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How George W. Bush and NASA Saved SpaceX From Financial Ruin (blastingnews.com) 224

MarkWhittington quotes a report from Blasting News: Elon Musk and the people at SpaceX are rightly basking in the afterglow of finally landing the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket on a drone barge in the Atlantic. The same flight delivered an expandable module built by Bigelow Aerospace to the International Space Station. But, as Ars Technica points out, the launch, landing, and arrival at the space station would not have taken place had it not been for the generosity of NASA. George W. Bush began the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, which commercialized first cargo and then crew flights to and from the ISS. Four years later, SpaceX, having endured a number of launch failures of its small Falcon 1 rocket, was running out of cash. They were teetering on the brink of financial ruin as they were trying to develop a much larger and more complex Falcon 9 that would compete with more established launch vehicles such as the Atlas 5 and the Delta 4. Then NASA announced the initial contracts for COTS cargo flights. SpaceXâ(TM)s share was $1.6 billion. The NASA contract saved the company and allowed it to press on with building the Falcon 9 and the Dragon and then successfully compete for the Commercial Crew contracts.
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How George W. Bush and NASA Saved SpaceX From Financial Ruin

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  • by turkeydance ( 1266624 ) on Monday April 11, 2016 @08:37PM (#51888685)
    somebody had to post it
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      We would've also have accepted: "George W. Bush doesn't care about space people".

  • Doesn't Capitalism always show the right way to do it without that pesky government influence.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by plopez ( 54068 )

      In this case the right way to do it was to hire lobbyists so you can suck off of the government teat.

      • by catchblue22 ( 1004569 ) on Monday April 11, 2016 @08:59PM (#51888803) Homepage

        In this case the right way to do it was to hire lobbyists so you can suck off of the government teat.

        The companies that are really sucking at the government teat are Lockheed Martin and Boeing who collectively own ULA. They supply launches under "Cost Plus" contracts. Basically the government pays the cost, as decided by the company, plus a guaranteed cost margin. This causes incentives to inflate costs through hiring too many managers and by choosing expensive complicated designs. SpaceX saves the government money by doing launches under fixed price per service contracts. The government pays a fixed price for launches; this creates incentives for SpaceX to save money. SpaceX has become the world's most affordable launcher. They are already cheaper than the Chinese and Russians, even without reusing their rockets.

        • by tsotha ( 720379 ) on Monday April 11, 2016 @09:07PM (#51888835)

          This causes incentives to inflate costs through hiring too many managers and by choosing expensive complicated designs.

          I doubt it's that nefarious. Cost inflation happens in any large organization that isn't actively trying to prevent it. And they do have some incentive to keep costs under control - there's only so much money to go around, and projects that look to be more expensive than they're worth tend to get cancelled.

          • Re:Bbbbut Capitalism (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 11, 2016 @09:41PM (#51888983)
            >I doubt it's that nefarious.

            Then you haven't been involved in it. While working on a design for the shuttle, we'd finish a design, build and qual a widget. Before delivery, our manager would arbitrarily make some non functional requirement change (think paint color or wiring layout) and get the customer to agree.

            To meet the process requirements, you'd have to go back two months and re-do all of the work for no functional change. In this one specific example half the people quit after six months on the merry-go-round. The trick is to finish and test early, then keep repeating the above process until the customer runs out of money then hand over what you have. There are many tricks that you can play, another is active incompetence where you make some terribly boneheaded decision that a fourth grader would question the rational and stretch out the process for weeks. I forgot to order the spectrum analyzer What???!!!!!????? You know it has a six week lead time and we told you four months ago and made you understand that we'd have twenty people sitting around twiddling their thumbs if we did not have it by this time. Yeah, my bad. Sorry about that.

            • Re:Bbbbut Capitalism (Score:5, Interesting)

              by Daemonik ( 171801 ) on Monday April 11, 2016 @11:59PM (#51889513) Homepage

              This stuff is why I don't understand people that consistently blame government for cost overruns, but never consider that corporations game the system to maximize their profits. We could probably cut the federal budget in half if the contractors working on government jobs stopped doing stuff like this to pad their spreadsheets.

