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May 08, 2013

flying: Spaceport America is un-charted

Current sectional chart introduces interesting changes: the spaceport is erased! Previously, the runway was properly documented with altitude of 4595 and length of 10,000. But now the private airport status is gone, and instead we get a landmark... And a free-standing AWOS at 118.675.

I am not entirely happy about this. It means that the powers that be put kibosh on tourists flying their own aircraft. I can imagine arguments, the chief of which is that tourists must stage at the so-called "welcome centers", which presumably include revenue opportunities for the tour operator. Still, it's disappointing.

UPDATE 2013/09/09: At the DC-X 20th Anniversary symposum, Christine Anderson made the following comments, according to The Space Review:

Anderson promises that the spaceport’s visitors center will be fun for visitors. "If you come to this spaceport, you’re going to have a good time,” she promised. "It will be fun, unlike an airport.”

Sick burn. But it's true. Airports used to be much more inviting places than they are now, thanks to the oppressive TSA regime.

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February 04, 2013

Sequestration at NASA

Insightful comment at Rand's place, in response to the sequestration, that almost makes a bold prediction:

[James] Hansen, the minority business outreach office, the education outreach group and the SLS will be the LAST things de-funded at NASA.

Government responds to cuts by trying to do maximum damage and holding things hostage. They cut police and fire on the streets before they fire deputy assistant directors. I would not put it past this administration to turn off the lights on the Mars Rover in a highly publicized show.

It must be noted that Obama administration tried to cancel SLS, and was overridden by porksters in Senate, so he probably means the national space administration.

Tags: space

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August 14, 2012

flying: Binnie back in flight

Brian Binnie is most known to me as a controversial figure after the crashed SpaceShipOne. I heard that Mike Mellville raised his voice at a meeting and suggested that Brian just did not have the right stuff, and so "flew into runway", and that he would show Brian how it's done. And he did! IIRC, Brian did not fly SS1 afterwards, while Mike was throwing M&Ms around the weightless cockpit. Months and years passed. Brian published a weird article in Salon or Smithsonian, I do not remember well, where he tried to come to grips with that accident. It was painful to read. I thought we would not hear of him again, but -- surprise -- he was promoted to a managerial role at Scaled. He became a director of flight ops. I thought it was pretty good for everyone involved: Brian gets a raise and stays out of cockpit.

Well, maybe not. A report at Clark Lindsey's new digs mentions that Brian was a co-pilot at the 11th SpaceShipTwo test.

To be sure, even if Brian was inferior to Mr. Mellville as a pilot, he's still a thousand times better than I am. Also, SS2 was specifically designed so that any good airline captain could fly it, unlike SS1. Remember that SS1 had no air brakes and the only way to aim it for touchdown was to vary the radius of gliding circle! So he's not going to kill any revenue passengers. But man, what a cool job, and nobody is there to tell you no (I think Mike retired before Burt).

Tags: space

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July 13, 2012

Arianne 6 and Falcon 9

There a remarkable article at SpaceNews by Peter B. de Selding today. It mostly focused on Reaction Engines, Skylon, and SABRE, but also contained this -- please pardon the length:

The New European Launch Service is a reversal of ESA’s past practice with respect to major developments. In the past, the agency would work with its governments to determine each nation’s level of enthusiasm for a given project. A budget would be set after the national contributions are added together, and only then would an industrial team be assembled.

This procedure has had the disadvantage of forcing ESA to build launchers with industrial contracting teams spread throughout Europe, with the size of each company’s role determined in advance by the level of its government’s commitment.

The resulting Ariane 5 rocket has been more expensive to build and maintain — so much so that the successful, mature vehicle requires some 120 million euros a year in ESA government support payments.

The new bid requests permit the industrial teams to design their own rockets without worrying about which government will contribute to it. Dordain has said the primary goal is a vehicle that will not need support payments under normal operations once it has proved its design.

If that ends up being a rocket built almost entirely in just one or two nations, so be it. These nations then would be asked to finance it.

ESA officials have been spooked by Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, Calif., which has demonstrated its technical prowess with the launch of its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon cargo vehicle to the international space station. SpaceX officials say one of the keys to its success is that Falcon 9 is built in one factory owned by SpaceX.

