SeaLaunch Chapter 11, Obama and Kennedy, GUCP again and Ares vs Side Shuttle vs Direct – 2.19

In the news SeaLaunch files for Chapter 11, Obama is being compared to Kenney and GUCP leak checks on Endeavour.

Main topic is Ares vs the side mounted shuttle (plan B) vs DIRECT.

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  1. push2play on June 26, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    Chapter 11 is re-organization, restructuring…. the joke was that with the Augustine Commission looking at NASA’s architecture… they, as itinerant ‘evaluators’ might, afterword, move on to SeaLaunch to evaluate their ‘architecture’… “Have committee will travel”.

    Seriously though, it seems that there is so much going on in private space development, they really should collaborate/work together to a common goal. Could you see SeaLauch, SpaceX and Virgin Galactic joining forces… like Chrysler/Fiat… okay, maybe not like them, but you get the idea.

  2. Paul Graham on June 26, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    OpenLuna does intend to get mankind back to the moon, and build an outpost there. We intend to do this well before NASA and at an order of magnitude cheaper (and lighter.)
    What do we intend to do once we get there? Just what he said, Mining, Space tourism, and provide a base available to anyone for scientific exploration. We intend to build the logistics infastructure.

    And mostly, just to prove it can be done – a Lindberghesk proof of concept. We know once we do it, others will follow, and the dream will become commonplace.

    And, for large LVs, I like the Jupiter concept. The Ares is starting to look way to “Designed by committee”.

    Good show.

  3. KaiYves (Delta V) Go LRO! on June 26, 2009 at 9:03 pm

    Great show! Glad to know there are other “neutrals” out there.

  4. push2play on June 28, 2009 at 7:05 am

    I watched the Augustine coverage… well, as much as I could stand then had it run in the background and listened only. Here they are trying to engage the public in this debate and they choose a dull setting, have poor lighting, poor sound and have it set up like a senate hearing. The speakers, for the most part, were uncomfortable speaking, had incomprehensible charts (again, for the most part) and you had to really force yourself to listen to cut through all of that to hear what it was they were trying to say.

    I imagined what it would’ve been like had Richard Branson held a similar hearing. The setting would’ve been tropical, if not outdoors, then glass enclosed, but appealing. The lighting would’ve been professional as with the sound… and if anyone of those speakers brought the presentation they did before the Augustine commission, I imagine he would’ve politely interrupted a bit into the presentation and asked them to stop.

    You may have good suggestions, but looking at your links with the highlights and emphasised text everywhere, it not only screams ‘unprofessional’ but borders on lunacy. You’re model of the redesign parallels the DIRECT model, but doesn’t speak toward being ripped off. Theirs could be an improvement on yours. The cowling for theirs is much better, would be more aerodynamic I’d think from the looks of it, but it’s not a carbon copy.

    If you are serious and you believe your ideas are serious… then I suggest you take a deep breath, redesign you layout so you’re not screaming, or even demanding attention. Watch John Shannon’s presentation, I think he was one of the last speakers. Relaxed, soft spoken, unflustered… but the best speaker of the bunch. He was not only comfortable with speaking but with what he was talking about, whether he had the best alternative to Shuttle/Aries is debatable, but he had the most professional presentation. Do that, and you might be taken more seriously.

    • push2play on June 28, 2009 at 7:10 am

      Okay… not sure what happened to the comments/post the above were addressing (the ‘truth’ about DIRECT) maybe removed by the moderator. But without them, the above comments look strangely out of place.

      • cariann on June 28, 2009 at 4:19 pm

        They do… and I’m kinda sorry. I think I deleted them, but they were marked as spam by the program… I guess I didn’t look at them close enough. If there is a user that is unfamiliar to the system and links are posted, the comment usually gets marked at spam.

        I know you were talking about “ghost nasa” and I’m pretty sure this is the website for him:
        (At least them people will have a reference)

        Again, I’m sorry for my butterfingers.

