back to article NASA Administrator upends the scorn bucket on Elon Musk's Starship spurtings

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk braved the wind to give the faithful an update on the progress of the Starship and Super Heavy program from the company's Boca Chica facility in Texas. Standing in front of the recently assembled Starship Mk 1, on the 11th anniversary of the first time the company managed to reach orbit, Musk reflected on …

  1. Esme

    Have I misunderstood?

    I thought crew Dragon was ready and that it was the ongoing NASA testing that is the only thing stopping it from launching sooner?

    Also, given that NASA apparently failed to organise a fixed cost contract with Boeing for initial copies of their capsule, which is now costing billions more of taxpayers money than was originally estimated , and that SpaceX has delivered on cheaper costs to loft payloads to LEO, thereby driving launch costs generally down, it was indeed a very cheap shot at SpaceX by Mr Bridenstine.

    Personally, I'm not a great fan of Elon personally, and I do wish his presentation skills were better (I found the recent presentation about Starship dull; Scott Manley's summary is far better, IMO https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRF41f7hPWE - but with SpaceX I think he's doing a great job. I also look forward to seeing Blue Origin getting stuff into orbit too!

    1. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: Have I misunderstood?

      They have a pad abort to do - last time there was a valve issue which caused a RUD IIRC...

      But yes - it's testing/certification that's taking the time.

      1. jpo234

        Re: Have I misunderstood?

        Pad abort was in 2015. Next is in flight abort.

    2. Ian Johnston

      Re: Have I misunderstood?

      I thought crew Dragon was ready ...

      Apart from that whole "it blew up on the stand when they tested the escape system" thing. You know, the one they keep veeeeeeeery quiet about.

      1. ArrZarr Silver badge

        Re: Have I misunderstood?

        Yes. It's almost like they performed the test for a reason.

        1. MrReal Bronze badge

          Re: Have I misunderstood?

          Unlike Grumman when they made the Apollo LEM, what little testing they did seemed to be on the fantasy Apollo missions where Everything Just Works like in a Story Book.

          Today it's an order of MAGNITUDE easier to design and manufacture stuff but reality and detail seem to just get in the way - quite UNLIKE the 1960s/70s fantasy Apollo series of stories.

      2. timrowledge

        Re: Have I misunderstood?

        You mean the test where the failed component was pretty much a standard part as used by much of the industry?

    3. jpo234

      Re: Have I misunderstood?

      > given that NASA apparently failed to organise a fixed cost contract with Boeing for initial copies of their capsule, which is now costing billions more of taxpayers money than was originally estimated

      Are you confusing Starliner and Orion? Starliner is the Boeing capsule for Commercial Crew and on a fixed price contract. Orion is the Lockheed Martin capsule for SLS/Artemis.

      1. Esme

        Re: Have I misunderstood?

        Quite possibly, but it wasn;t really critical to what I was saying. In my haste I just rremebered that NASA had spaffed billions unecessarily on some capsule or other due to daft contracts, so it;s cheeky of them to make that kind of remark to Spaces X who have driven costs down :-}

  2. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Sour Grapes

    Never mind all the successes, look at this single failure, that has now been thoroughly investigated with a very detailed public disclosure.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sour Grapes

      If it happened on a crewed ship, they'd be all dead. Big deal if you ask me.

      1. hammarbtyp Silver badge

        Re: Sour Grapes

        "If it happened on a crewed ship, they'd be all dead. Big deal if you ask me."

        That's why tests are unmanned.

        1. dmck

          Re: Sour Grapes

          But of course the mission was a success and that dragon would not again be used by crew, Dragon 2's only fly one with crew and then are butchered to become cargo Dragon 2's.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Sour Grapes

            So suddenly NASA care about having a crew escape ? What is this - the 1960s ?

            1. MrReal Bronze badge

              Re: Sour Grapes

              The Saturn V rocket had a fantastic escape Chute (see David Burke's BBC youtube slot on it).

              It was only useful if you knew WELL in advance that you didn't really want to be there - so PERFECT for the Apollo flights that all went straight into the Atlantic while the crew were safe and sound in their bunker.