"That’s not building an industry, it’s just building a company,” scoffed one official with a commercial rocket supplier competing with SpaceX. But for European government officials concerned about the long-term viability of their Ariane rocket line, SpaceX has become a useful case study of one way to cut costs.

The rocket design sought by ESA would be capable of placing satellites weighing between 3,000 and 6,500 kilograms into geostationary transfer orbit, the destination of most telecommunications satellites.

Estimates of how much it would cost to develop such a vehicle vary between 3 billion euros to 6 billion euros over 10 years or more. That alone may turn off European governments when they meet in November and decide whether to upgrade the current Ariane 5 or start development of a new rocket.

Remember how someone outlined the biggest problem hobbling NASA today: "We do not have a space program, we have a jobs program." Europe is no better, but at least they are trying to fix things. Still, SpaceX spent $1.2 billion to date on all-new engines, Falcon 1, Falcon 9, Dragon, and launch infrastructure. Those are factual expenditures (of which the U.S. Government covered about 30%). But the new, cheap, European launcher ("Ariane 6") is going to cost 3 billion Euro before the inevitable cost overruns, and not include a whole spaceship in the deal. Just think about it.

As a side note, performance of both Falcon 9 (which is real), and "Ariane 6" (which is imaginary at present) is equally underwhelming, considering that Proton has just boosted a 6-tonne SES-5 a couple of days ago. However, there's a difference: Falcon is going to be enhanced in the coming years, while "Ariane 6" is not. And if ESA try to re-adjust the requirements, it will delay the project. To plan for a GEO launcher that tops out at 6,5 tonnes in 2022 seems ridiculously ill-advised to me. But that is unimportant, really. The important part is that they still cannot touch SpaceX's efficiency, even though SpaceX was bloating really quickly in the last 5 years.

Tags: space

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July 11, 2012

LauncherOne re-announcement

Virgin Galactic (not Scaled, SNC, SSC, or Stratolaunch) announced today that they are going to build a rocket to launch small satellites, in 225 kg class. Clark Lindsey has convenient notes: air-launched, 2-stage, all-liquid, 4 customers have paid deposits. Today's announcement follows a previous abortive effort to source the launcher in England (from Surrey Sat. IIRC). This project is going to be fully developed in-house by Virgin in Mojave.

Commenters already compared LauncherOne with now-dead SpaceX Falcon 1(e). I will only note that the decision to drop F1e was not necesserily based on its ability to break even, and could have something with the expansion plans of SpaceX. When you are about to launch Dragon, who in the company is going to waste their time on a light launcher, yesterday's tech, fighting for resources?

More interesting is the critique of Pegasus by Elon Musk. How much of it applies to LauncherOne?

  • The need to maintain a fixed asset: Still applies, but may be effectively mitigated by the use for VG's suborbital business, assuming said business materializes.
  • Marginal safety of air-launch: Still applies in full.
  • Excessive complexity of Pegasus: Does not apply. There is no hypersonic airplane anymore, and only two stages.

Or, to quote Elon himself:

If you look at ours in contrast: it is a two stage rocket, no wings, no control surfaces, both stages are the cheapest propellant you can use, LOX/Kerosene.

Hah! The dead English LauncherOne was somewhat reminiscent of Ishim: a 4-stage solid rocket, with motors sourced from legacy contractors. No wonder if was DoA.

The big question now is if VG is capable of delivering on the price point.

UPDATE: Jeff Foust adds:

Airlaunch systems aren’t new, with various concepts having been proposed over the years, as well as Orbital’s Pegasus, which has been flying for over two decades. Pegasus hasn’t won much business because of its price, estimated to be on the order of $30 million. Several years ago, SpaceX was going to open up the smallsat launch market with the Falcon 1, which originally was to launch about 600 kilograms to LEO for $6 million; the payload capacity later declined to about 420 kilograms as the price increased to around $9 million. Later, the Falcon 1e was to provide approximately 1,000 kilograms for $11 million, but the company withdrew the vehicle from the market, citing limited demand. While Virgin does have customers lined up, as it announced today, its prices may have to fall significantly below $10 million per launch to sustain demand over the long term, given the vehicle’s performance and the history of previous smallsat launch efforts.

UPDATE: According to pictures of Sir Richard playing with the model in Farnborough, it does have wings after all. Good grief, he just bought himself a lot of expensive R&D.

