30 thoughts on “Comparing Golden Spike To SLS

  1. Trent Waddington

    The problem with not actually having any of your own money to spend is that you have to convince conservative government space agencies that you can do the job. Even if it’s not necessarily your space agency, you still have to tick all the boxes. As a result, you get this kind of horrible architecture that doesn’t change much from 1960s thinking – it’s basically just the Lunar Mercury plan with a bigger capsule and smaller boosters.

    1. Edward Wright

      There was no “Lunar Mercury” plan. You’re apparently thinking of Lunar Gemini or Mercury Mark II.

      The point you’re missing is that startup costs are as important as recurring costs. Sure, there are a lot of viewgraph architectures that are bigger and shinier, but you still have to reach the bottom rung of the ladder.

  2. Der Schtumpy

    “If you could do it this cheap, somebody would have
    already done it,”
    Isn’t that just about what every forward thinking person hears when they go looking for money?

    “If you could do it this that easy, somebody would have
    already done it,”

    “If you could do it this that quickly, somebody would have
    already done it,”

    “If you could do it this blah, blah, blah…”, is what old guys who are heavily invested in the old technology, with time OR money, tell the ‘new kids’, even if the ‘new kids’ are the same age.

    1. Trent Waddington

      Who cares why they say it? They say it.

      When Alan gets around to going and actually asking for a check from these “sovereign customers” he’ll discover that they don’t actually have any money either.

      This is the same rigmarole that Bigelow went through. It doesn’t work.

      You need to find the money, then announce your plan. Have your contractors sit at the announcement and testify to having actually received funding and started work. Have your launch providers tell us the number of deposits they’ve received.

      Make it real and people will start to actually care.

        1. Trent Waddington

          You don’t. Do something that is actually affordable. For a start, how about convincing SpaceX that you can actually find customers, other than NASA, to ride in Dragon? Take their deposits and push SpaceX to stop saying “3 years” when they really mean “3 years if we get all the funding we need”, which they haven’t been getting for years now.

          If there’s really sovereign clients out there, why haven’t we seen any investment in GLXP contestants? Alan is on the Moon Express board and he didn’t manage to sell any instrument space on those vehicles, isn’t this just doubling down on a losing business model?

          1. Edward Wright

            If there’s really sovereign clients out there, why haven’t we seen any investment in GLXP contestants?

            Because the GLXP limits government investment? Is that a trick question, or did you not read the rules?

            Who do you think paid to build Kaguya, LRO, Chandrayaan, etc. if there aren’t sovereign clients out there?

            It’s funny how quickly “New Space” groups (SFF, NSS, Planetary Society, etc.) jumped onto the BVSE bandwagon so quickly but remain silent about this one.

            Tom Matula, who loved the BVSE, suddenly says that asking governments to pay for lunar missions is evil! Unless you’re Lockheed and the program costs $100 billion, that is.

          2. Thomas Matula


            No, I said its good for NASA to have something like Constellation to fool around with so they don’t get in the way of private space ventures.

            The long waits for commercial customers of the Dragon, the Dragon Biolab customers and Bigelow because of NASA COTS/”Commercial” crew is proof the soundest of that idea.

            As for the space advocates like you, I am sure you will be pushing for a lunar COTS shortly to fund this latest New Space venture.

          3. Edward Wright

            No, I said its good for NASA to have something like Constellation to fool around with so they don’t get in the way of private space ventures.

            Historical revisionism. That’s not what you said at all.

            Nor does that statement make any sense. How was NASA “in the way” prior to BVSE? It wasn’t. And if NASA was “in the way,” how would giving it more money get it out of the way?

            And if that flapdoodle excuse had any validity, it would apply equally well to the Golden Spike Company. By them something to “foo around with,” they will “get out of the way” of whatever “private space ventures” you claim to be protecting.

            As for the space advocates like you, I am sure you will be pushing for a lunar COTS shortly to fund this latest New Space venture.

            Yes, every time I say lunar missions are premature, you claim I am advocating lunar COTS.

            Do you expect anyone to believe your fairy stories, or are you just pathological?

          4. Thomas Matula


            So exactly what are you selling these days now that you are no longer with the SFF bunch? Besides of course your revisions of history :-)

        2. Karl Hallowell

          So Trent, you need $10b. What’s your elevator speech?