          • No incentives though. Defense contractors don't think very well about how they look long term, not worried that the government is eventually going to suspect that they're paying too much. Their entire industry is built upon the likelihood of having long term contracts. I know that Lockheed appears greatly surprised and dismayed whenever it loses a contract, and I think that surprise is genuine. So there is no incentive to keep costs down, except for personal integrity. I've seen no company, government

            • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 11, 2016 @10:50PM (#51889261)

              Quite to the contrary. I've been on the government side of tha table v.s. Northrop and it was the contractor saying "that's stupid and will run up costs." While the government was insisting on change because everyone competent on our side quit and got a real job.

              P.s. No, I wasn't competent. I was a pilot pretending to be a program manager to bring "the operators perspective" even though nobody in the program office gave a shit about the product or anything other than making sure that they couldn't be blamed for any decision the government made.

              • Tend to agree; government agencies tend to have one exceptional person near the top and a whole lot of "others" filling the ranks. There are so many bad measures to control costs pushed onto contractors that it drives up compliance costs to insane levels. One person in my office has a full time job just dealing with invoices.

                Not all government organizations are the same though. Generally it is when one gets a windfall of cash to spend that everything goes out the window. The $trillions of major jnrastructur

          • by dbIII ( 701233 )
            Sadly a lot of it is nefarious.
            Take a look at most orgs during boom times and it's not hard to spot the crooks. Many are quite flashy with their looted wealth when they think the shareholders or customers are not looking.
        • All launch customers desire "mission assurance", that is, effective management of the risk involved in getting their payload into space. Commercial customers achieve this mission assurance by buying insurance that pays out in the event a launch failure. In lieu of purchasing insurance, the US Government "carefully shepherds" taxpayers' money by incentivizing ULA, via cost-plus award fee, to design and build their launch vehicles with an extremely high attention to detail, achieving a level of mission succes

        • by KGIII ( 973947 )

          > SpaceX saves the government money by doing launches under fixed price per service contracts.

          I love me some SpaceX but, unless I'm missing something, you can't actually say that. Why? Because it's not true. SpaceX has done no such thing.

          Now, ideally, they *might* do so in the *future* but, as of yet and unless I'm missing something, nothing even remotely like that is true.

          Am I missing something?

          • The Commercial Resupply Services contract is fixed cost and has had SpaceX supply the ISS 7 times already. At $133 million per mission, a traditional NASA cost-plus contract would have cost much more.
          • I guess you didn't read about how the COTS contract is written did you?

    • Doesn't Capitalism always show the right way to do it

      Which it did, because eventually the commercial space services are MUCH cheaper and better than NASA.

      Remember SpaceX is not the only commercial space company...

      • Cheaper Maybe (Score:5, Interesting)

        by AF_Cheddar_Head ( 1186601 ) on Monday April 11, 2016 @09:24PM (#51888911)

        But only because the commercial companies took all the taxpayer paid research and built on it to create the commercial platforms. Good think the commercial companies don't have to pay that money back via patent royalties.

        • So true.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Karmashock ( 2415832 )

          All that research done by Pratt and Whitney... Boeing... Lockheed Martin...

          If socialism were superior the Russians would have won the Cold War.

          They didn't because its inferior. Stop for a moment and look at all your dumb arguments are apply them to the soviets. IF you were right, they should have been dramatically more successful. Instead they were dramatically less successful.

          That 20th century cage match apparently isn't taught in schools these days. Socialism lost on everything but politics. And the polit

          • All that research done by Pratt and Whitney... Boeing... Lockheed Martin...

            If socialism were superior the Russians would have won the Cold War.

            They didn't because its inferior. Stop for a moment and look at all your dumb arguments are apply them to the soviets. IF you were right, they should have been dramatically more successful. Instead they were dramatically less successful.

            That 20th century cage match apparently isn't taught in schools these days. Socialism lost on everything but politics. And the political argument is sustained largely by ignorance and sophistry. Any time empiricism becomes relevant... it gets its head twisted off and spiked into the ground like a tent pole.

            Poor implementation doesn't mean the idea or design is bad. The Soviet Union is a perfect example of a bad implementation. On paper Communism looks pretty good unfortunately the Soviet Union's horrible implementation has essentially soiled it for the world

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Karmashock ( 2415832 )

              First, communism as described my Marx is an oxymoron and can't exist because it requires too many contradictory things to happen. Its basically Marxist Valhalla. Its this magical place or state of existance that good Marxists can look forward to going to at some future date where everything is perfect, everyone is free from want, everyone is free from strife, everyone is free from stress, justice for all... its a children's fantasy.

