comments on this item:
the quote from NASA comptroller, Alternate Access was explicitly
funded by Congress not to create new launch systems, it was instead
funded to cover the cost of purchasing third party launch services.
It was NASA that merged it with SLI and > started churning out
technology development contracts.
right. The original AAS concept was that NASA would sign contracts
to deliver cargo to the ISS. However, the companies could use those
contracts to convince investors to provide funding for the vehicle
development. NASA, though, did not take the AAS program seriously
and never got close to issuing contracts. Kistler did get something
along these lines, though not under the AAS program (the K-1 would
provide flights for RLV technology tests), with a promise of up
to around $135M once it got flying. This apparently wasn't enough
to help it raise the few hundred million it needs to finish the
K-1. On paper the AAS program continued right up through last autumn.
But as Gary
Hudson said in the interview, NASA was never interested
in the progam and just stuck the proposals in a drawer somewhere.
comments on this item:
Just as a
question/comment on this part of the review of the Washington
"Besides, the X-38 did not involve either commercial companies
or the military and NASA still managed to screw it up. Even if
technically it was doing OK, after spending several hundred million
dollars and then just dropping the program, this certainly shows
some serious management shortcomings."
I don't see a 'screw-up' during the program. The reason it was
dropped was it was designed, (optimized) as a Rescue craft and
not a crew vehicle. NASA had wanted to invest in turning the design
into a crew transfer vehicle, but this was probably never in the
cards due to Congressional hostility towards any new, (production)
And though Rand Simberg "points out" that the companies involved
in the X-33/34 were just 'contractors' I have to point out that
they ARE also business. LockMart promised too much and couldn't
deliver on the X-33. And as Rand mentions their business 'plan'
for the V-star stank to high heaven.
But, I'd also point out that NASA may be doing a lot more than
suspected without the 'usual' suspects when it comes to contracts.
I don't know if you noticed in the following article you posted:
(RLV Work For NASA Has Application To Moon/Mars Mission, NG Says)
I was caught by the following paragraph: NASA's vision for a reusable
launch vehicle called for a tank up to 27.5 feet in diameter and
80 feet long, which would be too large to cure in any standard
autoclave, Northrop Grumman says."
So I wonder WHAT vehicle NASA and Northrop have been working on?
Something of this size wouldn't be needed for the OSP... unless,
(as I've been wondering since I've been using your site and others
to explore some of the 'shelved' proposals and studies NASAs done
in the last few decades :o) your planning on using the OSP/CEV
as the crew escape/command module on something.
Just some thoughts.
The X-38 actually
seemed to be proceeding quite well (though I've heard it had difficulties
with excessive weight growth and some other problems). Similarly,
I don't think the X-34 had any big problems (except perhaps for
obtaining the Fastrac engines from NASA). Starting any multi-hundred
million dollar program and then simply cancelling it is a big screw-up,
even more so, when the project is succeeding technically. If this
had happened just once, such as for the reason you cite (though
I think the X-38 actually had solid Congressional support), it would
be understandable. But the fact it has happened several times indicates
some serious problems.
Rand was making
the distinction between a company working under a contract to build
something according to NASA's specifications and
NASA working in partnership with a company to develop a commercial
product. The latter is what Sawyer seemed to be criticizing.
Yes, I mentioned
the Aviation Week article about Northrop's composite tank work.
I think this kind of technical infrastructure work, whether at a
NASA center or at a contractor, is great and something NASA should
continuing doing no matter what. In this case, the funding comes
from NASA's program
to develop general technology for future RLVs.
Ketchledge offers some ideas on RLV design and NASA policies:
For the last
few years I have been working on Lifting Bodies and related RLV
engineering issues for a publication due out in March, when I
hopefully will secure a publisher. I saw the OSP effort as a smaller
more nible and lower cost shuttle craft for crew to LEO either
in an X-37 , HL-10 or Lockmart ASSET winged cone. Lockmart was
saying cheaper, faster, safer, sooner as well.
