Stories
Slash Boxes
Comments

SoylentNews is people

posted by martyb on Sunday February 11 2018, @01:32AM   Printer-friendly
from the it's-past-time dept.

An op-ed written by Lori Garver, a former deputy administrator of NASA, suggests cancelling the Space Launch System in favor of Falcon Heavy and BFR:

SpaceX could save NASA and the future of space exploration

The successful launch of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket is a game-changer that could actually save NASA and the future of space exploration. [...] Unfortunately, the traditionalists at NASA — and their beltway bandit allies — don't share this view and have feared this moment since the day the Falcon Heavy program was announced seven years ago.

The question to be answered in Washington now is why would Congress continue to spend billions of taxpayer dollars a year on a government-made rocket that is unnecessary and obsolete now that the private sector has shown they can do it for a fraction of the cost? [...] Once operational, SLS will cost NASA over $1 billion per launch. The Falcon Heavy, developed at zero cost to the taxpayer, would charge NASA approximately $100M per launch. In other words, NASA could buy 10 Falcon Heavy launches for the coat of one SLS launch — and invest the remainder in truly revolutionary and meaningful missions that advance science and exploration.

While SLS may be a "government-made rocket", the "beltway bandits", also known as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Orbital ATK, and Aerojet Rocketdyne, are heavily involved in its development. The United Launch Alliance (Boeing + Lockheed Martin) have also shown that they can build their own expensive rocket: the Delta IV Heavy, which can carry less than half the payload to LEO of Falcon Heavy while costing over four times as much per launch.

NASA's marketing of how many elephants, locomotives and airplanes could be launched by various versions of SLS is a perfect example of the frivolity of developing, building and operating their own rocket. NASA advertises that it will be able to launch 12.5 elephants to LEO on Block I SLS, or 2.8 more elephants than the Falcon Heavy could launch. But if we are counting elephants — the planned Block II version of SLS could launch 30 elephants, while SpaceX's BFR could launch 34. Talk about significant.

Wait, what? 70 metric tons (SLS Block 1) / 63.8 metric tons (Falcon Heavy) = ~1.09717868339. 1.097 * (12.5 - 2.8) = ~10.6 elephants lifted by SLS Block 1 versus 9.7 for Falcon Heavy.

NASA documents list 12 elephants for SLS Block 1 (70 metric tons), and 22 for SLS Block 2 (130 metric tons). The author might have lifted some numbers from a Business Insider article that (incorrectly) estimates that 12.5 elephants can be lifted by Falcon Heavy, while SLS Block 2 can lift 30 elephants, and 34 for BFR. Perhaps we are dealing with a mix of adult and juvenile elephants?

Regarding the Falcon Heavy maiden flight, Lori Garver had this to say on Twitter about the Tesla dummy payload (which has attracted some criticism):

I was told by a SpaceX VP at the launch that they offered free launches to NASA, Air Force etc. but got no takers. A student developed experiment or early tech demo could have led to even more new knowledge from the mission. The Tesla gimmick was the backup.

However, the offer may have been informal, or made too close to the launch date. And Elon Musk himself guessed that the Falcon Heavy maiden launch had a 50% chance of succeeding.

While skeptical of Elon Musk's plans to get humans to Mars by 2024, she also says that NASA employees often dismissed the Falcon Heavy launch as "never going to happen".

Now it has happened.

Here's a refresher on the costs of SLS development:


Original Submission

 
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.
Display Options Threshold/Breakthrough Mark All as Read Mark All as Unread
The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way.
(1)
  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Runaway1956 on Sunday February 11 2018, @01:43AM (12 children)

    by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Sunday February 11 2018, @01:43AM (#636201) Homepage Journal

    First, I think, "hell no, you don't defund something just because something else works!" Having more than one way of accomplishing a task is a good thing, right?

    But, then, the SLS is heavily tax funded. Falcon is not, or at least far less so. (if the Falcon is funded by way of any contracts with the government, then yes, it is at least partly tax payer funded) If the taxpayer funded version of a heavy lift vehicle can't compete with the non-taxpayer funded version - then it's not worth keeping around.

    Yeah, go ahead and defund it. Some of us taxpayers get tired of paying for shit that does no one any good.