        2. Tom Paine Silver badge

          Re: Sour Grapes

          Fortunately, nothing more can go wrong, and any crew in a Dragon are entirely safe. Oh yes.

      2. Brangdon

        Re: If it happened on a crewed ship

        The test profile was not something that would happen in an actual mission, crewed or otherwise.

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Sour Grapes

      While there may be sour grapes here I dont think that is any reason not to pour a thousand tons of piss and vinegar onto musk in the hope it washed away some of his over optimism and replaces it with some rock hard caution.

      A single failure is an indication that there is a cavalier approach somewhere in the system. Engineering is hard but our local garage makes money out of regular checks and damage through wear and tear and human stupidity, They dont seem to get many 'well fuck me that was obvious now I think about it' repairs to do. Musk does.

      Nothing investment and testing cant solve. But its far too early to send people to Mars. Their lives are too valuable but then so is the reputation of manned space travel - a major disaster could set things back another 50 years. Its not like he's short of money to get things right.

      1. STOP_FORTH
        Flame

        Engineering hindsight

        I own a Zafira. It has been back to the main dealer twice to fix a wiring loom problem that turns it into a mobile inferno if you use the heater. It is about to have this fault "fixed" for the third time. (This is not peculiar to my Zafira, they have all been recalled three times. All means all the affected models, some Zafiras are not mobile incinerators.)

        Vauxhall have been recalling other models for similar problems this year.

        Other car manufacturers are available and are equally bad.

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Engineering hindsight

          I own a Zafira.

          I have to admit I've never been tempted to own a Vauxhall (let alone buy one) since the spectre of BL seems to be well and thriving there..

          (OldestBrother bought a brand new one a several years back and specified that it needed a tow bar to tow his caravan[1]. After he took it back for the second time so that they could put the driveshafts back into the diff [2] he asked for (and got) his money back. His caravan was well within the weight capacity of the car he had brought.. He then went and bought a 2nd-hand LR Disco for much the same money - which he's had ever since).

          [1] Sad as I am to admit that I'm related to a road-louse owner..

          [2] Apparently the strain of pulling the caravan flexed the suspension to such an extent that the driveshafs would pop out of the diff housing - which then required the car to be put on the back of a flat loader and taken back to the garage. Which meant that the car was officially 'not fit for purpose' and the garage obviously agreed since they refunded his money without a quibble).

      2. Toltec

        Re: Sour Grapes

        I'm impressed, your garage designed a car from the ground up for you and fully integrated and tested the latest safety devices? Nothing at all went wrong the design was perfect and all tests passed the first time?

        They should be rocket scientists.

  3. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    The NASA guy is right

    Musk is a salesman, which is why he's busy pimping tomorrow's project to keep investors interested and happy, because getting the big thing into space is going to be very expensive. This is a trick when you know you're going to miss a deadline: point to something even bigger on the horizon.

    Note, I'm not knocking Space X, which has done some impressive things and introduced at least some competition into the satellite launch market.

    1. Chris 239

      Re: The NASA guy is right

      But isn't Starship and super heavy funded privately by SpaceX mostly from income earned with Falcon 9 not investors money *.

      And SpaceX is owned by Elon - all lock, stock and (unfortunatley sometimes smoking) 2 barrels no other investors to please. I think it has to be that way, if it had shareholders then the priority has to be making a profit and Elon seems more interested in, as they say, " gettin his ass to mars" than any short term profit.

      * I know there was presumably some money from that rich Japanese guy for the trip round the moon but thats pretty small compared to the total cost and technically it's just a payment for service to be rendered and I'd have thought he has some refund clause built in.

      1. Anonymous Cowtard

        "SpaceX is owned by Elon - no other investors to please. "

        Incorrect. He owns a majority share and has huge voting control. Alphabet own a 7.5% stake.

      2. eldakka Silver badge

        Re: The NASA guy is right

        Privately owned company doesn't mean there are no investors or stockholders. It means there is a very limited number of stockholders (as compared to publicly listed companies), and what stock there is is sold by private agreement, not via public reporting on the various stock exchanges.