          Giant death ray pointed at London. Hmm, on second thought, you can keep the money.

          I didn’t bother commenting on the previous thread because honestly, it sounds like a whole bunch of other ideas over the years. I hate to say it, but no customer does mean no business model. Unfortunately, I speak from experience on that one.

          Having said that, get even a flags and footprints service cheap enough and I think you’ll get some sort of business. I just think it’ll be below their suggested prices by a factor of ten or so. We’ll see how things turn out.

  3. Brock

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s noticed this is just “private sector flags and footprints” play. There’s zero evidence of any thought given to a sustainable, self-funding (through value creation) architecture. But what can you expect – this is an ex-NASA-and-ex-politician crew, so that’s the kind of thinking you get. No Bezos, Musk or Bigelow in this crowd.

    I’m more interested in the companies looking to explore the Moon for lunar ice and sell fuel to satellite companies. That’s a know business need with real revenue that builds infrastructure that could further be used to fuel NEO exploration.

    Even Planetary Resources has a better business model, because those mini-Hubbles they’re launching can be used in arrays to do real astronomy or high-res Earth imagery (both reliable revenue generators).

    1. ken anthony

      That is the thing about a long range vision. To get there you do need incremental revenue generators. Otherwise you get that old joke, “How do you make a million in space… well, first you start with a billion dollars…”

      1. Trent Waddington

        You’re absolutely right. First you demonstrate your ability to fly paying customers to LEO, then you demonstrate your ability to do EVAs, then throw them out to GEO, maybe do some satellite servicing, then you can start talking about space stations and lunar landers and Mars trips.

        You can tell so many of this group are ex-NASA.. their ambitions exceed their budget.

        1. Godzilla

          Beal tried going for the LEO market first and failed to get any revenue from launching satellites constellations that never happened. Elon aimed directly for the GEO satellite business and he got contracts including from NASA and now the DoD. Sometimes aiming too low isn’t a viable tactic. The passenger business would be more viable if ScaledComposites ever got their SpaceShipTwo actually working. It’s turning into a bit of a joke by now how long they are taking to get the thing working even with all the deposits and private funding they supposedly got.

          1. Brock

            Beal was killed by bad timing and politics. The 2000 market crash killed the demand for private satellites, and NASA deciding to back SLS instead of COTS killed his government revenue. A one-two punch.

            Elon’s main assets these days are the COTS program and the low interest rates that make financing satellites cheaper. Both of these mean a steady demand curve.

          2. Thomas Matula

            The basic problem with Beal Aerospace was they insisted on picking launch sites that were political bombs because of their irrational fear of federal regulation. First the selected a bird refuge in the British Virgin Islands to launch from. If anything will get the Brits upset its messing with a bird refuge…

            Then to top it off Beal Aerospace followed up by trying to move their launch site to a piece of coastal swamp land that Guyana, Venezuela and an indigenous tribe that never recognized the authority of either government all claimed ownership of and signed a deal with Guyana to build on it. The three way war Beal Aerospace almost caused earned them a visit from the State Department.

            Finally, the collapse of Teledesic basically broke their business model.

            If Beal Aerospace had focused on actual not potential markets and used common sense in picking a launch site they would still be in business.

        2. Edward Wright

          First you demonstrate your ability to fly paying customers to LEO

          “First, you grasp the third rung from the bottom…”

          The only companies actively working on that are getting CCDEV funding to carry astronauts for NASA and its foreign partners — those sovereign customers you say don’t exist.

          For commercial customers, it’s still a rung too far. Which is fine, because companies like XCOR and Virgin Galactic have plenty of work to do on their suborbital vehicles before they reach for the next rung.

          If you want to work commercially and pursue incremental revenues, you have to keep the increments small enough to get an ROI in a reasonable period of time.

          If you aren’t willing to do that, you need to go for some sort of government funding like Contractor Crew and Cargo. (I wrote that deliberately. There’s nothing “commercial” about it since NASA and Congress decided they were going to switch to FAR-based procurement.)

          Then you get people like Tom Matula arguing that their government funding is good but everyone else’s is evil.

