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NASA Space Politics

NASA, Congress Reach Accord On Commercial Crew Program 137

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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  • by nitehawk214 ( 222219 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @11:20PM (#40228957)

    How is an IPA going to get people into orbit?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Lots of thrust?

    • I have a hunch that "Sierra Nevada" gonna be the candidate that will get axed

      • Re:3 out of 4 (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Teancum ( 67324 ) <robert_horning@n ... minus physicist> on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @12:21AM (#40229273) Homepage Journal

        The sad thing is that Sierra Nevada is in some ways doing more to help drop the cost of going into orbit than almost anybody else around. The Dream Chaser [] spacecraft is really an amazing vehicle that is just beginning to reach a point of getting a payoff, which the early flight trials going on.

        If they get cut, I hope that the investors in Sierra Nevada (and apparently Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic fame is one of them) continue to press forward without NASA funding.

        They really don't deserve to be cut, at least so far as the investment being made by NASA into this company will likely produce some impressive long-term results. It is mainly sad that a jerk of a congressman who doesn't like these programs (COTS and CCDev) instead wants to dump 10x the amount of money on a fiscal black hole that will never fly (namely the SLS... aka the "Senate Launch System").

        This move to reduce the options for CCDev is not going to save much money, and in fact it will set back commercial spaceflight by several years if not a full decade.

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

          by mark99 ( 459508 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @02:37AM (#40229793) Journal

          What is your logic here? You think it costs signifcantly less to turn Dream Chaser around than a Dragon Capsule? It looks an awful lot like a Space Shuttle to me for that.
          The two who seem to be doing a lot for bringing the price down would be Blue Origin (who are banking on a seemingly unlikely SSTO), and SpaceX with their Resuable Powered Decent stages (which also seem pretty far away at this point). It takes a 130 million Atlas V to put a Dream Chaser into orbit last time I looked, where as the Dragon only needs a 60 million dollar Falcon 9. Although Dream Chaser *could* probably fit on a Falcon 9 and in either case you are looking at additional costs on top of the basic launcher.

          • by Rei ( 128717 )

            IMHO, "looks like the space shuttle" is a pretty flimsy excuse. The Space Shuttle was a victim of two things: massive budget cuts in the development program, and being a first-generation reusable -- aka, it should have been seen as a testbed for learning rather than a workhorse. This craft seems to have the major lessons learned from the shuttle program down - top mount (lower vibrational load, no debris impacts, etc), single-piece TPS to save on maintenance, much smaller vehicle (the smaller the craft, t

            • by khallow ( 566160 )

              The Space Shuttle was a victim of two things: massive budget cuts in the development program, and being a first-generation reusable

              In other words, NASA badly overspent on a first generation reusable. If the Space Shuttle had been able to carry a couple of people and a little payload, it'd have fit quite nicely into NASA's existing ( and for the foreseeable future) budget. Instead, they built the successor to the Saturn V. It sucked the oxygen out of the room for any other large space projects that didn't involve the Shuttle and contributed to its survival in some way.

              • by Rei ( 128717 )

                It was too ambitious. It wasn't overbudgeted for what they were trying to accomplish (and after the budget cuts, it was way underbudget for what they were trying to accomplish). They were, however, trying to accomplish too much, and especially for a first-gen.

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

                  by mark99 ( 459508 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @08:44AM (#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.

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

                    by Rei ( 128717 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @09:49AM (#40232359) Homepage

                    I don't think it's that clear cut. As I mentioned before, the problems were overambition and budget cuts during the development process that made everything worse.

                    The overambition is actually quite understandable. Think of what we had gone from, at the start of the 1960s to the Apollo moon landings. This incredible pace of accomplishment was driving people's sci-fi dreams of the future wild, even people in high places. The notion was that, clearly, we're about to become a spacefaring race in a major way, we need a vehicle to haul people and tons of cargo with a rapid launch rate turnaround; that's where the inception of the concept came from. Of course, that was not to happen, and not only due to the fault of the shuttle program.

