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NASA Businesses Government Space The Courts Transportation

NASA Asks Boeing, SpaceX To Stop Work On Next-Gen Space Taxi 139

BarbaraHudson writes Due to a challenge by Sierra Nevada, NASA has asked the winners for the next earth-to-orbit launch vehicles to halt work, at least temporarily. "After rewarding Boeing and SpaceX with the contracts to build the spacecrafts NASA is now asking the companies to stop their work on the project. The move comes after aerospace company Sierra Nevada filed a protest of the decision after losing out on the bid. Sierra Nevada was competing against Boeing and SpaceX for a share of the $6.8 billion CCP contracts. The contracts will cover all phases of development as well as testing and operational flights. Each contract will cover a minimum of two flights and a maximum of four, with each agency required to have one test flight with a NASA representative on board.... According to NASA's Public Affairs Office, this legal protest stops all work currently being done under these contracts. However, officials have not commented on whether-or-not the companies can continue working if they are using private funds."
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NASA Asks Boeing, SpaceX To Stop Work On Next-Gen Space Taxi

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  • by ustolemyname ( 1301665 ) on Sunday October 05, 2014 @06:15PM (#48070157)

    I really doubt SpaceX is going to stop work on a vehicle they were developing before they were awarded the contract.

    Boeing, on the other hand...

    • Both of them have been funding it themselves for years, as has sierra nevada. Neither will have a work stoppage, at least for the near future.
      • Looking at Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser page, they did receive some funding from NASA. As I recall, so did SpaceX. But as best I can determine, these funds were only a small portion of the overall project funding.

        Unless the GAO (or a court) has issued (or soon will issue) an injunction to halt work, I don't see SpaceX (or Boeing) them stopping work.

        While I like Sierra Nevada's design and overall plan better than SpaceX's, SpaceX has already delivered cargo to the ISS in version 1 of their space vehicle - mo

    • by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Sunday October 05, 2014 @09:41PM (#48070765) Homepage Journal

      well that really gets at the heart of the matter doesn't it? SpaceX is going to Mars, with or without NASA. Boeing is doing whatever somebody pays it to do.

    • by sconeu ( 64226 )

      I was going to ask this. Wasn't SpaceX working on a man-rated Dragon long before the contract award? Are they allowed to continue the work they were doing BEFORE award?

      • "Stop work" means "stop work on the contract". They can do what they like, but it won't be work on the contract--NASA won't pay for any of it.

    • This is just typical politics in the aerospace industry. It's so critical to national defense infrastructures that it tends to develop more cruft on its surface than others despite dealing with such incredibly interesting high tech. Also, US congressional budgets have been starving the budgets for the projects dealing with basic scientific research and study, which is a shame.

      I would prefer to see NASA bet on all three horses so you have better odds of one of winning the race!

      The current generations of th

      • This is just typical politics in the aerospace industry. It's so critical to national defense infrastructures that it tends to develop more cruft on its surface than others despite dealing with such incredibly interesting high tech. Also, US congressional budgets have been starving the budgets for the projects dealing with basic scientific research and study, which is a shame.

        I would prefer to see NASA bet on all three horses so you have better odds of one of winning the race!

        I would too, but they haven't been given the budget to do so. In fact, congress has been demanding the opposite: it had previously been very insistent that NASA needs to downselect to just one.

        It's quite a victory that they managed to keep on funding two options.

        • by TWX ( 665546 )
          Unfortunately it's very likely if it were limited to just one, it wouldn't be SpaceX. As the new kid on the block they don't have enough elected officials in their pockets.

          Machiavellian of me, but sometimes I wonder if this propping-up of Sierra Nevada is to help Boeing.

          There was a rather amusing Star Trek: TNG episode, "The Price," where particularly obnoxious Ferengi were hired to disrupt the bidding process. In this real-life scenario Sierra Nevada hasn't demonstrated anything reaching the ISS wh
    • I really doubt SpaceX is going to stop work on a vehicle they were developing before they were awarded the contract.

      If they don't, then the costs of work they perform cannot be reimbursed under the contract. Further, not doing so may also result in significant penalties being levied for breaking the terms of the contract.