    --
    Through a Glass, Darkly -George Patton
    • (Score: 0, Troll) by Ethanol-fueled on Sunday February 11 2018, @01:59AM (3 children)

      by Ethanol-fueled (2792) on Sunday February 11 2018, @01:59AM (#636209) Homepage

      The most simple analogy to approach this would be the Intel vs. AMD issue.

      Intel were dominant, prices were high. AMD put its dick in the mashed potatoes and thus had a high following of converts.

      If the ULA were smart, they would buy out SpaceX. If for some reason that couldn't happen, then a disruption of market would occur. It could happen gracefully, or there could be assassinations and/or sabotage. Never underestimate the capacity for humanity to realize goals regardless of cost.

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by takyon on Sunday February 11 2018, @02:33AM (2 children)

        by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Sunday February 11 2018, @02:33AM (#636219) Journal

        Elon Musk is a multi-billionaire, and is probably willing to sink more money into the company if it can ensure smooth BFR development and a human presence on Mars. Aside from hating and shaming ULA, SpaceX is also a private company so there's no chance of a hostile takeover. When will SpaceX go public? After it regularly flies to Mars, according to Musk.

        ULA's winning move could be to license SpaceX's technology. Musk could do it in a few years when the full BFR is almost ready to fly and lose none of his company's lead, get some extra money to help R&D along, and further his goal of making humanity a multi-planetary species.

        --
        [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
        • (Score: 3, Interesting) by tibman on Sunday February 11 2018, @05:06AM (1 child)

          by tibman (134) Subscriber Badge on Sunday February 11 2018, @05:06AM (#636265)

          I think he'd license the tech if it helped move humanity off the Earth.

          Here's what he did for electric car tech:

          ... Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.
          ... Our true competition is not the small trickle of non-Tesla electric cars being produced, but rather the enormous flood of gasoline cars pouring out of the world’s factories every day.
          ... We believe that Tesla, other companies making electric cars, and the world would all benefit from a common, rapidly-evolving technology platform.

          https://www.tesla.com/blog/all-our-patent-are-belong-you [tesla.com]

          --
          SN won't survive on lurkers alone. Write comments.
          • (Score: 3, Funny) by Ethanol-fueled on Sunday February 11 2018, @09:36AM

            by Ethanol-fueled (2792) on Sunday February 11 2018, @09:36AM (#636315) Homepage

            " . In other words, NASA could buy 10 Falcon Heavy launches for the coat of one SLS launch "

            Man, that must be some wicked coat.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by frojack on Sunday February 11 2018, @02:20AM (1 child)

      by frojack (1554) on Sunday February 11 2018, @02:20AM (#636213) Journal

      Musk has said he no longer thinks Falcon Heavy will ever carry humans. He's still not confident of that rocket, even if he got lucky the first time out of the gate. He's betting on the BFR. I'm betting he knows something we don't.

      SLS is the one rocket for the whole mission approach. I suppose BFR is as well.
      But that is no longer necessary. We can build stuff in space. We can launch pieces.
      It doesn't all have to go up at once.
      Falcon Heavy might be the optimum size. Or maybe BFR is.

      I'd rather see SLS aim for a different target. One where there is no private sector customers.
      Soft-landing habitats and supplies on the moon or mars.

      --
      No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
      • (Score: 3, Informative) by takyon on Sunday February 11 2018, @02:42AM

        by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Sunday February 11 2018, @02:42AM (#636224) Journal

        https://www.theverge.com/2018/2/5/16975850/spacex-falcon-heavy-launch-elon-musk-tesla-questions [theverge.com]

        This would save the company the trouble of getting Falcon Heavy approved for human spaceflight only to turn around and replace it with the BFR. However, if the BFR takes longer to make than expected, then it’s possible SpaceX will return to the idea of putting crews on Falcon Heavy.

        As planned, BFR would replace both Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy since it would be fully reusable. Getting Falcon Heavy human-rated would likely be a waste of time since Falcon 9 can already do the manned flights that are guaranteed to pay out in the near term: the crewed missions to the ISS. If BFR is ready somewhere between 2022-2026, most of NASA's manned activity will still be at the ISS, except for four crewed SLS missions [wikipedia.org] during that time period to build the Deep Space Gateway. Bringing us back to the topic of the article, cancelling SLS.

        --
        [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 11 2018, @03:54AM (4 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 11 2018, @03:54AM (#636253)

      What are the long term percentages?

      If spaceX falcon blows up every x shot at the cost of 1 rocket + Y where Y is the cost of the lost sat(s) and that is less than the more safe-but costly NASA flights then sure. There are no passengers at risk.

