Tag Archives: heavy-lift

NASA to unveil its heavy-lift rocket design

Two stories, one from AP and the other from Florida Today, say that NASA will announce today the design of its heavy-lift rocket, mandated by Congress and estimated to cost around $35 billion. Here is NASA’s press release. To me, this is the key quote (from AP):

NASA figures it will be building and launching about one rocket a year for about 15 years or more in the 2020s and 2030s, according to senior administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the announcement was not yet made. The idea is to launch its first unmanned test flight in 2017 with the first crew flying in 2021 and astronauts heading to a nearby asteroid in 2025, the officials said. From there, NASA hopes to send the rocket and astronauts to Mars — at first just to circle, but then later landing on the Red Planet — in the 2030s. [emphasis mine]

In other words, after spending $1.7 on the National Space Plane, $1.2 billion on the X-33, $1 billion on the X-34, $800 million on the Space Launch Initiative, and finally, almost $10 billion on Constellation, none of which ever flew, NASA is now going to spend another $35 billion on a new rocket that won’t fly for at least another decade.

To be really blunt, this new rocket, like all its predecessors, will never fly either. It costs too much, will take too long to build, and will certainly be canceled by a future administration before it is finished. It is therefore a complete waste of money, and any Congress that approves it will demonstrate how utterly insincere they are about controlling spending.

A clarification: Some of the $35 billion mentioned above has already been spent for the Orion capsule. This however still does not change any of my conclusions.

NASA’s costs estimates too low for Congress’s heavy-lift rocket

Surprise, surprise! An independent analysis of NASA’s budget estimates to build Congress’s heavy-lift rocket, the program-formerly-called-Constellation, are untrustworthy and likely low.

“All three program estimates assume large, unsubstantiated, future cost efficiencies leading to the impression that they are optimistic,” the team said in its key findings. A risk assessment revealed the funding reserves projected for all three programs are insufficient, according to Booz Allen Hamilton. NASA has not disclosed its internal cost estimate for the Space Launch System. “Due to procurement of items still in development and large cost risks in the out years, NASA cannot have full confidence in the estimates for long-term planning,” the executive summary said.

This project is nothing more than Congressional pork. It will never get built. Sadly, it might waste a lot of money before it never gets built.

NASA stalls, Texas lawmakers fume

The law is such an inconvenient thing: In a bipartisan effort, Texas lawmakers roast NASA administrator Charles Bolden for not meeting mandated Congressional deadlines for Congress’s personally designed rocket, the program-formerly-called-Constellation.

The heavy-lift rocket and capsule that Congress insists NASA build is a complete waste of money and nothing more than pork. It will never get built, mainly because Congress has given NASA less money and less time to build it than they did for Constellation under the Bush administration. Unfortunately, the reason they continue to require NASA to build it is to provide pork to their districts.

In a perfect world this funding would be cut now, especially considering the state of the federal debt.
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Catching up with the future of the U.S. space program

As I have been traveling for the past week, I have fallen behind in posting stories of interest. Two occurred in the past week that are of importance. Rather than give a long list of multiple links, here is a quick summary:

First, NASA administrator Charles Bolden yesterday announced the museum locations that will receive the retired shuttles. I find it very interesting that the Obama administration decided to snub Houston and flyover country for a California museum. In fact, all the shuttles seem to be going to strong Democratic strongholds. Does this suggest a bit of partisanship on this administration’s part? I don’t know. What I do know is that it illustrates again the politically tone-deaf nature of this administration, especially in choosing the fiftieth anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s spaceflight to make this sad announcement.

Second, the new budget deal (still pending) included NASA’s budget, with cuts. While requiring NASA to build a super-duper heavy-lift rocket (the program-formerly-called-Constellation) for less money and in less time than was previously allocated to Constellation, the budget also frees NASA from the rules requiring them to continue building Constellation. Since the Obama administration has no interest in building the super-duper heavy-lift rocket and has said it can’t be done, I expect they will use the elimination of this rule to slowdown work on the heavy-lift rocket. I expect that later budget negotiations will find this heavy-lift rocket an easy target for elimination, especially when it becomes obvious it is not going to get built.
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Delays in NASA heavy-lift rocket plan stir skeptics

More proof it’s nothing but pork: Witnesses at House committee hearing express strong concerns about the heavy-lift rocket plan (the-program-formerly-called-Constellation) imposed on NASA by Congress.. Key quote:

“We simply do not know what is next,” said Maser, president of Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, which builds the space shuttle’s main engines. “We are in a crisis.”