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posted by martyb on Friday March 09 2018, @03:55PM   Printer-friendly
from the pork-is-expensive dept.

Trump on Falcon Heavy: "I'm so used to hearing different numbers with NASA"

During a cabinet meeting on Thursday inside the White House, President Donald Trump called attention to several model rockets on the table before him. They included an Atlas V, a Falcon 9, a Space Launch System, and more. The president seemed enthused to see the launch vehicles. "Before me are some rocket ships," the president said. "You haven't seen that for this country in a long time."

Then, in remarks probably best characterized as spur of the moment, the president proceeded to absolutely demolish the government's own effort to build rockets by noting the recent launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket. He cited the cost as $80 million. (The list price on SpaceX's website is $90 million.)

"I noticed the prices of the last one they say cost $80 million," Trump said. "If the government did it, the same thing would have cost probably 40 or 50 times that amount of money. I mean literally. When I heard $80 million, I'm so used to hearing different numbers with NASA.''

NASA has not, in fact, set a price for flying the SLS rocket. But Ars has previously estimated that, including the billions of dollars in development cost, the per-flight fees for the SLS rocket will probably be close to $3 billion. Indeed, the development costs of SLS and its ground systems between now and its first flight could purchase 86 launches of the privately developed Falcon Heavy rocket. So President Trump's estimate of NASA's costs compared to private industry does not appear to be wildly off the mark.

[*] SLS: Space Launch System

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Safety Panel Raises Concerns Over SpaceX and Boeing Commercial Crew Plans
After the Falcon Heavy Launch, Time to Defund the Space Launch System?
Trump Administration Budget Proposal Would Cancel WFIRST
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NASA Moving to Scale Back the Space Technology Mission Directorate

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  • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Sunday March 11 2018, @02:34AM

    by Grishnakh (2831) on Sunday March 11 2018, @02:34AM (#650739)

    Frequently, facilities are put in those states not because it makes any actual sense, but because some politician wants to bring home the pork. If it makes the most technical and logistical sense to put it there, fine, but it frequently isn't the optimal location. This process usually results in spreading work out all across the country, instead of more efficiently concentrating it.

    Also, to get work done, you need people, usually with very specialized skills. You can't just plop a government facility someplace and expect people to come there; this isn't "Field of Government Dreams". You have to go where the workers are, at least when you have a competitive job market. If you build something out in bumfuck iowa or wherever, you could very well be missing out on more talented workers because they don't want to move to the boonies. There's a reason Musk put Tesla in Silicon Valley: there's a critical mass of tech workers there (plus an unused factory he could buy up cheap, but I'm really addressing the engineering here). I've seen this myself with the government: they just can't seem to figure out why they have a hard time getting experienced engineers to move to rural places where they thought it'd be a great idea to have a R&D facility. I guess it works OK if you're just looking for nuclear engineers (who don't have a lot of other commercial alternatives for work), but for software engineers in particular, it doesn't work that way. "Affordability" isn't very important when it comes to finding qualified workers. If NASA decided to do a ton of software work at the Stennis center, how much success do you think they'd have recruiting people? Not much. Slidell LA is the closest civilization within reasonable commuting distance (~30min), and that place is not going to attract many software engineers.

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