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NASA to Announce New Commercial Space Partner

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 6 years ago | from the only-32-million dept.

Space 69

NewScientist is reporting that NASA has kicked their previous space partner, Rocketplane Kistler, to the curb and is in search of a new commercial space partner. The new partnership will try to develop a new shuttle to service the International Space Station. "The GAO's decision clears the way for NASA to select a new COTS partner in addition to SpaceX, whose partnership with NASA continues. Only $32 million was paid to Rocketplane Kistler, leaving $175 million for new partnerships."

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Just to the curb? (4, Funny)

MarkusQ (450076) | more than 6 years ago | (#22270038)

NASA has kicked their previous space partner, Rocketplane Kistler, to the curb

They just kicked them to the curb? In my day they would have kicked them to the moon. Yes, Alice, to the moooooon.

--MarkusQ

P.S. And yes, statistically speaking, I probably am older than you.

Re:Just to the curb? (4, Funny)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 6 years ago | (#22270180)

NewScientist is reporting that NASA has kicked their previous space partner, Rocketplane Kistler, to the curb and is in search of a new commercial space partner. The new partnership will try to develop a new shuttle to service the International Space Station.
Well, I've got this patent pending on this REALLY BIG sling-shot, if NASA is interested ...

After all, the USPTO will approve anything nowadays ...

Re:Just to the curb? (1)

dave87656 (1179347) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280336)

NewScientist is reporting that NASA has kicked their previous space partner, Rocketplane Kistler, to the curb and is in search of a new commercial space partner. The new partnership will try to develop a new shuttle to service the International Space Station.
Well, I've got this patent pending on this REALLY BIG sling-shot, if NASA is interested ...

After all, the USPTO will approve anything nowadays ...

It's not a "sling-shot", it's an elastic energy-storage with single-release multi-directional propulsion device. Your patent is a given with that description.

Re:Just to the curb? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22270306)

And yes, statistically speaking, you're stupid enough to sign your posts, which contain your name directly above the comment text.

You're a faggot.

--------ANONYMOUS COWARD

Re:Just to the curb? (0, Offtopic)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 6 years ago | (#22270322)

P.S. And yes, statistically speaking, I probably am older than you.


Not unless you're old enough to remember when that was first run, because I do.

Re:Just to the curb? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22270736)

How do you square that with "statistically" and "probably"?

And are you talking about The Honeymooners, or Calvalcade of Stars?

I mean, if you really want to be picky.

Re:Just to the curb? (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 6 years ago | (#22270884)

The Honeymooners. I don't know if we had a TV early enough for the Cavalcade of Stars and if so, I'm not quite old enough to remember it. And, I was talking about myself only, not the general case.

Re:Just to the curb? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22270324)

Well, it was the curb outside the warehouse where the filmed the moon landing. If that makes you feel any better.

Rocketplane? (4, Interesting)

jpedlow (1154099) | more than 6 years ago | (#22270056)

So what is it that the company who got kicked out did? The link didnt work for me:( It seems though that if they just burned through $30M, maybe they should be held accountable for paying some of it back... I'm not 100% sure how things work in the states (I'm Canadian Eh), but shouldnt there be some form of performance rendered from this "partner", or is it just NASA sending money in this company's direction hoping from some sort of result? Maybe there should be more nerds doing open-source aerospace....or it could be a new field for google to go into ;)

Re:Rocketplane? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22270134)

In 2006, NASA signed agreements earmarking $485 million to be split between two companies trying to develop vehicles to service the orbital outpost. As part of its Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) programme, it set aside $278 million for SpaceX, based in El Segundo, California, and $207 million for Rocketplane Kistler of Oklahoma City, both in the US.

