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NASA Space Politics

NASA, Congress Reach Accord On Commercial Crew Program 137

Posted by Soulskill
from the one-of-you-loses dept.
MarkWhittington writes "NASA and Congress have reached a deal on how to proceed with the commercial crew program that provides government subsidies to pay for the development of private spacecraft. NASA will select two competitors from the current four — SpaceX, Boeing, Blue Origin and Sierra Nevada. A third competitor will be picked for partial funding as a fallback in case both of the main competing companies run into difficulties developing a spacecraft on time and on budget."
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NASA, Congress Reach Accord On Commercial Crew Program

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  • SpaceX (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sconeu (64226) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @12:54AM (#40229133) Homepage Journal

    It's obvious that SpaceX will be selected.

    How soon will Dragon be man-rated, and even more important, Falcon 9 and/or Falcon Heavy?

  • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater&gmail,com> on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @01:25AM (#40229297) Homepage

    NASA already is almost pathologically paranoid about what gets near the ISS.

    If you 'owned' an irreplaceable multi billion dollar asset - and would get scorched by your bosses and atomized by the public if it got so much as scratched... you'd be pathologically paranoid too. And that's on top of the issue of astronaut safety.

  • by Teancum (67324) <{ten.orezten} {ta} {gninroh_trebor}> on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @01:43AM (#40229369) Homepage Journal

    ATK has their fairy god-senators looking out for them and a very effective public relations team which knows how to do some serious lobbying.

    I'm sure the hope is more for ATK and Boeing to get this contract and cut SpaceX out completely. Then again ATK was betting that last week's Dragon flight would blow up on the launch pad or otherwise go dead. SpaceX is hard to ignore at the moment, but that is sort of the point why this whole down select is real stupid.

    They will be a major contestant for the down select, regardless of what else you think about them.

  • In other words ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @01:50AM (#40229397) Homepage Journal

    ... the Democratic administration wants to encourage free market competition, and the Republicans in Congress want to limit it. This should not be a shock to anyone who pays attention to reality rather than party rhetoric.

  • by davester666 (731373) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @01:54AM (#40229407) Journal

    Not really.

    There is what, a 99.9999999999999% chance that Boeing is selected, and will promptly game the setup to gobble most of the cash. They will provide extremely well-written reports as to why they need more cash in order to deliver the results that are requested.

  • by toruonu (1696670) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @04:31AM (#40229957)

    I'd like to point out that Space X did first prove they're capable of real life feats with Musk's own money. Yes the latest developments and the docking with ISS has been co-funded (or mostly funded) by NASA and they'll pay them more for additional launches, but they're getting a real deal out of it as SpaceX is doing it way cheaper than any alternative and they actually deliver already today, not far fetched promises.

  • by toruonu (1696670) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @04:41AM (#40229997)

    You forget the alternative. If the public funds the development of new rocket systems by NASA and keeps using them at a cost of 5x that of the private company, then after N launches the total cost for the public is higher than had they developed it in cooperation with a private enterprise that then operates the technology under contracts at a much lower cost. As an example, Falcon 9 of Space X has lift capacity of 10 tons for a cost of $56M. The Delta-IV rocket had 22 tons and $300M so the cost per kg is 3x higher. The Ariane 5 rocket by ESA has 21 ton lift to LEO and cost of $200M. The Atlas V (earlier one) had lift on 9t at a cost of $125M.

    Now if Space X can pull off Falcon Heavy (the first launch is planned already in 2013) then the planned cost of 53t to LEO is $80-125M. That gives it a per kg cost of 5.8x less than Delta-IV, 4x less than Ariane 5 etc. And that's assuming the high end of the price range. It's also a rocket that can deliver cargo to trans-lunar-orbit or even to Mars (14t to Mars, 16t to trans lunar). Why the hell would we need an SLS with 50-130t capacity with an outrageous price tag when we can just launch two Falcon 9 heavy's for the same capacity and probably less than the equivalent launch cost and if need be assemble the final inter-plantery spacecraft in orbit...

  • by Rei (128717) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @08:10AM (#40230819) Homepage

    Ah, SSTOs... It's not that the concept is wrong. It's not even that it's impossible with current fuels and materials. The problem is that it's so *close* to impossible that the difficulty of creating such a craft inevitably leads to big complications.

  • Re:3 out of 4 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mark99 (459508) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @09:44AM (#40231575) Journal

    I think the Space Shuttle was just a big flop that only escaped being cancelled because the US Government has such deep pockets. In the end, in fact way before the end, it was a jobs program more than anything else. It set the space program back something like 20-30 years.
    I don't understand why people can't just admit it was a horrible mistake. Actually, of course I do understand, so many valuable lifetimes of work were sunk into it.We have to pretend.... But we should have just been building cheaper rockets (which the two other programs on the table proposed) - or funding a Ramjet, or Roton, or almost anything else. The only really useful thing the Shuttle did was repair Hubble.

    Imagine where we would be now if NASA had done something like COTS 20 years ago after Challenger blew up instead of building another Shuttle.

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