        So in theory, SpaceX could have a couple-hundred stockholders who's holding sizes and identities, even mere existence, are not public information.

    2. Brangdon

      Re: The NASA guy is right

      If you'd watched the presentation, you'd realise Musk isn't the smooth, glib, manipulative, salesman type you think he is.

      1. Tom Paine Silver badge

        Re: The NASA guy is right

        Newsflash! Not all sales droids are smooth, glib and manipulative.

      2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: The NASA guy is right

        I see you bought the t-shirt. He's not selling used cars, but he is selling a dream. He probably achieved more in his life by the time he was thirty than I will in my entire life. I'm glad he's doing something different from the rest of Silicon Valley and sometimes even putting in his own money. That should, however, not exempt him from criticism and there is, and probably has to be, a lot of smoke and mirrors in all his projects.

  4. Vulch

    Something has been nagging me about the look of Starship

    Last night I realised, the design is based on Fireball XL-5.

    1. STOP_FORTH
      Terminator

      Re: Something has been nagging me about the look of Starship

      Needs some red and yellow paint. (I know it was B&W on British telly, but "TV Century 21" was in colour!)

      (Icon - "On our way home".)

      1. Mage Silver badge
        Alert

        Re: Something has been nagging me about the look of Starship

        Also Trade Descriptions.

        It's a Spaceship. Like in TinTin, XL5, Thunderbirds or Saturn V.

        Not even atomic powered.

        It certainly can't take man to the stars.

        1. STOP_FORTH

          Re: Something has been nagging me about the look of Starship

          Does flying around a star count?

          1. Korev Silver badge
            Joke

            Re: Something has been nagging me about the look of Starship

            I've been doing that since before birth...

            1. STOP_FORTH
              Happy

              Re: Something has been nagging me about the look of Starship

              Starman Korev!

              1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
                Alien

                Re: Something has been nagging me about the look of Starship

                A Carl Sagan famously put it, "We're made of starstuff"...

                1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

                  Re: Something has been nagging me about the look of Starship

                  Carl Sagan famously put it, "We're made of starstuff"...

                  And the Flower Kings famously[1] sing a song called "Stardust We Are". (all 12.11 minutes of it - or 26.34[2] minutes for the live version...)

                  [1] Famous if you are a fan of the Flower Kings anyway. Which I am. Swedish Symphonic Prog at its finest.

                  [2] It amuses me that on the radio a song is called a 'long song' if it's 5 minutes long. I have quite a number of prog songs where the intro alone is longer than that..

          2. mildy bemused

            Re: Something has been nagging me about the look of Starship

            "Does flying around a star count?"

            When I read that, I didn't see the 'o' in the last word. Some days, you just see what you want to see.

        2. rcxb Bronze badge

          Re: Something has been nagging me about the look of Starship

          It certainly can't take man to the stars.

          Well... only one. And it's a one-way trip.

          1. Rich 11 Silver badge

            Re: Something has been nagging me about the look of Starship

            Well... only one. And it's a one-way trip.

            Does it even carry enough fuel to break Earth orbit and set the controls for the heart of the sun?

    2. RegGuy1

      Re: Something has been nagging me about the look of Starship

      Ah, so "Anything can happen in the next half hour!"

      1. John 104

        Re: Something has been nagging me about the look of Starship

        I almost want to give you a thumbs up, but that show was based on underwater adventures. Love it though! OK, have a thumbs up.

        1. STOP_FORTH
          Go

          Re: Something has been nagging me about the look of Starship

          Somebody with decent Photoshop skills should definitely modify one of the Starship pictures to look like Fireball XL5.

          XL5 was rail/ramp launched though.

          Also a hex editor!

          (No FAB icon!)

          Yes, I know, I'm actually ancient enough to remember Supercar.

      2. Tom Paine Silver badge

        Re: Something has been nagging me about the look of Starship

        ES!

    3. mildy bemused

      Re: Something has been nagging me about the look of Starship

      Reminded me of the cover of Jefferson Starship's Deep Space, Virgin Sky.

      Which is mildly ironic.

  5. boltar Silver badge

    He'd better hurry - Virgin Galactic only a year away from launch!