        • push2play on June 29, 2009 at 2:00 am

          Not a problem, cariann, it was a little disorienting at first… you know, like when you set your car keys down and then go to pick them up two seconds later and… vanished…

          Anyway, thanks for posting a link and giving context to my reply/post, very much appreciated!

  5. Henry on June 28, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    Your a cute couple. I wish you only the very best now and in the future…
    Happy Anniversary

  6. Rick Boozer on June 28, 2009 at 11:58 pm

    The Orlando Sentinel reports that the Air Force is considering banning NASA from doing the Ares I-X test launch. They think that the extreme vibration of the vehicle could keep the launch abort mechanism from functioning and also damage the rocket’s steering system, meaning the rocket could come down anywhere in the highly populated southern Florida region. See the details here:,0,4229034.story

  7. Rick Boozer on June 29, 2009 at 7:39 pm


    Not only are NASA employees giving help to SpaceX, but a lot of SpaceX’s most talented and productive employees are exNASA engineers who went to SpaceX because they got fed up with the lack of “out of the box” thinking by NASA’s upper administration. The problem has never been with the rank-and-file NASA employee, they are a cut above most. For years they have been trying to pursuade the powerful minority in upper management to allow them to do things in a more efficient and modern way.

    But, alas, things like Ares I (aka “The Stick”, aka “der Griffinschaft”) was more about pleasing the very powerful Senator Shelby of Alabama than it was about the best way to get back to the moon. As far and both Ares I and V are concerned, keeping the large number of ATK employees in solid fueled rocket jobs within a certain key congressional district of Utah was also a key consideration.

    Look at the letter from a NASA engineer that was sent to Leroy Chiao of the Augustine Commission (that I posted earlier under the blog for your SpaceVidCast show 2.16) to get an idea of how dissatisfied most NASA people are with Constellation as it now exists. They believe in America going back to the moon, just not this way.

    I want America to be the Number One spacefaring nation. We will not be able to stay on top if we keep wasting tens of billions of dollars on ill conceived projects. We need both new-space and old-space companies guided by a NASA whose top administration is more concerned about getting us out into the universe in the most economical way and less concerned with playing political games.

    • Benjamin Higginbotham on June 29, 2009 at 7:49 pm

      It is possible that is Ares fails miserably that this lesson could be one learned by NASA. More to the point, the public will start to question what the heck NASA does and there will be a huge cleansing of bad managers.

      Of course it is also possible that no one will learn, they will not learn from their mistakes and as such are doomed to repeat them.

    • Rick Boozer on June 29, 2009 at 7:55 pm

      Here’s an excerpt from a message written by yet another NASA employee named Kelly Stark. It is another one that was received by Leroy Chiao of the Augustine Panel. I am adding this to further emphasize the point made in my post above.

      I used to work in MOD in the shuttle program, then on station and at HQ, until I moved on from NASA programs in the mid ‘90’s. I came back for most of last year, and was writing system requirement specs for parts of the Orion. All during that time what echoed through most everyone on the team in various ways was how much less Orion and Aries was compared to shuttle. Black bitter humor of PM’s and system architects chiding folks to not try to design things to the safety and quality standards they had used for shuttle and ISS or other customers. Or frustrated humor of trying to toughen things up enough to survive the Aries-I’s abuse. Explanations of how EVA’s and repairs, and other things that were normal design considerations for their other manned space systems, weren’t to be worried about since they weren’t required for Orion. Line engineers really hoping Dragon or something else cuts Orion out of the market so no one will ever need to fly on what they were building. And the general displeasure of working to build something that in all ways is inferior to the 1970’s era shuttle.

      Apollo on steroids was seen and pitched as a retrospective reflight of Apollo, which inexplicably was expected to excite this generation as much as Apollo and the space race did their grandparents. But Apollo was replaced by shuttle, which was seen as a first step to make space safe and routine. Now NASA is effectively saying that that was a silly goal and we should just be happy with flags and foot prints, and space as a spectacle. If even NASA can’t see space as of value to develop and go to, human space flight as worth developing and moving forward, why should the public care about it? If a half century after Von Braun at NASA sketched out the Apollo capsules, all NASA can think of or pull of is redeveloping the same old concept, what value is NASA to the world or history?