Tags: space

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May 26, 2012

Spaceport America preview

I went on a tour of Spaceport America, since it's in the neighbourhood.

The most amusing part was the pride with which our guide related the story of a corrupt Democrat governor distributing the work contracts through the system of patronage, which excluded qualified outsiders from bidding. The inefficiencies of crony capitalism are then patched with pieces cut from my hide, for the benefit of other locals — the ones known to Richardson.

The runway structure is most impressive. However some of the dirt embankments are already eroded. I did not see any trace of centerline lighting wells, so I'm not sure what exactly Dr. Gurman meant when he talked about the wiring pre-positioned. Perhaps I misunderstood.

Oh, and one funny bit: the taxiway to the terminal is marked "V" (Victor). It actually makes sense, considering the master plan: future tenants are going to have their own taxiways, instead of using Virgin's apron, so we may expect "S" for SNC, for example.

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August 13, 2011

NASA Langley considers liquids for MLAS

An article at Examiner (via), poorly sourced, reports that the Langley center (home of HL-20, Morpheus, and other innovative programs) is considering swapping out the solid for liquid engines for Max Launch Abort System. The most notably feature of this development for me is how they only got around to it after Boeing and SpaceX started development of liquid-fueled abort systems for CST-100 and Dragon respectively. In case of Boeing, test firings were already carried out in order to qualify the existing "Bantam" engine that they plan to appropriate for the program. SpaceX are aiming to leverage their "Draco" engine experience with a "SuperDraco", and preparing for the tests. For many years NASA was expected to be the technology leader by default, but no more.

Note that I am agnostic regarding the MLAS itself, or its switch to liquid power. Initiated by Mike Griffin's famous napkin sketch, MLAS was a clear loser to the traditional tower system developed by Orbital under the management of Marshall center. It was much heavier than the tower and turned out ridiculously complex once Mike's vision was applied to the real spacecraft. It was only kept alive by NASA launchers being so ridiculously tall, that they would not fit into the Vehicle Assembly Building with the tower installed. The commercial systems from Boeing and SpaceX derive the advantage from being built into the respective spacecraft. But MLAS is separate from Orion. Due to the excellent efficiency of modern solid fuels, and the necessity to use inefficient pressure-fed liquid engines, there's not going to be an outright performance advantage. So, whatever. I just find it amusing how NASA is following the lead of commercial upstarts.

UPDATE: Gary C. Hudson commented "It's only an attitude control thruster, not main LAS propulsion."

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July 13, 2011

Lindsey on Zubrin

In the context of Dr. Zubrin suddenly deciding that super-mega-heavy lifter is not necessary to reach Mars after all, Clark Lindsey remarked on May 23:

It's long been clear that the one and only thing that matters to Mr. Zubrin is to get a human mission heading to Mars as soon as possible. Pursuing advances such as building up a commercial human spaceflight industry that provides low cost access to orbit, developing an in-space infrastructure, using the Moon to learn how to do in situ resource utilization, finding ways to deal with human factor issues (particularly radiation & microgravity health effects), etc. is all a waste of time to him. However, as seen by his recent WSJ essay on a Mars mission with the commercial SpaceX Falcon Heavy, he is quick to take advantage of such advances when they are near at hand. I'm sure that once propellant depots and other such systems are in operation, he will no doubt incorporate them as well into new Mars mission schemes. And the abuse he hurled at such efforts and at the people who supported them will be long forgotten.

This flexibility undermines Dr. Zubrin's attacks on VASIMR. If VASIMR suddenly works, no doubt it's going to be a centerpiece of then-in-vogue Mars Drirect Mk.XXIII architecture. Not that I'm a fan of plasma-electric propulsion with non-existing magnets, but just saying.

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July 10, 2011

flying: Spaceport America is charted

I noticed that the runway of Spaceport America is depicted at sectional chart now. Private, of course! For those not in the know, it means that I cannot land on it without a prior permission even when the restricted area R-5111A is not active. Taxpayer money well spent, I guess.

UPDATE 2011/09/24: Dr. William M. Gutman told me that FAA is considering a proposal to create a "keyhole" corridor through the restricted airspace.

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January 13, 2011

NASA HLV (SLS) and Congress

The tragi-comedy of the unnecessary pork rocket continues with the report delivered this week, which says that when congressional porksters decided to play rocket scientists and mandated an SDV design by law, they come up with a plan that is impossible in time or budget. The commentary is a riot.

