2010/01/13

An outline of the new space policy?

Space Politics

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An outline of the new space policy?

January 13, 2010 at 7:08 am · Filed under Congress, NASA, White House

Florida Today published today its interpretation of the new space stategy that the White House will unveil in the coming weeks. Here’s what the newspaper thinks the new strategy will contain:

  • An increase in NASA’s budget of at least $1 billion;
  • Extending the ISS through 2020;
  • No extension of the shuttle program (sorry, Congressman Posey)
  • Accelerated development of a “Saturn V-class rocket”
  • NASA-led “international expeditions into interplanetary space”

None of these are terribly surprising, but even if these are all correct there are many details left unanswered. How big of a budget increase will NASA get in 2011 and will is be sustained or grown, as the Augustine committee report suggested? What heavy-lift rocket will be developed? What’s the future of Ares 1? What support will there be for commercial options for crew transportation to low Earth orbit? What missions “beyond Earth orbit” are contemplated, and on what schedule?

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24 Comments »

  NASA Fan wrote @ January 13th, 2010 at 8:50 am

Some additional thoughts/etc.

* An increase in NASA’s budget of at least $1 billion;

To go towards what given the Cx as we knew it is kaput?; and Augustine’s recommendation for more money was targeted at putting your money where you mouth is in support of Cx as we knew it.

Will this go to climate change research missions? Will this go to developing experiments, etc. to utilize ISS now that it is flying till 2020?

* Extending the ISS through 2020;

What is the crew going to do? Where is the money going to come from the new ‘things’ that will fly in, and on the ISS?

Can’t we sell this thing to someone else?

* No extension of the shuttle program (sorry, Congressman Posey)

Good call. And it will be a sad day in America when the last Shuttle goes. I don’t think anyone reading this blog will see a human rated winged orbital vehicle, or single stage to orbit human vehicle, or something that expands on the capabilities of the STS in our life time.

* Accelerated development of a “Saturn V-class rocket”

Accelerated for what purpose? Sounds like a ‘keep MSFC open, and fast’ when Ares-1 gets the axe kind of program. And what and when is this new rocket supposed to fly? Will it be manned rated? Look for this to get chopped by Obama’s replacement in 2012 or 2016.

* NASA-led “international expeditions into interplanetary space”

This looks like a job for Orion. But what will Orion get launched on? International expeditions translation: Let’s spend about 5 years figuring out where to go, what each international partner can bring to the table, get their governments commitment, write all the MOU’s, …..this one will take some time..

  John Malkin wrote @ January 13th, 2010 at 10:21 am

Sometimes I think Florida Today just makes up this stuff. I’ll wait for the real announcement or a press release from a principle.

  CharlesTheSpaceGuy wrote @ January 13th, 2010 at 10:32 am

This is just idle speculation – as NASA Fan points out. There is just no good news right now. A 1 billion dollar budget increase will have little impact. Extending the ISS just gives us the chance to watch it go around, as we will have little access to bring new experiments up. And almost no way to bring anything back down. A heavy lift booster will take a decade to develop and has no destination, a comment which applies to the interplanetary space goal. So the strategy really only is a plan to ignore the situation. Sigh.

  Gary Miles wrote @ January 13th, 2010 at 11:13 am

Pretty much of what is in the article is old news and has been repeated several times. As usual no sources provided for story, so again little more than speculation, rumors, an innuendos.

  NelsonBridwell wrote @ January 13th, 2010 at 12:41 pm

The interesting part of making this proposal work will be the $$$ and the schedule.

Extending the ISS (I don’t think it should be scrapped) will cost $3 billion per year, which will require a further budget increase to not cut into the “accelerated” development of heavy lift.

And there is a limit to what throwing money around can do to pull forward engineering development schedules. It takes years to design and test new or upgraded hardware. Where time can be saved would be to provide the required budget to be able to work on different modules (heavy lift, landers, surface exploration and habitation modules…)

However, the biggest time saver will be to no longer have to wait in limbo for a redirection proposal from the White House.

  Marcel F. Williams wrote @ January 13th, 2010 at 1:32 pm

First, we don’t need humans to explore the solar system. Robots are a lot cheaper. We didn’t need humans to explore Jupiter and Saturn and its moons. So this would be another huge waste of tax payer dollars!

Since I also think the ISS is a huge waste of tax payer dollars, extending it would just continue wasting $2 billion a year. That $2 billion a year could be much better spent funding small Skylab like space stations that could be instantly deployed by heavy lift vehicles to a proper orbit for US manned space launches (both government and commercial) and to any of the Lagrange points (L1, L2, L4, & L5). That money could also be used to fund the development of simulated gravity space stations which are probably going to be needed if we ever want to set up permanent human operations in orbit around Mars.

