Commercialization: January 2010 Archives

DIRECT Delusions

Rebel Engineers Sit With NASA to Chart Future of Manned Space, Popular Mechanics

"[Ross] Tierney, an amateur space buff, is an outspoken advocate for Jupiter Direct, a rocket designed to replace NASA's Ares 1 and Ares V, the two launch vehicles at the heart of NASA's Constellation program. "

NASA Renegades Pitch Obama Team New Post-Shuttle Plan, Popular Mechanics

"We were received well, but they were very clear they are offering no opinions at this point," says Ross Tierney, a collectible space model kit designer from Florida who presented the alternative plan.

Keith's note: Dear DIRECT Fanboys: NASA has not selected a specific design to replace Ares V. It most certainly has not decided to build DIRECT or any variant thereof. According to how NASA sources tell me the process will unfold, if/when NASA decides to go ahead and procure a replacement for Ares V or any other heavy lift launch system, it will do so via standard commercial procurement process - just like it is going to be doing for LEO access. Newsflash: the shift is going to be away from government-mandated designs (i.e. DIRECT) toward launch solutions to be provided by the private sector. The fact that a toy rocket model company owner was asked to come to NASA HQ and talk about a rocket design - one whose actual "designers" can never be named - was simply a courtesy - a curious one at that - not a statement of support.

After all this time, I have to wonder why no one except these people are ever associated - by name - with this concept. I cannot fathom that NASA would make any rational decision about launch vehicles based on anonymous designers - especially when the "team" is led by a foreign national who runs a toy rocket model company and uses a blurry image of Werner von Braun on a website instead of showing his face.

Imagine the inevitable congressional hearing: Charlie Bolden tells Congress that NASA is going to throw away $8 billion worth of rocket design done by professional rocket designers and adopt a design whose team is mostly anonymous and is lead publicly by foreign national model rocket designer?

As Augustine Commission member Leroy Chiao once asked "Who are you guys?"

Commercial Space: What Role Is It Ready For?, Scott Horowitz, Space News

"For instance, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has conducted five launches of its simple Falcon 1, four of which failed (three totally, one partially). The company has learned from its failures and is working on upgrades. The more complex Falcon 9, designed to carry cargo to the ISS, is two years behind schedule and has yet to be launched. Moreover, this is the same vehicle they say can carry crew to ISS within three years."

Keith's note: It is rather hilarious for Scott Horowitz to cite one company's developmental woes and yet ignore the immense problems, delays, and cost overruns that his Ares 1 team had. Go look at the Atlas' flight record when they flew John Glenn.

Newsflash, Scott: SpaceX was flying a real rocket from the onset - not a cobbled together one-off rocket (Ares 1-X), half of which was a dummy inert mass that experienced an anomalous post-staging flight profile, damaged its first stage, etc. And Scott, let us not forget, your rocket - one that would still not fly for the first time for another few years (according to your own schedule) - would be flying crew within a similar time frame as Falcon 9 - yet doing so with a spacecaft (Orion) that was constantly reduced in capacity and underpowered due to flaws inherent in your rocket's design.

Even if you were to double the amount of launch/testing problems Falcon 1/Falcon 9 will end up costing a small fraction of the $8-9 billion you wasted and will be working in space sooner - and more cheaply - than Ares 1 would ever have been capable of doing.

Face it Scott - you placed all your (our) money on the wrong rocket.

As for astronauts flying on rockets, I wonder what Ken Bowersox knows that you do not?

Keith's note: A paradigm shift is in the making - a shift from government-operated to private sector operated human and cargo transportation systems. Of course, everyone wants to get a word in about this. How two groups express their support points to a shift in how this will happen. It is one thing to wave your arms around about what is broken and offer semantic solutions. It is quite another to quietly build vehicles to make this actually come to pass. Witness the attitude difference between two pro-space commercialization organizations - one old (and tired) one new and fresh.

First there is the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (formed by a group of companies actually building space vehicles) who sees the opportunity to take a shift in direction and make things work better. And then there is the Space Frontier Foundation (fast becoming a noisy "me too" fringe group) who gleefully celebrates the cancellation of a program that has consumed $8 billion by issuing a press release that points fingers and makes absolutely sure that we all know that they told you so ...

I'll take CSF's forward-looking approach any day.

Commercial Spaceflight Federation Statement on NASA's Anticipated Announcement of a $6 Billion Commercial Crew Program and NASA Budget Increase

"At a time when job creation is the top priority for our nation, a commercial crew program will create more jobs per dollar because it leverages millions in private investment and taps the potential of systems that serve both government and private customers. We have a tremendous opportunity here to jump-start private activity in low-Earth orbit that will further lower the cost of access to space and unleash the economic potential of space long promised."

