7 thoughts on “A Win-Win Sanction”

  1. Yeah it should happen. I mean it does not make any sense for the US to depend on Russia for manned space especially when there are alternatives in the US.
    The partnership made sense at the time and arguably the ISS would have been de-orbited when the Shuttle stopped flying much like Skylab ended up getting de-orbited. However there is no reason to keep depending on the Russians right now.

    Using the X-37 is a long shot though. AFAIK it does not have enough payload capacity to be viable as an ISS crew vehicle. Enlarging it so it could do that mission probably means it could not be launched on an Atlas V any more. Plus it would take an inordinate amount of time to do this and interfere with what is an USAF vehicle. I think one of the lessons that should have been learned from the Shuttle is that it is a bad idea to have the USAF and NASA share vehicles when their requirements are substantially different.

    The real alternatives are Dragon, Boeing’s CST-100. and some sort of downsized Orion capsule.
    Dream Chaser and an X-37 derived vehicle could be made to work but I doubt it would happen any time soon.

    There is no point to speculate or come up with new programs since CCDev is already aimed at filling this gap in capabilities. If anything Congress needs to fund CCDev properly instead of diverting funds to the SLS.

  2. Gwynne was reluctant to say they could go any faster than they’re currently going to get crew flying.

    She later said that the entire commercial crew program was about a year behind where they could have been if they had full funding. She also said that in times of emergency, miracles can happen.

    If you ever get the chance to bend her ear on the issue, I expect you could get her to publicly take a stronger position.

  3. We need to be careful about how we approach the replacement of Russian transportation to the space station. Science/technology and sports (think ping pong) tend to want to be kept outside the realm of politics. Russia already knows (and must accept) that the USA’s need for Soyuz will soon be replaced with American manned launch capabilities. But using this venue to make a political statement against Russia could have serious (unintended) consequences. They could retaliate by making further cooperation very difficult. For example, what if for some reason we once again needed to rely on them for transportation to the ISS? And aren’t the oxygen generators on the ISS in the Russian section? What if they just oppose having USA assets approach the ISS? Or worse, since they are the only ones who can get to the ISS, they could de facto take it over by simply refusing to fly Americans there. (Oh, we’re sorry, but there appears to be a safety issue with Soyuz. Because of that we do not want to risk life of astronaut. So until issue is resolved, we will only allow Russians to crew Soyuz.) And what exactly would we do about it if they did that?

    I like the idea of accelerating our capabilities by spending the $400M+ here in the USA. But this should have been done anyway. Why wasn’t it? Doing this now will appear to be retaliation against Russia (which it is intended to be) for their political actions, but will only muddy cooperation in a venue where we need cooperation, and at the same time *have no affect whatsoever on Russian aggression.* It may give us the illusion of being empowered, but will most likely set into motion a cascading collapse of relationships and ties that have been painstakingly built over the years, sometimes despite an environment of great political antagonism.

    So how about this, honor the contracted Soyuz flights but accelerate the US manned launch capability with a $500M incentive as suggested in the article. This way it could be said that one has nothing to do with the other (even though they do). This will not only allow us to reduce our total dependency on Soyuz sooner, but will give us spaceships that can carry seven people, not just three (two of which are always Russians).

      1. “Science is the engine of War…”

        Really? IMO you are using “Science” too broadly. “Science” also encompasses Astronomy, Paleontology and cancer research, and those are hardly engines of war. But if there is a relationship between Science and War, then it is more likely that War is the engine of Science. This stems from the necessity to counter, or stay ahead of a threat. For example, we were compelled to build the A-bomb because we thought Germany was developing that capability. We used science, and developed the technology to go to the Moon, because we were battling the Russians in the Space Race. In these examples, it was war that drove science.

  4. I doubt that Obama has a thick enough skin to tolerate the Russians taunting him that he doesn’t have a manned space capability, so the urge to accelerate commercial crew will be a big temptation for him. Just remember, his ego gets bonus points if he can emulate anything Kennedyesque. Setting an aspirational deadline ought to appeal to him–and maybe distract the public from the last piece of technology he mandated with a hard deadline.

    But the best thing by far is that the only place to find an extra half-billion dollars for this is out of the SLS budget. That might be enough to drive a stake through its heart, senatorial howls notwithstanding. After all, it’s not like Richard Shelby is on Obama’s Christmas card list.

    1. Use the old saw in politics.. fear monger like crazy and call it a threat to national security… 500 million is a rounding error as far as our budgets go….

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