                    If the overambition itself wouldn't have doomed the goal of affordable reusable spaceflight, the budget cuts in development (brought about in no small part due to the Vietnam War) certainly did. The sacrifices made in development to accommodate them pretty much ensured that it would not be a reliable, affordable system. Turning to the air force for funding meant adding crossrange capability and even greater cargo capability. Disastrous. The lower level of funding meant less system reuse and higher maintenance on the systems that were to be reused. For example, the early shuttle designs called for a titanium frame which could run hot, instead of the current (cheaper) aluminum frame which can't. Letting the frame get hotter means you can use a simpler, and thus easier to maintain, TPS. Not to mention safer; the Columbia disaster couldn't have happened and there wouldn't be nearly as much metal fatigue concerns.

                    Again, hindsight is always 20-20, but it's easy to see how the problems came about from overambition and then huge budget cuts in development. And I don't think calling it a jobs program, at least initially, is totally fair. Unlike Ares, which is "let's use as much shuttle hardware as we can to keep the plants open and keep developing it even when there's no longer a niche for it", the Shuttle wasn't heavily based on Saturn hardware. Now, what I think clearly became a jobs program and takes no hindsight to see is that when the Shuttle program went down the tubes, and it clearly had failed at its nominal goal of affordable reusable spaceflight, of not only keeping it running but keeping it as the workhorse of the US spaceflight fleet.

                    • by khallow ( 566160 )

                      I don't think it's that clear cut. As I mentioned before, the problems were overambition and budget cuts during the development process that made everything worse.

                      The problem with your interpretation is that: a) The budget cuts were well known from about 1968. The design should have been scaled down from the start. It's worth remembering that NASA had a large budget for only a few years. I think it was very foolish to assume that NASA would get 2% or more of the federal government for the indefinite future.

                      b) NASA even after budget cutbacks still outspent every other space program on the planet and has done so for about four decades.

                      And while I'm thinking of it

        • by strack ( 1051390 )
          it doesnt exist yet. it hasnt flown, and its still more expensive per pound than the dragon, which has flown twice and is cheaper per pound. so if you could illuminate how the dreamchaser is doing more than spacex in dropping the cost of going to orbit for all of us, were all ears.
        • by JWW ( 79176 )

          I think theres a very good chance that the one of the four that gets completely cut could easily end up getting bought out by one of the others in order to get access to some of the developed technology.

          Specifically, I'd look for Boeing to buy the odd company out in this situation. Yes, that means I think there's no chance Boeing would be the odd company out.

          • by Teancum ( 67324 )

            The current four companies are:

            • * Boeing
            • * Blue Origin
            • * SpaceX
            • * Sierra Nevada

            Of these four companies, the only one I could possibly see being "bought out" is Sierra Nevada. They have other projects going right now and while the Commercial Crew is a wonderful bonus and useful for the development of their company, they aren't necessarily dependent upon just this one contract in order to continue to exist as a company.

            There is no bloody way upon this green Earth that either Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos is going to

            • by JWW ( 79176 )

              In retrospect, my post could have been simpler had I just said:

              I think Sierra Nevada will be left out and Boeing will probably buy them.

              Your analysis is spot on.

  • by subreality ( 157447 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @11:31PM (#40229011)

    pay for the development

    It works the same in NASA as it does in software dev: you get what you pay for. If you want results, pay for results. If you pay for development, all you get is lots of development.

    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      While that does present a conflict of interests, there is a big double-bind - namely, that these companies are doing development projects that are generally too large and risky for even large private companies to be comfortable gambling on by themselves; for smaller companies, the concept is right out. It'd be hard to get any serious bids at all without helping with development. So yes, what you mentioned is a serious critique, it's not without reason that NASA does development contracts. And it's a cash

  • What happened to Orion? When I visited Lockheed in December they were all gung-ho building a spacecraft. Not that I'm pushing for it, just wondering why it is apparently no longer a factor.
    • This "accord" is for low earth orbit commercial space launches. Orion is intended for beyond LEO. Or something like that.
    • Orion is not meant for ISS operations. Orion is meant for Beyond Earth Orbit: asteroid and lunar exploration, that sort of thing.
      • Re:Lockheed? Orion? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Teancum ( 67324 ) <robert_horning@n ... minus physicist> on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @12:38AM (#40229359) Homepage Journal

        Orion is not meant for ISS operations. Orion is meant for Beyond Earth Orbit: asteroid and lunar exploration, that sort of thing.

