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NASA Science

NASA and Space Station Alliance On Shaky Ground 73

Posted by samzenpus
from the in-space-nobody-can-hear-you-disagree dept.
coondoggie writes "Even as the latest shift of astronauts arrived at the International Space Station, challenges with the orbital outpost on the ground are threatening its future. Those challenges include the pending retirement of the space shuttle but also the way NASA and the ISS are managed. A report issued this week by the Government Accountability Office said NASA faces several significant issues that may impede efforts to maximize utilization of all ISS research facilities."
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NASA and Space Station Alliance On Shaky Ground

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  • maybe don't link to the comments section of the article next time...

    • There's a tag for that. badlink
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by awyeah (70462) *

        Apparently there's a "baddoggie" tag for that as well. Learn something new every day.

  • by jpmorgan (517966) on Wednesday December 23, 2009 @09:23PM (#30540926) Homepage

    Well now that Obama is going to cancel Ares 1, the USA won't have any human spaceflight capacity until probably the 2020s (assuming the rest of Constellation isn't canceled before then too). That can't be helpful for the future of the space station.

    • by camperdave (969942) on Wednesday December 23, 2009 @10:01PM (#30541128) Journal
      The existing Atlas and Delta-IV will be able to lift the Orion module just fine. Not only that, but Space-X's Falcon/Dragon vehicle will be ready well before then.

      Of course, NASA always has the option of building an alternative launch system [directlauncher.com] for a lot less money than the ARES craft. The beauty is that all of the engines are already built and tested, and the J-130 can loft about 30-40 metric tons of payload (say, an MPLM [wikipedia.org] along with the Orion module.
      • by DerekLyons (302214) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (retawriaf)> on Wednesday December 23, 2009 @10:19PM (#30541220) Homepage

        Not only that, but Space-X's Falcon/Dragon vehicle will be ready well before then.

        Unless you are a time traveler, that's an opinion - not a fact.
         

        Of course, NASA always has the option of building an alternative launch system for a lot less money than the ARES craft.

        Assuming, of course, that DIRECT doesn't behave like pretty much any other large scale aerospace engineering project and end up cost well above estimates while performing well below predictions.

        • Assuming, of course, that DIRECT doesn't behave like pretty much any other large scale aerospace engineering project and end up cost well above estimates while performing well below predictions.

          It uses exactly the same engines as the space shuttle stack which can lift the shuttle (68.5 metric tons) plus it's cargo (24.4 metric tons) to Low Earth Orbit (92.9 mt total). It should be able to lift a 20-25 metric Orion module with no difficulty whatsoever (even if you hauled up a few metric tons of water as
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by DerekLyons (302214)

            Assuming, of course, that DIRECT doesn't behave like pretty much any other large scale aerospace engineering project and end up cost well above estimates while performing well below predictions.

            It uses exactly the same engines as the space shuttle stack

            In a world where a booster consists of only the engines, that would be a useful statement. We don't live in such a world.

            As far as development, the only difficult thing that needs developing is the avionics. Everything else is fairly simple (changing

      • by jpmorgan (517966)

        Ares 1 was almost done. To put people on top of a Delta-IV or Atlas requires man-rating them. Building a new launch system means throwing away years of engineering effort. If you want to start building Direct now, you have to consider all the work that's already gone into Ares in the cost. Is it still cheaper?

        • by 0123456 (636235) on Wednesday December 23, 2009 @10:56PM (#30541366)

          Ares 1 was almost done.

          That will be why it wasn't supposed to make its first flight to ISS until around 2016.

          To put people on top of a Delta-IV or Atlas requires man-rating them.

          The whole concept of 'man-rating' is mostly nonsense: if a rocket isn't safe enough to launch some spam in a can, it's not safe enough to launch a billion-dollar satellite. There are issues with using the Delta and Atlas, but they're relatively minor compared to building a whole new launcher: ensuring that the trajectory used always allows a safe abort, improving engine-out performance (where your satellite is toast anyway so you might as well crash and burn on an unmanned launch), etc.

          If you want to start building Direct now, you have to consider all the work that's already gone into Ares in the cost. Is it still cheaper?

