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NASA Space Politics

Can the Ares Program Be Salvaged? 245

Posted by timothy
from the classic-special-interest dept.
MarkWhittington writes "The Augustine Commission has not officially presented its findings to the White House, but already a push back is starting to occur over the possibility that the Ares 1 rocket will be canceled after three billion dollars and over four years of development. According to a story in the Orlando Sentinel contractors involved in the development of the Ares 1 have started a quiet but persistent public relations campaign to save the Ares 1, criticized in some quarters because of cost and technical problems."
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Can the Ares Program Be Salvaged?

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Should NASA be in the space launch business?

    • by NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @03:19PM (#29333993)

      Whether it should or not, it looks like we're definitely on track to make sure we never get into space on our own again.

      Oh wait, that wasn't the goal, was it?

      • by 0123456 (636235) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @03:24PM (#29334031)

        Oh wait, that wasn't the goal, was it?

        I always thought that the goal of Ares was to provide a method of finally killing the shuttle program: by promising a successor which would maintain the shuttle program jobs, they would have the political clout to close down the shuttle support manufacturing (external tanks, etc) to ensure that it couldn't fly past 2010 and then they would close down Ares once its job was done.

        • by jamstar7 (694492)

          Oh wait, that wasn't the goal, was it?

          I always thought that the goal of Ares was to provide a method of finally killing the shuttle program: by promising a successor which would maintain the shuttle program jobs, they would have the political clout to close down the shuttle support manufacturing (external tanks, etc) to ensure that it couldn't fly past 2010 and then they would close down Ares once its job was done.

          OK, so why am I getting the feeling that somebody, somewhere, is busy printing out their 'Mis

    • by dkf (304284) <donal.k.fellows@manchester.ac.uk> on Sunday September 06, 2009 @03:35PM (#29334105) Homepage

      Should NASA be in the space launch business?

      On the basis of the stories coming out, I suspect NASA shouldn't even be in the rowing-boat launch business. Don't get me wrong. They do amazing things with the things they put up there, but they just seem unable to get a grip of launch costs. So it should be someone else's job, someone else (or even many someones) who can keep costs down so that NASA money can be spent on the bits that really inspire everyone.

      • by Planesdragon (210349) <slashdot@@@castlesteelstone...us> on Sunday September 06, 2009 @04:40PM (#29334533) Homepage Journal

        So it should be someone else's job, someone else (or even many someones) who can keep costs down

        Whenever you see cost overruns, you're seeing "someone else" running the price up.

        Government can be amazingly effecient -- if you can cut through "procurement" and "government contractgors."

        • What you really need is multiple vendors competing. Right now launching heavy cargoes into space is an oligopol of a few government organizations. AFAIK only NASA, ESA and the Russian FKA have high capacity launching systems at the moment.

          Companies like Space-X are entering the market, but their Falcon 9 hasn't flown yet and might need a few more years if it can take commercial payloads.

    • by damburger (981828) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @05:35PM (#29334899)
      Yes, they should. They've achieved great things whilst privately funded space flight has mostly floundered. Take your libertarian bullshit to the conspiracy nuts, because it only makes sense if the moon landings never happened.
  • by ShooterNeo (555040) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @03:18PM (#29333981)
    Yes, 3 billion dollars of taxpayer money has been blown. However, the decision to make is : will the gains from FUTURE spending exceed FUTURE costs? We don't factor in the 3 billion already spent in this decision. Alas, it's impossible to quantify gains since a few moon rocks and some pretty pictures don't have a readily assignable value. I'd say no, because I think the 20 billion or whatever a working Ares rocket line would cost could be better spent on other areas of space exploration. 20 billion would pay for a lot of unmanned missions, or could be used to develop a cheaper way to get to orbit (such as lasers or an EM accelerator or something)
    • by QuoteMstr (55051) <dan.colascione@gmail.com> on Sunday September 06, 2009 @03:23PM (#29334017)

      Or a launch loop [wikipedia.org], which is a practical alternative to a space elevator that doesn't require exotic materials. Not that it'll happen in this "no we can't do it, think of the {amoebas,corporations,children}!" age.

      • by QuoteMstr (55051) <dan.colascione@gmail.com> on Sunday September 06, 2009 @03:25PM (#29334045)

        Oh, and I hate to reply to myself, but from the article:

        Lofstrom estimates that an initial loop costing roughly $10 billion with a 1 year payback could launch 40,000 metric tons per year, and cut launch costs to $300/kg, or for $30 billion, with a larger power generation capacity, the loop would be capable of launching 6 million metric tons per year, and given a 5 year payback period, the costs for accessing space with a launch loop could be as low as $3/kg.