Now of course DIRECT people will cry that if NASA built their design from the beginning, instead of the retardo corndog rocket Griffin made them build, they would've been half-way there by now, and 2015 service date would have been assured even with the old budget. They may even be right. DIRECT made lots more sense than Ares. But all that misses the main point (maybe intentionally): the nation already has perfectly good rockets in Atlas and Delta (and now Falcon). The one-shot capacity of 100+ tonnes is not needed when 90% of what you lift is propellant anyway!

Not that anyone in Congress actually wanted to accomplish anything in space. They just want "jobs". And when they noticed that NASA might just start accomplishing something after Obama's cancellation of Constellation, they rushed into action and passed a law prohibiting NASA from doing it. And now NASA's report says the law cannot override reality. That is the gist of it.

UPDATE: In Rand's post, Keith Cowing is quoted as this:

During its recent deliberations the HEFT II activity look at a variety of scenarios, reference missions etc. One of them, DM1, actually meets the costs and schedule specified by Congress. DM1 entails creation and use of an in-space propellant depot and refueling capability. It also makes use of EELVs and other commercial launch assets. But forces within NASA ESMD personnel – led by Doug Cooke – have purposefully sat on such ideas and have made certain that they were scrubbed from presentation charts and reports to Congress and other “stakeholders”. Charlie Bolden is aware of this tactic.

UPDATE: Amazing quote on Spaceflight Now:

Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat who flew aboard the shuttle in 1986 and who played a major role in adding the near-term requirement to build the new launch systems, said in a statement late Wednesday that NASA's answer was not good enough.

"I talked to (NASA Administrator) Charlie Bolden yesterday and told him he has to follow the law, which requires a new rocket by 2016," Nelson said late Wednesday. "And, NASA has to do it within the budget the law requires."

This is quite funny really. First of all, note that SpaceX developed Falcon 9 since 2005, or 5 years, on a budget of 500 million give or take, minus Dragon and Falcon 1. So, I can see what Senators are thinking. NASA receives 20+ billion each year, of which half goes to ESAS. Over the period of 5 years that is 50 billion, or almost exactly 100 times more money than SpaceX spent over the 5 year period (same as 2011 to 2016), and they produced a working rocket. If SpaceX can build a rocket in 5 years, surely NASA could do it too (100 times more money is the usual government overhead)! Where is the catch?

Of course the NASA SLS is, 10 times bigger than Falcon 9 (100t vs 10t class). One would think that explains things. But just to make it all even more funny, SpaceX came forward with a proposal for a next-generation Falcon. Basically Musk said: "Look guys, it's clear that you're effin impotent and incapable of building rockets. But you have money. How about you give us a small part of your money, like maybe 5 billion, and we'll give you a rocket that is every bit as good as your SLS fantasies, by 2016. You keep the remaining 45 billion and pretend doing something useful, I dunno, some telescopes or rovers or whatever, and don't interfere. Then, everyone's happy, even Congress." NASA is considering (SpaceX is one of the 13 companies mentioned above).

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December 10, 2010

Zubrin lowballs

In his "The New Sputnik" article, Dr. Bob Zubrin states:

The Falcon-9 medium-lift booster (capable of launching 10 tons to orbit) and Dragon capsule (potentially capable of upgrade to transporting up to 7 astronauts) system was created on a combined budget on the order of two hundred million dollars.

To the best of my knowledge, this is simply not true. Before Dec.8, COTS paid out 253 million to SpaceX. However, one of conditions of the contract was for the winning companies to finance about half of their expenses from other sources. So, there were another 250 million, although I am not certain what counts towards it. Elon invested about 100 millions out of pocket, his friends gave 35 and 60 millions in two rounds (and perhaps more). The government of Malaysia paid about 11 million for a launch of Falcon 1. There were other payments, too. For instance Elon said that a U.S. government agency, unnamed, but other than NASA, fully bankrolled the previous, test launch of Falcon 9 (that would be about 40 millions). Some of this counts towards the mandated 250 millions mentioned above, some was before and could not count. All in all, a reasonable estimate floating in the press was about 600 million dollars. Even if it is off, it cannot be as low as 200 million. No way no how.

