AHC: A better post-Shuttle rocket program

Since the early years of this century, NASA has been struggling to turn Shuttle-derived hardware into a heavy lift vehicle. It hasn't gone well. Underfunding, politically imposed design decisions and a lack of a clear purpose has resulted in a slow-motion disaster which looks bound to deliver a rocket that is obsolete on arrival.

With so much going wrong, it's easy to imagine how things might have gone better. I am curious how much better people can see it going though.

I would have thought the ideal would be a program based around the use of the Atlas V or Delta IV - the Atlas V had some especially favourable upgrade paths if heavy lift was the goal. The Delta IV upgrade pathways have their own advantages though. For example, using a US-sourced engine and (according to this document) the Delta IVs were likely to be less expensive per kg of payload. And even the base Delta IV and Atlas V could have supported a program with a space station and using Orion capsules in orbit.

However, does anyone think there is a way to get a useful outcome out of a shuttle-derived program before 2018? Would following a pathway like DIRECT advocated really have been sufficiently better than the Ares program that Jupiter rockets would be flying useful payloads by the present? Were there other pathways that would produce useful outcomes?

fasquardon
 
I think the most important question that needs to be answered is, "Where is the rocket supposed to go."

Even though we don't have payloads for SLS, we know that it's supposed to maximize lift to the Moon and Mars. This decision to focus on beyond-LEO operations also drove the size of the Orion spacecraft; an LEO-only capsule would be much smaller. Something the size of a Dragon 2 might be able to fly on an Atlas V 402 (no solids!), while something like the CRV or Dream Chaser would use a 552. The Ares program did not plan to leave LEO ops to commercial providers, and that decision was primarily a result of that program's failure.

I think it's entirely possible that NASA could have started work on a Shuttle-replacement LEO crew vehicle designed to fly on the Atlas V (the Delta IV would be significantly more expensive to human-rate) sometime in the mid-2000s, which would mean a gap of only a few years after the end of the Shuttle program. However, this development cycle would not be sufficient to allow the LEO vehicle to immediately be capable of BLEO ops.

The bigger problem is the fact that NASA doesn't have the funding to simultaneously sustain the ISS, an LEO vehicle, and a deep-space HSF program. You can essentially only pick two, and the LEO vehicle is useless without the ISS. The ISS support capability that Orion and Ares I were supposed to have was essentially a side-effect of the distributed launch concept that Ares was using for the lunar missions, and that would have been significantly more expensive than just designing a vehicle to meet the minimum requirements of ISS support (of course, such a vehicle would be useless for the lunar mission).
 
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Orion probably would have been ready years ago if its requirements didn't start over from scratch every three or four years (started ~2006, extensively light weighted in 2008 to accommodate Ares I under-performance, cancelled and resurrected in 2010, switched to European service module in 2011 just as the American one was closing in on ready.

Similarly, there's some valid reasons that A DIRECT Jupiter might have been ready faster than SLS. First, there's a smaller workforce gap, so more experienced workforce still on hand. Second, they'd avoid the wait for 5-segment SRB qualification. Third, the Jupiter DIRECT managed to get away with playing very tight to the structural margins of the Shuttle ET (their numbers only had about a safety factor of 1.1 in the tank domes, IIRC< compared to a standard of 1.2). When you stretch the core and add more SRB thrust to make SLS, you lose that margin, and hence SLS needs new manufacturing tooling to handle beefier base materials.

Neither of these necessarily fix the management issues, though. They only really reduce the technical problems that the management has had so much trouble handling.
 
I think the most important question that needs to be answered is, "Where is the rocket supposed to go."

For sure. And I can't really think of a goal that would gather much political support. I suspect that the program would mostly be dependent on the desire to retain capacity and jobs and on the vague desire to go back to the moon.

Maybe an alternative path could open up if NASA or the Bush administration get interested in considering what will come after the ISS needs replaced (at the time the Constellation program was proposed, that would be some time in mid-2016)? Or perhaps the VSE is less ambitious and focuses on the moon and Earth orbit - on building infrastructure in space - and leaves a manned Mars mission out.

Certainly, not sizing the LV for Mars missions might mean it could actually be completed, not stuck in development hell.

I think it's entirely possible that NASA could have started work on a Shuttle-replacement LEO crew vehicle designed to fly on the Atlas V (the Delta IV would be significantly more expensive to human-rate) sometime in the mid-2000s, which would mean a gap of only a few years after the end of the Shuttle program. However, this development cycle would not be sufficient to allow the LEO vehicle to immediately be capable of BLEO ops.

According to a ULA study requested by Mike Griffin when he was NASA head, the costs would line up like this

Delta IV H Atlas V H
Pad modifications $750 mil $350 mil
Development 0 $350 mil
Human-rating $400 mil $200 mil

NASA disputed the numbers at the time, though it didn't really explain why. Source here.

Overall, the Atlas V heavy is $250 million cheaper to get ready to launch an Orion into LEO. And while it's true that both aren't cheap to human-rate, they aren't especially expensive either - in both cases it is less than the pad modifications cost.

