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posted by Fnord666 on Monday March 22 2021, @04:48AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

NASA has begun a study of the SLS rocket's affordability [Updated]:

Original story: NASA is conducting an internal review of the Space Launch System rocket's affordability, two sources have told Ars Technica.

Concerned by the program's outsized costs, the NASA transition team appointed by President Joe Biden initiated the study. The analysis is being led by Paul McConnaughey, a former deputy center director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, as well as its chief engineer.

The SLS rocket program has been managed by Marshall for more than a decade. Critics have derided it as a "jobs program" intended to retain employees at key centers, such as Alabama-based Marshall, as well as those at primary contractors such as Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and Aerojet Rocketdyne. Such criticism has been bolstered by frequent schedule delays—the SLS was originally due to launch in 2016, and the rocket will now launch no sooner than 2022—as well as cost overruns.

For now, costs seem to be the driving factor behind the White House's concerns. With a maximum cadence of one launch per year, the SLS rocket is expected to cost more than $2 billion per flight, and that is on top of the $20 billion NASA has already spent developing the vehicle and its ground systems. Some of the incoming officials do not believe the Artemis Moon Program is sustainable with such launch costs.

Update: After this story was published, NASA released the following statement at 11pm ET on Monday regarding the internal study:

NASA is conducting an internal study of the timing and sequence of lunar missions with available resources, and with the guidance that SLS and Orion will be providing crew transportation to the Gateway. The backbone for NASA's Moon to Mars plans are the Space Launch System rocket, Orion spacecraft, ground systems at Kennedy Space Center, Gateway in lunar orbit and human landing system. We currently are alsoassessing various elements of our programs to find efficiencies and opportunities to reduce costs, and this exercise is ongoing. This will include conversations with our industry partners. Budget forecasts and internal agency reviews are common practice as they help us with long-term planning. The agency anticipates taking full advantage of the powerful SLS capabilities, and this effort will improve the current construct associated with executing the development, production and operations of the NASA's Artemis missions.


Original Submission

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NASA Wants to Buy SLS Rockets at Half Price, Fly Them Into the 2050s 27 comments

NASA wants to buy SLS rockets at half price, fly them into the 2050s

NASA has asked the US aerospace industry how it would go about "maximizing the long-term efficiency and sustainability" of the Space Launch System rocket and its associated ground systems.

[...] In its request NASA says it would like to fly the SLS rocket for "30 years or more" as a national capability. Moreover, the agency wants the rocket to become a "sustainable and affordable system for moving humans and large cargo payloads to cislunar and deep-space destinations."

[...] Among the rocket's chief architects was then-Florida Senator Bill Nelson, who steered billions of dollars to Kennedy Space Center in his home state for upgraded ground systems equipment to support the rocket. Back in 2011, he proudly said the rocket would be delivered on time and on budget.

"This rocket is coming in at the cost of... not only what we estimated in the NASA Authorization act, but less," Nelson said at the time. "The cost of the rocket over a five- to six-year period in the NASA authorization bill was to be no more than $11.5 billion. This costs $10 billion for the rocket." Later, he went further, saying, "If we can't do a rocket for $11.5 billion, we ought to close up shop."

After more than 10 years, and more than $30 billion spent on the rocket and its ground systems, NASA has not closed up shop. Rather, Nelson has ascended to become the space agency's administrator.

Previously:


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  • (Score: 2) by Frosty Piss on Monday March 22 2021, @04:51AM (15 children)

    by Frosty Piss (4971) on Monday March 22 2021, @04:51AM (#1127359)

    If we go by past behavior of NASA, having already spent *metric butt-loads* on this whole project, it’s time to cancel it. Is Google running the show?

    • (Score: 2) by driverless on Monday March 22 2021, @05:17AM (8 children)

      by driverless (4770) on Monday March 22 2021, @05:17AM (#1127364)

      Yup, par for the course for NASA, although they usually cancel and move on to the next shiny thing a lot quicker, or at least with less money spent, than they have with the SLS. They should really revert to their previous acronym NACA, the National Association of Cancelled Astroprojects.