What we currently don’t know about humans in space is:

1. Can humans remain healthy for a year or more under a simulated gravity environment

2. Can humans remain healthy for a year or more under a 1/6 lunar gravity environment

3. Can oxygen be efficiently extracted from lunar regolith or small asteroids

4. Can farm animals remain healthy and reproduce under a 1/6 gravity or under a simulated gravity environment

5. How much mass shielding derived from lunar regolith or from small asteriods is required to efficiently protect humans from galactic radiation and solar storms

6. How efficiently can agricultural crops be raised on the Moon or in a space station

If any new space program advocated by the president isn’t utilized to answer these fundamental questions, questions that really should have been answered a few decades ago, then it will be another huge waste of tax payer dollars, IMO!

The fundamental purpose of a manned space program should be to discover how well humans can survive and even prosper in extraterrestrial environments– not how much we can entertain the public with– scientifically wasteful– space spectaculars that could be done much more cheaply by robotic probes!

  Mark R. Whittington wrote @ January 13th, 2010 at 2:01 pm

None of this is new, though it has been suggested that this plan is running into opposition in Congress. In fact it is less of a plan than a concept, without a specific lists of destinations, a time table, and hardware to be developed.

  Robert G. Oler wrote @ January 13th, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Marcel F. Williams

with all due respect we need almost none of these.

UNLESS we get some inkling in the next four to five years that “space operations by humans” can come anywhere close to paying for itself…then there is almost no reason to keep flying humans in space.

The fundamental purpose of a crewed space program should be to discover how humans can do things in space which pay for them being in space. If that cannot be done, then there is no more business of humans being in space then there is humans living on the sea floor.

I think that those things can be done…but right now who cares if O2 can be extracted from the regolith or any of the other things you mention…OK you do…but who cares who is willing to pay for it.

You may not like ISS, I wish we had not built it…but it is there. If It cannot turn a profit, if it cannot justify humans in space…then for some period of time that is it…

Robert G. Oler

  Marcel F. Williams wrote @ January 13th, 2010 at 2:12 pm

@ Robert G. Oler

Unless you firmly believe that the Earth will never be inflicted with another global catastrophe either natural (asteroid impact, nearby super nova, etc.) or man made (thermal nuclear war or global pandemic) then there should be no reason to expand humans beyond our planet of evolutionary origin.

But I believe that humans live on an extremely fragile world. And it would be extremely foolish to put all of our eggs (literally) in this one basket called Earth!

  Robert G. Oler wrote @ January 13th, 2010 at 2:18 pm

As for the article…I guess it being cold in FL the folks at FLToday had to come up with something to write to keep them warm. None of this is new, all of this has been talked about endlessly…and almost none of it seems to take into account the current political “situation” which is almost on a daily basis redefining the balance of power in DC.

I disagree (oh surprise) with Mark Whittington that the plan is running into Congressional opposition (it isnt)…but what I think that the plan is running into is some discussion in the administration trying to figure out “post health care” (pass or not pass) how Obama’s political people try and get his administration back on track.

I would suggest that the outcome of the Senate election in MA is going to have a large affect on space policy. Not in specific but in general as the Obama administration tries to figure out what the message is from the election (probably “grim” for them) and where they go to try and blunt it. that entirety of effort will in my view wrap up space policy in some fashion.

My view right now is that only three things are assured.

1. the space station keeps flying and 2) there is some version of commercial lift for it. (I would expect that the latter is going to be accelerated.) and 3) the space shuttle is done.

as for the rest…to quote the character in The Wind and The Lion…”all is drifting on the wind”.

Robert G. Oler

  Robert G. Oler wrote @ January 13th, 2010 at 2:21 pm

Marcel F. Williams

anything is possible. But there are things that are the .1 percent fear and the things which are more 90 percent fear.

a .1 percent problem is AQ getting a nuclear weapon and putting it on a US city or the Earth being destroyed by a rogue asteriod.

they are all possible but they are all so remote as to not be something that serious policy makers fixate on everyday.

real problems…if we dont start making money in human spaceflight…there wont be any real reason to continue it as the economic situation keeps getting worse.

Robert G. Oler

  Mark R. Whittington wrote @ January 13th, 2010 at 3:05 pm

On the other hand, if Obama follows the pattern of the stimulus bill and health care reform, this may be all there is. Congress will be expected to hash out the details and if you think things are in chaos now, prepared for a wild ride.

  Marcel F. Williams wrote @ January 13th, 2010 at 3:15 pm

@ Robert G. Oler

50 years ago, it looked like communism in Russia might last forever. Now there is no communist Russian just as it was just 100 years ago. So no one has any idea of what the politics of the Earth will be 50 to 100 years from now.