        • by lordholm (649770) on Monday September 07, 2009 @01:05AM (#29337383) Homepage

          So, you mean that this thing, which would reach an altitude of 80 km, be 2000 km long, effectively being the largest human built construct on the planet (save for the wall of china perhaps), would only cost a mere $10 billion. Contrast this to the construction of one of the worlds largest suspension bridges the sound bridge between Malmà and Copenhagen. This bridge which is about 7 km in total length costed around $6 billion to build in an area where there where infrastructure enough to support the project, and where they where using well known engineering principles and techniques.

          So, building a 285 times large constructs (not adjusted for it going up as well), based on unproven methods, in a remote area of the world with little infrastructure, probably infested with malaria, is of course very likely to cost only a mere 40% more than that bridge.

          Seriously, that sounds really ridiculous.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by quenda (644621)

            effectively being the largest human built construct on the planet (save for the wall of china perhaps)

            The Great Wall is long since in ruins and pales in comparison to the Great Rabbit-Proof Fence of Australia, which I'm told is visible from the moon, after a few Fosters.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabbit_proof_fence [wikipedia.org]

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Oil pipelines, highways and ocean cables are >2000km in length and a lot of them are far more "massive". Sometimes we forget what we are prepared to do (and have done) just to drive a car or burn a ton of oil for power when we consider these sorts of things.
      • Or a launch loop [wikipedia.org], which is a practical alternative to a space elevator

        The wiki article does not say launch loops are practical, but it does include a Difficulties of launch loops [wikipedia.org] as well as "Competing and similar designs" section.

        All the same, thanks for the link. I hadn't heard of launch loops before, at least that I can recall.

        Falcon

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Thaelon (250687)

        You have a strange definition of practical if it includes a 2000km maglev track that's 80km in the air.

        • by QuoteMstr (55051)

          You have a strange definition of practical if it includes a 2000km maglev track that's 80km in the air.

          Obviously, it'd be a massive undertaking, but it's practical in that we know how to build the thing with known materials. Space elevators, on the other hand, require exotic substances we simply don't have right now.

    • by negRo_slim (636783) <mils_oRgen@hotmail.com> on Sunday September 06, 2009 @03:26PM (#29334049)

      Yes, 3 billion dollars of taxpayer money has been blown.

      So we are going to bicker over 3 billion? Seems to me could recoup the loss by, oh I don't know, cutting 3 billion from defense spending? Seems to me a lot of things could get done by diverting money from Defense.

      • Yes.

        Seems to me could recoup the loss by, oh I don't know, cutting 3 billion from defense spending? Seems to me a lot of things could get done by diverting money from Defense.

        Agreed. But this should be done anyway. By no means am I religious but I do believe in turning weapons into plows. Even more, I believe workers should be able to keep the money they work to earn and not have some government bureaucrat or politician demand people give it to them. Especially at the point of a gun.

        At least government

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by QuoteMstr (55051)

          Not this libertarian garbage again. So it's okay for a corporation to tread upon workers, pay them less than a living wage, force them to work long hours, and conspire to drive up prices for the goods they need, but heaven forbid the government get involved and regulate?

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by 0123456 (636235)

            So it's okay for a corporation to tread upon workers, pay them less than a living wage, force them to work long hours, and conspire to drive up prices for the goods they need, but heaven forbid the government get involved and regulate?

            If employees aren't worth 'a living wage' -- whatever that might mean -- then if 'the government get involved and regulate', the company will just shift the jobs abroad to wherever the cheap workers are.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by QuoteMstr (55051)

              So we're doomed to a race to the bottom? Capital must be free to move across borders? We can't possibly raise our standard of living above that of the shittiest shithole nation in the world, because companies will just move there? We couldn't possibly use things like regulations and tarrifs to ensure that companies can't outsource everything?

              Fuck you. You start with your desired outcome and come up with premises to support it. You're being intellectually dishonest.

              • by shentino (1139071)

                We're doomed to a race to the bottom because no amount of government regulation is going to stop corporations from doing everything they can to minimize costs, which incidentally implies paying their workers as little as possible.

                One may as well try to hold back water with a sieve.

                • by QuoteMstr (55051) <dan.colascione@gmail.com> on Sunday September 06, 2009 @05:24PM (#29334825)

                  We're doomed to a race to the bottom because no amount of government regulation is going to stop corporations from doing everything they can to minimize costs, which incidentally implies paying their workers as little as possible.

