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Robert (Bob) Zimmerman, Wednesday, 12-21-11 December 22, 2011

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Robert (Bob) Zimmerman, Wednesday, 12-21-11

http://archived.thespaceshow.com/shows/1676-BWB-2011-12-21.mp3

Guest:  Robert (Bob) Zimmerman.  Topics:  Space Act Agreement, private compared to government space, Kepler planet discovery, bats.  You are invited to comment, ask questions, and discuss the Space Show program/guest(s) on the Space Show blog, https://thespaceshow.wordpress.com.  Comments, questions, and any discussion must be relevant and applicable to Space Show programming. Transcripts of Space Show programs are not permitted without prior written consent from The Space Show (even if for personal use) & are a violation of the Space Show copyright. The Space Show/OGLF is now engaged in its annual fundraising drive. Please see & act upon our appeal at https://thespaceshow.wordpress.com/2011/11/21/space-show-2011-fundraising-campaign.  Merry Christmas to all of you from The Space Show.  We welcomed Bob Zimmerman back to the show for policy, news, and bat updates.  Make sure you visit his blog for interesting and timely news and posts, http://behindtheblack.com. We started our two hour discussion with Bob saying that NASA reverting back to using the SAA instead of the FAR was perhaps the most significant moment in space since the Apollo landings. Listen to his explanation which he talked about multiple times during the program. Do you agree?  In talking about the SAA, we also talked about the new NASA budget of $406 million for crew, including the amounts already allocated, leaving about $100 million less for the companies.  We talked about the need to have launch competition with at least two companies.  In addition, since NASA will “certify” the private HSF vehicles, we talked about what that might be like and the continued control over the companies by NASA.  As you will hear over and over again, Bob does not look favorably on government space programs and believes the future is to be found within the private sector.  Do you agree with Bob?  Another point Bob made in discussing the SAA was that it probably sounded the death knell for SLS.  Again, listen to what he had to say on this subject.  Kelly called in and sent us information about another effort to commercialize the remaining two space shuttles.  We talked about this and similar plans in detail.  The new Stratolaunch concept came up and Bob got a few questions about air launch and the performance gain from doing an air launch. Our discussion closed in the management team involved in the project as being a “dream team.”  In the second segment, we talked about the new Earth-like planet discoveries by the Kepler Space Telescope, including two in the habitable zone.  Later, we talked about human rating the Atlas and Delta rockets, and the DOD-ULA deal which may not happen.  Listeners asked Bob about the Russian space program in light of Phobos-Grunt, about SETI, and even possible one way missions to Mars.  Alistair asked about the possible impact on US policy makers if China was about to go to the Moon & establish a lunar base.  Later we talked about Telstar, ATT, airmail, and space politics..  We concluded with a bat update on White Nose Syndrome.  Bob suggested three areas to look for in 2012: the Falcon 9 launch, the test flight of Antares, and Virgin Galactic SS2 engine tests and flights.  Please post your comments and questions on The Space Show blog URL above.

Comments»

1. Kelly Starks - January 1, 2012

> There would be infrastructure and labour cost savings for
> a smaller craft ==

Yes but those don’t need to be a big fraction. Think of the DC-X which could operate off a concrete pad, and required 1/3000th the labor hours per flight using older or off the shelf tech then shuttle..

>== I thought the market was carrying crew and anything they
> might need such as spares.
> You don’t need a shuttle to launch satellittes from. The one
> vehicle for all approach is probably best avoided.

The one vehicle for all has big advantages in that you ave the cost of two or more sets of ships and all their overhead and fixed costs, dev costs.

As for this case the shuttles they allow much lighter sats, and ones that don’t need to carry all the overhead of ones on a booster, and allows assembly of bigger platforms. Big lab platforms etc. And lower cost per pound for lift. Given there’s very little we can do in space with all the current options out there combined, the bigger craft would have a real demand assuming any real activities in space

Anyway the group proposing this clearly arn’t taking about a light X-37 class mini shuttle, or they’ld just piggyback on Boeing’s X-37 marketing efforts..

Andy Hill - January 2, 2012

In my opinion if NASA were to make a new shuttle of similar size that tried to do all that the original one could, they would follow the same path that ends in low flight rates and huge costs.

Repeating the past and expecting a different outcome is not sensible, as you said NASA is struggling to do engineering which makes it likely they would fall back on approaches taken with the original shuttle. Also with something of comparable size there will be political pressure to utilise existing shuttle hardware which will tend to push development in the same direction.

The X-37C proposals I seen are at 180% the size of X-37B (5,000kg gross weight) which would be about 9,000kg. I’m suggesting something about twice that size, you could make the first shuttle at 9,000kg and after a few flight scale up to this large size.

