97 thoughts on “An Alternate History Of The Space Program”

    1. Yes, I think he’s most annoyed that SpaceX went ahead and did what it did without running back to Mama NASA every five minutes to ask permission to do this and to do that and to get just a little more of that Secret Knowledge of the Masters that Griffin seems to imagine no one who wants to be a player in space can possibly do without.

      The NASA of legend was roughly contemporaneous with the fabled Lombardi-era Packers. Like the Classic Pack, the real stars of NASA’s Golden Age are no longer on the team roster, but those still alive can be consulted outside of NASA channels. Elon seems to have done so extensively, where indicated, and to his considerable benefit.

      I get the strong impression that a lot of Griffin’s pique derives from NASA’s failure to insert itself forcefully into this process. Elon figured out on his own where the NASA legacy crown jewels were and went around the sacred gatekeepers to pick them up. Thank goodness the current management of NASA seems much less inclined to demand ritual bowing and scraping. Griffin seems to be a man much given to pointless and counterproductive assertions of bureaucratic territoriality and obsessiveness about what he views as the proper obeisance being shown.

      As demonstrated by his previous willful and wasteful tenure as head of the agency, for all of his formidable pile of degrees and credentials, Griffin lacks the skills and temperament to usefully discharge the duties of the office he formerly held. Given the perspicacity in personnel matters Gov. Romney demonstrated in choosing Paul Ryan as his running mate, I am confident that, whatever Griffin’s ill-defined “advisor” role is to the Romney campaign, President Romney will look past the academic laurels and agency resume to Griffin’s unimpressive actual record in office and will decline to appoint the man to any position of influence over space policy in his actual administration.

      1. Dick,

        Don’t count on it. Governor Romney is raising a lot of money from Utah, and he will have to pay them back somehow. A contract to ATK, creating a lot of Utah jobs, and appointing ATK’s favorite son, Dr. Griffin as NASA Administrator would be one way to do so.

        Again, what has New Space to offer Governor Romney? A successful program that has President Obama’s policy stamped all over it?

        1. As Rand has sagely observed repeatedly, space isn’t that important to most people. To Gov. Romney it may well be even less important than that. With a budget to rein in, I think the uber-porky and pointless SLS will prove an irresistible target. It has an intense, but small, base of supporters. And ATK is in a lot of businesses besides Shuttle solid boosters. Most are munitions-related. Romney has already announced intentions to reverse Obama’s military cuts. If it’s a question of throwing bones to various dogs, Romney has a lot of lattitude where ATK and Utah are concerned. Being a businessman, he’s used to looking for win-win alternatives that don’t involve doing something seriously retrograde in the bargain.

          And then there is at least the outside possibility that Romney may turn out to be capable of politics in the Lyndon Johnson sense – “If you can’t drink their whiskey, smoke their cigars and fuck their whores then vote against them in the morning, you’ve got no business being in politics.”

          We shall, in all likelihood, soon see.

          1. Yes, we will see if he’s elected, but his association with Utah and folks like Dr. Griffin makes me wonder.

            A good indicator will probably be SpaceX’s next launch. It will be interesting to see Governor Romney’s reaction if its successful, even more so if its not.

  1. why does anyone think that the government in general or NASA in particular has any role in or responsibility for promoting “commercial space”?

    Perhaps because it’s part of their charter?

  2. Forgive me Rand for interjecting non-related material here but if possible I’d like your/your readers’ comments on the below:

    “The radiation from solar flares does not travel in one direction. Instead it is sent in all directions as it travels along the lines of the sun’s magnetic field. Even if you were on the night side of the moon, solar flare radiation can still reach you.”

    Any truth to this? It’s always been my understanding that solar radiation protection could be afforded spacecraft occupants by shielding that was always turned toward the sun, rather than shielding the entire spacecraft. Cosmic radiation on the other hand is all around I know.

  3. Holy crap! Is Griffin preparing the ground for nationalizing SpaceX when he says:

    So, the U.S. government is the 80% majority investor in SpaceX – and this is prior to the $400+ million CCICap award. But, the government does not own the design or the product when it is complete; it does not own even 80% of it.

    On top of that was the recent Breitbart article that equated SpaceX to Solyndra. Wow.

    1. But nobody is saying ANYTHING about nationalizing Blue Origin. I guess Jeff read “The Man Who Sold The Moon” a little more carefully than Elon.

      1. Folks forget that Jeff Bezos dad was a top executive at Exxon, so like Bill Gates he does indeed know how the game is played.