The money was to be gradually doled out between 2006 and 2010 - as long as the two companies kept meeting performance milestones along the way. But after Rocketplane Kistler failed to raise a required $500 million in private financing, NASA cancelled its agreement with the company in October 2007.

types of failure (2, Interesting)

Gary W. Longsine (124661) | more than 6 years ago | (#22270980)

This seems to me to be a failure of NASA as much as Rocketplane Kistler. The objectives appear to be entirely unrealistic. NASA wants two separate companies to develop two separate vehicles capable of unmanned resupply of the ISS in a very short time frame. Now, this is an agency that has access to literally DOZENS of off the shelf rockets. None of them will do. This is an agency with experience spanning decades, working with several companies to design DOZENS of rockets. None of them cost any less than "many billions of dollars". I'm not saying that it won't be possible to develop a new rocket on the very limited budget and very limited timetable, but NASA would never be willing to do it on these terms. Private investors looked at that and saw what we are starting now to see: a project which is conceptually flawed, and which will almost certainly unravel before a rocket flies, and which will almost certainly not result in a profit on the investment.

Re:types of failure (2, Interesting)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 6 years ago | (#22271080)

Umm, SpaceX seems do be doing just fine (yes, I know they haven't had a completely successful launch yet). They have designed and built a $6 million rocket capable of getting to LEO with a reasonable load, as well as have the tooling and parts for a much larger version. Granted they have an advantage over Rocketplane Kistler because Musk has a rather large piggy bank, but its still very minimal compared to what NASA, Boeing, Lockheed and Rocketdyne are doing.

There are a number of reasons for why they can do this while the big names fail, but among them are a small dedicated workforce in a Silicon Valley-like atmosphere, lack of reliance on public opinion, and a focus on the most cost-effective design rather than the most efficient. The whole point is to develop it in a way that NASA would never do under a traditional contract.

While its fair to withold judgment until the next launch (May I believe), I see no reason why the next Falcon 1 won't complete its mission, and neither does DARPA, besides plain old dumb luck which tends to affect all launch vehicles, even the Soyuz. Given a success, and more to follow, I don't think the concept is flawed; of course I don't know much about Rocketplane Kistler besides their suborbital design, and there approach may very well have been flawed.

Re:types of failure (2, Interesting)

Teancum (67324) | more than 6 years ago | (#22272388)

In spite of what you are suggesting here, I do think the COTS program is a poorly designed government program on many levels. There certainly is room to criticize NASA on the approach, and there are some additional methods/objectives that could have been done to help improve the whole program.

Even so, your comments about SpaceX being successful with COTS money are valid. Rocketplane Kistler and their financial model seemed to have been built around the idea that the NASA money would have been the payoff, and not simply some extra money to be earned along the way to a much larger goal. That is precisely what Elon Musk has been doing with SpaceX, as he looked at the NASA money earned this way as "free money" to help make his company even more profitable rather than the end goal of trying to make some money from the program. Rocket science is just too difficult to cut corners like Kistler was doing, and their financial resources simply weren't up to the task.

BTW, I'm curious about where you got the May date for the lanuch of the next Falcon 1? From what I understood, they were technically aiming for last December, but decided to give their engineers a much deserved and needed Christmas break, with the idea to pick up the pace in January for a 1st Quarter 2008 launch. I guess I missed the announcement that pushed this date back, unless you have some "inside" knowledge about SpaceX.

The "failed" launch they did earlier certainly got into space and even into orbit... much higher and faster than Scaled Composites' spacecraft and far and away much more reliable and better results than most of the early Redstone tests NASA did back in the 1950's. And Redstone eventually was a manned vehicle as well, I should add (look up Alan Sheppard and see what he flew in). I mention Scaled Composites simply because a valid criticism of Burton Rutan's spacecraft is that his technology in its current form is incapable of making a genuine leap into LEO due to raw energy requirement.

The earlier problems with the Falcon 1 were genuine engineering mistakes (forgetting some basic chemistry in regards to bolts/nuts on the first flight, and the problem with fuel sloshing in the tanks on the second flight), but those are also problems that can be refined and help to improve the manufacturing process. They are also engineering changes that can be adapted to Falcon 9, which also gives me some genuine hope. I have high confidence that if they can pull off a lanuch of the Falcon 1 successfully, that the Falcon 9 is also going to go up successfully as well. And it is the Falcon 9 that is going to have a much larger impact on the space launch business anyway, not to mention what will be the ultimate validation of the COTS program.