UPDATE 2011/02/10: Tim Hughes, VP and Chief Counsel, SpaceX said at FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference that to date, SpaceX spent $800 million in total, of which $600 million spent on Falcon 9 and Dragon program.

UPDATE 2011/05/04: Elon Musk has made the following statements (in rolling updates, permalink to follow):

The total company expenditures since being founded in 2002 through the 2010 fiscal year were less than $800 million, which includes all the development costs for the Falcon 1, Falcon 9 and Dragon. Included in this $800 million are the costs of building launch sites at Vandenberg, Cape Canaveral and Kwajalein, as well as the corporate manufacturing facility that can support up to 12 Falcon 9 and Dragon missions per year. This total also includes the cost of five flights of Falcon 1, two flights of Falcon 9, and one up and back flight of Dragon.

The Falcon 9 launch vehicle was developed from a blank sheet to first launch in four and half years for just over $300 million.

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December 02, 2010

Elon aims to embed SpaceX into Space-Industrial Complex

The article at Aviation Week ought to dispel last doubts that SpaceX is somehow a part of NewSpace anymore (let alone alt.space). Check this out:

"The physics is the easiest problem, but the economics and politics are quite pernicious. Any attempt at a solution that doesn’t try to satisfy those three constituencies—forget it," says Musk.

Under SpaceX’s proposal, NASA would have overall systems oversight, and integration would be driven by Marshall Space Flight Center. "That would be a good way to go," says Musk, who adds that "the only logical place" for final vehicle assembly remains Kennedy Space Center. "When you build a vehicle that big, it minimizes logistics; you can re-use the space shuttle pads and conceivably even make the tanks at Michoud [the current external tank facility in Huntsville, Ala.]."

MSFC did not exactly cover themselves with glory by selecting one of the worst possible Schuttle follow-up designs. But Elon is a-ok with serving them, becaus of "economics and politics". And the question if the super-heavy is even needed does not arise at all. It's all good as long as SpaceX gobbles the most of the government contractor gravy.

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June 03, 2010

Stephen Clark noticed the elephant

Nice quote at the bottom of an article at Spaceflight Now:

Lost in the debate is the presence of more established companies like United Launch Alliance, which oversees Atlas and Delta rocket flights, and Orbital Sciences Corp., SpaceX's main competitor in the market for cargo services to the space station.

"When it comes to the commercial crew activity that everybody's talking about, what's missing from most of the public discussion is the Atlas 5 is the rocket of choice for many competitors in the field," Alexander said. "That Atlas 5 has flown 21 or 22 times successfully in a row. When we look at SpaceX, they are achieving quite a lot and should definitely be applauded for it, but we have established companies with existing rockets ready to be used for putting people on top."

When Falcon 9 fails tomorrow, the thieves in Congress are going to present it as a proof that the commercial services are not to be trusted. This is why they and their lapdogs pretend that SpaceX is the only commercial spaceflight company.

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April 19, 2010

Ed Kyle misses the point completely

Ed Kyle is known firstly for his command of facts and space trivia, and secondly for his command of numbers. His latest article displays it well, in fact he pars it down for brievity. I saw him doing more precise, project-like calculations than that before. But all this capability is for naught for the simple reason: he completely misses the point.

And it starts so well.

NASA's now-canceled Constellation Program died because the U.S. government was unable, or unwilling, to pay its costs - and the costs were considerable. Last year's Augustine Committee estimated that NASA's budget would have to be increased by at least $3 billion per year to even begin to make the program possible.

Indeed, the program as it existed was impossible. And "begin" is really an example of wishful thinking.

A traditional way to fit a big government program, usually an overrun program, into a limited budget is to slow the program down - to build fewer fighter jets or submarines than originally planned, for example. It was not possible to slow down the Constellation Program in this way, since its launch rate was already at a minimum given its huge fixed costs. Billions of dollars would have been needed each year to support the manufacturing and launch infrastructure of Ares I, Ares V, Orion, and Altair, whether or not any astronauts walked on the Moon.

Exactly. But then...

A lower-cost, slower-rate program might be possible if those fixed costs were slashed. What is the most obvious way to cut fixed costs? First, use existing launch systems. Second, fly less frequently to the Moon, to spread the costs over time. Rather than two landings per year, consider one landing every two years, for example. Third, drop the grandiose plans for a lunar base and fly sortie missions instead.