      However, we do lose out on data that would be gained when safety is paramount from eliminating the more costly launches.

      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Sunday February 11 2018, @05:23AM (3 children)

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Sunday February 11 2018, @05:23AM (#636269) Journal

        However, we do lose out on data that would be gained when safety is paramount from eliminating the more costly launches.

        Launch frequency is a big deal when it comes to safety and reliability. The more often that you do something, the better you are at doing it. I don't believe NASA can safely operate SLS precisely because it launches so infrequently. Long term NASA loses a vehicle every 20 years. I think that would be true whether they launch that vehicle once every two years or twice a month (after the teething issues are worked out).

        • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Runaway1956 on Sunday February 11 2018, @08:26AM (2 children)

          by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Sunday February 11 2018, @08:26AM (#636300) Homepage Journal

          The more often that you do something, the better you are at doing it.

          I don't remember how many space shuttles we launched, before they started blowing up. IMO, we were using flawed technology, but got really really lucky with it. Thus, the first part of my reaction. Maybe we shouldn't defund the SLS, because that tech may prove to be more reliable, in the long run. I don't really believe that, but we can't know what we are going to learn tomorrow, or next year, or in the next ten years.

          A hundred years from now, people living out there are going to look back, and laugh at our primitive technology.

          --
          Through a Glass, Darkly -George Patton
          • (Score: 1) by khallow on Sunday February 11 2018, @05:25PM

            by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Sunday February 11 2018, @05:25PM (#636384) Journal

            Maybe we shouldn't defund the SLS, because that tech may prove to be more reliable, in the long run.

            Launch frequency kills that argument. They aren't launching often enough to become more reliable. They aren't launching enough even to show that their current approach (massive simulation studies) is safe enough to use in designing rockets. This is not academic. They played the same games with the Space Shuttle, including a ridiculous estimate of the likelihood of failure prior to the first Shuttle accident (destruction of Challenger at launch and the loss of seven astronauts). The physicist, Richard Feynman participated in the official review of why the Challenger accident and had this [nasa.gov] to say:

            It appears that there are enormous differences of opinion as to the probability of a failure with loss of vehicle and of human life. The estimates range from roughly 1 in 100 to 1 in 100,000. The higher figures come from the working engineers, and the very low figures from management. What are the causes and consequences of this lack of agreement? Since 1 part in 100,000 would imply that one could put a Shuttle up each day for 300 years expecting to lose only one, we could properly ask "What is the cause of management's fantastic faith in the machinery?"

            [...]

            An estimate of the reliability of solid rockets was made by the range safety officer, by studying the experience of all previous rocket flights. Out of a total of nearly 2,900 flights, 121 failed (1 in 25). This includes, however, what may be called, early errors, rockets flown for the first few times in which design errors are discovered and fixed. A more reasonable figure for the mature rockets might be 1 in 50. With special care in the selection of parts and in inspection, a figure of below 1 in 100 might be achieved but 1 in 1,000 is probably not attainable with today's technology. (Since there are two rockets on the Shuttle, these rocket failure rates must be doubled to get Shuttle failure rates from Solid Rocket Booster failure.)

            Note incidentally, that these are the same solid rocket motors on the SLS system, just a bit longer ("five segment" instead of the Space Shuttle's "four segment"). The failure rate on them is lower than it was in 1985, but it's still probably not 1 in 1000. Now, consider carefully the following paragraph (emphasis added):

            NASA officials argue that the figure is much lower. They point out that these figures are for unmanned rockets but since the Shuttle is a manned vehicle "the probability of mission success is necessarily very close to 1.0." It is not very clear what this phrase means. Does it mean it is close to 1 or that it ought to be close to 1? They go on to explain "Historically this extremely high degree of mission success has given rise to a difference in philosophy between manned space flight programs and unmanned programs; i.e., numerical probability usage versus engineering judgment." (These quotations are from "Space Shuttle Data for Planetary Mission RTG Safety Analysis," Pages 3-1, 3-1, February 15, 1985, NASA, JSC.) It is true that if the probability of failure was as low as 1 in 100,000 it would take an inordinate number of tests to determine it ( you would get nothing but a string of perfect flights from which no precise figure, other than that the probability is likely less than the number of such flights in the string so far). But, if the real probability is not so small, flights would show troubles, near failures, and possible actual failures with a reasonable number of trials. and standard statistical methods could give a reasonable estimate. In fact, previous NASA experience had shown, on occasion, just such difficulties, near accidents, and accidents, all giving warning that the probability of flight failure was not so very small. The inconsistency of the argument not to determine reliability through historical experience, as the range safety officer did, is that NASA also appeals to history, beginning "Historically this high degree of mission success..."