Re:types of failure (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22272872)

Even so, your comments about SpaceX being successful with COTS money are valid. ...
The "failed" launch they did earlier certainly got into space and even into orbit...
I'm sorry, but this second statement is incorrect. Although I'm cheering for SpaceX to succeed, their second launch did not in fact get into orbit. It got "almost" to orbit... but "almost" to orbit is not the same as orbit. news and discussion [2robots.com]

Re:types of failure; 4 contestants (3, Informative)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 6 years ago | (#22271100)

NASA wants two separate companies to develop two separate vehicles capable of unmanned resupply of the ISS in a very short time frame. Now, this is an agency that has access to literally DOZENS of off the shelf rockets. None of them will do.

Actually, two of the four finalists are proposing to use those already-existing off-the-shelf rockets [flightglobal.com] you mention. If I understand correctly, both Spacehab and PlanetSpace have partnered with Lockheed Martin in order to use their currently-existing rockets.

For future reference, since it wasn't mentioned in the original submission, here are the four finalists (info from rlvnews.com [hobbyspace.com] :

- Spacehab [spacehab.com]
- Andrews Space [andrews-space.com]
- Orbital Sciences [orbital.com]
- PlanetSpace [planetspace.org]

Re:types of failure (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 6 years ago | (#22273640)

This seems to me to be a failure of NASA as much as Rocketplane Kistler. The objectives appear to be entirely unrealistic. NASA wants two separate companies to develop two separate vehicles capable of unmanned resupply of the ISS

To the contrary. Both of the companies who won the COTS contract had already been developing vehicles-- in Kistler's case, for over a decade. The agreement was for the companies to take low-cost launch vehicles that they were already developing, and adapt them to the NASA needs.

It looks like a win-win situation; these companies have proposed that they can reduce the cost of space access, and are using non-government funding to develop their vehicles. If they succeed, it would be a very beneficial thing for NASA, and for that matter for the whole space industry. Indeed, it's a risky bet-- the history of private space development is littered with the business plans of failed launch ventures, and it really is rocket science-- but the payoff is high, and the money ventured is relatively low.

The problem is that the concept does depend on the companies developing their vehicles with outside funding. And they knew that right from the start; the contract was written that NASA funding would continue if and only if there was external capital supplied, with specific milestones. Kistler had claimed to have outside investors with the funding, but for one reason or another the promised funds kept getting pushed back and back, and the milestones kept slipping into the future.

Re:types of failure (1)

Gary W. Longsine (124661) | more than 6 years ago | (#22273774)

Uh-huh. Like the Moeller flying car has been in development.

Re:Rocketplane? (1)

Codifex Maximus (639) | more than 6 years ago | (#22271074)

> Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) programme

So, I take it this doesn't mean Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) then.

Re:Rocketplane? (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 6 years ago | (#22270498)

So what is it that the company who got kicked out did?
The agreement was to provide some kick-start funding, contingent on the company gathering private funding to develop the vehicle.

Kistler failed to gather the commitments for private funding within the mutually-agreed period of time.

this link [spacefellowship.com] has some info and cool pictures.

this needs an edit (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22270098)

Statements like "kicked to the curb" are not factual and just inflamatory. The editors should prevent slashdot from becoming a tabloid and adding the writers comments to the news. This doesnt say what Kistler did wrong, if anything, and why. It just presents kistler in a bad light.... we dont know why the person who submitted the article doesnt like Kistler?

I'm thoroughly offended... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22270574)

I'm thoroughly offended... Such abuse of language in such an upstanding and influential forum. What is Slashdot coming to?

Re:this needs an edit (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 6 years ago | (#22270892)

It has been going on with the politics section here for so long that I doubt anyone really notices it anymore. Well, of course you have, I didn't pay attention until after you mentioned it.

So I guess slashdot isn't becoming but has became a tabloid.

Re:this needs an edit (1)

1 a bee (817783) | more than 6 years ago | (#22271178)

I agree wholeheartedly--with one proviso. This /. story doesn't need an edit; it needs to be "kicked to the curb."

is this a sneaky ad? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22270112)

I clicked and got a message that it would not forward me to an advertisement from pheedo.com. This news article seems to be an advertisement, perhaps PPC.