I think that effort is now going to be swept away for the following
reasons. Which I outline below.
President Bush for mixed reasons will be directing NASA to return
to the Moon and on to Mars in the next 20-30 years. this will
also intail the Promethisus or VASMIR plasma drive that could
cut the trip time to Mars as short as 90 days. The second impact
to such a drivce is Venus and Jupiter now only a year. to power
such a drice takes a pair of super conducting magnets and an radio
frequency transmitter like what you have in your microwave oven,
but on major vitamins. The power requirement will be from 500KW
to 3 megawatts.
Since at Mars you need 4 times the area to get the same solar
energy, flying a large solar panel is not pratical. Get out to
Jupiter and you simpy don't have all that much sunlight. That
means a nuclear power souce. Those of you who have a problem with
that, please get a grip on your lives. Nuclear Power on submarines
has a long and very safe operation record, I know, I llived under
the ocean for 90 days at a time for 6 years at depths I can't
discuss all powered by a reactor 40 times larger than what NASA
needs for this interplanitary transport vessel. How can we afford
this , well its quite simple.
First you tell Martin/Locheed to redesign the external tank on
the shuttle to be the core of a cargo lifter. You mothball the
shuttle in 5 years and NASA goes into the cargo business. With
the orbiter off the external tank, and a beefing up of thje SRB,
add 3-5 RS-68 engines to the base of the external tank and you
will get about 200,000 pounds into orbit.
You need the following equiment to stage either a moon or Mars
mission. A habitat unit like transhab for a crew of 4-8 per trip.
A lander for the crew or an automatic cargo lander. A smaller
version of the transhab goes on the moon for living space. And
from there you follow the Zubrin plan.
You also put an automatic lander on the moon to scoop up soil
and cool out the O2 in in the ground and other gases by solar
energy. And you mount that mission in 3 years. You also put a
lander down at the south pole of the moon to resolve the water
issue there. NASA needs to pull all the old lunar orbiter data
back out and start looking for a place to establish a colony as
well. And the academic, scitific and engineering teams need to
opening discuss were we set down at.
Where does this leave RLV technology. Well I hate to say this
but NASA is not going to use a winged reentry vehicle to transport
crew. because returning from the moon or mars will entail aerobraking,
which wings add little to no value. So the Apollo like capsules
may have won the day here. Hitting the atmosphere at 5 miles a
second requires a capsule, or you can use a lifting body.
In researching my soon to publish book, I found the X-38 para
wing technology very impressive. It gives you a precision landing,
low weight, very low landing speed and with. Match this with a
reentry capsule and you have something to consider.
Now in the long term we have to get past the ELV approach to spaceflight.
And the Andrews Space folks really have a novel design. It has
the best GLOW and cargo capability I have seen. But the R&D costs
have some risks, but far less than the failed X-33 effort. I certainly
see the potential for comerical lauches with this design.
I look forward to us returning to the Moon and onto MArs, but
we need a low cost LEO method in the long term. The Space Shuttle
never would have acomplished this. Usinging a Delta IV or Atlas
V to haul crew at this time makes good sence. You could haul cargo
and supplies with a Shuttle-C /( c for cargo) and cews with the
Delta's. then industry completes the Gyphon to repalce the crew
missions in a TSTO lay out. Follow the Zurbin plan to get to mars
with a plasma drive / nucelr powre plant, transhable and lander.
And a word of warning. NASA needs to consider that if you run
a ship for years, things break down, and that means MAINTENANCE.
And afew spare parts. Go see NAval REctors who run the submarine
programs and the nuclear folks for this. becuse they know this
demon to the nth degree. Little wonder when NASA was trying to
re-engineer its QA process after Columbia, you heard worlds like
submarine quality control and naval reactors. And when it comes
to living in a tin can for months in a ship headed to Mars, go
ask the submarine folks how long they have been out at times.
Been there and done that as well.
I look forward to hear what the President has to say.
fmr: US Naval Reactor Operator