                  No. There are plenty of things we can do to stop it:

                  • Minimum wage
                  • Progressive income taxes
                  • Taxing capital gains as income
                  • Strong unions for collective bargaining
                  • Laws against unlawful termination
                  • Tariffs against nations with poor labor laws

                  Or are you just presupposing that there's nothing we can do, and moving from that assertion to the idea that even trying is wrong?

                  These things worked here for 50 years, and they still work in Western Europe. What the hell is wrong with you when you argue against policies that benefit your own economic and social interests?

                  • race to the bottom (Score:3, Informative)

                    by falconwolf (725481)

                    No. There are plenty of things we can do to stop it:

                    * Minimum wage

                    Minimum wages reduces demand for employees. I know when minimum wages go up small business owners may either have to fire employees or go out of business, both of which reduces demand for employees are therefore lowers wages.

                    Progressive income taxes

                    Why should I work my ass off to make more money, and increase demand for employees, if I have to pay more taxes on what I make? That's robbing Peter to pay Paul.

                    Taxing capital gains as income

                  • .. you do realize that each one of those listed items is itself an increased cost to the corporation which buttresses the argument you're trying to oppose? and if you're going to artificially inflate the costs to that corporation in this country.. they'll go elsewhere. check what's happening in corporate america today as some validation.

                    I was at the IBM location in Charlotte, NC this past week for a workshop. I was there ~3-4 years ago.. they have a nice-sized campus of a number of buildings on the north si

            • If employees aren't worth 'a living wage'

              Employees are. But the specific work they're doing probably isn't.

              We need a $0 minimum wage, along with a real reverse-taxation welfare system. Let teh workers withhold work without starving, and you'll suddenly see the real market value of labor.

          • by bencoder (1197139)
            as long as the worker chose the work voluntarily and is therefore free to quit, Yes.

            Do you have a problem with personal choice?

            Or do you just believe that only you and people like you are capable of making the right choices, and should therefore force those choices on others?
            • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

              by QuoteMstr (55051)

              There is no choice when there's a great power asymmetry between labor and capital. Unions would be a great remedy, but you libertarian fuckwads are opposed to those too for some unfathomable reason.

              • There is no choice when there's a great power asymmetry between labor and capital. Unions would be a great remedy,.

                Actually the great equalizer is the ability of common people to buy and sell stocks and bonds, with greater utilization of 401K retirement programs the fate of the common worker is increasing tied to the very corporations you ascribe the power asymmetry too.

                • by QuoteMstr (55051)

                  401K accounts and their ilk are cruel. Regular people don't have the knowledge to properly invest and hedge against market failures, and don't have the time to learn how to do so. And we shouldn't expect them to: life is not about finance. Furthermore, 401k users are at the mercy of the market. If someone happens to retire during a bear market, then through no fault of his own, his standard of living is much reduced versus someone who has the good fortune to retire into a bull market.

                  Old-fashioned pensions

        • I do believe in turning weapons into plows.

          Yes, a GBU-28 [wikipedia.org] would make a hell-of-a plow... :-)

        • by hitmark (640295)

          i would say that a lot of issues goes away ones one look at what money is supposed to represent...

      • We have been. If you look at this graph [wikipedia.org], you will see defense spending has been dropping regularly since the 50s. Wartime has tended to push it up, but other than that it's gone down. That's a large part of how Clinton managed to balance the budget (notice defense spending went down during his term despite fighting a war in the Balkans at the same time).

        Defense spending has been largely replaced with entitlement spending, mainly medicare/medicaid and social security (as you can see in (this chart [wikipedia.org]; I cou
      • Or we can stick with the constitution and cut from, I dunno, Social services spending (the other 40% of wasted tax money that isnt part of the governments constitutional mandate).

        I mean, look at how much good social security has done for us. Dont believe me, ride into the projects of Los Angeles or Washington DC. Those people have greately benefited from the benevolent government teet.

        Yeah, f' the military. What has THAT ever done for us? I mean, the internet is over rated and Japan and German are much supe

    • by Anonymous Coward

      However, if the billions spent on every cancelled shuttle replacement had gone towards a real project, we would *actually have something*. Following your logic (and that of many politicians), we have spent billions upon billions and have fuck all to show for it.

      Meanwhile, the smart money is on China to carry on the banner of human space exploration. They don't suffer from political paralysis.

      I don't so much care if we do it, or not do it, but today we have the worst of both worlds. We spend the money but

      • by tftp (111690)

        Let's make up our damn minds one way or the other already and stop waffling around for decades on end.