          1. Thomas Matula


            First I am glad you finally admit “commercial” crew is not commercial.

            Second, I have no space firm and I am not looking for government funding. Its you that seem to be doing that with “Teachers in Space” or whatever you are calling it now.

          2. Edward Wright

            Second, I have no space firm and I am not looking for government funding.

            Really? After all those insulting, loudmouthed posts about how everyone else should give up and support the “International Lunar Development Corporation” — you’ve given up on it?

            As they say, winners never quit and quitters never win.

            (Of course, you will now deny quitting the International Lunar Development Corporation — which is technically true, because you never even started.)

            Its you that seem to be doing that with “Teachers in Space” or whatever you are calling it now.

            It only “seems” that way to a troll who believes black is white and day is night.

            Constantly repeating the same lie does not make it true. It just makes you look stupid.

            (I did raise private money for an experiment NASA wanted done but didn’t have the money for. Maybe that’s what you call “government funding” in Bizarro World.)

          3. Thomas Matula


            The International Lunar Development Corporation was intended to be a global NGO. But then you probably don’t understand what that is, which is probably why you are confusing it always with Charlie Millers NASA run Lunar Authority.

          4. Edward Wright

            The International Lunar Development Corporation was intended to be a global NGO.

            Then why aren’t you in New York talking to the UN about it?

            Instead of setting up your NGO, all you do is post here and insult people because we won’t do the work for you.

            You say you needed BVSE to “get NASA out of the way.” Well, we spent billions of dollars on BVSE, so what’s stopping you now?

            The only thing standing in your way, Tom, is your unwillingness to do the work yourself. Laziness is not a success factor.

            Is this what you teach at the Great Basin Community College?

          5. Thomas Matula


            Why would I be talking to the UN? I guess you don’t have a clue about what an NGO is do you?

            And who asked you to do any work? Or is that the only business model you know from your years in New Space, donating your time to someone’s cause or to sell their idea to Congress?

            You see that is the fundamental problem with New Space, the belief you need government money, the belief you need volunteers to donate time, the belief you need to go to conferences to show view graphs and beg for money or support to get government money. That is not how start ups in other industries work. They stay in stealth mode until they need to go public to reach customers. And then they focus their communication effort on customers, not on hyping it to none customers.

            Which brings us around to Golden Spike. What is the value of them going public? Is it going to get them money? or customers? The only business reason I see, other than getting their 15 minutes of fame, is to start a campaign to get NASA to fund them. If NASA proposes any plan for going in the Moon they will claim to be able to do it for less and push to get the money, just as was the case with COTS/”Commercial” Crew.

          6. Edward Wright

            Yes, I know what an NGO is. Apparently, you don’t.

            “NGO” is a United Nations term for non-profit organizations that interact with the UN. Outside of the UN, people don’t call them “NGOs.” They call them “non-profits.”

            Of course, words have different meanings on Bizarro World.

            And who asked you to do any work? Or is that the only business model you know

            Yes, doing work is the only business model I know — the only business model anyone knows, on this planet.

            You have no business model. You’re not in “stealth mode,” you’re in loud-mouth mode. You think someone should create an International Lunar Development Corporation, but you aren’t willing to do the work yourself. You just demand that everyone else drop their projects and work on what you want them to. When they won’t, you get angry and insult them.

            You see that is the fundamental problem with New Space, the belief you need government money

            I don’t believe that, and everyone here knows it. But it’s your standard lie so I expect you will keep on telling it.

            Which brings us around to Golden Spike. What is the value of them going public?

            They aren’t going public. That’s another business term you don’t understand.

          7. Thomas Matula


            Gee, I think you set a record, so much misinformation in a single post.

            As for NGOs being only related to the UN. Gee, you just skipped over the first 106 years of their existence. But then, as I noted, you don’t have a clue about them. Here is a paper for you to read and learn from :-)


            The Rise and Fall of Transnational Civil Society: The Evolution of International Non-Governmental Organizations since 1839. By T. R. Davies

            As for the rest of the nonsense, while I guess only a New Spacer from the SFF could confuse going public with IPO :-)

            As for the ILDC, as I noted its one of the organizations that could create markets for you New Spacers. But you are the ones looking for markets so you may have fun building rockets, not me. BTW the wide spread adoption of the Moon Treaty would be another opportunity to create commercial lunar markets but there is so much misinformation about it that would be a lost cause to show how :-)

            But the key problem is folks are stuck at looking at space as the American West with spacesuits and rockets. But it has nothing in common with the American West and policies based on it are not going to succeed.

