Show Me The Money: NASA Needs $850 Million for Commercial Crew Vehicle Development
October 21, 2011 12:00 PM
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NASA's Lori Garver
NASA urged Congress to provide the full $850 million, because if it is not paid now, the U.S. will be forced to pay the Russians $450 million for every year that the U.S. delays its own commercial crew vehicle starting in 2016
Lori Garver, NASA's deputy administrator, is pushing for increased funding for NASA's commercial crew vehicle development, or warns that the U.S. will be paying the Russians over the long-term instead.
retirement of NASA's space shuttle fleet
throughout 2011 has made U.S. astronauts dependent on Russia to travel to the International Space Station (ISS). The cost per seat for this rendezvous is estimated to increase to $63 million by 2015, and NASA is hoping to have commercial spaceships of its own to avoid having to pay the Russians. NASA is looking to Boeing Co., SpaceX, Blue Origin and Sierra Nevada Corp. for such spacecraft.
But these spacecraft developers will require assistance for the creation of NASA's request. NASA put aside $388 million to support such development, while the agency put forth another $800 million for spacecraft to be
developed by SpaceX
and Orbital Sciences Corp.
But now, NASA is moving on to its next phase of its commercial crew vehicle development, and needs $850 million.
So far, Congress has put aside $312 million in the House and $500 million in the Senate.
Garver urged Congress to provide the full $850 million, because if it is not paid now, the U.S. will be forced to pay the Russians $450 million for every year that the U.S. delays its own commercial crew vehicle starting in 2016.
According to Garver, paying U.S. companies the extra money needed now will outweigh having to pay the Russians $450 million per year in 2016 and beyond, which will obviously benefit the Russian space effort instead of the U.S.
don't end there. Even if Congress comes up with $850 million in 2012, the cost of the commercial crew vehicle development will only increase as time goes on. Garver estimates that NASA will require $6 billion "over five years."
The next step is a hearing for funding the next phase, known as CCDev 3, next Wednesday. It was scheduled by the House Science Space and Technology Committee.
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10/21/2011 3:22:42 PM
Each Space Shuttle flight cost $1.5 billion... the pilot/commander were required for launch and landing...so only 4-6 seats were available for passengers...
So, NASA's space shuttle cost $1.5 billion/6 = minimum $250 million per productive seat....
While, Falcon 9/Dragon can transport 7 passengers to/from ISS or orbit, at $50-100 million per launch, for $8.3 to $15 million/seat...
$250 million down to $15-$20 million per seat... WOW..
If we can just stop Congress/NASA from blowing $100 billion on another unneeded/wasteful pork Govt booster(SLS), we can leverage commercial boosters and competition for another (40 years late) exciting new era of American manned space science, technology, exploration.
RE: sls pork
10/21/2011 3:45:34 PM
This is shortsighted on a number of levels.
1) The pilot/commander were required for launch and landing, but do you honestly believe they did nothing while in orbit? Those were "productive seats". Shuttle pilots were trained on operating the shuttle's systems while in orbit, and unlike a 2012 Camry, these things weren't designed to operate for miles on end with no maintenance. There were constant manual adjustments and maintenance operations that had to be conducted while in orbit. This would've been true in any spacecraft of the era. Hell, it's true of the ISS now; one of the reasons NASA doesn't want to drop down to a crew of 2 people is that there are so many ordinary maintenance chores on board that have to be performed daily that with only 2 crew members there's no time to do any actual research!
2) NASA's space shuttle was unique because it was a combined passenger and cargo vehicle capable of carrying not only a full crew but also a full science payload. Thinking about it in pure terms of "cost per seat" is foolish, because it ignores the fact that you're sending up far more than just people. A Dragon capsule is very efficient at putting up crew members at a low "cost per seat", but that's it.
For $1.5 billion per launch, the shuttle wasn't just taking people to the ISS and bringing them back. It was taking
pieces of the ISS
up to the ISS. Without the space shuttle, you'd need more than just 30 crew visits to the ISS; you'd need 30 heavy-lift rockets (which would require the Falcon Heavy or equivalent, and cost much more than just launching a Dragon capsule)
30 crew launches.
While the shuttle was launching, we weren't just using it to put people into space. We were using it to put a large, complex space station into space. And a space telescope. And a manned repair platform for that telescope. And interplanetary research satellites. And (prior to the ISS) a number of research payloads, and enough space for human beings to actually use them in a pressurized environment.
Dragon is significantly more cost-effective, but only in a world where the ISS already exists, and where you have a heavy launch vehicle capable of putting the heavier stuff into orbit because a Dragon capsule can't take it along.
3) Regardless of whether the SLS is "wasteful", whether it's "unneeded" is an open question. The president of SpaceX himself says that SLS is necessary for interplanetary space exploration. If his company had any chance of replacing it, don't you think he'd be lobbying for Congress to kill it and let him compete for its replacement? The problem with heavy lift is that it's
economically efficient, but it's still necessary to do the big things. We couldn't have gone to the Moon without the Saturn V, and we can't go into deep space without SLS. You could "leverage commercial boosters and competition" to keep going into LEO, but you won't get much farther without much bigger rockets than commercial competition can justify.
RE: sls pork
10/21/2011 10:30:36 PM
Read all your posts, and just think a lot of people are disappointed with the plan. You mentioned above Ares V was more capable, and I believe DIRECT plans were too. People would rather have a better heavy lift system then a politically expedient one.
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