I suspect that while Atlas V super-heavies (phase 2 and phase 3 of Lockheed Martin's plans for the Atlas) would take a few years to appear, they'd be available much sooner than the Delta IV-derived super-heavies.

The bigger problem is the fact that NASA doesn't have the funding to simultaneously sustain the ISS, an LEO vehicle, and a deep-space HSF program. You can essentially only pick two, and the LEO vehicle is useless without the ISS. The ISS support capability that Orion and Ares I were supposed to have was essentially a side-effect of the distributed launch concept that Ares was using for the lunar missions, and that would have been significantly more expensive than just designing a vehicle to meet the minimum requirements of ISS support (of course, such a vehicle would be useless for the lunar mission).

It's kinda sad looking at old NASA documents from 2005, when they thought their budget would keep up with inflation.

One of the things that I do wonder is if part of that is because their program of record has been such a fustercluck. Certainly I do get a sense of "why throw good money after bad" when I read discussions on the Constellation program and the SLS.

fasquardon
 
I’m partial to a side-mount architecture myself. It maximizes commonality with existing Shuttle infrastructure (so in theory you could even have side-mount SDHLV flights before Shuttle retirement, in parallel), has some upgrade potential with RSRMV and more engines, has room for recovering the SSMEs (even if that was not the plan), and gives you a good 70-80 tonnes to LEO to start. If that vehicle flies by 2011, Obama could easily reorient it toward asteroid missions—ARM, or a native-orbit mission with Orion. The twenty years of lost time with Ares/SLS will be avoided. Trump could then point it back at the Moon if it strikes his fancy.

The point is, with the planned 4-6 year authorization-to-flight timetable and huge margins over Orion, a side-mount architecture could have its work done mostly before Obama’s inauguration.
 
One of Biggest Problems of Post Shuttle program, the Constellation Program, it's was too big.
It Offering Ares a Medium and Heavy Launcher,
the Ares Medium build from Shuttle Solid and New Upper stage that needed New Hydrolox engine in size of J-2
the Ares Heavy based on Shuttle hardware, but build completely new from scratch.
next to that the Orion Spacecraft and Lunar lander.

Constellation was dead on Arrival, too expensive , too ambition, consider by Capitol Hill.
what survived was SLS, the Orion Capsule (with European Service module) and the post ISS "Lunar Gateway station" to give SLS a reason to be...

But What If NASA was less ambition and offered a fast Program to Replace the Shuttle, with a Shuttle derivative Rocket ?
I know allot of people say now: DIRECT JUPITER
But not that style, like Jupiter, but more like Energia or Shuttle-C, the two Solid booster, the ET and Pod with 3xRS-68 Engines, then upper stage with Cargo or Orion spacecraft. for mission to ISS.

The R&D cost on that Shuttle would be lower as Ares or Jupiter rockets, since only the orbiter would be replaced with a Pod
 
Looking at NASA's own post-Constellation appraisal, besides getting underfunded from the start, Constellation also suffered from not enough testing of hardware early on and too many cooks spoiling the broth.

I wonder if there is any way for NASA to abandon the "10 healthy centers" mantra and centralize its operations (or at least, centralize the operations of the Constellation program) on fewer centers. It's hard to see that happening though. Even the 10 healthy centers drive was a downsizing and NASA has been fighting to retain capability ever since the end of Apollo.

On the other hand, more test-launches might be doable.

fasquardon
 
Get the X-33 to perform better and push for dual-use hardware more. Lobby for a totally modular single system from the beginning. Make the Space Force or substitute angle for a shuttle-esque vehicle to deliver 20-40 troops anywhere in the world in 6 hours time or something equally nuts. Get military funding more overtly into NASA-applicable R&D and man-rate it with China and Russia as competitors/rivals/etc.
 
I would have thought the ideal would be a program based around the use of the Atlas V or Delta IV - the Atlas V had some especially favourable upgrade paths if heavy lift was the goal. The Delta IV upgrade pathways have their own advantages though. For example, using a US-sourced engine and (according to this document) the Delta IVs were likely to be less expensive per kg of payload.
That's surprising, I'd always been under the impression that the Delta IV Medium was more expensive than the Atlas V.

If for whatever reason Lockheed Martin did develop the Atlas V Heavy—they received a waiver from the DoD for that part of the EELV contract—then it likely means they also spend the $300 million or so to build a west coast launch pad. That means they can meet all of the reference orbits and potentially at a cheaper price, so when Boeing is caught with their hand so egregiously in the cookie jar it could create some interesting knock-ons. Could Boeing lose all of their Buy 1 launches, or would the DoD finagle some way to give them a bare minimum of launches to keep them ticking over?


This decision to focus on beyond-LEO operations also drove the size of the Orion spacecraft; an LEO-only capsule would be much smaller.
IIRC there was a proposal for an Orion Light—confusingly identically named as a completely different proposal—for merely orbital flights where they stripped out all of the long-range equipment. No idea what sort of mass that would take it down to.
 
Get the X-33 to perform better and push for dual-use hardware more.

I can't see the X-33 ever performing well enough to matter. The project was to develop a sub-orbital vehicle, and even that ran into the limits of materials technology.

The X-34 program might produce a successor to the shuttle though.

