Neil deGrasse Tyson poo-poos private space.


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Standing on the wrong side of history: Neil deGrasse Tyson poo-poos private space.

Tyson described space travel as “a long-term investment”: “It’s an investment that private enterprise cannot lead.” He recalled the excitement around SpaceX’s delivery of cargo the International Space Station, which sparked discussion about whether private companies would replace government as the main engine behind space travel. Tyson’s response? “They brought cargo to the space station! NASA’s been doing that for 30 years!”

Tyson, who also said that government is the only one willing to do exploration and that private space only comes after, will probably push this agenda on his new Cosmos television series.

On this subject, Tyson has the outdated opinions of today’s leftwing academic community. And he is wrong. The only reasons private space didn’t lead in the past fifty years is because our federal government was against it. It wanted the turf all to itself and the private companies who could have done it were willing to acquiesce. Now that this monopoly is crumbling, stand by to see private enterprise dominate the show.

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42 comments

  • Cotour

    Is Tyson not paying attention to current events? What are all of these internet billionaires doing with there time and money?

  • Edward

    Over the past 30 years, all NASA has brought us is a space shuttle that was trapped in Low Earth Orbit, an expensive space station which seems to be underutilized, and a loss of American manned access to space.

    Over the past 10 years, private companies have been trying to work through the red tape that, half a century ago, NASA didn’t have to fight. The result is that a US company is the only one to privately put a man into space. Private companies are now working to put people into suborbital space as well as into LEO, another is building space stations (which only lack access through manned launches to LEO), one intends to mine asteroids, and two more are seriously trying to get to Mars in the next decade or so.

    NASA’s big plan? To launch one manned mission every four years for the foreseeable future.

    Right now, NASA is only one space station ahead of the private companies. Not looking so good after 57 years.

    Which is the more ambitious in space exploration, NASA or the private companies? I’m putting my hopes on the private companies. They seem to be better suited and more committed than NASA’s leadership to wade through the politics and red tape.

    Sorry, Tyson, but I think that you are missing the launch of the next phase in space exploration.

  • Patrick Ritchie

    What he said is more nuanced than that (I saw this talk live). He specifically said the private space should be everywhere it can be, which includes pretty much all activities, human or otherwise, in LEO and possibly even the moon.

    His argument is that the typical venture capital model doesn’t work very well when:

    1. The costs are very high
    2. There are huge uncertainties in the risk
    3. The market for the activity is unknown

    These arguments are not without value and have historical precedent. Even SpaceX, perhaps the best private space company is on record as saying “We wouldn’t be here without the help of NASA”

    http://www.nasa.gov/exploration/commercial/cargo/spacex_heatshield_prt.htm

    Elon was specifically referring to technology, but at the very least the contracts SpaceX has with the government have greatly accelerated their efforts and it’s possible they would have failed without them.

    I should also say, that I haven’t heard Tyson make any remarks about the contract structure used by NASA, but nothing he has said precludes a contract structure using Space Act Agreements similar to COTS or Commercial Crew for BEO exploration.

    Where I disagree with Tyson is the statement that private space *cannot* lead. It may be very difficult, it may take more time, but it is definitely still possible.

  • Chris L

    Sagan was also a private enterprise in space skeptic. Like Tyson, he was a product of the academic world where space is a place for scientific exploration and not much else. The difference is that Tyson is living in a world where people like Elan Musk, Paul Allen, and Richard Branson are putting serious money into spaceflight. So while Tyson might not think nongovernmentally sponsored spaceflight will work, the people who make the fortunes do.

  • Orion314

    Tyson is his own # 1 fan, a fine example of terminal nacissism.All his problems start from that point. I have not the slighest understanding of the cause of nacissism, except it does seem to have some commonalitys with autism..
    I’ve never heard of a cure for it. Some mysteries just aren’t worth the effort.

  • D. K. Williams

    I’ll have to ask my son about the narcissism angle as he studied under Tyson at Princeton. I will add that I disagreed with Tyson regarding Pluto. I see no reason to reclassify it as a minor planet. It even has moons, which can’t be said for Venus or tiny Mercury.

  • D. K. Williams

    I liked the first new Cosmos episode with two exceptions. First, the intro by Obama was unnecessary, in fact, it points to “anti-science” given Obama’s absurd comment that “the climate change debate is settled.” Second, the extended segment on Bruno was a waste of time, and I suspect was a deliberate slap at the Catholic church.

  • wade

    I agree. With each of the posted responses. And for the most points observed , they are correct . Unless, Tyson and a minority of scientific minds Are aware of an unknown,to us, propulsion system

  • Pzatchok

    The only reason space flight is costly now is because ‘private’ industry was not allowed to do it.
    I don’t count those military contractors who made most of their cash directly from the government for the last 60 years as private any more. They couldn’t survive as a totally private company.