            Here, we see ignored the power of launch frequency and learning from experience. How are we to get highly reliable rockets, if they aren't launching often enough to see those "difficulties, near accidents, and accidents"? SpaceX last year launched 18 times a year. In twenty years, at that rate, they would see 360 launches. If there was a 1 in 100 chance of failure, they would likely have 3-4 accidents to learn from in order to reduce that likelihood of accident much further. Meanwhile the SLS would have only launched maybe 20 times (likely considerably less!) in that time. So it would be more likely than not to not see those elevated risks.

            And here's where institutional learning effects play a role. When accidents don't happen, the organization is likely to cut corners and old experience eventually leaves. We already saw this happening with NASA. Prior to each Shuttle accident, they had grown complacent and somewhat sloppy, mostly at the management levels. Close calls get ignored because hey, it didn't blow up last time. SpaceX can't afford to get that sloppy because they would collect a lot of lost payloads (and perhaps dead people) real fast, if they did.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 11 2018, @05:28PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 11 2018, @05:28PM (#636386)

            I don't remember how many space shuttles we launched, before they started blowing up.

            Not counting Enterprise, the Challenger disaster was the 25th flight of the shuttle program.

            And it didn't "blow up", rather it was torn apart by the resulting aerodynamic forces after one of the SRBs partially detached from the orbiter.

    • (Score: 2) by driverless on Sunday February 11 2018, @10:04AM

      by driverless (4770) on Sunday February 11 2018, @10:04AM (#636323)

      Also, the SLS can currently only lift one elephant, and it's white.

  • (Score: 1) by Sulla on Sunday February 11 2018, @01:44AM (6 children)

    by Sulla (5173) on Sunday February 11 2018, @01:44AM (#636202) Journal

    I like Spacex because its a SF book tier company. I see a future where humanity is a plague now infecting the whole solar system and Spacex is one of the most powerful companies in human space. Musk just feels SF in his goals. Every day is starting to feel more and more like Niven's Known Space or a Heinlein story.

    --
    Ceterum censeo Sinae esse delendam
    • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 11 2018, @01:53AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 11 2018, @01:53AM (#636206)

      Elon is not a plague. The 90% are.

    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by frojack on Sunday February 11 2018, @02:35AM (4 children)

      by frojack (1554) on Sunday February 11 2018, @02:35AM (#636221) Journal

      SF book tier company.

      What the hell is that supposed to actually mean?

      And with nothing else living in the solar system, how is it possible for humanity to infect it, or be a plague?

      You appear to have read just enough sifi to become a self loathing idiot. You need not perpetuate what you hate.

      --
      No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
      • (Score: 2) by takyon on Sunday February 11 2018, @02:53AM (3 children)

        by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Sunday February 11 2018, @02:53AM (#636232) Journal

        Wow, so mad.

        SpaceX's plans call for tens or hundreds of reusable BFRs making thousands of trips to Mars. Making space travel 1-2 orders of magnitude cheaper will bring us a lot closer to an "science fiction book tier" future. And while it will take a long time for humanity to spread "like a plague" throughout the solar system, it will happen eventually, with robots at least. It will become cheap to put a manmade object in orbit around every big rock in the solar system. Interstellar travel is where things get disappointing.

        --
        [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
        • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Immerman on Sunday February 11 2018, @06:04AM (1 child)

          by Immerman (3985) on Sunday February 11 2018, @06:04AM (#636278)

          I'm not even so sure interstellar travel is going to be so terribly disappointing. Almost certainly it won't be a warp-driven high-speed exploration excitement - but by the time we've got artificial ecosystems and closed societies refined to the point where we could realistically colonize another star without further support from Earth, I suspect we'll be at the point that getting a generation-ship up to several percent of light speed will be a viable option. And, if we're already talking about people living in sealed colonies on Mars, the Moon, and various asteroids - the life on an interstellar journey won't be all that different, except for the lack of new faces and inability to leave. Not even necessarily such a bad thing - smaller communities have much to recommend them.