      • (Score: 2) by Leebert on Monday March 22 2021, @12:51PM (4 children)

        by Leebert (3511) on Monday March 22 2021, @12:51PM (#1127418)

        Yup, par for the course for NASA

        It's par for the course for a new administration.

        • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Immerman on Monday March 22 2021, @01:53PM (3 children)

          by Immerman (3985) on Monday March 22 2021, @01:53PM (#1127437)

          Right, blame the new administration that's been focused on other things, while giving a pass to the previous two who did jack all through their times in office? Heck, Trump gave it a huge shot in the arm with his pushing to try to put boots on the moon fast enough to make him look good.

          Besides, it's not the administration that controls the purse strings, it's Congress. And they have consistently insisted that SLS continue its pork-flow, and made it quite clear that there was no way they'd approve any NASA administrator that wasn't fully on board with the program.

          • (Score: 2) by Leebert on Monday March 22 2021, @02:06PM

            by Leebert (3511) on Monday March 22 2021, @02:06PM (#1127449)

            I'm not blaming the administration. I'm not even saying that it's the wrong choice. I'm pointing out that it has become the nearly inevitable consequence of a transition of administration. Which is exactly what's happening here, as per the quote from the story:

            Concerned by the program's outsized costs, the NASA transition team appointed by President Joe Biden initiated the study.

            The post I replied to seemed to imply that it's NASA acting on its own, which is what I was taking issue with:

            Yup, par for the course for NASA, although they usually cancel and move on to the next shiny thing a lot quicker...

          • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Monday March 22 2021, @03:51PM (1 child)

            by JoeMerchant (3937) on Monday March 22 2021, @03:51PM (#1127526)

            Trump gave it a huge shot in the arm with his pushing to try to put boots on the moon fast enough to make him look good.

            Agreed that he funneled money that way, but how focused was his leadership / mission statement of what to do with that money? How talented was his management staff executing the stable genius' vision?

            Just throw shit at the wall and call what sticks art - there's always been a generous supply of cash to try try again with, and friendly bankruptcy courts to limit your losses when it falls and hits the fan.

            --
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            • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 22 2021, @07:20PM

              by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 22 2021, @07:20PM (#1127626)

              Trump put Jim Bridenstine in charge of NASA and then gave him free reign. Jim was only the best director NASA had since Apollo and was a major advocate for cutting pork and diverting the money to doing actual science even before he became director. His chief opponents in Congress were Shelby and Nelson, who have repeatedly diverted NASA's budget to feed their SLS program. Biden asked for Jim's resignation as soon as he was inaugurated and has now nominated Nelson as his replacement. This cost reduction study was the last thing Jim left on his desk on his way out, and it seems that it is already been watered down.

      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Immerman on Monday March 22 2021, @01:45PM (1 child)

        by Immerman (3985) on Monday March 22 2021, @01:45PM (#1127433)

        It's not up to NASA though. They can make recommendations, but Congress is the one calling the shots here, and SLS was politically designed to be an uncancelable pork project after the previous system was cancelled partway through. Unfortunately (and unsurprisingly) it seems the contractors took that to heart, and have been milking it for all the bacon they can get without delivering a damned thing.

        • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Monday March 22 2021, @04:59PM

          by JoeMerchant (3937) on Monday March 22 2021, @04:59PM (#1127556)

          milking it for all the bacon they can get without delivering a damned thing.

          To do otherwise would be to fail to serve their shareholders' one and only interest: maximize ROI.

          --
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      • (Score: 2) by Freeman on Monday March 22 2021, @03:31PM

        by Freeman (732) on Monday March 22 2021, @03:31PM (#1127507) Journal

        Not for this kind of "metric-butt-load" of spending. The previous like project was the Space Shuttle, which spent an impressive amount of money per launch. It would have been nice, if they'd went full-in on Commercial Space as soon as it was viable. Then again, who knows what that would have looked like. SpaceX might have been squeezed out for those kinds of $$$$ cost plus dollars.