        That isn't what NASA was saying back when the Ares I was still under active development. The Ares I was being designed specifically so the Orion capsule could get to the ISS (complete with an ISS mating adapter) that really makes it a direct competitor to the SpaceX Dragon, at least for manned spacecraft.

        Orion really does a lousy job for areas beyond LEO though. While it has just under 2x the usable internal volume that the Apollo spacecraft used, that won't exactly be something to brag about. Perhaps reasonable for a trip to the Moon, but I don't see how it will possibly be used on a trip to an asteroid much less Mars. The "habitable volume" of the Orion is very much comparable to the internal volume of the Dragon. I just don't see how astronauts are going to be expected to hang out in that kind of volume for weeks and months.

        What makes the Orion useful for beyond LEO is mainly that it has its own solar energy generator array, and that the heat shield is being designed to perform re-entry of a free-return trajectory from the Moon and a similar return flight coming from Mars. Then again the Dragon capsule is being designed with those same parameters as well.

        Orion might be a piece of the puzzle in terms of getting to Mars or somewhere else in the Solar System, but by itself it won't get the job done.

        • Yes, Orion was, back in the Ares-1 days envisioned as going to the ISS. However, that was only meant as a stop-gap, a temporary solution until Commercial Crew came online. Back in those days, the plan was to fly the shuttles to 2015 as well.

          Unfortunately, as built, Ares-1 could not even put Orion into orbit, and it's big brother, Ares-V, would have been prohibitively expensive to build and launch (and further, wasn't meant to take crew). One was overkill, and the other, anemic.

          I too wonder about lon
        • by khallow ( 566160 )
          One can always chain capsules to make larger volumes. But I must admit that it'd probably make much more sense to attach the capsule to some sort of inflatable habitat, such as Bigelow's proposed BA 330 (which would have over 35 times the interior volume of an Orion capsule).
          • by Teancum ( 67324 )

            That is where you get things like the NAUTLUS-X proposal.

            It was sort of sad though, at a recent "press day" at KSC prior to the launch of the Falcon 9 there were several NASA public relations guys that were hyping up the Orion capsule and the SLS as the "deep space" alternative to the Dragon capsule, and waxing on and on about how Orion was the "solution" to deep space travel and that the Dragon would only be used for trips to places like the ISS.

            One of the participants at the gathering asked the NASA offic

    • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @12:16AM (#40229257)
      The original Orion concept -- and it get serious attention, even today -- was for an enormous, massive parabolic dome with a spacecraft on top of it. The spacecraft injects small nuclear bombs into the dome, and they explode at the focus. It's pretty much guaranteed that thing will MOVE! And yes, it is quite feasible and technically possible.

      I don't think anybody is seriously considering building one of those right now, but the name stuck, and Orion has now been known to generations as "the nuclear bomb powered spacecraft".

      Kind of a negative name to pick for your newfangled, modern, but chemical-powered machine.
      • I don't know about the name being negative, I was quite disappointed to learn the "new Orion" was chemical powered. Hardly seems fair to give a glorified orbital space-taxi the name that once belonged to a design that would have put the the entire solar system at our feet. Sort of like resurrecting the retired jersey number of a football superstar only to give it to the water-boy.

        Of course the "old Orion" could never have been used as a launch vehicle or even in near orbit without serious ecological and E

        • Yes, there are certainly very strict limitations on its normal use. But on the other hand, if a big sacrifice (of a rather large area) were really necessary, technically there is nothing preventing it from being single-stage-to-orbit... and far beyond.

          Read "Lucifer's Hammer" by Niven and Pournelle. (And maybe you already have.) But the Orion concept has been around far longer than their book. They borrowed it, they didn't invent it.
        • "They could have at least saved the name until building a high-thrust ion drive vehicle with similar potential."

          It's a different concept. An ion drive of any size could probably not power such a beast off the Earth, for the simple reason that ion drives rely on low mass at extremely high velocity to power their acceleration. But that velocity is necessarily limited by the currently known laws of physics. It probably would not be sufficient for escape velocity by itself.