          Plus, long before we're ready for such a mission, we will be able to easily get a telescope out past 600 AU, where it can use the gravitational lens of the sun to survey potential destination worlds in impressive detail, before we even leave the solar system.

          • (Score: 2) by takyon on Sunday February 11 2018, @06:27AM

            by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Sunday February 11 2018, @06:27AM (#636286) Journal

            the life on an interstellar journey won't be all that different, except for the lack of new faces and inability to leave. Not even necessarily such a bad thing - smaller communities have much to recommend them

            VR + Strong AI + other hardware developments = ultimate gaming/entertainment experience

            ~650 AU [centauri-dreams.org] is well within the purview of the solar system, given that Proxima Centauri is about 268,331 AU away. We could figure out how to send something that only takes maybe 20 years to get there [soylentnews.org]. Incidentally, if Planet Nine exists, it should be about as far away as the gravitational lens destination.

            --
            [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
        • (Score: 1) by Sulla on Sunday February 11 2018, @06:49AM

          by Sulla (5173) on Sunday February 11 2018, @06:49AM (#636291) Journal

          I am kind of sad that calling humanity a plague was taken poorly, although I guess it seems pretty obvious now. I for one look forward to humanity infecting this galaxy and making it our own proving we were the winner at evolution.

          I suppose it would have been better to compare us to the norway rat, that one ant colony on like every continent, or something.

          --
          Ceterum censeo Sinae esse delendam
  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Kilo110 on Sunday February 11 2018, @01:53AM (5 children)

    by Kilo110 (2853) on Sunday February 11 2018, @01:53AM (#636207)

    And then get rid of the f-35

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by mhajicek on Sunday February 11 2018, @01:59AM (4 children)

      by mhajicek (51) on Sunday February 11 2018, @01:59AM (#636210)

      And Zumwalt.

      --
      The spacelike surfaces of time foliations can have a cusp at the surface of discontinuity. - P. Hajicek
      • (Score: 2) by frojack on Sunday February 11 2018, @02:43AM (3 children)

        by frojack (1554) on Sunday February 11 2018, @02:43AM (#636225) Journal

        And every other system that had teething problems.

        Oh, wait. That would be all of them. Everything from Redstone to N1. The all blew up. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=13qeX98tAS8 [youtube.com]

        Then they didn't.

        --
        No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
        • (Score: 2, Touché) by khallow on Sunday February 11 2018, @05:04AM (2 children)

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Sunday February 11 2018, @05:04AM (#636264) Journal

          And every other system that had teething problems.

          It's about the money. Redstone wasn't expensive. N1 was. SLS is. It's fine to have stuff blow up when you're not spending much on it.

          • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Sunday February 11 2018, @07:21AM (1 child)

            by maxwell demon (1608) on Sunday February 11 2018, @07:21AM (#636296) Journal

            How much did Elon Musk spend on his?

            --
            The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
            • (Score: 4, Informative) by khallow on Sunday February 11 2018, @04:53PM

              by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Sunday February 11 2018, @04:53PM (#636375) Journal
              There's a NASA report [nasa.gov] (see Appendix B) that claims SpaceX spent almost $400 million on developing the Falcon 9, including Falcon 1 and three engines developed. This NASA group estimated that it would cost NASA $4.0 billion to cost out the same contract (not counting the inevitable cost overruns either!). I can't find any concrete numbers on the R&D costs of the Falcon Heavy. But supposedly Musk has claimed over $500 million (via Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]). It is likely to be under $1 billion IHMO just because there isn't that much money in SpaceX. None of that was paid for by government.

              So SpaceX spent something like $1-1.5 billion on all its rockets and engines to date (excluding the Raptor rocket engine which is on the path to the BFR). Meanwhile NASA spends [nasa.gov] more than $2 billion a year on SLS (see the line "Space Transportation" on page 2). So each year, NASA spends more on R&D than SpaceX has to date to launch its first Falcon Heavy.

