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SLS Project Coming Up $400 Million Short

Soulskill posted about 5 months ago | from the opportunity-for-real-life-iron-man dept.

NASA 132

schwit1 writes: A GAO report finds that the Space Launch System is over budget and NASA will need an additional $400 million to complete its first orbital launch in 2017. From the article: "NASA isn't meeting its own requirements for matching cost and schedule resources with the congressional requirement to launch the first SLS in December 2017. NASA usually uses a calculation it calls the 'joint cost and schedule confidence level' to decide the odds a program will come in on time and on budget. 'NASA policy usually requires a 70 percent confidence level for a program to proceed with final design and fabrication,' the GAO report says, and the SLS is not at that level. The report adds that government programs that can't match requirements to resources 'are at increased risk of cost and schedule growth.'

In other words, the GAO says SLS is at risk of costing more than the current estimate of $12 billion to reach the first launch or taking longer to get there. Similar cost and schedule problems – although of a larger magnitude – led President Obama to cancel SLS's predecessor rocket system called Constellation shortly after taking office." The current $12 billion estimate is for the program's cost to achieve one unmanned launch. That's four times what it is costing NASA to get SpaceX, Boeing, and Sierra Nevada to build their three spaceships, all scheduled for their first manned launches before 2017.

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According to Wikipedia (3, Informative)

0123456 (636235) | about 5 months ago | (#47533579)

They're short more money than SpaceX spent to develop the Falcon 9.

Re:According to Wikipedia (5, Insightful)

NotDrWho (3543773) | about 5 months ago | (#47533597)

SpaceX doesn't have to build facilities in every state to appease Congress.

Re:According to Wikipedia (2)

electrosoccertux (874415) | about 5 months ago | (#47533775)

SpaceX doesn't have to build facilities in every state to appease Congress.

why don't we just send Congress to orbit??

Re:According to Wikipedia (3, Funny)

easyTree (1042254) | about 5 months ago | (#47533891)

All the hot air would destroy the near-vacuum in space?

Re:According to Wikipedia (1)

Guspaz (556486) | about 5 months ago | (#47534541)

Look at it this way, politicians produce so much hot air that you don't need a life-support system.

Re:According to Wikipedia (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47533903)

A fine reason to take it out of the federal governments hands.

Re:According to Wikipedia (1, Redundant)

electrosoccertux (874415) | about 5 months ago | (#47533763)

It stimulates the economy, and our childrens' imaginations.
Small price to pay.
especially considering it's tech, one of things we excel at in America.

Re:According to Wikipedia (3, Informative)

Rockoon (1252108) | about 5 months ago | (#47533815)

It stimulates the economy

So we meet again. [investopedia.com]

Re: According to Wikipedia (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47533857)

The falacy is related to destroying things to create work. It does not apply here.

Re: According to Wikipedia (4, Insightful)

Rockoon (1252108) | about 5 months ago | (#47533901)

The falacy is related to destroying things to create work. It does not apply here.

The fallacy is related to making a decision by looking only at the parties directly involved in the short term, rather than looking at all parties (directly and indirectly) involved in the short and long term.

Thats a direct quote from the link that you do not understand but amazingly had to balls to act like an expert on. Dont open your mouth when ignorant unless its to ask questions to reduce your level of ignorance.

Re: According to Wikipedia (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47534103)

Thanks for pointing out my typographical error.

I never acted like an expert, either. You're awfully good at making things up.

Finally, I didn't open my mouth to make that comment. I typed it out on a keyboard.

Dont open your mouth when ignorant unless its to ask questions to reduce your level of ignorance.

P.S. It's "it's," not "its," peon.

Re: According to Wikipedia (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47534613)

Actually Bastait doesn't apply anywhere. He was the father of modern neo-liberal economic thinking and not a single one of his "economic laws" has ever been seen in the wild.

Not to mention, he's one of the guys who perpetrated the notion of Economics being a science with the equivalent to laws of nature. Nothing could be further from the truth. He's a big hero to libertarians and free market fabulists. His work has been thoroughly debunked.

Re: According to Wikipedia (1)

khallow (566160) | about 5 months ago | (#47535071)

Could you give an example of these alleged "economic laws" so that we may judge your claims?

Re: According to Wikipedia (1)

khallow (566160) | about 5 months ago | (#47535049)

The falacy is related to destroying things to create work.

Exactly. When you take wealth from some to pay others to do useless or even harmful things, you're destroying value and creating opportunity costs. Just because you don't see the window, doesn't mean it wasn't broken.

Re:According to Wikipedia (1)

electrosoccertux (874415) | about 5 months ago | (#47535225)

Excuse me, those aren't windows you're looking at, they're rockets. haha what do you propose, giving to welfare? What a joke.

Re:According to Wikipedia (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47533979)

especially considering it's tech, one of things we excel at in America.

Uhh; it also involves manufacturing

pfft, 3.5% overrun (4, Insightful)

rubycodez (864176) | about 5 months ago | (#47533587)

if the 400 million is really the only overrun that's an astonishing record for the federal goverment

Re:pfft, 3.5% overrun (3, Insightful)

electrosoccertux (874415) | about 5 months ago | (#47533811)

if the 400 million is really the only overrun that's an astonishing record for the federal goverment

of ALL the government programs worth blowing money on, I think NASA should be one of them. It stimulates the economy with relevant tech spending, inspires our children, and sets a rocket ahead of other nations.

NASA is of the things we can look back at over the last 50 years and be immensely proud of. Proud to a NASA supporting American.