        --
        Joshua 1:9 "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee"
    • (Score: 1) by Fuck You Niggers 3 on Monday March 22 2021, @06:02AM

      by Fuck You Niggers 3 (14402) on Monday March 22 2021, @06:02AM (#1127373)

      It's called cutting your losses before spending another $20+ billion.

    • (Score: 1) by khallow on Monday March 22 2021, @06:37AM (2 children)

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Monday March 22 2021, @06:37AM (#1127382) Journal
      Keep in mind that one of the two primary boosters for SLS, Bill Nelson, is now in charge (Senator Richard Shelby being the other, both were in the US Senate when the SLS - also called the Senate Launch System was funded and authorized). I can see the money continue to flow to this dumpster fire until Nelson is out, which probably will be when the Democrats leave power in four to eight years.
      • (Score: 3, Funny) by DannyB on Monday March 22 2021, @02:15PM (1 child)

        by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Monday March 22 2021, @02:15PM (#1127457) Journal

        one of the two primary boosters for SLS, Bill Nelson

        I did not realize that they were now giving names to the solid rocket boosters.

        --
        Calmly vote. Fill out your ballet and drop it in the ballet box. Don't dance around bothering the pole watchers.
    • (Score: 3, Informative) by Socrastotle on Monday March 22 2021, @02:08PM

      by Socrastotle (13446) on Monday March 22 2021, @02:08PM (#1127450) Journal

      You're not considering one issue. If the SLS ever flies, it will almost certainly be obsolete on day 0. Here [everydayastronaut.com] is an infographic of the specs for SLS/Falcon Heavy/Saturn V/Starship. Falcon Heavy, which is already flying, is competitive with it. Starship, which is already at least getting off the ground unlike the SLS, will dwarf it in both capability and cost. Erm, dwarfs it in the happy way in terms of cost.

    • (Score: 2) by Tokolosh on Monday March 22 2021, @03:51PM

      by Tokolosh (585) on Monday March 22 2021, @03:51PM (#1127525)

      But first they have to spend money on the internal study. I wonder how much that will cost, and how much it will further delay the project while we await the (foregone) conclusion.

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Runaway1956 on Monday March 22 2021, @06:06AM (4 children)

    by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Monday March 22 2021, @06:06AM (#1127375) Homepage Journal

    S L S is not the proper way to spell "boondoggle", or "pork", or "corruption". No matter how much you like or dislike Elon Musk, you will have to admit that he has done more for American space aspirations than all the damned fools involved with SLS, at far lesser cost.

    --
    There is a supply side shortage of pronouns. You will take whatever you are offered.
    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Immerman on Monday March 22 2021, @02:02PM (3 children)

      by Immerman (3985) on Monday March 22 2021, @02:02PM (#1127444)

      That's not entirely fair - the blame should be laid squarely at the feet of the contractors and Congress Critters who staunchly defend their pork project, requiring NASA to support it if they want to be funded, and demanding potential NASA administrators to be big SLS supporters to have any chance of being confirmed for the position.

      Meanwhile, despite Congress's corrupt obsession, SpaceX would never have gotten off the ground without the support of various NASA administrators and staff who funneled money and guaranteed contracts in their direction until they could become commercially viable.

      • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Monday March 22 2021, @04:15PM (1 child)

        by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Monday March 22 2021, @04:15PM (#1127541) Homepage Journal

        Your points are good points. All the same, Musk is leading the way, for far less money. Obviously, some NASA officials know their arses from holes in the ground.

