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Friday, Vladislaw's diary Senator Bill Nelson: Not so fast President Obama
included some worrying personal news:

As many of you know, I live where it is flooding in Fargo, North Dakota. The 'Americans in Space' Diary is heading to the ... sighs ... not the stars, but to higher ground.

Unless I can wrangle something I will not be online, bending your ears, for 3-7 days.

Of course, Vladislaw and his family have our best wishes and we hope all in well as it remains uncertain whether the Red River has crested.

And in the meantime I will offer my own feeble efforts to stay the course, here at Daily Kos and I shall offer my own updates on this topic, starting with this quote from V's diary from yesterday:

Will President Obama rewrite the Vision for Space Exploration or push back and retire the Space Shuttle on schedule. The Administration may try for more funding, or even swith architecture to Direct. (more on Direct in another diary)

STS 119 Discovery Landing:

Landing after 202 orbits and over 5 million miles traveled.  

While watching that video, I was again surprised at how rapidly the Orbiter descends -- a flying brick, as it were -- even as the deceleration is visibly obvious after the pilot flares for landing. And, even on video replay the words "Wheels stopped" can bring a small lump to my throat.

Many say the space shuttle is the most complex machine ever built by human beings and the American people can be rightfully proud that our nation has built such an amazing vehicle. However, since form follows function sooner rather than later, it shall be time to move on.


Eh, maybe and maybe as explained by Chris Bergin in this marvelous Nasaspaceflight piece:

Ares/Orion slipping up to 18 months - Shuttle extension gains upper hand

NASA’s Constellation Program (CxP) will conduct a "Content and Schedule" summit meeting in the next few months, after it was evaluated their current schedules are "broken". The meeting will aim to protect against a slip that is estimated to be as serious as 18 months, or outright cancellation for Ares I. Meanwhile, the push for extending the shuttle program by at least two years is gaining serious momentum.

President Obama's commitment to a firm 2010 retirement for the shuttle orbiter may not be as firm as some believe. After all, the only real hint was in the budget overview released last month and the extent of White House input versus OMB input is unclear.

And there is this, reported by Chris Bergin in his NSF piece:

"Last week, around 200 prime contractors and suppliers went to Washington D.C. and got briefs from the Hill and key NASA people," noted the report. "They went over to the Hill and talked to over 100 Congress representatives or their staffers.

"The message was that the Shuttle is operating well and is safe to fly."

If we combine a firm 2010 retirement for orbiter with an 18 month schedule slip for Ares and ESAS, that would not seem to leave NASA in a very good place. The decision point I wrote about in February 2008 -- Spaceflight at a Crossroads -- is much closer, now without resolution concerning how the Obama Administration proposes to replace STS.

Team DIRECT adopts SSME in place of RS-68

My preferred shuttle replacement system is the Direct proposal and its Jupiter launch vehicles. This video clip (1:57 in length) continues to offer an ideal introduction to the basic concept:

The Jupiter advantages:

  1. Maximize commonality with the existing STS systems to minimize workforce disruption (fewer layoffs during the transition). Save substantial money with minimal modifications to ground facilities.
  1. If the orbiter were extended until 2011 or 2012 AND the SSME Jupiter 130 chosen as the replacement, perhaps we can avoid the Gap altogether with both systems flying simultaneously, at least for a short while.
  1. Provide large margin in Earth-to-LEO lift capability to give the Orion designers extra margins for their design work. As the Orion capsule design currently exists all of Ares 1, EELV and Falcon 9 are borderline too small to lift the capsule to LEO. That means the engineering team must be extremely weight conscious.

Jupiter has ample margin and that reduces design expense and time needed to complete the project.

  1. The Ares V team has been looking at returning to the Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME) and that has induced the Direct team to change their baseline Jupiter proposal to the SSME as well.

Currently, SSME costs more per unit than RS-68 but it is a more efficient engine and that permits the cancellation of the J2X upper stage engine, saving billions in additional design work.

Going with a Jupiter 246 (2 solid rocket booster & 4 SSMEs on the core stack and 6 RL-10s second stage) rather than the Jupiter 232 design (2 solid rocket boosters & 3 RS-68s on the core stack with 2 J2X on the second stage) allows significant money to be shifted to the Orion capsule and the Altair lunar landing offering a strong possibility of flying Orion in LEO before November 2012 elections and

ACTUALLY LANDING AMERICANS ON THE MOON before President Obama's second term is over.

Direct milestones:

The SSME-based Jupiter-130 would allow the Orion to fly in 2012, a few months before that election.

The SSME/RL-10-based Jupiter-246 would enable a Cargo-only Altair to deliver 20,000kg to the Lunar surface in Q1 2016 and a Crew to follow-up around 6-9 months later -- again, before that election.

The SSME/RL-10-based Jupiter-246 would allow a full-scale precursor mission to an NEO in 2017.

The SSME/RL-10-based Jupiter-246 would allow the complete Lunar Outpost to be landed and made fully operational within 36 months -- by 2020.

ISS can also continue to be maintained and upgraded so it can continue to operate through to at least the mid-2020's. Unlike CxP's current Ares plans, DIRECT does not require the added budget for ISS in order to successfully accomplish the Lunar Program.

In addition to that, with double the available budget for the Science Mission Directorate, the following missions could all be fully funded by 2020:   Mars Science Laboratory, James Webb Space Telescope, Hubble-II, Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter, Mars Sample Return (small), Mars Sample Return (large) -- and lots & lots of Lunar surface science too.

And NASA could also afford to develop a Cryogenic Propellant Depot and high-performance in-space Nuclear Propulsion technologies as well.

All of that fits within the current "budget box" if we change away from Ares-I/Ares-V and move to the Jupiter-130/246 baseline instead.

Other alternatives?

# Stay the course with Ares 1 and Ares V -- more money and greater delays # Scrap all the STS infrastructure and go EELV-only (Atlas V & Delta IV) or COTS only (SpaceX Falcons) but then what about the work force?

= = =

And, finally as a nod to Vladislaw and Star Trek, green women rock!

Okay, its a little late, but isn't it the thought that counts . . .

Star Trek St. Patrick's Day Pictures, Images and Photos

Originally posted to Bill White on Sun Mar 29, 2009 at 01:26 PM PDT.


Whither NASA at the cross-roads

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