Elon’s Position

He’s all in favor, natch:

By the time President Obama cancelled Ares I/Orion earlier this year, the schedule had already slipped five years to 2017 and completing development would have required another $50 billion. Moreover, the cost per flight, inclusive of overhead, was estimated to be at least $1.5 billion compared to the $1 billion of Shuttle, despite carrying only four people to Shuttle’s seven and almost no cargo.

The President quite reasonably concluded that spending $50 billion to develop a vehicle that would cost 50% more to operate, but carry 50% less payload was perhaps not the best possible use of funds.

I fail to see how anyone can come to any other conclusion. Instead, the Ares huggers just ignore the cost issue, and pretend it doesn’t exist.

25 thoughts on “Elon’s Position”

  1. Listening to B.O. now. So far, nothing about refueling but heavy lift seen as means of getting beyond orbit.

  2. I fail to see how anyone can come to any other conclusion. Instead, the Ares huggers just ignore the cost issue, and pretend it doesn’t exist.

    As if either “Ares hugging” or support for the “new path” were the only two choices possible.

  3. Mind, it looks like Obama has embraced “Look But Don’t Touch” in a big way and specifically sneered at the idea of returning to the Moon. Pitiful.

  4. Ares huggers *and* DIRECT huggers are oblivious to cost. Sometimes I feel like these people just like watching pretty launches and don’t care about anything else.

  5. Still looking for the transcript, but Mark, didn’t the president embrace permanently living in space at the end of the speech? If so, is he the first president to do so?

  6. What made me happiest was the president’s directive to solve the radiation-in-transit-to-destinations problem, as well as his understanding of the need for faster transit. He didn’t say it, but I suspect the best solution to radiation is simply a faster transit.

  7. Ken, the President also made mention of ISRU as a desired goal. Now, so did Bush and it came to nothing, but if it is significant that he didn’t specifically mention prop depots, I suppose the mention of ISRU is equally significant.

  8. Wow, the President wants to be there on Mars to see the first mission land.

    Or did I misinterperet that?

  9. He spoke more and said less than usual. Shoved theoretical new missions out another 10 years, comitted to heaving more money at bogus AGW nonsense and re-announed a Big Dumb Booster for the umpteenth time.

    So what. Big deal.

  10. Bob-1, here’s the transcript.

    To cut to the chase, here’s the part where he makes relatively concrete promises/positions:

    But we can also see it in other ways: in the reluctance of those who hold office to set clear, achievable objectives; to provide the resources to meet those objectives; and to justify not just these plans but the larger purpose of space exploration in the 21st century.

    All that has to change. And with the strategy I’m outlining today, it will. We start by increasing NASA’s budget by $6 billion over the next five years, even — (applause) — I want people to understand the context of this. This is happening even as we have instituted a freeze on discretionary spending and sought to make cuts elsewhere in the budget.

    So NASA, from the start, several months ago when I issued my budget, was one of the areas where we didn’t just maintain a freeze but we actually increased funding by $6 billion. By doing that we will ramp up robotic exploration of the solar system, including a probe of the Sun’s atmosphere; new scouting missions to Mars and other destinations; and an advanced telescope to follow Hubble, allowing us to peer deeper into the universe than ever before.

    We will increase Earth-based observation to improve our understanding of our climate and our world — science that will garner tangible benefits, helping us to protect our environment for future generations.

    And we will extend the life of the International Space Station likely by more than five years, while actually using it for its intended purpose: conducting advanced research that can help improve the daily lives of people here on Earth, as well as testing and improving upon our capabilities in space. This includes technologies like more efficient life support systems that will help reduce the cost of future missions. And in order to reach the space station, we will work with a growing array of private companies competing to make getting to space easier and more affordable. (Applause.)

    Now, I recognize that some have said it is unfeasible or unwise to work with the private sector in this way. I disagree. The truth is, NASA has always relied on private industry to help design and build the vehicles that carry astronauts to space, from the Mercury capsule that carried John Glenn into orbit nearly 50 years ago, to the space shuttle Discovery currently orbiting overhead. By buying the services of space transportation — rather than the vehicles themselves — we can continue to ensure rigorous safety standards are met. But we will also accelerate the pace of innovations as companies — from young startups to established leaders — compete to design and build and launch new means of carrying people and materials out of our atmosphere.

    In addition, as part of this effort, we will build on the good work already done on the Orion crew capsule. I’ve directed Charlie Bolden to immediately begin developing a rescue vehicle using this technology, so we are not forced to rely on foreign providers if it becomes necessary to quickly bring our people home from the International Space Station. And this Orion effort will be part of the technological foundation for advanced spacecraft to be used in future deep space missions. In fact, Orion will be readied for flight right here in this room. (Applause.)