        You can't have this because you need a government that is continuous over decades. The USA has a government that is permanently in "trolling for votes" mode, and in that mode persistence and steady hand do not pay if the results of today's investments will be visible only 10 or 20 years from now. A President would go down like a lead balloon once the opposition explains to voters that he took $10B of the

    • by shentino (1139071)

      While sunk costs are often fallacious to consider by themselves, they often do serve as a good heuristic to predicting future costs.

      And sometimes, taking into account sunk costs is the only way to realize it will never fly, much like looking back on all you're losses may be the only way you'll ever realize that you've been had by a 419 scammer.

      • Agreed. SpaceX could probably have built at least ONE fcking prototype rocket ship for 3 billion dollars. They spend a few hundred million for their first successful launch. Instead we've got dick for all that money. Even if SpaceX couldn't have finished a mega heavy lift booster, I bet they could have flown a modular part of a larger design for 3 billion bucks.
  • Wrong Question (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WindBourne (631190) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @03:22PM (#29334009) Journal
    The question should be SHOULD Ares I be rescued? Honestly, I do not think so. It always struck me as a waste since other rockets of similar size were available. That bring us to Ares V. Should it be? I honestly do not know. I know that USA needs multiple types of launchers and they need them to be low costs. I would very much like to see an Ares V or a Direct 2** be in the mix. Which is better? I am not sure. Personally, I have to give the nudge to Direct since it uses far far more of the current launch human-rated equipment. There is a lot to say for that. In the end, I am much more concerned that we will not do the right thing WRT to private space. I have aborted that several times. This time, we need to get it started AND give them an ALTERNATIVE destination; Basically, we need to get Bigelow building his Space Station. Also we need tugs combined with a fuel depot to haul things around. While it is nice to say that this is about NASA, but it really is not. It is about Obama and Congress allocating say 1.5B, 1B, and then .5B for the next 3 years and sticking with it. Will they do it? Tough question to answer
    • Re:Wrong Question (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jpmorgan (517966) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @03:42PM (#29334139) Homepage
      You can certainly argue that Ares I should be replaced by man-rating commercial boosters. Some would argue that it's cheaper to engineer a man-rated rocket from scratch than go back and redesign an existing one, but it's a complex issue that I certainly am not qualified to weigh in on. But that's something that requies a great deal of knowledge of aerospace engineering and the projects themselves to determine. On the other hand, Ares V, as intended, will have significantly higher payload capacity than any other other rocket around. Bigger than Saturn V. So the debate about replacing Ares V with something COTS is moot... there IS nothing COTS that will fill its role. It is about Obama and Congress allocating say 1.5B, 1B, and then .5B for the next 3 years and sticking with it. Will they do it? Tough question to answer Honestly, if congress just allocated some money and threw it at NASA with a 'go build X' mandate, that'd be perfect. The problem with NASA is congressional micromanagement. For example, Congress banned NASA from spending any money on development of VASIMR propulsion, or inflatable space habitats, both of which are key pieces of technology that should be a backbone future space development. But nope, no money, because of some special interest in some congresscritter's district somewhere, that has a vested interest in NASA using an inferior piece of technology.
      • Re:Wrong Question (Score:4, Insightful)

        by 0123456 (636235) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @04:08PM (#29334311)

        Some would argue that it's cheaper to engineer a man-rated rocket from scratch than go back and redesign an existing one, but it's a complex issue that I certainly am not qualified to weigh in on.

        The whole 'man-rating' concept is really bogus: the shuttle couldn't be called 'man-rated' in any real sense when it kills its crew one flight in fifty.

        The primary difference between manned and unmanned launchers is aborts and engine-out capability; if you're launching a bunch of humans and you lose a couple of engines but can still achieve a low orbit, that's preferable to having to make a risky abort. If you're launching a satellite and can only put it into a low orbit where it won't stay up for long, you're better off just dropping it into the ocean.

        So yes, you'd want to ensure that aborts could be handled safely at any point in the flight, and add extra capability to handle engine-out failures which where the unmanned launch would be better off to just crash and burn. But those are relatively minor issues... you may lose some payload from flying a non-ideal trajectory, and you'll add some cost and perhaps some mass to improve engine-out capability; but those kind of changes hardly register when compared to NASA's record of spending billions of dollars and several years to achieve... nothing.

        On the other hand, Ares V, as intended, will have significantly higher payload capacity than any other other rocket around. Bigger than Saturn V. So the debate about replacing Ares V with something COTS is moot... there IS nothing COTS that will fill its role.

        Which leads to the obvious question: 'so what?'

