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posted by martyb on Tuesday July 25 2017, @10:22PM   Printer-friendly
from the this-is-progress? dept.

Let's just throw this old thing at the Moon and call it a day:

A cargo container that was built to fly on NASA's space shuttles is being repurposed as a prototype for a deep space habitat.

Lockheed Martin announced it will refurbish the Donatello multi-purpose logistics module (MLPM), transforming from it from its original, unrealized role as a supply conveyor for the International Space Station to a test and training model of a living area for astronauts working beyond Earth orbit. The work is being done under a public-private partnership between the aerospace corporation and NASA.

"We are excited to work with NASA to repurpose a historic piece of flight hardware," said Bill Pratt, Lockheed Martin's program manager for the deep space habitat contract, in a statement.

Donatello was one of three MPLMs that was designed to fly in the space shuttle payload bay to transfer cargo to the station. Built by the Italian Space Agency under a contract with NASA, two modules, Leonardo and Raffaello, flew on 12 shuttle missions between 2001 and 2011.

Also at Popular Mechanics.

Previously: NASA and International Partners Planning Orbital Lunar Outpost
NASA Eyeing Mini Space Station in Lunar Orbit as Stepping Stone to Mars

Related: Moon Base Could Cost Just $10 Billion Due to New Technologies
Should We Skip Mars for Now and Go to the Moon Again?
Cislunar 1000 Vision - Commercializing Space
Forget Mars, Colonize Titan
Japan Planning to Put a Man on the Moon Around 2030


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  • (Score: 2) by turgid on Wednesday July 26 2017, @01:40PM (7 children)

    by turgid (4318) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday July 26 2017, @01:40PM (#544621) Journal

    I wish there were a "-1 Completely Missed the Point" mod. Come on then, tell us how the Sacred Market Who Must Be Worshipped Above All Else works without competition to keep the megalomaniac loonies in check?

    Starting Score:    1  point
    Karma-Bonus Modifier   +1  

    Total Score:   2  
  • (Score: 2, Funny) by khallow on Wednesday July 26 2017, @01:44PM (6 children)

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday July 26 2017, @01:44PM (#544623) Journal

    Come on then, tell us how the Sacred Market Who Must Be Worshipped Above All Else works without competition to keep the megalomaniac loonies in check?

    First, there is competition. There is reality as well. Both which would serve to keep them in check. Third, markets create a great avenue for megalomaniac loonies (at least the ones who can create multiple, large viable businesses) to do good things for society.

    • (Score: 2) by turgid on Wednesday July 26 2017, @02:00PM (5 children)

      by turgid (4318) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday July 26 2017, @02:00PM (#544637) Journal

      Like I said, point missed entirely.

      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday July 27 2017, @12:04AM (4 children)

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday July 27 2017, @12:04AM (#544930) Journal

        Like I said, point missed entirely.

        I'm going to keep missing the point, as long as a certain someone keeps not talking about the point.

        • (Score: 2) by turgid on Thursday July 27 2017, @07:41AM (3 children)

          by turgid (4318) Subscriber Badge on Thursday July 27 2017, @07:41AM (#545043) Journal

          Your argument appears to be that everyone and their businesses should be subject to Market Forces unless they are a billionaire, when they should be exempt from any form of criticism, scruitiny, checks and balances, scepticism or accountability.

          Is that clear enough for you?

          • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday July 27 2017, @12:43PM (2 children)

            by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday July 27 2017, @12:43PM (#545133) Journal

            Your argument appears to be that everyone and their businesses should be subject to Market Forces unless they are a billionaire, when they should be exempt from any form of criticism, scruitiny, checks and balances, scepticism or accountability.

            Is that clear enough for you?

            No, because that's a ridiculous thing to conjecture from my writings.

            Musk's businesses are still subject to all of the above. For example, SpaceX has competition both from inside the US launch market (ULA and Orbital Sciences with new emerging launch providers possible over the next couple of decades) and from other competitors in China, Russia, Europe, and India. That is a typical market force and a substantial check on any would-be control of the market by SpaceX.

            Nor do we see any actual need to control Musk's behavior. NASA and elsewhere in the US government, the only parties that have to launch on US launchers, could be encouraging a competitive US launch market, but they aren't.

            Second, it's not the job of Musk's "worshipers" to provide scrutiny or accountability. It is not the end of the world if someone on the internets is an uncritical supporter of Musk or some of his businesses. We have accountants, regulators, and various other professional parties to provide that responsibility.

            Third, while reading through the thread, I realized that you started posting this in response to an attack on SLS. So here, you are complaining about Musk not being exposed to market forces as some sort of defense of SLS, even though he is subject to market forces, but completely ignoring that SLS isn't. SLS is 100% funded by US federal funding. SLS will never launch commercial payloads (because if it actually launches, it'll be too expensive). SLS will never compete on a market, but rather be a pure political animal. Sure looks like a load of delusional, Orwellian doublespeak to me.

            How is forcing SpaceX to compete with a non-market driven rocket (whose primary advantage is its US Senate supporters guaranteeing funding for at least a few more years) going to be market competition? What happens if SpaceX proves to be a vastly cheaper option than SLS (which I think the far more likely outcome)?

            My view is that all this funding of SLS has created a politically driven, parasitic, rent seeking ecosystem that will naturally be very hostile to any competition from private rockets like the Falcon Heavy and have access to the political machinery to do something about it. In the past, that has led to things like regulatory interference and even creation of a monopoly on launch payloads (which the Space Shuttle had roughly from 1975 to 1985). My view is that it would be vastly better to have a monopoly by a private company (which at least has to take considerable effort at providing launch services to preserve the monopoly) on large payloads than a monopoly by a government launch vehicle which serves to keep the US out of the business altogether. We risk the latter by continuing to fund such an abysmally performing and costly vehicle as the SLS. Eventually, it'll come to the point where SLS's continued survival depends on the destruction of its far superior competitors. I don't trust the US political system to make the right decisions when that happens.