    Now that the technology and financial backers are in place its costs will only go down. Forced down by industry. Forced down by private desire.
    Exactly how many people would want to spend a month in space if the costs were down into the 5 figures?
    We already have a load of folks willing to just ride a fancy roller coaster into space for more than that. And that will last at best a few hours.

    Up until now it has stayed costly because the big companies have made all their cash directly off the government either through military contracts or NASA contracts, some times overlapping.

    Now that small dedicated companies can do what the big companies plus government used to do the days of those big companies are getting shorter. Their day in the sun is over.

    Now if the military wants a new launch the lowest bidder gets it. Not the only bidder gets it.
    And believe me, the big companies made back room deals with each other to not cut each other out of the gravy chain. One group gets this project and the next gets that one.
    And politicians didn’t care as long as those companies kept well funded lobbyists in Washington.

  • Cotour

    Tyson, like Sagan and Kaku are well spoken, can communicate concepts and the camera tolerates them well. Tyson serves a purpose related to the public being informed in some way about science and the human place in the universe. Sagan in a prophetic way seemed to have chosen Tyson while Tyson was still in high school. (I just happend to listen to Tyson being interviewed on the Brian Leher Show this morning)

  • The use of a lightning rod political figure like Obama reveals immediately the agenda of the show, and of Tyson. This will not be a fair-minded exploration of science, but a political propaganda piece, though interspersed with some interesting science along the way.

    The use of Obama also reveals once again the tunnel-vision of the Democratic left. Doesn’t Tyson realize that using Obama will turn off the very people he is trying to persuade? Sadly, he does not realize this. He, like most of today’s leftwing intellectual community, is so convinced that he is right and that everyone with brains agrees with him that he doesn’t care that Obama’s presence might turn off those who disagree with him. To Tyson, anyone who disagrees is a tea-party ignorant racist fool, and will probably not watch anyway because he is black.

    If I was doing this show, the last thing I would do is to include any political figures.

  • Cotour

    You assume that Tyson has a say in who participates in his presentation. The fact that they included the president says a lot about there being an agenda other than pure science. Which is not to say that Tyson is not on board with the cause to some degree, but he has to be political to some degree taking into account his position as the head of the Rose Planetarium.

  • Chris L

    Yeah the Bruno cartoon was a total waste of time and I suspect it was Seth Macfarland’s contribution to the evening. The story about Sagan at the end was good, as were the visuals. As others have mentioned though, Tyson is really just playing host here. That lack of ownership prevents there being an emotional connection with the audience.

  • Kelly Starks

    They are doing little, and mostly looking for gov contracts.

    Same old, same old.

  • Kelly Starks

    > Over the past 10 years, private companies have been trying to work through the red tape that,
    > half a century ago, NASA didn’t have to fight. The result is that a US company is the only one
    > to privately put a man into space….

    Ok, remember folks. Private companies launched all the astronauts, all the probes. NASA never built a space ship. Never built a station parts. So they contracted with companies to do it. So all the newspace folks are doing, is more of the same, hanging out for NASA contracts.

    >..Right now, NASA is only one space station ahead of the private companies. Not looking so good after 57 years.

    2.

    > Which is the more ambitious in space exploration, NASA or the private companies? ..

    NASA, none of the commercials is, or is planing to do exploration.

  • Kelly Starks

    Its really hard to close a business case, when you don’t know whats there to sell.

    And look at SpaceX, NASA paid all their bills, SAR rather then FAR rules, and they are way higher cost per ton then shuttle.

  • Kelly Starks

    The fact Fox put Obama on the frount intro’ing Their new spin on Cosmos is weird?

  • Kelly Starks

    Man these fantasies of little companies doing it all, driving costs down through new tech etc, are really getting delusional, adn really ignore history of the respective organizations pasts and presents.

  • Cotour

    This whole thing is weird. These overt and naked attempts at shaping opinion and the forcing of imagery is disturbing on many levels. And this president and the people who surround and support him are happy and comfortable to execute it. There is an element of mind control or true believer mass hypnosis, or something along those lines, that’s what is weird. And it is Un American! Remember being American?

    Gerbles would have loved having access to it all. I think the internet is the counter balance though, it is a sword that cuts equally both ways. Its great for one side if you alone control the information spigot.

    “May you live in interesting times.”

  • Patrick Ritchie

    There are plenty of business cases that work in space: Consumer TV, Radio & Internet, Broadcast TV, Imaging.

    … and I’m sure as we expand our sphere of influence we’ll find more and more.

  • Patrick Ritchie

    I’m surprised by the hostility to the introduction by the president of the united states to a science show. The message was pretty good, encouraging the audience to “explore new frontiers” and that “the next discovery could be yours”.

  • So he’s the president of the United States? Big deal. Just because he has that title doesn’t demand that I respect him or even like him. He earns that by what he does, and I must tell you that almost every president in my lifetime has not earned anything but my overall disgust and contempt. Some have been better than others, but in general the rule has been that these individuals have used their position of power to damage the country in exchange for their own self-interest.

    Nor is my attitude a new one. You should read Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. Even in the early 1800s he noticed the general contempt Americans had for their elected officials.