              Second, socialism is possible but only because its parasites on things that

              • Re:Cheaper Maybe (Score:5, Informative)

                by Dorianny ( 1847922 ) on Tuesday April 12, 2016 @06:02AM (#51890327) Journal
                Russia was an autocratic totalitarianism under the Czar and the Soviet Union remained an autocratic totalitarianism under the Central Committee's General Secretary. The only thing the Bolsheviks actually used from the writings of Marx was the name Communism. By Grouping Communism and Socialism together is very obvious that you haven't studied either. Your post is nothing more than worthless ideological rant.
                • You are right! There is No True Scotsman!

                  Not China, Cuba, Laos, North Korea, or Vietnam.

                  Not the ones that tried and failed, like the Soviet Union: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, or Uzbekistan. Not Afghanistan, Cambodia, Mongolia, or Yemen.
                  Not the Soviet-controlled Eastern bloc countries like Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Germany (East), Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia.
                  Not Albania, Bosnia and Herze

                  • Exactly. The Marxists push this bs... and when it goes south they say "well that wasn't real communism"... well nothing is or ever will be because its impossible.

                    Its a unicorns and dragons system.

                    • It doesn't even work in small 'commune' scale, where 10 people share a house without rule. At some point people will get mad at the one slacker that eats the food, and drinks the beer, but refuses to do the laundry or dishes.
            • by cogeek ( 2425448 )
              So we just need to do Socialism/Communism "right".... because Russia, China, Cuba, North Korea, etc, ad nauseum. Socialism/Communism doesn't work because of human nature. You'll always have those in charge that take more than they've earned, well, because they're in charge. You'll have lazy people that will never put in their fair share of work no matter what the incentive. You'll have hard working people bearing the brunt of the burden of society. Not much different than we have now with Capitalism. "Call
            • Yeah, Communism is fantastic. Except one variable that is left out: human nature.

              Every single time that utopian planning has been tried, it has always failed to corruption, because human beings are fallible and eventually will do what they need to for themselves and their close relations, over strangers.

              That's why "communism looks good on paper" but failed every single place it's ever been put into practice. The theory can't ever be realized because the actors are selfish pricks, just like the rest of hu

          • So any capitalist country that is less successful than USSR has been would disprove your argument at once? Because, you know, there are a lot of them.
            Besides, if going from a backwards illiterate agrarian country that has been devastated in two world wars to sending the first man in space despite an economic war against them by the rest of the developed world is not the very definition of success, then what is?

          • All that research done by Pratt and Whitney... Boeing... Lockheed Martin...

            Terrible examples. None of these companies invest significantly in pure research.

            If socialism were superior the Russians would have won the Cold War.

            Non sequitur, affirming the consequent.

            They didn't because its inferior.

            Repeating that same unsupported assertion.

            Stop for a moment and look at all your dumb arguments are apply them to the soviets. IF you were right, they should have been dramatically more successful. Instead they were dramatically less successful.

            I don't think anyone's arguing that a corrupt dictatorship leads to optimal outcomes. You seem to be falsely drawing an equivalence between despotism and socialism.

            That 20th century cage match apparently isn't taught in schools these days. Socialism lost on everything but politics. And the political argument is sustained largely by ignorance and sophistry. Any time empiricism becomes relevant... it gets its head twisted off and spiked into the ground like a tent pole.

            Hi, I'm a political refugee from a Soviet satellite state. I really appreciate the history lesson, grounded in your comprehensive understanding of these matters, sir. With insights like

          • All that research done by Pratt and Whitney... Boeing... Lockheed Martin...

            If socialism were superior the Russians would have won the Cold War.

            They didn't because its inferior. Stop for a moment and look at all your dumb arguments are apply them to the soviets. IF you were right, they should have been dramatically more successful. Instead they were dramatically less successful.

            That 20th century cage match apparently isn't taught in schools these days. Socialism lost on everything but politics. And the political argument is sustained largely by ignorance and sophistry. Any time empiricism becomes relevant... it gets its head twisted off and spiked into the ground like a tent pole.