A/S/L (2, Funny)

Hojima (1228978) | more than 6 years ago | (#22270118)

What a coincidence, I'm in search of a new "Space partner" as well. 399/Protoss Templar/Aiur here. I know it's cheesy but I can't wait for starcraft 2

New Shuttle? (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#22270120)

What did Rocketplane Kistler come up with before this breakup?

Re:New Shuttle? (2, Informative)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 6 years ago | (#22270904)

What did Rocketplane Kistler come up with before this breakup?

Here's Kistler's design:

http://www.astronautix.com/lvs/kislerk1.htm [astronautix.com]

Basically, they were started up back in the late 90s, but went into bankruptcy when the economy tanked. Rocketplane bought them and attempted to resuscitate them for COTS, but they were unable to get the sufficient private funds that NASA's milestone required. They attempted to sue NASA to get more money despite not meeting the milestone, but weren't successful.

Re:New Shuttle? (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#22272864)

Here's Kistler's design:
Ohh yes... Very futuristic. /sarcasm

Re:New Shuttle? (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 6 years ago | (#22273730)

Here's Kistler's design:
Ohh yes... Very futuristic. /sarcasm
It's not supposed to be "futuristic". It's supposed to be cheap and reliable.

no link, no FA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22270124)

where's the link and the FA?

Re:no link, no FA (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#22270172)

The editors already know that we click the links (hence the "Slashdot Effect") but they want to see if we actually glance at the page before not reading it.

Re:no link, no FA (2, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | more than 6 years ago | (#22270206)

It's to free us of the trouble of ignoring TFA before posting. This way we don't need the discipline to just skip to the random accusations, trolling and arguing that are at the heart of the /. community.

Why contract it out? (3, Interesting)

daveodukeo (260037) | more than 6 years ago | (#22270174)

Why in the world does NASA contract out the construction of its vehicles to begin with??!

When there is a world where there is a fluid market of space agencies and vehicle makers, then yeah, let the free market decide. Until then though, let's let the governments "waste" their money by developing them themselves, ok?

Re:Why contract it out? (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 6 years ago | (#22270222)

Why in the world does NASA contract out the construction of its vehicles to begin with??!

Its all CYA (Cover Your Ass). This way, when the next vehicle fails, NASA can try to claim it doesn't stand for "Needs Another Seven Astro-nuts".

(Yes, its' in poor taste, but so is NASA. It became a pork-barrel agency, first with the moving of after-launch comms to Houston (LBJ) and then with the shuttle program and Martin Thiokol getting the SRB contract, even though it required segmented booster sections and O rings, instead of a one-piece design - because Martin Thiokol had to ship sections by barge, since no barge could take a non-segmented design. Funny how the military never had to put up with that bullshit!)

Re:Why contract it out? (3, Informative)

O2H2 (891353) | more than 6 years ago | (#22270456)

The reason NASA was essentially forced to proceed with the COTS program was based on their stubborn refusal to permit anything else to deliver payloads to the International Space Station that was made in the USA. They adamantly defended their turf and refused to even consider expendable solutions even though they are far cheaper and even more reliable than Shuttle. Then Columbia was destroyed on reentry. This, and the desire to go back to the moon drove retirement of the Shuttle by 2010. But there was nothing in the pipeline that THEY were designing that was going to get to flight before 2014 at the earliest. Only Russian and European systems that are both lame as hell. Combine this with pressure from Elon Musk and you get the half-assed COTS1 competition. NASA chose just about the weakest, least likely to succeed options and Kistler was one of those. They died because they didn't have a billionaire to act as their sugar daddy. The also owed tens of millions of dollars their subcontractors from the LAST time they went out of business. THere are many who suspect NASA chose these two to guarantee that they would fail and hence assure that there is no competition with and greater motivation for the pathetic ARES 1 vehicle. But I suppose that is a conspiracy theory.

