Human spaceflight community cannot rely on GOV

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DarkenedOne

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It seems to me that a great number of people in the human spaceflight community seem to have the idea that all the goals of the community including the long term goals such as colonization completely on government money. It seems to be the idea of many people that there is no need for commercialization.

Where do I get this? Well from all these people who think NASA is going to takes us to the moon and to Mars. People like those from Mars Direct who think that NASA will fund a Mars mission.

The simple fact of the matter is that human spaceflight has been dying for decades now. Human spaceflight had its pinnacle during Apollo. Ever since then it has been given less money, people have become less interested in it, and our capabilities have deteriorated. First we lost our capability to go to the moon. Now we are losing the ability to go to LEO. The discontinuation of the shuttle is only the continuation of this trend.

So my point is that to support human spaceflight means supporting the commercialization of it. It has only suffered in the hands of the government over the last few decades, and due to our governments current fiscal situation it appears unlikely that it will be launching any expensive and ambitious projects any time soon. Human spaceflight must be commercialized. Only the private sector can bring the costs down. That is what they are good at. They are also the ones to find new application for it like space tourism, and turn it into a profitable endeavor.
 
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rcsplinters

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Maybe because the the total number of humans put into space by a completely commercial entity is zero? Every single human in orbit has been government launched. Only 3 governments, all of which are planet dominating super powers.

In fact there is no commercial option today. That might have something to do with it. Then there's the fact that the risk for a commercial entity is so great that they are begging for federal assumption of that risk.

Then there's the issue about the utter lack of a business model or even a well defined revenue stream.

Lastly (well, not really as there are many issues with commercialization of HSF), no commercial entity is contemplating a BEO agenda which is sufficiently ambitious to satisfy the US manned space flight goals.

Now, if commercialization is meant to be it will survive on its own. It'll define and follow its own business model. It will turn a profit without government charity, akin to AMTRAK. Cost will be controlled through down-sizing, off-shoring and other non-innovative means. Further, commercialization will not lead to huge technological innovation since the key competitor thrives on stability and consistency. However, there is every reason to expect that commercial HSF will fail, due largely to lack of customers. This is the way capitalism works. Frankly, if you want to do your part for commercialization, take 100 grand of your own money and flush it into SpaceX if and when they IPO. Now that would be vote of confidence.

I'm not sure that NASA or HSF has stagnated, at least until recently when the current administration destroyed HSF in the United States. The shuttle was an unqualified success providing excellence service through three decades. Congress recently rescued HSF BEO after it was decimated by the administration, though commercial subsidy leeches some of NASA's funds. The greastest threat is another administration trying to wipe out any program implemented by the previous one. This will not happen without a government program. I see no objective data which contradicts that. If you don't support that effort and the resources it will take, then I'd suggest you don't support HSF because humans BEO are simply not going to happen without billions and years of work. Sometimes frontiers are won only through great sacrifice and risk.
 
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DarkenedOne

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rcsplinters":2tcdtpz5 said:
Maybe because the the total number of humans put into space by a completely commercial entity is zero? Every single human in orbit has been government launched. Only 3 governments, all of which are planet dominating super powers.

In fact there is no commercial option today. That might have something to do with it. Then there's the fact that the risk for a commercial entity is so great that they are begging for federal assumption of that risk.

Commercial: connected with or engaged in or sponsored by or used in commerce or commercial enterprises

The Russian Soyuz is sold on the market, thus it is commercial vehicle. NASA is BUYING with money transportation to the ISS. Why is buying from our own commercial companies so different.

It does not matter the origins of the Soyuz vehicle or that it was subsidized or built by the Russian government. Many commercial companies today at some point were subsidized by the government to do something. If we accepted your definition of commercial than a great many companies including Ford, Boeing, GM, Lockheed Martin, and practically all of the banks would not be commercial.

Practically all our major transportation modes had government support including aviation, shipping, car, and rail. Honestly what is so different between the government supporting commercial spaceflight and the governments support of early commercial aviation with air mail contracts, or the government building the interstate highways, or the federal funding of the first intercontinental airline.