Something weighing it at over 100 tons will just result in the same set up that NASA had before. Not sure how big a shuttle you could make before this happened but starting at the low end makes it much harder to justify the huge infrastructure and workforce. You could sort of see why an army would be needed to launch the shuttle when you saw how big and impressive it was, this would not be so easy to justify for an atlas 5 sized launch.

Kelly Starks - January 2, 2012

> In my opinion if NASA were to make a new shuttle of
> similar size that tried to do all that the original one
> could, they would follow the same path that ends in
> low flight rates and huge costs. ==

Well yeah! One of the reasons given for Constellation was that the costs per flight would be far higher then with shuttle. NASA very deliberatly (even at the cost of higher projected fatyalities) avoided shuttle changes/upgrades that would have made the shuttle cost less to operate.

Shuttles high opperating cost was not a acceident – it was for NASA a primary GOAL! But a commercial operator wouldn’t have high costs as a goal, and would implement procedural and technical changes that would make shuttles safer and cheaper.

>== You could sort of see why an army would be needed
> to launch the shuttle when you saw how big and
> impressive it was, this would not be so easy to justify
> for an atlas 5 sized launch.

Actually the A-5 and Shuttles are similarly sized, and theirs no technical reason eiather need a standing army to launch them. Its just NASA policy.

For example the Titan boosters that launched the Gemini capsules weer designed to launch no demadn when 2 guys turned 2 keys in a silo – but for NASA they required a army of folks tinkering with it.

Andy Hill - January 2, 2012

“Actually the A-5 and Shuttles are similarly sized, and theirs no technical reason eiather need a standing army to launch them. Its just NASA policy.”

If that is the case then there is no way to argue for more NASA money and it makes sense to give them much less. Expecting them to do more with more money is naive and perhaps they should be given less to force them up avenues that are more cost effective.

An example of this was commercial crew and NASA reverting to SAAs from using the FAA. Although I think that this may have been NASA showing congress what would happen to all that potential pork if they cut the money back.

Kelly Starks - January 2, 2012

> If that is the case then there is no way to argue for
> more NASA money and it makes sense to give them
>much less.

That depends what you want out of them. Most voters awnt them to spend money in their district, so NASA is under CONSTANT pressure to spend more. [Few voters care aobut what they do in space.] Lower costs, and you lower political support. Thats why its easier for NASA to get funding for a multi billion dollar program – then a million dollar program. Programs that get to cheap – get canceled.

This is why Griffin constructed Constellation to cost a staggering $100 billion just to develop the ships (rivaling the inflation adjusted cost of the total space race!) to assure congressional support. In contrast NASA utterly rejected multiple offers by industry to build them free SSTO (or +1) shuttles to replace the old ones, that would cost NASA nothing if they didn’t at least cut launch costs by a factor of 10. [NASA shelled out a billion to kill the projects..]

2. Kelly Starks - December 25, 2011

> — A smaller 2nd generation shuttle with much the same abilities
> but easier/cheaper to operate —

Actually they aren’t much cheaper. For example a 6 passenger biz jet costs about $2 billion to develop, a airliner holding hundreds, $20 billion. So halving the cargo capacity doesn’t save much dev cost – and operating costs for space launch are pretty much just fixed costs divided by the number of flights. Size of the ship isn’t a big factor now in costs.

Andy Hill - December 28, 2011

Actually they aren’t much cheaper

Not sure I agree with that. Surely operating a smaller craft that is easier to maintain must save money in infrastructure costs and increase flight rates. If a new shuttle had a processing time of a couple of weeks rather than the months the old shuttle had and used a much smaller launch vehicle then costs per launch must come down.

Using a standard Atlas/Falcon/Delta booster to launch a mini shuttle a minimum of once a month would seem to me to be cheaper than the 4 STS launches a year that NASA was doing.

Kelly Starks - December 28, 2011

True, but given a couple simple serivability tricks can cut labor costs by thousands of times, halving the size wouldn’t be more then a blip – but cut you out of a lot of the market.

If you use a Atlas/Delta etc your margin costs would be higher then with the current shuttle. if you design a shuttle for commercial in mind, fully reusable, high maintainability, low political overhead. You could likely cut the cost per fight at current flight rates dozens to hundreds of fold.

The big question is up frount costs vrs number of flights. If you could get a dozen flights a year – or more, that would be a big plus.

Andy Hill - December 29, 2011

Making a smaller shuttle would reduce the number of payloads it could carry but then again I think that avoiding a vehicle trying to do too many things might be a good idea.

You’re right about Atlas/Delta costs perhaps they might come down a bit if the flight rate goes up, but I don’t see a significant saving. Perhaps using a horizontal integration method like falcon 9 would save money, however I don’t think that is possible with Atlas/Delta.

