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View Diary: NASA, Charlie Bolden, and Breaking with the Past (28 comments)

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  •  I don't get all this "commercial" space stuff (2+ / 0-)
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    JeffW, radarlady

    Was North American Aviation a government agency. ? What about Boeing?  So we buy his rockets. Who cares?  It's not exactly precedent setting.  NASA likes to pretend that they are an engineering organization, but most of what they do is project and contract management.  

    •  It's a matter of emphasis and structure. (2+ / 0-)
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      xgy2, radarlady

      Prime contractor companies work like this:

      NASA details exactly what they want - not just the outcome, but the means toward that outcome - and they carefully monitor as the prime contractor designs a system to achieve it.  At every step, they impose changes on the system dictated either by technical or political requirements (e.g., they need a certain subcontractor to be given business to please a Congressman).  The contractor gets paid "cost plus" - i.e., however much it ends up costing them to build the thing, they end up getting that plus a guaranteed profit percentage.  In other words, there's no reason whatsoever for them to cut costs.

      That contracting model works when you're on the bleeding edge creating entirely new capabilities out of thin air that have no remote possibility of being developed privately.  But once you've proven you can do something, you have to move on and start finding ways to cut costs and increase volume.  

      That's commercial space: Companies that invest their own money, and contract on a fixed-price basis, so NASA agrees to a specific amount of money in advance for an outcome, not a product, and doesn't have much to say about how it's accomplished beyond basic safety requirements.  If the company goes over budget, that's their problem - they'll still only get paid what they were promised.  That's the incentive to cut costs, and it apparently works when it's in the hands of an innovative company.  

      Companies like Boeing and Lockheed don't know what to do with commercial spaceflight, they're so accustomed to being coddled and getting paid handsomely to do everything the same they've always done it.  That's why SpaceX is leaping ahead of them so fast.  Those other companies haven't invested their own money in advancing the technology in decades.  They've just passively sat around suckling at the public teat and never caring whether anything happens because of it.

      In Roviet Union, money spends YOU!

      by Troubadour on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 01:44:15 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yup (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Troubadour, radarlady

        Been in that game.  As you say it's a matter of emphasis and structure and those arguments have been going around for decades.  

        We're also still left with one problem:  Given a rocket, what the hell do we do with it.  

        •  The answers are awesome once you realize them. (2+ / 0-)
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          northstarbarn, radarlady

          Once we can go somewhere, where do we go?

          Everywhere.

          Once we go, what do we do with the capability?

          Everything.

          This is real, fundamental evolution stuff.  We're at a turning point like the first life crawling out of the sea onto land.

          In Roviet Union, money spends YOU!

          by Troubadour on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 01:57:41 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

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