Frank Sietzen: June 2009 Archives

Frank's note: One of the casualties of the tight budget squeeze at NASA was the closing in 2007 of the agencys Institute for Advanced Concepts, the closest thing for a think tank that the aging bureaucracy has had in its 50 year history. Chartered to think about truly revolutionary, way-out space exploration devices and technologies, Mike Griffin needed to poach the groups paltry $4 million annual budget to help absorb Return-to-Flight cost of the Space Shuttle and funding for Constellation-although $4 million wouldnt cover much in the grand scheme of the Shuttle or Constellation budgets. To my knowledge (readers correct me if Im wrong) no where else within NASA do people get paid to just think very long range ideas. My question: does such a group belong in NASA and should it or something like it be revived? And if you think so, what should its highest priority be? Propulsion? Artificial gravity systems? Space Elevator? Revamping its image? (no, thats too far out) Or when faced with such constrained budgets, should this far-future research be deferred until better times?

Killing NIAC, earlier post

Keith's 2007 note: "Word has it that NASA intends to cancel funding for NIAC the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts. This is just plain stupid. Let me repeat this for clarity's sake, Mike, (whoever made it) this is A STUPID DECISION. Advanced spacesuits that will open the surface of the moon - and then Mars- to meaningful and productive human exploration, tethers and other innovative and upmass-saving technologies, and other in-space techologies."

Frank's update: As of early Friday June 12th the bring-back NIAC posters are in the overwhelming majority, although some want it overhauled or restructured to include inside-NASA ideas, not just from external sources. Id still like to know if you all think its original $4 mil per annum budget was adequate

Frank's note: There was a time-back in the day when NASA funded research programs designed to develop advanced space launch technologies, which in part were to reduce the cost of space transportation. The Next Generation Launch Technology (NGLT) program and the Space Launch Initiative (SLI) funded a series of innovative designs in liquid rocket engines, propulsion systems, materials and structures. SLI gave rise to the X-33 and X-34 technology demonstrator programs. When the X-33 developed technical problems that absorbed its limited budget, it-and the X-34-were canceled. The promising Clipper Graham DC-X program, inherited by NASA from DoDs SDIO, was abandoned when the single flight test article was destroyed in a landing accident. All of the engine design programs-such as COBRA, STME-were also dead-ends.

Today, single stage launch vehicles fly only in the pages of science fiction. While the present Orion-Ares 1 architecture may well be the safe, simple, soonest launch solution promised by ESMD, notice nobody is claiming an Orion-Ares 1 stack will be cheaper than a Shuttle flight. My question to readers: what is the governments role and responsibility in reducing the cost of access to space? Would you bring back NGLT-or a revamped version of the SLI minus specific vehicle test beds such as the X-33/X-34? How would you revitalize spaceplane research? And would any of you remove funding from existing NASA programs such as exploration to fund research in advanced launch technologies? Or has that ship sailed?



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