Then there's the issue about the utter lack of a business model or even a well defined revenue stream.
Soyuz seems to be doing pretty well. They are selling seats to us at 56 million per person even though we know that their costs are significantly lower than that, since they have sold it to us in the past at something like 35. They are overcapacity are expanding production capacity by another Soyuz rocket.

Does not seem like a bad business model to me.


Lastly (well, not really as there are many issues with commercialization of HSF), no commercial entity is contemplating a BEO agenda which is sufficiently ambitious to satisfy the US manned space flight goals.
No one is proposing that they do.

Now, if commercialization is meant to be it will survive on its own. It'll define and follow its own business model. It will turn a profit without government charity, akin to AMTRAK.
It is likely that many of the transportation modes we have today would have evolved eventually without government support, however it is definitely clear that government support increased the speed at which they matured substantially, and I do not think that anyone would doubt the government made money on these projects in the end. The US government is in the perfect position today with the need for transport to and from the ISS to sow the seeds of the future space transportation industry.

Cost will be controlled through down-sizing, off-shoring and other non-innovative means. Further, commercialization will not lead to huge technological innovation since the key competitor thrives on stability and consistency.
True private companies are able to control costs by down-sizing and offshoring. Unlike government agencies private companies have to run efficiently in order to survive. They also do not have to follow Congress. Thus they are the natural answer to decreasing costs. Governments are not known for their cost-effectiveness, but companies are.

However your second proposition that companies do not innovate is absurd. Companies are responsible for the vast majority of technological innovation in our society. With regards to spaceflight much of the technological progress has come from private companies. With regards to human spaceflight specifically practically all the technologies that people are excited about right now are privately developed including VASIMR, inflatable modules, and solar panels.

However, there is every reason to expect that commercial HSF will fail, due largely to lack of customers. This is the way capitalism works. Frankly, if you want to do your part for commercialization, take 100 grand of your own money and flush it into SpaceX if and when they IPO. Now that would be vote of confidence.
Well all I can say is that the Soyuz seems to be doing pretty well. Its pretty hard for me to believe that the US would continue to buy from Russia is there was a comparable American alternative. At the same time other countries involved in the ISS are looking for an alternative the Russians as well. Seems to be they are practically guaranteed to have a market.

I'm not sure that NASA or HSF has stagnated, at least until recently when the current administration destroyed HSF in the United States.

Stagnation? Stagnation is just slow growth. Human spaceflight has done much more than just stagnated it has declined significantly both in funding and capability.

The shuttle was an unqualified success providing excellence service through three decades. Congress recently rescued HSF BEO after it was decimated by the administration, though commercial subsidy leeches some of NASA's funds. The greastest threat is another administration trying to wipe out any program implemented by the previous one. This will not happen without a government program. I see no objective data which contradicts that.
I love it when people complain about the dollars that commercial is taking away. Out of the 19 billion NASA is getting only 300 million is going to commercial. While over $3 billion is going to a deep space capsule and a heavy lift rocket. They have already spend $9 billion on Ares i and Orion already. Even the shuttle flight is going to cost more. But of course that 300 million is going to make all the difference right.

Oh as far as that heavy lift let me put it this way. They have asked NASA to build a rocket similar to the Ares V in less time and with less money than it with Constellation. Every expert that I have heard so far has said simply that there is just no way.

If you don't support that effort and the resources it will take, then I'd suggest you don't support HSF because humans BEO are simply not going to happen without billions and years of work. Sometimes frontiers are won only through great sacrifice and risk.
The only thing I would be supporting if I supported the traditional government-only human spaceflight would be failure and the death of human spaceflight itself. We have done things this way for half a century now, and we have spent hundreds of billions. I ask you what do we have to show for it? Look were we are now. We have not gone beyond LEO for 40 years. We have not even built a new human spaceflight vehicle for 30 years. We have to rely on the Russian, our old arch enemy, for transportation to our Space Station in LEO.