Suppose we can do that. But what would be the point?!

Since the purpose of deep space human exploration is national prestige, the number of landings performed in any given time-frame is almost irrelevant. Just as the quadrennial Olympics garner worldwide attention, one landing every-other year would garner more public attention than two every year.

The whole idea of recreating Apollo-style "flag and footprints" missions is pure nonsense. Apollo itself had a reason to exist: to demonstrate that America was superior to Soviets (at any cost). And now? Doing a lame Apollo that cannot even fly there twice a year only demonstrates that modern America is weaker than the America of the past.

The rest of the article is simply wasted because it is dedicated to another way to recreate Apollo (perhaps even an inventive one), and we do not need that.

The only reason for the government manned space program to exist at all is to open the space for all of us. And that only can be done by dramatically reducing the launch costs, etc. etc. I am sure Ed is familiar with the cost-based reasoning, but he is simply wilfully blind to it. In denial.

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April 17, 2010

Rand's collection of Republican cluelessness

I was not the only one who noticed the absurdity of supposed Republicans attacking the private enterprise while defending the failed government plan. Rand Simberg was collecting the most idiotic knee-jerk, oppose Obama no matter what, reactions to the new NASA policy.

Exhibit 1: American Thinker:

The symbolism is breathtaking. From now on, whenever we remember with pride the courage and sacrifice of the Mercury astronauts, or Neil Armstrong taking “One small step for a man, one giant step for mankind,” or Jim Lovell and the crew of Apollo 13 calmly tinkering with duct tape to repair their capsule, we’ll quickly deflate with the afterthought: “Oh yeah. Now the Russians do that. We don’t.” There will always be a punchline, an asterisk, an anti-climactic stain at the end of the story.

Rand says: "Hey, lady? News flash. That was the Bush administration policy."

Exhibit 2: Fox News:

Until American companies come to market with commercial rockets and launch vehicles to replace the shuttle, the only nation ever to put a man on the Moon won't even be able to put a man into orbit. And that, experts tell FoxNews.com, has the potential to be a "tragic mistake," one that could hold America's astronauts in orbit hostage to the whims of the Kremlin.

Which is of course would be the result if Obama did not cancel Constellation. As it is, the gap is going to be reduced, when Griffin's program resulted in the gap growing.

Fox also sees fit to give a hearing to people like congressional pokemeisters and heavy-lift fetishists:

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and others have proposed extending the shuttle's life beyond the last three flights scheduled this year. Hutchison wants the shuttle extended two years while NASA develops a new heavy-lift rocket replacement.

And they saved plain bullshitters for the last paragraph:

Lord Monckton believes the Obama plan will be harmful to U.S. defense interests as well, since the U.S. launch capability is now quite limited. "The administration's change of policy in space was calculated to do maximal damage to the defense interests of the U.S., and without even yielding a financial saving," Monckton told FoxNews.com.

Just how gullible does he think we are? Neither Shuttle nor Ares were going to launch any national security payloads. In fact, forcing NASA to use EELVs would make EELVs cheaper due to better flight rate; perhaps removing the mulled downselect to one, which would actually make U.S. launch capability more limited.

Un-freaking-believeable. But, back to Republicans...

Exhibit 3: Investors Business Daily:

Let's forget that the next men, or women, to walk on the moon will likely be Chinese.

It would be very scary if not for one fact: the old program that Obama cancelled was not going to get us to the Moon. Materials of the Augustine commission made it very plain. Everyone is pretending as if Constellation workded and only needed a little more money. It was not working and was not going to work without an injection of another 80 BILLIONS. And maybe not even then.

By moving commericial, Obama makes manned lunar exploration more likely to happen, not less.

Speaking of jobs, the cancellation of Constellation could lead to thousands of layoffs at some of America's biggest aerospace contractors, including Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

Are we supposed to cry about that? I mean, seriously... If these people are worth anything, they'll find jobs with Orbital and SpaceX. If not, well, let them work on something useful for a change.

Honestly, I expected more from IBD. But in the end they were no better than Fox. Good to know. Although, they did not bash the enterpreneurial space companies at least, so maybe they are fractionally better.