  • wade

    That is my thoughts Also. Like I stated nearly a year ago, this is All a display of 1960’s tech.

  • Pzatchok

    I find it embarrassing that we are relying on 1950’s tech to send our own astronauts to and from space. Plus its in ships build, launched and flown by Russians.

    I find it embarrassing that your vaunted NASA can’t find the ability to drop back and punt an old design out just to fry our own guys back and forth.

    All we need is the Volkswagen of space craft and they can’t even think of how to do it.
    They are so wound up in pushing the envelope that they can’t even grasp the idea of cheap and reliable.

    They want to build the F1 of space craft and then proudly dance around with their chests puffed singing out that they made the greatest ship around.
    But only plan to use once every few years.

    They now have the attitude that its beneath them to build and operate a utility vehicle. They are just to good for that so they are leaving it to private companies to do it.

    And do you know what? Dropping back to that old reliable 50’s and 60 tech is proving to be cost effective. And profitable for both the Russians and now US companies.

    You guys make it sound like if I don’t dance around and singe the praises of Ben Franklin every time I lite up my stove I’m doing him a disservice. Should I dance and sing every time NASA finds a way to screw in a bolt with a 500 thousand dollar tool?

    NASA couldn’t even come up with a way to send a space suit up to the station on their own.

    I’ll save my NASA praises for the next time they actually send a person into space without using a private contractor for 90% of the work. I’ll really dance if they do it on time. And I’ll literally fly around the neighborhood nude if they do it under budget.

  • Kelly Starks

    Folks being offered dated stuff, but being star struck by the folks offering it. Mixed with a incredible bias against any of the professionals in the field.
    …and NewSpace folks can’t figure why aerospace professionals shun them.

    I guess its the old story. if you can’t deal with the reality of a situation, build your life on fantasy.

    Doesn’t work well.

  • Kelly Starks

    None of those involved space exploration. They just commercialized systems developed by the the military and other gov agencies. literally carried on converted ICBM’s for decades.

  • Kelly Starks

    Come to think of it – Sagan wasn’t skeptical – he was extremely hostile! The idea of folks going out their and mining, drove him insane, At one conference he flipped out when a presenter showed a slide of a mining device to dig into Mars moons for material for fuel. Desicrating space for fuel?!

    ;)

  • Kelly Starks

    You have a point that having a President (even a really bad one) endorse and show to popularize space is a plus.

  • Patrick Ritchie

    I make no demand that you like or respect him. My point is that when the president speaks, many listen. If that leads more people to watch a science show, then I think that’s a good thing.

    btw – I have added Democracy in America to my reading list, thank you.

  • Kelly Starks

    >..All we need is the Volkswagen of space craft and they can’t even think of how to do it.
    > They are so wound up in pushing the envelope that they can’t even grasp the idea of cheap and reliable.

    That’s not what the public wants. They want a lot of pricy pork in their districts, its the main thing they support NASA for.

    Shuttle was the attempt (implemented by a rushed committee over a 3 day weekend) to build a simple rugged versatile space truck. Generally worked. Certainly was versatile. It holds the record for safety and reliability for manned craft going to orbit. Given the kind of contract flexibility the COTS contracts are getting they could have launched it flight for a total cost per flight about 3/4th as much as the Orbital and SpaceX flights. Add the upgrades long proposed for shuttle out of budget and lower it more.

    But that low cost routine assess was pointed to by Griffen as the biggest danger to NASA. it made space boring, and the lowered cost didn’t supply the pork voters supported NASA for. So Griffen designed Constellation/SLS. So its not that they have the attitude that its beneath them to build and operate a utility vehicle, they have the attitude (with supporting feedback) that its suicidal for them to try. Earl shuttle era they thought they would become the national trucking firm for Space, but it didn’t happen.

  • Kelly,

    You state some things in this comment that are simply not true, or that you have no basis of fact for stating them.

    1. “[The public wants] a lot of pricy pork in their districts, its the main thing they support NASA for.”

    The districts and the employees in the specific government facility might want that, but that is not what the American public wants. What the public wants is a robust aerospace industry capable of launching everyone into space at a affordable price. It wants us to do something bold and daring in space, not going around in circles for decades but not go anyway.

    This is why there is so much excitement about these private companies. They are building things fast, with some good innovation and clever thinking, and they are doing it at prices that are driving costs down.

    2. “[The shuttle] holds the record for safety and reliability for manned craft going to orbit.”

    Not even close. The Soyuz has flown for 47 years with only two fatal flights, killing four people, and both happened in the first few years of the vehicle’s operation. Since then its safety record has been flawless. And its operation has been reliable and predictable.

    The shuttle killed 14, and had failures scattered throughout its use, leaning towards the end of its operation. Moreover, throughout its lifespan it was rare for the shuttle to launch as scheduled. Repeatedly it had technical issues that required delays and repair.