            All that research done by Pratt and Whitney... Boeing... Lockheed Martin...

            -- Much of which was paid for by tax dollars, again if Space-X and all had to pay patent royalties or raise VC dollars to do the research they would have never made it.

            If socialism were superior the Russians would have won the Cold War.

            -- When did socialism or communism enter into the conversation?

            They didn't because its inferior. Stop for a moment and look at all your dumb arguments are apply them to the soviets. IF you were right,

          • All that research done by Pratt and Whitney... Boeing... Lockheed Martin...

            If socialism were superior the Russians would have won the Cold War.

            They didn't because its inferior.

            In the case of the space program, you have it exactly backwards. The Soviet space program got very little government support. Korolev had trouble getting funding and had the factories building and selling non-rocket machinery in order to raise the money necessary to build rockets. In fact the soviets had several competing space efforts.

            Whereas the US responded with a huge, centrally-planned bureacracy that still exists today, with all the success one can expect from such an approch

            I agree with you that c

          • That research was paid by the US government during the Apollo program among other, and earlier by various countries military expenditures.

            There's no silver bullet. So tired of people who believes there is one solution that fits all problems. The world is complex and grey scaled. Capitalism is a bottom up self organizing system, which is super good at optimizing (mostly short term) profit. It will also pretty quickly sub-optimize itself without rules of law, and various institutions run by a government. S
          • You do know that there are plenty of non-Communist socialist republics that are members of NATO, right?

    • by tsotha ( 720379 )
      Given that the space station doesn't have much of a practical purpose, in a libertarian world there wouldn't be a COTS contract because there wouldn't be anywhere to go. I like Elon Musk, and I think SpaceX is a fine company, but I don't think all the money we threw at the shuttle and the space station provided us with much in the way of tangible benefit. Not so far, at least.
      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        Hmm... What do you think Libertarians are, anyhow?

      • Yeah, because the Hubble Space Telescope, which is probably the most important tool for scientific discovery created in the 20th Century, hasn't revealed any tangible benefits whatsoever, and absolutely hasn't expanded humanity's knowledge of the universe by orders of magnitude.

        Hubble Space Telescope: launched, and serviced way past it's intended lifetime, by Shuttle.

    • That's a purposeful misunderstanding of the situation. In capitalism you don't have entrenched failures that survive on other peoples taxes for generations. .

      There is a gray area in which pro-freedom people debate the merits of government involvement in cutting edge exploration. (Space travel).

      Take a look at Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged to see how moochers off the government teat are considered.
    • by bigpat ( 158134 )

      Doesn't Capitalism always show the right way to do it without that pesky government influence.

      How is the government trying to encourage competition not a free market? This isn't an example of government "generosity", this is an example of the government trying to encourage competition in a previously uncompetitive market for launch services.

    • Yeah, because a government institution granting a contract to a company to successfully build and deliver a product and service is clearly a failure of the free market.

      You tried to be clever, and it didn't work. Now, if there were companies that just had warehouses full of spec-perfect rockets laying around and the government did what they did, you might have an argument. But that wasn't the case. There was all of one provider (ULA) and they were not able to provide the number of launches needed. So the

  • by BenJeremy ( 181303 ) on Monday April 11, 2016 @08:45PM (#51888711)

    NASA awarded a contract and will get full value from it. It wasn't charity.

    In the end, if it reduces the cost of lifting payloads to orbit, it will be the government that will be the true beneficiaries.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by plopez ( 54068 )

      Big if there. In true libertarian fashion the company would have to have the numbers in a spread sheet, attract investors, get loans, float bonds or some combination thereof while saying, "hey are rockets explode but we'll be successful real soon now!"

      But only the Gov't is willing and able to take a risk that big. So in this case government intrusion in the market place was the only option. The private sector cannot or will not take such huge risks.

      • by tsotha ( 720379 )

        Big if there. In true libertarian fashion the company would have to have the numbers in a spread sheet, attract investors, get loans, float bonds or some combination thereof while saying, "hey are rockets explode but we'll be successful real soon now!"

        That's exactly what happened, isn't it?

      • Not sure you intended to but that's an incredibly well put justification on how the government is indeed quite useful in the cases where pure capitalism fails. With pure capitalism we'd be perpetually stuck with the chicken/egg problem and never do cool stuff like go to space. Now, thanks to the government, the spaceflight market is a little more free*!