        1. Bill Gates knows how the game is played now. But it took a serious beating with the cluebat before he accepted political reality. Or do you forget the DOJ beating down his door for go-away money?

          1. Trent,

            But he survived it along with the EU’s attack thanks to what he learned from his dad, a corporate lawyer who made his millions working for Boeing.

    2. Slim,

      Gotta laid the ground work for dumping COTS/CCDev/CCP/CiCCap when Governor Romney wins. Otherwise how will he get to reward Utah/Alabama by giving ATK a contract for a crash program to develop Ares I/Liberty to restore HSF at NASA?

      And what better way then to make it sound like a Solyndra in space with all the buzz words needed to get the Tea Party Republicans foaming at the mouth to attack it?

      I really hope SpaceX has another smooth flight next month.

      So much for whispering sweet nothings on space into the ear of Rep. Ryan 🙂

  4. Did SpaceX really get $800 million in government money before CiCCap?
    I seem to remember an article by Elon Musk where he had spent under $400 million total and had developed two rockets, the engines, Dragon and had most of his facilities and factory up and running.

    1. Mike,

      What? You are bringing “facts” to a political fight? How dare you 🙂

      Its not how much “Solyndra like welfare received”, its that fact that he received it which matters to those opposed to government handouts 🙂

      Yep, this is getting good. Time to pop some popcorn as New Space responds.

      1. And then there is the actual operational cost for Space X delivering on its promises of drastically reduced cost to orbit.


        Quotes from the article:
        – SpaceX has a $1.6 billion contract for 12 resupply missions through at least 2015.
        – Each flight will carry up to 7,300 pounds of internal and external cargo to the space station…

        – Number of flights – 12.
        – Contract cost – $1.6 Billion.
        – Up mass per flight – 7,300 lbs.

        Based on these figures the following metrics can be derived:
        – Cost per flight (rounded down to the nearest million dollars) – $133 Million.
        – Total payload delivered (rounded up to nearest metric ton) – 40 Metric Tons.
        – Cost per pound of delivered payload (rounded down to the nearest thousand dollars) – 18,000/lb.

        Yes a real breakthrough in reducing launch cost to LEO. If I was into that kind of thing I would ask for some of what you guys are smoking.

        1. Joe,

          That’s for pressurized cargo. The non-ISS market for launch services is entirely unpressurized cargo. Know the difference.

          CRS offers NASA the lowest total cost per year to maintain a redundant cargo resupply service for ISS. That is why it is a good value for the ISS program.

          1. – Each flight will carry up to 7,300 pounds of internal and external cargo to the space station…

            No that is (“external cargo”) for both.

          2. My apologies for being so glib. Allow me to correct myself.

            That is for predominately pressurized cargo in a dedicated spacecraft for such that one must also pay for. The non-ISS market for launch services is entirely different to that.

            Or, to put it another way, that is the cost for cargo in a cargo dragon for the market size for such cargo.

            Those are costs unique to the ISS program. The rational for COTS+CRS wasn’t revolutionary cost reduction, it was the creation of a post-Shuttle means to resupply the ISS, which would be cheaper than a traditional government program that wouldn’t even be ready during the timeframe necessary. Those cost savings exist in the form of a lower total budget, so that more budget could be applied elsewhere.

            You’re judging CRS cost by a false rational.

            There is a context to the costs, one that is lost in your rush to talk smack about SpaceX and those who give SpaceX fair consideration.

          3. Joe, it’s one thing to put a payload into orbit and it’s another to actually rendezvous with the ISS, berth with it, be able to offload the payload and return stuff to the surface. If all you want is to put a payload into orbit, SpaceX will sell you a Falcon 9 launch for $54 million for 29,000 pounds to a 28 degree LEO. That works out to $1862 per pound. That’s substancially less than other launch providers are charging. Now, if you need to dock with the ISS, you’re going to need a Dragon capsule. Those not only cost more, they have mass that you can’t use for other payload. You’re ignorantly not including the cost and mass of the Dragon capsule in your calculations.

          1. Rand,

            It is a shame you cannot respond to a factual post (you know actual numbers) without stooping to personal insults, but then like the cliché says – “When the facts are not on your side, turn over the table”.

          2. Rand, I technically Joe is not displaying innumeracy as much as just plain ignorance (not a crime) that others have offered to rectify.

            Now if Joe is sincere, he would acknowledge the info. So it remains to be seen what his character actually is (I’m not aware of his history which might modify that assessment.)