    Kelly, you like to claim that Falcon 9 is more expensive than the shuttle, but you are practically the only person in the world who believes this. You also like to claim that SpaceX does shoddy engineering work, but once again you are practically the only person in the world who believes this. In both cases, the proof has been in the pudding. Falcon 9 has flown, done what it promised to do, and done it quickly. The total cost of the COTS program was less than half what NASA spends each year on SLS, and for that money we now have two cargo ferries to ISS that are in operation. SLS won’t fly for years, and will then fly so rarely that no one can predict how reliable it will be.

    Meanwhile, I still await the Orbital Space Plane as well as a half dozen other NASA initiatives that were supposed to accomplish what these private companies are doing in only a few years and far about a tenth the cost.

    Finally, the proof of Falcon 9’s low cost is the reaction of its competitors to it. Everyone else in the launch industry is now scrambling to find ways to reduce their launch costs and their prices. They apparently disagree with you as well.

  • Edward

    > Folks being offered dated stuff

    You keep insisting that NewSpace should be based upon 2000’s technology, yet you also praise OldSpace companies that use 1960’s technology. You seem unwilling to allow NewSpace to become established before it can advance. You also seem to completely ignore SpaceX’s new (2010’s) technology of reusable first stages. That is advanced, not dated, stuff.

    > but being star struck by the folks offering it.

    No, we are star struck by the possibility that commercial space companies may bring us the space infrastructure, and the space odyssey, similar to what we saw in the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey.” That is why we got into this business in the first place, to contribute to the odyssey. NASA failed us, now these folks offer it.

    > Mixed with a incredible bias against any of the professionals in the field.

    I *am* a professional in the field! Indeed, I am not biased against the professionals, just the politicians who think that they can design an SLS. Congress designed it, not NASA or other professionals – the law (that demands the construction of SLS) specifies the fuel and oxidizer. And it flies only every four years, as if only on leap day.

    > …and NewSpace folks can’t figure why aerospace professionals shun them.

    I was unaware that we were shunning NewSpace folks. I guess I missed that memo.

    > if you can’t deal with the reality of a situation, build your life on fantasy.

    Apparently I *did* build my professional life on the fantasy that I would contribute to an expansion into space. Unfortunately, the politicians had other ideas.

    > Doesn’t work well.

    No, it didn’t. I am disappointed with the limited vision that NASA, various presidents, and Congress have. I am excited, however, with the unlimited vision that 300 million Americans have for the use and exploration of space. They want to build multiple space stations, go to the moon and Mars, mine asteroids, and provide the transportation for all those endeavors using reusable hardware. We may even start dreaming of colonies in space again, like Gerard O’Neill. NASA’s big project is to have one mission every four years using 1960s style expendable rockets – hardly like the Shuttle program (1970s technology) that the politicians cancelled. (It’s gone, Kelly, and it isn’t coming back. You can compare launch costs to it all you want, but those days are in the past. Congress is so frightened of it that they designed a 1960s type of rocket to replace it. Over time, if you let it, NewSpace will get good enough to cost as little per pound as the shuttle.)

    Fortunately, government is finally getting out of the way and allowing us to fulfill our dreams. That is what made America great in the first place.

  • Edward

    > Private companies launched all the astronauts, all the probes.

    NASA and the Air Force launched all of them. Private companies built only some of the US probes. NASA’s JPL built many of them.

    >> Which is the more ambitious in space exploration, NASA or the private companies? ..

    >NASA, none of the commercials is, or is planing to do exploration.

    Two companies want plan to go to Mars (three, if you include SpaceX). So far, they have only specified exploratory goals, not commercial goals on Mars.

    The idea behind Google’s Lunar X prize is exploration.

    NASA’s exploration plans are only ideas, such as an asteroid retrieval or a six month manned mission to an asteroid. To me, Mars seems more ambitious.

  • Kelly Starks

    >> Private companies launched all the astronauts, all the probes.

    > NASA and the Air Force launched all of them…

    Nope. There were some NASA auditors and managers wandering around, but all the departments and staffs were contracted out to the big aero firms. Even with shuttle only about 1 out of 20 of the people on the program on NSA property were NASA employees.

    >..US probes. NASA’s JPL built many of them.

    JPL is part of the California university complex and contracts to various agencies, for various projects. They aren’t part of NASA.

    >>> Which is the more ambitious in space exploration, NASA or the private companies? ..

    >>NASA, none of the commercials is, or is planing to do exploration.

    > Two companies want plan to go to Mars (three, if you include SpaceX). So far, they have
    > only specified exploratory goals, not commercial goals on Mars.

    And none of them have funding, or started work on them. Web pages and power point presentations aren’t real plans.

    >The idea behind Google’s Lunar X prize is exploration.

    But they aren’t commercial.

    > NASA’s exploration plans are only ideas, such as an asteroid retrieval or a six
    > month manned mission to an asteroid. ..

