I just pull my hair when I read articles like this (and I haven’t all that much to spare).
It has so many fallacies in it, and such an abundance of nonsense, that I just despair at the advice that politicians and policy makers are getting from our vaunted space agency, and it confirms exactly why we make no progress in space.
It resurrects the ridiculous notion that we should use Shuttle for cargo only, and has things turned completely on their head.
Although not completely set in stone, it is extremely likely that any future launch vehicles NASA develops will divide the roles of lifting people and cargo into Earth orbit.
“It’s always up for debate,” Martin said, noting that launch vehicles such as the Atlas 5 and Delta 4 seem ideal to carry into orbit an OSP with astronauts aboard, while shuttle derived hardware might best solve the larger cargo needs.
“We are poised to make a much safer system now, a much more reliable system, based on new technologies. And at the same time bring down the overall costs,” Martin said of the OSP specifically and NASA’s space transportation needs in general.
What new technologies? The whole goal of the OSP program is to avoid the use of new technologies. It’s a program requirement–nothing that isn’t at least at Technology Readiness Level 6.
“New technologies” would be building fully-reusable space transports, not sticking a capsule on an expendable, which we did forty years ago.
OSP may be safer than Shuttle, but that’s damning it with faint praise, and the notion that NASA’s current plans will save money is simply laughable. Also, there’s no reason to think that it will be more reliable–the advertised reliability is only 98% or so for EELVs. The only reason it will be safer is because there will be crew escape opportunities throughout ascent.
Exactly how much any of these ideas will cost to build or operate hasn?t been determined yet, and support in Congress for programs such as the OSP is facing some challenges these days.
Martin said it?s likely that NASA isn’t “articulating the vision very well. I think that what Congress is asking is how does (OSP) fit within the larger picture, and we’re developing that.”
Right. There’s nothing wrong with the vision or plans–NASA just isn’t “articulating it very well.”
Go ahead, stay in denial.
“The United States, if it?s going to be a spacefaring nation, and it?s going to continue exploring the solar system, is going to need a reliable, upgraded system. The next step, past what the shuttle was in technology in order to keep moving forward,” Martin said.
But if the OSP is adopted as the next piloted spaceship — whether it’s a winged vehicle or shaped like an Apollo-era capsule — NASA still will need a way to lift large amounts of cargo into Earth orbit.
And of course, they assume that the only way to do that is with a large vehicle. Hence their desire to use the Shuttle for cargo, and the EELV for people. But an unmanned Shuttle will cost little less to operate than a manned one (though if you take out the crew cabin completely, you could probably pick up ten thousand pounds of payload capability for the same launch price). There’s really only one justification for flying Shuttle–as a means of getting crew to and from space.
Martin said some studies completed regarding a return to the Moon mission would require launching 265,000 to 440,000 pounds (120 to 200 metric tons) just to get the project started. The goal would be to launch that weight in as few missions as possible hoping to minimize risk and cost — but there’s no easy answer.
Now that’s simply absurd. Which is higher risk: launching lots of small pieces, so a launch failure doesn’t cost you much payload, or betting a large amount of payload on a single launch? A heavy lifter might be more cost effective than a small launcher, but only for truly high traffic demand, much larger than anything that NASA has ever proposed. When you consider development costs and fleet size issues, it would be much smarter to build small, cheap launchers with high flight rates (which are a much better economy of scale than simply building large vehicles), and figure out how to do things on orbit to utilize smaller payloads.