SLS and Orion: March 2017 Archives

Keith's note: The NAC Human Exploration and Operations Committee is meeting today. After an hour the telcon has no functional audio so no one really knows what Bill Gerstenmaier is saying. But he posted these charts. Not sure why we need this deep space habitat, whether there is still a #JourneyToMars or a pivot to #BackToThe Moon. Why NASA is chronically unable to do a simple telecon is just baffling. I did them from a cold tent at Everest Base camp at 17,600 feet in 2009 over a BGAN satphone many times a day.

New report: NASA spends 72 cents of every SLS dollar on overhead costs, Ars Technica

"... according to a new report published by the nonpartisan think tank Center for a New American Security, NASA has spent $19 billion on rockets, first on Ares I and V, and now on the SLS. Additionally, the agency has spent $13.9 billion on the Orion spacecraft. The agency hopes to finally fly its first crewed mission with the new vehicles in 2021. If it does so, the report estimates the agency will have spent $43 billion before that first flight, essentially a reprise of the Apollo 8 mission around the Moon.

... The new report argues that, given these high costs, NASA should turn over the construction of rockets and spacecraft to the private sector. It buttresses this argument with a remarkable claim about the "overhead" costs associated with the NASA-led programs."

Keith's note: $43 billion in one dollar bills would stretch 4,166,700 miles or 17 times the distance to the Moon. Just sayin'.

House Science Committee Hearing: The ISS after 2024: Options and Impacts

Mr. William Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, NASA
Dr. Mary Lynne Dittmar, Executive Director, Coalition for Deep Space Exploration"

Keith's 16 March note: Notice that there are only two witnesses. The first witness is NASA's AA for government human space activities. The second witness is the mouthpiece for large aerospace companies who build the big things that the first witness wants to build. No representation whatsoever has been offered to the commercial sector (SpaceX, Blue Origin etc.) that is supposed to be a partner with NASA in the utilization of space.

Maybe Congress is afraid to hear what the private sector is going to do without NASA's help.

Keith's 20 March update: The witness list has been revised to include:

"Mr. Eric Stallmer, President, Commercial Spaceflight Federation
Dr. Robert Ferl, Distinguished Professor and Director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Biotechnology Research, University of Florida"

Blue Origin's new engine isn't good enough for some congressmen, Ars Technica

"At the end of February, two US representatives, Mike Rogers of Alabama and Mac Thornberry of Texas, decided to push a little harder. On February 28, they sent a letter to Lisa Disbrow, the acting secretary of the US Air Force, and James MacStravic, who is performing the duties of the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics. In addition to reiterating a desire that ULA continue to fly a second rocket, the Delta IV Heavy, the letter urges the Pentagon officials to be skeptical about the BE-4 engine. ... Although both Rogers and Thornberry are members of the House Armed Services Committee, it is difficult to avoid ascribing at least some political motives to the letter. In January, Aerojet Rocketdyne said it would produce the AR1 rocket engine in Huntsville, Alabama, creating 100 new jobs near NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. Already, another Huntsville company, Dynetics, has become a subcontractor for the engine's main propulsion system. (A spokesman for Rogers didn't not reply to a request for comment)."

Keith's note: Of course Dynetics is where Steve Cook (who was on the Trump landing team at NASA HQ) and other Ares V/SLS veterans from MSFC went after they left NASA. And Cook is one of the usual suspects often seen in league with Doug Cooke, Dan Dumbacher, and Mike Griffin pushing their own Alabama-centric Apollo-on-Steroids notions in op eds and behind the scenes in Congress.

- Former NASA Leaders Who Still Ignore Reality, earlier post
- More False Memories About the Origin (and Cost) of SLS, earlier post

Don't expect a space race. SpaceX and NASA need each other, LA Times

"The whole idea is that NASA is at the point of a spear," said Howard McCurdy, professor in the school of public affairs at American University. "It's like exploration of any terrestrial realm. This is the way the model is supposed to work." Indeed, the rapid ascent of Musk and other space industry pioneers is validation of the public-private partnership envisioned when Congress passed the Commercial Space Launch Act of 1984. By the mid-2000s, NASA was signing contracts with the private sector to fill in for its own funding constraints and the impending retirement of the space shuttle program."

Does SpaceX's moon plan threaten NASA?, Florida Today

"I don't think NASA has anything to be worried about if somebody else can do it 50 years later," said Alan Stern, a former head of NASA science missions. "NASA has much bigger plans and ambitions to explore other worlds with humans than just a figure 8 mission around the moon."

Keith's note: For a commercial entity to mount their own mission around the Moon using their own hardware and finances is quite an unheard of accomplishment. But now that the Commercial Spaceflight Federation under CSF Chairman Alan Stern's leadership has caved in and supported the SLS (which will compete with the commercial heavy lift launch sector) it is obvious that more commentary dismissing commercial space achievements is to be forthcoming from CSF. Contrary to Stern's comments NASA should be worried about this SpaceX mission.

NASA currently does not have - nor has it had - the ability to send humans around the Moon for nearly half a century. Even if SpaceX's Moon mission slips a few years it is still likely that they will beat NASA back to the Moon - for a fraction of what it will cost NASA to do so - even if you add every single cent NASA has ever given SpaceX for everything it has ever done. Moreover SpaceX has an assembly line that can churn out and launch these Moon rockets at a rate and cost that NASA will never be able to match. Oh yes. ULA and Blue Origin are not exactly sitting on their hands either.

Oddly, CSF sends its chairman out to diminish this capability rather than to openly praise it.

- What's With All The Commercial Space News?, earlier post
- Alternative Facts And Snake Oil From The SLS Mafia, earlier post
- Commercial Spaceflight Federation Sells Out and Endorses SLS (Update), earlier post



Monthly Archives

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries in the SLS and Orion category from March 2017.

SLS and Orion: February 2017 is the previous archive.

SLS and Orion: April 2017 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.