        What will Ares V achieve which will be worth its development and flight cost? Do we really need to build a huge launcher which will fly maybe once a year if we can launch the same payload on four or five flights of a smaller launcher which will see the cost-benefits of mass production?

        I'm willing to be convinced that NASA really _need_ a huge, expensive launcher of their own, but I've seen no evidence so far that it will prove cheaper than buying launches elsewhere.

        But nope, no money, because of some special interest in some congresscritter's district somewhere, that has a vested interest in NASA using an inferior piece of technology.

        That, though, I could somewhat agree with... but I think you put too much blame on Congress and too little on NASA 'not invented here' syndrome (c.f. the Delta X).

        • The whole 'man-rating' concept is really bogus: the shuttle couldn't be called 'man-rated' in any real sense when it kills its crew one flight in fifty.

          Only those who would be on board can make the decision on whether something is "man rated". And a number of astronauts have answered "Yes" even after the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster [wikipedia.org]. Some 15 years later they were still saying "yes" after the Space Shuttle Columbia [wikipedia.org] accident. As Morgan Freeman's character in "Chain Reaction" [imdb.com] says in testimony before a

    • It is about Obama and Congress allocating say 1.5B, 1B, and then .5B for the next 3 years and sticking with it. Will they do it? Tough question to answer

      It is the wrong question. As for your post I'd ask if congress should pay for it, with tax payer money? And the answer is "NO!!!" Before this statement of yours you gave the right answer. Bigelow, Richard Branson, and other space entrepreneurs should be able to keep their money so they can invest in space programs.

      Falcon

      • There is paying for things and then there is incentives. There is a STRONG difference. COTs is about INCENTIVES. What I am suggesting is that we do several things :
        1. Provide more incentives for Human rated launch vehicles. Not Ares V/Direct 2**, but getting a few more private human launch. I would really like to see Northrup push SS3 along quickly.
        2. We need a several other place for private space to go to besides NASA and DOD. We need to get Bigelow started. I think that we should buy a sundancer and BA-33
        • There is paying for things and then there is incentives. There is a STRONG difference.

          If your [slashdot.org] "It is about Obama and Congress allocating say 1.5B, 1B, and then .5B for the next 3 years" isn't paying for things then what is it? Where is that money they are allocating coming from?

          We need a several other place for private space to go to besides NASA and DOD. We need to get Bigelow started.

          Which is what I said.

          The money that I am suggesting is NOT to pay for the build-out, but the intial contracts. All of thes

  • by macraig (621737)

    Another case of mis-framing: the question to ask is not "can the Ares program be salvaged?" but rather "should the Ares program be salvaged?" That's what the Augustine Commission is intending to decide, right? Perhaps the Commission should be sequestered like a jury, to keep it from being unduly influenced by these nervous contractors afraid they're about to be kicked from the back of the gravy train?

    • by jpmorgan (517966) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @03:49PM (#29334201) Homepage
      No, the question is 'will the Ares program be salvaged.' The answer is 'yes.' Now, I'm not saying that Ares I should be killed... or that it should be saved. But if you try to kill it, all the congresscritters whose districts are going to get money out of Ares I (the SRB components are built by Thiokol, for example), won't let you. If the NASA tries to replace it with something else, Congress will step in and earmark part of NASA's budget specifically for Ares development. NASA has sucked since Apollo, since congress saw the awe and wonder that space exploration inspired and realised it would be a great, unkillable jobs program.

      Am I cynical? Yes. But NASA has been enormously hindered by congressional micromanagement over the years. And none of it has been for the benefit of the space program.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 06, 2009 @03:31PM (#29334077)

    Augustine's personal views on human spaceflight have been known since 1990:

    --
    In its original report, the [Augustine] committee ranked five space activities in order of priority:

          1. Space science
          2. Technology development
          3. Earth science
          4. Unmanned launch vehicle
          5. Human spaceflight
    --
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advisory_Committee_on_the_Future_of_the_United_States_Space_Program [wikipedia.org]

    http://blogs.chron.com/sciguy/archives/2009/05/does_the_choice_1.html [chron.com]

    • by QuantumG (50515) *

      haha.. If you'd watched even a single second of the committee meetings you'd know that Norm Augustine has no personal opinion on the matter anymore... except maybe the same one all of us have, confusion at what the hell NASA has been doing for that last 40 years.

  • by EMUPhysics (548039) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @03:43PM (#29334147)

    http://www.directlauncher.com/ [directlauncher.com]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Direct_Launch_Vehicle [wikipedia.org]

    The DIRECT system is a better option:
    1) Most of the hardware is man-rated; unlike Ares

    2) NASA does not have to retool manufacturing; unlike with Ares

    3)Can be ready sooner with heavy lifting as an option

    Why NASA is completely dug in on Ares is mind boggling. Orion, the capsule, is a go no matter what.