        --
        There is a supply side shortage of pronouns. You will take whatever you are offered.
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 22 2021, @07:28PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 22 2021, @07:28PM (#1127631)

          That competent (former) NASA administrator is named Jim Bridenstine. Biden is replacing him with Bill "Ballast" Nelson, who is one of Shelby's toadies. And even "Pork Barrel" Shelby himself would have been a better choice because at least he isn't a self-aggrandizing idiot. Nelson is exactly the kind of bad management that caused the Challenger disaster, and I'm honestly worried that he's going to kill good astronauts for the glory of his own ego.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 22 2021, @08:24PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 22 2021, @08:24PM (#1127658)

        SLS (built by Boeing and Lockheed Martin) is Bill Nelson's baby. His name is on the law requiring NASA to build it, and his was the loudest voice objecting to Bridenstine's appointment, mostly due to the latter's longstanding opposition to SLS. On the other hand SpaceX has never had a guaranteed contract from NASA like Boeing and Lockheed Martin get. They (and Blue Origin and Scaled Composites) actually had to sue to be allowed to bid on any contracts at all and ULA (owned by Boeing and Lockheed Martin) always gets the lion's share of the money despite SpaceX doing most of the work. Look at the ISS resupply contracts (which paid for Falcon 9 development), Commercial Crew, and the moon lander projects. That last one has Blue Origin/Lockheed Martin instead of Boeing/Lockheed Martin but again they get 2/3 of the money for the least capable submission.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 22 2021, @06:30AM (3 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 22 2021, @06:30AM (#1127378)

    This thing is just a shuttle without wings. This was an attempt to use the tech that was already in place with the shuttle. So if this is just a reboot of the shuttle without the wings; then why so much $? What other things is the $ going to? NASA does have top secret projects right? I smell a rat.
    " You didn't think they actually spent ten thousand dollars for a hammer and thirty thousand for a toilet seat, did you?"

    • (Score: 2) by PiMuNu on Monday March 22 2021, @01:29PM (1 child)

      by PiMuNu (3823) Subscriber Badge on Monday March 22 2021, @01:29PM (#1127426)

      You can't successfully conceal a conspiracy if more than a handful of people are involved.

      • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Monday March 22 2021, @02:20PM

        by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Monday March 22 2021, @02:20PM (#1127461) Journal

        You can't successfully conceal a conspiracy if more than a handful of people are involved.

        Apparently you CAN, or so I am led to believe here on SN. But only if the conspiracy is about the election being stolen or about secret Jewish space lasers causing California fires. These conspiracies can be promoted at the highest levels of government -- with a straight face. In this case, it doesn't matter how many people are involved, you can definitely keep it a secret. It is so secret that there is no evidence for it. (Judge rips Arizona GOP for election lawsuit, orders party to pay thousands in legal fees [azcentral.com])

        It must be true, because we all know how good the federal government is at keeping secrets.

        --
        Calmly vote. Fill out your ballet and drop it in the ballet box. Don't dance around bothering the pole watchers.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 22 2021, @07:37PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 22 2021, @07:37PM (#1127636)
      Not quite. The SLS and its predecessor Constellation are all about shovelling as much money as possible at Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Rocketdyne. Requiring that Shuttle parts be reused was how Shelby and Nelson guaranteed that their preferred campaign contributors would be the only allowed bidders. The two of them have spent the last forty years diverting NASA's science and exploration budgets to those three companies, which is a large part of why we haven't been back to the moon in that time. TL;DR That isn't rat you smell but corrupt Congressmen.
  • (Score: 2) by bradley13 on Monday March 22 2021, @07:32AM (3 children)

    by bradley13 (3053) Subscriber Badge on Monday March 22 2021, @07:32AM (#1127388) Homepage Journal

    We all know that the SLS is nothing but political corruption: funnel as much money as possible into the "right" companies, who then funnel part of it back to the politicians. First-world corruption is indirect.

    Still, this "review" is a positive sign. It means that the powers-that-be realize they cannot continue with this particular instance of pork. But they can't just stop, without admitting what they were doing. So they trigger this internal review, which - in a couple of years - will lead to the end of the program.

    The real question is: where and how will they funnel the pork the next time?

