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Government NASA The Almighty Buck

Obama Backs New Launcher and Bigger NASA Budget 391

The AAAS's ScienceInsider confidently reports that NASA is in line to receive $1 billion more next year. Reader coop0030 sends this quote: "President Barack Obama will ask Congress next year to fund a new heavy-lift launcher to take humans to the Moon, asteroids, and the moons of Mars... The president chose the new direction for the US human space flight program Wednesday at a White House meeting with NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, according to officials familiar with the discussion. NASA would receive an additional $1 billion in 2011 both to get the new launcher on track and to bolster the agency's fleet of robotic Earth-monitoring spacecraft."
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Obama Backs New Launcher and Bigger NASA Budget

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  • by Tekfactory ( 937086 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @11:28AM (#30487634) Homepage

    "According to knowledgeable sources, the White House is convinced that scarce NASA funds would be better spent on a simpler heavy-lift vehicle that could be ready to fly as early as 2018."

    Nothing in the article says what that HLV would be, or who would build it. The article also talks about the fight in Congress over Constellation districts losing aerospace jobs.

    The only thing I am aware of is Elon Musk saying NASA has an option for SpaceX to develop an HLV, and I'm not talking about Falcon 9 or Falcon 9 Heavy. Anything else would be the usual suspects dusting off old blueprints and submitting proposals, or something I'm not aware of, which would be fine too.

    • If they're really watching the budget, then "who would build it" would be "China". It's not always about the bottom line.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rwv ( 1636355 )
      Ares V []

      I doubt the government would give a billion dollars to Elon Musk to fund his private space company. If Musk wants to compete with the public sector, let him use his only money.

      The article did open the door wide open for ISS space tourism because it says, and I quote, "And commercial companies would take over the job of getting supplies to the international space station."

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Idiomatick ( 976696 )
        "I doubt the government would give a billion dollars to Elon Musk to fund his private space company. If Musk wants to compete with the public sector, let him use his only money. "

        "Big news today was SpaceX winning the NASA CRS contract for an initial $1.6 billion, representing 12 flights to the International Space Station starting in 2010." - []
    • by BJ_Covert_Action ( 1499847 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @12:50PM (#30488878) Homepage Journal
      Yeah I was a bit intrigued by this myself. The entire article discusses a new heavy lift vehicle, but has absolutely no specifications or details. Is it liquid, solid, or hybrid? Will it be developed in-house by NASA or contracted out? What exactly do they mean by 'simpler?'

      I checked Spaceflightnow, [] SpaceFellowship, [] and ParabolicArc [] and couldn't find anything but a parent of the original ScienceInsider article. Google doesn't reveal a whole lot at cursory glance either. Hell I don't even see anything on NASA's own website. If anyone digs up some particulars, please post some links, I would be very interested in seeing them.

      Also, offtopic, but for those who say Slashdot is behind the news release cycle and doesn't post breaking news, considering it just posted a story that 4 other space news websites haven't picked up yet, I'd say you've just been proven wrong =P
    • by BJ_Covert_Action ( 1499847 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @12:57PM (#30488992) Homepage Journal
      Double Response, Sorry, but some more digging revealed this discussion of ScienceInsider's story [] where it is asserted that:

      a new heavy lift launch vehicle would be built "to take astronauts to the moon, asteroids, and the moons of Mars" but it would not be Ares V: "the White House is convinced that scarce NASA funds would be better spent on a simpler heavy-lift vehicle that could be ready to fly as early as 2018";

      So I guess the Ares V is not the new HLV, in case anyone was speculating that was the case.

  • by furball ( 2853 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @11:32AM (#30487704) Journal

    Has Obama supported anything with a smaller budget?

  • by neurogeneticist ( 1631367 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @11:41AM (#30487850)
    I can only hope that this heavy-lift launch system will support a public option with early buy-in and that none of this NASA budget will be appropriated to state-supported abortions. Otherwise, it will apparently have a hard time getting through the senate.
  • by jollyreaper ( 513215 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @11:49AM (#30487972)

    So are they saying a new heavy lift vehicle is replacing the Ares I? My understanding is Ares I is the simple, cheap, manned crew vehicle stack and the Ares V is the bigger, heavier, not man-rated launcher meant for heavy lifting. They were supposed to reuse shuttle parts and know-how to make things work better. So far it isn't. I have a feeling that shuttle reuse was a political decision to make this sound more economical rather than a proposal from the engineers guaranteeing it would be frugal.

    • by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @01:07PM (#30489144) Journal
      They were supposed to reuse shuttle parts and know-how to make things work better.

      They were supposed to, but they didn't. They developed a new solid rocket motors for the ARES-I. They're developing new engines, new solids, new tankage, new upper stage engines (as well as needing new crawlers, and nwe launch pads) for the ARES-V. About the only thing that's reused from the shuttle (or so I've read) is the system that ignites the solids.
    • Exactly. But that's the plan. They are pretending like this is a good idea. It pretty much sucks all the way around. It locks the US into an architecture where per-flight costs for people in orbit are much higher than Ares I. It reduces per-flight lift capacity substantially, which will lead to much larger numbers of flights required to do anything interesting, such a a flight to Mars. That wouldn't necessarily be a problem, except for the high per-flight cost. This plan is a desperate attempt to sol
    • by Graymalkin ( 13732 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @06:46PM (#30494368)

      The Ares I design is not simple, cheap, or even really effective. A good portion of the expense of launching the Shuttle, an Ares I, or anything else is manpower. You have a lot of people that get paid salaries no matter how many launches take place every year. The cost of a launch then becomes (vehicle cost) + (yearly operations and personnel cost/scheduled launches that year). If you launch one rocket a year it's fairly expensive, if you launch six then the price of each launch goes down. You might recognize this cost-production curve an economy of scale which is what it is.

