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16 September 2014


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The beaver

@ Jon

SNC's "DreamChaser" looks great also but it was either them or SpaceX - Boeing couldn't be dropped !


dilbert dogbert

Does any member of the committee of correspondence have any data on the number and quality of the scientific papers published about science done on ISS?
Full disclosure: 30 years at NASA Ames Research Center in the old airplane side of NASA (NACA).


I wouldn't go so far as to say that Boeing "couldn't be dropped". Sure, keeping commercial crew funded by Congress w/o Boeing would've been a lot harder, but it's also fair to point out that SNC wasn't as far along, and was more of a long-shot than the other two. SNC stated that they would keep working on Dreamchaser even without the contract win, but we'll see how real that is in a few weeks once they've had a chance to digest the results of not winning the downselect. I hope they can find a way to keep moving, but I only give them about a 20% chance of being successful at this point.



Dilbert Dogbert,
It's a legitimate question. I know of some of the research going on there, but you'd best ask NanoRacks or CASIS--they've probably got a better idea.



Lets not forget about the Virginia-based Orbital: http://www.orbital.com


I wasn't forgetting them per se--they're involved in the Commercial *Cargo* program, not the Commercial Crew program. They had bid a winged Commercial Crew vehicle (similar in many ways to SNC's Dreamchaser) back in 2010, but they didn't make it into even the first round of the program. Their Cygnus cargo vehicle is great though--my startup is working with them, NASA, and NanoRacks to try and do a smallsat deployer that fits into their hatchway: http://www.spacenews.com/article/launch-report/41728altius-pushes-small-satellite-launcher-using-cygnus-cargo-tug




I asked a friend of mine at CASIS, and he gave me a link to a recent WaPo article with some charts and data:


Now, I'm not making a judgement on whether or not this is enough to justify the costs, but I did want to at least answer that there are some actual scientific benefits.


Bill H

Not excited about the choice of Boeing. They were selected for a single source contract to build a high tech, space age border security system for several billion dollars which was so ineffective that it not only could not spot intruders on foot, it also could not spot Border Patrol humvees in servielled areas. It was scrapped in its entirety.

The development of the 787 was hardly a model of effiency or efficacy either.



I'm not convinced Boeing was the right second pick either--SNC would've given you better redundancy with SpaceX (as you'd have a capsule and a lifting body, and two different launchers), and SNC and SpaceX were both more willing to put skin in the game than Boeing.

That said, what's done is probably done (unless SNC decides to protest and somehow wins). From a political standpoint I just hope it means that the program will get proper funding going forward.


William R. Cumming

Could arguments be made that Boeing a stalking horse for the Chinese?

Looks to me like China on schedule to dominate the moonscape by 2030!



I don't see any connection between Boeing and the Chinese...

Also, I'm not too worried about the Chinese taking over the Moon. They're following the same worn-out and anachronistic script from Apollo, but even slower. It's a dead-end that will guarantee that they don't dominate the moon even if they wanted to.



These presentations might be of interest for starters. I find the human life sciences experiments the most interesting.



Your URL is "broken" due to included closing paren & period.

This works.




Not too long ago I read that the European Space Agency was interested in the DreamChaser, do you
you know more on this ?


Thanks, fixed.



SNC did made some deals with ESA (European Space Agency) and JAXA (the Japanese space agency) regarding Dreamchaser. I don't know though if these will be enough to keep Dreamchaser moving forward. Hopefully, but it's unclear since we don't know the details of the agreements. They may have been ones that only would've worked if SNC secured one of the CCtCap contracts. On the other hand, maybe they'll provide them something to bootstrap off of.

Personally, I think their best bet would be taking the design to flight ready status for cargo missions, and competing for the next Cargo Resupply Services contract (if they can make it in time). That would then allow them to leverage that out into other applications, and eventually make a crew-rated version.

Still a longshot though.


Charles Lurio

I believe that the SNC bid was a lot less costly than Boeing, and unlike Boeing they'd put a lot of their own $ in, so despite lower NASA funding their progress wasn't too different from the others'. My personal belief that Boeing won as a sop to the old guard. It _might_ have been a a necessary sop, & certainly Boeing is more than capable re getting their system operating, but it's still a shame that SNC didn't get a chance to get a winged system into the mix & save tax $ to boot.