The latest competition has some far more viable companies such as Spacehab, United Launch Alliance, Boeing and Lockheed Martin as team leaders. They have the flight-demonstrated capability to actually deliver many tons of pressurized and unpressurized cargo to ISS at a cost that is a bargain compared any other options. The award is not until 15 February. Let us hope that NASA finally makes one right decision and picks a viable contender. If they pick one of the lamers then the signal is sent that NASA is afraid of competition from other teams and is giving commercial industry no chance to participate in crewed logistics operations. This is sad since they have demonstrated repeatedly that they lack the know-how to deliver cargos to anywhere on a schedule within cost boundaries. This is very bad for ISS as well as any future lunar operations.

To answer your question about subcontracting every single piece of operational launcher hardware was developed by subcontractors and they have the vast background to actually make flight hardware in a real factory. NASA has none of this experience. They were always systems integrators and operators- not detail designers They are trying to force themselves into this role on ARES even thought they never had it in the glory days of Apollo. This is the result of their administrator Griffin who has also never built anything significant but is a wanna be. This approach will be one of the first things killed by the next administration since it will cost NASA ten to twenty times what it would using more traditional subcontracting methods.

Re:Why contract it out? (1)

AaronLawrence (600990) | more than 6 years ago | (#22271572)

Why the hell is the parent a troll? It's interesting at least. Come on mods...

Re:Why contract it out? (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 6 years ago | (#22272622)

In terms of why this comment is marked as a troll.... that was the wrong mod mark to make. I hope the meta-mods fix that and kill the troll moderation. Or somebody else marks this up as at least interesting.

In response to your suggestion that NASA choose the weakest of all possible entries into the COTS-I competition, I don't think that is necessarily the case. The "big boys" (LockMart, Boeing) weren't really interested in the competition and all of the rest of the submissions were far and away weaker than even SpaceX or Kistler. It is a very recent phenomena that anybody other than the "big boys" even had anything capable of getting into space, as almost everybody else building rockets have been mainly hobbyists like John Carmack. And even Carmack is looking to turn his "hobby" into something more resembling a for-profit company eventually. There really is something interesting and unique about the current generation of new space-related companies, and something NASA wanted to tap into when they created the COTS program.

This said, the tone of what you are saying here is mostly correct. I do think there are some politically motivated individuals who would love to see the COTS program fall flat on its face. If Musk succeeds, he is ripping the profit margins out from under the major launching companies and will force a price war of some sort into the rocket launching business. If anything, however, the "big boys" would love to get Elon hooked on the government gravy train as well to keep the prices going down too much.

As for the Ares launcher.... I have deep reservations about it mainly based on NASA's track record. I know about at least five and perhaps as many as a dozen different lanuch systems that got at least as far as Ares is right now (even further along for many of them) and never performed a single manned launch into space. Since the Gemini spacecraft got into space (Apollo was actually pre-Gemini in terms of planning and development) NASA has been able to get precisely one manned launch system into space: The Space Shuttle. That that was pretty much a dismal failure due to a whole bunch of compromises that should have never happened in the first place, and even the Ares spacecraft doesn't build much off of the development of the Shuttle. It is more following on the lines of the Apollo-II and Gemini-II (also called Big Gemini) projects--- both examples of earlier failed efforts by NASA that had actual hardware built but never launched.

NASA certainly seems to be placing a huge bet on Ares, and it is following in the footsteps of every previously failed launcher that has been developed in the past 40 years. I know that there are some outstanding engineers who are working on it right now, so I don't want to completely deride it. But the management of that program does lead me to believe that all of the problems that the Shuttle is facing right now are being repeated again including the atmosphere of mission compromises and the desire to have a space-equivalent of a Swiss Army knife... something that does everything for everybody but not anything very well.

Re:Why contract it out? (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 6 years ago | (#22270514)

There is a free market of vehicle builders - and has been since the dawn of the space age. Boeing, etc have extensive and current experience in developing and operating launchers.

