Conservative Porkers

on parade in Utah:

The idea of alternatives to shuttle- and Ares-derived concepts, both of which used solid rocket motors, is anathema to the Utah senators and congressmen. “I join my colleagues in admonishing NASA to strictly adhere to the law and use solid rocket motors in the development of the new Space Launch System,” Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT) said in the statement. “Today’s meeting confirms that we are in a long-term fight over the future of NASA’s manned space flight program,” added Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT). “I remain very concerned that NASA continues to delay the transition from Constellation systems toward the new heavy-lift program while they needlessly explore private start-up technologies that remain unproven, require more money and are unfit for human-rated space travel.”

What complete nonsense. They require much less money, and are far safer than solids. And ULA doesn’t employ “start-up technologies.” Both Atlas and Delta have been flying for years, with no major failures. I wonder if he really believes this, or if he’s lying? Time to get Pork Busters and the Utah Tea Party after them. And this is a battle over the future of NASA’s manned space flight program, they’re the ones endangering it, by insisting on unaffordable solutions that will wipe out its budget. But it’s not — it’s just a battle over Utah jobs. I hope that Hatch loses his primary in 2012, as Bennett did this year. I sure won’t miss him.

15 thoughts on “Conservative Porkers”

  1. I wonder if Hatch really believes there will be an SLS. He may just be trying to preserve the 5 seg R&D contract, without expecting the boosters themselves to ever go into production. Keeping ATK in the launch vehicle component business may be corrupt, but unlike SLS it isn’t inherently harmful. If this means that a few years from now we’ll have an Athena vehicle competing for propellant launches then that’s not the worst thing that could happen.

  2. G’day,

    Here’s a modest suggestion to help change Republican thinking on such matters:

    Organize a small but high powered delegation of free market space entrepreneurs which might include a celebrity astronaut.

    Arrange a meeting with a certain well known Alaskan grandmother.

    First thing to say to her would be ” Just why the hell does your party act like a bunch of space socialists? ”

    Then explain- a) How a vigorous commercial space sector can help revitalize the American economy.

    b) How NASA is wasting billions of dollars on such projects as the HLLV
    c) The benefits to Alaska ie Kodiak Space Complex

    I think getting the redoubtable Sarah on side would be highly beneficial.



  3. I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around the concept as presented in this sentence: “adhere to the law and use solid rocket motors”.

    I mean, I accept the power of a contractural obligation and all, but a law to use solid rocket motors?

    I’ll fully accept that one of the two people in this equation (myself or Senator Bennett) is completely clueless, but I’m hoping it’s not me…

  4. There is nothing in the Authorization Act that obligates NASA to use solid rocket motors, as Jeff Foust points out.

    One of the staffers who wrote the language even told one of my mentors that they specifically intended to give NASA the flexibility to come up with an alternative architecture that would meet technical requirements while staying within the budget.

  5. I thought solid boosters were less safe. You can’t shut them off. You can’t use them again easily, so they can’t really be flight tested. They are good for missiles which need to launch quickly. Am I over simplifying? What benefits do solid boosters have for putting people and things into space?

    Tom – Not a Rocket Scientist

  6. What benefits do solid boosters have for putting people and things into space?

    They’re great for maintaining jobs in Utah. Solids make great strap-ons for liquid boosters. For missiles and small rockets, they work but they’re not exactly cheap despite their supposed simplicity. In some ways, they may require less ground infrastructure at the launch site since you don’t need to store and pump liquid propellants.

    The Minotaur IV booster scheduled for launch in less than an hour is built from surplus Peacekeeper missile stages and some parts from the Pegasus and reportedly costs $50 million to put less than 2 metric tons into LEO. Not exactly cheap for the capacity especially when compared to a Falcon 9.

  7. Why is the question in terms of which technology to use? Shouldn’t the question be… do they reinvent the wheel or design for the launch systems already in existence? How do they justify developing something else? If they do need something heavier, why not put out a RFP and see what comes back?

    Oh, I forgot. It’s not about saving taxpayer money. It’s socialism.