That's surprising, I'd always been under the impression that the Delta IV Medium was more expensive than the Atlas V.

Now that I look at the PDF again, I was comparing the Atlas 541 with the Delta IV heavy. the Delta IV heavy has much more lifting capability, so it isn't too surprising that the cost/kg of payload is less. Economies of scale.

Also, if you look through the linked PDF, or any other document with detailed information on launch costs, and you'll see that the actual cost for real launches varies widely even for things using the same specification of rocket. Service costs for the special requirements of some missions can add alot to the overall launch costs. So comparing a mission with expensive service charges to a mission to launch a payload with less special requirements can lead to misunderstanding the true cost - and I may have done that as well. It's hard to say what apple-to-apple comparisons are appropriate, because costing of USAF/DoD/NRO launches is rather opaque to outsiders (indeed, part of what the customer is paying ULA for is information security).

If for whatever reason Lockheed Martin did develop the Atlas V Heavy—they received a waiver from the DoD for that part of the EELV contract—then it likely means they also spend the $300 million or so to build a west coast launch pad. That means they can meet all of the reference orbits and potentially at a cheaper price, so when Boeing is caught with their hand so egregiously in the cookie jar it could create some interesting knock-ons. Could Boeing lose all of their Buy 1 launches, or would the DoD finagle some way to give them a bare minimum of launches to keep them ticking over?

Why didn't Lockheed Martin develop the Atlas V heavy?

fasquardon
 
I can't see the X-33 ever performing well enough to matter. The project was to develop a sub-orbital vehicle, and even that ran into the limits of materials technology.
The whole X-33 affair was very weird. IIRC they ran into problems with the composite tanks coming apart under pressure test—something which the engineers had predicted and therefore built aluminium lithium versions that actually turned out to be lighter, a bonus since the aerospike's ramps had suffered some weight growth—so they were planning on using the alternatives. I'm not sure if that was enough to counteract the centre of gravity problems that had cropped up or whether a redesign was likely to be needed but that's another problem. There were disagreements between Lockheed Martin and NASA over who should pay for the further development of the composite tanks, but that all became academic when a NASA official was appearing before Congress and stated that the programme could only go ahead with composite tanks as using the Al-Li ones would invalidate the testing of all the new technologies included in the vehicle.


Why didn't Lockheed Martin develop the Atlas V heavy?
I don't know, it may simply have been that they didn't think there would be enough business to recoup the needed investment. Not sure when the DoD change from the original EELV programme plan of down-selecting to a single launch vehicle and letting the commercial launch market pick up the slack.
 

DougM

Donor
NASA has three major problems.
1). No direction. They need to find a direction and stick with it.
2). Lack of budget. They need a consistent predictable budget and ideally a bigger budget
3). It is a bureaucracy. That means it has to many people and to many locations and everything else that goes with it.

Basically NASA is trying to pretend it is still 1966 and it wants to keep all its people and all its sub contractors and keep all the various politicians happy by keeping work in way to many locations and awarding contracts based on politics vs what is best for NASA.

Assuming you can fix that mess (not going to happen but let’s say you do)

But the realy problem (That was in many ways a result of the above problems) was no real plan and a bad plan when it had any plan at all.

In an ideal world (which NASA can’t aford) is for NASA to not even try for the X33. But to go for something like the Dynosour and stick a baby shuttle style crew ship on top of the smallest cheapest practical rocket that will get a crew of about 4 to the ISS. And you make sure this thing has an abort or ejection option in case things go wrong, this is a Taxi and has one job get people to space and back safely
Then they need to do an upgrade on the Shuttle ideally making it autonomous or remote control, And then use the Shuttle for what it was being a truck.
Once those two are done you ONLY use Shuttle for things that nothing else you have is able to do. Heavy (ish) lifting or returning to earth. You use the Crew Craft for people.
Once you have that you go for a STS based heavy lift option that does not need to actually use Shuttle. Hopefully this is a bit more dependable and safer and ideally cheaper.
When you get that you relegate the Shuttle to missions that need a return ability or as a mobile repair base for things like fixing Hubble.
Now once you have these three options that are designed for spicific needs you can start making things better by upgrading them. Perhaps with a new booster or what have you. But you gradually phase in improvements. Once you have better rockets then you can replace the Shuttle. I would recommend that you build a large payload craft that is remote operated that sits on top of the rocket. This is a winged craft that can lift and return payload but that does nothing else.
Once you have that you pari the Shuttle,
Now you have three options. A crew taxi designed to maximize the protection of the crew. A medium lift and return option for missions that need that (and you can probably get away with two of those) and you have the heavy lift option you pull out when you need to do something big like add onto or replace the ISS.
And you let the smaller systems take up pretty much all commercial loads.

Note I am not saying you need to do exactly this or that you can aford to do this but you need to do something like it. You need to streamline NASA and make you choices based on what is best and not what is politically expedient. To best use the budget you have. You need to slowly and steadily improve what you have vs try to design something new from scratch that will have its own brand new issues that you won’t discover until you try to use it.
And the US needs to give NASA a budget that will allow it to do this or we need to basically shut NASA down. Because this method we are using today is a huge waste of money and is dangerous to people and embarrassing to the country.
But you need to clean the mess up. Make a plan and pay for it.
 