    And its been only a year away for about the last 5 years.

    I'd be interested to know how many lifecycles these landing rockets can achieve before they need a rebuild or at least a major refurb.

    1. ArrZarr Silver badge

      Re: He'd better hurry - Virgin Galactic only a year away from launch!

      The Engines were designed for 1,000 flights. Whether that's practical, sane, physically possible etc. is another matter, but given that the Merlin engines on Falcon are fired many many times before they even see a booster, I'm inclined to believe that we'll see a good percentage of that.

      The next hardest working part is the outer skin which is why they chose stainless over composites due to the 700 degree range of temperatures between the stored fuel, outer space and re-entry. Knowing SpaceX, the heat shielding will be a single replacable part unlike the space shuttle's inbuilt shielding that needed hand-checking every cycle.

      1. xeroks

        Re: He'd better hurry - Virgin Galactic only a year away from launch!

        It'll be interesting to see wherther they give those skins a full polish after every trip, or whether they allow them to develop a patina.

        Putting aside the whether it would affect the functioning of the heat sheild, I'm not sure whether Musk, with his eye on the investor, would go for "look at my shiny rocket" bling or "look at how often this rocket has been reused" bling.

        1. stronk

          Re: He'd better hurry - Virgin Galactic only a year away from launch!

          Judging by the look of the Falcon 9 boosters that are being reused, they are likely to go for the rugged worn-in look. I think if I were sitting on top of a rocket, I'd probably prefer it to have had some test runs than be new and shiny with lots of new parts.

      2. eldakka Silver badge

        Re: He'd better hurry - Virgin Galactic only a year away from launch!

        And since the engines are by far, far, the most expensive part of a rocket (fuel/oxidiser is trivial, hull isn't trivial but compared to engines small), even if the starship hull isn't re-useable, returning the first stage with its 37(ish - TBA) engines intact to be used again is a huge cost-benefit.

        1. Tom Paine Silver badge

          Re: He'd better hurry - Virgin Galactic only a year away from launch!

          Can't help thinking about the N1 when I read about that sort of design.

      3. Zolko
        Paris Hilton

        Re: He'd better hurry - Virgin Galactic only a year away from launch!

        @ArrZarr : The next hardest working part is the outer skin which is why they chose stainless over composites

        I have an issue with that: in order to be potentially able to re-use the rocket, they have to make it actually heavier than if they had chosen from the beginning to be single-use. So there is a trade-off, between the additional weight that induces additional costs —vs— the cost saving from partially being able to re-use some parts of returning rockets.

        I'm not sure at all that it all adds up. Considering the success story of the Soyouz and the fate of the Space Shuttle, may-be a reliable and simple work-horse is better than a hight-tech PR stunt.

        1. ArrZarr Silver badge

          Re: He'd better hurry - Virgin Galactic only a year away from launch!

          Everything is a compromise, especially in rocketry.

          You're right that the reliable and simple work horse may turn out better in the long run - it certainly has historically for rockets.

          To me, the difference is that Starship isn't nearly as complicated relatively speaking given the general tech level today as the Shuttle or even Soyuz were when designed. It's more complex that Soyuz, but technology has come on leaps and bounds since the 60s and we know way more about the practicalities of orbital mechanics and re-usable vehicles than either of those earlier designs, Hell, everybody who owns a copy of KSP can mod it up to be damn near an engineering tool and test everything right there.

      4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: He'd better hurry - Virgin Galactic only a year away from launch!

        "Knowing SpaceX, the heat shielding will be a single replacable part unlike the space shuttle's inbuilt shielding that needed hand-checking every cycle."

        IIRC "glass tiles" were mentioned. No idea how big they will be or how many or if they have standardised on a one or a very few shapes and types.

    2. FIA

      Re: He'd better hurry - Virgin Galactic only a year away from launch!

      I'd be interested to know how many lifecycles these landing rockets can achieve before they need a rebuild or at least a major refurb.

      One.

      They take several months to refurb and check between flights, but the plan is to reduce this significantly.

  6. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

    Airstream in Space,....