    Also, the contractors won't really be affected: ATK would still make the SRBs, Lockmart would still manufacture the capsule, and Boeing would get it's money from being part of United Space Allaince.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by vlm (69642)

      Why NASA is completely dug in on Ares is mind boggling.

      Also, the contractors won't really be affected: ATK would still make the SRBs

      Think about how those two quotes, apparently intended to be in opposition to each other, yet strangely similar.

      Senator Frank Moss has been out of office since before the first battlestar galactica series in the late 70s, and dead for six years. Its time to let the SRBs die, please. They've killed enough people.

      In a similar manner, why keep all the same contractors doing the same old, same old, if all that changes is the project name?

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Moss_(politician) [wikipedia.org]

      "Senator Helped Thiok

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by EMUPhysics (548039)

        The SRBs have been redesigned since Challenger which is why there hasn't been another accident related to the Solid Rockets Boosters. If you remove the SRBs then you will have to design a whole new engine, in the class of the Apollo era F-1s since each SRB puts out the equivalent thrust of almost TWO F-1 rocket engines each.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by 0123456 (636235)

          If you remove the SRBs then you will have to design a whole new engine, in the class of the Apollo era F-1s since each SRB puts out the equivalent thrust of almost TWO F-1 rocket engines each.

          Or you could just buy RD-171s...

          • by Kartoffel (30238)

            No way we'd purchase foreign engines, though they are very nice ones.

            Instead, I'd restart the RS-84 program and use that for a first stage Ares I without thrust oscillations. For heavy lift, simply cluster a number of Ares I common cores, optionally recovering or even flying back the strap-ons for reuse.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by ozbird (127571)
              No way we'd purchase foreign engines, though they are very nice ones.

              Lockheed Martin already use the RD-180 engine on the Atlas III and V, so using the RD-171 makes a lot of sense - strapping astronauts to a solid rocket booster does not.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Kartoffel (30238)

          That would have been the RS-84. Killed in 2004 by Bush and friends. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Launch_Initiative [wikipedia.org]

          Part of the problem is that every new president to come along insists on throwing out the last 4-8 years' worth of work and starting over. NASA can't see any projects through without orders from the commander-in-chief and budget from congress.

          So remember that whatever Augustine says, it's merely a recommendation. The death of Constellation, if it comes, will be at the hands of Obama an

          • 8 years is enough. It is about the time they took to design and build Saturn V with all the trimmings for a lunar launch. So much for CAD, CAM, etc making design to manufacturing faster....
    • http://www.directlauncher.com/

      Looking at that page, I see one problem right away, it combines 2 roles in 1 launcher. If it is used to put people in space but doesn't carry a full load of cargo or it carries a full load but with no crew then there's waste. And what are the chances each launch with have a full load and a crew?

      Falcon

  • by TopSpin (753) *

    This was spelled out for you 15 months ago right here [slashdot.org] on Slashdot.

    There is no saving Ares. Not because there is anything wrong with Ares. The "technical problems" are trumped up exaggerations of the engineering challenges that have emerged and been overcome. The "cost overruns" are fictional; Augustine is "finding" dramatic cost overruns because that helps justify killing the project. The reason there is no saving Ares is that the US voted in people that despise manned space flight. They have "better"

    • by Graymalkin (13732) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @05:44PM (#29334949)

      The Ares I-X is a stunt at best and a sham at worst. The Ares I-X has a dummy fifth segment and a dummy payload attached meaning it's simply a Shuttle SRB with an inert payload attached. One of the major challenges with the Ares I is the fifth engine segment, it completely changes the dynamics of the rocket. The Ares I-X launch does nothing to test the Ares I design in anything resembling its actual flight configuration. It won't be until the Ares I-Y flight in 2013 that the five segment engine will actually be tested and even that won't be testing the J-2X engine. The whole Ares I stack won't be tested with the Orion 1 until at least 2014 and likely not until 2015.

      To say there's no problems with the Ares I is disingenuous. The thrust oscillation issues have theoretical fixes but until the Ares I-Y and Orion 1 flights there's still a lot of unknowns. The likely solution will be added dampening mass and stiffeners which will mean the Orion won't be able to launch with a full compliment. The Block 1A Orions will only be able to launch three astronauts to the ISS instead of the originally planned four. Because of launch pad changes needed for the Ares V the Ares I is only going to have a single civilian launch pad (LC-39B). This puts a hard limit on the number of Ares I launches that can be done in a year which increases the cost of each individual launch. Because of this the Block 1B (cargo only) Orion was canceled entirely.