NASA's only significant "living" experience is the Space Shuttle.

not much of one (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 6 years ago | (#22270638)

The "etc." these days is pretty small. There's Boeing, Lockheed, and then a handful of more specialized companies. And they don't operate on a very free-market basis with government contracts either: Generally the government provides up-front money to pay for development and so on, rather than just buying a product. The reason is that it costs too much to develop a product that the government might or might not buy, so nobody would do it. So you don't have privately-developed products, and therefore don't have a market.

Re:not much of one (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 6 years ago | (#22271334)

ROTFLMAO. In a world where all [US] launchers were developed to goverment contract, you'd have a point.

We don't live in such a world. Not even close.

and which weren't? (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 6 years ago | (#22271456)

Just about all "commercial" launchers either had their development directly funded by the government, or are relatively minor updates of an earlier rocket in the same family that was funded by the government. A combination of missile repurposing and direct funding from NASA, the US Air Force, and the Department of Defense accounts for the Atlas, Delta, Titan, and Centaur rocket families. In many cases even the minor updates are directly funded by the government, such as through the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program.

There are a handful of completely private launch systems, like the Falcon being developed by SpaceX, but they seem to still be in the test stage.

Re:and which weren't? (1)

O2H2 (891353) | more than 6 years ago | (#22272330)

Educate yourself before speaking. The vast majority of the funding for the recent EELV's (Delta and Atlas) was provided by the companies (Boeing and LM) themselves. Nearly 3 billion was invested by these private companies. And these were not minor updates. A complete rocket engine, the RS68, was developed as well as a brand new Atlas booster, Centaur upper stage with a single engine system, a wholly new Delta booster and two Delta upper stages. Not to mention new Atlas solids, payload fairings and payload adapters. The USG also got four new launch complexes out of the deal. So for something like 1-2 billion out of pocket the USAF got two new rocket systems and their matching launch complexes. NASA is planning on spending $10B on ARES 1 alone and it is incapable of doing much beyond delivery to low earth orbit. These EELV's could do what ARES is hoping/planning on doing (in 2015 maybe) right now. Is it any wonder that the companies want to do more launch work for NASA and recover their investments? Essentially NASA is going into direct competition with private industry. Boeing and LM essentially washed their hands of the whole affair and created the United Launch Alliance which combined the Atlas and Delta teams in the hopes of staying alive as a viable company. Whether this succeeds is up in the air.

that's still not private industry (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 6 years ago | (#22275802)

That's a public-private partnership at best. If the U.S. government is paying $2 billion to subsidize something, there's no way you can call it "free-market".

Re:Why contract it out? (2, Informative)

Tmack (593755) | more than 6 years ago | (#22270684)

There is a free market of vehicle builders - and has been since the dawn of the space age. Boeing, etc have extensive and current experience in developing and operating launchers.

NASA's only significant "living" experience is the Space Shuttle.

Which, actually, Rockwell International (now Boeing, Orbiter) designed and built under contract and in joint partnership with Lockheed (Martin Marietta, the ET) and Thiokol/Boeing (SRBs), which form the United Space Aliance (USA). Its what happens when anything is done by a government agency: contract out to the lowest bidder while packing the project full of pork to spread about and make politicians and their affiliates happy.

Tm

Re:Why contract it out? (1)

jd (1658) | more than 6 years ago | (#22270726)

Come off it, it's not as if it's rocket science! Oh....

Re:Why contract it out? (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 6 years ago | (#22270880)

Until then though, let's let the governments "waste" their money by developing them themselves, ok?

Erm, that's actually what NASA is doing: They're spending several billion dollars on cost-plus contracts to have the Ares rockets developed according to their specifications. COTS is basically a side-bet, with them spending a total of $500 million (which will only get paid if the companies meet pre-specified milestones) on the chance that private industry will be able to develop their own rockets which can meet NASA's needs.

The funny thing is, it's looking like the side-bet is doing better than the house's bet right now. SpaceX already has a few test flights under their belt; they didn't make it to orbit, but they have a good idea of what the problems were and fixed them. They also had a multi-engine test firing [spacex.com] in preparation for their medium/heavy-lift Falcon 9 rocket earlier this week. Meanwhile, it's looking like Ares is running into some fundamental design problems [transterrestrial.com] ; there are of course possible fixes, but they may very well end up having such a large weight penalty that the usefulness of Ares will be largely impacted.