Now that I look at the PDF again, I was comparing the Atlas 541 with the Delta IV heavy. the Delta IV heavy has much more lifting capability, so it isn't too surprising that the cost/kg of payload is less. Economies of scale.
Cost per kg to GTO generally favors hydrogen LVs like Delta IV over vehicles with RP-1 and solids because they have a better mass fraction. Cost per kg may be useful if you are looking to optimize a payload for a specific LV class or if you are launching mass (fuel, food and water). However, because we know that a LEO crew shuttle might weigh about 15 tons, the fact that a D-IVH can lift 25 tons to LEO for $400 million doesn't matter much if we can use a smaller A-V 542 to lift our 15 ton vehicle for about $200 to $250 million. The D-IV's problem in this context, beyond being a hydrogen LV and therefore inherently more expensive than an Atlas, is that any LEO payload over 12 tons has to fly on a D-IVH (unless you want to develop an M+(5,6) or M+(5,8) with a brand new core design), while the A-V design provides more flexibility in the 10 - 20 ton range.

Why didn't Lockheed Martin develop the Atlas V heavy?
The DoD decided that the low flight rate for D-IVH (one every year or two) did not justify the cost of developing a similar LV. LockMart said they could do it with 30 months lead time if a customer asked for it, but new heavy missions after 2015 would have to wait for Vulcan.

In an ideal world (which NASA can’t aford) is for NASA to not even try for the X33. But to go for something like the Dynosour and stick a baby shuttle style crew ship on top of the smallest cheapest practical rocket that will get a crew of about 4 to the ISS. And you make sure this thing has an abort or ejection option in case things go wrong, this is a Taxi and has one job get people to space and back safely

Among other elements (like the Habitat Module), the USOS was supposed to include a "Crew Return Vehicle" to fulfill the emergency lifeboat role that Soyuz capsules ended up completing. This project eventually became the X-38 test program, which got to drop tests before being canceled when USOS was scaled down to Core Complete in the early 2000s. The CONOPS was to launch a fresh vehicle and its docking module on the Shuttle every few years. However, the vehicle would have been similar in size to the earlier HL-20 and Hermes concepts and later Orbital Space Plane and DreamChaser, so crewed launch on an EELV-class launcher with some modifications would probably not be out of the question.
 
The shuttles were due to be replaced in the early 2000s but weren't due to budget cuts.
( Thank you Newt Gingrich)
The shuttles were retired due to metal fatigue in the airframes.
Advanced warning of pending budget cuts and the metal fatigue issue would have been necessary to improve NASA's rocket program.
 
I wonder if Lockheed Martin don't settle out of court, would it be plausible to have Boeing loose all DoD launches for a few years, or at least enough that they are pushed to offer NASA cut-price launches (and lobby heavily for NASA to use the Delta IV more)...

It seems unlikely to me that Boeing would ever get much in the way of punishment, but if Boeing took a big financial hit, I could see their lobbyists out-doing the ATK lobbyists for "NASA MUST use our hardware or the company will implode!"

fasquardon
 
Fasquadron wrote:
Since the early years of this century, NASA has been struggling to turn Shuttle-derived hardware into a heavy lift vehicle. It hasn't gone well. Underfunding, politically imposed design decisions and a lack of a clear purpose has resulted in a slow-motion disaster which looks bound to deliver a rocket that is obsolete on arrival.

With so much going wrong, it's easy to imagine how things might have gone better. I am curious how much better people can see it going though.

I would have thought the ideal would be a program based around the use of the Atlas V or Delta IV - the Atlas V had some especially favourable upgrade paths if heavy lift was the goal. The Delta IV upgrade pathways have their own advantages though. For example, using a US-sourced engine and (according to this document) the Delta IVs were likely to be less expensive per kg of payload. And even the base Delta IV and Atlas V could have supported a program with a space station and using Orion capsules in orbit.

However, does anyone think there is a way to get a useful outcome out of a shuttle-derived program before 2018? Would following a pathway like DIRECT advocated really have been sufficiently better than the Ares program that Jupiter rockets would be flying useful payloads by the present? Were there other pathways that would produce useful outcomes?

You’ve been to NSF right? ::::grin::::

Though Not James Stockdale has he right question:
I think the most important question that needs to be answered is, "Where is the rocket supposed to go."

You have however identified the ACTUAL important question; What is the politically supported outcome?

To be honest the SLS has always been politically, not mission, not engineering and not goal oriented. Period. Our Utah Congress and Senate critters in fact were quite proud that THEY (after due consultation with “experts in their field” who are never named, that sound familiar actually) had inserted as a requirement “130 tons/tonnes” (ya, they were never clear which btw, not even to NASA) as a payload stipulation in the authorization and funding bill. What grand and glorious payload was planned for this? None. The entire reason that payload was stipulated was because the afore mentioned “experts” told them that was the minimum that would REQUIRE the Solid Rocket Boosters being built in Utah. Again, period.