  8. The time has come to equate at least some types of pork with committing treason. These people KNOW how much they’re crippling the U.S. space effort with their ridiculous head-in-the-sand approach to commercial space, but they don’t care as long as they can be reelected. Except for being caught taking 30 pieces of silver from the Chinese, this is an almost textbook case of treason.

  9. I keep saying this, but Lori Garver also ticked off Rob Bishop on some personal level, and some of this is blow-back from the first impressions that she made to this congressman. She sort of repeated the earlier rhetoric of “We’re in charge, you aren’t so go to hell” sort of mentality that the Obama administration had for awhile, and I suppose that is biting her on the behind.

    This has little to do with spaceflight and a lot with personalities, although the pork is something that is a nice extra bonus. Rob Bishop, however, wasn’t in any real danger of getting kicked out of office in the last election, and even the contest from within the Republican Party was rather lame. I suppose ATK could have thrown some more money on the heap he already has but didn’t spend on his campaign, so somehow I don’t think that was even an issue. I suspect that even redistricting is going to be very kind, as Utah is more than likely going to get another seat in the house to stir things up and his seat is going to become even more Republican than it was before. Having the “safest” seat in the House of Representatives gives him a lot of latitude to really not care about this issue for the most part.

    From my own conversations with Rob Bishop, his largest complaint is in regards to Defense contracts and the tie-in between ATK and potential replacements of ICBMs in the future. There is a whole bunch of double-talk from ATK in terms of how safe and cheap solid rockets are compared to liquid fueled rockets, and the unfortunate thing is that nobody else is even remotely giving an alternative viewpoint to him. The problem isn’t that he believes this stuff, it is that it is the only thing he is being told.

    BTW Rand, I did ask for your help with this particular representative in terms of preparing something of a white paper or at least something that might have helped with explaining the “new space” position. You sort of blew me off. I’m not blaming you so far as it probably went through the bitstream and you have lots of things to do, but there have been rare opportunities in the past to get at some people like this. I can only hope other opportunities come forward in the future.

  10. Ok.. we’re gunna go down this “solids are bad m’kay” route. Fine. Here’s something I think none of us will disagree with: a good flight record beats statistical analysis any day of the week. So, who has a better flight record than the 4 seg SRBs? 264 flights with only one malfunction, caused by go-fever bureaucrats. The Delta IV? No.. it’s only flown 13 times with 1 failure. The Atlas V? No.. it’s only flown 23 times with 1 failure. And the whole “but you can’t shut them down” nonsense is easily retorted by “when do you need to?” The honest answer is that you don’t need to.

    Some people might like to say that Delta IV and Atlas V has a stronger pedigree than that.. but by doing so you’re just playing straight into ATK’s hands.. they want to claim their 4-seg pedigree on their new 5-seg SRBs.

    Arguing safety with these porkers is playing their game.. that’s why their arguments are based on safety, it’s a game they know they can win. If you wanna refute ’em, ask ’em how much they cost. When you can’t get an answer, ask ’em why we should care how safe their rockets are if they won’t even tell you the price tag.

  11. Nice strawman, Trent. No one is saying “solids are bad.” We’re pointing out that they aren’t as good as ATK would have us believe nor are they particularly cheap. For example, the all-solid Minotaur IV used in last Friday’s launch cost $50 million and can only put less than 2 metric tons into LEO. Compare that to a Falcon 9 in price and capacity. As for reliability of solid rocket boosters, compare all solid boosters like the Athena-1 (1 failure in 4 launches), Athena-2 (1 failure in 3 launches) Taurus (1 failure in 2 launches), Scout (27 failures in 148 attempts), etc.

    As for the 4 segment SRBs, it’s true they only had one failure that resulted in the loss of the vehicle and crew. However, even before Challenger there was at least one other mission (STS-51-C) where the SRB seals leaked – they just didn’t leak in a way that caused loss of the mission, vehicle, or crew. The post-Challenger SRBs have a better track record.

  12. I agree that they should obey the law and use solid rockets. There is a company called Aerojet in California that makes some outstanding ones. And even better, they *need* it more than any other state.

  13. Furthermore, they can’t claim the 4-segment “pedigree” on the 5-segment motors. The propellant cross-sections are entirely different.

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