          But agreed. Ion thrusters are, today, designed for extremely efficient thrust / mass ratio, but only over time. If that same efficiency could be br

          • In contrast, Orion (the old-school Orion concept) gives you the output of a couple of billion of them, in a few microseconds. Nobody said it was efficient, but if nobody's using the key you can always use the sledgehammer.
          • An ion drive of any size could probably not power such a beast off the Earth

            Very true, but the getting off Earth part isn't really that interesting, we can do it already and it's *really* not something you would have wanted to use a nuke-drive for anyway, unless you have to do so very quickly before the space-elephants drop a kinetic weapon on you (loved Lucifer's Hammer, a battered old copy still holds it's place in my personal library)

            For getting around the solar system though - if a state of the art ion drive is 1000x too weak to do what you want, strap 1000 drives to your hull

            • Generally agreed. Though "specific impulse" is kind of a hard measure to try to use for continuous drives. It rather presumes a fixed energy exerted over a fixed amount of time.

              Which of course is one of the reasons we should be re-thinking these things from scratch. The old chemical-explosion model is probably, mostly, outmoded.
              • Not quite -it's simpler if you don't think of (non-specific) impulse in terms of energy, but rather momentum. Let me use a battery as a metaphor: A rechargeable AA battery contains about 3Watt-hours of energy, and you can extract that energy at whatever rate you want, within the physical constraints of the battery. 3W for 1h, 1W for 3h, or any other combination so long as #Watts * #hours = 3Wh. Similarly a rocket's fuel tank contains a certain amount of impulse, say 100Ns (for an itty-bitty rocket). Yo

            • BTW, contrary to much of contemporary thinking, getting off the earth is VERY interesting and is in fact probably the single most central issue.

              The gravity well is the single largest obstacle to complete conquest of local space. As long as missions continue to be launched from Earth, they will continue to be unnecessarily expensive. By a factor of 10 to 100 at least.

              Put industrial plants on the moon (a completely feasible, if expensive, concept today) and you divide those costs by many times.

              We mus
              • I'd say getting off the Earth is more challenging than interesting, some of the potential solutions are interesting, but the task itself not so much. A fuel-mining moonbase is probably a big part of the answer because it's not actually terribly difficult and manages to sidestep a large part of the challenge. An Earth-based railgun that extends out of the atmosphere could be another part of the solution, but that's a *massive* engineering project with some almost completely untested technology. In the lon

  • SpaceX (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sconeu ( 64226 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @11:54PM (#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 Teancum ( 67324 ) <robert_horning@n ... minus physicist> on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @12:08AM (#40229219) Homepage Journal

      The other "selectee" will be Alliant Techsystems with the Liberty rocket. Yes, I realize they didn't even make the cut from eight or so to four, but they are going to drive everybody else out simply through a massive lobbying effort that will change the outcomes of several districts.

      • by mark99 ( 459508 )

        You think ATK can out manuver Boeing? Boeing is 10 times bigger.

        • by Teancum ( 67324 ) <robert_horning@n ... minus physicist> on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @12:43AM (#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.

          • by mark99 ( 459508 )

            Hard to beleive SpaceX would not be one of them at this point. In fact I think it is fair to say that Musk would drive the man rating of Dragon forward regardless of whether or not they get it, and that could potentially make the CCP program completely idiotic - i.e. if they went for something else and it cratered budget-wise, as space programs traditionally do.
            Still, I am not convinced that a good deal of SpaceX's success is somehow begininers luck that could fade as the org grows and they take on too many

          • by mark99 ( 459508 )

            Are you sure they have a chance? The article clearly states that they are to be selected form the *current 4*...

            • by Teancum ( 67324 )

              ATK is currently a part of the CCDev program.... they are just "unfunded". Tweaking the language of the appropriations bill to get them included in the selection criteria would be trivial and would only take a couple steak dinners at a posh DC restaurant with the right congressional staff members... and I don't think the guys at NASA who are running the program would complain.

              ATK having a chance? I would put them as one of the top contender not necessarily for their technical expertise (although they have

              • by mark99 ( 459508 )

                It sounds like you know what you are talking about, ... so you are depressing me.

                Although I am pretty sure SpaceX will build a human rated Dragon regardless of what the CCD program decides.