      So SpaceX may or may not stop work entirely, but they *will* stop any NASA specific work and may have to stop work that's not necessarily NASA specific but is being paid for under the cont

  • Business as usual (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Sunday October 05, 2014 @06:15PM (#48070159)
    Filing a protest after someone else gets the contract is pretty much automatic.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yep. Pus back America's return to manned space flight another five years. Oh and it's likely, the way things are going with Russia, that their giving our astronauts rides into space will be ending sooner rather than later.

      This is a strategic national issue and the absolutely fucking broken federal contracting system is going to fuck it up nice and good.

      • by tibit ( 1762298 )

        "giving our astronauts rides" You mean they won't take everyone else's money anymore? Seriously? Because they are no charitable operation, you know, they're in launch business, and they charge appropriately. They don't give any astronauts jack shit. They are a commercial man-rated launch provider.

        • He's suggesting that they may choose to stop allowing us to pay them for rides.
          • by tibit ( 1762298 )

            They won't do that, because there's really no other customer for their rides to space. They themselves ride to space only because there's the ISS, and the whole thing starts making very little sense without U.S. involvement. I very much doubt they'd want to keep going to ISS if they'd outright refuse to offer the service to U.S. astronauts.

            • Well they were also threatening to break their modules off the ISS entirely, and use them as the core for their own new space station.
              • "Screw this! We'll take our modules and start our OWN space station! With blackjack! And hookers!"

                Then they'll find other customers besides NASA.

    • It's not automatic, but it's not rare. I worked on several telecom contracts worth many millions of USD for a federal agancy. Of the four times this basic contract was bid, for OC-3, OC12, and 10GE and most recently, 100GE including IRUs on the fiber, the award was only challenged once. A different bidder won on each re-bid.

      The challenge no doubt cost the taxpayers a great deal of money and delayed deployment for almost a year. I am extremely thankful that it never happened again!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Boeing and SpaceX will, of course, charge NASA for the Delay and Disruption costs caused by the stop work order, and the additional costs to resume work once the stop work order is lifted. This is an example of the stunts that the government pulls that drive up the cost of government contracts, and pushes the smart companies away from government work.

  • Ridiculous (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 05, 2014 @06:19PM (#48070179)

    Sorry, but nobody wants your miniature space shuttle, Sierra Nevada. Probably should have thought a little harder before copying one of the most expensive and unreliable space systems used in recent times. Heat-shield > Everything. Now SpaceX/Boeing have to bite the bullet and stop work? Something very wrong with this way of doing things.

    • by BarbaraHudson ( 3785311 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `nosduharabrab'> on Sunday October 05, 2014 @07:09PM (#48070335) Journal

      My thoughts exactly, which is why I had added "Sierra Nevada's orbiter resembles a mini space shuttle. That alone (remember the problems with the tiles) should have been enough to disqualify them." It got dropped in the final version, but that's okay.

      The necessary design compromises can't be overcome at this time, and you end up with a "space plane" that flies like a brick. If you really want wings, buy a box of Kotex.

      • Re:Ridiculous (Score:4, Informative)

        by FireFury03 ( 653718 ) <slashdotNO@SPAMnexusuk.org> on Monday October 06, 2014 @01:52AM (#48071335) Homepage

        My thoughts exactly, which is why I had added "Sierra Nevada's orbiter resembles a mini space shuttle. That alone (remember the problems with the tiles) should have been enough to disqualify them."

        Sorry, but what's wrong with how it looks? Yes, it's a space plane, but its mode of operation is pretty different to the shuttle - for one thing it sits on top of the launch vehicle, which makes it a hell of a lot safer!

        • It also has to safely escape on the launch pad and shortly afterward, the very problem the shuttle had. Boeing and Spacex have well defined and soon to be tested approaches to escape from launch accidents. I haven't seen how Sierra Nevada plans on solving this.
          • It also has to safely escape on the launch pad and shortly afterward, the very problem the shuttle had. Boeing and Spacex have well defined and soon to be tested approaches to escape from launch accidents. I haven't seen how Sierra Nevada plans on solving this.