      • Marcus on June 30, 2009 at 4:38 pm

        Wow, I’ve heard stories about how Ares I (why are so many people keep calling it Aries?) was not really the favorite child of those who are actually working on it, but this really shows the concern that exists among those people.

        I just hope that the commission gets (metric ;)) tonnes of such letters!

  8. Phis on June 30, 2009 at 11:02 am

    I think you’ve fallen prey to the DIRECT propaganda, talking about how they had all these ‘problems’ with Ares. From what I’ve heard, many of these so-called problems are normal aspects of the development process.

    Secondly, you mentioned the side-mount launch plan. I watched the NASA presenter that spoke about it, and it’s only basically a back-of-napkin type plan, and just for the single vehicle, which compromises the moon missions as the are planned, almost completely. The other components of the ‘architecture’ would have to be significantly redesigned. Which, as I understand it, largely applies to DIRECT as well.

    Anyway, here’s one vote of support for the Ares program, which seems underrepresented around these parts. I fully believe that it will succeed, and I expect the Ares I-X test to quiet some of the critics (a little bit… eventually. In September… maybe?). I think DIRECT is just some NASA’s engineers pet project, and he’s peeved since his (/her, of course. I blame English.) idea didn’t get picked he’s trying to sneak it the back door now.
    And did you hear that ‘blood in the water’ line, at the commission? I think it’s a bunch of hooey. DIRECT’s anonymous ‘high-level NASA engineers,’ or whatever, probably don’t speak up publicly because they’re like, an intern, who’s taken a mechanical engineering course and thinks he understands orbital mechanics cause he read a book once. I’m very skeptical that DIRECT could deliver what they say they could.

    Anyway. I’m hopeful that this commission will do some good, and that their recomendations are bold and thoughtfully considered, and that NASA, the administration, and the American people support it and follow through… but not till the end, of course, since the Moon and Mars is only just the beginning.

    • Rick Boozer on June 30, 2009 at 12:07 pm

      I think you’ve fallen prey to the DIRECT propaganda, talking about how they had all these ‘problems’ with Ares. From what I’ve heard, many of these so-called problems are normal aspects of the development process.

      As a scientist I can tell you that just throwing money at the vibration problems are not going to make them go away. I’m no big fan of Direct either, though I consider it to be better thought out. Even supporters of Ares I estimate that complete development of it alone will require an additional $30 billion over what has already been spent (with people who do not support it claiming even more). I don’t know what nationality you are, Phis, but assuming you are American, why are you willing to put up with this craziness as a taxpayer?

      You are listening to propaganda from NASA upper management whose reputations are on the line. If you listen to the majority of the people who work for them, you will get a different story. See the quote from the NASA employee above and the one posted here in an earlier blog if you don’t believe it. I say let NASA survive and thrive by killing Ares and replacing it with a more sensible system.

      • Phis on July 3, 2009 at 1:10 am

        The NASA speaker suggested that a vibration dampening system was taking form, designed to meet even worst-case situations. I’m inclined to believe them. Doubtless it is an unfortunate, unforeseen technical challenge, and may cause problems past the few mT of extra mass the current solution probably adds to the launch vehicle, but I fail to see why this one technical problem should almost singlehandedly invalidate the billions in development spent already.