No other reason. And this was despite the initial Congressionally mandated “requirements” to use “as much Shuttle legacy hardware, contractors, sub-contractors, and operations” as possible.

Think about how that effects what you can plan and do when, in addition to all the above you have those in charge of the funding, (Congress btw not the President, the latter recommends the budget the former approves AND decides how to spend the budget up to and including a line-item veto and rearrangement power that allows them to do things like ‘defund’ say long-term life-support research and transfer the funding to build a multi-lingual visitors center which is completed but never opened… You might imagine that’s a real example) who have made it very clear they will not and do not support BLEO operations or planning. Oh they talk of the Moon as long as someone, (the President) is talking Mars but the second the President talks about the Moon then they fall back to supporting LEO operations and so on.

Similarly your question:
I wonder if there is any way for NASA to abandon the "10 healthy centers" mantra and centralize its operations (or at least, centralize the operations of the Constellation program) on fewer centers.

As you point out NASA in fact is struggling to maintain what it has because those “10 healthy centers” along with the various contractors and support groups are the only thing Congress actually cares about. If you recall a couple of years ago there was a bit of stir about funding a competitive study and contracts for replacing the SRB’s with LRB’s? That was because Alabama and Florida Congress-critters thought that Utah’s senior Congressman might either not run or not be re-elected. If that happened then ATK’s biggest proponent would be unable to tilt the scales and both states thought that LRB’s might be built there.

Congress has no specific requirement for SLS to fly, arguably they don’t even need it to be built but as recent events show they have to keep in mind the possibility that someone will eventually want to know, since we’ve spent so much money, when such an event might take place.

Now with all that as a background let me also point out that since Congress DOES actually care about LEO/GEO launches, (mostly Department of Defense of course) and nothing NASA is going to build and operate, (remember “130 tons/tonnes”) is going to service that mission then they have to take interest in those payloads as well. Hence the EELV program and its current “commercial” operations game. The ONE thing that both Congress and NASA management has been adamant about is NOT using “commercial” medium or heavy lift for the main NASA mission planning. That is strictly SLS when and if it happens. Meanwhile Congress tends to ‘award’ other missions based somewhat on what the DoD actually says it needs, followed a distant second by costs.

In addressing that btw:

Fasquadron wrote:
I would have thought the ideal would be a program based around the use of the Atlas V or Delta IV - the Atlas V had some especially favourable upgrade paths if heavy lift was the goal. The Delta IV upgrade pathways have their own advantages though. For example, using a US-sourced engine and (according to this document) the Delta IVs were likely to be less expensive per kg of payload. And even the base Delta IV and Atlas V could have supported a program with a space station and using Orion capsules in orbit.

Neither the Atlas nor Delta were a “NASA” program or design so they weren’t considered. Specifically because they don’t use “legacy” Shuttle hardware, systems or contractors/sub-contractors. (Again that’s enshrined in the relevant authorization bill, NASA is not given a choice here) They can be used in a limited fashion for testing and qualification but NOT for operations. Especially not for manned missions. (Commercial Crew gives some wiggle room but that’s ONLY for possible LEO services)

And the cited document in fact notes that the Delta-IV is in fact NOT cheaper than the Atlas was even with American engines. (The ambiguity is related to how much said engines would require in R&D and operation) And again politics had been involved with decisions there too. Even before the engine issues with the Atlas the Air Force had been directed to procure only Delta-IV and Delta-IV Heavy flights, (SpaceX protested and won the right to fly some Falcon-9 missions later on) and to NOT select to utilize any Atlas missions. While many assumed this down-select would cause a crisis with LM it was pointed out that at the time LM already had a full commercial Atlas manifest and they frankly didn’t NEED the DoD contracts. (NASA was not forced to ‘choose’) This of course has changed a bit. Not as much as you’d think though as the majority of DoD flights will use the Delta-IV/Heavy as it is not commercially competitive.

It has been pointed out numerous times by advocates of both boosters that a possible NASA or commercial use manned spacecraft, (Starliner, Dragon, Dreamchaser, etc) could fly on either the Delta-IV Heavy or an Atlas V variant (Falcon-9 kinda goes without saying) but NASA will not commit to anything but a few limited missions to the ISS and is steadfast that Orion will carry all official and BLEO mission crews. Likely on an SLS.

E of Pi is quite correct in that DIRECT’s Jupiter LV was probably the best way forward despite the lower materials safety factor, (arguably since it used a capsule with launch escape system it was worlds more ‘safe’ than the Shuttle) and would have been available sooner. But again it came down to what did the politicians want and despite what they said they (Congress and therefore NASA management) had no requirement for an ‘early’ operational vehicle. So why not take the time and build what you “want” rather than what you might have sooner but is less ‘capable’ in the long run?

As noted the main “driver” for SLS is political not mission so the main issue will remain finding a ‘reason’ to build a better system. Something to keep in mind is that while folks like DIRECT and others had actually been pointing out that LVs like Jupiter, Delta-IV Heavy and Atlas V Heavy would be compatible with manned LEO launch missions, (all over-qualified of course but…) they could also carry substantial re-supply and/or new station modules to the ISS. Both Bush and Griffin were assuming and planning to have the ISS deorbited very soon into the then Constellation/VSE planning. They had no plans or need for ISS servicing until Congress intervened and declared that they WOULD include ISS support in any future NASA plans.