      Having a low limit on the number of launches that can be made every year and the low payload mass make the Ares I almost entirely unsuitable for ISS missions. The per launch cost is derived from the cost of the actual launch vehicle and the infrastructure costs to run the manned spaceflight operations divided by the number of launches per year. The infrastructure/operations costs are the same (or similar) no matter how many launches are performed every year since you don't stop paying people in between launches. The more launches that happen the cheaper each individual one is since you're getting more payload out of every man-hour worked and thus the cost of a pound of payload decreases. The Ares I being limited to a single launch pad means at best you can get six launches a year if there's a 60 day turnaround for the pad and nothing ever goes wrong.

      The Ares I being unsuitable for ISS missions means it doesn't have anything it is good at until the Ares V is completed and lunar missions are ongoing. The Ares I doesn't have enough launch capability to launch an Orion with an experiment module/palette so it can't do Spacelab type missions. Orions could be launched for independent operations but with only three crew members each person would have to wear multiple hats which puts a lot of strain on individual astronauts and keeps their schedules booked. Such a configuration would also make for a cramped cabin since mission instruments would need to be packed in alongside the rest of their supplies. I'm sorry but the Ares I is a shitty rocket and a waste of time and money for NASA. It might be a different story if the Orion was smaller or the Ares I wouldn't kill the crew without vibration dampeners. As it stands however the Ares I is a boondoggle and the sooner we shitcan it the better. An EELV or DIRECT option would be far better not just for Orion missions but eventual Moon, NEO, and Mars missions.

    • We're just doing the necessary political push-ups to bury NASA's manned space flight capability.

      And what's wrong with businesses running manned space flights?

      Ares I-X has a launch date and is being erected right now [wikipedia.org]

      Ah but the wiki article on the Ares I-X [wikipedia.org] says this about it:

      • First stage: live, four-segment solid rocket RSRB
      • Second stage: dummy (future upper stage, J-2X motor)
      • Third stage: dummy (future instrument package)
      • Fourth stage: Orion Boilerplate with Launch Abort System (LAS)

      Two out of four stages ar

  • Aside from the predictions and suppositions I have yet to see evidence of the insurmountable problems of Ares I. No, it was not necessary to develop a new vehicle, but at this point why waste the effort to turn around. Just about every launch vehicle and spacecraft ever developed have had weight and payload problem during development, frankly the only thing that seems different about Ares is that the internet has made the whole development process much more visible. I hate to imagine what people would ha
    • by 0123456 (636235)

      Assuming the I-X mission next month is succesful I think any doubts about the actual workability of flying an SRB solo will be dead.

      Aside from the fact that 'Areas I-X' bears almost no resemblance to 'Ares I', anyway.

    • by MrKaos (858439)

      Aside from the predictions

      I really wanted to read your comment but please, some whitespace.

  • I thought Ares died?
  • by DrBuzzo (913503) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @04:20PM (#29334399) Homepage
    The Ares-V is worthwhile. It has a point. It's a new rocket that will introduce a new capability: a super heavy launch platform that has not existed since the Saturn-V was retired. The Ares-V will actually surpass the Saturn-V by quite a bit. This is needed to do things like sending manned missions to the moon and beyond. There are also many other things that such a heavy lift platform could do, like carry huge space telescopes or launch a major space station in one shot. (No years of problems and delayed missions like the ISS).

    The Ares-I, however, is a different story. They're building a new rocket from the ground up and at full cost that does nothing we can't do with the existing Delta or Atlas rockets. They're reinventing the wheel and even worse, it is an inherantly problematic design. There's a reason nobody has ever used a configuration anything like the Areas-I. It's top heavy, unstable, vibration prone. It's a pointless rocket and a bad one at that.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by QuantumG (50515) *

      You fail to mention that the two are part of an architecture that you can't justify one without the other. Kill Ares-I and Ares-V will follow.

      • They're not really two parts of the same architecture; they're two parts of the same project, namely Constellation.

        [car-metaphor]
        Imagine you're taking a trip across the country. You want to take everything you can with you, because you don't know anyone and you don't really want to pay for lodging. You need: a car to get you across the country and a trailer to pull your stuff in (tents, food, etc). The only requirement of the car is to be man rated. The only requirement of the trailer truck is to carry c
    • They're building a new rocket from the ground up and at full cost that does nothing we can't do with the existing Delta or Atlas rockets.