        2. Yes a real breakthrough in reducing launch cost to LEO.

          It is. A tremendous breakthrough.

          The payload capacity of a Dragon capsule is 6,000 kg. Its launch cost is $133 million. That comes to about $22,000 / kg.

          The payload capacity of an MPLM was 9,000 kg. Its launch cost on the Shuttle was $1.2 billion. That comes to about $133,000 / kg.

          So SpaceX is offering an 83% reduction in cost compared to the Shuttle / MPLM.

          Now, the Dragon is volume, not mass, limited, so actual payload mass will be lower than capacity, driving the cost / kg up. But Shuttle was CG-limited, so actual payload mass of the MPLM was lower than capacity, driving the cost / kg up.

          No matter how you compare the vehicles, as long as you do so consistently, you’ll have to conclude that Dragon is a huge cost savings over the Shuttle for cargo delivery.

          Those are the facts, Joe. Please don’t turn over the table.

          1. Michael,

            Why are you charging the entire cost of a Shuttle launch to the MPLM? It never flew alone but was part of additional payloads the Shuttle carried to the ISS along with 7 crew members. Those are now launch separately for additional costs, if they are even able to be launched.

            For a honest comparison you need to only charge the percentage cost of a Shuttle flight that was required for the MPLM payload and then redo your calculations. Then also compare it with NASA’s alternative, the Progress.

          2. “Those are the facts, Joe. Please don’t turn over the table.”

            Actually they are not the facts.

            Even hypothetically accepting your $1.2 B per flight for Shuttle ISS utilization flights (and that is a big hypothetical – the accurate numbers are about half that or $67,000/kg.).

            As noted above (with an actual link to a source) the maximum payload Space X was willing to actually sign up to was 7,300 lbs. That would mean a cost of $18,219/lb. ($40,018/kg.).

            Additionally Space X press release on the announcement of the contract (again an actual source – Space X itself in this case) states that the contract only requires the delivery of 20 metric tons in twelve flights. That comes to 3,667 lbs./flight, At $133 M/flight that is $36,269/lb. ($79,791/kg.)


            Additionally Thomas Matula’s point about crew transfer is also pertinent. Crew transfers on a separate flight will be at least as expensive as cargo so you would need to at least double the Space X numbers above.

            And it needs to be added that the Utilization Flights also provided EVA capabilities to help maintain the ISS which by definition will be lacking in any Dragon provided services.

            The furniture is safe from me, how about you?

          3. Shuttle: With 134 missions, and the total cost of US$192 billion (in 2010 dollars), this gives approximately $1.4 billion per launch over the life of the program.

            Dragon: $1.6b for 12 flights (oh, let’s throw in $800m fantasy number) $200m per flight over life of COTS. $140m per flight for 7 crew which also includes cargo.

            Shuttle cost seven times Dragon. Does it provide seven times the cargo? Shuttle 25k kg. Dragon 6k kg. No, it does not. How about that 7300 lbs mentioned in the article? Well, it is a contract isn’t it? SpaceX actually didn’t do as well as their competition. They could have charged more.

            Tell me Joe, how is Dragon not less expensive?

            Not to mention, what is a cost to NASA is a price from SpaceX. SpaceX’s cost allows them to make a good profit. I don’t recall the shuttle ever being described as earning a good profit for the government, although cost plus contractors probably did well.

            Forget all that. Point one: Just look at the physics of the thing. We have a lean capsule system vs. a Winnebago, half of which is parasitic mass.

            Point two: The Dragon ground crew is bulked up from what it actually needs and still doesn’t touch the standing army for the shuttle.

            Face it, Griffin is crying sour grapes.

          4. Joe,

            I ask you first. What Space Shuttle? Space Shuttle is retired. COTS was intended for the post-Shuttle reality, not some fantasy where you can posit buying Shuttle flights for marginal costs when the Shuttle program is over.

            1. Crewing the ISS is being handled by the Soyuz, and that was even the case during the Shuttle’s operation, so that 7 crew are superfluous to an extent that NASA isn’t going to buy 7 crew seats each time it needs a cargo mission.

            COTS doesn’t make NASA buy 7 human flights each time they launch and so they don’t. You are confusing forced capability usage compared with actual customer demand when it has a choice and can now avoid spending money.

            NASA can now buy things “A la carte” if you will.

            2. No, those are real average costs. The Shuttle program was running about 3+ billion a year for 3 to 4 flights a year.

            The space shuttle was being retired, and that was accepted by parties such as Griffin himself. Resuscitating the space shuttle at the very least would have led to a gap of a couple of years during which it would have delivered nothing but still have cost exorbitant sums to sustain the program.

