back to article With sorry Soyuz stuffed, who's going to run NASA's space station taxi service now?

Thursday's failed Soyuz launch, carrying kit and astronauts to the International Space Station means NASA is fast running out of options for shipping stuff into orbit. Especially since its homespun solutions aren't living up to their earlier promise. The US space agency hasn't been wild about using the Russians as a delivery …

Happy

No worries

They can catch a ride with Trump's Space Force.

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Devil

Re: No worries

well, if ya think about it, maybe a 'space force' COULD become a nice emergency handling agency, for stranded astronauts. Kinda like a Navy. In space.

I'm surprised we haven't already done the 'space force' thing, actually. I think the shuttle was ORIGINALLY intended to be a stepping stone to that. It just never happened.

(a bit of google-fu seems to confirm my suspicions on this, from the sheer number of military-related STS missions to the floated idea that shuttles could replace ICBMs)

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Devil

Re: No worries

This IS Trump's Space Force.

I lolled at SLS being "100% over budget".

How is this even possible seeing how this launcher thingy is supposed to be based on "trusted & true" technologies?

Did someone menace the Boeing project manager to compress his Gantt chart while demanding that various bells & whistles be added here & there?

"Second, we found flaws in NASA’s evaluation of Boeing’s performance, resulting in NASA inflating

the contractor’s scores and leading to overly generous award fees. Specifically, in the six evaluation periods since 2012 in which NASA provided ratings, Agency officials deemed Boeing’s performance “excellent” in three and “very good” in three other periods, resulting in payment of $323 million or 90

percent of the available award and incentive fees."

Oh. This sounds like something political.

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Re: No worries

"Like a Navy"?

More like the Coast Guard as it doesn't get above LEO. A Navy is blue water, comparable with trans-Lunar space.

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Re: No worries

"I'm surprised we haven't already done the 'space force' thing, actually."

You have. It's called USAF Space Command.

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Re: No worries

> I lolled at SLS being "100% over budget".

> How is this even possible seeing how this launcher thingy is

> supposed to be based on "trusted & true" technologies?

The problem is likely to be the old "we need more votes in <State X>"... "Quick, move production of <Component Y> to <State X>" game!

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Re: No worries

"lolled"?

Sadly that's the first time I've ever seen "LOL" used as a verb ... does this mean that I could use such sentences as "I FFSed when I saw LOL used as a verb as, until today, I though LOL was an annoying noun."?

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Re: No worries

lolled = past tense of loll, to hang or lie down, the verb has been used for 100s of years :P

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Re: No worries

More like the Coast Guard as it doesn't get above LEO. A Navy is blue water, comparable with trans-Lunar space.

The USCG is actually a world-wide maritime service, but has a different mission than the USN. To quote (and this pains me) Wikipedia, "while the U.S. Coast Guard is the smallest of the U.S. military service branches, in terms of size, the U.S. Coast Guard by itself is the world's 12th largest naval force."

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Re: No worries

The original budget was a joke for what they were being asked to do, but it is easier to sell to the tax payer if you only approve half the required funds first and then years down the line approve the other half and say "Who could have foreseen these budget overruns?".

SLS is designed to be a cheap to launch super heavy lift vehicle which means that the development costs are high, so lots of things need redesigning from the Shuttle designs. For example the engines have been massively simplified from the shuttle design and can now be 3D printed (and the 3D printed ones have passed all tests).

After the first few launches (the first few will costs more) the cost will be $500m per launch. Whether the additional development costs are worth it depends on how many times they end up using it.

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Re: No worries

lolled = past tense of loll, to hang or lie down, the verb has been used for 100s of years :P

Indeed. When lol is used as a verb ("to laugh out loud") in the past, I've more often seen it spelled "loled" (which to me would be the past of "lole", but never mind that).

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Silver badge

Re: No worries

Spacenews says "The problem with the Space Launch System is that it is a fully expendable rocket that could cost between $1.5 billion to $2.5 billion to launch. NASA is struggling to make the SLS more affordable to operate"

https://spacenews.com/europa-or-enceladus-if-nasa-switches-from-sls-to-falcon-heavy-it-wont-have-to-choose/

Where did you get the half billion cost per launch from?