        Furthermore, $30 billion doesn’t impress me that much. Maybe it’s just this new economy where they throw that much around like pocket change. We spent something like $30 billion on GM, and we may not even get any more crappy cars out of it. Firstly, it’s $30 billion over like, 15 years. They (Congress) try to defray the cost to taxpayers by stretching it out like that, but I think that’s counterproductive. Just spend the $30 billion and build the damn thing before they get wet feet and cancel the program. Another quote from the NASA speaker was his belief that many of the problems experienced by the development teams were due to them not even getting the limited funding they were due. That might be because of the lingering questions about the fate of the Space Shuttle, but I’ll take the easy route and put the blame on Congress for that too, because they don’t have the balls or the brains to value the human space program as they should…

        I’ll admit, however, that I do wonder about the value of the Ares I vehicle itself. It seems to be rather costly, and not improve launch capabilities by much. However, it is, as they stated in the Committee meeting, an ‘architecture’ and it isn’t just as easy as all that to replace it, such as with an EELV. That would probably have a profound negative effect on the development of the Ares V, which I totally do support since it’s an awesome example of a BFR.

        I’ve heard that many of the design choices for Ares I were made for safety and reliability reasons. Another fatal accident in NASA space flight might be the doom of the civil American human space program for yet another generation, so I definitely think that safety considerations should not be overlooked. I’ve not seen an apples-to-apples type comparison of the safety risks of Ares/EELV/DIRECT/other, but I’m very skeptical of the supposed improvements that DIRECT makes claims to.

        I’m also extremely skeptical about anyone who makes claims about the ‘majority’ of NASA. NASA is like, 100,000 people (just a guess, really), spread over dozens of sites across the country. Even if we’re only talking about the launch vehicle development teams, I imagine the ‘majority’ are just doing their job as best they can. A few anecdotal tales of internal squabbles or the bellyaching of a couple errant, unsatisfied engineers really doesn’t cut it. I understand NASA doesn’t have the best track record about such things, but if the decision making processes and management structure changes that resulted from some of the previous such issues (i.e. the negligently unrealistic safety predictions for the Space Shuttle) have come to the conclusion that Ares program is the way to go, I’d like to understand why it’s conclusions about NASA’s future direction are apparently so wrong.

        That isn’t to say that it might _not_ be wrong. I hope that the HSF committee can find a direction that can be more widely supported, and not compromise the vision that we have, such as it is.

        Tangentially related to this, I’d just like to opine about the choice of destination. I think the return to the Moon is a good mission. I think a Mars mission would be much more likely to be a Apollo-repeat, where we go a few times, decide that it costs too much and wallow for another few decades. I think that Moon missions are attainable in the relatively near term, and would be much more likely to result in permanent stays. I think interest in space exploration would be significantly heightened by a continuing presence on the Moon, and we could stay there while testing equipment, developing in-situ technology, and exploring the yet-unexploited scientific potential present on the lunar surface. In contrast to the ISS, where the only things of interest are, A. astronauts, and B. the ISS, on the Moon, there is at least the Moon to be interested in. So, once everyone goes, ‘Ooh!’ to some shiny new hardware, we could, like, dig a hole, or go for a drive, and maybe find something else the taxpayers and space-geeks can go ‘Ooh!’ about.

        And maybe we can find some sweet Lunar lava tubes, and go about preparing for the first Lunar colony. 🙂
        Whew! Quite a rant, there….

        • Rick Boozer on July 3, 2009 at 1:32 am

          If even the fact that problems with Ares I have caused NASA to drop the crew capacity of Orion from 6 to 4 don’t don’t cause you to doubt your belief in NASA’s higher administration, then God save us from the True Believers.

          • Phis on July 3, 2009 at 3:17 am

            I think they dropped the 6 person capsule for budgetary and not technical reasons. I think it’s a good sign, really. I think they saw the writing on the wall (at least some of it) and figured that SpaceX would be doing crew delivery to ISS (the only purpose for the 6-person module) before they would, and would cost less. Just because I defend NASA doesn’t mean they are the only answer. I thing SpaceX and other private ventures will be the real game-changers, but NASA needs to do big things in the meantime and cant wait on SpaceX or anybody else.

          • Rick Boozer on July 3, 2009 at 12:28 pm


            It’s in NASA’s own documentation. Because Ares I is a solid fueled rocket, it can’t be shut down during flight. This fact means that they need a more powerful escape tower rocket to pull the capsule away from a still accelerating Ares I. A more powerful escape rocket means a heavier escape rocket and the extra mass was compensated for by getting rid of one astronaut.