    --
    Everyone is somebody else's weirdo.
    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by JoeMerchant on Monday March 22 2021, @02:06PM (1 child)

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Monday March 22 2021, @02:06PM (#1127447)

      Well, everything you say is true, but... if you think of NASA as a branch of the military, what they are doing is training and retaining highly skilled operators. From that perspective, this is a bargain basement operation keeping America's Space Force Strong.

      Shut down NASA's funding like you'd flush a bunch of high school kid employees from a fast food stand during the slow season, and you'll be looking at decades of rebuilding to get back to the capability levels we have today.

      --
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      • (Score: 2) by Socrastotle on Monday March 22 2021, @02:33PM

        by Socrastotle (13446) on Monday March 22 2021, @02:33PM (#1127472) Journal

        Kennedy's "to the moon" speech was in 1962 and we had literally zero experience in space beyond Low Earth Orbit, and even there we had next to no experience. 7 years later, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin would walk on the moon. Today, more than 50 years later, NASA can't manage to get a man off the ground using NASA based tech, after spending gratuitously and working on the SLS for more than a decade. There has clearly *already* been an extremely dramatic decline of competence and capability at NASA.

        I don't think I would support scrapping them, but at the same time I don't think much would be lost. People dramatically overestimate what we're learning from probes and rovers. Arguably the single most important discovery [space.com] of Curiosity is that NASA's surface, contrary to what everybody thought is actually relatively moist - about 2% water per volume. That's enough to yield about a liter of water per cubic foot of soil. And that was a huge game changer and leap in understanding. But then aren't I contradicting myself? No. The first [successful] probe was sent to Mars in 1964. It took us 57 years of probes and rovers to learn... that the soil is relatively moist.

        The one reason I would even consider supporting scrapping NASA is because I think it would likely create a vacuum. If our government disappeared tomorrow - it wouldn't be anarchy, at least not for long. It'd simply create a vacuum and the next strongest player would come to fill that vacuum. I expect the same would be true of NASA. People have a desire to see advancements in space, and NASA - to some very mild degree sates that. If they did not exist, who would pick up the mantle? And would they be better or worse? The reason I have no way of even intelligently speculating about the answer to that question is why I think we're better off with them for now, but they're certainly far past their prime.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 22 2021, @07:42PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 22 2021, @07:42PM (#1127639)

      This review is the last gasp of the Bridenstine administration's reforms. Expect Nelson to find a way to kill it or worse now that he's in charge. He's exactly scummy enough to claim that cutting Commercial Crew is the way forward. Hell, it wouldn't even be the first time he'll have cut CC's budget to feed SLS. He and Shelby redirected half of CC's budget under Obama and were mad when they couldn't get the rest.

  • (Score: 0, Troll) by aristarchus on Monday March 22 2021, @08:56AM (9 children)

    by aristarchus (2645) on Monday March 22 2021, @08:56AM (#1127393) Journal

    This is takyon's obsession, is it not? What we really need is market solutions, a sort of libertarian, or mercenary, Space Force. As they used to say about the m-16, "always remember your weapon was made by the lowest bidder". If you have to ask what it costs to get your ass to Mars, you can't afford it.

    --
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    • (Score: 3, Troll) by JoeMerchant on Monday March 22 2021, @02:09PM (8 children)

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Monday March 22 2021, @02:09PM (#1127451)

      Run NASA like a free market taco stand and you'll find your best rocket scientists emigrating to China, Russia, Iran, etc.

      --
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      • (Score: 2) by Socrastotle on Monday March 22 2021, @02:38PM (7 children)

        by Socrastotle (13446) on Monday March 22 2021, @02:38PM (#1127475) Journal

        Why do you think so? I think it's clear that our most capable rocket scientists are already working for SpaceX based on their results. And running NASA like a "free market taco stand" would enable them to obtain a wider array of contracts with less ordeal.

        Indeed I suspect the main thing keeping SpaceX US-only is specifically the rather more open commercialization of space by both NASA and the military to a lesser degree. How would further expanding that possibly be a bad idea?