          Yes. Because you only have to build one new launcher and not two.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by fotoguzzi (230256)
          Ares I is really not almost done, and the many redesigns of the Orion capsule to make up for Ares I's deficiencies have delayed the programme further. I believe (I may be wrong here) that the J-2X upper stage engine and not Orion is the "long pole" development item for Ares I.

          Even the number and type of engines has not been decided for Ares V, the supposed Batman to the Ares I Robin.

          By contrast, all the major pieces and launch infrastructure are available to make the NLS/DIRECT idea work if the decision
      • by QuantumG (50515) *

        Sigh, they both suck. Trading Ares for DIRECT is just as bad a deal because they both have horrible recurring costs.

      • by twosat (1414337)
        The Alas V is probably off the table for political reasons because of its Russian kerosene first stage engine, the RD-180. The proposed Atlas V Heavy is still a few years off with an extra RD-180 mounted on each side to act as boosters. The Delta IV Heavy is inefficient and costly because of its hydrogen engines made in the USA that are inefficient in the lower atmosphere. As well, it uses a lot of expensive helium gas to pressurize its tanks and to start its engines. Probably the only option that would n
    • by garyisabusyguy (732330) on Wednesday December 23, 2009 @10:02PM (#30541134)

      jpmorgan, you need to keep up on the news, good and bad

      "Reporting on a White House and NASA meeting last Wednesday, sources say that the President has decided to give NASA an additional $US1 billion in 2011. The extra funding will serve to create a new heavy lift rocket, as well as to increase the fleet of satellites controlling Earth’s land, oceans and atmosphere.
      The objective is to have the heavy rocket ready for a 2018 launch"
      http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2009/12/obama-gives-nasa-bigger-budget-backs-new-rocket-cancels-ares-1/ [gizmodo.com.au]

      Can't agree with tomhath either, looks like this administration is willing to invest in the future

      • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Wednesday December 23, 2009 @11:50PM (#30541616)

        "Reporting on a White House and NASA meeting last Wednesday, sources say that the President has decided to give NASA an additional $US1 billion in 2011. The extra funding will serve to create a new heavy lift rocket, as well as to increase the fleet of satellites controlling Earth's land, oceans and atmosphere.
        The objective is to have the heavy rocket ready for a 2018 launch"

        One billion a year extra isn't going to get a heavy lift rocket ready in nine years.

        Note also that that extra billion is the lowest rate of growth of any budget item so far. Most of them are getting 9-12% increases, this is closer to 6%....

      • by jpmorgan (517966)

        You need to keep up on the American political process. First, $1B is chump change when we're talking rocket development. But it's a moot point.

        Obama will ask congress for an additoinal $1B in funding to build a heavy lift rocket. Congress will, as expected, decline to spend that amount of money on such 'frivolities' when they're desperately trying to pay for an expanded health care system and repay $1T spent digging holes in the ground.

        I don't know why everybody is so shocked over this. Obama told everybody

      • $9 billion is barely enough to develop a new medium rocket, which might scale to heavy lift if using parallel staging with some more cash. But not super heavy lift.

        $9 billion buys you a new engine design and work on a 1st stage, plus integration work with an existing 2nd stage (such as Centaur). i.e. something like what SpaceX will have by H1 2010.

    • Well, if human spaceflight continues to consist of dicking around in earth orbit like a project Mercury SUV, it's not much of a loss.

      • by jpmorgan (517966)

        That was the point of the constellation project - to make it feasible to leave LEO. Constellation has now been thoroughly dismantled so who knows.

  • SpaceX to the rescue (Score:5, Interesting)

    by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Wednesday December 23, 2009 @09:34PM (#30540992) Homepage Journal

    Current estimates suggest they will lower the cost of cargo to the ISS from $46,000/kg to $20,000/kg. The Dragon capsule will serve as a lifeboat too, increasing the number of crew that can be permanently stationed at the station.

    • I wonder if America is ready to tolerate a vehicle with a 33% success rate, which is what Falcon 1 has. Talk about carnage. I laugh at how much stock you people put in the amatures at SpaceX.