              And what does NASA get for this immense spending? A rocket that might eventually launch once a year and is probably still several years out from first launch. That is insane.
  • (Score: -1, Offtopic) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 11 2018, @01:55AM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 11 2018, @01:55AM (#636208)

    Did you believe?

    https://vimeo.com/253700958 [vimeo.com]

    • (Score: 1) by khallow on Sunday February 11 2018, @04:55PM

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Sunday February 11 2018, @04:55PM (#636377) Journal
      Believe what? Round shadow on the Moon sure looks like what a round Earth would project.
  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 11 2018, @02:00AM (3 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 11 2018, @02:00AM (#636211)

    1. That is simply not the way Elon Musk operates. (there have been significant government incentives for his various ventures)

    2. Isn't the rocket technology that SpaceX uses derived from previous NASA designs?

    This quote "The injector at the heart of Merlin is of the pintle type that was first used in the Apollo program for the lunar module landing engine (LMDE)."
        from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merlin_%28rocket_engine_family%29 [wikipedia.org]

    3. Where are the launch facilities?

    Providing a lower cost solution is great, but lets be realistic about the "zero cost to the taxpayer" claims.

    • (Score: 5, Touché) by frojack on Sunday February 11 2018, @02:29AM (1 child)

      by frojack (1554) on Sunday February 11 2018, @02:29AM (#636217) Journal

      What's your point here?

      That a part similar to a small portion of a rocket motor was used previously by government (who probably just modified some other design first uses by the Germans does not mean the the Falcon Heavy was funded by Adolf Hitler.

      The launch facilities are where the government insists that they must be. You don't get to drive a super secret Government payload out to some dirt field in west texas.

      --
      No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by khallow on Sunday February 11 2018, @05:15AM

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Sunday February 11 2018, @05:15AM (#636267) Journal

      Providing a lower cost solution is great, but lets be realistic about the "zero cost to the taxpayer" claims.

      I'd take your post seriously, if you actually were to come up with such a cost. A sunk cost from last century is not a cost today - that money is gone no matter if Falcon Heavy exists or not. And where's the government incentive for Falcon Heavy? Word is they didn't spend a thing on Falcon Heavy development. As to the launch facilities, sure, no word on how much SpaceX and all those visitors spent - but it was probably a lot. No one has said that SpaceX didn't cover the costs of the launch.

  • (Score: 4, Funny) by MichaelDavidCrawford on Sunday February 11 2018, @02:37AM (3 children)

    by MichaelDavidCrawford (2339) Subscriber Badge <mdcrawford@gmail.com> on Sunday February 11 2018, @02:37AM (#636222) Homepage Journal

    What I want to know is how many coconut-laden swallows can SLS launch to interstellar space.

    --
    Yes I Have No Bananas. [gofundme.com]
    • (Score: 3, Touché) by Azuma Hazuki on Sunday February 11 2018, @03:26AM (2 children)

      by Azuma Hazuki (5086) on Sunday February 11 2018, @03:26AM (#636243) Journal

      African or European?

      --
      I am "that girl" your mother warned you about...
      • (Score: 3, Funny) by maxwell demon on Sunday February 11 2018, @07:27AM (1 child)

        by maxwell demon (1608) on Sunday February 11 2018, @07:27AM (#636297) Journal

        Caribbean. You were asking about the coconuts, right? :-)

        --
        The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 11 2018, @02:48AM (6 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 11 2018, @02:48AM (#636227)

    As Obama was the one who pumped NASA's space budget into SpaceX, does this mean the tax payer will cease to fund this private corporation's space exporation?

    It would only makes sense. The tax payer is receiving nothing out of this program except another commercial service for those who can afford it. Private media companies are also profiting as they have new news to publish and sell to the tax payer.

    How many billions did Musk's car division lose last financial year?

    • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 11 2018, @02:58AM (2 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 11 2018, @02:58AM (#636236)

      Some call it "handouts", some call it "investment". Judging by the success, some might even call it a "successful investment".

      And then there are those who're more than happy to stay in the hicks and let China and India explore and colonize space...

      • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 11 2018, @06:18AM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 11 2018, @06:18AM (#636281)

        Hey, AC! Your post is in need of repairs! Not space worthy yet! Let me help.

        Some call it "handouts", some call it "investment". Judging by the success, some might even call it a "successful investment". Or, some might call it a "successful handout".

        There, FTFY. But wait, there is more!

        And then there are those who are who're whores more than happy to stay in the hicks of Texas and explore and colonize space...

        My work here is done. No thanks necessary. See you on Mars Colony!