            SLS creates powerful political players who now have incentive to obstruct US progress in developing orbital launch systems and beyond. This is a long term disaster in the making. I think it is ridiculous to ignore this and argue black is white by claiming that somehow supporting SLS is going to create the market forces, which SpaceX is already beholden to, but which SLS is not. Where are the market forces that will contain SLS? Why is it still kicking along with all the criticism of the rocket (number one being its extraordinary cost!)? Where will all those checks and balances be, that you think are needed with SpaceX, when the interests of SLS conflict with the interests of the US people? Why would we be funding SLS at all if we were actually paying attention to criticism and accountability for that program?

            My view is that SLS can't take it. If it were to become beholden to all the stuff that you think SpaceX isn't subject to (but is), it would vanish instantly. This is insanity. There are ways to create a competitive US launch market, but creating a vast rent seeking machine isn't a way.

            • (Score: 2) by turgid on Thursday July 27 2017, @01:21PM (1 child)

              by turgid (4318) Subscriber Badge on Thursday July 27 2017, @01:21PM (#545155) Journal

              I thought SoaceX got public funding for the development of some of its rockets and capsules? And anyway, if capatilist business is so superior, surely it will run rings around the fat, bloated, commie, Satanic NASA? Look, all your hero Musk needs to do is to keep putting payloads into orbit cheaply and reliably enough to be able to invest in development of bigger and better rockets. If he's as good as his propaganda suggests, he'll quickly overtake NASA/LockMart/Boeing who will be forced to eat humble pie.

              • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday July 27 2017, @08:16PM

                by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday July 27 2017, @08:16PM (#545402) Journal

                I thought SoaceX got public funding for the development of some of its rockets and capsules?

                Ok, I think I see where you're coming from. SpaceX has gotten public funding for the Dragon capsule. But I heard that they didn't get public funding for development of the Falcon 1, Falcon 9, or Falcon Heavy rockets. What NASA and to a lesser extend the Department of Defense has done is pay amply for some payloads to orbit (including the Dragon capsule) which has indirectly helped to cover these costs of development.

                And anyway, if capatilist business is so superior, surely it will run rings around the fat, bloated, commie, Satanic NASA?

                NASA did a year 2011 analysis [nasa.gov] of SpaceX's approach in an appendix. Here is Appendix B in full:

                NASA recently conducted a predicted cost estimate of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle using the NASA-Air Force Cost Model (NAFCOM). NAFCOM is the primary cost estimating tool NASA uses to predict the costs for launch vehicles, crewed vehicles, planetary landers, rovers, and other flight hardware elements prior to the development of these systems. NAFCOM is a parametric cost estimating tool with a historical database of over 130 NASA and Air Force space flight hardware projects. It has been developed and refined over the past 13 years with 10 releases providing increased accuracy, data content, and functionality. NAFCOM uses a number of technical inputs in the estimating process. These include mass of components, manufacturing methods, engineering management, test approach, integration complexity, and pre-development studies.

                Another variable is the relationship between the Government and the contractor during development. At one end, NAFCOM can model an approach that incorporates a heavy involvement on the part of the Government, which is a more traditional approach for unique development efforts with advanced technology. At the other end, more commercial-like practices can be assumed for the cost estimate where the contractor has more responsibility during the development effort.

                For the Falcon 9 analysis, NASA used NAFCOM to predict the development cost for the Falcon 9 launch vehicle using two methodologies:

                1) Cost to develop Falcon 9 using traditional NASA approach, and

                2) Cost using a more commercial development approach.

                Under methodology #1, the cost model predicted that the Falcon 9 would cost $4.0 billion based on a traditional approach. Under methodology #2, NAFCOM predicted $1.7 billion when the inputs were adjusted to a more commercial development approach. Thus, the predicted the cost to develop the Falcon 9 if done by NASA would have been between $1.7 billion and $4.0 billion.

                SpaceX has publicly indicated that the development cost for Falcon 9 launch vehicle was approximately $300 million. Additionally, approximately $90 million was spent developing the Falcon 1 launch vehicle which did contribute to some extent to the Falcon 9, for a total of $390 million. NASA has verified these costs.

                It is difficult to determine exactly why the actual cost was so dramatically lower than the NAFCOM predictions. It could be any number of factors associated with the non-traditional public-private partnership under which the Falcon 9 was developed (e.g., fewer NASA processes, reduced oversight, and less overhead), or other factors not directly tied to the development approach. NASA is continuing to refine this analysis to better understand the differences.

                Regardless of the specific factors, this analysis does indicate the potential for reducing space hardware development costs, given the appropriate conditions. It is these conditions that NASA hopes to replicate, to the extent appropriate and feasible, in the development of commercial crew transportation systems.

                In other words, using NASA's usual costing approach for contract bids, they would have come up with an amount ($4 billion) over ten times larger than what it cost SpaceX ($390 million) to develop three rocket engines (Merlin, Draco, and Kestrel), two rockets (Falcon 1 and Falcon 9), and paying for the first six or so launches (including failures). Even using a new proposed costing method (which to my knowledge still is not in use), they were able to reduce their costing to four times ($1.7 billion) the amount SpaceX actually spent.

                This sure looks like running rings around NASA to me.