            I believe they have onboard bipropellant rockets for both second-stage propulsion and abort.

            I don't have any particular hard-on for SNC, although I do think that competition is good so having their craft as well as Dragon 2 and CST-100 would be good (especially since they are offering something quite different). However, I'm just taking a bit of an exception to superficial statements like "they should be disqualified because it looks like the shuttle" rather than actually giving a damn about the technical

            • We don't need a "space plane." Wings provide another point of failure, one that has figured prominently in the shuttle, and forces compromises in terms of useable internal stowage. Also, wings kind of imply the need for a landing strip. You can't just plop it down anywhere.

              Capsules have some control over their destination by having an asymmetric center of gravity. Rotating the capsule can cause it to go into a steeper or shallower descent, or in a slightly different direction. It's not a lifting body,

        • You're absolutely right. The problem with the Shuttle had nothing to do with the wings. The Shuttle used solid rocket boosters that could not be throttled down in case of emergency, and relied on O-rings to seal the segments that comprise the casing. (Challenger.) The leading surfaces of the Shuttle were made from fragile reinforced carbon-carbon that would shatter when impacted. (Columbia.) As you noted, the Shuttle also sat next to the cryogenic fuel tank, which caused ice to hit the Shuttle. (Not only di

    • Re:Ridiculous (Score:5, Informative)

      by khallow ( 566160 ) on Sunday October 05, 2014 @07:20PM (#48070377)

      Probably should have thought a little harder before copying one of the most expensive and unreliable space systems used in recent times.

      They aren't copying the Shuttle. Just because you only know of one other reusable space vehicle, doesn't mean all other reusable vehicles share the same characteristics. If you see a dog spray painted pink, do you automatically assume all dogs are spray painted pink?

      Now SpaceX/Boeing have to bite the bullet and stop work?

      It's government. Figure it out.

      And I think Sierra Nevada has a case here. Boeing is the weak, over-priced link here. They only got in because they have political connections. And SpaceX only got in because it would have given the game away, if the best contender had been dropped this round. This is an attempt to remove competition to the Space Launch System (SLS) and perhaps Soyuz as well (I bet the Russians know how to bribe congresscritters).

      • They aren't copying the Shuttle. Just because you only know of one other reusable space vehicle, doesn't mean all other reusable vehicles share the same characteristics. If you see a dog spray painted pink, do you automatically assume all dogs are spray painted pink?

        Just to be clear, their Dream Chaser [wikipedia.org] looks a lot like the space shuttle. Though the internals can and probably are completely different.

        Heck, even using space shuttle technology we would have had a far cheaper and more reliable craft if it wasn't for a number of compromises.

        1. Ability to bring a largish satellite back(never used), resulted in the space shuttle being too big, necessitating the complex booster arrangement.
        2. Larger size led to concerns about the availability of titanium, which far more of

        • The Shuttles bring back capability was actually used on more than one occasion.

          • I interpreted Firethorn's first point to be that the shuttle was designed to retrieve and bring back to Earth a large object, but none of the objects it actually did return to Earth were that large. In that case, if the shuttle's payload bay had been smaller in the original design the orbiter itself would have been smaller and lighter and so would not have required quite so complicated a booster system (or a booster system at all.)

            I'm not sure why that capability was included in the original design; if it w

            • The reason they included that capability was to bring back particular Soviet spy satellites, which were that large.

              And they wouldn't have told us if they had brought one back...

              • And they wouldn't have told us if they had brought one back...

                I'd imagine that the Soviets/Russians would have spoken up by now if we'd stolen one of their satellites.

            • I interpreted Firethorn's first point to be that the shuttle was designed to retrieve and bring back to Earth a large object, but none of the objects it actually did return to Earth were that large.

