than we realize.

          http://spectrum.ieee.org/green-tech/solar/how-japan-plans-to-build-an-orbital-solar-farm

          • Joe

            The article describes (as it acknowledges) work first done by Peter Glaser’s team in the 1960’s (some fifty years ago). The concept is revived every decade or so and studied for a while, then put back on the shelf as requiring too much technological development.

            The article (again to its credit) acknowledges some of the developments required to make such a system practical. While transportation advances are noted, there is no mention of rockets (reusable or otherwise) anywhere in the article.

            The only place reusable rockets are mentioned is in the comments section, where a SpaceX fan says reusable rockets are only a year away. Since the article dates back to April 2014 (approaching two years ago) that turns out to be a bit optimistic (to put it politely). The only reusable rocket to make an appearance so far is a sub-orbital one and it was produced by Blue Origin, not SpaceX.

            JAXA had a plan to do earth based (and thus relatively cheap) research on power transmission from 2015 to 2017 and then launch a 1-kw demonstrator in 2017. If they are going to do that such a funded project would have to already be underway. Any idea if it is?

            Things then start to get really expensive with bigger and bigger demonstrators every couple of years. At some point (probably at the funding of the first demonstrator) the Japanese government would have to start picking up a significant part of the rather large tab (I have worked with JAXA and they are definitely what you would consider Dino-Space Troglodytes). Has this happened? Is there an official Japanese government program being funded? If not then this is just another revisit of Glaser’s 50 year old concept.

            I do not doubt that given enough effort the SSP concept could be made to work. However, given the size of the notional orbital platforms (the article quotes 10,000 metric tons/platform and you could look for that to increase as the design got closer to reality), the only practical means of transportation/construction would involve use of Lunar materials; not dragging everything up from the Earth’s gravity well (reusable rockets not withstanding).

            • Tracy the Troll

              Joe,
              Here a simple number calc based on things I have read

              10,000 ton requirement / 13 ton F9R = 770 launches X $5MUS = $3.9BUS launch cost alone.

              and another article.

              http://aviationweek.com/space/low-cost-launches-may-boost-chances-space-solar-power

              This could truly revolutionize the energy markets.

              • Joe

                OK Tracy,

                One more reply and then I am done.

                (1) The “13 ton F9R” is for LEO not GEO.

                (2) The “13 ton F9R” must include payload fairings and engine and fuel for rendezvous/docking.

                So you better increase your number of launches by at least a factor of 5.

                (a) How long will it take to launch 3,850 missions?
                (b) How much station keeping propellant will be required to keep the initial payloads in place awaiting the arrival of the subsequent sections and how will it be supplied?
                (c) How about the assembly crews/robots? How will they be supplied/maintained?
                (d) Will more Falcon 9 launches be required to handle (b) and (c)? If so how much further will that stretch out the assembly sequence (causing more additional launches to be required)?

                Additionally your “$5MUS” is something you made up yourself.

                Believe anything you want, but your fact free “reasoning” is going to leave you constantly disappointed and looking for conspiracies to explain why things don’t work out as you think they should (my favorite so far is the Russians shot down CRS-7 with a laser).

                • Tracy the Troll

                  Joe,
                  Ok a few revisions…
                  5tons to GTO per F9R
                  10,000 Ton power Station…divided by 5 tons = 2000 launches
                  Cost per launch is estimated at $7M US x 2000 = $10.4 B US.
                  The hardware is completely robotic with self assembly by JAXA.
                  Generates income by delivering Microwave power to existing satellite operations at entry to GTO.
                  Expect to see US military use this tech sooner than JAXA.
                  CRS 7 downing might have been done by CIA….who probably killed Scalia.

                  • Joe

                    Should not do this, but here we go again.

                    “10,000 Ton power Station…divided by 5 tons = 2000 launches”

                    You are still leaving out the mass for engines and fuel to circularize the orbit and perform rendezvous/docking.

                    “Cost per launch is estimated at $7M US x 2000 = $10.4 B US.”

                    First you say the cost/launch is $5M, then change it to $7M. Making up a new number does not make that new number anymore valid.

                    “The hardware is completely robotic with self assembly by JAXA.”

                    And where did you determine that this is JAXA’s plan and that all that assembly hardware is included in their cost/mass estimates?

                    “CRS 7 downing might have been done by CIA….who probably killed Scalia.”

                    Yes, both those statements make as much sense as anything else you say.

                    Good night Tracy.

                    • Conway Costigan

                      What is sad Joe is that he is associating his nonsense with Space Solar Power. It is bad enough that Space Solar Advocates have always been their own worst enemies because they ignore lunar ISRU- now there are NewSpace clowns talking about it and poisoning the well. Gerard K. O’Neill was the prophet of space colonization who has almost been forgotten by the public. There will be no progress until his concepts are revived.