      • by 0123456 (636235) on Wednesday December 23, 2009 @11:28PM (#30541492)

        I wonder if America is ready to tolerate a vehicle with a 33% success rate, which is what Falcon 1 has.

        If I remember correctly, Atlas had about a 75% failure rate before NASA stuck John Glenn on top, and I think the first Mercury/Atlas unmanned test flight exploded shortly after launch.

        Failures are expected during development, the question is whether you can fix the problems and move on (and sustain funding while you're debugging the system), which SpaceX appear to be doing.

      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        by QuantumG (50515) *

        1. You're not real good at math.
        2. You're a malcontent armchair retard.
        3. Neither cargo, no the life boat Dragon has anything to do with Falcon 1.
        4. You can't spell amateur.
        5. You don't seem to know what it means if you could spell it.
        6. Kindly fuck off.

          1. Falcon 1 has 1 success in 3 flights.
          2. Falcon 9 uses the same engines. Ergo, its reliability should be similar or worse.
          3. Unlike the lawyers at the whitehouse?
          4. Dragon's engineering may be even more uncertain than Falcon 1. You propose pinning America's future in space on the whims of a rich hobbiest.
          5. Spelling flames are a dullard's response to an air-tight argument.
          6. I am surprised you can count to 6!
          • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

            by QuantumG (50515) *

            You know my favourite part about Slashdot? Watching retards like you embarrass yourself. I *could* correct you on all your errors but it's just so much more fun to watch you repeat that same stupidity in post after post. People who know what they're talking about will read what you say and think "gee, what a blow hard loser" and people who don't know the difference will read my flames of you and jump on the bandwagon of hating you. It's win-win, and so much entertainment.

            • Wow! You are really torqued up. Why such a SpaceX fanboy? Of course you cannot refute anything I say. Yet you waste everyone's time and reply anyway. Who then is the loser?

  • GAO wins the "d'oh" prize for the most useless self-evidence statement of the year. Instead, they should have tried to figure out if the extra expense has led to better results. My guess is that the bang-for-bucks ratio for the sundry experiments in the ISS is very low -- except for the PR value. However, all this PR is important to keep the big experiment -- the ISS itself -- going, and that one is worth all the expense.
  • The first two points (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CompressedAir (682597) on Thursday December 24, 2009 @12:43AM (#30541784)

    The first two points in the article cancel each other out. To paraphrase, they are:

    1. It costs too much, so no one flies experiments, and
    2. There are too many experiments for the crew to handle.

    No one goes there anymore, it is too busy. -- Yogi Berra

    If the ISS is kept running for 5 years, we will get more out of the fifth year than we did the first year. If it is kept running 10 years, we will get more out of the 10th year than the 5th year. Launch cost will be dropping regardless of the fate of Ares, and as current research opens up new research the demand for space launch capabilities will increase. Remember, in the absolutely most boring future, the Russians could build a second Progress assembly line. The probable success of SpaceX just makes that better (notably in the "return of material" area.

    Now, is any of this worth it? That's more of a policy decision than a technical one. I think it is, half for the science and half for the global cooperation required. Remember, this International Space Station represents the efforts of 2/3 of the planet (land area-wise, heh, not population). When is the last time that has happened without there being a war in progress?

    • Here's a dumb idea for SpaceX.

      Have them start up by making trips to the ISS carrying odd shipments (like fancy meals and such) claiming them as training exercises. As NASA loses intrest in the ISS (the government right now is much more intrested in giving free medical insurance to Mexican Crack Whores than science), they can take over the routine stuff. Soon, the only way for the US to reach the ISS is through SpaceX. That pretty much gives them full control over it (with maybe some complaints by a bankrupt

  • ...like the giant albatross that it is. It serves no useful purpose but it's soaking up all of NASA's budget, budget that could be spent on more interesting/useful stuff like the Mars rovers.

  • Since I read this title and thought it was an Onion article about how the ISS crew was planning on attacking NASA... I for one welcome our new space-dwelling overlords!

Administration: An ingenious abstraction in politics, designed to receive the kicks and cuffs due to the premier or president. -- Ambrose Bierce

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