        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by JoeMerchant on Monday March 22 2021, @02:56PM (6 children)

          by JoeMerchant (3937) on Monday March 22 2021, @02:56PM (#1127488)

          How would further expanding that possibly be a bad idea?

          When Musk builds Spectre/Hydra/X Æ A-13 into an organization that puts painful leverage on the U.S. population, that's one of a million probable bad outcomes.

          NASA has grown for 60+ years around talent built up in locations like Houston, Huntsville, Melbourne FL, Los Angeles, etc. - these aren't fast food stand workers who can be trained in two hours and "productive" on their first day. They mature, have families, and don't tend to move around quickly or cheaply. Once they've gotten a better offer overseas that they decide to take, odds of them coming back are slim to none.

          Should NASA be more vibrant and nimble? hell yes. However, comparing NASA today to the Apollo program is like comparing a soap box derby to NASCAR - the funding just isn't there to support that level of flash and excitement. Musk is bringing in commercial money, and that is good. But, simultaneously, we are relinquishing government (quasi-military) control of space endeavors to the private sector, and X Æ A-13 isn't transparent about their agendae, or even their existence.

          --
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          • (Score: 2) by Socrastotle on Monday March 22 2021, @06:56PM (5 children)

            by Socrastotle (13446) on Monday March 22 2021, @06:56PM (#1127613) Journal

            Here's a question with an answer that will surprise you: how much do you think NASA spent per year, on average, on the Apollo program? The program ran from 1961-1972. In a budgetary report in 1973 NASA laid out the details on their expenditures. The program, in total, cost $25.4 billion in 1973 dollars. Inflation adjusted that's $150 billion. And that was over 12 years. The program cost an average of about $12.5 billion per year. NASA's most recent budget is $23.3 billion per year. And you'd think when you're starting from 'done' instead of 0%, you ought be able to work a bit more efficiently. Alas.

            NASA and the US government achieved some absolutely remarkable things early on in space. But that really ended in 1969, the year we put a man on the moon. But it was clearly never about space - it was about geopolitical dominance. And once that dominance had been established, space was tossed aside. And we've been in that state for more than 50 years now. SpaceX, by contrast has not only risen incredibly rapidly but has been completely transparent about their goals since their very envisioning. And that goal is the colonization of Mars. Musk laid out his plan for such about 2 decades ago, and has managed to stick to it remarkably well given the fact it's a completely revolutionary notion.

            • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Monday March 22 2021, @08:31PM (4 children)

              by JoeMerchant (3937) on Monday March 22 2021, @08:31PM (#1127663)

              And you'd think when you're starting from 'done' instead of 0%, you ought be able to work a bit more efficiently. Alas.

              I tend to think of it more in these terms:

              If the U.S. prioritized a space project financially the same way it did with Apollo the 1960s, the nation would have to spend $702 billion to account for an equivalent share of GDP. [planetary.org]

              Also, if you recall Apollo 1, and 13? We are really trying to do better than that overall, and 2/135 fails is quite a bit better than 1.3/17 where 10/17 didn't even try to reach the lunar surface.

              Apollo 1 didn't start at 0, and Apollo 17 didn't put us at "done" it put us at "been there."

              We should be able to return to the Moon for less than $700 billion, but not on a $25 billion per year trickle that also has to support all of the existing legacy programs, facilities, and yes: pork.

              If you want the true cost of a new lunar expeditionary program (and: expect this one to do more than impress the world with our payload delivery capabilities and bring home some rocks), you need to start at the existing NASA budget and ADD what it should cost to get to the moon, not expect the warehouses full of Wallys to magically grow competence and start contributing to a real development program after 40 years of telling them to sit on their hands. Yes, some of them will Dilbert up to the plate, but probably not the management layers - you know: the ones who decide who to hire, who to fire, and who to give raises to? Yeah, those guys are going to rate themselves A) indispensable, B) 100% overworked, and C) needing more benefits.