Re:pfft, 3.5% overrun (4, Insightful)

werepants (1912634) | about 5 months ago | (#47533933)

I agree with you that NASA is a worthy recipient of our tax dollars, but as long as congress keeps mandating that they design rockets based on how many people they can employ in how many districts, we're never going to get out of LEO again. This money would be better spent on commercial crew type programs, with a commercial-off-the-shelf model rather than the chronically over-schedule and over-budget cost plus approach.

Re:pfft, 3.5% overrun (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47535301)

This. Congress should legislate a requirement that private companies spread the work out across multiple states in order to share the wealth. This wouldn't be too different from other progressive laws that provide for protected classes.

Re:pfft, 3.5% overrun (0)

Rockoon (1252108) | about 5 months ago | (#47534117)

It stimulates the economy with relevant tech spending, inspires our children, and sets a rocket ahead of other nations.

So what you are saying is that if they were $400 billion short instead of only $400 million short, then that would be even better.

(translation: Your broken window fallacy isnt any more correct the second time that you post it)

Re:pfft, 3.5% overrun (2)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | about 5 months ago | (#47534569)

The goal of NASA is worthy, but the reality is a little off. The people working for NASA are intelligent and capable, but management is a major issue. Not the management at NASA, the management of NASA. There is no reason that politicians, including the president, should have anything to do with assigning the projects that NASA works on. They should just give them a budget and let NASA manage their goals and spending. I can't imagine how demoralizing it is to spend years working on a project that would ultimately succeed, only to have the project canceled by a politician somewhere. The government only needs to look at a company like SpaceX to figure out that they need to get out of the business of managing what NASA does. Politicians are proving that a privatized space program is far more efficient and effective than a government-run program. That's not the way it needs to be, but that's the way it's going to be if people in Congress and the president keep interfering with what NASA works on and how they work on it. Imagine what would happen if the government gave SpaceX $12 billion dollars to develop a rocket by 2017. The rocket that SpaceX came out with would be able to land on Mars and take off again for Earth. NASA can't even get the thing into orbit on time. That's not the fault of the engineers working for NASA either.

Re:pfft, 3.5% overrun (2, Insightful)

demachina (71715) | about 5 months ago | (#47535143)

"I can't imagine how demoralizing it is to spend years working on a project that would ultimately succeed"

None of NASA's major manned spaced projects are even remotely likely to succeed, they are not intended to do so any more. They are just a place to blow money, create jobs and put money in Lockheed and Boeing pockets. More importantly they buy votes in the critical swing state of Florida.

They are designed to run 4-8 years, produce nothing except votes, paychecks and contractor profits, then they get cancelled and start over. It is way easier and less risk than actually making anything that will fly.

It is not the political process that is broken, it is NASA and the political process.

Get a clue, and spend a few billion on SpaceX to help finish Falcon Heavy. I'm not sure why SLS is even on the table at this point, it isn't remotely competitive.

Lockheed and Boeing also need to be completely removed from the process. They are making a mint milking DOD contracts, they don't need to be in middle of the civilian space program fleecing NASA and taxpayers there too. They do not use money wisely, they devour everything thrown their way and produce as little as possible in return.

Re:pfft, 3.5% overrun (1)

easyTree (1042254) | about 5 months ago | (#47533991)

if the 400 million is really the only overrun that's an astonishing record for the federal goverment

The 400 million is the funding they'll need to accurately calculate the overrun.

Re: pfft, 3.5% overrun (2)

Redbehrend (3654433) | about 5 months ago | (#47534041)

It's not over they'll be asking for more. I support NASA as my friend is a NASA rocket scientist and he is far from rich. He figures out amazing solutions I'd never think of. I also have another friend that manufactures for NASA (by contracts) and he's rolling in money and has 2 huge houses. It's their efficiency and spending ways that make me rage not the projects.

Michaud? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47534247)

Isn't the big NASA rocket factory in New Orleans? It built a stage for the Saturn V.

I am also amazed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47534191)

The SLS plan was announced in August of 2011, and almost 3 years later, it finally goes over budget. I am amazed it did not happen sooner. I guess sticking with 8.4 meter tanks, SSMEs, and segmented boosters really pays off.

"congressional requirement" (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47533603)

Ah, I see the problem!

Not only that. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47533701)

I can understand R&D overruns and what not. But Jesus Christ, everytime I looke, there are ALWAYS some sort of government overruns.

Why can't Congress pass a law that states that government bids are binding?

Ahahahahahahahahaha! Oh God! I kill myself sometimes!

Wait! I have more! Let's penalize Congresssmen who make deals to get work to their districts even enough it makes NO financial sense!

Oh, fuck! I just shit my pants!

fixed price vs cost plus award (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47534615)

I've been on both sides of this transaction: working for a vendor selling to the government and working for the government buying stuff.

The government CAN go out to bid on a fixed price (binding) basis as you propose. The problem is that any sensible contractor will raise the price above their expected costs to cover the inevitable risks that something goes wrong, or their estimates were wrong. This is particularly so when doing something that has literally never been done before.

So the government buyer has a choice: high fixed price or lower cost based price. With cost based contracts, the contractor gets a fixed fee (cost plus percentage of cost government contracts are illegal). As the cost goes up, the contractor's percentage profit drops, but at least they're not losing money if something goes wrong. The government almost always has the right to cancel at their convenience, too, if things are really going bad rapidly. On pretty much every job, there's a continual computation and reporting (in both directions) of the "termination liability", or what it costs to stop work today, pack everything up, and move on. (Such computations became VERY important during the government shutdown fiasco last fall).