As Congress had no intention, (still hasn’t) of actually authorizing or supporting a return to the Moon let alone Mars, (they are finally facing the fact that once SLS is actually available it will have to have payloads but you’ll notice the lack of funding for those is still an issue) the actual ‘mission’ of the SLS remains unclear at best. And it was Congress that very explicitly did not support either the SEI or the VSE or really any BLEO mission. Yet that same Congress is clear that “NASA astronauts” will likely fly “somewhere” on a ‘NASA spacecraft” at “some” time and ONE of those spacecraft will (bylaw) be SLS.

That’s all about politics and keeping the politicians happy.
As Sydney Camm (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BAC_TSR-2) so rightly put it and to paraphrase:
“All modern aircraft (and spacecraft) have four dimensions: span, length, height and politics”
You can get the first three right all you want, even throw in cost and most of the time what comes out will be determined by that fourth factor alone.

Now getting into AH, (see, trying to get back on ‘subject’ really I am :) ) what you need is a plausible reason for Congress to actually support a near-term Shuttle derived vehicle rather than a long-term program like going to Mars under the SEI. THE problem is that while the Shuttle was limited to LEO quite obviously any SDHLV, (like Jupiter) is not by simple inclusion of propulsion stages in the ‘stack’. In the former case Congress could easily limit the capability by not funding certain aspects, (such as the long list of “Return to the Moon” proposals since the Shuttle first flew) while the latter could somewhat be handled in a similar manner with care. But sooner or later you have to get directly involved, (like not funding the Altair lander and reducing any funding for any “lander” planning which is currently the case) and it is questionable how long that can be done without raising questions. (Arguably quite a while I guess if OTL is any indication)

But, let’s say there was a compelling reason that came up and Congress was not only willing but eager for a short-term solution to replacing the Shuttles general capability.

“General” because I have to point out that the Shuttle had two (2) priority design missions:
-1 Carry a large volume/mass payload to LEO
-2 Always fly with a crew

While it was stated that a “lesson learned” from Challenger was don’t mix crew and cargo (hence Ares-1 to carry crew and Ares-V to carry the payload even though it was a huge waste) in truth that wasn’t the whole truth. The actual lesson learned was not to carry both ON THE SHUTTLE since it had no crew escape system. But we went on to do just that for another 25 years anyway so…

So we need a reason which will ‘fly’ with Congress and a rather pressing need to do so as soon as possible. I’d suggest given the priority Congress placed on the ISS that could be a viable reason. Say there is a fire or major damage to the ISS and it is no longer capable of viable operation. The main question would be when this could plausibly happen at a point where Congress is willing to make replacing it a priority for NASA.

Griffin and Bush II have to be out otherwise this plays into their hands, they’d (Griffin at least, I’ve found no reason to support that Bush actually supported the VSE he suggested and he caved once Congress indicated they were opposed to it) planned on ditching the ISS anyway.

If we have Congress stand firm on replacing the ISS AND the Shuttle then something like DIRECT’s Jupiter looks very enticing. Specifically if it’s mandated to decouple it from manned flight. (On the Gripping Hand, Orion development benefits from having essentially unlimited mass to play with) Where things get dicey is once Jupiter is up and running it will become clear that once its ‘main’ mission of replacing the ISS is done that there is a LOT of potential inherent in the system that could be exploited.

Not that it hasn’t happened before mind you:
https://www.aiaa.org/uploadedfiles/...uttle_launches/shuttlevariationsfinalaiaa.pdf

But let’s assume both an earlier DIRECT is what comes out of the ESAS (Exploration Systems Architecture Study, 2005, LV24 crew and LV25 cargo versions) since it is ISS replacement rather than Lunar requirements that drive the program. (And again allow Congressional support this time around) Assume we get a 2006 approval, (probably have to override or fire Griffin but my heart is not broken) and development begins later that same year. In 2009 DIRECT was estimating that Jupiter could be flying operationally by 2013 so it would be aimed at having this version by late 2009 or early 2010? (OTL Bush declared in 2004 that the US sections/commitment would be complete by 2010. Congress has been constantly extending that date, currently to 2025) So it’s almost ready to fly by the time Obama takes office and without the bloat and hopefully somewhat on schedule cancelation is less likely. (And again, it’s Congress who actually decides the budget and spending anyway)

The Orion test flight was 2014 OTL but we’ll assume that without the redesigns and launcher related delays it should be ready earlier. (2008? Maybe pad it some and call it 2010 as well) So it is possible to test the first operational Jupiter, (assuming the name of course) and the first Orion at the same time. Call it the middle of 2010. So first quarter of 2011 sees the first segment of the “New International Space Station” (NISS) launched into orbit along with an Orion based assembly and work crew. Depending on who and how much other support than the US would probably be the driver for construction and operations. Call it mid-2013 for initial operating capability?

Randy
 
M79 wrote:
Get the X-33 to perform better and push for dual-use hardware more.

