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NASA Buys 12 Seats On Soyuz

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  • by Pharmboy (216950) on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @09:01AM (#35490116) Journal

    Seriously, isn't this cheaper than we can do ourselves? Granted, we need our own program for national security and all that, but this still sounds cheaper than what we have been doing, with the Shuttle program.

    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by Stradenko (160417)

      In what way do manned space missions contribute to "national security?"

      • by click2005 (921437) *

        Its harder to launch secret spy satellites from other people's rockets.

        • by darjen (879890)

          In what way do secret spy satellites contribute to national security?

          • Re:Value? (Score:5, Funny)

            by Chrisq (894406) on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @09:31AM (#35490476)

            In what way do secret spy satellites contribute to national security?

            If I told you that I'd have to shoot you.

          • Oh, nothing at all, we are all living in a world of ice cream and unicorns.

        • by Hadlock (143607)

          The Air Force has a parallel launch facility in California designed for launching polar orbit satellites. You can't launch polar orbit rockets from Johnson Space center due to large population centers immediately north and south of the launch site. They launched some sort of spy satellite into polar orbit earlier this year in mid January. In theory they could retool the CA launch center for manned spaceflight inside of a year, since that's what it was originally designed for (up until 1994?).

          • by sconeu (64226)

            n theory they could retool the CA launch center for manned spaceflight inside of a year, since that's what it was originally designed for (up until 1994?

            1986. The first shuttle launch from Vandenberg was supposed to be in October 1986, but then Challenger happened, and they scrapped the idea.

      • Good place to set up lasers and kinetic bombardment platforms?

    • by Jhon (241832)

      I recall (and I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong) that it runs somewhere around $450-$550 million per shuttle mission.

      On the high end with a smallish crew (6 on the last mission), thats about $91 million per seat (assuming zero-cost for cargo).

      On the low-end with a larger crew (8 is on the high side), that's about $56 million per seat.

      Add cargo on that and this doesn't sound so cheap -- even on the high-end (assuming my numbers are correct).

      • by bberens (965711)
        I would assume our "seats" include at least some cargo space going back and forth from the ISS.
        • Re:Value? (Score:4, Funny)

          by malraid (592373) on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @09:26AM (#35490410)

          No, there's a fee per checked bag. Only carry-on satellites that can fit underneath the seat in front of you are allowed for safety reasons.

          • by H0p313ss (811249)

            No, there's a fee per checked bag. Only carry-on satellites that can fit underneath the seat in front of you are allowed for safety reasons.

            Don't you just hate it when your flight is full of Russians and they stick their satellites under the seat in front of YOU?

        • by Sporkinum (655143)

          From the article..
          "Under the contract modification, the Soyuz flights will carry limited cargo associated with crew transportation to and from the station, and assist with the disposal of trash. The cargo provided per Soyuz seat is approximately 110 pounds (50 kilograms) launched to the station, approximately 37 pounds (17 kilograms) returned to Earth and trash disposal of approximately 66 pounds (30 kilograms). "

      • http://www.answerbag.com/q_view/6356 [answerbag.com]

        Simple math - even back in 2004, the shuttle program had already cost $145 billion. So even if all the subsequent flights had been free, it would still have beenover $1 billion per mission.

        Part of this is due to the shuttle never achieving any of its design goals. It was supposed to have a rapid turn-around time (2 weeks), and a usable service life of between 100 and 125 flights per shuttle. The turn-around time obviously was never met, and obviously, the shuttles (

        • by Jhon (241832)

          I think that counts R&D -- as well as the cost of the Enterprise (which only flew 1 test mission but still ran about 1.2 billion to build) I was just calculating the "per mission" costs -- which I've since found can range from $400 million to $800 million (depending on cargo off setting the actual cost).

          • by tomhudson (43916)
            The R&D cost is a sunk cost, but it still has to be amortized over the number of launches. It wouldn't have been bad if the shuttle had met its' design specs (125 launches per vehicle, 8 vehicles in the fleet, with new ones added as the old ones are retired). Also, the $450 million that NASA claims is seriously outdated - the last flights involve a LOT of extra expenses because of aging parts that have to be re-qualified, etc. And NASA doesn't include many overhead expenses as line items directly att
        • by cusco (717999)
          That's what happens when you allow lawyers to design a spacecraft. NASA engineers told Congress "It will cost X-number of dollars to do this right." Congress said, "Do it with X-Y dollars." The engineers came back with a compromise at that price. Now the congresscritters said, "Do it with X-Y-Z dollars." The engineers came back with a different design. Now each congresscritter said, "OK, build this, but you need to manufacture the parts in **MY** district at the factory of **MY** political/financial b
    • Re:Value? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Xest (935314) on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @09:53AM (#35490834)

      The thing to bear in mind with this sort of calculation is the fact that when you pay overseas for such a thing then that's money straight out your economy, whilst if you in house then even if it costs a little more much of that will come back as income and corporate tax, as well as maintaining highly skilled engineers and perhaps in some sections of such a programme even fostering an export market for certain items which in itself leads to greater tax income.