So yeah, it looks like (as you desire) the government is wasting more than enough money to develop a solution themselves, but it's looking quite fortunate that they also took a small chance on private industry.

Re:Why contract it out? (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 6 years ago | (#22270906)

Why in the world does NASA contract out the construction of its vehicles to begin with??!

When there is a world where there is a fluid market of space agencies and vehicle makers, then yeah, let the free market decide.
Do you really think NASA could design and produce the 250.000 parts or so that go into the Shuttle? A lot of this would happen at subcontractors anyway, it's not ilke it would become a NASA craft simply by taking on the architect role. I understand why you think this has anything to do with letting the free market decide, this is like wanting a custom application built and deciding on whether to go with an inhouse solution or a professional development house. In either case it's public money and NASA rather than the market decides.

I think that kind of huge monolithic government projects are doomed to fail, NASA should be a leaner organization and instead focus on being a demanding customer that pushes companies to not only compete about getting the contract but to continue delivering throughout the project. That means you sometimes have concepts that are rejected ot stopped, but I doubt it's any different than what you would have to do internally anyway. Having that kind of formal relationship does mean you have some overhead, but you usually have a far more professional attitude to scope and deliverables too. Having seen a bit of both, if you can be tough but professional I don't think hiring outside contractors is be more expensive. Invariably those that get large bills are those who can't cut through and make clear requirements, decisions and work packages. Those that do tend to get (more than) their money's worth in my experience.

Re:Why contract it out? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 6 years ago | (#22272988)

Why in the world does NASA contract out the construction of its vehicles to begin with??!

Why should NASA be in the business of making launch vehicles? That's not its area of expertise. No other branch of the US government is expected to make its own equipment.

When there is a world where there is a fluid market of space agencies and vehicle makers, then yeah, let the free market decide. Until then though, let's let the governments "waste" their money by developing them themselves, ok?

No, that's not ok. Where's that "fluid" market going to come from, if the main customer isn't buying? Keep in mind also that NASA has a history of sabotaging businesses that compete with its own projects. As I see it, the most important thing, that NASA should be doing, is establishing that market. When it makes its own rockets and other equipment, even when as in the case of Ares 1, there are commercial alternatives available, then NASA is failing what I see as it's primary mission. I don't know what you think NASA or humanity should do in space, but my take is that unless you want to restrict human activity in space, then you're going to need a private launch market and people profiting off of space rather than public funds. Otherwise, the incentive to explore space and development space-based technologies just isn't there. It'll remain an expensive hobby that the US and other countries will indulge in when they don't have anything more pressing to spend that money on.

Why do it in house? (1)

Shadowlore (10860) | more than 6 years ago | (#22286948)

"Why in the world does NASA contract out the construction of its vehicles to begin with??!"

Your question is akin to asking "Why does Fedex buy (contract out) it's airplanes from someone else, instead of building their own.

Because FedEx isn' tin that business.

Thus NASA, which isn't chartered (in the business) to make rockets purchases (contracts out) to people who do it for a living.

It's less expensive. If FedEx had to have the necessary talent and infrastructure to build their own planes it would fail to break even let alone make a profit. Why? Because when you design and make planes for yourself only your per-unit cost is far higher than when you sell them to companies who are smart enough to know better.

Re:Why do it in house? (1)

daveodukeo (260037) | more than 6 years ago | (#22287368)

You're very correct -- it makes senses for fedex to buy planes instead of making them. The difference is that there is a multitude of plane makers and buyers. This keeps costs low and manufacturers honest. If FedEx was the only company buying cargo planes, then there's no reason for them to buy the planes... they should buy the plane-making company and bring it all in house! Then they'd get the same product cheaper, and can have better oversight.

New low for /.? (2, Insightful)

jlarocco (851450) | more than 6 years ago | (#22270350)

I'm trying to decide which is worse. The "article" is a page complaining "We were unable to forward you to the advertisement you clicked on.", or the fact that most of the people posting comments seem blissfully unaware of that fact.