              The Shuttle was generally limited more by CG than by weight or physical size. That being said, STS-32 did return the LDEF, which pretty much filled the payload (but was actually pretty light for it's size). Any number of ISS flights returned a Spacehab or MLPM at pretty much the maximum weight the Shuttle was c

            • I interpreted Firethorn's first point to be that the shuttle was designed to retrieve and bring back to Earth a large object, but none of the objects it actually did return to Earth were that large. In that case, if the shuttle's payload bay had been smaller in the original design the orbiter itself would have been smaller and lighter and so would not have required quite so complicated a booster system (or a booster system at all.)

              You are correct. The shuttle has brought things back, but never something that exceeded the original requirement before the USAF demanded it be capable of more.

              Smaller load capacity would mean that you'd have to launch more satellites via dedicated boosters rather than shuttle flights, but given what shuttle launches ended up costing, it would have been cheaper. Indeed, it would allow more flexibility since you're not designing them to fit into the bay.

              Increased cargo capacity means the shuttle has to be

    • Re:Ridiculous (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 05, 2014 @07:28PM (#48070407)

      A space plane isn't inherently unreliable. Placing said space plane below the level of cryogenic fuel tank insulation, with ice subject to crashing into it at hundreds of miles an hour is, in retrospect, pretty silly. Dream Chaser (DC) sits at the top of the rocket stack - it's smaller than the space shuttle, so this is feasible.

      Building a craft with waaay more requirements than you are actually going to use, because the Air Force says so, is bad plan. Building to spec can be far more effective.

      Each of the three finalists had a craft with at least one unique attribute.

      Boeing's CST-100 is the only one with the built-in ability to re-boost the ISS. It has airbags to supplement the parachutes, and a lever-arm on the parachute rig to angle the capsule on the descent (not sure why, I guess for a better landing).

      The Dream Chaser is the only one with an airlock - important for any potential in-flight repair missions (self or other objects). The lifting body design means it can land anywhere with a long enough runway, and in theory can land with lower force than the other two. Also potentially launcher agnostic.

      Spacex's Dragon v2 doesn't rely on the RD-180 engine, is the furthest along with hardware development, and while NASA isn't using it for this contract, potentially reusable like the DC. It will land under parachutes with a propulsive tap at the end to soften the landing in addition to landing legs, with the potential for propulsive landings in the future - with accuracy similar to a helicopter. It's also by far the cheapest contract bid.

      Also, for the record, Sierra Nevada has pretty reasonable grounds for a complaint. They don't contest contracts often, and this one seemed to change at the last minute (remember the announcement that we'd have a winner just before or after Labor Day weekend?). The full scoring should be able to justify the final decision. If it doesn't there's a problem. This probably won't take very long to resolve.

      For the record, as a huge fan of Spacex, I don't think the DC needs to be trashed on - it was a good (not great) proposal stuck between the big PR darling and the politically best-connected contractor in the business.

      • Re:Ridiculous (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <fairwater@@@gmail...com> on Sunday October 05, 2014 @11:28PM (#48071081) Homepage

        A space plane isn't inherently unreliable. Placing said space plane below the level of cryogenic fuel tank insulation, with ice subject to crashing into it at hundreds of miles an hour is, in retrospect, pretty silly. Dream Chaser (DC) sits at the top of the rocket stack - it's smaller than the space shuttle, so this is feasible.

        Putting the space plane on top of the stack isn't without it's own problems though... mainly in the form of huge aerodynamic issues because the wings are now where they can exert the greatest leverage. (Read among other things: in the exact right spot to cause the most control problems and to tear the stack to shreds if there's only a small problem with the angle of attack.) That's why the Dyansoar's Titan booster had suchhuge fins [astronautix.com], simply gimbaling the engines did not provide sufficient control authority to offset the resistance of the wings.

        For the record, as a huge fan of Spacex, I don't think the DC needs to be trashed on - it was a good (not great) proposal stuck between the big PR darling and the politically best-connected contractor in the business.

        You forgot: "and was the most technically difficult proposal and submitted by the contractor with the least experience of any kind". Sierra Nevada has no substantial grounds for complaint, their solution may have been competitive on price, but contrary to popular belief these types of contracts are NOT awarded solely on the basis of costs. Technical factors also play a huge role. Which also explains the award to Boeing, it wasn't political connections, it was because SpaceX has a damm poor track record when it comes to delivering on time.

        • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

          technical factors etc are part of the scoring which ended up even? so yeah not only the price - but for transparencys sake there's that scoring..

        • Re:Ridiculous (Score:4, Interesting)

          by butalearner ( 1235200 ) on Monday October 06, 2014 @09:22AM (#48073105)

          You forgot: "and was the most technically difficult proposal and submitted by the contractor with the least experience of any kind". Sierra Nevada has no substantial grounds for complaint, their solution may have been competitive on price, but contrary to popular belief these types of contracts are NOT awarded solely on the basis of costs. Technical factors also play a huge role.

          I agree that it's not as obviously gamed as everyone says. Sierra Nevada might not have much experience as a prime on big contracts like this, but their Dream Chaser proposal had Lockheed Martin and Aerojet and other heavy hitters as subs, and I guarantee you they put their own political connections to as much use as Boeing did. I'm as cynical as the next guy when it comes to politics, but there is certainly more to it here.

          • I agree that it's not as obviously gamed as everyone says.

            Very few people actually discussing this issue (here on Slashdot and other geek/fanboy fora) have the knowledge to actually evaluate these proposals. Add in a strong anti-corporate bias, a strong anti-NASA bias, and the geek cool factor of having a space plane that avoid the "obvious" flaw of the Shuttle's parallel mounting... and you have people essentially making judgements on the process on what amounts to religious grounds.

            I'm as cynic

        • Boeing's system is the least developed, and has possibly show-stopping problems in the wind tunnel tests with their capsule so far. In no way are they technically superior to Sierra Nevada, who has already done flight tests of a real, live test article and has a launch in the near future.
          • One some planet where the aerodynamics of a winged craft are in any way comparable to a ballistic re-entry... your comment would make sense. In the real world, where the Dream Chaser hasn't been flight tested in anything even remotely close to the most difficult portion of it's flight regime... you just come off as clueless.

            Seriously, you have no clue what you're talking about if you think the equivalent of turning the engine over "proves" that a car will be the fastest and best performing in the Indiana

            • The point is that Boeing has nothing but mockups, powerpoints, and disastrous wind tunnel tests, so Sierra Nevada doesn't have to do much to have more technical merit. But go ahead and keep pretending that Boeing won based on the "technical merit" of a less tested, less developed, less capable, and more expensive system.
              • The point is that Boeing has nothing but mockups, powerpoints, and disastrous wind tunnel tests, so Sierra Nevada doesn't have to do much to have more technical merit.

                When it comes to the most important part of it's flight regime, all Sierra Nevada has is "mockups, powerpoints, and wind tunnel tests". Worse yet, that regime is actually an area in which we have very little actual experience (essentially limited to Space Shuttle re-entries).

                But go ahead and keep pretending that Boeing won bas

                • I'd say a real flight article tested in part of the flight regime is infinitely more than Boeing who has no flight article, tested in no part of the flight regime, and even in preliminary subsystem tests is having huge technical problems. You're a fucking shill.
        • Price was supposedly the highest-weighted factor for this particular contract, so they aren't entirely unjustified in their complaint. However, NASA also has good justification for their decision: there's quite a bit of uncertainty with the DreamChaser. For instance, they apparently haven't settled on something as basic as a propulsion system. There's talk of them replacing the hybrids with ORBITEC's Vortex engines, but at a recent presentation they appeared to still be undecided (https://twitter.com/jeff_f [twitter.com]

      • The only consideration that Spacex's Dragon has as a compelling advantage is if it can be safely operational with a two year lead over Boeing or Dream Chaser. If that's the case, they should get the contract, tough titties to Sierra Nevada. The damned Russians makes this a compelling priority. Otherwise, give it to Dream Chaser, and tough titties to SpaceX. Boeing, unfortunately, is going to get the next available slot, because it has tons more experience than either competitor, and it has way more poli

        • Hey, let's not blame it all on the Russians - we're the ones who started this particular tete-a-tete by expanding NATO control into the buffer zone established at the end of the war. Should Russia just roll over as their adversaries set up camp on their doorstep? And they kind of have us over a barrel for space access, why *wouldn't* they bring a little political pressure to bear there as well? If their response wasn't anticipated before we began pushing then that's a pretty clear failure of political int

      • by PhuCknuT ( 1703 )

        and a lever-arm on the parachute rig to angle the capsule on the descent (not sure why, I guess for a better landing).

