Will “Rocket to nowhere” be the death of SpaceX?


NASA’s new rocket lifts ambition, fuels doubts – 
[Via Houston Chronicle]

Todd May’s corner office overlooks the tree-lined hills where Wernher von Braun made the most powerful rockets the world has ever known.

Just down the road stands a massive building, taller than a football field is long, where von Braun’s mighty Saturn V rocket underwent tests ahead of its triumphant lunar destiny. Atop another rise there’s a rickety-looking tower where, as NASA desperately sought to keep pace with the Russians, von Braun tested a modified missile that carried the first American into space.

These and other historic Apollo buildings at Marshall Space Flight Center remain today, rusted reminders that once, long ago, Alabama rocketry made the world stand at attention.


One Senator hopes so. I don’t think it will but it will surely slow down our manned space efforts. America could already have men in space if Congress had not already hamstrung the system to much.

More than anything, this article reveals that the SLS is more a jobs program – in this case for Alabama – than an effective way to explore space.

NASA should be working with SpaceX more rather than competing. But so much of the NASA manned program’s budget  is based on government-supported jobs than actual innovative ways to explore space. This attitude is why the Senator from Alabama is trying to kill commercial crew and Space-X.

This article illustrates the way the NASA manned space program looks backward on manned flight rather than forward. On cost-plus contracts rather than on private enterprise.

von Braun is a hero. Musk is a competitor. 

The SpaceX rocket that will undercut the SLS will fly in less than a year. The SLS won’t fly until 2017, if then.

The article details almost everything wrong with NASA manned flights —  a large monolithic rocket using four $40 million one-time use rockets, whose main purpose is to continue to provide money and jobs for people in Alabama (and elsewhere) than to effectively allow us to explore space – even as it applies heroic prose to what NASA is trying to do.

SpaceX may well be able to send up hundreds of rockets for the same price as one SLS. Yet instead of working more with SpaceX, enhancing the great private-public partnership already in place, some in NASA want to destroy that and build a rocket for which it cannot afford any payload.

Mostly because the program provides jobs in certain states. 

This is like saying instead of building a transcontinental railroad, we will build bigger ships to take us around Cape Horn. It’ll keep the boat builders in Virginia employed.

But would do little to help people settle America, or businesses spring up. Or expand actual exploration.

NASA needs to look forward and explore. Not act as a job provider for obsolete approaches.

NASA, and its Congressional benefactors, needs to realize that simply getting off of Earth is no longer in their purview. It will be done more effectively by private corporations. It needs to focus on getting from LEO to beyond.

I’d be willing to bet that they could have some really interesting space tugs and ships ready to explore from LEO sooner than the SLS will actually get into space.