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April 11, 2010

Jim Muncy's remarks at Space Access 10

From Hobbyspace (under Space Transport News), remarks by Jim Muncy:

- Life long Republican but endorsed Hillary Clinton who had the best space policy. Obama has run with it.
- How crazy it is for President Obama to privatize space launch while Republicans are attacking it.
- Republicans support capitalism within the atmosphere but not above it.
- Most solid and profound set of space policy changes.
- Incredible change here.
- Should take more credit for it.
- Some have told him that we lost the Moon - but we gained the Solar System.
- We were never going to get there with Constellation.
- Can't believe it when people say it is the end of US human spaceflight.
- Abandoning Cold War program that is only for govt.
- Now space is for all of us.
- Amazed that all the members of the Augustine panel agreed that expanding humans into the solar system was the purpose of the human spaceflight program.

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February 26, 2010

Burt Rutan on NASA, bis

Poor Burt was spun by the MSM as it often happens, so he attempted to fight back with an open letter. The Burt vs. Paparazzi angle to this story was widely reported, but I would like to concentrate on actual point he is trying to make wrt the now-being-cancelled Constellation (via Flight Global):

In short, it is a good idea indeed for the commercial community to compete to re-supply the ISS and to bring about space access for the public to enjoy. I applaud the efforts of SpaceX, Virgin and Orbital in that regard and feel these activities should have been done at least two decades ago. However, I do not see the commercial companies taking Americans to Mars or to the moons of Saturn within my lifetime and I doubt if they will take the true Research risks (technical and financial) to fly new concepts that have low confidence of return on investment. Even NASA, regarded as our prime Research agency has not recently shown a willingness to fly true Research concepts.

For years I have stated that a NASA return-to-moon effort must include true Research content, i.e. testing new concepts needed to enable forefront Exploration beyond the moon. The current Ares/Orion does not do that. While I have been critical of Constellation for that reason, I do not think that NASA should 'give up' on manned spaceflight, just that they should be doing it while meeting the 1) or 2) criteria above.

The way Griffin toys ate the rest of NASA was perhaps not widely enough reported (e.g. the closure of NIAC).

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February 25, 2010

John Carmack on Obama's plan for NASA

An article in an unusual place says things with which I find it difficult to disagree, like so:

For years now, whenever a reporter asked me what I thought about returning to the moon with the country’s existing Constellation technology, I said something along the lines of “It’s like watching a slow motion train wreck. It isn’t going to end well.”

I have an excellent working relationship with the parts of NASA that my company deals with, but honestly, I thought the program was going to drag on for another half decade and piss away several more tens of billions of dollars before being re-scoped due to failure to deliver.

This is a rather important point. NASA fanboys (e.g. Mike Pinto) like to pretend that it was only a question of funding. But in fact NASA demonstrated its impotency, which was impossible to fix with money. A structural reform was needed.

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at 04:31 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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February 16, 2010

I correct NYT

Quoting New York Times:

Much of the launching pad seems like it was assembled during a scavenger hunt. A 125,000-gallon liquid oxygen tank from the Apollo era was bought for $86,000 — the price of scrap metal — and refurbished. SpaceX bought some rusty railroad cars that NASA had used to transport hydrogen and refurbished those, too.

Why would SpaceX store and transport carloads of hydrogen, if their hydrogen stage is 3 years away from flight, if that?

The answer is, Mr. Kenneth Chang confused hydrogen and helium, and the vaunted layers of editors and fact-checkers missed it.

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at 10:21 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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February 12, 2010

"You, Sir, are dealing in demagogy and faggotry"

Saw a brilliant argument for the HLV at NK forums today:

Вы занимаетесь демагогией и пидоризмом. Уж извините так оно и есть.
Двупуск пилотируемого корабля на Луну - Вы все видите. Мое ИМХО - так делать плохо. ПК должен лететь в однопуск.
Советую - вместо злобы подумайтео реальности.

In my approximate translation:

You, Sir are dealing in demagogy and faggotry. Sorry, but that's how it is.
Two-launch of a crewed spaceship to the Mooon, all known to you. My IMHO - it's a bad way. Crewed ship has to fly in one launch.
My suggestion to you - instead of nasty, think about the reality.

One would think this soft of language to be reserved for discussions of merits of feminism, Apple iPad, labor unions, or Brett Favre, not for pondering the tradeoffs between various lunar mission architectures. But hey, it's the Internet.

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at 10:27 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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