        Wild guess: to make splashdown less impactful by avoiding a "belly flop" and hitting the water edge-first.

    • What a load of BS.

      They are copying the pre-spaceshuttle sensible and very workable X-20 dyna-soar, which was a very sensible design for certain applications.
      The space shuttle was lumbered with masses of military 'requirements' and pork belly politics that destroyed the design - welcome to the USA!
      That doesnt mean that X-20 type return vehicles are bad..

      In fact the perfect mix could well be SAs lift body on top of a return-and-land Space-X primary booster.

      Pretty much anything but more NASA pork is a win win

      • Bzzzzt! Wrong. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 05, 2014 @10:10PM (#48070861)

        The USAF X-20 DynaSoar was a one-man winged space glider with metallic TPS; it had WINGS (like the shuttle)

        The DreamChaser is an HL-20 derivative lifting body (no wings) which was loosely-derived from the unmanned Soviet BOR lifting body which the Soviets had loosely-derived from thier study of three families of earlier American lifting bodies: the HL-10, the M2 series, the X-24(A and B) and the USAF "PRIME"

        There are so many differences between the Shuttle and the DreamChaser that anybody attacking the DC based on their ignorant pet theories about the shuttle program is simply an idiot; just a tiny subset of differences:

        1. Shuttle was winged space plane, DC is lifing body

        2. Shuttle rode on side of stack and was part of launch vehicle, DC rides on top of stack and is launch vehicle agnostic.

        3. Shuttle had complex hydraulic controls, thus requiring hydrazine-fueled APUs during launch and entry phases, DC has none of this

        4. Shuttle was the size of a small airliner, with huge cargo bay for heavy payloads, making it too heavy to have an abort system, DC has an abort system

        5. Shuttle was so big and landed so fast that in required very large runways to safely land, DC can land at most airports

        6. Shuttle was very fragile having been built at the cutting edge of 1970s tech, DC is rugged carbon composite and suffered little damage when it rolled on landing when the test vehicle's landing gear (old and borrowed from a fighter jet for that test flight) failed - a crew and cargo would have survived.

        7. Shuttle ran on hydrogen-oxygen fuel cells (Apollo derived tech) thus limiting its on-orbit time to a few days, DC could stay on-orbit (unmanned or at ISS) for half a year

        8. Shuttle was not suffiently automated to fly unmanned, DC is full-automated and can be operated manned, or unmanned depending on mission

        9. Shuttle used highly-toxic fuels like hydrazine, DC does not.

        10. Shuttle used very fragile 1970's era thermal tiles, DC (like Dragon) uses much newer and better materials (not the SAME materials as Dragon, but newer just as Dragon uses newer)

        I could add more and the guys from Sierra could probably add another hundred differences, but I believe I have shown enough to illustrate how ignorant it is to say shuttle was bad and therefore DreamChaser is bad

        • by sconeu ( 64226 )

          Wasn't the HL-10 the spacecraft that Steve Austin crashed in?

        • And yet I look at images of the Dream Chaser, a craft that should be designed primarily for space maneuvers, and I see wings. Those wings significantly complicate both launch and reentry, while significantly increasing vehicle mass, and for what? To allow landing on a runway? Meanwhile we've got SpaceX flying a refined version of a more traditional high volume-to-mass ratio space capsule that also promises to be able to land virtually anywhere you could land a helicopter using rocket-control technology t

        • Shuttle was not suffiently automated to fly unmanned, DC is full-automated and can be operated manned, or unmanned depending on mission

          To be fair, the Buran's sole flight was fully automated and unmanned. By accounts, it landed beautifully.

          Granted, they didn't launch it on top of a rocket per se.