How anyone can look our situation and shout "stay the course" is beyond me. Some people believe that it is our technology, and while it is true that spaceflight is expensive and that better technology would definitely help, it cannot explain why we have declined so significantly. The only explanation can be the way we have conducted human spaceflight.

Human spaceflight needs a future, and it is clear that the government is not going to deliver that.
 
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neutrino78x

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DarkenedOne":1htjj2lw said:
How anyone can look our situation and shout "stay the course" is beyond me. Some people believe that it is our technology, and while it is true that spaceflight is expensive and that better technology would definitely help, it cannot explain why we have declined so significantly. The only explanation can be the way we have conducted human spaceflight.

Human spaceflight needs a future, and it is clear that the government is not going to deliver that.
Yep, I completely agree. I have been saying that on this board for a while. Like I said, I see space as analogous to The High Seas. No one says "what is the President's vision for how to get people from New York to Southampton across the Atlantic Ocean?", because that is a function of private entities, specifically Cunard. As far as colonization, North America was colonized by private interests, and Mars should be as well.

As far as business models, I wonder if rcsplinters would have funded the TransConstinental Railroad in the 1800s. The government gave them free land and a contract, and they built railroads. And there is the other commonly cited example, Air Mail, where the government had private companies transport mail by air, as a way to stimulate the air transport industry. Would rcsplinters argue that Air Mail and the Railroad were disasters for the USA?

No innovation in the private sector??? Are you kidding me??? Last time I checked, Intel and AMD are still coming out with new and faster microprocessors every six months. The movie industry recently innovated a new 3D technology, seen in Avatar et al. Boeing recently came out with the 777. Tesla innovated the Roadster and the model S. I see much more innovation in the private sector than in the government.

--Brian
 
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SteveCNC

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I'm all about commercialization of space , IMO it's by far the best way to economize it and make it far more accessible to the people in general . It's always been the commercial market putting man in space anyway , who do you think was contracted to manufacture the rockets . And while it has been the commercial market manufacturing the rockets , it's for the most part been the bureaucratic non-sense that makes government contracts so expensive .

Now I have no doubt that commercial space will have at least close to as much paper following stuff around as the government , but one thing is for sure , it doesn't take hundreds of millions of dollars spent on committees and studies to make a decision in the commercial sector .

I've read where Sir Richard Branson has ideas of eventually building BEO craft , and Bigelow has also made statements of going to the moon eventually but right now commercial space is just starting so it's hard to say with any certainty what the future really holds . I just hope I last at least another 20 years , I think this is going to be an interesting era .
 
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Swampcat

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I apologize up front for my long-windedness. I don't post much these days, but had some time to kill and felt that the post by rcsplinters needed some more counterpoint.

rcsplinters":hkammxzx said:
Maybe because the the total number of humans put into space by a completely commercial entity is zero? Every single human in orbit has been government launched. Only 3 governments, all of which are planet dominating super powers.
The fact that no private company has put humans into LEO is what, IMO, makes the next decade so promising and exciting. Look at all the relatively new companies pursuing the goal of putting humans in space -- SpaceX, Blue Origin, SpaceDev, Virgin Galactic/Scaled Composites, Armadillo Aerospace, Masten Space Systems, XCOR and many more. Even established aerospace corporations like Boeing and ULA are getting into the action. Bigelow Aerospace is another example of a private company working in the field of human spaceflight.

Some of these companies of course are more focused on suborbital, but the argument that none have put humans into LEO to date misses the point. Without the increased involvement of private enterprise, the expansion of human activity in space will grow very slowly, if at all.

In fact there is no commercial option today. That might have something to do with it. Then there's the fact that the risk for a commercial entity is so great that they are begging for federal assumption of that risk.
The use of the term "so great" is hyperbole. Using the word "begging" is both hyperbole and derogatory. Neither appears to fit the facts. It is certainly true that HSF has substantial risks, but I don't see anyone asking the government to assume all of it, other than those opposed to increased commercialization. All of the above mentioned companies have put a substantial stake in their own businesses.