        *for very expensive values of free.

        Everyone is always fighting over either/or. Why not pick the best parts of both?!

    • Exactly. And I'd add that Elon had already "financially saved" the company before NASA awarded the contract. If that fourth F1 flight had not reached orbit, and then NASA had still awarded the contract, then I'd agree with the characterization in the headline. But SpaceX earned that contract based on performance. And experience since then has shown that this was a very smart investment by the government.

  • I didn't think that much of Bush as president, and I think even less of Obama, but I have to admit both of them have done an excellent job with the US space program. We seem to have finally just about reversed a long decline and are set to branch out again.
    • I guess if you ignore the achievements of the 90s' Hubble and ISS developments, yes, the space program was in decline before Bush. I wouldn't exactly call either Constellation (a pork fest) or SLS (a bigger pork fest) an excellent job, either. I'm usually favorable towards our current president, but I'll gladly tell you he royally fucked up on the space program. Returning to Apollo-style massive launch platforms is going to ensure that they never see more than a handful of launches, especially at almost $2
  • After 9/11 came and went, George W. signed into a law a $3,000 tax credit for workers to go back to school for job training or a new career. (This was different than an earlier law that Bill Clinton gets credit for.) I was able to go back to school to learn computer programming and earn my technical certifications to leave my dead-end job as a video game tester and start work in the IT field. My entire school bill while taking classes part-time and working full-time over five years was FREE! Today I make mo
  • by pecosdave ( 536896 ) on Monday April 11, 2016 @09:18PM (#51888891) Homepage Journal

    We generally referred to COTS as "Commercial Off The Shelf".

    In the shuttle and before days since it was the early days of computers and digital communications there was a LOT of custom hardware. Most of our networking was serial, and let me tell there was some weird custom equipment floating around. I got Mil-Spec certified in wire-wrap more than a decade after the spec was cancelled.

    This was good equipment when it was created for what they wanted it for. Long story short when the shuttle launched a reel to reel flight recorder seemed like a good idea. By the time it quit flying you could do everything that flight recorder did with an iPod, it would be more reliable, hold more, you could put a triple redundant system in far less space and use less power doing it. Due to government red tape and "certification" programs this sort of thing didn't often happen.

    When the shuttle was decommissioned the COTS initiative - as we knew it - really began to take off (my first five years there were still COTS, just lesser). It basically meant if you had a monitor go bad on one of our OS/2 systems (really) with a 15" IBM CRT monitor with a particular part number I could instead use any 15" CRT we happened to have laying around in spares, and if I didn't happen to have anything of the sort I could even use some good judgement (maybe requiring an engineer to approve it maybe not, I would ask a shift sup to be sure) even put an LCD with a VGA port on it. Don't something "radical" like that before COTS as we knew it would have caused a QC guy to have a heart attack, which during his time in the hospital recovering he would drain an entire Sam's-Club sized box of G2 pens in the ways he would write us up.

    Often acronyms around there had two meanings, the official public one, and the one the people who wrote it actually meant. There were some humorous ones thrown out there on occasion, some of which had entire program names changed when the right person actually figured out what was intended.

    • by dohzer ( 867770 )

      I wonder how many COTS are used in a rocket that is used for a COTS mission to transport COTS to the ISS?
      Hmmm. Really makes you think.

  • by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Monday April 11, 2016 @09:26PM (#51888921)

    After the Space Shuttle retired, and with all replacement programs canned by Congress, NASA had no way to get astronauts into space, except by hitching a ride with the Russians, and NASA had no native way to resupply the ISS.

    The COTS program has already fixed one of those. NASA now has access to two locally-made spacecraft that can fly on either the entirely-American Falcon 9, or the partially-foreign Antares or Atlas V. This gives pretty robust resiliency - a single accident cannot halt the entire system. (Two back-to-back RUDs can do that, though, as we saw).

    The CCD program is getting NASA access to two spacecraft capable of shuttling astronauts to low orbit - one built to fly atop basically any lift rocket that can handle the load. Three other spacecraft are in the program, theoretically able to replace either of the two main CCD craft should they fall too far behind schedule or too far over budget - helping to ensure robust access to space.