            And you can’t use the marginal costs of a Shuttle flight when you are bringing it back from the dead to serve ISS cargo needs instead of COTS/CRS. You have to pay full programmatic over head, which will make each Shuttle flight cost a billion or so.

            3. COTS costs are impacted by demand usage. The costs for COTS cargo will be less if they deliver more cargo.

            Invariably in these Shuttle vs COTS scenarios, you are comparing a more well funded Space Shuttle program, that is given more cargo to deliver, against the reality of what was actually procured.

            If the space shuttle was delivering 20mt over 5 years, then surely you can comprehend that its per pound costs would be much more expensive.

            And if one of the COTS vehicles was procured at a 20mt a year rate, then it’s per kilogram cost would be less itsel

            Actual usage environment impacts costs.

            NASA could have bought more cargo flights if they wanted to. They didn’t.

            At the budget COTS is procured at, the Space Shuttle doesn’t fly a single mission and delivers nothing to orbit.

            4. Another problem I have with COTS vs Shuttle comparisons, the timeframe involved. The COTS costs have to include company overhead over 5 years, whereas in these type of comparisons a single shuttle flight in a single year is used.

            ISS’ unique cargo requirements is for a continuously available supply.

            5. COTS/CRS is dual providors for redunancy. This splits cargo and reduces the amount each providor services. You give the Shuttle an unfair advantage when you posit it getting all the cargo itself.


            It’s like this.

            CRS costs over 5 years to NASA: 3.5 billion
            Resuscitated Space Shuttle prices: 8 to 10 billion

            Actual budget envelope: 3.5 billion.

            You do the math on what’s more affordable.

            If NASA was buying 8 billion dollars of cargo over 5 years, and you gave it all to one providor, then Orbital and SpaceX would be able to offer more compelling bids themselves. But NASA isn’t. For what NASA is paying per year for redundant cargo supply to the ISS, not a single space shuttle flight would get off the ground,


            The long and the short of it is that using dollars per pound as a comparison is incredibly superficial that ignores the complex context that the cargo vehicles exist in and are procured for to get those numbers.

          5. As for EVA, where is the need? They can go EVA from the station. Of course, they could go EVA from Dragon, you don’t actually need an airlock for that. Dragon isn’t a stand alone craft, it’s part of a system that transfers people to and from other vehicles. Once the lander version is available it will be able to land on any rock in the solar system. Try that with a Shuttle.

          6. Ken,

            Do you have any figures for how much cargo (kg) is carried when all 7 seats are occupied? Just wondering.

          7. Libson,

            [[[1. Crewing the ISS is being handled by the Soyuz, and that was even the case during the Shuttle’s operation]]]

            If that is the case why does NASA need “Commercial” crew?

            Also with Shuttle gone then the proper benchmark is the Progress which is still being flown. How do CRS costs compare with Progress?

          8. To Ken Anthony if you chose to provide links to support your assertions (as I did) perhaps I could have assessed your comments, since you did not, I would have to say you have a right to your opinion (see it is possible to be polite).

            To libs0n I did not bring the Shuttle up, Michael Kent did, since he insisted on trying to make comparisons, I gave more accurate data. If you have a problem with an accurate representation of Shuttle vs. Dragon you will have to take it up with Michael Kent.

            For people who claim to be on the winning side, you all seem to be constantly very angry. That is a shame, but it is not my problem.

            I will be leaving this particular discussion now, as it obviously has no useful place to go.

            Have a nice evening.

          9. If that is the case why does NASA need “Commercial” crew?

            Also with Shuttle gone then the proper benchmark is the Progress which is still being flown. How do CRS costs compare with Progress?

            Related questions, related answers.

            In April 2007, NASA contracted with Roskosmos for transport of 15 crew and the up/download of 5.6 tonnes of cargo. The crew flights were 5 Soyuz launches. The NASA press release didn’t specify how many Progress cargo flights, but at least two Progress vehicles would be needed to schlep up 5.6 tonnes – possibly three. Total pricetag was $719 million.

            Soyuzes are probably a bit pricier than Progresses, but not hugely as a very high percentage of parts of each are also found on the other, especially when the launchers are included. If seven launches could discharge the contract the average price per launch would be ca. $103 million. If eight launches, the number drops to ca. $90 million. At these prices, crew seats cost $30 – 34 million each.

