Mini-Throughput: Artemis Program Edition

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Michael Siegel

Michael Siegel is an astronomer living in Pennsylvania. He is on Twitter, blogs at his own site, and has written a novel.

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  1. Avatar Oscar Gordon
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    says:

    This is one of the benefits of letting someone like Musk or Bezos set the long term goals, they can take a long view a president can’t. I agree that NASA can do the space science and all that, but let the folks with way too much money spend it on the expensive engineering side of things. And if they get stuck, they just hand the XPrize org a handful of millions and crowd source the problems.Report

  2. Avatar Oscar Gordon
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    says:

    Here is the thing about aerospace (any aerospace), the time horizons are necessarily long right now. Maybe, someday in the future, the time horizons will be closer to what Ford and GM have today. But whether it’s airliners, military aircraft, or space, anything less than a decade is laughable. Airliners take a decade just to design and certify, and have service lives many times that. Similarly with military aircraft and space craft (that are not disposable rockets). If your corporate board or political body can’t commit to those kinds of timelines, you are going to waste tons of money either by cancelling programs before you can reap any benefit, or by taking shortcuts that are going to cost you money.

    It’s one of those areas where the billionaires actually can do something, because they often have the ability to stick to such things long enough to actually get something done.Report

  3. Avatar Michael Cain
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    says:

    There’s no question but what NASA builds great payloads. Where the federal government overall is failing is with all the money they’re pouring into ULA. ULA’s regular fleet is no longer cost-competitive with SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy. A couple of weeks back SpaceX flew two Falcon 9 missions five days apart; the booster on the first flight was making its eighth trip and the booster on the second its third. Both were recovered in what seems to have become a routine fashion. ULA’s SLS will be specific for a small class of payloads, with a per-launch cost somewhere close to two billion dollars.Report

    • Avatar JS in reply to Michael Cain
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      says:

      The problem isn’t so much NASA as it is Congress. And to a lesser extent the President.

      NASA’s problem can be boiled down thusly: Every 4 to 8 years, someone comes along and decides it’s all going to be different. 4 or 8 years of money and effort down the drain. NASA salvages what it can, but….it’s still god knows how much investment down the drain.

      I think the Shuttle replacement has been greenlit and canceled…three times? Four? in the last 20 years. Not because NASA wanted it cancelled, they’d really like to have a reliable manned and a reliable heavy-lift option, but it keeps getting green-lit, then canceled, then green-lit under new specs, then cancelled, then tossed to private industry, then tossed back to NASA under yet different specs — and you lose expertise and invested work each time.

      I’m still honestly shocked ISS exists, given the history of it — the number of nations involved, the number of people it was supposed to support — they fluctuated wildly every few years.

      it’s like trying to design a car, but every Presidential term the designers change your budget, decide you need a different number of wheels, and sometimes it has to fly and other times it’s supposed to be submersible.

      And then they ask why you haven’t delivered this years’ fully electric three-wheeled dune buggy with VTOL capacity. Maybe because 2 years ago you decided to slash the budget by 80 and change it from a flying 18 wheeler to whatever today’s monstrosity is.

      SpaceX, at least, only has to cater to the whim of one guy. And it’s always the SAME guy.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to JS
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        says:

        All good points. It doesn’t hurt that that one guy (and presumably his tech teams) have taken a new look at the systems aspect. Congress, NASA, and UAL are building a 60s/70s solution: you gotta get the spacecraft that’s going to the moon and its fuel load into orbit as a unit. SpaceX looked at it and decided: rendezvous in orbit is easy; two flights, one for the 150-ton spacecraft and one for 150 tons of fuel; we have to use fuel/oxidizers that can be pumped; ergo, super-cooled methane, not hydrogen.

        And as I’ve been prone to point out to a few conservative acquaintances, assemble and crash hardware in the backside of nowhere Texas, write all of the critical software in California.Report

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