      It's a similar point with military contracts- many in the UK criticise the expense of the Eurofighter programme for example, but ultimately when you factor in tax returns from workers, and factor in the export market it's not a terribly unreasonably priced project overall with added benefits of maintaining skillsets and avoiding independence on too many outside factors. Certainly we'd be far worse off economically and politically here in the UK had we chosen to simply buy in say the French Rafale, or a US or Russian alternative even if the initial price per plane was lower.

      • by socz (1057222)
        Wait, that makes too much sense for us here Mericans. Why don't you take your smarty pants snobby ideas back to yerope!
    • by Dunbal (464142) *

      Seriously, isn't this cheaper than we can do ourselves?

      Well it would be if America would have won the space race. But they declared victory half-way through and decided not to compete anymore. Soon the US will not even have a manned space program at all. Reminds me of a certain fairy tale involving turtles and hares...

    • by couchslug (175151)

      We don't need a manned program. Let others squander the money on space tourists while we grow remote-manned systems and actually explore space.

  • More like just a stitch under $63M, yes?

    Here's hoping Dragon rolls out smoothly...

  • rewind 40 years (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eobanb (823187) on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @09:06AM (#35490174) Homepage
    Around 1971, could anyone have imagined this is where we would be in 2011? Having no ships of our own and hitching rides from the Ruskies' spacecraft originally designed in the 1960s?
    • I was thinking something similar. I see it as quite a nice thing, it shows a real improvement in international relations, though I can imagine a lot of Americans (especially in "the South") being outraged or embarrassed.

      • by bberens (965711)
        I don't know that I'm embarrassed, but certainly disappointed. I'm not old enough to really have any hate for the Russians, but it really makes me sad that we're dismantling our country's ability to participate in one of the coolest things human beings do.
        • It's only temporary, sounds like NASA still have plans for their own platform in the future. And even if that didn't happen, why do you care in the end whether it happens in your own country or not? Especially in the context of something like space exploration, we should be focusing on humanity as a whole and not just individual countries. I can understand slightly being proud of your own country, but in the end it makes about as much sense as supporting sports teams.

          • by sorak (246725)

            It's only temporary, sounds like NASA still have plans for their own platform in the future. And even if that didn't happen, why do you care in the end whether it happens in your own country or not? Especially in the context of something like space exploration, we should be focusing on humanity as a whole and not just individual countries. I can understand slightly being proud of your own country, but in the end it makes about as much sense as supporting sports teams.

            I don't want to start telling my son "You can be anything, as long as you move to a less backward country [wikipedia.org], like Russia, China, India, Ecuador, Japan, Iran or Malaysia."

            (But FWIW, I can agree with most of your point)

          • by c6gunner (950153)

            It's only temporary, sounds like NASA still have plans for their own platform in the future

            Given the current state of the US economy, "temporary" seems like an overly-optimistic way to describe the situation. Good luck launching anything when the US dollar reaches parity with the Peso.

        • by gad_zuki! (70830)

          Progress costs downtime. Apollo ended in 1975 and the STS started in 1981. That's 6 years of downtime. Thats how you pay for these projects. You don't have funding to launch and build a new system.

          The "precious snowflake" generation should be able to handle some downtime in US launches just like the baby boomer generation before them. Making this out to be some huge discrepancy and unique event in US spaceflight is wrong and being overly dramatic.

          • by rwa2 (4391) *

            Word. The space shuttle program has basically been bleeding the rest of NASA's budgets dry, due to international contracts to deliver stuff to the ISS.

            And the ISS was basically created to give the space shuttle something to do.

            Now that the ISS is finally more or less complete, the shuttle's job is finished so it can now retire. And NASA is going to finally have a substantial budget to reallocate towards other cool stuff (assuming it doesn't get completely eviscerated for other things).

            And while it pains m

    • by gad_zuki! (70830)

      Could anyone in 1971 predicted the expensive and dangerous boondoggle that the STS turned out to be and how we held onto it for at least 10 more years than one can sanely justify? Or how the whole 'reusable' spacecraft didn't pan out economically? Or how a modular capsule design was, in the end, superior to a monolithic shuttle design?

      Or that private enterprise is building capsules and rockets for human spaceflight? Or how NASA's budget is a paltry 30 billion while our defense and war budgets along with our

    • by gad_zuki! (70830)

      Not to mention that the first shuttle launch was in 1981 and previous to that the last time the US was in space was in 1975. So that's 6 years of downtime. If those people can handle it then then we can certainly handle it now.