      The Ares I was meant to be able to carry a fully decked out Orion capsule capable of carrying four people, long solo flights with an extended service module, a toilet, and the ability to to land on the ground with parachutes and airbags. It turns out the Ares I can't do any of that so the Orion had to be scaled down to only carry three people, no toilet, no air bags for ground landings, and a service module just barely capable of getting astronauts to the ISS or some other vehicle.

      The rub with the Ares I is that it is damn near useless without the Ares V follow-on. Because it can't carry much into orbit it is essentially an expensive bus to take three astronauts to the ISS. People bitch about the Shuttle being an expensive tow truck but it can carry seven astronauts in addition to twenty tons of cargo and can survive independently for weeks. Going back to the launch cost problem, the Ares V requires significant changes made to one of the two launch pads at KSC. This leaves only one available for Ares I launches. Only having a single pad available for the Ares I puts a limit on the number of Ares I flights that can be made every year. The low frequency of flights increases the cost of every kilo launched on an Ares I rocket.

      The cost per unit of mass problem with the Ares I determines what sort of missions you can afford to use it for. There was an unmanned Orion capsule design that was intended to be used for cargo resupply to the ISS. The low launch frequency put the cost per unit of mass too high for that design to make any sense and the low number of flights even possible for the Ares I meant there were scheduling problems as well. Since the Ares I can't launch a well equipped Orion capsule the only use for it until the Ares V is ready is to ferry people (no meaningful cargo) back and forth to the ISS. Again the low launch frequency means this is really expensive, it would be cheaper to buy assembled Soyuz rockets from Russia and launch them ourselves than it would be to send crews up in Orions via the Ares I.

  • DIRECT (Score:5, Interesting)

    by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @12:00PM (#30488114) Journal
    I am glad they are ditching ARES-I. The thing could barely lift the Orion module into orbit, and that's after lopping off all sorts of features (land landing, six person crew, toilet, etc). Then there were the thrust oscillation issues. A solid rocket does not produce a steady thrust. As it burns, chunks of the fuel can come loose and alter the burn characteristics of the engine as a whole. On the Shuttle, there was a flexible beam running through the external tank. The solids were attached to both ends of the flexible beam, and the orbiter was attached to the middle. They had to develop some sort of spring system for ARES-I, which didn't help its already weak lift capabilities.

    This [] makes a lot more sense. Take the basic shuttle launch system, remove the orbiter, stick the engines on the bottom, put the Orion module on the top. There would be no costly engine development, as the rocket uses the same proven engine that has been launching the shuttle into orbit for the past thirty years. The J-130 (as its called) can lift the Orion module into orbit with ease. In fact, it could lift two - and not the stripped down versions, but the full featured Orions. Imagine being able to park one permanently at the ISS, as a lifeboat. The J-130, through the use of a module that mimics the mount points of the shuttle's cargo bay, could lift any payload that the shuttle could lift - including the Canadarm and an airlock for EVAs, something the ARES-I cannot do.

    Because it shares so much of the shuttle heritage, the Jupiter system can keep the bulk of the current shuttle workers employed, especially if the current shuttle mission manifest is stretched out, or perhaps a flight or two added. The ARES system would leave a decade-long gap in some areas. Far to long to keep people around "polishing tools".
  • Smart move (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RogueWarrior65 ( 678876 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @12:01PM (#30488148)

    Probably the only smart decision this man has made. I offer into evidence a line from "From the Earth to the Moon" series. "Pumping that much cash into the private sector could be very popular"...of course, ironically, that's tempered by that douchebag Al Franken who is supposed to be the science adviser but who has less than zero ability to dream.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Franken was portraying JFK's real-life science adviser, Jerome Weisner, who was vehemently opposed to manned spaceflight, going all the way back to Project Mercury.

      You may not care for Franken, but the attitude portrayed was accurate.

  • by BJ_Covert_Action ( 1499847 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @06:52PM (#30494446) Homepage Journal
    I am not one to typically decry Slashdot antics in general, but I have to say that I am, frankly, appalled at what has come to pass in this thread. This news release, available on very few space news outlets currently, is in regards to the future of a government funded piece of space hardware that Slashdotters have been both decrying and joyously praising since I first started posting on this website more than a year ago. We have discussed every major development of the Ares line of launch vehicles since its inception. We have argued, passionately at times, about how stupid or how great NASA and Congress both are for deciding upon this launch system in the first place. We have followed almost every single news update regarding the Augustine Commission since it was first assigned its task. It seems, to me, that we had quite a bit of interest and excitement for news regarding this particular topic as an online community.

    Nonetheless, in the short time since this story has been posted, the number of comments modded up that were completely and 100% offtopic is absolutely atrocious. This story was, by far, the most interesting headline I saw on slashdot today. Rather than getting an interesting look into a group of Nerd's thoughts and ideas regarding this new development, I have watched this thread turn into an absolutely childish monstrosity of political bullshitting regarding everything from healtcare to the fiscal habits of Republicrats and blah blah blah blah blah. If I wanted to know about all that crap I would have turned on CSPAN.

    For shame slashdotters. For. Fucking. Shame.

Thus spake the master programmer: "When a program is being tested, it is too late to make design changes." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"