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Panel Warns NASA On Commercial Astronaut Transport 319

DesScorp writes "In a blow against the commercial space industry, a federal panel warned NASA not to use private companies to ferry astronauts into space. While the Obama Administration wants to outsource some NASA activities, insiders at the space agency are resisting any moves to use commercial alternatives. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel 'cautioned that the private space companies rely on "unsubstantiated claims" and need to overcome major technical hurdles before they can safely carry astronauts into orbit. The report urged NASA to stick with its current government-run manned space ventures, and said that switching to private alternatives now would be "unwise and probably not cost-effective." The findings are likely to provide a boost to NASA officials who want to keep nearly all manned space programs in house.' Private companies such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing argue that they're capable of human transport in space safely and at competitive costs."
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Panel Warns NASA On Commercial Astronaut Transport

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 22, 2010 @10:59AM (#30859418)

    Out of 129 flights 2 have gone wrong or a .003 percent failure rate. []

    Of course when things go wrong for them it goes amazingly spectacularly. You cannt have that much LOX laying around and other major crazy flammable stuff and not have someone die once and awhile. [] [] []
    While dramatized it shows why they do it.

    These dudes are *IN* it because it is risky. They love the risk.... Just because you are risk adverse (it shows because you want a 0% fail rate) doesnt mean they are. These dudes are crazy...

  • by AP31R0N ( 723649 ) on Friday January 22, 2010 @11:53AM (#30860094)

    is more commercialization of our institutions and cultural artifacts. The next step after letting Boeing shuttle our astronauts would be renaming the ISS as "The Tostidos Space Station". Next would be Cape Coca-cola. The Nike rocket would at least be somewhat apropos to the tiny crowd who knows something of aerospace history and mythology.

  • by Dishevel ( 1105119 ) * on Friday January 22, 2010 @12:51PM (#30860798)
    I do not need Rush to make environmentalists look bad. I live in California.
  • by FleaPlus ( 6935 ) on Friday January 22, 2010 @01:16PM (#30861138) Journal

    Clark Lindsay: []

    This is ridiculous from beginning to end. Even with optimum funding, the Ares I won't fly for at least 5 years and probably not for 7 or 8 years. So how has it demonstrated or substantiated any capability or superiority? Citing the Ares I-X flight is absurd. That vehicle had virtually nothing in common with Ares I. Griffin's quick and dirty 60 day ESAS hardly sets a standard for optimized design.

    It is in fact the panel that is speculating as to the ultimate safety of the Ares I. It will be so expensive to operate, it will never fly enough times to accumulate sufficient flights to prove any statistical prediction of its safety.

    And by the way, why is a safety panel making judgments about cost-effectiveness? Even if COTS-D were funded, Falcon 9/Dragon will involve about 100 times less NASA funding than Ares I/Orion. Yes, the latter is designed for deep space but that should not require 100 times more money. The F9/Dragon operating costs will also be a fraction of that for Ares I/Orion. Ignoring such cost differences would be considered not just "unwise" but ridiculous by most taxpayers.

    The panel further speculates on the degree of safety of the COTS designs, which really refers to Falcon 9/Dragon since Orbital has made no move to develop a crew capability for Taurus II/Cygnus. There's no indication that the panel made any effort to investigate the statements from SpaceX that the F9/Dragon system has been designed from the beginning to meet NASA's human rating requirements (at least to the degree that the company could determine those requirements). With such enormous cost savings at stake, you might think the panel would want to know if it could be built with high margins.

    Commercial Spaceflight Federation: []

    The ASAP's repeated references to the two "COTS firms" ignores the fact that many companies, including both established firms and new entrants, will compete in the Commercial Crew Program envisioned by the Augustine Committee. While the Falcon 9 and Taurus II vehicles have already met numerous hardware milestones and will have a substantial track record by the time any astronauts are placed onboard, several other potential Commercial Crew providers envision use of launch vehicles such as the Atlas V, vehicles that are already entrusted by the government to launch multi-billion dollar national security payloads upon which the lives of our troops overseas depend.
    Despite the ASAP Report's contention that commercial vehicles are "nothing more than unsubstantiated claims," the demonstrated track records of commercial vehicles and numerous upcoming manifested cargo flights ensure that no astronaut will fly on a commercial vehicle that lacks a long, proven track record. The Atlas V, for example, has a record of 19 consecutive successful launches and the Atlas family of rockets has had over 90 consecutive successes, and dozens of flights of the Atlas, Taurus, and Falcon vehicles are scheduled to occur before 2014 in addition to successful flights already completed.
    Further, thirteen former NASA astronauts, who have accumulated a total of 42 space missions, stated in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed that commercial spaceflight can be conducted safely:
    "We are fully confident that the commercial spaceflight sector can provide a level of safety equal to that offered by the venerable Russian Soyuz system, which has flown safely for the last 38 years, and exceeding that of the Space Shuttle. Commercial transportation systems using boosters such as the Atlas V, Taurus II, or Falcon 9 will have the advantage of multiple unmanned flights to build a track record of safe operations prior to carrying humans. These vehicles are already set

  • by youn ( 1516637 ) on Friday January 22, 2010 @02:59PM (#30862184) Homepage

    $60 is enough for most people to buy enough liquor to get on the moon without a space ship at least once a year :)... heck for that price they can even imagine themselves in a far away galaxy :)

    that said I am all for NASA getting 10 times that amount :)

"Never face facts; if you do, you'll never get up in the morning." -- Marlo Thomas