    To be fair those aren’t and weren’t NASA plans. Obama chirped up with the 6 month manned mission to asteroids, which no money or effort has been expended on (we have no equipment even in the pipeline to do such things). Asteroid retrieval still just a proposal. NASA Sent stuff out there, and has more in the pipeline — the pipelines being choked off, but still.

  • Kelly Starks

    >… What the public wants is a robust aerospace industry capable of launching everyone into space at a
    > affordable price. It wants us to do something bold and daring in space, not going around in circles for
    > decades but not go anyway…

    Bob you know better then this.

    Public support for NASA at all is vastly dominated for it as a instrument of national prestige, and several times greater numbers of voters support it as a jobs program. NASA doesn’t do, or propose to do, anything the vast bulk of the public sees as important or valuable. If anything they’ve convinced the public that space is a failed frontier fit only for stunts for the cameras, history books, and political posturing. No great new factories, drugs etc, from space platforms and stations. No cities in space hiring folks, etc.

    >..This is why there is so much excitement about these private companies. …

    Outside of the advocacy groups and sites theres barely any coverage of them. Mostly on Fox since conservatives and older folks like space more.

    >..They are building things fast, with some good innovation and clever thinking, and they are
    > doing it at prices that are driving costs down.

    Bob, I work there. I worked for a 3rd of a century in the industry. Speed and innovation are not the hallmarks of NewSpace. They are slow (granted due to low funding in some cases), mostly rely on old ideas and help from the old companies (have you checked the names of the folks on the Dream Chaser [and obviously Boeing] teams?). Have you noticed how long Blue Origin has been taking on their project? When the program manager for it called and interviewed me 7-8..? years ago he was talking about 18 months to suborbital tests, 3 years until commercial suborbital flights and orbital tests, and 18 months past that commercial orbital passenger flights. Given they were copying the DC-X layout, and that was well within the capacity of a small McDac team, it wasn’t unreasonable. But they didn’t make it.

    >> 2. “[The shuttle] holds the record for safety and reliability for manned craft going to orbit.”

    > Not even close. The Soyuz has flown for 47 years with only two fatal flights, killing four people,
    > and both happened in the first few years of the vehicle’s operation. Since then its safety record
    > has been flawless. And its operation has been reliable and predictable.

    1 out of 5 of the Soyuz flights are near misses where they would have lost a ship and crew had they not caught something in time. In 2 of those cases (2 out of the 100 flights over 30ish years – in 1 case a single crew suicide flight) they did lose ships and crews. Since then with the unraveling of old Soviet infrastructure and staffs (literally the old guys from the soviet era are hanging on as long as they can to keep it going) quality is declining and their near miss rates been going up.

    Shuttle had a 1 out of 20 near miss/fail rate, with 2 out of 136(?) flights lost. Yes far more folks were killed in the shuttle crashs, but given 3/4ths of all filled seats flown to orbit in human history were in a Shuttle orbiter – that’s not really a surprise.

    The shuttle killed 14, and had failures scattered throughout its use, leaning towards the end of its operation. Moreover, throughout its lifespan it was rare for the shuttle to launch as scheduled. Repeatedly it had technical issues that required delays and repair.

    > Kelly, you like to claim that Falcon 9 is more expensive than the shuttle, but you are practically the
    > only person in the world who believes this.

    And yet the CBO numbers and NASA budget numbers (which I have repeatedly posted here) confirm it. Orbitec confirmed it, and owned up to why itsnot surprising they and SpaceX’s cost per flight to ISS are far higher per ton of cargo to ISS.

    >..You also like to claim that SpaceX does shoddy engineering work, but once again you are practically
    > the only person in the world who believes this…

    And yet their high reported accident rate, incident reports, etc confirm this.

    >..The total cost of the COTS program was less than half what NASA spends each year on SLS, ….

    Guess you get what you pay for, even with a crappy pork filled NASA program. ;)

    > Meanwhile, I still await the Orbital Space Plane as well as a half dozen other NASA initiatives
    > that were supposed to accomplish what these private companies are doing in only a few
    > years and far about a tenth the cost.

    Not sure what program your talking about. From the 1/10th cost part I assume you were talking about the offers by Rockwell, Lockheed Martin, and McDonnell Douglas, to build fully reusable craft out of pocked, guaranteed to cost less then 1/10th the shuttle in per flight direct costs, with Shuttles full cargo and in orbit capacities. Which no one expressed a interest in bying/leasing/etc — and NASA freaked out and paid L/M a billion to stop trying to back door into through the X-33 project?

    > Finally, the proof of Falcon 9′s low cost is the reaction of its competitors to it. Everyone else
    > in the launch industry is now scrambling to find ways to reduce their launch costs and their prices. ..

    The Chinese mocking SpaceX’s pricing numbers, Arianne’s increasing their fees and asking for more gov support (lets not get started on gov price supported Adrianne). ULA given their bulk sale price, and consolidation on one launcher to reduce cost proposals were rejected by congress, and their market scale is declining – are raising costs–but that started before SpaceX.