Since the folks in government want to get the best bang for the buck, they tend to like "cost plus award" contracts.. odds are, it will come in lower than they would have paid for fixed price, because government contracting (for technology) has a fairly hefty risk premium. Yeah, if you're buying case lots of toilet paper, or carloads of gravel, fixed price is probably a better strategy on both sides. The contract negotiator on the govt side isn't going to allow profit on a fixed price contract that is more than 10%. (Yes, indeed, even with fixed price, you can't just charge any old price.. you have to justify it after the bid is accepted, and they can and do negotiate, if only because there are inevitably differences between exactly what you proposed to do and what the government wants)

Note well, too, that you probably don't know how much SpaceX thought they were going to spend to develop Falcons and what they actually spent. They're not publically traded, nor do they publish that level of detail. For all you know, SpaceX thought $100M and spent $300M, and Elon's coming up with the difference out of his pocket (or out of payments against future operations).

Congressional-industrial sabotage (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47533609)

Government contracting is the most lucrative business there is.

Re:Congressional-industrial sabotage (2)

easyTree (1042254) | about 5 months ago | (#47533997)

Much more lucrative than the less organized organized-crime.

Ho-hum; it's apples and oranges though; when you control the game, you're quids-in.

Hmm. I smell a rotten bucket of fish (-1)

artao (648799) | about 5 months ago | (#47533619)

I think an in-depth audit needs to happen to find out who's taking money from NASA to line their own pockets. This screams of typical governmental embezzlement.

Re:Hmm. I smell a rotten bucket of fish (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47533687)

It's more then that. The rules of government contracting basically guarantees it will be expensive. The rules are designed to try to prevent embezzlement and the like but it drives up cost significantly. Thats why the Space-X etc. stuff is pretty neat. Its not a company designing something under government contract which means they are just selling the government a product. Makes it waaaaaaaay more efficient.

Re:Hmm. I smell a rotten bucket of fish (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 5 months ago | (#47533767)

The rules are designed to try to prevent embezzlement

So...the rules designed to prevent spending more money than necessary that would end up in the pockets of people who'd have no business getting their hands on it in a sane world...cause more money than necessary being spent and ending in the pockets of other people who'd have no business getting their hands on it in a sane world? *double facepalm* [imgur.com]

Re:Hmm. I smell a rotten bucket of fish (2)

Rockoon (1252108) | about 5 months ago | (#47533843)

So...the rules designed to prevent spending more money than necessary that would end up in the pockets of people who'd have no business getting their hands on it in a sane world...cause more money than necessary being spent and ending in the pockets of other people who'd have no business getting their hands on it in a sane world?

Yes, thats why big government is bad. Bigger government means bigger amounts of money does this.

Re:Hmm. I smell a rotten bucket of fish (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47534483)

Yes, the rules designed to keep money from being wasted do cause money to be wasted.

It's like when the military needs to get a hammer. In a sane world, they would just walk over to the local hardware store and buy a hammer, or place an order for hammers with some large company like Home Depot or Amazon. Instead, the military procurement regulations add so much red tape to the process that most companies don't even want to sell anything to the military; but a few companies specialize in military procurement and have full-time staff who know how to successfully navigate the paperwork. So that hammer can only come from one or two companies, and those companies have lots of overhead (need to pay the lawyers who navigate the red tape paperwork maze), and anyway those companies know that they are the only game in town and are not motivated to charge a low price.

http://www.aei.org/outlook/foreign-and-defense-policy/defense/five-factors-plaguing-pentagon-procurement/ [aei.org]

Re:Hmm. I smell a rotten bucket of fish (1)

electrosoccertux (874415) | about 5 months ago | (#47533789)

It's more, then that.

FTFY and I see what you did there.

more H-1B will solve this! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47533649)

Personnel are too costly. We need to get rid of them.

SLS and comparing to spacex (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47533651)

You can not compare spacex vehicles with the damn SLS. The SLS is a deep space vehicle. When spacex is building a vehicle to send to mars or beyond, then yes, they can compare the SLS to spacex A manned launch into low earth orbit is not even close to deep space. Not bashing SpaceX, but apples and oranges here...

Re:SLS and comparing to spacex (3, Insightful)

0123456 (636235) | about 5 months ago | (#47533683)

The SLS is a deep space vehicle.

Uh, no, it's not. There's nothing 'deep space' about SLS that's not 'deep space' about Falcon 9. You can launch a deep space probe on Falcon 9, and you could launch a deep space probe on SLS if it's ever built.

SLS, as designed, is just a very expensive way to put 70 tons into orbit. Maybe, at some point, if Congress funds it, it might become a very expensive way to put 100-130 tons into orbit. Well before then, Falcon Heavy should be putting 50 tons into orbit for less than 5% of the cost of an SLS launch.

Re:SLS and comparing to spacex (1)

werepants (1912634) | about 5 months ago | (#47533987)

Not to mention, by the time SLS block II happens (if ever) SpaceX will likely have been flying on their giant methane-based Raptor engine for years. We're talking 100 tons+ to MARS, forget LEO.

Re:SLS and comparing to spacex (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47534965)

while SLS is still requiring POTUS to beg for funds from congress, elon will be putting a starbucks around jupiter...

Re:SLS and comparing to spacex (1)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 5 months ago | (#47534337)

True.