50 to 100 years from now, a country like Pakistan might have thousands of nuclear weapons. Maybe they’ll have a fanatically religious leader who decides its time to– purify the Earth– in the name of god by launching all of those weapons (the ultimate suicide bomber). Betting on the good nature or rational thinking of other governments in a world of limited resources, crazy religions, and an ever growing global population, is a bad bet, IMO. We came close in 1962 and I wouldn’t be surprised again if we came close again in the political world of 2062.

  Anon2 wrote @ January 13th, 2010 at 3:19 pm

I am sure it will be a vision that will inspire and enlighten. That will give Americans pride in their historical leadership while reminding them we are part of a community of nations. One that will inspire the children while not breaking the budget. In short, a lot of fluff with no substance.

In short a pure Obama vision.

Oh well, it will only last until the next administration sends NASA in another new direction….

  mark valah wrote @ January 13th, 2010 at 4:42 pm

During Shtuttle operation of 30 years, roughly 1980-2010, NASA did a lot o paper studies and no new rocket. This is an entire generation of paper folks. The Bush initial space initiative required 4 flights per year to the Moon, later reduced to 2 flights per year. Simply achieving this rithm of operations would create an enormous pool of skills, technologies and experience in space logistics. Whereas unjustifiable by a direct profit, the indirect diffusion on technologies, materials and expertise in the horizontal industries could be calculated in the billions, in addition to the fact that assured access to space is a military strategic asset. However, as Marcel F. Williams wrote in a different thread, the current political system seems incapable to bite this bullet.

Mark Valah

  Ca_selenite wrote @ January 13th, 2010 at 5:23 pm

Canning STS makes sense, but else… NASA doesn’t need more money, NASA needs more spanking, more focus and less pork doling out pressure from the critters. That of course means cancelling Ares-1 and -5 ‘HLV”. And subcontracting EELVs and their derivatives (for which ULM and SpaceX should invest their money in)

Obviously HSF budget should in no form or manner encroach on the science budget, or we’ll lose not just HSF but everything space related.

But as’s been noted a new admin in say 2012 (perhaps repubs?) could enforce another plan… So, the ISS and the commercial industry seems to be the only solid anchor with external restraining unilateral US government action (a good think in this case I think) for passing and surviving through the US for political multi-presidential bruahahas, for HSF

  John Malkin wrote @ January 13th, 2010 at 5:39 pm

I just want to say one thing about robots. They are stupid, the amount of AI they use could fit in the brain of a mouse with room to spare. Robots (more like drones) are very useful but they are just unemotional machines. Humans are more careful with robots and take less chances for fear if the mission fails they will loose their job. Even at space station NASA is careful with humans but if you give an astronaut a chance, they will take risks in the name of exploration. One thing about the Apollo astronauts is they took risks: running low on air to get soil samples, running low on fuel to land close to target and coming home with a crippled ship. How many feature films have they made about real astronauts compared to Voyager, Viking, MER or another robot ship?

Humans love more than just science and robots just return science and pretty pictures. Everyone that goes up in orbit around earth say earth from space is indescribable and pictures don’t do it justice. Can you imagine a human mind with human eyes orbiting Jupiter? Pictures taken by that astronaut would capture the soul of Jupiter.

We will have problems on this planet whether we go to space or not. I think most of us are just pissed that a young child at school has move vision and will than anyone in political office. Everyone that reads this blog wants to explore the universe or watch someone else do it. Maybe I’m wrong and it’s just me.

  James SIlver wrote @ January 13th, 2010 at 7:27 pm

Everyone at JSC is just hoping, really praying, that Dragon comes through with launchable vehicles within a couple years. Its the only thing that the US has to maintain support for human space flight.

  Marcel F. Williams wrote @ January 13th, 2010 at 7:37 pm

If Obama cancels the shuttle program then NASA gets another $3 billion dollars a year to add to the Constellation’s current $3.4 billion a year budget. If he adds another $1 billion then the Constellation program funding goes up from $3.4 billion a year to $7.4 billion a year.

The Orion budget was scheduled to go up to nearly $2 billion a year starting in 2011. And Ares 1 is scheduled to go from about $1.5 billion this year up to over $2 billion a year starting next year.

We need the Orion– but we don’t need the Ares I or the 5 segment boosters right now. And even if you use them only for a HLV, they only gain you about 7 extra tonnes of mass to LEO. Its just not worth the investment right, IMO.

It would be better to use that Ares I money to develop the Jupiter core booster. Without the SRBs, the Jupiter core booster could replace the Ares 1 as a launch vehicle for the Orion. And with the regular 4-segment SRBs, the Jupiter could function as a heavy lift vehicle capable of placing over 70 tonnes into orbit or 100 tonnes of payload into orbit with an EDS stage.

