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NASA still unsure how to end Constellation and move forward

NASA has been plagued with financial issues and a continued lack of innovation, but now faces the equally daunting task of leaving behind the Constellation program.

President Obama and numerous space observers have been appalled at how poorly operated NASA has been in the past, with internal struggle and political opposition expected to make change even more difficult.  NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has garnered support from some politicians who said the White House is doing whatever it likes instead of working with experts.

As part of the agreement to end Constellation, NASA is expected to pay $2.5 billion to contractors already working on the Ares Rockets, Altair lunar lander, and Orion space capsule.  However, it's unknown how accurate the $2.5 billion estimate is, even though NASA relied on its own analysts and industry analysts to calculate the price.

NASA originally hoped to return to the moon by 2025, as other space nations plan to send lunar spacecraft and manned missions in the same time frame.  China, Japan, Russia, India, and several other developing space programs have expressed interest in landing on the moon by 2030 -- space industry observers think China will be the next country to reach the moon.

The 2011 budget has likely ended any chance of NASA returning to the moon, with private companies expected to help transport astronauts into space.

President Obama must now try to limit ongoing bickering as he works with NASA, private contractors, and legislators during his presidency.  The U.S. space agency will now rely more on the private contractors until current funding problems are sorted out in the future.

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RE: The moon
By porkpie on 3/2/2010 7:56:49 AM , Rating: 2
"I'm well aware of all the technical pros and cons of LH/LOX vs Kerolox engines but these are all subordinate details to the overall goal of minimizing cost..."

The Saturn V was fueled with kerosene. Do you actually believe that NASA -- in the heady days of the Apollo program -- was trying to pinch pennies?

I've already demonstrated to you the large number of reasons why RP-1 is a preferable fuel to H2 in many situations In designs like SpaceX's Falcon (or the Sat V), RP-1 gives you a higher performance envelope, due to the

In fact, The Shuttle's own SRBs don't even use H2 -OR- kerosene, but simple aluminum powder as fuel...a mixture that gives a lowly Isp of less than 250s. Why? Thrust, man, thrust.

RE: The moon
By randomly on 3/2/2010 2:19:14 PM , Rating: 2
You are rambling about commonly known aspects of propellant technologies but still completely missing the point.

Which particular technology is chosen for a particular application is driven by how it IMPACTS THE OVERALL COST OF THE PROJECT.

Higher performance options are not always the best choice if the performance advantage is outweighed by the increased overall costs they incur.

Spacex uses a Kerolox upperstage engine because of COST reasons not performance.

I repeat my original point that it is not clear at all that using NTR for LEO access makes any economic sense given foreseeable budgets and lift requirements.

NTR for earth departure stages is another matter, but for LEO access no country is seriously working on NTR designs anymore.

RE: The moon
By porkpie on 3/2/2010 6:29:05 PM , Rating: 2
"Spacex uses a Kerolox upperstage engine because of COST reasons not performance"

Did NASA use kerosene for Saturn V because of cost? Did they use aluminum powder to fuel the Shuttle SRBs because of cost?

Compared to the cost of a launch itself, the price differential between kerosene and liquid H2 is minimal. The real issues here are performance, safety, and reliability.

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