But the SLS should be able to lift twice as much as SpaceX's future Falcon Heavy and 10 times the current Faclon 9. If we want to launch man into deep space, we are going to need something close to SSL than the Falcon 9.

Re:SLS and comparing to spacex (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 5 months ago | (#47534447)

True.

But the SLS should be able to lift twice as much as SpaceX's future Falcon Heavy and 10 times the current Faclon 9.

Nope. The SLS will launch up to 70 tons. It may one day launch more, but that'll require a whole load more development funding.

If we want to launch man into deep space, we are going to need something close to SSL than the Falcon 9.

Nope. You just need more launches. If NASA are going to send humans to Mars, they're not going to do it with a single 130 ton launch.

Re:SLS and comparing to spacex (3, Insightful)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 5 months ago | (#47534943)

Yes, the SSL will start at 70t and move forward to (maybe) 155t.

But no, 10 13 ton lauches of the Falcon 9 does probabbly does not get you the same thing as a single lauch of 130t. Assemble is a issue. Some things are better built and have less wastage in large intergated units on the ground than assempbled in space.

We should compare apples to apples, not oranges. Which leads me to my biggest gripe about NASA (and by extension, the American government) – their plans are so murky and ill defined. Each stage of the program was like a rung on a ladder – leading to the eventual goal. How does the ISS fit into going to Mars? How does the SLS? How come we are always punting this thing down the road by 20 years. It is almost a program in search of a mission. Please don't take this as an attack on basic science and research – just how NASA does it.

Re:SLS and comparing to spacex (1)

durrr (1316311) | about 5 months ago | (#47533737)

The SLS is not a deep space vehicle. It's a vehicle to divert tax payer money into the pocket of private enterprises that give a share to politicians. Assuming it ever takes off, it'll be an outdated overpriced piece of shit.

Re:SLS and comparing to spacex (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 5 months ago | (#47534071)


The SLS is not a deep space vehicle. It's a vehicle to divert tax payer money into the pocket of private enterprises that give a share to politicians. Assuming it ever takes off, it'll be an outdated overpriced piece of shit.

Understanding this provides predictive capability - that there's basically zero chance that the project will be canceled or defunded, for the reasons you stated.

pockets of private enterprise (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47534671)

The folks working for the likes of Lockheed, even in management, aren't getting rich (not compared to bankers, etc.). It's more about wages for relatively high paying jobs (compared to fast food and service industry) for lots of voters in areas where there's not much more work. The representative from the great state of Utah, or Alabama, or Mississippi thinks that employing 10,000 machinists receiving high pay and the like to crank our giant solid rocket motors is a net good to their state.

Government contractors lobbying Congress isn't about personal enrichment as much as providing jobs programs. The companies involved aren't making huge percentage profits (10-15% would be really good) but they do large dollar volumes, so the actual dollar revenue is high, but it is spread pretty thinly. Managers at those companies do well ($200k/yr kind of salaries) but not "investment banker" well.

Re:SLS and comparing to spacex (1)

Eravnrekaree (467752) | about 5 months ago | (#47533807)

Wasnt Elon Musk saying that he could send people to Mars for a fraction the cost of SLS or a NASA system and that he was going to work on the problem?

Re:SLS and comparing to spacex (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47533859)

Was that before or after he finds cures for all diseases, solves the worlds energy and transportation problems and turns water into wine?

If Elon was really smart he'd start a church given how much people on slashdot worship him.

Re:SLS and comparing to spacex (2)

Guspaz (556486) | about 5 months ago | (#47534581)

He did state publicly that he promised NASA that he could build a rocket comparable to the SLS on a fixed-price $2 billion contract (meaning NASA would not pay a dime for budget overruns), although that price didn't include any second-stage upgrades NASA might require to meet its needs.

SpaceX is actually going ahead with their SLS-like competitor (Codenamed "BFR", I think you can guess what that stands for), and they're supposed to start testing on the methane-powered engines (Raptor) soon, which are supposed to be both more powerful and more efficient than the F-1 engines used in the Saturn V. However, without any customers paying for the R&D, BFR will take a lot longer to build than it would have if NASA contracted SpaceX to do it.

So, yeah. SpaceX offered NASA a contract to build an entire replacement for the SLS for less than a year of SLS funding.

Re:SLS and comparing to spacex (1)

gman003 (1693318) | about 5 months ago | (#47533957)

The phrase "deep space vehicle" is misleading - it's the payload, not the launcher, that has to be deep-space. However, the SLS is a heavy lift vehicle (70Mg to LEO for the Block I configuration, 130Mg in Block II), while Falcon 9 is a medium lift vehicle (10Mg to LEO). However, the planned Falcon 9 Heavy is also a heavy lift vehicle (53Mg to LEO), and seems much more likely to actually fly.

For comparison on those numbers, the Saturn V was 120Mg, the Space Shuttle was 25Mg, Proton is 20Mg, and Delta IV-H (the most powerful currently-flying launcher) is 23Mg. For a better perspective, to launch the entire ISS, you would need either seven SLS Block Is, four SLS Block IIs, nine Falcon 9 Heavies, or forty-five Falcon 9s.

Re:SLS and comparing to spacex (1)

Mysticalfruit (533341) | about 5 months ago | (#47534015)

If wiki is to believed this system will be able to launch heavier payloads to LEO then the Falcon 9 Heavy. However, SpaceX is currently building a reliable track record with the Falcon9. If the Merlin 2 engine concepts were to come to fruition and the Falcon XX was to become a real launch vehicle, Space X would have a system that would completely eclipse the SLS. The original posters argument is incoherent. There's no "deep space." Once in orbit you either have the capacity to increase your velocity to raise your orbit or escape orbit or you don't.