    • Sorry, but nobody wants your miniature space shuttle, Sierra Nevada. Probably should have thought a little harder before copying one of the most expensive and unreliable space systems used in recent times. Heat-shield > Everything. Now SpaceX/Boeing have to bite the bullet and stop work? Something very wrong with this way of doing things.

      Actually, the Dream Chaser is 900 million cheaper than Boeing's system, with equal or more features, and Sierra Nevada also argues compellingly [io9.com] that their delivery track

      • The only problem is that wings are complete waste of mass in space. The *only* thing they add is the ability to land on a runway after reentry, and a little extra fuel and a good control system will mass a lot less and let you land pretty much *anywhere*, no runway required.

    • How the hell did this get modded insightful? Bunch of Boeing shills, I'm guessing.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 05, 2014 @06:32PM (#48070209)

    I'm so tired of the near automatic protests of gov't contracts. If the challenge is rejected, the loser should pay for the delays/cost overruns instead of taxpayers.

    • Right.

      Or perhaps it can be explained by our fondness for soccer.

      Our lives have become too easy, thus, every now and then we need to kick things around during our struggle to dispense our disposable free time allotment. For entertainment purposes only? If your mind's right.

  • by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Sunday October 05, 2014 @06:50PM (#48070265) Journal
    It pales to the damage caused by the paring of NASA's budget over the years...
  • I'm nearly certain (Score:5, Insightful)

    by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Sunday October 05, 2014 @06:50PM (#48070269) Journal

    ...that in 100 years, historians will postulate that the US space program really vanished into the bureaucratic morass, and that politics and special interests combined to torpedo any hope that the private sector would ever make it into space.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      These companies are free to build space ships and rockets all they want. This only affects the vehicle that NASA was paying for. Everyone on this forum and others is all about bowing before the holy "private space industry", yet when public funds are delayed suddenly the private space industry is destroyed? Either private space companies can compete and thrive like in every other market, or they're reliant on public funding. If it's the latter (which is fine), then can we stop pretending they aren't tax-pay

      • "These companies are free to build space ships and rockets all they want. "
        Actually, no, they're not. The private space industry has repeatedly hit regulatory roadblocks, NIMBY, and bureaucracies that are barely in the 20th century let alone the 21st, and for whom "don't you do anything without a) a government agency approving it and b) paying some sort of license/tax" is dogma.

        Yes, this CURRENT issue has to do with government bidding and contracts, and LIKELY doesn't* prevent them doing what they need to

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      You really think NASA wasn't bureaucratic back in its glory days?

      There were two big differences between then and now: then NASA had big-time funding and a clear mission that was stable over the course of a decade.

      Bureaucracy is the optimal design pattern for an organization that has to accomplish a fixed set of objectives within a predictable set of constraints and with a stable set of resources. When bureaucracy works well, it becomes practically invisible. For example one of the greatest innovations Sc

    • Nope. You forget that in 2046 or so, the moon will hatch, causing everyone to look to the starts again and humans will explore the edges of the universe till the end of time... ref. Latest Doctor Who episode!
  • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Sunday October 05, 2014 @07:20PM (#48070381)

    Attention ploy by Sierra Nevada.

    They've never flown a spacecraft, so they will not be awarded any contract monies under any circumstances, given that one of the contract criteria was that they meet the prequalification deadlines, which they have not.

    I expect they're hoping getting their names out there would get them additional investors.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You might want to have a look again at SNC's bona fides before you go spouting off about no experience. Among other projects they did the landing systems on curiosity. That whole hovering crane thing with the flying knives that went off without a hitch, yeah that was SNC, it's a well financed and privately held company that doesn't really need additional investors. But hey why let the facts get in the way of a good rant, amirite?

  • Sierra Nevada's design was a riff on the Space Shuttle, which is just a terrible way to get to space and back. Yes, you have a reusable orbiter, but you add a crapload of launch weight. That means you can carry less. The goal of these current projects is to act as a space-taxi for passengers, not multi-week flights like the Shuttle. No one wants your design, people.
    • by bledri ( 1283728 )

      Sierra Nevada's design was a riff on the Space Shuttle, which is just a terrible way to get to space and back. Yes, you have a reusable orbiter, but you add a crapload of launch weight. That means you can carry less. The goal of these current projects is to act as a space-taxi for passengers, not multi-week flights like the Shuttle. No one wants your design, people.