                      There is no cheap- taking a few pounds of lego blocks and a couple gallons of gas at a time into LEO will accomplish nothing. The ISS proved that. The Super Heavy Lift Vehicle, the wet workshop, and lunar resources are the true path the U.S. has wandered off of and cannot seem to find again.

                      As I have stated many times, climate change, whether one is a skeptic or not, is about the only “cause” I can imagine being the enabler for a real space program. We spend 60 billion a year on the pet industry so such a project is by no means impossible. Even though NewSpace always screams cheap and wants to limit any such public works projects (except space tourism) with scorn and derision.

        • Vladislaw

          Conway Costigan wrote: “Except there has to be commerce for commercial transportation.” No there doesn’t. That is like saying there has to be commerce for someone to ride a roller coaster. They have been around for a century, why? Because they offer an EXPERIENCE!

          Transportation by definition allows people to EXPERIENCE different locations and the cheaper the transportation the more places you can experience. Now you can pretend all you like that that is not the case but you would be wrong. Suborbital, just like a roller coaster, will offer customers to EXPERIENCE zero G, see the thin line of the atmosphere and the blackness of space. Pretend that experience for a human is nothing and you are making one hell of a huge mistake.

          “The delusion is SpaceX is going to lead the space frontier.”

          That is like saying the Conestoga wagon is going to open the western frontier. It didn’t but what it did do is allowed HUMANS to do it. So the delusion seems to be the celebrity.

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

          • Conway Costigan

            All you have to sell is vomiting in zero G and looking out a window Donald. The Space Clown wannabes will go down in history as pathetic fools and the worst thing that has ever happened to space exploration.

            • Vladislaw

              Watch this and maybe you might gain a little understanding.

              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CHMIfOecrlo

              • john hare

                Vladislaw,

                Gaining understanding requires some desire to understand. That desire does not exist in your correspondent. Jr is not interested in the opinions of others regardless of facts presented.

                • Joe

                  The video, done by an environmental group called Planetary Collective, is basically a pantheon to “Old Space” Programs (at least “Old Space” according to Vlad, John, et al):

                  (1) Apollo
                  (2) Shuttle
                  (3) ISS

                  And how they heightened environmental awareness.

                  Seems to me to take the position, well we did space and it showed us that we must stay on earth and protect it (which actually implies abandoning space activities with the exception of environmental monitoring).

                  Certainly a position that can be argued (even though I disagree with it), but it hardly makes the case for space tourism.

                  Unless you are arguing that everyone should be sent into space once, so they will come to agree with the Planetary Collective’s point of view.

                  Not exactly a libertarian point of view John.

                  • Conway Costigan

                    In my experience with the Ayn-Rand-in-Space types they often lie, misrepresent, mislead, and fill up the page (robocomment) when it will promote their agenda or bury criticism- and don’t feel bad about it at all. I guess they consider it just another sound business practice.
                    I have absolutely no respect for any of them- gave up any hope of that long ago.

                  • john hare

                    I quit responding to strawman arguments years ago.

                    • Joe

                      Then since you responded, you obviously did not consider my post a “straw man argument” (whatever that would mean in this context anyway).

                      Thanks for the complement.

                    • Conway Costigan

                      That a NewSpace advocate just posted an environmental group’s video as somehow representing the Ayn-Rand-in-Space libertarian worldview is completely misleading and you calling the exposing of the fraud a straw man not only blatantly disingenuous, but absurd. NewSpace arrogance and idiocy is never-ending.

                      “-misrepresent, mislead, – and don’t feel bad about it at all.”

                      You really think anyone reading this thread does not see the game you are playing? That anyone is going to “buy” your environmentalism? I submit it is always just an obvious, and sick, inside joke with the NewSpace mob when they write this kind of garbage. It’s disgusting and I am sick of it and have been for years.

                      There are half a dozen popular space forums where the space clowns can blather away making up stuff all day long with cronies and yucking it up. Why come here and do it? To poison the well.

                  • Vladislaw

                    Joe, Conway Costigan wrote: “Except there has to be commerce for commercial transportation. There is absolutely nothing of value in space except”

                    I was responding to ONLY one point. His stating there HAS to be commerce for a person to decide to utilize a domestic commercial transportation system. CLEARLY there are millions if not billions of transportation systems utilized where there is no commerce taking place but just for the experience of a different location that low cost transporation allows.

                    • Joe

                      “CLEARLY there are millions if not billions of transportation systems utilized where there is no commerce taking place but just for the experience of a different location that low cost transporation allows.”