Re:SLS and comparing to spacex (1)

Guspaz (556486) | about 5 months ago | (#47534627)

Marlin 2 and Falcon XX were hypothetical, and SpaceX didn't go that direction. They're currently building the Raptor, a methane engine with more thrust than the Saturn V's F-1 engines, and the "BFR", which is basically the same idea as Falcon XX.

Re:SLS and comparing to spacex (1)

Beck_Neard (3612467) | about 5 months ago | (#47534519)

As an addition to 0123456's reply here, there isn't even a concrete plan yet to use the SLS to launch deep-space manned missions. The orion project, as it's currently being developed and funded, will not send humans outside of Earth orbit.

Am I the only one who mis-read the headline? (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 5 months ago | (#47533659)

The immediately previous story was about new SSL server rules. I read that, and then reloaded and saw this new story. My first reaction was "why on earth does the 'SSL Project' need anywhere near $400 million dollars?!"

putting OP's bullshit into context (1, Interesting)

nimbius (983462) | about 5 months ago | (#47533663)

sure, the project is expensive but people need to understand there are immense differences between NASA's vehicle and the others. Not to mention all three companies are standing on the shoulders of a giant, NASA, and their projects are all dwarfed by what nasa is attempting to create.

SpaceX: hopefully delivering the CST-100 version 2, but honestly hasnt contributed a whole lot other than a sexy brand to the effort. CST100 was delivered by Boeing.
Boeing: not sexy, just practical. a design ripoff of many other NASA firsts, it is restricted to suborbital and cannot carry cargo. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
Sierra Nevada: building what nasa did 30 years ago, this is designed for cargo and people. it is strictly suborbital. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

NASA SLS: cargo, crew, suborbital, and interplanetary transport system. SLS is to be capable of lifting astronauts and hardware to near-Earth destinations such as asteroids, the Moon, Mars, and most of the Earth's Lagrangian points. SLS may also support trips to the International Space Station, if necessary. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

Re:putting OP's bullshit into context (2)

FireFury03 (653718) | about 5 months ago | (#47533709)

suborbital

You keep using that word - I do not think it means what you think.

Re:putting OP's bullshit into context (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 5 months ago | (#47533713)

SpaceX will be flying astronauts in their Dragon capsule. I believe the CST100 is designed to be Falcon-compatible, but it's unlikely to ever fly on one.

As for SLS, there isn't a single budgeted mission outside low orbit. And there's not likely to be, when it will cost billions of dollars every time it flies, due to the high development costs, low flight rate, and standing army and facilities required to launch it.

Re:putting OP's bullshit into context (1)

lysergic.facet (3765733) | about 5 months ago | (#47533743)

There is a list of purposes for the creation and funding of the SLS. The last on the list is to launch things into space. The nickname, I am sure many of you know, is the Senate Launch System.

Re:putting OP's bullshit into context (1)

queazocotal (915608) | about 5 months ago | (#47533761)

' when it will cost billions of dollars every time it flies, due to the high development costs, low flight rate, and standing army and facilities required to launch it.'
This is as I understand it a vile calumny on the SLS program.
Most realistic estimates say it's only going to cost one billion per launch, not several.

Re:putting OP's bullshit into context (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 5 months ago | (#47533951)

Most realistic estimates say it's only going to cost one billion per launch, not several.

It's going to fly once every couple of years, if you're lucky. It's going to require thousands of people to prepare it for launch. It's going to require all the facilities for those thousands of people, and more who aren't involved in the launch, but are involved in the rest of the program.

If you think NASA can fund that for $500,000,000 a year, I've got a bridge you might like to buy. Remeber, a shuttle launch didn't cost $1,500,000,000 because of the variable costs of each launch, it cost that much because of the fixed costs of keeping them flying.

Re:putting OP's bullshit into context (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47533741)

The immense difference is the way taxpayers are being raped to fill the deep pockets of every gov't run entity that can get their hands on it. And secondarily, the business's they deal with that systematically underbid and then ask for more money.

Re:putting OP's bullshit into context (1)

electrosoccertux (874415) | about 5 months ago | (#47533805)

Sierra Nevada: building what nasa did 30 years ago, this is designed for cargo and people. it is strictly suborbital. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

they make a great beer [beeradvocate.com] though! The hops alone will send you to the moon!

Re:putting OP's bullshit into context (1)

werepants (1912634) | about 5 months ago | (#47533879)

sure, the project is expensive but people need to understand there are immense differences between NASA's vehicle and the others. Not to mention all three companies are standing on the shoulders of a giant, NASA, and their projects are all dwarfed by what nasa is attempting to create.

SpaceX: hopefully delivering the CST-100 version 2, but honestly hasnt contributed a whole lot other than a sexy brand to the effort. CST100 was delivered by Boeing.

What the hell? SpaceX has the Dragon (and Dragon 2), not the CST100. SpaceX has had several successful, on-schedule, on-budget flights of the Dragon for cargo (including safe reentry) which has demonstrated the functionality of many subsystems that will be used in the manned version. The Dragon 2 has potential to be the safest manned capsule of the bunch - it can abort at literally any point in the launch profile, land with pinpoint accuracy, and has a strong enough heatshield for a return from Mars. Not to mention the Falcon 9 is the only rocket out there that can suffer an engine failure and still make mission. They have another rocket in development, again using many proven systems with which they have flight heritage, which will have more capability than any other existing rocket - Falcon Heavy. It has comparable capabilities to SLS Block I and is scheduled to fly 2 years sooner. Crossfeed capabilities will improve the capacity even more.