As noted the X-33 probably wouldn’t have worked as designed and LM likely knew that from the start. Further it was made clear by NASA that it was ONLY a technology testbed and the failure or delay of any part pretty much guaranteed it would get axed. (Point of fact the AF backed out when LM found that the X-33 would not be able to meet either altitude or speed goals set for the program, by the Air Force not NASA btw, due to not having composite tanks. The Al-Li tanks weren’t “lighter” at that scale actually. Now this is speculation BUT the original payload mass for the ‘test’ vehicle, which was to fly a weird trajectory from White Sands New Mexico to White Sands Utah, was about that same as the proposed “light-sat” and booster stage the Air Force and DARPA were playing with at the time. Once the X-33 payload shrank and it could not meet the speed and altitude goals the Air Force pulled out of the program…. :) )

Lobby for a totally modular single system from the beginning.

In theory the STS was a modular system. (See cited paper above) The problem is it was hugely expensive and not what the Air Force or DoD needed operationally. The Air Force was always reluctant to be involved and the DoD (Reconnaissance Office) had tried without success to get NASA to downsize the Shuttle to more fit their needs. (At the time the NRO was a deep secret and the “Air Force” was giving NASA numbers that NASA wanted rather that what the NRO needed)

Make the Space Force or substitute angle for a shuttle-esque vehicle to deliver 20-40 troops anywhere in the world in 6 hours time or something equally nuts.

“Hot Eagle” or SUSTAIN, (Small Unit Space Transport and Insertion) which WAS arguably ‘nuts’ on the face of it. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SUSTAIN_(military)) Not that it stopped anyone ever. (Von Braun proposed troop and supply delivery by Redstone and such) The main arguments against it still apply though. It’s not stealthy in any way, the vehicle is highly vulnerable to anti-air assets not to mention some guys in the landing are with an HMG or ManPAD, and the troops are ‘stuck’ once they arrive with limited to no support.

As for the Space Force despite what some might say we actually HAVE that already. The only thing lacking is “troops” which arguably there is no need for since we wouldn’t use them. (Sending guys into orbit to fight is a bit silly in most cases when you can launch a “kill” vehicle instead for vastly cheaper)

Get military funding more overtly into NASA-applicable R&D and man-rate it with China and Russia as competitors/rivals/etc.

Despite what is thought both China and Russia’s space programs were very much “military” rather than civilian until recently. (Arguably still are since the military still flies the spacecraft and operates the launch centers) The US is the only nation that at least tried to make their space program civilian in nature. The truth is there is little to no actual reason to have manned flights in a military space program which is why the Air Force’s manned space effort was finally canceled in the late 60s. Arguably the US military has proven you don’t need or really want “people” in space with the X-37.

Fasquadron wrote:
Why didn't Lockheed Martin develop the Atlas V heavy?

No reason to as the only customers, (NASA and the DoD) had not expressed interest in using it. The DoD had already ‘decided’ on the Delta-IV and Delta-IV Heavy and the Falcon-9. No commercial customer, (which was actually LM’s main assumed customer) needed that much capacity so why develop something no one is going to buy. (Or more importantly pay for)

Simon wrote:
Not sure when the DoD change from the original EELV program plan of down-selecting to a single launch vehicle and letting the commercial launch market pick up the slack.

Congress mandated the DoD down-select between Atlas V and Delta-IV and also “noted” that the DoD would do well not to select a launch vehicle that depended on “foreign” parts. (Kind of narrow’s the choice I think :) ) SpaceX protested the down-select, (initially not being considered) and won a few launches but really it all meant the Delta-IV was the ‘official’ DoD launch vehicle.

Not James Stockdale wrote:
Cost per kg to GTO generally favors hydrogen LVs like Delta IV over vehicles with RP-1 and solids because they have a better mass fraction. Cost per kg may be useful if you are looking to optimize a payload for a specific LV class or if you are launching mass (fuel, food and water). However, because we know that a LEO crew shuttle might weigh about 15 tons, the fact that a D-IVH can lift 25 tons to LEO for $400 million doesn't matter much if we can use a smaller A-V 542 to lift our 15 ton vehicle for about $200 to $250 million. The D-IV's problem in this context, beyond being a hydrogen LV and therefore inherently more expensive than an Atlas, is that any LEO payload over 12 tons has to fly on a D-IVH (unless you want to develop an M+(5,6) or M+(5,8) with a brand new core design), while the A-V design provides more flexibility in the 10 - 20 ton range.

Keeping in mind that a hydrogen LV (especially one with a hydrolox first stage) is less efficient at launch and gets far better with either a kerolox or solid boosters. (Even the D-IVH tends to be wasteful at launch even though it’s arguably overpowered with three cores) Upper stages or boosted LH2 stages are more expensive but more efficient. Then again SpaceX is still cheaper even though they could greatly benefit from a higher impulse upper stage. (I’ll just point out that cryo-propane fits into the same space as RP-1 with almost methane levels of ISP… Just saying :) )

Among other elements (like the Habitat Module), the USOS was supposed to include a "Crew Return Vehicle" to fulfill the emergency lifeboat role that Soyuz capsules ended up completing. This project eventually became the X-38 test program, which got to drop tests before being canceled when USOS was scaled down to Core Complete in the early 2000s. The CONOPS was to launch a fresh vehicle and its docking module on the Shuttle every few years. However, the vehicle would have been similar in size to the earlier HL-20 and Hermes concepts and later Orbital Space Plane and DreamChaser, so crewed launch on an EELV-class launcher with some modifications would probably not be out of the question.