                      I doubt there are millions (much less billions) of non commercial transportation systems, but even if you want to make that argument nothing in the linked video supports it. The video link was a distraction, an appeal to authority (or in this case a non authority). It was nothing more than a restatement of environmental tropes dating back to the Earth Rise pictures from Apollo 8.

                      I wasted 20 minutes watching it and noted same.

                    • Vladislaw

                      I would say there is a billion bicycles utilized all over the planet that provides kids there first breath of experiences at a distance unable to be seen on foot. It start there add in motorized bikes, cars, boats, planes planetary wide and I would say commercialized transportation is billion.

                    • Vladislaw

                      The video was a SINGLE aspect for non commerce.. thats all .. you are trying to paint it as more than it is.

                    • Vladislaw

                      “Jul 29, 2014 – 1.2 Billion Vehicles On World’s Roads Now, 2 Billion By 2035: Report. Calculating the total number of motor vehicles on the planet is an inexact science, but the number is growing rapidly. The automotive trade journal Ward’s Auto had estimated that the total crossed 1 billion vehicles sometime during 2010.”

                      http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1093560_1-2-billion-vehicles-on-worlds-roads-now-2-billion-by-2035-report

                    • Joe

                      Three separate responses.

                      Getting a little agitated?

                      “CLEARLY there are millions if not billions of transportation systems utilized… ”

                      “I would say there is a billion bicycles utilized all over the planet…”

                      “1.2 Billion Vehicles On World’s Roads Now…”

                      So by your “reasoning” my dirt bike is a transportation system unto itself. And every other dirt bike (even those of exactly the same design by the same manufacturer) are transportation systems unto themselves as well. Not individual units of a transportation system, but a whole system each.

                      If you say so, but that is going to extremes just to distract from the fact that you used a non relevant source and pretended it backed up your argument.

                  • Vladislaw

                    Joe, can you find me a quote I have made in the last decade where I even used the word “newspace”? If I have it is a VERY rare event. First and foremost it has ALWAYS been a transporation issue.

                    I do not care WHY a person chooses to go to LEO. To find the face of god in the heavens, to write a poem, to stare out a window, to sing a song, to conduct an experiment, to try a business opportunity, et cetera, et cetera.

                    Just like I do not care what you do or were you go when you jump in a car, a boat, place, or get on a bike. ALL I care about is that there are commercial opportunities for you to untilize what ever form of transportation you desire. Domesitic commercial space transportation, for me, it just another form of transportation that should be commercialized and industrialized.

                    • Joe

                      “Joe, can you find me a quote I have made in the last decade where I even used the word “newspace”?”

                      Why would I waste my time doing that?

                      That you are trying to deflect to whether and where you have used a specific word, is just proof you have been called out on using a non relevant source and pretended it backed up your argument.

                      Learn to live with it.

                    • Vladislaw

                      Not trying to deflect, trying to clarify, which, apparently, doesn’t seem to be happening.

                    • Conway Costigan

                      Well, you at least got that right Donald….it’s not happening.

                      And since this is not one of your SpaceX propaganda sites that will conveniently delete all comments made by NewSpace critics and then ban them, it is not going to happen. So you might be better off going to the SpaceX News or the SpaceX Review and talking to your buddies there about Conestoga wagons and bicycles and saving the environment with billionaut space clown tourism.

  • Conway Costigan

    http://ww2.kqed.org/education/2016/02/16/should-nasa-focus-on-space-exploration-or-climate-change/

    The answer is that space solar power- enabled by lunar resources- is the solution to climate change. Or if you are a climate change skeptic then space solar energy is the solution to just about any other problem you can name. It is not either-or; the two are one. Where to build the solar power component factories on the Moon?
    Lava tubes= space exploration.

    How to lift millions of tons of manufactured components and water shielding off the surface of the Moon? Nuclear Pulse Propulsion (bombs). How to transport bomb pits directly to the Moon? Survivable packaging and a powerful launch abort system (escape tower) on the SLS.

    Despite a hilarious attempt to claim environmentalism as a cause on this forum such a public works project is of course completely opposite of the NewSpace LEO business plan.

    • Tracy the Troll

      Conway and Joe,

      “How to lift millions of tons of manufactured components and water shielding off the surface of the Moon? Nuclear Pulse Propulsion (bombs).”

      What is the cost of one of these NPP Rockets?

      • Conway Costigan

        You can go ahead and keep asking Joe but don’t bother looking for anything from me except a kick in the rear end. I don’t suffer fools gladly.

    • Vladislaw

      Lava tubes are located in space? I thought there were located on Luna? Wouldn’t that be lunar geologic exploration?

  • Conway Costigan

    There are half a dozen popular space forums where the space clowns can blather away making up stuff all day long with cronies and yucking it up. Why come here and do it? To poison the well.