            This contract ran out in 2011 and the newest one, it has been reported, roughly doubles these prices. I couldn’t find a press release about this latest contract on the NASA site so I’m relying on what has been reported elsewhere, i.e., that the new price per seat for crew transport is ca. $67 million.

            So, as nearly as I can find, a Progress mission now costs ca. $200 million and delivers a max of ca. 2.6 tonnes vs. up to 6 tonnes at $133 million for each of the 12 contracted Dragon CRS missions. Dragon comes in quite a bit cheaper, especially on a per pound basis. So, even though it is still pricier than Dragon, does Orbital’s Cygnus. The ESA’s ATV is said to cost $300 million just for the module with the Ariane 5 launch costs added in on top of that. The ATV’s cargo capacity exceeds that of the Dragon by 1.5 tonnes or so. Even with the steep pricetag, the ATV might just have the Russkies beat on cost per pound basis. It has three times the deliverable cargo mass of the Progress. If the all-up cost of an Ariane 5 launch is less than $300 million, then the ATV beats the Progress. I tried finding cost data for Japan’s H-II but couldn’t locate any. Given that Japan is a high-cost country, like the member states of the ESA, and that the H-II is an even more limited production vehicle than the ATV, it’s reasonable to suppose the cost of an H-II mission is much closer to that of the ATV/Progress than to the Dragon or even Cygnus.

            As to Commercial Crew, the “why” is in the above figures. Crew Dragons will cost more than Cargo Dragons, but Elon has publicly noised about a figure of ca. $20 million/seat as what he’s shooting for. Dragon, of course, will have 7 seats as opposed to the Soyuz’s three. This implies a price of $140 million/mission, right in line with what NASA is already contracted to pay for CRS flights. Even if the final number comes in a bit higher, there’s a lot of daylight between $20 million and $67 million/seat.

          10. Which raises the key question. What does the ISS contribute to opening the space frontier that makes it worth the billions being spent on keeping it in orbit past 2015? Is there really a ROI on the money spent, or could it be spent better if we move beyond the ISS?

          11. I did not bring the Shuttle up, Michael Kent did, since he insisted on trying to make comparisons

            Well, yes, because you suggested in your sarcastic opening comment that the Dragon was not a cost improvement over the system it replaced for the cargo mission.

            Yes a real breakthrough in reducing launch cost to LEO.

            I used actual cost & payload data to show that it was.

            I gave more accurate data.

            No, you didn’t. Not by a long shot.

            Even hypothetically accepting your $1.2 B per flight for Shuttle ISS utilization flights (and that is a big hypothetical – the accurate numbers are about half that or $67,000/kg.).

            I used numbers from a well-known study in the journal Nature reported in mainstream media here.

            I specifically used the $1.2 billion / flight operational figure to compare to SpaceX’s CRS contract so as to exclude development costs for both the Shuttle/MPLM and the Falcon / Dragon. And while you claimed to accept my cost / flight number, you arbitrarily cut it in half for your comparisons. Why did you do that?

            You then went on to discount the Dragon’s payload capability due to operational constraints (a valid point) but did not do so for the MPLM, which has similar and other operational constraints of its own. Over ten flights, the MPLM averaged only 4,731 kg of payload per flight. Source

            So if you want to use actual payload mass in the calculations (a perfectly valid thing to do), you have to do so for both systems to reach a valid conclusion. For Shuttle / MPLM, that comes to $254,000 / kg, and for Falcon / Dragon, that comes to $80,000 / kg. Again, Dragon shows a huge cost reduction, this time of 69%.

            I will be leaving this particular discussion now, as it obviously has no useful place to go.

            And there goes the furniture.

          12. Michael Kent September 12, 2012, 9:39 am,

            There is no point in my fact checking your references as it is not needed to make the point. Your Nature article says the Shuttle cost of payload to the ISS is $133,000/lb. Fine. Let’s hypothetically grant that.

            But as stated before:
            The Space X press release on the announcement of the contract (from Space X itself) states that the contract only requires the delivery of 20 metric tons in twelve flights. That comes to 3,667 lbs./flight, At $133 M/flight that is $36,269/lb. ($79,791/kg.)

            Thomas Matula’s point about crew transfer is also pertinent. Crew transfers on a separate flight will be at least as expensive as cargo so you would need to at least double the Space X numbers above.

            So Space X costs (by their own statements) are $159,582/kg. That is $26,582/kg. more than even your (inflated) Shuttle costs.

            So, using only your and Space X figures, you support a system that is 20% more expensive than the one it is intended to replace. Like I said what a bargain.