              • by mark99 ( 459508 )

                Actually that last sentence doesn't parse. Are you saying that if ATK gets cut they wil somehow cause the selection process to be jettisoned? That sounds wrong...

                • by Teancum ( 67324 )

                  Yes, I'm suggesting that if ATK somehow is excluded from the process of being involved with flying crews to the ISS, that they will change the inclusion parameters so they will become included even if it opens the process up to other competitors. They have some very powerful friends in Congress (both in the House and the Senate) including some very long time supporters who will go to bat for them. The language of the SLS, to give an example, was written explicitly to include ATK components in the legal de

        • They don't have to outlobby Boeing. All they gotta do is outlobby the rest.
        • Boeing is bigger and probably not too agile, but how can they lose after a 50 year head start? They were on the Gemeni program FFS. They make the Delta rocket. Isn't this just a matter of tweaking the terms of the their NASA contracts?
    • Re:SpaceX (Score:5, Informative)

      by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @12:12AM (#40229233) Journal
      From what I understand, a few demos of their launch abort systems, and they should be shiney. The crewed Dragon and the cargo Dragon are the same pressure hull, and share the same liftoff and on orbit flight characteristics. So every cargo flight will be a test flight for the crewed vehicle.
      • While that's all more or less true, there's one detail missing: they're still building the launch abort system. I think Musk said they'll begin testing later this year, but he doesn't expect to be flying people for 2 or 3 years yet. Anyway, I agree that SpaceX will definitely continue the manned Dragon development, with or without help from NASA. Given the number of F9/FH flights they've already sold, they should have plenty of money to do the work.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      In Capitalist West exSoviets dock with you :)
      The US has found some new "Germans" to help them with the complex space thing.
      US entrepreneurs are going to rebrand expensive US and Russian gov tech to new dot com heights.
    • There should be at least a couple, perhaps similar, but with different specialties. Maybe Dragon is better to LEO with heavy cargo or to HEO, and someone else's solution works better for smaller satellites, etc.

      There need not be only one.
    • Boeing will get the nod of course. It's Boeing. It's been in the space funded corporate leech business for decades. I hate to say it, but I'm thinking ATX will get the nod as well, with SpaceX the third partially funded guy. ATX is another corporation much beloved by Congress for its bribe money^F^Fcampaign contributions.
      • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

        Nah, the troughers have to kick SpaceX out because they're the only company who have proven that they can do the job and do it cheaper than the competition. That cannot be allowed.

        • by Teancum ( 67324 )

          Nah, the troughers have to kick SpaceX out because they're the only company who have proven that they can do the job and do it cheaper than the competition. That cannot be allowed.

          The purpose of this down select is explicitly to hurt SpaceX and to drive them out of the market place through political maneuvering. If you claim it cannot be allowed, you really need to contact your member of congress and complain about this whole notion of a down select.

          That Representative Frank Wolf, the guy behind this move to force the "down select", may have major egg on his face when these other commercial spaceflight developers have much cheaper vehicles than the things being built by Boeing and A

          • Thing is, SpaceX isn't selling vehicles, it's selling launch capability. Boeing and ATX are selling vehicles on a cost-plus basis. And you better believe cost overruns are automatically built into the contracts.
            • by Teancum ( 67324 )

              Gwynne Shotwell certainly is selling vehicles. They just sold some to Bigelow Aerospace. If you send an email to gwynne at spacex dot com, I'm sure she will even quote a price for you if you are being serious about buying those vehicles. They will also provide launch services, but if you want to buy the vehicle and fly it yourself, that won't really be too much of a problem for them.

              BTW, SpaceX doesn't sell launch services even on a cost-plus basis, and the Liberty vehicle is also being developed indepen

  • Camel in the tent (Score:5, Interesting)

    by khallow ( 566160 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @12:01AM (#40229165)
    SLS is the camel in the tent here. I think there is a subtle, partial neutering of this program and its competitors going on here. For example,

    U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, the Virginia Republican who heads the House appropriation subcommittee with NASA oversight, said today that the program would fully fund two companies â" and could partially fund a third.

    Thatâ(TM)s down from as many as four companies, according to Wolf.