    • by Dzimas (547818)

      $752B is a pretty damn good deal. The shuttle program cost about $5B a year to run, and that was nearly all operational and maintenance costs -- the R&D work was done back in the 1970s and most of the engineers who developed the STS are retired or nearing retirement. It's a stellar (har) achievement from our parents' generation.

      Keeping shuttles flying is the equivalent of keeping the conglomerate's old COBOL accounting system limping along for a few more years. It works, but it's less than optimal and

    • by couchslug (175151)

      We don't NEED to put humans in space with any urgency. The 1960s space program was Cold War genital display, that is all.

      • No, but we NEED to learn how to live long term in space and how to colonize other worlds. We HAVE to find a way to sustain life beyond our biosphere.
  • I actually think this sort of cooperation is a good thing. The space race and Cold War have been over for a long time. It's about time we started acting like it.

    • by click2005 (921437) * on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @09:19AM (#35490324)

      Agreed. Wouldn't it be much better & cheaper to create a global space agency. Use the best technology from all the member countries.
      We are one people and its about time we started acting like it.

      • by Digicrat (973598)

        That's been my thought for a while. But in reality, I suspect we won't see an "Earth Space Agency" until we encounter some sort of global space-based event (alien first contact or a large asteroid on a confirmed collision path). I'd hope for the former not because it's more probable, but because if we wait for the latter it might be to late.

      • Many nations are at different levels of maturity. Both in terms of culture, and international aggressiveness. Both the US and Russia have come a long way to being more cooperative. But it won't take long before other countries start pissing in the pool, yet again. At that point, both US and Russia will be forced to militarize space against those other immature nations that would not hesitate to do us harm.

      • by fahlesr1 (1910982)

        Agreed. Wouldn't it be much better & cheaper to create a global space agency. Use the best technology from all the member countries. We are one people and its about time we started acting like it.

        That's a cute notion, but it'll never happen. An international space agency would be so full of politics that it'd be more likely to use the worst technology from each country than the best. We can't even get a long well enough inside the US to properly fund and direct NASA, and you want to throw international politics into the mix?

        Still, I'll give credit where credit is due, its a good dream. Though I think for the significant future it will remain a dream.

      • We have one in europe, you are welcome to join I'm sure. You just can't walk in and demand to be in charge from square one.

  • I for one find it shameful that politics (both sides are at fault) has resulted in this situation. Give NASA the means (funds) needed but don't restrict them to a preset supplier list or technology. Then sit back and let them do the job. Yes, there needs to be specifications, lets say deliver 4 people to LEO with X KG supplies, but otherwise leave them alone. I do hope that Dragon can ramp up faster since it now appears NASA will not be able to do so.
    • This is already happening with COTS and programs like SpaceX. It's just it's going to be another 5 years or so before it's ready.

    • by elrous0 (869638) *

      What exactly is so shameful about international cooperation in regard to the *international* space station? The Cold War has been over for a long time now, you know. And I'm more than a little sick of the residual pride of some of my fellow Americans. To be honest, it was bad enough to put up with all the cocky nationalism DURING the Cold War, much less 20 years later.

      • by Hadlock (143607)

        The cold war is over, yet the US and Russia are still the two primary arms suppliers of the world, and IIRC, we raised a big stink over France selling bleeding edge naval technology to Russia. The "Cold War" might be over, but that's only because we haven't come up for a new name for it yet. 20 years is a blink of the eye when it comes to imperialist global war.

  • by Danathar (267989) on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @09:13AM (#35490252) Journal

    More disconcerting is the fact that ANY serious dispute with Russia will need to be taken into account as they could refuse to launch to the ISS (or let our astronauts down) in a diplomatic crisis.

    Depending on another country that you are not the best friends with to provide you with the ONLY transportation to your space station does not sound like a good idea.

    • by Kosi (589267)

      While I agree 100 percent that this is not a clever idea, I have to nitpick that this thing up there is named the ISS and not the USSS for a reason. It's our all, not your space station. :)

      • That the US paid the majority for when the other partners, notably Russia, couldnt get their parts done or get them to pass QA. Its ISS in NAME ONLY, we own the majority of it.
    • Erh... let's be sensible and can the anti-Russian sentiments for a moment?

      Let's see... diplomatic struggles between Russia and the US. And they refuse to let the astronaut return. First of all, how? The "escape pod" that's by default docked can be used under any circumstances whatsoever, by anyone able to use it (which, I'd assume, every astronaut gets training in by default. Everything else is just plain dumb). So telling him "no" will probably result in an "up yours, undocking NOW!".

      And second, why? What'

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      There is no such thing as "best friends" between countries. There may be countries controlled by a common force but that is not the same thing at all.

  • by strack (1051390) on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @09:15AM (#35490274)
    if nasa funded manned falcon 9s, they are what, 50 million a flight, and 7 seats? so, thats a saving of at least half a billion dollars, using an american launch system to boot.
    • Or to put it another way, if NASA bought flights from SpaceX at the Russian rates, they're essentially saying they can afford to pay $400m for a 7 seat flight, or $190m for a 3 seater.

      And there are fucktards in Congress specifically trying to prevent NASA buying commercial crew flights. Why? (I'm from a different country and that offends me. You guys should be setting things on fire.)

    • Since Falcon 9 + Dragon (booster + capsule, which is what you actually meant, as otherwise there are no seats) is some years from being operational (which is why NASA is buying seats on Soyuz in the first place) - you haven't 'saved' anything. Nor do two Falcon/Dragon flights replace the 6 (at a minimum) to 12 (at a maximum)* Soyuz flights, as the flights are intended to rotate small numbers of crew at a time over a period of two years.

      * The number of flights depends on how many seats (1 or 2) the US occup

  • by jsepeta (412566) on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @09:18AM (#35490312) Homepage

    NASA needs to get their shit together, and develop their own damned spacecraft so we don't have to borrow Russia's ships. If Congress can bail out the evil, lying, fraudsters called BANKS, they can fund science and technology research.

    • Science does not hold your country hostage. It can't say "Nice mortgage you have there, shame if someone had to foreclose it to cover his own losses".

    • by TrAvELAr (118445)

      With less than 1/2 of one percent of the annual federal budget, this isn't going to happen any time soon. Maybe if we can stand down the war machine for a while....

      Anyway, Constellation was looking like a viable option. Unfortunately, it was way over budget. With the scrapping of Constellation, I think we're going to see some commercial partnerships forming where the launch vehicles will be owned and possibly operated by the contractor.

    • NASA needs to get their shit together, and develop their own damned spacecraft so we don't have to borrow Russia's ships.

      You try getting your shit together when your mission, mandate, creed, materials list, allowed technology, and half of your design are handed down to you from on high by a bunch of technologically clueless dipshits that spent their high school years playing the popularity game rather than learning calculus.

      You want NASA to build it's own damned spacecraft that isn't a bloated, over budget, expensive piece of shit? Get their funding out of the hands of the petty, squabbling, corrupt retards that are on th

  • launching 12 to 14 chairs ... Steve Ballmer likes that!
  • Who negotiated that, Madoff?. Tito paid only 20 megabucks, and that included the stay on the ISS, not only the transport up and down. Taking a little volume discount into the equation, everything over 15 M$ is plain ripoff.

    btw, someone got a spare hundred M$ for me? I wanna go to the moon!

    • Who negotiated that, Madoff?. Tito paid only 20 megabucks, and that included the stay on the ISS, not only the transport up and down. Taking a little volume discount into the equation, everything over 15 M$ is plain ripoff.

      ...

      On the other hand there is the hotel room pricing model. Some people stay in a room real cheap (online auction sites, special promotions etc.), at a price below what the hotel could sustain as its across the board rate. Why? The room would have been unfilled, and they carry overhead to take care of the room anyway - it adds to their balance sheet to fill it even at deep discount rates.

      Tito was piggy-backing on a planned ISS mission. He was quite literally just paying for an unused seat. The subsidy to Tito

  • Getting taken to the cleaners by the criminal gangsters and thugs otherwise known as the Russian government, is bad enough without worrying about what will happen if some kind of diplomatic crisis happens, and the Russian government starts using the prospect of the ISS crashing in the South Pacific as leverage in their rather cynical and thuggish foreign policy.

  • I just got some email about fancy new fully-reclining bed-seats on flights from NYC to Germany. I don't actually have plans to take that flight but I was curious what those seats cost and I balked at the idea of paying $3600 for round-trip airfare. I would have instead gone steerage class on the same flight for $600 round-trip.
  • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @09:57AM (#35490876)
    Put US Flag stickers all over the exterior of the craft like the advertising on NASCAR vehicles. Our fragile ego is saved, problem solved.
  • By centralizing this service to Russia, and by providing additional funds (assuming they go towards program), you perhaps allow for more development and technology being put forward for this sort of thing, rather than having two super nations running parallel programs essentially wasting money.

    Sort of sucks for the USA, I'll admit. However as a human race thing, it might turn out for the best.

    This will also undoubtedly be a major source of Russian pride, and may well be better funded as a result.

    Anyway just

  • They learned tricks of capitalism US airlines.
  • It was a philosophical difference and we lost. While the Russians refined their skills building (and improving) the same old technology, our Congress was distracted by lobbyists for the STS contractors to build the Next Big Thing. Just a case of, "Ohhhh! Shiny!"

    Perhaps we need someone like Stalin, who can go through the ranks of politicians and upper management from time to time and thin the herd. If the mahogany row crowd had to worry about the occasional visit from a death squad, maybe they'd keep their

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