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Sunday February 11 2018, @03:07AM (1 child)

      by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Sunday February 11 2018, @03:07AM (#636238) Journal

      If the military wants to launch a satellite or NASA wants to send cargo or astronauts to the ISS, why shouldn't they use a private American company? NASA is currently dependent on the Russians to get astronauts to the ISS, and the United Launch Alliance, which has received a lot more government funding than SpaceX ever has, provides expensive satellite launches. The Air Force, NRO, etc. can't do their jobs without an American launch provider. SpaceX now provides these launches much cheaper than what ULA can, and are a better deal for the taxpayer even after factoring in any non-launch cost funding they got for R&D.

      You should instead argue for defunding the Air Force, NRO, or the ISS program (which President Trump has committed us to for the duration of his first and second terms).

      Oh no, DARPA is funding Nvidia [nextplatform.com]!

      --
      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 11 2018, @03:33AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 11 2018, @03:33AM (#636249)

        NASA has pretty much NOT built any of their rockets. It has almost always been third party. RocketDyne, Lockhead, Martin, etc. NASA has basically done a lot of design assistance and LOTS of mangment. In recent times they have outsourced the design too.

    • (Score: 1) by khallow on Sunday February 11 2018, @05:17AM

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Sunday February 11 2018, @05:17AM (#636268) Journal

      As Obama was the one who pumped NASA's space budget into SpaceX, does this mean the tax payer will cease to fund this private corporation's space exporation?

      I'd take such a complaint seriously, if you would put in a word against SLS which is far more the corporate welfare handout. After all, SpaceX has never been on a cost plus contract. It gets paid for doing stuff instead of for having costs.

  • (Score: 2) by requerdanos on Sunday February 11 2018, @02:56AM (2 children)

    by requerdanos (5997) Subscriber Badge on Sunday February 11 2018, @02:56AM (#636234) Journal

    Wait, what? Perhaps we are dealing with a mix of adult and juvenile elephants?

    This measurement latency comes up with both elephants and school buses [soylentnews.org] when some genius decides to use either (or both!) as units of measure instead of large animal and mode of transportation, respectively.

    At least they are not arguing over how many Egyptian Titanosaurs [soylentnews.org] or Libraries of Congress [wikipedia.org] they can launch into orbit.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 11 2018, @03:04AM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 11 2018, @03:04AM (#636237)

      It's actually a mix of Walmart elephants and sysadmin elephants.

      (... measurement *latency*?)

      • (Score: 2) by requerdanos on Sunday February 11 2018, @03:15AM

        by requerdanos (5997) Subscriber Badge on Sunday February 11 2018, @03:15AM (#636240) Journal

        measurement *latency*?

        If you're measuring something with a ruler whose momentary length fluctuates by a significant fraction of its mean length, the difference between the shortest length (or smallest measurement) and longest length (or largest measurement) is the measurement latency.

        This does not come up very often, as it is normally a value so small as to be unnoticed or insignificant. But when one uses Elephants or Locomotives or Airplanes as one's unit of measurement, the very definition of the length, width, mass, displacement and so on of which are very much open to widely varying interpretation, it becomes ever more a factor.

        Also, I am making this up as I go along.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 11 2018, @03:57AM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 11 2018, @03:57AM (#636255)

    NASA is only as good as the pool of contractors supporting it.
    Technically, this was getting heartbreakingly bad, but SpaceX has greatly improved the situation.
    NASA set up this situation and hopefully will benefit from it with some new thinking.

    ULA still has contracts, political support, and old school govt jobs depending on it.
    I would not count this ecosystem out yet, but I would expect it to take a lesson from this reality check on what is possible.

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Sunday February 11 2018, @04:35AM (1 child)

      by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Sunday February 11 2018, @04:35AM (#636259) Journal

      ULA is taking a few lessons, such as partial reusability [wikipedia.org] and in-orbit refueling [wikipedia.org].

      --
      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 11 2018, @02:43PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 11 2018, @02:43PM (#636353)

        One way to get lessons would be to look at the historical development timelines for Falcon and ULA.
        When were key paths chosen, designed, prototypes built, integration, testing, and first flight.
        Who did the work and how did the the coordination and decision process work.
        What resulted and did it fly?

        Key areas include fuel choice, engine architecture, turbopump, avionics, and s/w.
        I suspect in each area you would see dramatic differences in how the culture approaches an engineering problem.
        One is risk averse, study to death, and politically motivated work divisions which get in the way of getting the job done.
        The other is not, and the results are stunning.