    Where would NASA be right now without them? Well, they could still loft satellites or probes on the high-price ULA vehicles, but they'd probably have to abandon the ISS. Between only having Russia for crew transfers, and only having Russia, Japan and the ESA for resupply missions, they would not have been able to effectively operate the ISS.

    The entire cost of COTS, CRS and CCD combined is $12.3B. For comparison, the Constellation program cost $9B, and produced no flyable launch vehicles or spacecraft before it was canceled. SLS will have cost us $18B by the time it makes its first test flight. Considering the commercial programs* have given us multiple, redundant systems, and included the cost of dozens of missions, while SLS is a single spacecraft for a single rocket that will perform a single flight on its $18B budget, I think we're getting a pretty good deal.

    * SLS is technically "commercial" as it is being made by several independent corporations. However, the key difference is that it is not competitive. If Aerojet Rocketdyne cannot produce engines at sufficient quality and quantity, or at a low enough price, NASA has no alternative. Same for the boosters and Orbital ATK, or the upper stage and Boeing, etc.. (The other difference is that the COTS/CRS/CCD program rockets are assembled by the contractor, while SLS will be assembled by NASA, but this is not a particularly meaningful distinction)

  • by Michael Woodhams ( 112247 ) on Monday April 11, 2016 @09:43PM (#51888987) Journal

    From TFA: "The next president, or some in Congress, may begin asking why NASA is spending billions to develop its own heavy-lift rocket when SpaceX already has one."

    As I recall, within about a year of taking office, Obama tried to kill the SLS (Nasa's heavy rocket) on this reasoning (that private companies could do the job better, given the chance, and secondarily that the funding NASA was getting for SLS was insufficient to achieve anything in a reasonable time frame) but Congress resurrected it.

    Can anyone who has followed this more closely comment on the political history of COTS, and in particular the attitude of Bush and then Obama, and Congress/Senate, to COTS and SLS?

    • by Goonie ( 8651 )
      The SLS is dubbed the Senate Launch System [huffingtonpost.com] in some quarters.
    • by XXongo ( 3986865 )

      From TFA: "The next president, or some in Congress, may begin asking why NASA is spending billions to develop its own heavy-lift rocket when SpaceX already has one."

      Because SpaceX doesn't "already have one."

      Falcon 9's payload is 13 tons to LEO. That's not a heavy-lift rocket.

      SLS's payload is 130 tons to LEO. SpaceX has announced plans to build a heavy lift rocket, but they don't "already have it".

      • You say that SLS payload is 130 tons to LEO like it is already built. It's not. The Falcon 9 Heavy is a lot closer to operational capability with a payload of 53 tons to LEO. The best estimates of launch dates I can find for both vehicles are: SLS -- Nov 2018, Falcon 9 Heavy -- late 2016. By the time SLS flies its first test flight it is very likely that Space X will indeed have an operational super heavy lift launch vehicle.

    • Re:Why SLS? (Score:4, Informative)

      by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Monday April 11, 2016 @10:45PM (#51889239)

      SpaceX does not "already" have one. They definitely didn't when SLS started.

      SLS is big. Really big. 70Mg to orbit with just the base model, potentially up to 150Mg with upgrades. It will be classified as a "Super-Heavy-Lift Launch Vehicle", the same class as Saturn V.

      Falcon 9, as currently flown, can orbit 13Mg ("Medium Lift"). The biggest rocket currently flying, Delta IV Heavy, can orbit nearly 29Mg, making it one of two flying Heavy Lift Launch Vehicles. The analogous Falcon Heavy vehicle is specified to orbit 53Mg, putting it on the edge between HLLV and SHLLV.

      That said, SLS is an absolute disaster of a project. It reuses almost every part of the Shuttle's powertrain - same engines, same fuel tanks, boosters that are identical except for being 25% longer. It uses an upper-stage engine that's flown since before Saturn. Years of study were spent on related designs, like Ares. And yet it will cost $18,000,000,000 and eight years to design, build and launch one of them? In eight years, SpaceX went from not existing, to building their own rocket using their own engine to launch their own spacecraft. And it's looking likely that, eight years from now, they'll have not one but two of their own super-heavy-lift rockets, Falcon Heavy and the Mars Colonial Transporter launcher.