            Do whatever you want with the furniture. I know you guys play by the rule “He who posts last wins”. So drag this out as long as you want, but you are not winning anything.

          13. is $133,000/lb

            are $159,582/kg

            Units matter. The Dragon is still by your estimate $60k per lb cheaper.

          14. Karl Hallowell September 13, 2012, 5:42 am |
            Yes, that should have read $133,000/kg., as it does in Michael Kent’s original post (dated September 11, 2012, 8:58 am) – “The payload capacity of an MPLM was 9,000 kg. Its launch cost on the Shuttle was $1.2 billion. That comes to about $133,000 / kg.”

            Congratulations you found a typo, but the analysis is still correct, by Kent’s and Space X own number Space X (if it can deliver) will be 20% more expensive than Shuttle.

          15. “Thomas Matula’s point about crew transfer is also pertinent. Crew transfers on a separate flight will be at least as expensive as cargo so you would need to at least double the Space X numbers above.”

            No, because the CRS missions don’t include SpaceX crew seat expenditures. Funny how that works, when you don’t pay for something you don’t pay for something.

            Since you’ve veered into thinking SpaceX’s post-Shuttle era cargo missions cost more than a non-existent Shuttle option, you can scroll up and read my post on why that’s wrong.

          16. libs0n September 13, 2012, 1:56 pm

            The point was that Shuttle utilization flights could also (for the same price) perform crew exchanges. With the Dragon Vehicle you would need to fly a separate Crew flight (in a Crew capable version of the Dragon – that does not yet exist) to do that. That additional flight would be at least as expensive as the cargo flight.

            Funny how that works, sometimes you actually have to pay attention to the conversation to sound like you know what you are talking about.

          17. The point was that Shuttle utilization flights could also (for the same price) perform crew exchanges. With the Dragon Vehicle you would need to fly a separate Crew flight (in a Crew capable version of the Dragon – that does not yet exist) to do that. That additional flight would be at least as expensive as the cargo flight.

            Sadly for your thesis, the Shuttle couldn’t serve as a lifeboat, so even if we had kept it going, we would still be paying just as much to the Russians for Soyuz, whereas Dragon, CST and Dreamchaser can all replace it in all functions.

            So what does that do for your innumerate cost accounting, Joe?

            Oh, and (to imitate your own faux, passive-aggressive, nauseating politeness), have a nice evening.

          18. I am a little surprised that you would use that particular line of reasoning Rand, since you have in the past rather stridently asserted that the ISS did not need a lifeboat capability.

            But I guess whatever argument suits your current needs.

          19. I don’t know why you’re surprised. It doesn’t matter whether or not I think it needs one. NASA does, so as long as it does, it has to pay for it. Was that supposed to be a response? Logic much?

  5. Cecil, Here is a NIAC paper which says the same thing.

    “Most solar particle event (SPE) radiation is approximately isotropic at a given point in space because of the influence of the solar system magnetic field lines on the charged particle trajectories”.


    What I dont know is if one can detect the direction of the magnetic field and line up a column of water pointing back in that direction.

  6. I can understand how he can look at what’s happening and imagining the dismantling of the government’s HSF program. Many of these people argue that we need a government system to ensure capability in case the private systems can’t fill that need. But I sense a significant degree of bias such as their willingness to count on government systems that are not yet built while saying the the commercial rockets are not proven. SpaceX has successfully launched three F9s in a row but those we’d demos and not operational! So they will be the very last ones to include near-term commercial capabilities in America’s space plans. But, one SpaceX launches their Falcon Heavy from Vandenberg, that datapoint of a medium-heavy rocket ready to be used will weigh heavily on the discussion of how NASA should be spending it’s money on it HSF program.

    1. Based on the history of NASA’s Shuttle operations, the government is more in need of a backup in case their system gets grounded for an extended period of time. Having multiple commercial suppliers significantly reduces the chances that you’ll be completely grounded in the event of an accident.

  7. omg .. he claims that Augustine issued recommendations again ! These guys went out of their way not to issue any recommendations, ffs.

    1. The problem is, I don’t disagree with most of his analysis.

      Our disagreement is ideological.

      He thinks there is such a thing as a “national interest” and as a result thinks there’s need for a “government space program” with commercial industry subservient to it.

      He thinks the US Army expanded the western frontier and settlers followed after.

      Basically, he’s a fascist.

        1. The history of the US Cavalry’s role in the opening of the American West and the history of the early American space program were covered by two television programs that premiered when Michael Griffin was about 15-years old, as did a TV program predicting the future of manned space flight under his direction.

          “F Troop” aired from 1965 to 1967.
          “I Dream of Jeannie” aired from 1965 to 1970.
          “Lost in Space” aired from 1965 to 1968.

          For the Win.

      1. Trent,

        Actually the U.S. Army played an important role in opening up the frontier in terms of the surveys it did, the infrastructure (forts, camps, etc.) it created, the communication links it required and its removal of the native Americans from the land the settlers wanted. It also defeated the Mexicans in the Mexican-American war which transferred a huge portion of the Southwest, including California to American control, opening it for settlers.

        U.S. Army forts were a major local market for early settlers, many pioneer ranchers made their fortunes selling horses and beef to the forts. Freighters also made their fortune hauling goods for the U.S. Army while the towns established to support the forts became major trading centers.

        In this aspect the American West was different from Australia where the British troops were few in number and stayed near the coast because of a lack of foreign threats. It was also different from Alaska where the military had only a minimal presence until World War II.

        So although the U.S. Army didn’t expand the frontier, except in the case of the war with Mexico, it was an enabler for its settlement. Space however is different. There are no hostile aliens to fight and no national interest in exploring it, other than national prestige which was the driver during the Cold War. Unfortunately space policy is still driven by this Cold War legacy of space as national prestige which is the basic justification of COTS/CRS and “Commercial” Crew, that we NEED an American option for ISS resupply as if we didn’t contribute enough building it with the Shuttle.

          1. George,

            Yes, if there only were an ET threat. Then we would have armed outposts in the Kupier Belt and a fleet of large battle cruisers with nuclear rocket engines patrolling the system rather than a few astronauts in the ISS.

            I recall reading somewhere that without World War I and World War II we would probably still be flying wooden biplanes. Looking at space progress since Apollo you need to wonder if there is any truth to that statement.

          2. So what SpaceX needs to do is launch a highly modified, unrecognizable Dragon capsule with laser weapons and crewed by robotic Muppets.

          1. Ken,

            Yea, I guess that is why President Jefferson made the Louisiana Purchase, because of all the Americans living in the Missouri River Basin.

          2. Ken,

            There were probably a few American fur trappers mixed in with the French and British ones. Nowadays you would say they were illegal immigrates as they ignored that it belonged to France but the borders were hard to police. But I would have exactly called them settlers.

          3. The borders weren’t just hard to police, they were basically undefined. We purchased it from France only weeks after they got it from Spain. Spain considering it only to be the west bank of the Mississippi river. The military port was the only thing thought to be of value. Until Lewis and Clark, we had no idea what we’d purchased.

            I think it would also be silly to think Americans in what became about 15 states, lived on the east side of the mississippi river and never went to the west side.

            Rarely if ever is the government first in anything (the knowledge problem again.) Another example is how blogs get the news before the media and are more thorough in investigating.

          4. Ken,

            You have your time line wrong. It belonged to France from 1690 to 1762, was given to Spain as part of Treaty that ended the Seven Years Wat, then reclaimed by France in 1800. So it was French for more then a few weeks. It took longer than that to even negotiate the treaty.

            Of course a river didn’t stop Americans from traveling to it, no more than the Rio Grande stops folks from Mexico traveling into the U.S. The issue of course if if they had a legal right to settle there. Until the U.S. bought it the short answer would be no since it belonged to another country. But the first European expeditions to it were sponsored by the French government, the basis of their claims to it.

        1. I like your post right up to the end. The government could still play a role as you described, the army suppressing natives doesn’t have to be a part of it for the rest of your analysis to apply to space settlement. But there is still a security role the government could play in the form of a Space Guard.

          1. wodun,

            Yes, a Space Guard would be good, but first they would need someone to guard. I see it following space settlement, but leading it.

        2. While that is true…

          “In the expansion of our western frontier now more than a century ago, wherever the U.S. Army went, that place became the United States. The ranchers and miners and shopkeepers followed, ultimately creating the economy that became the envy of the world. They made the expansion of our frontiers worth doing. But they did not lead it.”

          This is not. Texas is an example where the U. S. Army followed settling activity rather than the other way around.

          1. Godzilla,

            Yes, if you look at it from the American perspective. But the Spanish had settlements in Texas since 1690 guarded by their troops. American settlers only came in during the power vacuum following Mexican independence. So it was really more conquering land that was already occupied by the shear number of illegal, or quasi-legal immigrates then really opening a frontier.

  8. Is Griffin still a director of Stratolaunch? If so, doesn’t publicly attacking SpaceX constitute a breach of his directoral responsibility?