        Killing ULA and starting fresh will loose a lot of knowledge in the technology and how not to apply it.
        It is lot easier to learn from your own mistakes than those of others.

        The question is not what these folks do next.
        It is how do you recalibrate their culture so whatever they do is more useful?

        Starting Vulcan in 2014 and not having it flying now is not a recal.

  • (Score: 2) by realDonaldTrump on Sunday February 11 2018, @07:01AM

    by realDonaldTrump (6614) on Sunday February 11 2018, @07:01AM (#636292) Homepage Journal

    You never want just one bidder. Because he thinks he can screw you in the ass. And he expects you to say "thank you." And probably he can. And probably you do. Russia, China, Europe, India, North Korea. They do satellite, they can put up satellites. And they can put up ICBMs, because satellite and ICBM are very similar. And some, I assume, are good people. Not North Korea but the others. We don't want them putting up our spy satellites. Because they're the people we spy on a lot. Them and the USA. We want someone from the USA to put up our spy satellites. But not just one guy. Even if it's Elon Musk. He's a great guy, I love him to death. Very smart, he knew cyber cash was the future so he started PayPal. When the guy who did Bitcoin, probably, was still in diapers. But if we make him the only guy, he'll screw our magnificent NRO very painfully, like any good businessman would. Look at the folks who bought Tesla cars, they get screwed very royally.

    So we try to keep a second guy in business. And some people say, "oh we're wasting money." It looks like we're wasting money, we're not wasting money. It's very expensive. But it's much more expensive when you only have one guy bidding. He has your nuts in a vise, he's tightening it, he expects you to say "thank you." And you say it. What can you do? Believe me, it's Fifty Shades of Gray without the fun.

    Same thing with our nuclear arsenal. We can pay a lot of money to massively upgrade our arsenal, to make it so strong nobody will want to fight us. Not even a crazy guy. Or we can have a very weak arsenal and spend even more money on wars. Because we'll get into so many wars it'll make our heads spin. Having the best nuclear arsenal is not cheap. It's much cheaper than all those wars!

    The lady who suggested this, I'm sure she means well. Obama put her in, but let's say she means well. She's a little plain in the face. She's not a spy, she doesn't know what our spies need. And most importantly, she's not a General. She hasn't run a modern Military.

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Aiwendil on Sunday February 11 2018, @08:36AM

    by Aiwendil (531) on Sunday February 11 2018, @08:36AM (#636302) Journal

    Yes, it is time to defund it.

    Since they now have a "meh, it works" alternative then just defund it and pour that money into something daring.
    Spend that money on building a launch loop - if it fails you'd get a few craploads of new engineering techniqes out of it*, and if it succeeds you'd get even cheaper access to space.

    * = This is why we want NASA to do it, while it will be more expensive it will advance science and engineering a lot more than alternatives that tries to find the cheapest route. (The most interesting part with NASA has always been the tech they discover on the way, their actual missions are mostly PR by the point it gets attention (the second rush of research starts after it has faded from the public eye))

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 11 2018, @12:07PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 11 2018, @12:07PM (#636336)

    Who owns the tech? If Musk/SpaceX own their own tech, what's to stop them raising prices 9x? If NASA owns the SLS and heavy lift tech, they will benefit from future improvements?

    • (Score: 1) by khallow on Sunday February 11 2018, @04:59PM

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Sunday February 11 2018, @04:59PM (#636380) Journal
      There are plenty of other launch providers in the world. For example, the US could launch on the Ariane 5 or 6 without a serious compromise of security.
  • (Score: 2) by turgid on Sunday February 11 2018, @02:19PM (1 child)

    by turgid (4318) on Sunday February 11 2018, @02:19PM (#636352) Journal

    Let Musk put up his prices. It's the Invisible Hand.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 12 2018, @06:14AM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 12 2018, @06:14AM (#636585)
    So which is more reliable?

    The cost of a launch is not the only thing. The cost of a launch failure matters too. If Musk is close with his guess of the 50% chance of succeeding then it might not be good enough.

    For example in some cases if you don't launch successfully at a particular window you have to wait years or maybe even longer for the next window. And you often don't have enough money, resources and time to build backup versions of the same thing.

    Not saying NASA will be more reliable[1], just pointing out there are other costs. I personally think NASA have been mostly a waste of tax money for the past two decades or so.

    [1] The shuttle was a crap design if you're only intend to take things up. But it was designed to take things down as well.
(1)