Boeing Is Cutting Metal

I sat in on a Boeing press conference on CST-100 yesterday morning, with several other space reporters, including Andy Pasztor, Ken Chang, Denise Chow, Todd Halvorson, Bill Harwood, and others. I’ll be incorporating some of it into a PM piece that I just wrote, but Pat Brennan at the OC Register has a story this morning.

[Update a while later]

Here’s Todd Halvorson’s story at FL Today.

[Update a while later]

Here are my notes from the presser:

4.5 meter, seven crew, pusher abort system flying in 2015. simplicity for safety/reliability. Space Act Agreement, fixed price, need low development risk, high TRL. Business case challenging. Need development funding/ISS market. Also need other markets. Keith: already started program under CCDev, just did IDR a couple days ago. Complete SDR in October. Pressure-vessel testing at Bigelow’s facilities. Doing drop tests, started a week ago, working on life support. Using rendezvous system from Orbital Express. Not viewgraph engineering.

Berger: Confidence that Boeing has in getting contract? Elbon: Watching that closely. NASA envisions process like COTS. Will have to assess probabilities as they move forward. Want to see commitment downstream so they have better idea of price.

Pat Brennan: Is this a Shuttle replacement? Crew only, can’t replace all capabilities of Shuttle. Will be able to stay for months.

Which authorization bill most favorable? Senate closer to the compromise they’d like to see.
What launch vehicle? Human rate Delta IV, what about hydrogen issue? Looking at Atlas, Delta, Falcon 9. Primary targets EELVs. Systems are human rated, not components. ULA working CCDev for FOSD. Don’t think that any major mods to rockets themselves. Big issues launch pad for crew egress.

Denise Chow: How did they settle on the shape? Good data base on Apollo design, don’t need much wind tunnel. Also good shape for land landing.
What have the biggest challenges been? Pusher abort.

Future for larger capsules in the future? Have to take it one step at a time. Get started with simple safe system and see how market develops.
Private individuals can fly, or just scientists? Hope to have broad markets — need destinations, not NASA only.

Harwood: Will the business model support multiple players? Even with Bigelow, is there enough? Elbon: More launches, lower prices. Working with KSC to find government assets, cost per use rather than having to own them. NASA wants at least two providers. Boeing hopes to get to market first, and see significant flight rate from Bigelow.
What is the order of magnitude of a ticket price? Will be competitive with Soyuz.

Halvorson: Test flight schedule? What vehicles? No vehicle selected yet, but ULA baseline. Late 2013, 2014 for abort tests and orbital flight tests. Pad abort test at White Sands, and rest out of the Cape.

Andy Pasztor: How much overall development cost? How much will Boeing spend? Less than numbers for CRV. How much Boeing spends depends on risk level, and what Congress/FAA/NASA do.

David Baker: What consideration being given to expanding market off shore? Ever launch on Ariane? Have to base business case on those things as upside potential, not baseline. Have considered that and will further develop down the road.
Any interest from Air Force? Not that I know of?

Chang: Anything beyond ISS/Bigelow? Hoping that other ventures will mature. Market is a chicken/egg thing.
Any chance of going forward without NASA business? Unlikely that biz case closes without it.
Bigelow not big enough market? Sees a lot of potential, but also a lot of risk.

Harwood: How reusable? Capsule reused up to ten times. Some parts get ejected (forward cone, base heat shield). Land at White Sands.

Halvorson: How many objectives and how many achieved in CDDev? 36 milestones (four per demo, four for design) completed 22, essentially done by end of year. About halfway to PDR. How long to PDR/CDR? Next spring, then end of year.

Brennan: What’s being done in Huntington Beach? For development, pressure vessel being assembled, base heat shield, AR&D sensors, tied into Houston simulators.

I had two questions. First, how did the pusher abort system work, did it have two different thrust levels, and was it liquid? Answer from Keith: it’s hypergolic (MMH/NTO, like the Shuttle) and has high thrust engines for the abort, and uses lower-thrust RCS for orbital maneuvering. I didn’t follow up on the operations implications for those propellants. The other question was whether or not it could be kitted, or if it was being scarred, for deep-space operations. The answer was no, that would be a different vehicle entirely. This one is for LEO only.

Let’s Hope This Survives

Chris Bergin has a lengthy discussion on a joint NASA/commercial propellant depot demonstrator to be flown in 2015, if it can survive the fools on the Hill (to paraphrase the old Sérgio Mendes song).

This is the key sentence:

A HLV – of any kind – is not listed in any current ULA or commercial documentation, with experts claiming such a vehicle isn’t required under the EELV and propellant depot architecture.

Don’t anyone tell Congress.

[Via Clark Lindsey, who has an interesting discussion going in comments]

Housing Insanity

Megan McArdle:

If you want to know why us libertarian types are skeptical of the government’s ability to prevent housing market bubbles, well, I give you Exhibit 9,824: the government’s new $1000 down housing program.

No, really. The government has apparently decided, in its infinite wisdom, that what the American economy really needs is more homebuyers with no equity.

The country’s in the very best of hands.

Is Scaled Having Engine Development Problems?

Thoughts from Trent Waddington. I’m on pretty long record of thinking that hybrids were a mistake, as was Scaled attempting to develop in house. The Mojave accident could have provided an opportunity to rethink the approach, but I guess they didn’t want to bite off the vehicle redesign issues of going to a liquid, and as Trent says, much of the sales hype has revolved around the supposed safety of hybrids. But as Dave Salt notes in comments there, continuing down that path will put them at a competitive disadvantage in terms of ops tempo and cost.

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