      Neither of those are man-rated. Could they be? I don't know. It is quite possible that the acceleration or vibrations are too strong.

  • Bush's rocket (Score:2, Insightful)

    by damburger (981828)

    The Obama administration might be swayed unduly by the 'can it' side of the argument because this rocket began development under a previous administration. There are engineering arguments pro and con (and, by the way, pretty much everyone on slashdot is not at all qualified to assess them) so they may fall back onto political reasons if they can't decided based on technical ones.

    NASA will, hopefully, go on though. Libertarians are idiotics, and space libertarians even more so.

    • by fermion (181285)
      Conservatives do often claim that liberals attack people while conservatives in their infinite goodness only attack policies. Therefore it is not surprising that some would say that Obama is expected to kill the program simply because they hate Bush.

      In fact, as has been mentioned, there are many reasons why the Ares program, and the some of the US space program objectives over the past five years make little sense. It is very arguable that sending humans to the moon and other planets is not really cost

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by cheesybagel (670288)
      Ares I is a turd. Ares I-X is an exercise in public relations. None of the components in Ares I-X is supposed to be used in Ares I. The first stage is a regular SRM with a dummy segment, and the entire second stage is a dummy. It looks pretty in pictures, but it cannot launch anything into orbit.
  • Ares IS Salvage (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DynaSoar (714234) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @06:21PM (#29335165) Journal

    When National Geographic wanted some space history background material, they contacted NASA' history office. NASA's history office sent National Geographic to http://www.astronautix.com/ [astronautix.com] I assume NASA sent NatGeo there due to its objectivity and completeness, because they sure didn't send them there for pro-NASA propaganda. This is a good example: http://www.astronautix.com/lvs/ares.htm [astronautix.com]

    Ares is a salvage project from its inception. It is an attempt to build a family of lifters from existing designs, technology and manufacturing as much as possible, with as little new design, technology and manufacturing as they can get away with.

    Ares was designed by ATK Thiokol, manufacturer of the shuttle's solid rocket boosters, using derivative components of the shuttle, and in the case of Ares 1, the solid rocket boosters as the main engine. It is far more adaptation than it is invention. This is in keeping with NASA's "faster, cheaper" mind set that served well in many planetary probes. But since it is not a ground-up design, where flaws are handled when they first occur, it is prone to problems emerging from more complex configurations, the errors themselves more often due to complex interactions. Vibration problems, such as the current Ares booster 'pogo-stick' problem, are a common example of such emergent behavior.

    One of NASA's greatest inventions during the early manned space program was systems analysis software, intended to examine a large system as it was built to determine where problems might and/or did occur. But even now, with far greater computational capability, the complexity of potential interactions due to starting with a large system that has been altered in numerous small ways from its original design puts the Ares designs beyond predictability. That will continue to occur as long as the design philosophy is maintained. If this fact, and the fact that such problems could emerge only under certain conditions -- say at max Q, pushing a heavy load with a smaller, lighter load on the top (ie. an Orion) -- isn't at the forefront of those minds trying to decide whether to scrap it and start over, it should be.

    Had the shuttle component and system design philosophy been based on extensibility and adaptability (such as with SpaceX's Falcon 1 -> Falcon 9 design), Ares might have a better chance. But the core design of Ares 1 is the SRB, which was designed over 35 years ago for one purpose -- to be strapped on the side of the shuttle to help with its initial lift phase. It did that job well, with its only major failure having been a NASA decision going counter to a Thiokol recommendation. Now we have Thiokol recommending and NASA deciding the same things.

    Robert Truax designed vehicles using surplus components. He designed so many, with so much acclaim for his designs, that there was a TV show based on it (Salvage 1, with Andy Griffith, ABC, 1979). But Truax was salvaging components to use in their intended fashion, not entire systems being adapted to entirely new designs.

    One has to wonder at the basis for decision making when an agency first builds from scratch, then declines designs reusing some of the parts, but later chooses to rebuild existing designs. The probability is great that the decision is not technical but rather administrative. When the decisions were technical we got "Not on my watch." and Apollo 13 got home. When the decisions became administrative we got "My God Thiokol, what do you want me to do, wait until April?" and the Challenger didn't come home. This is the sort of fuzzy, intuitive, gut-feeling stuff that gets trashed in serious discussions about such major projects as a space vehicle. But the people that trash that kind of thinking aren't going to fly these things. A pilot that doesn't have a personal example of an intuitive, gut-feeling decision that was right hasn't been flying long, and the older the pilot they more likely that following such a gut feeling

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