If you include the cost of program integration and operations ($1.5 billion a year starting next year), that should leave almost $2 billion a year for EDS and Altair development, development programs that have been estimated to cost less than $7 billion in total. So $2 billion a year would be more than enough to develop the EDS and the Altair starting in 2011.

But if Obama decides to go the Ares 1 route, then there will probably be no extra money to develop the Altair or the EDS until Ares I and the HLV core stage is developed. And that would probably delay any beyond LEO journeys by 7 to 10 years after the Ares I is developed– if the president at that time decides to fund the Altair!

So, ironically, the Ares I looks like it may be the killer ap– that could actually kill America’s return to the Moon or delay it by nearly a decade!

  Robert G. Oler wrote @ January 13th, 2010 at 7:54 pm

Marcel F. Williams wrote @ January 13th, 2010 at 3:15 pm

50 to 100 years from now, a country like Pakistan might have thousands of nuclear weapons.

so what?

even if every doom scenario you can come up with were to come true, in 50 years we couldnt have moved enough “people” and infrastructure off the Earth to allow it to survive without the Earth.

Indeed absent some massive improvements in technology I dont see that there is a chance that in the next 100 or so years any “off world” settlement could survive the loss of earth.

But I really dont think that most of the “doom” scenarios you come up with have more then Dick Cheney’s “1 percent chance” of even remotly happening.

We spent 7 years or so under Cheney/Bush (grin) dealing with 1 percent solutions and look where it has gotten us. We really need to deal with things that are “likely” instead of pooping our energies away dealing with things that are “possible” but just barely.

Robert G. Oler

  Robert G. Oler wrote @ January 13th, 2010 at 7:57 pm

John Malkin wrote @ January 13th, 2010 at 5:39 pm
. Can you imagine a human mind with human eyes orbiting Jupiter?

No really reallly high radiation..

“Pictures taken by that astronaut would capture the soul of Jupiter.” and they would differ from Voyager or Galileo or whatever is next how?

Robert G. Oler

  Enon wrote @ January 13th, 2010 at 8:44 pm

Over the last 5 years, Constellation goals were very finite and achievable. They needed to define a sustainable architecture and provide the rationale for it. These were paper exercises, and they failed at them.

Technically, their real job was to get Orion flying. The goal was no more than about a year from now. Orion need not be a complicated vehicle, nor did it need to be as large and heavy as it is. If they were going to stick with the mission as they laid out five years ago, this had to be done.
The same management team failed to gt us any closer. Orion is still 7 to 9 years away.

The Florida newspaper left out the information leaked a couple weeks ago that development of the new vehicles will be taken away from exploration, which will be relegated to a technology development role, and moved to Space Operations that will lead development of the new vehicles and support facilities.

With that, substantial management adjustments need to be made in the Constellation Program.

Marcel Williams wrote that ‘we need Orion’.

No we don’t, at least not this Orion.

We would be better off with a fly-back human carrier. Dragon will come through with the ballistic transport and NASA should not be competing with industry. There is no need for high energy lunar or planetary returns if you do Flex Path correctly with vehicles that can be maintained in space and which cycle from earth orbit to other places and then return.

  mark valah wrote @ January 13th, 2010 at 9:02 pm

Marcel F. Williams wrote @ January 13th, 2010 at 7:37 pm

..”So, ironically, the Ares I looks like it may be the killer ap– that could actually kill America’s return to the Moon or delay it by nearly a decade!”

It seems that most of the leaks published after the Augustine Commission report was submitted to the WH indicate that Ares I may be scrapped. All heavy lift alternative architectures are bassed on SSME’s used as expendable booster engines because the SSME’s are ready and human rated. Except they are expensive. The other alternative is to man-rate the RS-68’s, but this approached has not been recommended by the report. The Direct architecture approach has the advantage of reducing the gap as well. Nevertheless, one should watch for Falcon-9 launch, if successful, it will chage the game to a certain extent.

  Robert G. Oler wrote @ January 13th, 2010 at 10:09 pm

Whittington of course might be correct. (as the noted talk show host says “Mort you might have stumbled into the truth” …I guess Mort hasnt been on JM’s show for a bit…) sorry couldnt resist.

Until he mentioned it, it had not struck me that Obama and his political shop with his Presidency deteriorating might continue on the same route…ie very vague and not so good “leadership”. Letting the Congress waltz into the areana.

But given health care, the stim bill and to some extent the management of the TARP…that has to be considered.

In that case it strikes me that the shuttle still ends and the only sure winner is commercial access to ISS.

And the US is in a lot of trouble because of the general situation…more then it is now

Robert G. Oler

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