    So exactly who are those competitors scrambling to compete with lower SpaceX costs? And while were at it .. are those the real costs? No one I know or industry analyst article I’ve seen) can explain how Musk can cover the man hours he lists etc on his stated prices? Perhaps its because like on COTS, his stated prices are a fraction of the total costs to the customer. Or perhaps like Teesla, he sells at a loss and making it up on gov kickbacks (like carbon credits for electric cars)?

  • Kelly Starks

    >> Folks being offered dated stuff

    > You keep insisting that NewSpace should be based upon 2000′s technology, yet you also praise
    > OldSpace companies that use 1960′s technology…

    By dated stuff I was referring to dated designs. ICBM style boosters with capsules. Its a complex and expensive design compared to ’60’s or ’70’s era reusalbles. Especialy winged reusables or SSTOs. Obviously newer tech can be a plus. But if your just building another old style rocket engine, why bother reinventing a old wheel when you can buy off the shelf proven stuff that does as well and doesn’t cost you a lot of time/money/risk? I mean if you want anewer high capacity engine like a rocket ramjet hybride, that doubles your effective isp to orbit it might be worth it, but for a start up…why take the risk and extra cost for something that in the eng woll cost more and won’t work better. I mean Musk could have bought the whole company making the RD-180s for what he spent developing the inferior Merlins.

    >> but being star struck by the folks offering it.

    > No, we are star struck by the possibility that commercial space companies may bring us
    > the space infrastructure, and the space odyssey, similar to what we saw in the movie
    > “2001: A Space Odyssey.” That is why we got into this business in the first place,
    > to contribute to the odyssey. NASA failed us, now these folks offer it.

    That’s why I got into it to. But doing pretty much the same quick and dirty designs the other companies worked up in the 50’s and ’60s. Still dependent on gov contracts like the other companies were in the ’50’s and ’60’s. Yet they new guys promises to do far more then the old guys promised to do..and you are star struck byyit?

    A bit more suspicion is warrented.

    >> Mixed with a incredible bias against any of the professionals in the field.

    > I *am* a professional in the field!..

    Then you might have noted the derision from the newSpacecrowd to any established providers. Hell the put downs of Rutan are shocking!

    >.. Indeed, I am not biased against the professionals, just the politicians who think that they can design
    > an SLS. Congress designed it, not NASA or other professionals –

    Lets be real. Griffin designed it. They just canceled Ares-I and Altair out of Constellation, and renamed things. Its a lifeboat to keep the industry alive. And at least 2 of the 3 crewed COTS bidders would very likely be dropping out if SLS is canceled.

    >> …and NewSpace folks can’t figure why aerospace professionals shun them.

    > I was unaware that we were shunning NewSpace folks. I guess I missed that memo.

    Its been a constant problem for A guy I know who does “The Space Show” who finds industry folks don’t want to be heard on his show, and fols running NewSpace conferences and such report frustration with getting industry folks to show up etc.

    >> if you can’t deal with the reality of a situation, build your life on fantasy.

    > Apparently I *did* build my professional life on the fantasy that I would contribute to an
    > expansion into space. Unfortunately, the politicians had other ideas.

    Yup, been there. Shocked to see how littles happened, and how much less folks are even dreaming of now. Not at all what I expected to see by now.

    expansion into space is not what the public wants, and the politicians mostly just want votes ever couple years.

    >.. I am excited, however, with the unlimited vision that 300 million Americans have for the
    > use and exploration of space. They want to build multiple space stations, go to the moon
    > and Mars, mine asteroids, and provide the transportation for all those endeavors using
    > reusable hardware. …..

    That is NOT the publics vision. Even at the height of Apollo fever the public was never that excited by space. The vast majority of Americans would laugh ni your face and pull friends over to ridicule you for seriously telling them they rae excited by any of that. Worse interest in space declines rapidly when you look at younger and younger folks.

    >.. hardly like the Shuttle program (1970s technology)..

    Mostly 50’s or far earlier frankly. Riveted Aluminum hulls, computers developed in the ’50’s for B-52s, bad copies of older rocket engines, etc. A committes built camel design thrown together.

    ;/

    >.. Fortunately, government is finally getting out of the way and allowing us to fulfill our dreams…

    Don’t confuse gov crumbs for political cronies and support for the vision. Gov is never going to bankroll the dream until after serious vote driving interest. Unless a economic base develops quick – there won’t even be a industrial base to support any of the newspace folks current stuff – much less what the dream needs.

  • You say SpaceX is more expensive than the shuttle. I say it is cheaper.

    The problem for you is that the CEO’s of Boeing, Arianespace, the Chinese, and the Russians all agree with me, and have said so in public.

    Here’s a quote from Arianespace’s CEO. He agrees with me.

    Here’s a story quoting the Chinese about their effort to compete with SpaceX by holding their prices down. Here’s another quote from the Chinese. In both cases, they agree with me. Moreover, there is no indication at all of them “mocking” SpaceX, as you claim.