At a time when STS is set to retire and the US must purchase rides to LEO from another country to our own space station, it would seem prudent for the US government to assume some of the risk. The alternative is to sit back and wait until the US government gets its own act together and perhaps spends several more billions developing another enormously expensive launch vehicle that may not make it to IOC due to political or economic factors.

I would be happy to entertain your arguments against a little seed money from government to assist private companies in establishing a space-based economy. The Preamble to the US Constitution includes the phrase "...promote the general Welfare." IMO, assisting private companies with the development of a viable, US based HSF industry seems like a useful way to do that.

Then there's the issue about the utter lack of a business model or even a well defined revenue stream.
More hyperbole. It is certainly true that the market will have to be developed, but that is what businesses do. You appear to assume that companies like Boeing, SpaceX and others are moving forward without a business model or belief that there is no money to be made in HSF. Obviously, they disagree with your assessment. ;)

Lastly (well, not really as there are many issues with commercialization of HSF), no commercial entity is contemplating a BEO agenda which is sufficiently ambitious to satisfy the US manned space flight goals.
Currently, beyond the assumption that US government manned space flight goals are geared toward scientific exploration, there is a great deal of chaos. It is even doubtful at this point if the US government can support an ambitious HSF program. And what is meant by "sufficiently ambitious?" :?

Now, if commercialization is meant to be it will survive on its own. It'll define and follow its own business model. It will turn a profit without government charity, akin to AMTRAK. Cost will be controlled through down-sizing, off-shoring and other non-innovative means. Further, commercialization will not lead to huge technological innovation since the key competitor thrives on stability and consistency. However, there is every reason to expect that commercial HSF will fail, due largely to lack of customers. This is the way capitalism works. Frankly, if you want to do your part for commercialization, take 100 grand of your own money and flush it into SpaceX if and when they IPO. Now that would be vote of confidence.
In the long run, private enterprise will have to make the commercialization of HSF viable on their own dime. On that we can agree. It may also turn out that the market cannot be developed. That is one of the facts of capitalism. OTOH, It is also a fact that the rewards for taking the risk can be substantial. It is those that take the risk and succeed that earn the rewards. You can only win if you play the game.

The AMTRAK example is a poor one. AMTRAK, is a "government-owned corporation." Try again. :p

I'm not sure that NASA or HSF has stagnated, at least until recently when the current administration destroyed HSF in the United States. The shuttle was an unqualified success providing excellence service through three decades. Congress recently rescued HSF BEO after it was decimated by the administration, though commercial subsidy leeches some of NASA's funds. The greastest threat is another administration trying to wipe out any program implemented by the previous one. This will not happen without a government program. I see no objective data which contradicts that. If you don't support that effort and the resources it will take, then I'd suggest you don't support HSF because humans BEO are simply not going to happen without billions and years of work. Sometimes frontiers are won only through great sacrifice and risk.
First you say you're "not sure that NASA or HSF has stagnated," then you say the "current administration destroyed HSF in the United States." Pick one. That sounds contradictory to me. :? Besides, blaming the state of US government HSF on this particular administration seems to ignore the lack of effort from previous administrations and Congresses to address important HSF issues. I smell a political agenda. :roll:

The fact is that US government HSF programs are, and always have been, strongly influenced by politics. STS was the result of politics. It wasn't what NASA wanted. And although I consider STS to be a tremendous achievement and asset to HSF, I wouldn't call it an "unqualified" success. Fourteen dead astronauts come to mind. :cry:

At any rate, changing administrations and Congresses are a large part of why so many advocate increasing the role of private enterprise in HSF. NASA will likely never again see the kinds of budgets it enjoyed during the Apollo Era. IMO, those who fail to understand this and close their eyes to the benefits of promoting increased involvement of private enterprise are not true supporters of HSF.