  9. Oh, where is Norm Nixon’s Freedom Ship when we need it? Dude, you had the right idea, but the wrong environment. Put a drive body on Bigelow’s ‘habitat’. Now you’re talkng. Put my 50+-ish booty in a habitat and fire it off to the asteroid belt. I’m so there. There’s nobody on this orb that I give a rat’s @$$ about, well, my granddaughter excepted. And I really believe sending me out to be a ‘belter’ would pay dividends for her.

  10. Magic Mike:And again from a policy perspective, why is it a responsibility of government to invest in areas where private financiers have declined to do so?

    This is a fine, very general and wide open question. Why, indeed ? I wonder what he thinks of NSF funding.

  11. Do you have any figures for how much cargo (kg) is carried when all 7 seats are occupied?

    The trunk is unaffected by crew. That’s 14 m3 unpressurized which is 58% of the total cargo volume. Just subtract crew mass from 6k kg. They could also include some cargo with the crew (it’s really roomy from what I’ve read.)

    …provide links to support your assertions

    Google is your friend Joe, but sure… (that’s what I’ll be doing to recover the links which I didn’t bookmark.)

    $1.43b is more accurate but I rounded in favor of your argument. See last sentence.

    Shuttle 25k kg. Dragon 6k kg. [wikipedia and spacex.com respectively]

    Joe, nobody is angry, but it is annoying to hear someone in government bash a private company (especially with a variation of the ‘you didn’t build that’ line.) If you haven’t noticed, the people that take risks to build this country are under assault like never before in my lifetime.

    $1.6b for 12 flights [third paragraph] (oh, let’s throw in $800m fantasy number) >$800m from Griffin’s statement.

    1. Thomas, I would estimate the 7 crew plus equipment would come to no more than 1500 kg so I’d say it’s safe to say they could bring 3318 kg/7300# with a full crew.

    2. Shuttle 25k kg. Dragon 6k kg.

      While that may be true, it’s not a valid comparison. You’re comparing the payload of the Dragon cargo spacecraft with the Shuttle launch vehicle. While the Shuttle may have had a payload of 25,000 kg, the MPLM cargo spacecraft had a payload of only 9,000 kg. And while the Dragon has a payload of 6,000 kg, the Falcon 9 has a payload of 13,000 kg.

      If you’re going to compare the two, you need to compare Shuttle to Falcon (25,000 kg to 13,000 kg) or MPLM to Dragon (9,000 kg to 6,000 kg). Failure to do so can lead to payload cost numbers all over the place, like in Joe’s posts above.

      1. Michael,

        Actually that is still not an accurate comparison. The Mass to LEO for the Falcon 9 is 13,150 kg which includes the mass of the spacecraft itself.

        The 25,000 kg of the Shuttle is its payload orbit, what it is able to carry in its cargo bay. The mass of the Shuttle Orbiter with the SME was 78,000 kg without any payload giving it a total mass to orbit of 104,000 kg, giving it a mass to orbit 8 times the Falcon.

        1. Yes, the payload for the Falcon includes the mass of the Dragon itself. But the payload for the Shuttle includes the mass of the MPLM itself. Again, comparing apples to apples.

          If you’re going to include the mass of the Shuttle orbiter as “payload”, then you’d need to include the mass of the Falcon upper stage, which also makes orbit. But that’s a meaningless comparison, as the upper stages are, for this point, parasitic mass.

  12. It’s a long and boring read. Griffin wants a budget like when Bush Sr. was President and the US was still thinking about how to build Space Station Freedom, the Space Defense Initiative, and nuclear rockets like Timberwind. He wants that sort of money to build his Apollo on steroids. Griffin thinks Ares was neither late (which he did not bother explain) nor overbudget (because in his view there’s more money around and it’s normal for NASA’s budget to go up). He also seems to think because the US government is paying SpaceX for flights that it ought to be able to control it or whatever. Powertripping in the USA.

  13. Also, regarding his claims that the issues in Ares I, namely oscillation, were not insurmountable. Well sure. Combustion instability is not insurmountable either. It is also a mere technical problem. Still the Soviet Union designers, which were not stupid, failed to solve the issue for decades and had to resort to multiple-chamber designs. In the US they thought you couldn’t make an oxygen rich staged combustion LOX/Kerosene engine with available materials yet the Soviet Union managed to do it. So even mere technical problems can stop a program on its tracks or hopelessly delay it. Vanguard also only had “mere” technical issues.

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