    This post includes quotes from the Russian ILS President. He agrees with me.

    And then there’s this comment by the CEO of SES, one of the world’s biggest commercial satellite companies. He agrees with me.

    And then there’s this report from Business Week: which also agrees with me.

    I could go on but why bother? These industry leaders obviously know a lot more about the actual pricing than either you or I, and they have routinely agreed with me, in public, as I have been documenting on this webpage for the past four years. They are feeling serious price pressure from SpaceX, and are scrambling to find ways to lower their costs to compete.

    You might be right, Kelly, and none of this is true, but you don’t have the weight of evidence on your side. I do, however. So does practically everyone else who has commented on this string.

  • Kelly Starks

    > You say SpaceX is more expensive than the shuttle. I say it is cheaper.
    >
    > The problem for you is that the CEO’s of Boeing, Arianespace, the Chinese, and
    > the Russians all agree with me, and have said so in public.

    ;/

    Actually that’s not a issue (which is good since for some reason I can’t open the URL’s. It flickered my screen and parts of a open word doc of mine bleed through the browser window.. ;/ My PC at work is being very weird today).

    GAO and CBO reports (which I’ve posted several times so I assume you don’t need to post them here) have been that the total program cost for a shuttle flight is $1.2B and can carry 16 tons to ISS. Total COTS costs for SpaceX Dragon/Falcon flights to ISS are $400 to $440M and carry 4 tons. Ergo

    $1,200m/16 tons = $75m/ton
    $400m/4 tons = $100m/ton

    I don’t care who said what, 100 is > 75.

    If you consider giving ULA SAR like contract rules like COTS is getting, to operate shuttles with, they were talking about $2B a year to operate shuttle if I remember. 4 flights a year, $500m a flight, $31.25m a ton to ISS.

    If your referring to a theoretical scenario where Shuttle (or new revised shuttles) was operated commercially (as.. whatever that British group was looking into doing about the time shuttle was closing down) That would be a rather detailed discussion, though as a rule of thumb you’d expect a factor of 4 cost reduction when going from NASA FAR to commercial contracting. Which would give $300m a flight (assuming start up costs for a new series of shuttles etc was of a similar scale as doing them from scratch… which could be high..etc.) which would be about $19m per ton to ISS.

    As to the articles you quote. I’ll look at when I can them to come up. But I think I should post this before my PC crashes.

  • Kelly Starks

    AHH!!!! It posted under the wrong branch of the threads! TGIF!! Please delete the other one below.

    ——————————

    > You say SpaceX is more expensive than the shuttle. I say it is cheaper.
    >
    > The problem for you is that the CEO’s of Boeing, Arianespace, the Chinese, and
    > the Russians all agree with me, and have said so in public.

    ;/

    Actually that’s not a issue (which is good since for some reason I can’t open the URL’s. It flickered my screen and parts of a open word doc of mine bleed through the browser window.. ;/ My PC at work is being very weird today).

    GAO and CBO reports (which I’ve posted several times so I assume you don’t need to post them here) have been that the total program cost for a shuttle flight is $1.2B and can carry 16 tons to ISS. Total COTS costs for SpaceX Dragon/Falcon flights to ISS are $400 to $440M and carry 4 tons. Ergo

    $1,200m/16 tons = $75m/ton
    $400m/4 tons = $100m/ton

    I don’t care who said what, 100 is > 75.

    If you consider giving ULA SAR like contract rules like COTS is getting, to operate shuttles with, they were talking about $2B a year to operate shuttle if I remember. 4 flights a year, $500m a flight, $31.25m a ton to ISS.

    If your referring to a theoretical scenario where Shuttle (or new revised shuttles) was operated commercially (as.. whatever that British group was looking into doing about the time shuttle was closing down) That would be a rather detailed discussion, though as a rule of thumb you’d expect a factor of 4 cost reduction when going from NASA FAR to commercial contracting. Which would give $300m a flight (assuming start up costs for a new series of shuttles etc was of a similar scale as doing them from scratch… which could be high..etc.) which would be about $19m per ton to ISS.

    As to the articles you quote. I’ll look at when I can them to come up. But I think I should post this before my PC crashes.

  • Edward

    >>.. Fortunately, government is finally getting out of the way and allowing us to fulfill our dreams…

    >Don’t confuse gov crumbs for political cronies and support for the vision. Gov is never going to bankroll the dream until after serious vote driving interest. Unless a economic base develops quick – there won’t even be a industrial base to support any of the newspace folks current stuff – much less what the dream needs.

    You missed the point. Every time government tosses a crumb, there are strings attached. Bigelow’s space habitats are intended to be privately owned or sold to governments as a commercial venture (my definition of commercial, see my comment way far above). SpaceX intends to launch rockets of its own design, not the rockets that government wrote the specs for, such as the Atlases and Deltas. Government is working its way out of the “crumb” business and encouraging businesses to do it themselves.