              --
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              • (Score: 2) by Socrastotle on Tuesday March 23 2021, @05:57AM (3 children)

                by Socrastotle (13446) on Tuesday March 23 2021, @05:57AM (#1127808) Journal

                What are the prices of goods, services, and labor based upon? It's inflation. Why do you think equivalent share of GDP is not an ingenuous metric?

                SpaceX is private so we don't know their exact budget, but it's safe to say it's nowhere even remotely close to $20 billion a year, yet they continue to innovative and produce at an incredibly rapid rate while simultaneously transforming space itself by continuing to send the price lower, and lower. Why do you think NASA failed to achieve remotely comparable results even given decades and far more funding for such?

                • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Tuesday March 23 2021, @01:14PM (2 children)

                  by JoeMerchant (3937) on Tuesday March 23 2021, @01:14PM (#1127905)

                  SpaceX is private so we don't know their exact budget

                  More than that, we don't know the true extent of the government support they are receiving, either. Use of Kennedy surely isn't costing Elon what it cost NASA to build, and there's far more that's not so visible.

                  they continue to innovative and produce at an incredibly rapid rate while simultaneously transforming space itself by continuing to send the price lower, and lower.

                  Partly because they're allowed, even expected, to fail. NASA is held to an impossibly inefficient standard of perfection. Back in the pre-Mercury days, NASA failed spectacularly on a regular basis, and that's when they made the most progress. Anymore, a single failed launch is a huge national embarrassment resulting in total shutdown and navel introspection for as long as it takes to mollify the opposition to progress. Meanwhile, failure is expected of SpaceX. The main brilliant maneuver of SpaceX is getting: "try, fail, try again, fail better next time" back into the playbook.

                  --
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                  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by takyon on Tuesday March 23 2021, @01:34PM (1 child)

                    by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Tuesday March 23 2021, @01:34PM (#1127916) Journal

                    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kennedy_Space_Center_Launch_Complex_39A#SpaceX [wikipedia.org]

                    In August 2019, SpaceX submitted an Environmental Assessment for Starship launch system at Kennedy Space Center. This document included plans for the construction of additional structures at LC-39A to support Starship launches, including a dedicated pad, liquid methane tanks, and a Landing Zone. These are separate from the existing structures that support Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launches.

                    SpaceX signed a 20-year lease for one of the "mothballed" pads, and they are spending their own money to add facilities. I don't see the lease amount.

                    https://spacenews.com/38660nasa-negotiating-pad-lease-with-spacex-after-gao-rejects-blue-origin/ [spacenews.com]

                    Pad 39A costs the agency about $1.2 million a year to maintain in a mothballed state. NASA said this summer it wanted to get a lease signed before Oct. 1. If no lessee could be found, NASA told GAO inspectors, the agency would have been willing to let the pad — from which the Apollo 11 Moon mission blasted off — “rust to the ground.”

                    It's probably possible to come up with an accurate amount of how much U.S. taxpayer money is going to SpaceX, even including secret Air Force and NRO missions.

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                    • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Tuesday March 23 2021, @07:14PM

                      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Tuesday March 23 2021, @07:14PM (#1128055)

                      It's probably possible to come up with an accurate amount of how much U.S. taxpayer money is going to SpaceX

                      I'd say it's almost definitely possible to come up with a documented amount of how much U.S. taxpayer money is going to SpaceX through regular FOI channels. Documented, but accurate? Including look-the-other-way tax breaks, inside information on open bidding processes, etc. By definition those are illegal, and so will not be documented, but do they exist?

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  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by dltaylor on Monday March 22 2021, @09:07AM (1 child)

    by dltaylor (4693) on Monday March 22 2021, @09:07AM (#1127395)

    The US Navy likely has about as many submarines as it really needs, but we need to one or two in the production pipeline(s) so we have enough skilled labor around to know HOW to build one, not just from CAE "drawings" but from real hands-on experience. CAE has come a long way in providing tools to determine what pieces go where, and how to fit large bits like reactor containment vessels and steam turbines, as well as how to get them into the hull in the right place, at different stages of assembly, but things like coatings are harder to handle that way. Look at what's happening with the B-2 fleet as another example.