            The extreme vibration of the solid fueled rocket engine required a much heavier shock absorber system. Thus a yet another astronaut had to be sacrificed.

            But this is all I’m saying on the subject, because it appears that you are a hopeless True Believer.

          • cariann on July 3, 2009 at 1:43 pm

            Rick, Robert, Phis, Jeph et all

            I have to let you know how much I appreciate all of you taking the time out of your busy days and nights to make all of these arguments come to life. It means the world to me that you guys care enough to write this stuff down and submit it on our site… Instead of others. *AND* I love that you are all very civil with one another. For me, this is the best way for people like me to learn and be exposed to these kinds of conversations. It gives me all sides of an argument and time for me to do some research on my own. I find it very empowering. Like I’ve said before, when Ben came to me and said he wanted to do a Space podcast… I pretty much told him to have fun because I would not be joining him. I had no interest in space at all and in my ignorance figured that he would run out of topics in about a month. I’m not saying that I have come all that far as of yet. (see Cariann say “solar flares” instead of “solar panels”) But I am trying.
            So, I just wanted to thank all of you who are taking the time to, albeit unknowingly I’m sure, educate me on some of the intricacies of the topics we bring up on the show.

          • Rick Boozer on July 3, 2009 at 2:54 pm

            You’re more than welcome, Cariann. The more people who understand the details of the issues, the sooner space will be opened up for more than a privileged few because well informed people will put pressure on the politicians.

          • Phis on July 3, 2009 at 2:25 pm

            I don’t know where you’re getting that information, it’s nothing I’ve read before.

            Here’s an article on the crew capsule reduction I just ran across.
            (Links are okay here, I hope)

            It says:
            NASA made the crew size change “in order to improve schedule and cost confidence by minimizing multiple configurations under simultaneous development during the Program’s early phases,” Hautaluoma said. “While a four-person crew would save some mass, the issue of mass savings was not a major factor in the decision-making process. “
            (Hopefully that is in italics.)

            I have heard the reason that the six-crew capsule was dropped was because two versions of the life-support systems would have to be designed, one capable of supporting the extra crew and one for outside-LEO missions.

            A ‘true believer’… I don’t know what to say. I’m didn’t know I was even a regular believer.
            I consider myself to be cautiously optimistic in the face of something that seems to me to be less-than-objective criticism. But I suppose I think the same of those who rabidly support DIRECT with what seems like insufficient evidence to support that their option is truly a better one.

            I am ‘believer’ in space travel. I am a supporter of NASA. I think Ares V, conceptually, is ‘bad ass’. I think the Lunar outpost mission is a worthy mission. I am skeptical of DIRECT. I think we have to have SOME direction, and heard toward it with enthusiasm, because if we, as a nation, and as a human race, stop heading toward that goal without at least a _little_ urgency, we’re gonna fall over backwards and cry out ‘I’ve fallen and I can’t get up’ which is some sort of clever metaphor of something or other. So, unless there happens to be yet another space program — secretly being built for the last five years in a hidden underground laboratory, which has a alternate version of Orion, and Chariot, and ATHLETE, and lunar habs, and all that other cool stuff, except *better, cheaper, and even more magic than before* — is suddenly unveilied, I have to do with what is available. So, in the meantime, I will have to support Constellation, otherwise known as the US official and supported baseline for human space flight. I guess that’s pretty radical, though.
            …But I think I’ve gotten off topic.

            It doesn’t reflect directly on this discussion, but I thought this editorial was rather interesting:
            I was particularly intrigued by a idea that NASA is some $11 billion underfunded from what was expected when the Moon return mission was proposed in 2004.

          • Phis on July 3, 2009 at 2:41 pm

            Sorry for double-posting, but I wanted to clarify something.