Kelly Starks - December 29, 2011

Also the Atlas and Delta’s are scheduled to be phased out in 15 years or so by the mil for a lower cost, completely RLV solution; so if these commercials field a Shuttle class craft in a few years, the Atlas and deltas would likely be phased out early (as well as the other expendables) but they also could get some deve support. The DOD is already giving out money to develop Dual cycle rocket ramjet engines that would dramatically improve isp (doubling the ave isp over the whole assent profile). The commercial shuttle project could get involved, or at least use the results.

Andy Hill - December 30, 2011

While developing new technology is obviously needed I think the likely timescales to do this will make it a long term option rather than the leading to a rapid shuttle replacement.

A better option might be to pursue a crew variant of the X-37B as has been proposed from a number of different quarters:

http://aerospaceblog.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/x-37-still-aloft-may-look-to-carry-astronauts/

Not sure what the gross weight would be but keeping it below 20T would make it launchable on a number of boosters.

Kelly Starks - December 30, 2011

> While developing new technology is obviously
> needed I think the likely timescales to do this will
> make it a long term option ==

Its not that new or long term a system.

> A better option might be to pursue a crew variant
> of the X-37B =

Far to small to replace the shuttles. You could field it in a couple years – but other then crew transport, it wouldn’t be good for much. Certainly nothing the commercial group can use to support their intended customers – whatever they are.

Andy Hill - December 31, 2011

“Its not that new or long term a system”

I disagree, look how long it’s taking to develop a capsule like Orion anything much more exotic is going to take the US decades. Building on an existing flight proven platform like the X-37 is a better option.

“Far to small to replace the shuttles”

I don’t understand why anything needs to be that big, it all depends on the roles it will take on. If it only has to do crew transport with a modest amount of cargo, say 3-4 tons you don’t need something so large. With a payload bay three times the size of X-37 you could still accomplish most tasks, even another Hubble service mission.

The exceptions would be transport of the large modules that the ISS is made from and most satellite launches but there are plenty of alternatives for those. NASA’s own original plans had a smaller vehicle (not sure how small).

Kelly Starks - January 1, 2012

>.. look how long it’s taking to develop a capsule like Orion
> anything much more exotic is going to take the US decades.

First, Orions not taking so longdue to any engineering etc complexity – NASA isjusttrying to do engineering, and they lost the ability decades ago – so the contractors are having a struggle. (i worked on Orion for a while.)

Secound historically developing the Apollo or Orion capsules cost more then the orbiters.

3rd – capsules are actually harder to do. They need all the complex systems of a big shuttle, but it must be much more compact, and much much more rugged due to the more violent flight profiles. Capsules on boosters even more so.

Building on an existing flight proven platform like the X-37 is a better option.

>> “Far to small to replace the shuttles”

> I don’t understand why anything needs to be that big,–

Most commercial cargo now a days is in the 25 ton class like shuttle was built for. (Even Musk was surprized when the smaller spaceX Falcon had so little market interest.)

The point was they identified comercial markets for a craft with shuttle class capability.

Also, smaller wouldn’t be any cheaper or faster to develop. (you don’t save any expensive engineering efforts by shrinking it, since you need all the same systems.) So theirs no real point.

Andy Hill - January 1, 2012

There would be infrastructure and labour cost savings for a smaller craft and the turn around time between flights is likely to be quicker, I’m thinking about the time taken to inspect the heatshield etc.

I thought the market was carrying crew and anything they might need such as spares. You don’t need a shuttle to launch satellittes from. The one vehicle for all approach is probably best avoided.

Kelly Starks - January 1, 2012
3. Andy Hill - December 24, 2011

I could never understand why the US abandoned shuttles in favor of capsule designs. Throwing away 30 years of experience and opting for a 1960s approach seemed to not make sense to me and was almost certainly always going to look like a retrograde step to the US public (whatever the realities of the situation were).

A smaller 2nd generation shuttle with much the same abilities but easier/cheaper to operate would have been a better successor than Orion. Deep space exploration could have been accomplished with a spacecraft based permanently in space.

4. Kelly Starks - December 22, 2011

> Kelly called in and sent us information about another effort to
> commercialize the remaining two space shuttles…

Actually I called in about a commercial project, lead by some serious heavy hitters, to develop a new fleet of shuttle with all the old shuttles capabilities and capacities, but lower cost and more operable. Supposedly, they have funding and a business plan that closes even assuming no NASA sales.

Kelly Starks - December 25, 2011

Oh, it seems the biz plan was convincing enough to get USA to lose interest in persueing their bid to operate the last two shuttles commercially to support NASA ops.


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