Congress and NASA administrator Charles Bolden battled over ISS, Russia, crew transport, and commercial space yesterday in a hearing before Congress.


Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar to the right or below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.

Congress and NASA administrator Charles Bolden battled over ISS, Russia, crew transport, and commercial space yesterday in a hearing before Congress.

Not surprising. Congress wants to know what NASA will do if Russia pulls out of ISS and Bolden really has few options if they do. He in turn was trying to get Congress to focus on funding commercial space so that we can launch our own astronauts to ISS and not depend on the Russians. A true confederacy of dunces. More here.

Share

3 comments

  • Kelly Starks

    >…get Congress to focus on funding commercial space so that we can launch our own astronauts to ISS and
    > not depend on the Russians..

    A important point that seems to be getting missed here is that we really have no way to shorten the gap so to speak. It seems obvious, but I hear in various blogs, and last time I heard you on the John Bachelor show, the idea that we should throw more money into commercial crew now and speed up their availability. That’s just not a option. I mean the commercial crew companies aren’t the Lockheed Skunk works or McDac/Boeing Phantom works, and they are already trying to meet a very aggressive schedule for first flight in late 2016. That’s really pushing it for small inexperienced companies like this, even with them (in Dream Chaser and Boeings case) piggybacking on Orion work, systems designs, and teams. Its really to late to get anything operational before 2017-2018. Even those dates kinda assume no significant surprises. I mean the technical specs I wrote a week or two ago for dream chaser systems now need to be extensively rewritten due to fairly significant redesigns…and they are still not considered frozen, nor do I think the infrastructure to develop and test them is ready.

  • Dick Eagleson

    I mean the commercial crew companies aren’t the Lockheed Skunk works or McDac/Boeing Phantom works

    In the sense that they aren’t able to operate on multi-billion dollar black budgets with little oversight and high project failure rates, then, yes, you’re right. But I see nothing very “Phantom-worksy” about CST-100 or anything at all “Skunk-Worksy” about Orion. The former seems a cynical effort to extract some bucks from the CCDev buckstream, to be instantly dropped if said buckstream ever dries up. All it demonstrates is that aerospace legacy “majors” will find ways to acquire all or part of just about any buckstream that materializes within reach. As for Orion, it’s years late, metric tonnes overweight, has an antique, labor-intensive heat shield technology that can’t safely return from anywhere further away than the Moon – an odd limitation for an alleged “deep space” craft – and the test article cracked during pressure tests and had to be gusseted to fly at all on its equally bullshit upcoming “test” launch on a Delta IV.

    As to putative “inexperience”, most of the people who had experience in manned spaceflight at Boeing and LockMart have long since died or retired. The work of their, yes, “inexperienced” replacements has been unimpressive at best – as noted. SpaceX has three launches of a freight vehicle upon which it’s crewed version is based already under its belt, two abort tests of said crewed vehicle coming up before year’s end and publicly announced intentions of ability to fly crew on a technically finished crewed version of Dragon before 12/31/2015. If Russia did something that made it necessary for an American crew to fly to ISS on a Dragon before that, I’ve no doubt it could be done, and quite safely, mere weeks from the get-go. What would have to be jettisoned is most of the planned NASA paper-pushing that seems to be the actual cause of the slippage from 2015 to 2017. As an apparent career paper-pusher himself, I can readily understand how this must horrify Mr. Starks,who – rightly, I believe – has expressed a long-standing concern that, even wrapped in the arms of a legacy aerospace “major”, he must still fear for the future of his phoney-baloney job.

  • Kelly Starks

    That hasn’t been why I’ve seen working on Orion and Dream chaser.

    To clarify. These new space companies simply don’t have teams with the depth of experience and supporting processes, personnel, etc. that could allow them to ramp up to a crash program. Frankly meeting their current schedules is iffy, so speculating about accelerating things to close the gap where were dependent on the Russians is just not realistic.

    Boeing might be a exception. They reached their milestones and went pretty much hold for several month (at least around here), so presumably they could restart earlier.

    >.. But I see nothing very “Phantom-worksy” about CST-100 or anything at all “Skunk-Worksy” about Orion. ..

    True, both companies have learned that NASA doesn’t want new or innovative. They want retro. They also learned NASA ability to even do enough systesm engineering to know what to ask for has taken a real hit.

    Your point that perhaps there are no organizations still in the US that are capable of doing what the ones I listed used to be able to do is possible, but given results from military programs, I think they just don’t bother brining out the “A: team for projects like this.

    >..The former seems a cynical effort to extract some bucks from the CCDev buckstream, to be instantly
    > dropped if said buckstream ever dries up.

    Nothing cynical about it. NASA interest and funding stream is iffy at best. Given no other market seems likely to cut checks soon, there’s no reason to build it is NASA pulls out, If NASA stays in, Boeing basicly built another Apollo like capsule. Cheaper and likely better, with likely most of the capabilities of Orion. All developed to the best standards. Every T crossed, every I dotted. None of the shortcuts the others are doing to cut costs. A very strong bid proposal for the NASA customer.

    >.. As for Orion, it’s years late, metric tonnes overweight, has an antique, labor-intensive heat shield technology
    > that can’t safely return from anywhere further away than the Moon – an odd limitation for an alleged “deep space”
    > craft – and the test article cracked during pressure tests and had to be gusseted to fly at all on its equally bullshit
    > upcoming “test” launch on a Delta IV…

    Yup, and even to get it that good involved some serious fights with NASA who kept pushing to cut safty margines and redundancy, avoid newer design tech, etc. In one case I was at a major sub who just called a stop work and refused to continue until NASA agree to allow high safty standards (just a guess but if/when the shortcuts killed a crew, NASA wasn’t going to take the blame.)

    > As to putative “inexperience”, most of the people who had experience in manned spaceflight
    > at Boeing and LockMart have long since died or retired. ..

    And the retired ones get hired back as consultants.

    >…SpaceX has three launches of a freight vehicle upon which it’s crewed version is based already
    > under its belt, two abort tests of said crewed vehicle coming up before year’s end and publicly
    > announced intentions of ability to fly crew on a technically finished crewed version of Dragon before 12/31/2015…

    SpaceX also has a high failure rate, and says a lot of things that they don’t deliver on, and have suspicious cost numbers. They are the face of commercial crew NASA uses to damn it to congress.

    >… As an apparent career paper-pusher himself, I can readily understand how this must horrify Mr. Starks,who – rightly,
    > I believe – has expressed a long-standing concern that, even wrapped in the arms of a legacy aerospace “major”,
    > must still fear for the future of his phoney-baloney job.

    Well that’s about as unfounded, uninformed, biased, and uninsightful as the rest of your assumptions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *