Falcon 9 Heavy

I’m watching the press conference now. Clark Lindsey is live blogging it.

I’d say that the big news is that it’s got more payload than expected, and will mean previously unthinkable price per pound. It is also big enough to do any conceivable planetary mission one would want, in sufficient numbers. The one question I wish that someone would ask is fairing size.

[Update a while later]

Clark has the press release.

[Update later in the morning]

Apparently I mistitled the post. It’s not a Falcon 9 Heavy, it’s a Falcon Heavy. I’m not sure what this means, other than the upgraded engines. Is is a different upper stage as well? It’s not obvious from the press release. Time to ask SpaceX.

[Update late morning]

Here’s the SpaceX simulation:

That Aerospace Study

I was out of town for the weekend, and hadn’t had a chance to look at this briefing, which purports to show that Commercial Crew is a bad deal for NASA. While one suspects that this was the goal of those who commissioned it, ironically, it actually does the opposite.

I should preface this by saying that I’ve known John Skratt for about a quarter of a century, and worked with him quite a bit, and he’s a veteran cost analyst and a straight shooter. In fact, I left him a phone message last week, having no idea that this was in work, suggesting that we get together to discuss the situation with the broken cost models. In retrospect, I’m now unshocked that he hasn’t yet returned the call.

The real problem with the paper (as is often the case, unfortunately — it’s a lot easier to challenge such things when there are flaws in the math or logic) is in the assumptions. Every single one of them on charts 3 and 4 are nonsensical. I’m going to make the assumption that they are not John’s, but perhaps those who asked him to do it (with input from the Hill?). Thus, garbage in, garbage out, as the Commercial Spaceflight Federation points out in devastating detail.

But as frequent Space Politics commenter “Major Tom” also points out (scroll way down, it’s currently the bottom of a 150-comment post), even with these nutty assumptions, it’s still cheaper than a NASA solution:

The report’s bottom line is that under multiple worst-case conditions (halved NASA business, commercial customers at a loss, new LV developments, oppressive safety regime, etc.), NASA could expect to pay ~$20 billion for commercial crew development and ten years of operations.

That’s half of what Ares I/Orion development would have cost ($35-40 billion). It’s equivalent to what SLS/MPCV development will cost ($16 billion-plus for Shuttle-derived SLS plus another ~$5 billion for an Orion-based MPCV). Neither of those option even get to operations before blowing $20 billion.

Per the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, the study is conservative to a fault.

But even with all that conservatism and all those worst-case conditions, commercial crew still comes out ahead of Shuttle-derived solutions like Ares I/Orion or SLS/MPCV by a factor of 2-4.

Expect it, though, to be trumpeted by the defenders of the status quo as the death knell for the nutty notion of having actual competition in human spaceflight.

[Mid-afternoon update]

Funny, John returned my call this afternoon. I don’t know if it was in response to this post (I doubt it), but the conversation was cordial. And interesting. But unfortunately, off the record.

Yes, I know it’s a tease, but I thought I should at least mention that we did finally talk.

Only Because Yasser Arafat Didn’t Have Any

Seen on Facebook: “Barack Obama has launched more Tomahawk missiles than all other Nobel Peace Prize winners combined.”

Probably more Predator drones, too.

[Update a while later]

Credit where it’s due. A rare self-deprecating moment for the president. I think that even he, with all his ego, realized and realizes how ridiculous that award was, and how it may have been the last straw in finally discrediting it.

This is truly becoming farcical:

We bombed Qaddafi’s forces because they were killing civilians. So Qaddafi’s forces began dressing like civilians. So the rebels began killing civilians. So NATO is warning the rebels not to kill civilians, otherwise NATO will bomb the rebels. But the rebels are dressed like civilians.So NATO may end up killing civilians.

In other news, the administration continues to debate arming the rebels who are dressed like civilians. But Qaddafi’s forces are also dressed like civilians. So we may be arming Qaddafi’s forces who are killing civilians while we also bomb the rebels who are killing civilians and bombing civilians who really are civilians but look like Qaddafi’s forces who are killing civilians.

Who’s on first?

Via Jonah Goldberg, who writes in his weekly G-File:

The New York Times reports that NATO has told the rebels that if they kill civilians then NATO will bomb them, too.

As a commenter in the Corner put it, this is reminiscent of that scene in Bananas where the operatives are talking en route to a hot zone:

“Any word on where we’re going?”
“I hear it’s San Marcos.”
“For or against the government?”
“CIA’s not taking any chances. Some of us are for it, and some of us are gonna be against it.”

More seriously, has there ever been a war where we’ve gone from taking sides in the fight to saying, “You kids play nice! Don’t make me come in there!” (Honest question, has there ever been a great power that has in effect acted like a schoolyard referee, making sure that both sides “fight fair”?)

It would be American exceptionalism at its finest. If the president believed in that sort of thing.

And we have a Secretary of State who thinks that Bashar Assad is a reformer.

The country’s in the very best of hands.


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