Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Space Stupid

After, all this time, have we learned nothing?

SpaceX rocket lifts off for space station trial run

"An analysis by the U.S. Government Accountability Office shows that a similar program under traditional NASA procurement would have cost four to 10 times as much, said NASA's Alan Lindenmoyer, who manages the agency's commercial spaceflight initiatives."

Right. Let's see Space X build Cape Canaveral, do their own basic R&D and factor in the cost of financing it all for decades. Then tell me how cheap they can do things.

"Separately, NASA contributed nearly $400 million to SpaceX's $1.2 billion commercial space program, which includes development and up to three test flights of Falcon 9 rockets and Dragon capsules."

Okay, the taxpayers provided 1/3 of the budget and all of the infrastructure.

"NASA is counting on companies like Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, to take over the task of flying cargo - and eventually astronauts - to the $100 billion space station, which orbits about 240 miles (390 km) above Earth."

Are these numbers computing for you? A 100-billion-dollar space station vs. a $1.2 billion $0.8 billion "commercial" space program. So we're talking 80 cents vs. a $100 bill. And the only "market" is from a government-owned launching pad to a government-owned space station. A "market" of one customer for one place of business.

Get real.

Look, I don't mind that we're letting private industry into the space business. But the words matter. The imagery matters. Space exploration -- the investment, the R&D, the shear human drama -- is government at its best. To let private concerns cheapen it all is just wrong. Not to mention stupid.

And in case it hasn't dawned on you yet, you can bet your bottom dollar that the FAA is angling to be the regulatory body for space flight and that industry visionaries are busy trying to " capture " whatever agency (space ICAO if you will) winds up with the regulatory authority. And yes, the military will be the 500-pound gorilla. Sound familiar ?

Don Brown
May 22, 2012


Anonymous said...

Don: I usually agree with you, great blog. But .....

NASA didn't do the manned or unmanned space programs with government people only. The Cape facility is owned by NASA but uses a contractor to run it, etc.

The FAA is the regulatory authority for space (Office of Commercial Space Transportation) used to be a DOT office, so that ship has sailed.

Early aviation was started with totally private resources (okay, the brothers got some weather reports) but it has always been a mix. If the Guggenheims (sp?) didn't fund blind flying experiments we wouldn't have had the roots of the NACA ...which is the root of NASA. The military also played. And before the 1958 Act look at the work of RTCA SC-31, about 10 years before that lays out a NAS that didn't quite actually get built.

Keep up the good work. Great blog.

Dave Starr said...

Well said, Don. Also, many seem to gloss over the fact that the launch facility not NASA's, is part of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station ... and most of the global command, control and tracking network is the USAF Satellite Control Network, also run by Blue Suit-ers and USAF civilian employees.

(note for the core readership here ... the USAF support includes a non-trivial amount of USAF owned/managed ATC services)

Maybe I should launch an air cargo company to move military cargo "cheaper" than the USAF can. Just give me unrestricted use of USAF bases at each end, C-17's and C-5's, complete with crews, whenever I ask for them and a few other incidentals like that and I am sure I can carry freight cheaper than "the government" can.

Perhaps I should get to work on my IPO prospectus ;-)