    How many people are maintaining FORTRAN or COBOL programs older than they are, and how many have scratched their heads at "why did they do it THAT way", only to find out a couple of months later that the answer is "because THAT way this, this, and this all work better". I remember using more than a few "special methods" to fit programs into resource-constrained environments (a spacecraft can't (yet) call Amazon for a few GB more RAM to patch, expand, or re-purpose a system in flight).

    NASA pioneered a lot of stuff, and private industry has rightfully, if not gratefully, picked up that knowledge and run with it. This is what was supposed to happen. If that process is going to continue, there need to be people on hand to provide a similar information base.

    This review is described as intended to determine if the SLS really is adding anything to, or preserving, the knowledge base, or whether the resources might be better spent elsewhere, such as reducing pressure waves (sonic booms) from supersonic and hypersonic aircraft.

    • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Monday March 22 2021, @02:33PM

      by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Monday March 22 2021, @02:33PM (#1127471) Journal

      That argument works for nuclear submarines.

      I don't think it works for the SLS. My intuition is based on observing how well private industry is now building rockets compared to Boeing's Cost Plus contracting on SLS. And the political motivations behind SLS vs the commercial motivations of private industry.

      Rockets are beginning to look more like building airplanes or automobiles.

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  • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 22 2021, @10:29AM (5 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 22 2021, @10:29AM (#1127399)

    Rocket production is too important to be left to the government. Fortunately, we have Elon Musk to ensure increased production at lower cost. Cancelling SLS will have spin-off benefits of freeing up government resources to be reallocated to the important job of developing easier-to-climb airplane steps, so America will never again have to witness the traumatic scene of a President stumbling on-camera.

    • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Monday March 22 2021, @02:11PM (4 children)

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Monday March 22 2021, @02:11PM (#1127455)

      Do we "have" Elon Musk, or is he a free man permitted to sell his services, goods, and training to any country on the planet- or off?

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      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 22 2021, @02:49PM (2 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 22 2021, @02:49PM (#1127482)

        Would we simply like to "have" access to what he has to offer, or is it our additional intention to, at the same time, also *DENY* that stuff to others?

        Do note that others might be pondering the same question.

        Also do note that one of these angles is "constructive" as judged from the viewpoint of humanity-as-a-whole, while the other variant is a fall-back into ape-like psychological patterns.

        And thirdly, note that the combined pondering of all players might be influencing Mr. Musks own planning, which he is certain to entertain, and which he will quite likely also be able to execute, even against considerable opposition.

        Choose wisely!

        • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Monday March 22 2021, @03:49PM (1 child)

          by JoeMerchant (3937) on Monday March 22 2021, @03:49PM (#1127521)

          Of course, as long as we're in a competitive world environment (as opposed to cooperative), we must deny access to anything that might hurt our competitive advantages...

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          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 22 2021, @07:15PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 22 2021, @07:15PM (#1127622)

            Cooperation works well right up until the point there is an irreconcilable disagreement. And that point the conclusion of that disagreement will, now and forever, be determined by strength.

      • (Score: 3, Informative) by Socrastotle on Monday March 22 2021, @02:51PM

        by Socrastotle (13446) on Monday March 22 2021, @02:51PM (#1127484) Journal

        Nope, welcome to the world of regulations, in this case ITAR [wikipedia.org]. They're the reason that SpaceX literally cannot hire foreigners, and would also prevent them from transferring any of their technology to another nation. So we do indeed "have" him. Of course he could pull a Snowden, but he would likely see a similar outcome and face international arrest warrants, the seizure of all of his and his companies' assets, and more. These absurdities are undoubtedly one of the countless motivating factors to begin a parallel civilization on a new planet. Much like the founders of the United States were able to learn from the mistakes of the empires and civilizations of their time, the next great civilization and its founders will be able to do likewise of today. Inertia often makes it impossible to genuinely change empires from within, even under nominally democratic systems.

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