    Next, we will invest more than $3 billion to conduct research on an advanced “heavy lift rocket” — a vehicle to efficiently send into orbit the crew capsules, propulsion systems, and large quantities of supplies needed to reach deep space. In developing this new vehicle, we will not only look at revising or modifying older models; we want to look at new designs, new materials, new technologies that will transform not just where we can go but what we can do when we get there. And we will finalize a rocket design no later than 2015 and then begin to build it. (Applause.) And I want everybody to understand: That’s at least two years earlier than previously planned — and that’s conservative, given that the previous program was behind schedule and over budget.

    At the same time, after decades of neglect, we will increase investment — right away — in other groundbreaking technologies that will allow astronauts to reach space sooner and more often, to travel farther and faster for less cost, and to live and work in space for longer periods of time more safely. That means tackling major scientific and technological challenges. How do we shield astronauts from radiation on longer missions? How do we harness resources on distant worlds? How do we supply spacecraft with energy needed for these far-reaching journeys? These are questions that we can answer and will answer. And these are the questions whose answers no doubt will reap untold benefits right here on Earth.

    So at a glance, most of it is old news. We already know about the $6 billion increase in spending and where most of the increase was concentrated (Earth study missions), the ISS life extension to 2020, emphasis on commercial participation, and the recent news that Orion would be continued.

    So what’s new? Well, I haven’t heard what their plans were for HLV. Here, he’s saying that they’ll have a design by 2015. Kind of unambitious, but he’s probably right that they’ll be about the same place or a bit ahead in 2015 as the Ares program would be due to delays in the latter.

    The last paragraph about “ground-breaking” technologies was interesting. He basically hit a bunch of the big problems in an extended deep space mission, here, radiation protection, ISRU, and power (solar or nuclear, presumably). I don’t see any commitment here, but he at least seems to be getting good information.

  11. I think that we may assume Ares I/Orion is indeed dead.

    Additional funding for earth observation will be forthcoming to some extent as long as it supports cap and tax…but stand by for reductions once it is passed (after all, the science is really settled).

    As for the rest…….I personally will not hold my breath and I would suggest that KSC employees start looking for another day job.

  12. The thing is, every one of Obama’s statements has an expiration date. Anyone who looks for clues about what may happen in the future based on his statements is bound to be disappointed.

    Me, I studiously avoid seeing or hearing him. I get agitated enough just reading blogs.

  13. This is my first president younger than me. Hmm…

    $3 billion to conduct research on an advanced “heavy lift rocket”

    Make it a $3b prize and don’t pay a dime unless mass to orbit spec. is met.

  14. ken, who is doing heavy lift already? That’s what makes a good prize, you take something that the industry was doing anyway, decide how best for them to focus and demonstrate the capability, then set a deadline. The prize money should *not* cover the cost of investment required to win it.

  15. If the real objective was to just provide for a Crew Return Vehicle at ISS, then the X-38 might have made more sense. However, if Orion CRV serves as a technology development bridge to deep space human spaceflight vehicles, than it makes sense.

  16. The X-38 never made sense. It was a poor concept from day one.. a lifting body that lands via parafoil on skids.. dear god why? And the whole thing was 100% disposable.

  17. I actually think the X-38 was a pretty good idea. With the lifting body shape you could maneuver during reentry to get more crossrange. The parafoil enabled a low velocity landing. The skids meant you could land on a lot of surfaces in case of an emergency.

    The parafoil was tested and it worked.

    In case it was later decided to use a capsule shape the parafoil recovery would still work. Think Gemini with rogallo wing. In case it was decided you could land with the lifting body shape alone, you could simply stop using the parafoil in later flights, and save some weight. The parafoil recovery method could still be used for non-time sensitive reentry of materials.

    The only flaw with X-38 was being made to be carried inside Shuttle. But that was hardly an insurmountable problem. Other things were supposed to be launched with Shuttle and found other launchers capable of the task.

  18. Trent,

    That may be one way to make a good prize. It is not the way the lunar lander, google lunar, tether, or power beaming prizes where set up.

    When a prize is large enough to possibly more than cover the investment needed by effective entrepreneurs the result is many teams taking the chance that they will win at a profit. The total spent by all teams involved is many times greater than the prize money but the winning team may turn a profit. In fact some of the loosing teams may wind up with viable/profitable technology that they would not have developed without the incentive of the prize.

    This spurs technology development and is a lot less expensive than cost plus contracts.

  19. The media focuses on the development costs for Constellation. Most people are not really surprised that there would be cost overruns with a government program, especially for something as high tech as a rocket. People expect it and accept it with some grumbling.

    If you want to convince the average joe, like myself, that Constellation had to go, the focus should be on operating costs. If Musk’s numbers are correct, I don’t think anyone would support Constellation.

    I’m interested to know if the cost of putting a human in orbit will be cheaper going through SpaceX or some other company than using the Russians?

    If we go through all of this effort and it is still cheaper to get a ride from the Russians, it is hard to call the effort a success. If that is the case, hopefully there is some added value that can justify the higher price.

Comments are closed.