Boeing: not sexy, just practical. a design ripoff of many other NASA firsts, it is restricted to suborbital and cannot carry cargo. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

I would say not sexy or practical, given that all they've demonstrated is a mockup and word is there are some serious technical issues with wind tunnel testing, etc. There's a good chance the CST100 won't survive the commercial crew downselect in August, and there's no indication that Boeing cares much about this.

Sierra Nevada: building what nasa did 30 years ago, this is designed for cargo and people. it is strictly suborbital. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

Entirely wrong. This is an orbital craft - did you not see the dozens of marketing pictures of this docking with the ISS? This is a neat little craft with some significant development and test milestones already checked off - successful flights of a complete engineering model, engine tests, and reviews. They also have a launch scheduled for 2015, which they are financing on their own dime to demonstrate capability and earn at least some initial flight heritage. This has a unique capability, too, with the ability to abort during almost any time in the flight and land on runways all around the world.

NASA SLS: cargo, crew, suborbital, and interplanetary transport system. SLS is to be capable of lifting astronauts and hardware to near-Earth destinations such as asteroids, the Moon, Mars, and most of the Earth's Lagrangian points. SLS may also support trips to the International Space Station, if necessary. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

This is a paper rocket at this stage in the game. I can make a powerpoint presentation about a system that will go to Mars and back tomorrow - doesn't mean I can deliver. Sure, this rocket COULD be developed, and all of these exciting missions COULD happen, if we doubled NASA's budget - as it is, they don't even have the funding to properly develop and test the first article, much less finance an extended campaign of missions. Every dollar spent on this would go 5 times as far developing commercial crew capability, but it wouldn't funnel money to Alabama to build obsolete and failure-prone SRBs, so congress (and therefore NASA) will never drop it if they can help it.

Re:putting OP's bullshit into context (1)

fremen (33537) | about 5 months ago | (#47533881)

Sierra Nevada: building what nasa did 30 years ago, this is designed for cargo and people. it is strictly suborbital. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

30 years ago NASA was building space shuttles. If Sierra Nevada were doing that, I would be impressed.

Re:putting OP's bullshit into context (4, Informative)

gman003 (1693318) | about 5 months ago | (#47534723)

You are factually wrong on several counts.

SpaceX is not working on any version of the CST-100, and their only relation is that the CST-100 is supposedly designed to be compatible with the Falcon 9 launcher (I have reasonable doubt that will happen). They delivered the Dragon cargo capsule, and are working on the manned Dragon V2.

Boeing's CST-100 is orbital, not suborbital. Suborbital means it will not complete a single orbit, like a missile.

Sierra's Dream Chaser is also not suborbital. It also uses many non-NASA technologies, such as the hybrid rocket engines.

You further have many logical errors, the most persistent being the conflation of the launch vehicle with the crew vehicle. SLS, Falcon 9 and Atlas V are launch vehicles. Orion, Dragon, CST-100 and Dream Chaser are crew vehicles.

Orion is NASA's crew vehicle (actually, Lockheed Martin's, but I'll get to that in a bit). It is not suitable for missions beyond the Moon - it has a designed mission length of only three weeks (21 days), which is unsuitable for anything beyond Earth orbit. You are correct that manned deep-space missions will need a super-heavy launch vehicle such as SLS, but Orion itself will not be the crew vehicle.

You also make a mistake in your history. NASA did not produce the Apollo landers or the Saturn V (what I assume you refer to as "what nasa did 30 years ago" or "other NASA firsts"). They set the requirements, and solicited bids from private companies. Just as they're doing now - Orion is being made by Lockheed Martin, the SLS boosters are being made by ATK, Rocketdyne is making the core engines, Boeing is making the upper stage. Really, all NASA is doing is assembling the entire thing, and of course setting the specs and requirements.

Let's look at the Apollo command module, the closest equivalent to Orion/CST-100/Dragon. It was developed by North American Aviation. They merged with Rockwell-Standard during the 1967 to form North American Rockwell, later renamed to Rockwell International, under which name they produced the Space Shuttle orbiter. The Rockwell International space division was sold in 1996 to... Boeing.

Boeing isn't "ripping off from NASA firsts". They're building off work that they did for NASA in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. If anything "NASA" is ripping of them, but I remind you that Lockheed Martin is the one actually building the thing you want to attribute to NASA.

Sierra Nevada is building off SpaceShipOne technology, not any NASA programs. Just because it looks vaguely like the Space Shuttle, that does not mean it actually works the same way. The engines are completely and fundamentally different, as is the aerodynamic design.

And SpaceX is developing everything on their own. The only thing they used from another company is some software/control design from Tesla Motors, a company not coincidentally also owned by Elon Musk. I personally doubt much was even borrowed there except for the basic idea of a single big touchscreen, but I guess it makes for good brand advertising.

tl;dr you're wrong in your terminology, you're wrong in your facts, you're wrong in your logic, and you're wrong in your conclusions.

Just (1)

rotorbudd (1242864) | about 5 months ago | (#47533757)

Flush it down the drain.

5 billion per launch already looking optimistic (3, Insightful)

Crashmarik (635988) | about 5 months ago | (#47533765)

http://www.thespacereview.com/... [thespacereview.com]

Doesn't the old saying go "Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me" ?