Space Frontier Foundation Praises Death Sentence for Ares

"The Space Frontier Foundation has been fighting to kill Ares I for years. We predicted this disaster in 2006 , put out press releases, op-eds and worked with our many friends inside NASA, Congress, and both large and small NewSpace companies. ... Our Mind the Space Gap campaign emphasized that Ares was a boondoggle that guaranteed sending more taxpayer money to Russia to pay for Astronaut visits to a space station we mostly paid for," continued Werb. "Now the NewSpace industry must step up and fill the Gap, creating jobs and innovation here in America."

Griffin's statement, Huntsville Times

"Today we have in orbit a $75 billion International Space Station, a product of the treasure and effort of 15 nations, and the president is recommending that we hold its future utility and, indeed, its very existence hostage to fortune, hostage to the hope that presently nonexistent commercial spaceflight capability can be brought into being in a timely way, following the retirement of the Space Shuttle."

Mike Griffin Reveals His Commercialization Vision for NASA: Part 1 (2005)

"So it is a real dilemma - it is a real dichotomy: how do we engage competition and position ourselves to take advantage of the successes and accept the failures which inevitable occur in that environment while, at the same time, meeting the goals and objectives that we have as managers? What I've come to, after considerable thinking (with some discussion and modifications to come) - for NASA: the best way to do that is to utilize the market that is offered by the International Space Station and its requirements to supply crew and cargo as the years unfold."

White House Decides to Outsource NASA Work, Wall Street Journal

"The White House has decided to begin funding private companies to carry NASA astronauts into space, but the proposal faces major political and budget hurdles, according to people familiar with the matter. The controversial proposal, expected to be included in the Obama administration's next budget, would open a new chapter in the U.S. space program. The goal is to set up a multiyear, multibillion-dollar initiative allowing private firms, including some start-ups, to compete to build and operate spacecraft capable of ferrying U.S. astronauts into orbit--and eventually deeper into the solar system."

First Class of Suborbital Scientist-Astronauts Successfully Complete NASTAR Training Program

"For this diverse group of scientists to invest their own time and money for astronaut training is a true testament to the growing excitement behind the science potential of new commercial spacecraft," said Dr. S. Alan Stern, chairman of SARG and a principal organizer of the scientist training program. "Interest was so high that we've already filled up a second class of a dozen scientists for spring 2010."

GAO Briefing on Commercial and Department of Defense Space System Requirements and Acquisition Practices

"While commercial and DOD space system missions, requirements, and technology development differ in key ways, the commercial sector has adopted practices that could be applied to DOD space system acquisitions to improve cost, schedule, and performance outcomes. For instance, commercial firms define their requirements before initiating development programs, which helps to close resource gaps prior to program start and limit requirements growth. They tie contractor award and incentive fees to acquisition outcomes. They follow evolutionary product development approaches that enable them to achieve gradual gains in capability in relatively short periods while limiting the extent of technology risk they take on in any one increment. The commercial approach, overall, emphasizes gaining critical knowledge before making long-term commitments."

Environmental Tectonics Corporations The NASTAR(R) Center Commences Space Training for Prospective Scientist-Astronauts

"The Suborbital Scientist-Astronaut Training Course [Tuesday/Wednesday, 12-13 Jan] has been developed by The NASTAR Center and is organized by Dr. Alan Stern and Dr. Dan Durda of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI). "

Keith's note: You can follow events at the workshop at OnOrbit.com/suborbital or at The pre-flight of a sub-orbital scientist (Joe Hill)

On Twitter you can follow @thenastarcenter, NASAWatch or track all Tweets via #suborbital

You can also check the Suborbital Science page at Facebook and TheNASTARCenter on YouTube

- ETC's The NASTAR(R) Center Announces Winner of Student Patch Design Contest Outreach Effort, earlier post- NASA Solicitation: Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research Program - CRuSR - Request for Information, earlier post
- List of Speakers Announced for the Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference, earlier post

NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver Announced as Keynote Speaker for the Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference in February

"NASA's Deputy Administrator, Lori Garver, will be the opening keynote speaker at the Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference on February 18-20, 2010, at which scientists, engineers, educators, and vehicle developers will gather to discuss the research and education benefits of new commercial suborbital spacecraft."

Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference Update, earlier post


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This page is an archive of entries in the Commercialization category from January 2010.

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