  4. Josh Reiter

    Maybe as an incentive you could offer first time customers a package that gives them an ala carte to choose among those mission profiles building up to the main event.

    Or it could be that other providers will take over the LEO and GEO markets an they seek to leverage their claim to the Moon on the backs of those proposals.

    1. Edward Wright

      I’m sure Alan Stern will gladly customize his mission architecture to please Trent as soon as Trent comes up with the money.

      Right now, we have a bunch of paupers looking at blueprints and complaining that the mansions aren’t to their tastes.

  5. Old Guy in Whittier

    Money talks, folks. Without a deep-pocketed backer or three, this is essentially another slideware deal. I had hoped for more, myself.

    They’re smart people, but they don’t have the financing yet. That’s the hardest part of all – coming up with a business plan that closes, and then getting somebody with a lot of bucks to finance Buck Rogers.

    Probably not much will happen on this or similar projects until SpaceX finished the reusable Falcon/Dragon stack, or something similar from someone else. At that point, orbital gas stations become rather cheap to set up and operate. Figure out the cost per-gallon for a depot prior to a reusable system and after. And, let’s stay in real-ville – producing fuel off-planet anywhere will not happen until we get there affordably using fuel produced here.

    It’s a business proposition, folks. It has to make money. It has to provide a return on an investment, or get money from someone who wants to burn a few billion without caring about it. There aren’t many people like that on this planet, at least not yet.

    I’m pretty sure that replacing the Apollo architecture (which emphasized getting there soonest, not staying there) with each leg being a reusable system, sized to fit on a reusable Falcon launcher (whether a reusable 9 or a reusable FH, which is the really interesting one) is the one that will get tourists to the moon and back. Rand (among other folks) has written about depots and their importance. That, and reusability, are still the essential components (short of breakthough propulsion physics) that will get us to the Moon to stay.

  6. Jeff Wright

    At the BEO level, any infrastructure will cost billions. Golden Spike proves this.

    Now one of the Ares V missions that SLS might still allow was the large Cosmic Ray Water Calorimeter. This HLV lauched payload, or a small discovery class payload on an HLV would thus be comparable in price to the Curiosity, which cost more than an SLS LV many times its size.

    Just because you could, say, launch a lot of MER rover for the price of one Curiosity doesn’t mean the larger size rover is a waste.

    Some DoD Titan IV launches rivaled an Apollo moon shot at a billion per mission, so at that level size gives you better capability and not much greater cost. If anything, monolithic mirrors for hubble replacement become simpler than Webb, with a lot of parts that can get stuck–Galileo antenna style

    The larger the HLLV, the simpler the mission. That is why MCT, CZ-9 and other vehicles are being talked about. But if you want to get people killed and loose lots of hydrogen to boil off–do the piecemeal approach. As for me I would rather do propellant handling on the ground and get rid of it as fast as possible in as simple a way as possible. Do it any other way and you won’t save much in money–the mission costs billions, and there are more failure modes.

    Patrick R. Chai and Alan W. Wilhite of the Georgia Institute of Technology presented a study earlier this year estimating that depot tanks would lose about $12 million worth of propellant per month in low Earth orbit if protected only with passive insulation.

    November 7, 2011 issue of Aviation Week and Space Technology. It was on page 30 of the Oct 15 2012 of Aviation week that we learn that the second stage of H-IIA will stay with the sat-load for a 5 hr coast, and may need a white reflective coating to minimize hydrogen evaporation. And that is for just five hours.
    And if you just have to have a depot, it is best to be of some size with some thick shielding–an SLS payload in its own right:
    http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2011/10/sls-flexibility-roadmap-focus-center-stage/ “Launched by a single HLV, the depot – based at Lagrange Point L1 – could be refuelled using commercial vehicles”

    Another quote:
    “To explore deep space we need a heavy-lift vehicle -SLS,” says Gazarik


Comments are closed.