    Love the look of Starliner, reminds me of an Airstream Caravan. Me 'n the missus passed an Airstream on return from holiday in Cornwall recently, and as our faithful old caravan is on it's last legs, I looked up the price of an Airstream,.... so, Adria it is.

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: Airstream in Space,....

      Musk's shiny rocket is now called Starship (I still prefer BFR). CST-100 Starliner is Boeing's well funded alternative commercial crew vehicle that has not yet gone to the ISS. Perhaps that is what Bridenstein was referring to in his tweet.

    2. John 104

      Re: Airstream in Space,....

      Don't be fooled by the shiny exterior of Airstreams. Yes, it is pretty, but for the price tag, there should be yacht level of accouterments on the interior. Instead it is the same cheap crap that every other trailer (or caravan as the Brits call them) are made of.

  7. xeroks

    the important thing

    is for SpaceX to name their Starships after the US presidents, in order.

    Washington Starship

    Adams Starship

    etc.

    1. Graham Dawson

      Re: the important thing

      Just remember what the dormouse said

    2. Alan_Peery

      Re: the important thing

      Why'd you stop? Couldn't face the music? ;-)

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Jefferson

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jefferson_Starship

      1. Korev Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: the important thing

        Very well played Sir -->

    3. Mud5hark
      Mushroom

      Re: the important thing

      I see what you did there!

    4. MyffyW Silver badge

      Re: the important thing

      In such a taxonomy, first you have to start with "Airplane"

      Also beware, you will eventually drop the "Jefferson" and end up wearing massive '80s shoulder pads singing "Nothing's gonna stop us now"

      I, for one, welcome our hairspray rock overlords.

  8. Gordon 10 Silver badge

    All this time we thought...

    Elon wanted to be Ernst Blofeld

    When it turns out that all along he wanted to be Ming the Merciless.

    Obligatory "Flash ahaahhhh!" (Although it looks like he's channelling the Serials rather than the film.)

    1. Andy The Hat Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: All this time we thought...

      I think that was actually the reaction after the failed static test " Flash! Arrrggghhhh!"

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: All this time we thought...

      And I for one am perfectly happy to salute my horribly-beweaponed, shiny-silver-rocket-borne overlords.

      Hail Ming! Ruler of the Universe!

    3. Mark 85 Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: All this time we thought...

      Is the channeling "Flash Gordon" or "Flesh Gordon"? Enquiring minds and all that?

      1. Ken Shabby Bronze badge
        Childcatcher

        Re: All this time we thought...

        Though I have to say he was fortunately able to complete the design before the Sex-Ray took effect.

  9. WonkoTheSane Silver badge
    Trollface

    Jealous much?

    Bridenstine is just thinking of his corporate masters, because unlike ULA/SLS, SpaceX is porkbarrel free.

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: Jealous much?

      The real problem is senator Richard "Fuel Depot" Shelby who controls NASA's budget. Bridenstein fired the guy who gave Boeing a full bonus for delays on SLS and now has to deal with the wrath of Shelby, who has promised to stop funding the space technology program if anyone says "depot" again. (Orbital re-fueling is more cost effective than a big single use rocket even without SLS's exorbitant development costs).

    2. hittitezombie

      Re: Jealous much?

      Well, if SpaceX gets their act together for human flight to ISS using realistic equipment, not stuff from a very bad SF novel, then ULA/SLS will be sunk completely. The fact that Elon is delaying things and not getting humans on board his Dragon capsule shows how unsure he is.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Jealous much?

        I think you're confusing a couple of things. The crew dragon which will fly humans to the ISS - is completed. They had to replace some valves after the super draco explosion but it's essentially completed and very much realistic not SF because it's already been to the ISS and back just without crew.

        However, success with the crew dragon will not sink SLS because they're different systems designed to do different things. Success with the Starship is what could sink SLS as a fully functional SS + SH stack will make SLS redundant.

        Finally, why do you think Elon is delaying things?

  10. Sil

    No

    "The frenetic pace of development of Starship means that Musk's promise that the larger hop could happen in "about one to two months" is entirely plausible.'

    Are you for real?

    Elon Musk must have the world record on promises not realized, either at all or on time.