Meanwhile, SpaceX is quoting costs of $62 million for the Falcon 9 Full Thrust and $90 million for the Falcon Heavy, both of which have actually flown. The ESA has a target price of 90 million euros for the upcoming Ariane 6. Meanwhile, the SLS remains expensive vapourware and by the time they actually finish it, SpaceX may well be ready with their BFR.

Personally, I would be quite surprised if the SLS project ever actually gets used at the cost/performance it has.

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Alien

Re: No worries

""I'm surprised we haven't already done the 'space force' thing, actually."

You have. It's called USAF Space Command."

Yeah, but they run the Stargate program and you can't use that to get to Earth orbit unless you gate to a planet with a goa'uld mothership (and that would be bad)

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Re: No worries

"Oh. This sounds like something political."

Why do you think the SLS is called the "Senate Launch System"?

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Re: No worries

"I'm surprised we haven't already done the 'space force' thing"

I'm not. Such things were banned about half a century ago. Obviously international treaties can be flouted, but as long as the other side aren't flouting them, why be the first to embark on what is likely to be very public, very expensive, militarily pointless piece of wilful disregard for legal norms?

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Angel

Re: No worries

Call the Thunderbirds - they'll get the job done! If not, Brains will figure it out!

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Silver badge

Re: No worries

"lolled = past tense of loll, to hang or lie down, the verb has been used for 100s of years :P"

Lolled is almost as good a word as lolloping, which I try to use as often as I can :-)

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Re: No worries

"Obviously international treaties can be flouted, but as long as the other side aren't flouting them, why be the first to embark on what is likely to be very public, very expensive, militarily pointless piece of wilful disregard for legal norms?"

There are two responses to that.

1) Militarily, owning the "high ground" is almost always a winning strategy.

2) Trump.

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Re: No worries

"Yeah, but they run the Stargate program and you can't use that to get to Earth orbit unless you gate to a planet with a goa'uld mothership (and that would be bad)"

Don't you gate off-world, then gate back to the second gate from Antarctica, with a scavenged DHD plugged in so it becomes the default gate for Earth's address? OK, you have to get the second gate into orbit first, but that's a once-only thing.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No worries

Meanwhile, the Soyuz remains the cheapest and most reliable launch system available, just 2 incidents in 35 years, and the latest might not have happened if 007 hadn't managed to get through security and sabotage it.

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Re: No worries

or at worst case, the current ISS crew can camp out on Thunderbird 5 until the next supply run from Tracy Island... FAB

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Re: No worries

Or use the space elevator in the new version of Thunderbird 5

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Mushroom

Still mad about the Shuttle program...

I don't want to talk about it... but it was the quickest I've *ever* seen the Feds do something..

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How could we be in this mess...

when the Wall Street oligarchy told us privatizing everything solves anything.

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Re: Still mad about the Shuttle program...

That's the first time I have someone wax melancolic over that particular dangerous self-exploding super-costly white complexophant.

Like Excel, the Shuttle was a bad idea implemented badly.

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Re: Still mad about the Shuttle program...

Moonlanding was quicker.

1969-06-20 (Orbit Yuri Gagarin) - 1961-04-12 (first moonlanding) is slightly over 8 years.

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Unhappy

1969-06-20 (Orbit Yuri Gagarin) - 1961-04-12 (first moonlanding) is slightly over 8 years.

You forgot 1 little detail.

Apollo?/Saturn consumed c5% of the entire USG budget while that budget was inflated due to running the Vietnam war.

Today the NASA budget is 0.9% of USG spending. There is no clear goal for SLS or Orion (both of which have kept shifting) aside from shovelling cash and jobs into the Senators states that support it.

Remember they chose to put big jointed solids (which cannot be shut down) on SLS after Challenger showed what happens if the joint fails.

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Thumb Up

Re: Still mad about the Shuttle program...

"complexophant"

This is my word now!

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Trollface

Re: Still mad about the Shuttle program...

"1969-06-20 (Orbit Yuri Gagarin) - 1961-04-12 (first moonlanding)"

Wait, Gagarin's orbit happened _after_ the moon landing...?!?

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I&I

Re: Still mad about the Shuttle program...

Integrate

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Wait, Gagarin's orbit happened _after_ the moon landing...?!?

Yes. After the *real* moon landings, but before the fake ones :-)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Still mad about the Shuttle program...