      • 'SpaceX does not "already" have one. They definitely didn't when SLS started.'

        I agree with the second point. However Falcon 9 Heavy is currently scheduled for first launch in November, so unless this slips* or fails, by the time the next administration comes in (the timing implied by TFA's quote) they will.

        * SpaceX (and Tesla) are known for missing their release schedules, so by past performance a slip is quite likely.

      • by GuB-42 ( 2483988 )

        Mg? Where is this unit used?
        Technically, Mg is correct according to the usual SI rules but everyone I know use tonnes, which is exactly the same thing with a different name.

        • I'm American, and I habitually avoid "tonnes" because, when spoken, there's no way to know if it's the "1000 kilograms" metric tonne, the "2000 pounds" American ton (aka short ton, or customary ton), or the "2240 pounds" British ton (aka long ton, imperial ton, or, most confusingly, also called the metric ton). "Megagram" is far harder to confuse with anything else, and even if it's not natural for most people to use, it's obvious what it means - 1000 kilograms, or 1000000 grams. Even Americans can figure o

    • Don't forget, Obama did kill Constellation in 2010. SLS was born out of its ashes.
  • by mykepredko ( 40154 ) on Monday April 11, 2016 @09:56PM (#51889047) Homepage

    When it comes right down to it, wasn't NASA created to foster American companies and inspire the next generation of Scientists, Technologists, Engineers and Mathematicians?

    Kudos to them believing in SpaceX and I hope that they continue to promote and support other up and coming companies.

  • by jodido ( 1052890 ) on Monday April 11, 2016 @10:04PM (#51889091)
    This is how the entire aerospace/aviation industry has functioned from the beginning. Government pays for R&D and private industry capitalizes on it. Boeing's 747 came from work done to develop the C-5. If you're shocked by this story then you haven't been paying attention for the last fifty years.
  • dog-eat-dog capitalism for the poor...

    Come 'on folks. You're never going to get that small gov't you keep dreaming of. The wealthy and powerful won't allow it. So why not take some of that big gov't for yourselves? If there's a tool and it does good work, use it. Yeah, it's a dangerous tool, but so is fire.
  • NASA, and esp W, did NOT save SpaceX. Dr. Griffen talked congress into backing COTS, which is what was invested into SpaceX.
    Prior to this, SpaceX (and Tesla) was running out of money. But Musk had already made arrangements to sell to the google boys.
    So, no, SpaceX (and Tesla) were not headed into financial ruin. However, COTS (and not CRS), allowed Musk to keep HIS %.

    Sadly, Whittington is a joke in that he does not understand space, nor really cares. He is a POLITICIAN who is pushing his agenda to h
  • Whittington gets so many things wrong. In particular, CSR was, and continues to be, a major savings for NASA. [blastingnews.com]
    Prior to SpaceX, it would have costs NASA 300M to have the same cargo delivered by ULA.
    WIth SpaceX, it brought the price down to 140M.
    And shortly, SpaceX will bring the price down further with first stage and dragon re-use.

    Regardless, Whittington always attempts to credit ppl like W, when in fact, this has absolutely NOTHING to do with W, and everything with Dr. Griffin.
  • You're crediting George W Bush with wise and foresighted... government spending? We don't need George W Bush to demonstrate the utility of government spending in spurring innovation that the private sector wouldn't otherwise be able to afford. Kennedy did that in the 60s.
  • ... it's about getting the job done.

    In that regard I think we can put the merit squarley in Space Xs' ballpark.

    Same goes for Tesla. No matter now many billions of public funding go into it, they acutally have a few car models to show around and have achieved something yet unseen: Making electic cars sexy. Say what you want - Musk has pulled some stunts that others would've put in the domain of science fiction just a decade ago and so far he's come out on top. If it's all publicly funded, that's absolutely f

  • "Even a stopped clock is right twice a day," in case someone isn't familiar with the reference.

    All in all, his presidency was probably the worst in recent history, but IMO his policy on space was exemplary. He set some inspiring goals for NASA, he saved SpaceX (which wasn't an old, establishment defense contractor), and he cancelled the shuttle program (which was tremendously costly, extremely dangerous, and tethering us to low earth orbit). I think he deserves some credit for setting NASA in the right di

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