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Then And Now

Who's got it right, the Mike Griffin of today, or the Mike Griffin of five years ago?

In the 1950s and 1960s, the term "man rating" was coined to describe the process of converting the military Redstone, Atlas, and Titan II vehicles to the requirements of manned spaceflight. This involved a number of factors such as pogo suppression, structural stiffening, and other details not particularly germane to today's expendable vehicles. The concept of "man rating" in this sense is, I believe, no longer very relevant.

Does he still agree with this congressional testimony?

Now to be fair, he may not be saying that Atlas isn't safe enough--he expresses interest in using it for COTS. The problem, as Jon Goff points out at the Space Politics thread, is that he's chosen an architecture that replicates Apollo, which requires a large CM and SM on a single launch. If one is willing to break these up into separate launches, an EELV can handle it easily. But instead of spending his budget getting flight rate up and launch costs down, and doing the R&D necessary to learn how to truly become spacefaring (e.g., space assembly, docking/mating, propellant storage and transfer), he wants to relive the days of von Braun.


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Edward Wright wrote:

How about his testimony in 1999? Less than nine years ago, Mike was calling for NASA to fund Orbital Science's "Space Taxi" that was specifically designed to be launched on Delta and Atlas EELVs:

"We envision this Space Taxi to be industry owned and operated; however, the cost of development, production, and operation of the Space Taxi System would be paid for predominantly out of government funds because it satisfies unique NASA needs that are not currently aligned with those of commercial industry. The launching of this Space Taxi System, however, could be competed among commercial RLV or EELV suppliers that meet the cost and safety requirements. These future RLVs would be commercially developed with private capital and would be commercially owned and operated."

Ignoring Mike's dismissal of commercial human spaceflight (this was in the days of SLI, when human spaceflight was officially designated as a "NASA unique capability"), the question arises: Was Mike calling for NASA to fund a vehicle that was impossible in 1999? Or is he ignoring options that are possible today?

It's also interested to see how much his views on reusable vehicles changed:

"Orbital is pleased to be an integral part of NASA's Reusable Launch Vehicle Program, which this Subcommittee has so strongly supported in recent years. Our X-34 Technology Demonstrator will pick up where the X-15 left off and fly to the edge of the atmosphere at seven times the speed of sound next year to demonstrate a range of new space transportation technologies. The operational experience that we will gain from regular flights of the X-34 will help pave the way to develop low-cost Reusable Launch Vehicles (RLV) like those under examination in the STAS studies."

Obviously, that was before he decided reusable vehicles were impossible (i.e., before he spent $150 million of NASA money trying to build a reusable suborbital vehicle and failed).

Mike Puckett wrote:


Looks like Mike is going to get his space taxi after all, just not quite the way he envisioned it.

Pat Masterson wrote:

Pardon my writing from a perspective of ignorance, but I suspect I share that perspective with Congress members who decide NASA's funding.

It seems like Dr. Griffin has wanted a heavy-lift vehicle similar to Apollo since before he became Administrator. Observing the success of Apollo and the difficulties with NASP, X-33, X-34 and various other initiatives, is it certain that an HLV is not the way to go? (Or is the criticism directed more specifically at the Ares vehicle?) Is there a definitive "best" way to increase our presence in space?

Thanks for an informative site.

Edward Wright wrote:

Observing the success of Apollo, is it certain that an HLV is not the way to go?

If "success" means making spaceflight so expensive that no one could return to the Moon for 40 years -- yes, heavy lift is the best way to do that.

Is there a definitive "best" way to increase our presence in space?

Yes, by making spaceflight cheaper and more common, rather than rarer and more expensive.

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This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on February 8, 2008 12:33 PM.

If This Isn't Fascism... was the previous entry in this blog.

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