I'm all for US government involvement in HSF. I'll be going to the STS-133 launch (have tickets for the VIP stands :D ) and expect to enjoy every minute of that experience. I'm a big fan of NASA. I fly amateur rockets with some good people from LaRC. But I also realize that the future, beyond scientific exploration, lies in the private sector. I think they know this as well. Many NASA people support private HSF. It shouldn't be an either/or thing. In fact, if there is to be a viable BLEO program of exploration and economic development we should be working with all interested parties whether they be public or private, both in the US and elsewhere. As you say, it is expensive and there is great risk. A more inclusive approach to sharing the expense and risk would seem to improve chances for success.
 
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csmyth3025

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rcsplinters":16f7ta50 said:
...Frankly, if you want to do your part for commercialization, take 100 grand of your own money and flush it into SpaceX if and when they IPO. Now that would be vote of confidence.
Frankly, I think you've got a great idea there. Monday morning I'm going to call my account manager and see what aerospace stocks are available. I'm sure that by the time my kids get done planting me and dividing up the spoils they'll be happy.

Chris
 
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pathfinder_01

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We are at a pivotal moment in the history of space flight. Commercial space flight must turn a profit or we will not be going any further away from earth. The government is only willing to commit so much of it budget to spaceflight. The government can buy only so much “space flight”. If new sources of capital cannot be found then HSF will at best be nothing more than LEO and there is a possibility that it could disappear all together.


In order to go to BEO flight then NASA must turn over LEO flight. There is no way that they can go to the moon and support the ISS within the current budget. In fact within their current budget just going to the moon or anywhere beyond LEO is going to require some major restructuring. The first step is to get commercial space flight up and running.

As for BEO flight the next step which imho congress balked at is getting NASA out of the rocket business. ULA, Space X, and Orbital can all make rockets having NASA owned faculties and NASA only rockets would make sense if they had enough flight rate but BEO spaceflight by its nature does not support high flight rate (I.e. Launch windows, expensive often disposable payloads).

As much as people like to ignore it exploration and colonization is driven by profit and gain. Columbus wasn’t trying to find the new world. He was trying to find an all sea route to the Indies which could cut out the middle man (the Middle East traders).
 
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SteveCNC

Guest
rcsplinters":kq2plm7z said:
...Frankly, if you want to do your part for commercialization, take 100 grand of your own money and flush it into SpaceX if and when they IPO. Now that would be vote of confidence.
It's funny you should mention that because just a couple days ago I was looking into my job options and read this "We offer a highly competitive salary, meaningful stock ownership, a fun work environment and the chance to make a real difference in human and robotic space exploration." in SpaceX's careers section of their website . That indicates to me there are plans to go public at some point in the not so distant future . I can't wait , you know I plan to invest when that day comes :cool:

When they do go IPO that should provide plenty of seed money to finish the launch abort system and go after the Falcon X series . It seems like , at least as far as Bigelow goes that they are tied intrinsically to what is available in the HLV or under abilities of the market . And for Bigelow to succeed in a big way they are wanting the biggest lift capacity they can get and so SpaceX will no doubt be tied to Bigelow to make that happen if NASA's HLV isn't available or workable .
 
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oldAtlas_Eguy

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If NASA did a contract similar to COTS that it did with Space X, where it paid for 3 operational flights of an Falcon XX for a price of $2,000,000,000, where $1,000,000,000 was paid out in increments based on milestones like engine development, etc and the remaining was paid out on completion of the test flight and the three operational flights, it would work. This $2,000,000,000 complete price would be equal to the current low rate to LEO of $5000 per kg. A real bargain compared to other alternatives. If they tried to do a traditional development program then it would probably cost 2 or 3 times that and the resulting flight costs would be higher as well. Traditional NASA development means NASA controls technical decisions. Since we know that Space X does not do business this way they would never accept a contract like this. But one like COTS that allows them to retain technical decision control and complete project control they would.
 
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