Re:New low for /.? (2, Informative)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 6 years ago | (#22270394)

It'd be easier if they just linked to Google News from the beginning
http://news.google.com/news?q=nasa+Rocketplane+Kistler [google.com]

Re:New low for /.? (3, Funny)

florescent_beige (608235) | more than 6 years ago | (#22270560)

Google's first link is to this Slashdot article which brings me to you post which brings me to Google which brings me to Slashdot whichbringsmetoGooglewhichbrings metoSlashdotwhchbrngsmtGglwbmtSwxwxzzwxzzzwzzzzzzzzzztttt *pop*

Re:New low for /.? (1)

tetrahedrassface (675645) | more than 6 years ago | (#22271032)

Yeah. Well, hopefully you will recover from your exploded head.

All the best.

Re:New low for /.? (0, Redundant)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#22270436)

Re:New low for /.? (1)

jlarocco (851450) | more than 6 years ago | (#22270496)

In all fairness, one of those was posted after mine and the other two were AC.

Re:New low for /.? (1)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 6 years ago | (#22270664)

I agree, I thought it was just me until I down here started seeing comments on the link not working. :-p

Well, as the target it tries to forward me to is their ads, I guess I'm not missing much.

Well... (1)

jd (1658) | more than 6 years ago | (#22270746)

I have NewScientist in my slashboxes and went to the original. I imagine that others have done the same - at least those who RTFA.

Article link not working (1)

Open114 (955414) | more than 6 years ago | (#22270392)

Article link not working at the moment

Link to add...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22270458)

Does the story link to an add click link? using FF with noscript add on, I get this:

We were unable to forward you to the advertisement you clicked on.

The likely cause for this is that your browser, feed reader, or email application is configured to not accept cookies, or your reader may launch an external browser to view links without sharing cookies.

        * If you're using Internet Explorer, make sure your privacy setting is at medium or below.
                    o Select 'Internet Options' from the 'Tools' menu in your browser window
                    o Click the Privacy tab
                    o Adjust your privacy setting if necessary

        * If you're using a reader that embeds Internet Explorer (examples: Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Express, Feed Demon), you'll also need to select Internet Explorer as your default web browser.
                    o Open Internet Explorer
                    o Select 'Internet Options' from the 'Tools' menu in your browser window
                    o Click the 'Programs' tab and check the box for Internet Explorer to check if it is the default browser and save your change
                    o Close your browser, re-open it, and when prompted, select Internet Explorer as your default
                    o You can then click on an ad in your newsletter and visit the site you wish to view

Can I take $32 million and run too? (0)

heroine (1220) | more than 6 years ago | (#22270522)

Just want to put that out there.

Proper Linkage (2, Informative)

doomy (7461) | more than 6 years ago | (#22270558)

Only $32 million. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22270862)

Only $32 million was paid for nothing...

Nobs at Pheedo? (1)

Starky (236203) | more than 6 years ago | (#22271046)

The "unable to forward" message one gets when trying to click on the link to Pheedo says "you'll also need to select Internet Explorer as your default web browser." Aren't the market share stats for Mozilla high enough yet that web sites like Pheedo would be best served by either testing on Mozilla or simply just coding to published standards? Or is their engineering team simply lazy and/or incompetent?


Barring further information, I'll put my money on the latter. What a bunch of nobs.

Re:Nobs at Pheedo? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22271164)

I think it's funnier that the slashdot editor obviously doesn't use firefox either.

Re:Nobs at Pheedo? (1)

BLAG-blast (302533) | more than 6 years ago | (#22272086)

I think it's funnier that the slashdot editor obviously doesn't use firefox either.

Hehe, do you really think they actually click on the links?

space panther (1)

blophyus (1166871) | more than 6 years ago | (#22276884)

Read too quickly and thought it said NASA was announcing a new space panther.

That would be sweet. I would totally read about that.

NASA Space Station Partner (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22281280)

Rumors are the top contender is now Walmart.
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