"Wait, Gagarin's orbit happened _after_ the moon landing...?!?"

... US TV used "live tape delayed coverage" for the moon landings... its just like the Olympics

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Re: 1969-06-20 (Orbit Yuri Gagarin) - 1961-04-12 (first moonlanding) is slightly over 8 years.

NASA current budget is 0.5%

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Silver badge

Re: Still mad about the Shuttle program...

"Like Excel, the Shuttle was a bad idea implemented badly."

No, it was a good idea implemented badly. Mainly due the the "special" requirements of the military causing huge added costs and complexity which, IIRC, was never used, ie the ability to launch, deploy and land cross range in less than one full orbit (or however they described it)

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Unhappy

NASA current budget is 0.5%

I stand corrected.

I think we can agree it's less than the DoD spends on AirCon for overseas bases (c $40Bn) or the size of the US home delivered pizza market (c $25Bn).

All those pies do add up.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: 1969-06-20 (Orbit Yuri Gagarin) - 1961-04-12 (first moonlanding) is slightly over 8 years.

Obummer has a lot to answer for the current crap state of the NASA manned programme. Thank goodness for Putin's long sightedness, and Trump's decision to fix Obummer's mistakes.

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Silver badge

Re: Still mad about the Shuttle program...

some scripted movie was released?

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Re: Still mad about the Shuttle program...

Although your analysis of the use-case for the large wings on the shuttle is correct: it was *still* a bad idea: It turns out to be *MUCH* cheaper and more reliable to use ICBMs over the North (or South) Pole to do this, than launch the shuttle over a pole, nuke Russia, re-enter, turn through 90 degrees (what the big wings were for) then land.

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Re: 1969-06-20 (Orbit Yuri Gagarin) - 1961-04-12 (first moonlanding) is slightly over 8 years.

Remember they chose to put big jointed solids (which cannot be shut down) on SLS after Challenger showed what happens if the joint fails.

At least they did two things right about that.

1. The crew compartment is at the top of the stack where the FSM intended it to be.

2. There actually is a Launch Escape System

(side note: Apollo 11 landed on 1969-07-20.

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Coat

@Iain Thomson wrote:

SpaceX, Boeing running behind schedule, and don't get me started on SLS.

So, what's going on with the SLS?

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> So, what's going on with the SLS?

The 'scathing report [pdf]' link in the article. The report is summarised here:

https://arstechnica.com/science/2018/10/theres-a-new-report-on-sls-rocket-management-and-its-pretty-brutal/

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Happy

The report is utterly wrong though. The SLS is exactly on track, on time and on budget. It's just that the programme's objectives are secret. The real aim is simply to build the rocket so tall, that you can climb up a ladder from the launch tower straight up to the ISS. The fuel savings alone are massive...

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Coat

The real aim is simply to build the rocket so tall, that you can climb up a ladder from the launch tower straight up to the ISS.

Wouldn't it be easier and even cheaper for the crew of the ISS to simply lower a rope?

The one with the "25% off at B&Q" voucher in the pocket.

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Is Rapunzel busy?

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Lose one bloody capsule in 50 years

and all go into full drama-mode. Honestly, chuck another Soyuz up, see what happens. As an ISS astronaut, I´d rather take the risk with a came-up-empty Soyuz than a spanking new new Boeing.

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Re: Lose one bloody capsule in 50 years

Well, actually they lost 4 in 50 years. But yes, it's very reliable: really not an issue to run a quick investigation and resume flight.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Lose one bloody capsule in 50 years

Even if it's basically a fifty years old design, it has been tweaked and production is not made the same way, changes have been applied along the way.

They still have to assert what went wrong and why - it could be a one-off issue, it could be an issue that could repeat - losing a rocket is expensive, even when the crew survives.

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Re: Lose one bloody capsule in 50 years

@ seven of five, totally agree, They didn't lose the capsule, that part worked perfectly and the crew walked away after a normal landing.

This event was a launch booster failure and that is an astonishingly rare event with these rockets.

The Soyuz rocket assembly is a nailed down example of a good simple design being improved in small incremental steps and achieving excellent results on several hundred flights over many decades.

At first sight this seems to be just the latest quality control problem that has occurred in the recent past. I'm expecting the investigations to be very detailed as this is 'National Pride' territory.

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