Initially the HL20 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HL-20_Personnel_Launch_System) and later the HL42 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HL-42_(spacecraft) ) was supposed to use the “National Launch System” (NLS, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Launch_System) but it should have been possible to use either the Delta-IV or Atlas-V Heavy to launch it. The “Orbital Space Plane” (OSP, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orbital_Space_Plane_Program) As a note though something to keep in mind is that it was discovered during the HL, Hermes, and OSP programs that in fact small reentry vehicles are a lot harder than originally thought. Mass is very important because a ‘heavy’ small reentry shape has a MUCH higher heating rate than a “light” one. And manned systems are very consistently heavier than unmanned ones. (Hence the reason the OSP program actually accepted Boeing’s “reasoning” for submitting a capsule design rather than a “spaceplane” like the others. In fact LM admitted in their final report prior to the decision that a capsule met the given NASA requirements vastly better than their or anyone else’s “lifting” vehicle options. More to the point while LM actually changed their design to a hypersonic lifting body once they ‘won’ the competition and later switched to a capsule for Orion for much the same reasons. (All OSP’s were to fly on EELV’s)

(Page 5 of this LM report notes the Capsule fits the OSP requirements better than their lifting design btw:https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20030106071.pdf)

1994 Advanced Transportation Systems Study report:
https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19940028594.pdf

Randy
 
Politics, it all comes down to politics. At one time DARPA/USAF had a research effort called Black Horse and Black Colt. As I understand it they were looking at a winged vehicle that would take off with a partial fuel load, meet up with a tanker, fill up light the candle. The sub orbital aspect was looking at a second stage to boost priority psyloads. The orbiter aspect was basically a taxi. As with most projects it got axed either because the performance wasn't good enough, they needed the money elsewhere or simply politics. Would it have worked? Hell i don't know. But run it as an X program and get operational data from real world flight testing. The same with the X-33. NASA was deep enough into the program that IMO it should have been finished and had the test flight program run. It's like when NADA said they needed more study on zero gee for deep space missions and some sort of artificial gravity was suggested. The answer was, "but the mission profile is built around zero gee." We could have had data on artificial gee and what is appropriate or required 25 to thirty years ago. Carry two ETs to orbit couple them together at the nose with some sort of docking adaptor. One of the ETs is launched with the proposed hab jmodule on the bottom end. IIRC the volume was around the same as Skylab. The vehicle has one mission goal. Find out just how much gee you need to maintain health. We know zero gee is bad long term. We know 1 gee is fine. What we don't know is from zero gee to 1 gee is it a straight line. Or is it a curve that starts shallow and then climbs raidly the closer to 1 gee you get. Or is a curve the climbs rapidly and the levels off. If anybody can answer that question .or says they can I want to know where they got their data from. If and when there are manner missions to Mars or a return to the Moon we will need to know. Or do expect the crew of a Mars mission to hit the ground running after months in zero gee. One benefit of some type of spin gravity as that is the only option is on the return flight you can gradually go from ,33 gee up to 1 gee. NASA or rather how it's used by politicians is national embarrassment.
 
I wonder if Lockheed Martin don't settle out of court, would it be plausible to have Boeing loose all DoD launches for a few years, or at least enough that they are pushed to offer NASA cut-price launches (and lobby heavily for NASA to use the Delta IV more)...
As far as I'm aware Lockheed Martin's lawsuit and Boeing's 29 month suspension from bidding on government contracts were entirely separate, the latter coming from the DoD's own investigation into Boeing's behaviour. If Lockheed Martin have a heavy launch vehicle and west coast pad I think the worst that could happen would be Boeing losing all of the Buy 1 launches.


It seems unlikely to me that Boeing would ever get much in the way of punishment, but if Boeing took a big financial hit, I could see their lobbyists out-doing the ATK lobbyists for "NASA MUST use our hardware or the company will implode!"
IIRC when Lockheed Martin sued Boeing in the Florida courts they did so in part using anti-racketeering statutes arguing a pattern of corrupt behaviour as shown by the tanker scandal involving Darleen Druyun, the EELV programme, a similar case involving Raytheon back in the late 1990s, and I have vague memories of them also screwing a small contractor that manufactured satellite manufacturer which went bankrupt, that would have allowed them to claim triple the normal damages. Depending on how that was calculated that you could be talking billions. I think that would be the largest punishment they would face, I mean when they settled with the government they didn't even have to make an admission of liability.

They might not be able to argue that the company would implode, the aircraft and other divisions were simply too successful, but perhaps that without work the space launcher/missile divisions might be shut down. Considering that the programme to replace the Air Force's ICBMs was looming in the near future and the newly discovered enthusiasm for guaranteed access to space from two independent sources that could have some effect.
 
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