What is it when it is fool me endlessly ? NASA does not bring down the cost of space access period. The shuttle didn't none of their boosters ever have. If we get really lucky we get commercial enterprises able to do end runs around them to actually make a little progress.

Really we should have NASA do what it is good at, robotic exploration and high risk high payoff research. Let commercial companies do what they are good at mass production and perfecting technologies.

Re:5 billion per launch already looking optimistic (1)

bigpat (158134) | about 5 months ago | (#47534013)

I hear NASA planning meetings go something like:

Hey we need to accomplish A Mission, what are all the ways we have done something like that before? blah blah blah mission X, Y, Z blah blah blah. Great! Some of those were great successes. Now let's brainstorm a completely new way of doing something like this that nobody has every thought of before....

So.... NASA isn't good at perfecting technology, making it efficient and cost effective because that is iterative and evolutionary, but if you need to dream up a new way to land on Mars or do a one-off science experiment, then they have the brain boxes to do it.

Personally I'd rather see NASA funding other people and institutions doing much of the science and setting some higher level requirements for systems and missions and seeing what different companies can come up with to meet those requirements. And then if it turns out that two cheap 50 ton launch vehicles are better than a 100 ton launch vehicle that costs ten or twenty times as much and another decade to develop, then adapt the mission requirements and assemble in orbit or figure something else out. Be nimble and adapt to what the technology makes possible, don't just dream about the impossible like it is some grudge match or some academic thesis where you have to be "original" to a fault.

Luck? (2)

GPS Pilot (3683) | about 5 months ago | (#47534029)

If we get really lucky we get commercial enterprises able to do end runs around them to actually make a little progress.

Then I guess we've been extremely lucky, because SpaceX has actually made a lot of progress.

Re:5 billion per launch already looking optimistic (1)

easyTree (1042254) | about 5 months ago | (#47534073)

Really we should have NASA do what it is good at [dilbert.com] .

Going over budget?

Re:5 billion per launch already looking optimistic (1)

trout007 (975317) | about 5 months ago | (#47534859)

NASA employes about 15k full time employees. That's about $3 Billion out of a $18 Billion budget. All the rest goes to contracts of various types. NASA isn't designing all of SLS. Most is contractors.

NASA needs to fix it's Org. . (2)

Redbehrend (3654433) | about 5 months ago | (#47533829)

My problem with NASA isn't the projects as SLS is a decent one. It's how they work, planning is always way off, spending is always high and final products are always late. They really need to figure out a solution to these problems, everytime things like this are released it makes them look bad. 400 mil isn't that much for this project but still could people of such high intelligence not see it coming or find a better way to plan? You know they are going to need more before it even launches. I'm sure it's not all them but what they do to get approved.... still you can always improve in planning, spending and efficiency.
When it's taxpayer money it always seems like people think it's unlimited.

Re:NASA needs to fix it's Org. . (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47533907)

NASA should be reorganized as a launch facility ONLY. Let private enterprise do the design, building, testing, etc. This would get things done right and on budget. Cost would be recouped by selling payload space and/or manned missions.

Re:NASA needs to fix it's Org. . (2)

werepants (1912634) | about 5 months ago | (#47534085)

I don't think you really understand how NASA works. Private industry already designs and builds basically everything they do - NASA doesn't have manufacturing capabilities. The thing that kills them is cost-plus contracting and the fact that they have to make engineering decisions not based on technical merit, but based on what will appease congress.

Re:NASA needs to fix it's Org. . (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47534203)

The lowest bidder is not always the best, especially with the track record of cost overruns. Let private enterprise do their own work, come up with a system that works, and then sell it to gov't.

Re:NASA needs to fix it's Org. . (1)

Beck_Neard (3612467) | about 5 months ago | (#47534621)

> Private industry already designs and builds basically everything they do

Indeed, and dishonest cost estimates from private companies are usually the main reason for things going way over-budget.

And this is exactly where it needs to restructure itself. Dismantle the SLS program, pour more funds into research and facilities like JPL.

Re:NASA needs to fix it's Org. . (1)

werepants (1912634) | about 5 months ago | (#47534845)

> Private industry already designs and builds basically everything they do

Indeed, and dishonest cost estimates from private companies are usually the main reason for things going way over-budget.

And this is exactly where it needs to restructure itself. Dismantle the SLS program, pour more funds into research and facilities like JPL.

I'm not convinced that all the restructuring in the world will fix NASA as long as congress keeps using them as a jobs program with some technical objectives stapled on top as an afterthought.

Re:NASA needs to fix it's Org. . (2)

werepants (1912634) | about 5 months ago | (#47534109)

SLS is NOT a decent project. It's an old-school design based on expensive and outdated tech with known problems! The only thing SLS succeeds at is keeping the same cash flowing to the same congressional districts. That money would be far better spent on commercial crew or developing an entirely new system from the ground up.

Re:NASA needs to fix it's Org. . (1)

Beck_Neard (3612467) | about 5 months ago | (#47534637)

This isn't just a silly mistake. NASA bases its budgetary decisions on the price sub-contractors give for various jobs. These sub-contractors often give an intentionally misleading cost underestimate.

What's the point? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47533837)

Who cares about people in LEO? It's nothing more than symbolic stunts. The Space Age is dead, get over it.

Better deal than the F22 (2)

wgoodman (1109297) | about 5 months ago | (#47533897)

For how many billions (trillions?) that the F22 has gone over budget, underperformed, and doesn't really have any particular need except politically, 400 million is a drop in the bucket. Give NASA the F22 budget and prepare to be amazed.