      Calling it a riff on the Space Shuttle is a gross oversimplification. The Dream Chaser is a much smaller and simpler design than the Space Shuttle. The Space Shuttle was a delta wing whereas the Dream Chaser is a lifting body. A lifting body is a much simpler design and and more "robust" than the more semi-traditional aircraft design of the Space Shuttle.

      Wings are extra mass. But so are parachutes and fuel to land. There is no free lunch with reusability. I'm more a fan of SpaceX's Dragon V2 more due

  • by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Sunday October 05, 2014 @09:22PM (#48070705)
    To the always ethical, always honest, always better in all ways private and free market.

    While those half communist Government suckling pigs were frittering away your precious tax dollars, we are on our way to the promised land with private industries superior and more efficient offerings.

    So now, we'll bring entire programs to their knees with good old fashioned American core values.

    The invisible hand of the free market is jacking us off.

    With 40 grit sandpaper.

    • by nut ( 19435 )

      These private companies are being restricted from their work by a court order. Thats an example of regulation, nothing to do with, "the invisible hand of the free market".

      • These private companies are being restricted from their work by a court order. Thats an example of regulation, nothing to do with, "the invisible hand of the free market".

        You don't understand how business works in America. Nor sarcasm.

        But in the World of space, where once it was accidents that brought programs to a screeching halt, it will now be companies claiming discrimination of one sort or another that will stop it in it's tracks.

        In reality, the free market doesn't exist. It can't, because once any company gets a step ahead they want anything but the free market, they want to be the only game in town. It's like WalMart buying up pharmacies and eyeglass centers, and

      • Free market doesn't come into this, the Space X / Boeing contracts are government contracts. Socialized space travel.
        • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

          So you presumably also believe that, when the government buys a ticket for an airline flight, that's 'socialized air travel'?

      • These private companies are being restricted from their work by a court order. Thats an example of regulation, nothing to do with, "the invisible hand of the free market".

        It was part of the deal when they bid. All but the most extreme libertarian free-marketers acknowledge that you need some form of contract law in a civilised society.

    • It is always bizarre to see pro-government leftists celebrate their culture in public. Especially considering they were solidly anti-government until January 20, 2009. But no, government is good now. We have always been allied with Eurasia.
      • It is always bizarre to see pro-government leftists celebrate their culture in public. Especially considering they were solidly anti-government until January 20, 2009. But no, government is good now. We have always been allied with Eurasia.

        You know what is really really bizarre? Some fuckwit that tries to pull that out of my rant. By the way - that would be you. Seriously dude, you have to try harder. Howzabout accusing me of trying to take your guns away, or be in favor of universal health care?

        Get back to Infowars, they called and said they missed your always relevant insights.

  • So surely that means that they have to pay them at completion. Y'know... basic contract law.

    They'd have to have a pretty crappy 'contract' to be able to ask their contractors to suddenly stop working it.

    • It's not the contract, it's the law. If the loser files the right kind of protest in the right amount of time, a stop work must be ordered. It's to avoid unscrupulous contracting officers from throwing a bid to their buddies. It's totally normal for US government contracting.
  • Today, it became an anchor. SpaceX should drop out of the bidding and be free to develop its own vehicle according to its own rules.

    • What exactly is stopping them from developing their own vehicle according to their own rules?

      Other than the fact that without a government contract they can't see a way of making any profit, of course.

  • Butthurt that a subsidy you acquired didn't get a piece of the action. Don't dare let successful companies who have won contracts keep those contracts without getting something out of it.

  • I think this is strange. I work in public procurement in Belgium and under European law all participating companies are notified and have a 15 day period to file a complain before the contract is closed. During that period the decision who receives the contract can still be changed. After this period a company could still file a complain, but can only obtain a financial restitution. I'm surprised this isn't used in US government law.

"When the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to treat everything as if it were a nail." -- Abraham Maslow

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