    1. RM Myers
      Thumb Down

      Re: No

      Musk has certainly had a number of promises not realized, but a "world record" number - not even close. Most politicians would easily blow away his numbers in just one election cycle.

    2. 96percentchimp

      Re: No

      The SpaceX fan community calls this "Elon time". Really, though, even if Starship takes an extra year to reach orbit it will still spell the end for SLS/Orion.

  11. FeepingCreature

    Addendum to the article

    Note that Elon said in the Q&A portion that Starship was using fewer than 5% of the resources of the company, which seems like it'd be an answer to that tweet.

  12. Spanky_McPherson

    Did he say "Commercial Crew" or "SLS"

    Elon's proper response in this interview - fast forward to 1m07s.

    https://edition.cnn.com/videos/business/2019/09/29/elon-musk-starship-interview-orig.cnn/video/playlists/business-elon-musk/

  13. Irongut
    FAIL

    Hey Jim when was the last time NASA delivered anything to the ISS? Oh yeah over 8 years ago.

  14. MrReal Bronze badge

    It was easy in 1969, going to the moon was routine, no problems to report and they only had 8 years to not just reach orbit but play golf and cavort around like children 250,000 miles away.

    Then there was the LEM(on), always working perfectly. 50 years later we're still struggling with the tech of balancing a rocket and we can't get into orbit without Russia's help. Contrast to Apollos instant dockings and the strange inability to photographs the stars or to explain all the weathering on the boulders they found there, all mysteriously clean of dust and with rounded corners and frost cracks.

    Any sane person would regard this as proof that Apollo was a total fantasy story and was just a poor cover up for stuff that never worked and an inability to pierce the VAB due to the lethal radiation there.

    1. Mark192

      Thanks for the laugh

      I *love* conspiracy theories. I've got that weird thing where I don't believe stuff.

      One thing has been bugging me.. . There's a lot of evidence, and much of it very persuasive, that we went to the moon.

      And I get that one would be sceptical of this side.

      There's not much evidence, and much of it has been proven to be wrong, that it was faked.

      And I get that one would be sceptical of that side.

      But why be sceptical of the first **when one isn't sceptical of the second**.

      I guess what I'm asking is, why is a conspiracy theorist so uncritically accepting of conspiracy theories?

      Genuine question as I tend not to believe anything and struggle to see why people have belief.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Thanks for the laugh

        Yeah, nice try. But we all know that you're only trying to undermine faith in conspiracy theories because you work for the Lizard People...

      2. MrReal Bronze badge

        Re: Thanks for the laugh

        There isn't any evidence they went apart from some dubious media from NASA.

        The evidence they didn't is everywhere you look but your belief system prevents you seeing it.

        1. STOP_FORTH
          Facepalm

          Re: Thanks for the laugh

          My belief system prevents me from taking you seriously. Deniers of all stripes should not be allowed to use non-stick frying pans. That'll learn 'em.

    2. d3vy Silver badge

      "It was easy in 1969, going to the moon was routine, no problems to report "

      Except... You know Apollo 1 and 13... Those are both pretty well known?

      1. Tom Paine Silver badge

        Apollo 1 didn't even fly.

        1. d3vy Silver badge

          "Apollo 1 didn't even fly."

          Further proving that space flight is really quite difficult.

  15. Silvergoat

    The NASA administrator has to be snarky, the credibility of NASA is on the line. I remember how the Shuttle was the be-all and end-all of space travel. They shut everything else down. Then the twin disasters and televised dead crews. Now they're decades behind, shoveling billions towards corporations all to willing to advance space travel at a snail's pace with no skin in the game. Along comes a brash billionaire and proceeds to make multiple re-entry reusable vehicles and makes NASA look like the old age home that it's become.

    When NASA catches up with SpaceX, I'll reconsider. Right now, they're a nursing home full of obstipated, ossified civil servants.

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Follow the money

      One of the few things where Republican and Democratic politicians can agree is "I will vote to fund your boondoggle if you vote to fund mine". NASA gets a tiny budget for science in return for spending a much larger budget on SLS+Orion+LOPG. The GOA has repeatedly complained that NASA's lack of achievement is caused by politicians deciding who gets the money instead of setting broad goals, supplying the money and standing back while NASA gets on with it.