Re:Better deal than the F22 (1)

Binestar (28861) | about 5 months ago | (#47534057)

You mean F35. F22 was a success, expensive, sure, but quite successful.

Re:Better deal than the F22 (2)

Dereck1701 (1922824) | about 5 months ago | (#47535083)

At a bare minimum the F35 program was far more of a boondoggle than the F22 program but even it had severe cost overruns (Development ballooned from $12.6 B to $26.3 B, Fighter Construction $149 M to $412), significantly decreased capabilities (high maintenance, canopy degradation) & major design flaws (asphyxiating pilots, flaking off stealth skin). The only reason it didn't cost far more was they only built 187 operational aircraft, far less than originally intended, because it was FAR cheaper to simply retrofit & update the existing fleet of F-15/16s.

JFC (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47533925)

Fuck feeding, sheltering, clothing and educating people.

Re:JFC (1)

Lije Baley (88936) | about 5 months ago | (#47534495)

Yes, if only we could have warned primitive man to completely master cave life before venturing out.

"But it's the high 70s!" (0)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 5 months ago | (#47533945)

> "NASA policy usually requires a 70 percent confidence level"

Statistics show a 70% confidence level for a government program has only a 3% confidence level.

For 5 billion you could do a lot of real science (2)

Squidlips (1206004) | about 5 months ago | (#47533981)

5 Billion pays for a Mars Sample Return mission 5 Billion pays for two Europa Clipper missions Manned spaceflight is such a scam but NASA is hopelessly in the bag for manned pork. All the top management are ex-flyboys. Ugh. Hopeless

And people get mad (1)

HangingChad (677530) | about 5 months ago | (#47534019)

And people get mad when I say NASA has devolved into a collection of risk adverse mid-managers loosely connected to a rusting theme park endlessly replaying clips of their glory days. Their best days are behind them and it's time to think about reorganizing the entire agency.

Kill SLS (1, Interesting)

GPS Pilot (3683) | about 5 months ago | (#47534075)

I'm one of the biggest spaceflight enthusiasts you'll find, and I've been saying for years: kill SLS. We'll get more results by using 20% of the money to expand SpaceX contracts, and applying the other 80% toward deficit reduction.

Musk isn't in it for the money; he enjoys the engineering challenges, and bringing launch costs down by one or more orders of magnitude is one of those challenges. (Yes I realize the irony; despite not being in it for the money, he has become quite wealthy.)

Re:Kill SLS (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 5 months ago | (#47535381)

We'll get more results by using 20% of the money to expand SpaceX contracts, and applying the other 80% toward deficit reduction.

80% of SLS devoted to deficit reduction is a trivial change in the deficit (Better to split it between SpaceX and Orbital Sciences and mission development. Allowing $3B per year for mission development, that leaves enough to pay for development of Falcon9R, Falcon9 Heavy, and Orbital's equivalents.

Or just buy Dragon flights from SpaceX - $5B per year would pay for a Dragon launch every couple weeks.

Or an equivalent number of Falcon9R launches for unmanned missions. Or a Falcon9 Heavy every other month....

Similar yet different (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47534325)

"... led President Obama to cancel SLS's predecessor rocket system called Constellation shortly after taking office."

But this time, it's his set of crony corporations who are receiving government money. My guess is he'll keep it.

A Waste So Kill It Now No Delay (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47534479)

The National Research Council recently gave a stinging rebuke and refutation of NASA's Manned Space Flight Program. In essence the NRC argued that the people to "man" such a voyage will not be born for another 50 years. More importantly, the engineers and scientists who would build such an enterprise have not been born and the institutions to educate and train them will not exist for another 25 years at least. So anything other than a failed desperate 1-way suicide mission will not happen for another 100 years.

So kill NASA now and wait 100 years until the right people and institutions and knowledge and expertise exists.

In other words (2)

mx_mx_mx (1625481) | about 5 months ago | (#47534547)

Its not a rocket. Its racket.

Sad (3, Insightful)

gerardrj (207690) | about 5 months ago | (#47534675)

NASA to Congress: We want to build a launch system that will be the single most important component in the US presence in space for the nest several generations. We need $20B for it from planning to first launch.
Congress to NASA: Screw that, you get $12B.
NASA to Congress: We can almost do it with $12B, we need an additional $400M
Congress to NASA: Justify the additional $$

Military to Congress: We need $10B to build a new strike fighter that no-one really wants.
Congress to Military: Here ya go
Military to Congress: Oops. We've crashed a bunch of prototypes, and still have major design flaws and systems failures. Another $10B should get us on track.
Congress to Military: Here ya go
Military to Congress: Supplier problems, we need another $10B
Congress to Military: Here ya go

Why are we so damned willing to spend money to kill people more efficiently and not to do science that positively impacts all our lives every day?

Re:Sad (1)

dcollins (135727) | about 5 months ago | (#47535407)

See: Machiavelli's The Prince.

One Has to Wonder (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | about 5 months ago | (#47534727)

Would NASA be better off discussing launch requirements to SpaceX?

And congress is doing their best to sabotage CCDev (2)

Dereck1701 (1922824) | about 5 months ago | (#47535001)

"SpaceX, Boeing, and Sierra Nevada to build their three spaceships, all scheduled for their first manned launches before 2017."

And surprise, surprise. There are serious attempts to pillage that program (CCDev), which is on time, on budget, and (comparatively) insanely cheap, for funds to prop up SLS.

http://arstechnica.com/science... [arstechnica.com]

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