Commercial Crew

Jeff Foust is reporting that the sequestration will bring it to a halt. And then there’s this:

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion crew exploration vehicle would not be directly affected by the cuts.

Insanity.

[Update a couple minutes later]

A commenter says it may not be as bad as it appears (or at least, it’s not much worse than the status quo, given that Congress refuses to fund it adequately).

It always hurts my head to try to get it wrapped around the entrails of budget issues, but I’ll dig into it further (and be interested to see what Major Tom has to say).

21 thoughts on “Commercial Crew

  1. Martijn Meijering (@mmeijeri)

    What’s the administration’s goal with this? They struck a terrible deal with the porkers, but this would completely surrender anything they managed to salvage.

  2. Der Schtumpy

    I know it’s two different ‘buckets’ of money, BUT we’re letting an air craft carrier SIT for lack of fuel, and NASA is moving forward.

    I think the people we elected have lost their focus on what their job is.

    1. Thomas Matula

      Der Schtumpy,

      Also all you paleo dieters may be forced to become vegetarians if it shuts down the meat industry:-)

      http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-02-11/business/37034426_1_food-safety-inspections-of-food-facilities-meat-safety

      [[[Department of Agriculture inspectors could be furloughed for up to 15 days, meaning meatpacking plants would have to intermittently shut down and there could be less meat in grocery stores.]]]

      and

      [[[Meatpacking industry officials immediately responded to the USDA furlough threat, saying it would devastate their industry. ]]]

      Better stock your freezers now…

  3. Charles Lurio

    It’s presently impossible access Jeff’s sites, i’m getting ‘server error’ messages.

    In re the ‘SLS forever, CC never’ cut reported:

    I’ll say ‘I told you so’ because I did, both in comments at various sites and in “The Lurio Report.” While all the space fans were looking forward to SLS being killed by sequestration, I was warning that it would likely be the last thing cut. You got to get the concept- the only thing important to Congress is buying votes with pork now, not getting actual results from space. If they get both, then those of us interested in the latter too often get wide-eyed happy and forget the absolute primacy of the former.

  4. Brewingfrog

    Two things: 1.) The “sequestration” is a reduction in the amount of growth. Instead of getting 11% more money than they got last year, it will only be 8%. The whole “cut” thing is laughable.
    2.) Bureaucrats always find an item amongst their satrapies that has public support to make an example of, to sobbingly terminate as an example of the hardships they are forced to endure. All crap, as usual. Killing CCDev while continuing to support the Senate Launch System bloatware is quite possibly the finest example of this to date. Not only do they get to a.) Show off how this “sequestration” is forcing them to “make the tough choices” to the drooling Obama-voters b.) Get rid of a bunch of people who were producing results at a fraction of NASA costs, and thus making the bureaucrats look really, really bad, and c.) Get back to business as usual.

    A great deal more could be accomplished with a suitably tall tree, and some rope. But, I digress…

  5. Godzilla

    This is completely nuts. The only people benefiting from this will be the Russians which will keep their monopoly on ISS transport.
    It was afraid of something like this happening. SpaceX is in a growth phase to meet the agree upon objectives and moves like this could easily kill the company.

    1. Thomas Matula

      Godzilla,

      Yes, it could be a very good learning experience for them, both teaching them why the existing aerospace firms insist on cost-plus contracts from NASA and why true commercial firms avoid putting government contracts in their critical path for new products.

          1. Rand Simberg Post author

            Yes, it is. It is accelerated by it, but not “driven” by it. It was in development even before COTS. I’m surprised you’re so ignorant of the history, but perhaps I shouldn’t be.

          2. Thomas Matula

            Rand,

            SpaceX has a lot on the their wish list, but NASA funding IS driving Dragon as this point. Why do you think Dragon Lab is on the waiting list? I am surprised you are so ignorant of their history and the economics factors which are driving it.

          3. Thomas Matula

            Rand,

            Sure New Space firms never die… But Elon himself says NASA funding is an important part of Dragon’s development.

            http://www.popularmechanics.com/how-to/blog/elon-musk-where-spacex-goes-now-11325516

            [[[It will cost a billion dollars to get manned spaceflight off the ground, Musk says. The NASA award covers half of that, so SpaceX will still be contributing hundreds of millions of dollars to its own cause. "This award takes us pretty far," he says. "It takes human beings into orbit, which is pretty good." NASA certainly hopes Musk gets there fast, since it currently has no way to transport astronauts other than Russia's hardy old Soyuz. "Soyuz is a good system but they are charging over 63 million a seat," Musk says.]]]

            So go argue with him that it won’t hurt their efforts…

          4. Rand Simberg Post author

            It hurts their efforts only in that it will delay them. It doesn’t mean that it won’t get built, or that the company will die. It hurts NASA’s efforts much more.

          5. Michael Kent

            So in the matter of a few hours we’ve gone from “Sequestration will kill SpaceX” to “it will kill Dragon” to “it will kill manned Dragon” to “it will hurt manned Dragon.”

            Just pointing out that Chicken Little is in some serious retreat here.

            I’m not worried about what this does to SpaceX. I am worried about what it does to Commercial Crew.

    2. Rand Simberg Post author

      No, SpaceX cannot be easily killed at this point. They have a huge commercial back log. At most, this will delay them for sending people up in Dragon.

      1. Godzilla

        While it is true that the launchers can be easily repurposed for launching commercial payloads since the launch vehicle is the same, the work being done on Dragon and the escape system is not, nor are the manufacturing requirements the same. i.e. it could be that SpaceX has increased their fixed costs to cope with production levels which will end up not being required and there will be a need for a corporate downsizing. Looking at their launch manifest for 2013 nearly half of their flights are quite likely government funded. Then there is the Falcon 9 Heavy Demo Flight which is coming out of their own pocket. So this could seriously impact their cash flow.

        1. Godzilla

          What they could do is delay the Falcon 9 Heavy inaugural flight and repurpose the first stages for commercial flights. Still this requires some careful management.

  6. Fred Willett

    Should NASA vanish entirely – which is not going too happen – SpaceX’s manifest would drop from it’s current 40+ manifested flights to just 30+. A still very healthy business.
    However NASA is not going away and the CRS flights will stay on the manifest.
    The worst that can happen is a slowdown in the development of crewed Dragon. However SpaceX is ahead of the curve in it’s current development. It currently expects dragon’s first crewed flight in 2015. NASA currently wants crew starting in 2017, so a little delay won’t hurt NASA.
    Annoy Musk? Yes.
    Delay things dramatically? No.
    Force a downselect? Unlikely.
    A more serious effect is the stretching out of SLS somewhat. A year or two slip. Something the critics of SLS have always said would happen.

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