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Orbital Becomes Second Private Firm To Send Cargo Craft To ISS 69

An anonymous reader writes "Orbital Sciences Corp.'s unmanned Cygnus spacecraft delivered 3,000 pounds of equipment, fresh fruit, and Christmas presents from the families of all six ISS spacemen today. 'From the men and women involved in the design, integration and test, to those who launched the Antares (rocket) and operated the Cygnus, our whole team has performed at a very high level for our NASA customer, and I am very proud of their extraordinary efforts,' said David W. Thompson, president and chief executive officer of Orbital, in a written statement from the company."
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Orbital Becomes Second Private Firm To Send Cargo Craft To ISS

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  • by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @07:37PM (#45934581)

    In other words,

    Thanks, Obama!

    If we assume ISS shouldn't just be deorbited as a waste of money, space policy is one of the very few things Obama got right. Possibly because he doesn't really care about it.

  • Re:A field of Two (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Teancum ( 67324 ) <robert_horning@netzero. n e t> on Sunday January 12, 2014 @09:23PM (#45935221) Homepage Journal

    Except for the fact that Lockheed and Boeing have been NASA's contractors for decades.

    The difference is how these contracts are funded. The COTS contracts for SpaceX and Orbital have two huge things going for them:

    1) These are not "cost-plus" contracts, but rather fixed price contracts where any cost savings during operations is kept entirely by the launch provider. If either company can save even a few hundred dollars by doing something cheaper or avoiding a purchase of the proverbial $10k wrench & hammer, those companies see that savings directly. Neither Lockheed-Martin nor Boeing care about stuff like that as they simply pass those "costs" in the "cost-plus" contract on to taxpayers. There are no cost overruns in a fixed price contract too, so if either Orbital or SpaceX have some unexpected costs showing up.... they need to eat those costs.

    2) Both SpaceX and Orbital are free to use these launch vehicles for any other purpose as everything they've made belongs to them and not NASA or the federal government.

    I do think there is a time and place for cost-plus contracts where there is a genuine national priority that something absolutely must be made. None the less, this really is a different thing and in a great many ways these other companies have been extensions of the government in how they made their vehicles.

  • by FatLittleMonkey ( 1341387 ) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @10:43PM (#45935791)

    Had the shuttle been capable of taking us to the Moon or to at least Lunar orbit

    The problem with the shuttle wasn't that it didn't go beyond LEO. It was a space shuttle, that's what they're for, surface to orbit. For longer trips you take the main ship.

    The problem was that is was intended to be a low-cost all-purpose reusable truck that would free up funding for other projects. (For example, that "main ship" I mentioned.) But in reality it became the entirety of HSF, consuming vast amounts of funding. Too much to allow its own replacement to be developed, too much to allow iterative development of Shuttle MkII MkIII MkIV... Too much to commercialise. Too much to allow HSF to advance.

    By now pushing LEO-work into the commercial sphere, there's a chance to finally turn to other things... ...Except SLS has been carefully designed to make exactly the same mistakes as the shuttle. The shuttle, okay, they were trying something new, they didn't know better. This time it's wilful and vindictive.

  • Re:A field of Two (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Teancum ( 67324 ) <robert_horning@netzero. n e t> on Sunday January 12, 2014 @11:46PM (#45936189) Homepage Journal

    Like maybe deciding to go with the cheaper o-rings with the narrower operating temperatures; just how cold could a Florida launch be anyway?

    Engineers from Thiokol wanted to use the more expensive o-rings in that case.... and NASA overruled demanding the cheaper ones. Furthermore, Thiokol also wanted to scrub the launch on the day that Challenger flew.... and NASA administrators thought it was politically a bad idea and flew anyway.

    This whole line of thought is bullshit as it presumes that a commercial company would risk lives to save $10, as if they want to pay higher per launch premiums to their insurance providers not to mention want the blood of people on their hands. Look at the problems RKK Energia is facing right now with their vehicles because there have been failures last year and tell me launching companies don't worry about that stuff.

He: Let's end it all, bequeathin' our brains to science. She: What?!? Science got enough trouble with their OWN brains. -- Walt Kelly