    âoeThis downselect will reduce taxpayer exposure by concentrating funds on those participants who are most likely to be chosen to eventually provide service to ISS,â he said in a statement.

    IMHO, that's doublespeak for "I was able to take out two of four potential competitors to my favorite space pork, the Space Launch System []."

    The deal also would lay the groundwork for NASA to impose stiffer regulations on the companies competing to develop the rockets and capsules â" a priority for Wolf â" while giving NASA more leeway to nix contracts if it thinks aspiring companies are overselling their capability and financial health.

    In other words, a series of irrelevant obstacles can be thrown in the way to hinder these companies even more. The "stiffer regulations" simply isn't needed. NASA already is almost pathologically paranoid about what gets near the ISS. But it's a great tool for adding cost to these activities. We'll see how that gets abused in the future.

    Similarly, more leeway to nix contracts means greater uncertainty (and resulting weaker financial health) for the contractors. NASA already is a problem child for bad contracts due to its considerable ability to renegotiate contracts, Darth Vader style []. Being allowed even more excuses to renege on contracts will cause even more problems for these contractors.

    This isn't going to kill the COTS program, but we should remember that some people are trying to. I think in part this is to remove competition for the SLS and in part just a ploy to eventually suborn COTS funding for the SLS.

    • by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <> on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @12:25AM (#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.

      • But SpaceX already docked with the ISS, last week.

        I'm sure you know that. But how can we talk about Nasa not allowing things to get close to the ISS in light of it?

      • by khallow ( 566160 )

        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.

        I'm not sure why I got two replies on this particular statement. You do agree after all. Maybe it did need some nuanced explanation.

    • Re:Camel in the tent (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @12:35AM (#40229349)

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

      As much as I agree with much of what you say, it is perfectly understandable that NASA is extremely cautious about the ISS. It's their ONLY manned program right now, and it's not even really "theirs"!

      Of course, as we well know, bureaucratic stagnation and bungling are behind that very situation, and NASA has been ordered by 2 different Presidents to clean up that act... which they still haven't done.

      What the private space program does NOT need is more regulation or interference from NASA. We KNOW this. Look what SpaceX and Virgin and others have accomplished without it.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      NASA already is almost pathologically paranoid about what gets near the ISS.
      They have that Austrian feeling as a foreign architect takes way too many pics. Somewhere in the heavens, they are building.
  • In other words ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @12:50AM (#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 mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      the Democratic administration wants to encourage free market competition, and the Republicans in Congress want to limit it.

      And Republicans are supposed to be for lower taxes. Meanwhile, Ken Davlin, the Democrat who was Mayor here before he shot himself, didn't raise taxes once. Mike Houstin, the current Republican Mayor, raised electric rates (the city owns the power plant) last year, and raised property yaxes this year.

      I wonder why nobody seems to notice that the Tea Party didn't seem to mind Bush taking u

  • It appears that the old model was for NASA to pay contractors to develop national assets, whereas the new model is for NASA to pay contractors to develop contractor-owned assets?


    Also, I think we are bound for a cold-water-in-the-face moment of realization that the privatization of space launch means it is now divorced from nationalism/patriotism for the first time. It is no longer "we" or "us" or "our" space program. A private company can re-incorporate elsewhere to save on taxes or avoid regulations

    • by mark99 ( 459508 )

      I think NASA showed that they hadn't a clue what they should do with their terribly expensively developed "National Assets". They are all now rusting hulks. And they are developing another one with no clue as to what it is for (jobs for retiring engineers maybe).
      At least the commercial guys are likely to rack their brains out as to how they can get more money out of "their" assets.
      And face it - if a war broke out and SpaceX had useful assets, who do you think would control them overnight?

    • A private company can re-incorporate elsewhere to save on taxes or avoid regulations in a heartbeat.

      Wrong. Quoting a representative posting on the SpaceX careers page:

      "To conform to U.S. Government space technology export regulations, applicant must be a U.S. citizen, lawful permanent resident of the U.S., protected individual as defined by 8 U.S.C. 1324b(a)(3), or eligible to obtain the required authorizations from the U.S. Department of State."

      I guess this is one of those regulations they could theoretic

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