      Commercial Crew was supposed to be NASA buying a service and not micro-managing every decision. The problem was that this style was massively successful with commercial cargo. The crew program had to be slowed to a crawl to prevent Orion looking like a complete waste of money. (The purpose of Orion is to have a cargo that only SLS can lift.) NASA was required report on the cost effectiveness and safety of every part of commercial crew then politicians diverted the funds to do that to SLS.

    2. eldakka Silver badge

      the credibility of NASA is on the line.

      As a science research institute, e.g. probes, discoveries, etc., I feel they are seriously credible.

      As an engineering shop? Not so much.

  16. Martian Sentinel

    Scorn Bucket on Musk

    Love him or loathe him Elon Musk has done more to shake up tech in the last twenty years than his peers. NASA might just want to retract their claws and keep an even keel if they want to attain their goals before China and other countries with extra-orbital successes under their belts.

    The guy might not be perfect, neither was Einstein, but he has achieved a tremendous amount. NASA's Artemis mission will go ahead - eventually - late and over budget; crew safety covers everything and anything. Musk may well be on Mars before Artemis makes it to the moon.

  17. stuartnz

    Ave Space X, we who are about to be downvoted salute you

    Point the first: Musk strikes me as a prat, an arrogant, entitled rich white guy.

    Point the second: Space X is doing AMAZING work, thanks to its highly skilled and committed staff, and supported by the enormous resources and ego of said rich white prat.

    Point the third: I'm genuinely bemused by the finger-pointing about the various Space X RUD's. Surely the whole point of unmanned testing is to find and fix the flaws that cause such failures BEFORE putting people in the vehicles?

    Point the fourth: In relation to both point the third and the issue of cost/time overruns, criticism from NASA seems to be such brazen chutzpah as to be almost surreal. Either that or the current administrator is somehow genuinely unaware of NASA's record of both budget blowouts and of finding fatal flaws via fatalities.

    1. 96percentchimp

      Re: Ave Space X, we who are about to be downvoted salute you

      I'd agree with most of your points, except:

      Point the first: Musk is all of that, but he also appears to be a visionary engineer who taught himself rocketry when he started SpaceX and has been responsible for some out-of-the-box thinking, like building Starship in steel instead of carbon fibre.

      Point the fourth: I think that Bridenstine is genuinely trying to evolve NASA into an exploration and tech development agency that relies on commercial launch providers, but it's a long process and he needs to play political games to keep the pork barrel politicians on side. Musk would be smart to shrug off the criticism and get on with building spaceships, but his ego probably won't let him. Hopefully old age will deal with the problem of Senator Shelby before long.

      1. stuartnz

        Re: Ave Space X, we who are about to be downvoted salute you

        Thanks for the clarifications - I was unaware of Musk's own technical expertise, it helps round out my perception of him better. Much obliged.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Theories

    It took decades until the exact composition of NASAs SRB and ET was known and it is in fact a lithium/aluminium alloy.

    Could it be that the stagnation in progress within the private sector as with 3D printing was the time taken for patents to expire? Seems that if you want to prevent a technology being used, patent it early then sit on it, meanwhile raking in the profits every time a competitor tries the same thing or simply buy them out.

    Evidently this happens a lot in Big Pharma and also high tech, case in point that Sloot fellow who (allegedly) came up with multi-GB effective video storage in the 1990s possibly based on a high density version of a near-lost technology still used in analogue storage chips but it vanished when he passed away. Makes you wonder what is being kept quiet to further profits.

    Its also well known that NASA used technology that (for a while) could not be replicated because it was reverse engineered from early German work and brought over to the US by "Operation Paperclip" among other efforts, also much of their biological knowledge later led to the CDC.

    In fact ballistic missiles are very similar in many ways to early rocketry and the chemicals used are similar.

    1. MrReal Bronze badge

      Re: Theories

      A lot of Apollo tech. from NASA could not be replicated for the simple reason that most of it never worked in the first place.

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