DD: I dont have time to detailed research, but the criteria used in the WAPO article is useless, for a project not to produce a publication means its either commercial (and proprietary and therefore no publication anticipated), a boondoggle, or failed. Publications in high impact journals (which are selective and competitive would be a better indicator).

That said, google scholar since 2001


finds 1.2 million citations that mention ISS. A better way is to look for ISS articles that are then re-cited.

ex-PFC Chuck

curtis & rocketpreneur,
Physics professor emeritus Bob Park has been quite scathing about the ISS science program. He argues that most of the experiments done aboard it could have been just as successfully accomplished robotically on unmanned spacecraft at an order of magnitude less cost, and that some of them have bordered on the pseudo. Do either of you have a response to this? Unfortunately Park has been off line for over a year now because of serious health problems. Otherwise it's likely his response to these contract announcements would be dripping with a sarcasm that compares favorably with our host's ability in this regard.


I am just glad to be able to see in the future the impressive fireworks from the Cape on my balcony, like last evening. No doubt there will be some sorting out among the various actors in the near future and I consider that to be a good thing.

I also hope that the politicians have learned from past mistakes and the results from not staying ahead of the curve. What is happening now should have happened 10 years ago.

The beaver

@ Charles Lurio

"SNC bid was a lot less costly than Boeing, and unlike Boeing they'd put a lot of their own $ in"
Correct: That's what I was told by someone very close to that project


ISS is an interesting case. So much of the cost of developing it and operating it are directly tied up in the nature of NASA (a bureaucracy), and the realities of where it gets its funding (most of it from a few politically connected Congressmen/Senators on the relevant appropriations committees who have NASA centers in their district/state).

Is the idea of a permanently manned research station inherently flawed? No. The implementation of ISS has been far more costly than necessary for political reasons, but past costs have now been sunk and the question is if moving forward it's worth more to continue than to discontinue. Knowing that most of that money won't actually go away or be spent on something better if ISS were to be canceled, I think it's pretty clear that ISS is by far the best realistic use of those politically demanded resources.

Are there many applications where a totally automated spacecraft would be better? Sure. But automated spacecraft also have a fair share of their own problems--look at how many Russian Foton-M missions run into problems that simple astronaut intervention could've solved.

My personal preference has been telerobotic man-tended free-flyers. Basically mini-space stations that have dextrous robots inside to enable you to manipulate the environment a bit remotely if the pure automation doesn't work, and which have the ability to come back and redock with the station if anything needs serious intervention (or for periodic maintenance/inspection/upgrades/etc).

It might be hard to justify the full $100B price tag of ISS off of the research done to-date on it. But that $100B price tag is almost entirely tied to the political process that got it built. Had NASA not been a creature of the "Arsenal System" and Johnson's attempt to buy votes for Apollo by using it to provide lots of high-tech jobs to the South, it might have been able to complete the task far cheaper, probably would've involved more commercial crew/cargo from the get-go (avoiding most of the 10yrs of delay due to making it so single-point-failure dependent on the Shuttle, etc), and likely would've been more useful.

But as a system that exists now, there's still a lot we can usefully get out of it, and it is being used as a way to finally transition NASA into buying commercial transportation for things that haven't been NASA-unique for decades. That alone is probably worth the ongoing operating costs, even with how imperfectly NASA is and will be implementing those commercial crew/cargo programs.



It would be interesting to see what the overall costs were going to be, and what the rationale from the bid selection committee will be. I think we'll know relatively soon (I think someone was saying those selection committee reports are typically out within ~10 days, at least to the bidders).


The beaver

@ Jon

As you said: it would be interesting.

At both SpaceX and SNC, there are former NASA personnel working there and they must be used to Boeing M.O ( shuttle and X-37)
An article by Forbes on the three ( before the announcement)


I tend to agree with Rocketrepreneur.

In addition I will add that IMO some of the most important (if not most important) research results will be those having to do with what we learn about the human body. We have already learned a lot about our bones, exercise and nutrition and will, in my estimation, learn lots more of importance. There is also what we will learn about insects and plants. I could go on at some length but will spare you all those rants.

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