Part 1: Our Space Launch System Response
Sadly, like many of you, after seeing the morning presser the TEA Party in Space looks at this event more as a public relations event to drum up support for the new rocket to nowhere than an actual presser on space exploration. While the politicians had their 15 minutes of fame, NASA bureaucrats had to clean up the mess. In the end, this is the failed Constellation program’s Ares V. Everything about Space Launch System SLS reminds us of the failed Constellation program’s Ares V… with one exception: NASA painted the core white designed to bring back the nostalgia of yesteryear when NASA actually did something beyond low earth orbit.
Didn't shuttle prove that you do not need to paint the core and that the white paint job only added weight? If we at TPIS are not mistaken the last external fuel tank to be painted white was STS-3. Clearly NASA is living off of the Saturn V legacy and paint job. Once again, NASA can make Pixar jealous over a short CGI video.
To watch the two senators croon "we need this rocket" more than "we need to explore" is, frankly, shameful. Senator Nelson went out of his way to show us how the BMR uses shuttle technology only to have Bill Gerstenmaier of NASA say:
"It's not fair to say this is really a rocket built from shuttle parts," said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for human exploration and operations. "This is really these components used in a new and novel way."
So in other words, pay no attention to the old, expensive, shuttle technology being used in SLS.
Shuttle technology is very expensive due to the manpower and infrastructure requirements. Whether this BMR flies twice a year, or not at all, the infrastructure and labor costs will cost the American taxpayer. The question needs to be asked, “could NASA design a rocket that didn’t have the fixed costs of labor and infrastructure?” While NASA says yes, the senate says no.
In a time where we are cutting back the budgets of every federal program, this BMR (Big Monster Rocket) needs to expand the NASA budget despite claims to the contrary from NASA officials. Seriously, when is the last time a NASA project has met its budget?
This project with the BMR will consume the HEO budget much like JWST consumes the astrophysics budget. There will be no exploration. If you look carefully in the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 you will see NO funding for exploration hardware. So when the SLS launches it will cost you and me, $18 billion dollars. This is a rocket without a mission.
The Space Launch System model follows the Constellation model which followed the Space Transportation Model which followed the Apollo model. While the big government approach worked for Apollo and shuttle, it failed with Constellation, why?
When NASA designed Saturn V and shuttle, the free market didn’t have the expertise to do so. While North American and Rockwell built the vehicles, they had have NASA oversight. Today we do not have that problem. Every science mission NASA sends into orbit is launched on a private rocket that was purchased as a service by NASA. The program has Department of Defense oversight as well as NASA oversight. Currently the United States has access to three rockets that can achieve orbit with a fourth rocket to have her maiden voyage next year.
The free market and private sector is teaming with brilliant people who know how to build and design rockets. But just as importantly, if NASA utilizes Space Act Agreements, we can achieve low earth orbit at a much reduced rate. This is not only good for NASA, but for the American taxpayer as well. It is the fiscally responsible option.
NASA could easily explore space utilizing these same rockets in our current inventory as well as utilizing NASA’s in house expertise to build a Nautilus-X type of vehicle. The great engineers and scientists at Johnson Space Center and Marshall Space Flight Center put the International Space Station together 15 metric tons at a time. This method is proven to work so why do we not continue to utilize it?