            Rick Boozer wrote:
            It’s in NASA’s own documentation. Because Ares I is a solid fueled rocket, it can’t be shut down during flight. This fact means that they need a more powerful escape tower rocket to pull the capsule away from a still accelerating Ares I. A more powerful escape rocket means a heavier escape rocket and the extra mass was compensated for by getting rid of one astronaut.

            That paragraph is a bit confusing to me. Are you suggesting that NASA’s documentation states that the reason for the drop in crew-capacity is because of the solid first stage motor? I would think that the ramifications of a solid first stage long before the crew capacity was specified. I’d appreciate a link or reference if that is the case.

            If that isn’t the case, I think the statement is a bit misleading. I fail to see an obvious causal relationship between a massive escape tower and the six-to-four-crew change.

          • Rick Boozer on July 3, 2009 at 3:29 pm


            I said I wouldn’t address this any more, it is indeed taking up too much of my time. Fortunately, right now I’m in between semesters, but with speaking engagements and such, I still have little free time.

            You comment, “I would think that the ramifications of a solid first stage would be known long before the crew capacity was specified.” is very naive in that it is a well documented fact on SpaceVidCast and other websites that the developers of Ares I had no clue about the severity of the vibration problem before they were well into building Ares I.

            As for the vibration problem relating to crew reduction and the other subject of the escape tower, the relevant issues and sources of information have been well covered over past months on such websites as RLVNews and Transterrestrial Musings, I would have to wade back into previous topics on these sites to find the exact posts. If you’re truly interested in these sources, be my guest, search for them on the above-mentioned websites on your own time.

    • Robert Horning on July 2, 2009 at 4:08 am


      • Rick Boozer on July 2, 2009 at 5:06 pm

        Robert, I think all of your points are spot on target. NASA needs to give up designing and building launch vehicles. If they still want to design and build lunar and planetary manned spacecraft, they should think of ways to do it using commercial space infrastructure. Right now that means ULA, Orbital and SpaceX are the only ones who they need to consider. Companies such as XCOR, Armidillo, Scaled Composites, and Blue Origin all have plans to eventually reach orbit and they can be added to the roster of commercial suppliers if they ever reach that stage.

  9. inquire on July 2, 2009 at 6:46 am

    My god, you guys are unlistenable. You have a lot of good things you *want* to say (and I want to hear) but this show could have been condensed into about 12 minutes and been so much more worthwhile. Oh well, at least you mentioned evadot in the first 3 minutes before you needlessly bloviated for another 10 to let me know of someone ‘smarter’ where I could perhaps go for news from grownups for grownups. Glad you have an intelligent and enthusiastic following, but for someone with a degree of taste, your infantile delivery is simply atrocious.

    • Benjamin Higginbotham on July 2, 2009 at 2:58 pm

      And that’s the beautiful thing about the Internet: you have choice. If you don’t like our show, or may have something more to your taste. We’re all about the community and a laid back atmosphere, not a hardcore news show. If you’re looking for that, I’m sure there are tons of other sources that will fill that need.

    • OM on July 3, 2009 at 3:15 am

      …You know, most of the complaints I’ve seen about SVC are from the type of egotistical schmucks who are no different from the trolls we’ve run off of over the past decade-plus.

      [shakes head in utter dismay]

  10. The Co-Host on July 2, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    I think SVC could have more content, however, I do think that there is real value in their casual, informal, spontaneous approach. Trying to make space commonplace doesn’t mean that everyday conversations center around discovering warp drive, light speed or even the science and engineering involved with a Mars mission. It means that culturally we look at space exploration/travel in the same way that we might look at air travel (tarmac tragedies notwithstanding). So, they basically talk about space in that manner. They are living by example. God bless them (or Cosmos bless them for the atheist out there.)

    Plus, SVC takes an extreme interest in their audience. They work really hard to keep their audience engaged in the live show through chat, text, tweets, etc. The flow of the show might take a hit, but if you want you can tell them mid show to either get to the point, move on or give more detail. Or you can simply ask them a very specific question. If they don’t answer, someone watching might.

    The Co-Host

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