    Finally, I don’t mean that all 300 million Americans have to be gung ho for space, just as not all are gung ho for most other endeavors. You don’t need a majority in favor for some people to be allowed to do something in a free America, just those interested in it, and out of those 300 million, we have more ideas for space (funded or no) than NASA has.

    At the peak of Apollo, a goodly proportion of Americans stopped what they were doing to watch a couple of guys put the first footprints on the moon. That sounds like a lot of interest to me. How many stop to watch Congress on C-SPAN?

    And I suspect that more Americans are gung ho for space than for Congress or the IRS, combined. Perhaps more Americans can name astronauts than can name Congressmen or Senators.

  • Kelly Starks

    As to the articles. (Your links weer to your posts linking to articles)
    A couple links were broken:
    http://www.spacenews.com/launch/120914-ses-launch-order-adds-spacex-backlog.html

    http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/story_channel.jsp?channel=space&id=news/asd/2011/04/15/11.xml&headline=China%20Great%20Wall%20Confounded%20By%20SpaceX%20Prices

    Those that open:
    http://www.cbsnews.com/network/news/space/home/spacenews/files/8a08b95fb3c0b7f9d381e3c9f6b30bb2-647.html
    SES rep says they are very enthusiastic about SpaceX an think it will be a game changer.

    http://www.spacenews.com/launch/120914-ses-launch-order-adds-spacex-backlog.html

    Frank McKenna, president of International Launch Services (ILS) of Reston, Va. — a veteran launch service provider and a principal SpaceX competitor — said he has calculated that SpaceX is, on average, just under 50 percent less expensive than ILS, Arianespace of France and other established launch service providers.

    http://www.aviationweek.com/Article.aspx?id=/article-xml/awx_02_11_2014_p0-663010.xml

    >>
    srael said that since 2005 Arianespace has improved its competitiveness to the extent that some €200 million ($273 million) in annual subsidies from the 20-nation European Space Agency (ESA) have been halved.<>“Given the weakness of the dollar and the situation with SpaceX, it is not out of the question that our effort to raise our competitiveness must be accompanied by increased government support for the exploitation of Ariane 5,” Israel said<<

    http://www.spacenews.com/article/launch-report/37366china-great-wall-reaffirms-commitment-to-70-million-long-march-launches
    China reports its going to keep charging $70M for its launches, and "..officials point out that SpaceX has yet to prove its ability to maintain its prices — between $58 million and around $65 million for commercial customers."

    Certainly different fro older customer reports that listed SpaceX as merely competitive, much lower then the charges for competing launchers running $70-$200 (give or take exchange rtaes distortions, but still no hard data on what the Falcons cost. A couple services report their prices are lower (or calculate they are lower?), however theres some question how long they can keep their charges that low.

    Generally I have heard folks not seeing how SpaceX can cover costs at their process. They know what SpaceXs labor costs need to be per price, other general costs…but they don't fit in the bill SpaceX charges. Seen that in a few companies. Worldcom and Solydra got articles raving how they were doing so much better then anyone can explain — right up until they weren't bankrupt, or were found to be insolvent. Or it could be a tactic paid for by other sources then their charges. Tesla loses money on ever care they sell, but it gets them headlines, and selling carbon credits to other car companies keeps them in the black.

    In any even, its not exactly forcing major price cuts. Other things have triggered big price cuts for short terms. So far ULA is raising its prices. Ariane is saying exchange rates and SpaceX might warrent asking for more gov price supports, Chinas not raising their prices now, etc.

  • Kelly Starks

    >>>.. Fortunately, government is finally getting out of the way and allowing us to fulfill our dreams…

    >> Don’t confuse gov crumbs for political cronies and support for the vision. Gov is never going to
    >>bankroll the dream until after serious vote driving interest. Unless a economic base develops
    >> quick – there won’t even be a industrial base to support any of the newspace folks current
    >> stuff – much less what the dream needs.

    > You missed the point. Every time government tosses a crumb, there are strings attached.
    > Bigelow’s space habitats are intended to be privately owned or sold to governments as a
    > commercial venture (my definition of commercial, see my comment way far above).
    > SpaceX intends to launch rockets of its own design, not the rockets that government
    > wrote the specs for, such as the Atlases and Deltas. ==

    Actually thats not as different as you think. SpaceX did have to design to gov specs, A-V and D-IV wern’t all designed to milspecs.

    Hows that “government is finally getting out of the way and allowing us to fulfill our dreams”?

    >>….. and out of those 300 million, we have more ideas for space (funded or no) than NASA has.

    NASA has lots of ideas for space. Books full of them. Which ones are funded though..
    ;)

    >At the peak of Apollo, a goodly proportion of Americans stopped what they were doing to watch
    > a couple of guys put the first footprints on the moon. That sounds like a lot of interest to me.
    >How many stop to watch Congress on C-SPAN?

    When they do something new, similar amounts. You’ll notice very few watched the next flights. I.E. it wasn’t a lot of interest in space. Interest in the first guys getting to the moon and back. Yeah.

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