About 24 hours before SpaceX CEO Elon Musk planned to submit an update on Starship rocket vehicle development, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstein wrote a weird and completely unprovoked statement on the subject.
It seems to be equivalent to the recent delay of SpaceX Dragon SpaceX. with the public attention of Elon Musk, NASA admin commentary has been almost universally criticized by the space flight community – and rightly so.
First, some context. Created in 2010 and first backed by serious funding 12-24 months later, there is a NASA commercial program to replace the space shuttle space transportation capabilities once offered by Space Shuttle, now contracted for space on Russian Soyuz launches. Above all, the result of the inept bureaucracy in NASA and Congress, the space shuttle was "released" in 201
Congress rejected several proposals from 2010 to continue the Shuttle until the end of 2010, opting instead to kill the Shuttle and divert related funding to the Ares V missile (now Space Launch System, SLS ) and the Orion crew capsule. More on that later. ..
Retweeted Bridenstein's official account above, the absolute best interpretation of NASA admin commentary. Although Eric Berger means well, the interpretation gives NASA far far too much merit. In particular, Bridenshtin (or the applicant) went out of his way to make it completely one-sided in his focus on SpaceX. Apparently, it would never have been posted had it not been for Elon Musk's plans to submit to Starship. Bridenstein further notes that the Commercial Crew is behind schedule and points out that "NASA is looking for the same level of investment-driven enthusiasm [its]."
In general, it is simply impossible to interpret this as anything other than Bridenstein barking at SpaceX – and SpaceX only – for not falling to the floor, kissing NASA's feet, and pretending that Crew Dragon and Falcon 9 are the only things that exist. Missing from the criticism of Bridenstine was another (and even more delayed) commercial partner for the crew, Boeing, which had not yet completed the testing for the landing or orbital flight of its Starliner spacecraft. In 2015, SpaceX completed the Crew Dragon groundbreaking break, and in March 2019 completed an impeccable orbital test.
In essence, Bridenstine is publicly stating that SpaceX should cease to be (or appear to be) a distraction for Starship and focus 100% on Crew Dragon. Boeing was not mentioned, despite the fact that at least six months behind SpaceX and sharply more "distracted" by the interpretation of this style in the broidester style. For reference, Boeing is a commercially-owned company with 150,000 employees, an annual revenue of more than $ 100, and a market cap of $ 206B. Boeing has 14 subsidiaries, several of which are involved in space flight, and have at least one to two dozen products of greater financial importance to shareholders and board members than Starliner.
Compared to Boeing's annual revenue ~ $ 100 billion, the entire Starliner development program – from the drawing board in 2010 to the crew orbiting space flight sometime in 2020 – is $ 4.8 billion. In terms of corporate scope, Starliner is likely to have improved in 2019, and the company is likely to be much more focused on systematic organizational failures that result in the deaths of hundreds of people in two nearly identical 737 MAX crashes. Unfortunately, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstin did not release a statement generally suggesting that Boeing should devote the "same level of enthusiasm" to Starliner after the second fatal crash of the 737 MAX in March 2019. Bridenstein also did not release a statement accusing Boeing of failing to concentrate after constant reports of company problems with the KC-46 Pegasus tank programs, as well as a recent $ 9.2 billion contract with US Air Force trainers or a host of other corporate accents.
On the other hand, as Musk noted in his relatively subtle responses on September 28 to Bridenshtin's implicitly mocking comment, approximately 50-80% of all SpaceX workforce and resources are focused on Crew Dragon, The Falcon 9 rockets that trigger it, or a combination of both. Starship is now, at most, a side project, even if its strategic importance for SpaceX is hard to overstate. This is largely true of Starlink, SpaceX's ambitious satellite program. It may be true that Starship will eventually make Crew and Cargo Dragon (as well as Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy) completely redundant, but it's likely years ago and SpaceX will support NASA – as contractually required – as long as space agency has shown interest in using Crew Dragon.
At the same time, NASA has explicitly and publicly chosen the priority of Commercial Crew scheduling security, accepting the possibility of delays and cost overruns to ensure that SpaceX and Boeing can build the safest spacecraft.
In an interview on September 28 for CNN, Musk made it clear that the hardware – at this point in time – was more or less ready for flight and would be in place at SpaceX & # 39; s Florida launch pad in Florida. over the next two months. According to Musk, since then, any additional launch delays can be almost completely attributed to the paperwork and reviews that NASA has to complete before putting SpaceX forward. If Bridenstin wants SpaceX to launch astronauts faster, the only – and perhaps only – solution would be to tackle the roadblocks created by NASA's own bureaucracy. The question is whether or not Bridenstein wants to cut a red ribbon that may (or may not) be there for good reason.
When the pot calls the kettle black
Apart from whining about the CEO of a contractor, a non-NASA program complains about commercial crew delays, at least a little more reasonably. Originally scheduled to launch in 2015, Congress has systematically underfunded the Commercial Crew Program by more than 50% for more than half a decade, spraying $ 2.4 billion of the $ 5.8 billion that NASA has requested from 2011 to 2016. Not surprisingly, these are fully developed Boeing and SpaceX development schedules. By September 2014, SpaceX was intended to obtain a NASA Crew Dragon certification for astronauts transportation by the end of 2017, but already at that time NASA considered the schedule too over-optimistic.
It would be two more years before Congress began seriously funding the commercial crew at the required levels2016 starting atYY6 response to Briddenstein, former NASA Deputy Administrator Laurie Garver said that over ~ 5 years, Congress has consistently withheld hundreds of millions of dollars of critical money from Commercial Crew, NASS SLS rockets and Orion spacecraft have been sequentially funded and above and above their budget requests. Only from 2011 to 2016, SLS and Orion required $ 11B and received an incredible $ 16.3B (148%) from Kongress, while Commercial Crew required $ 5.8B and $ 2.4B (41%).
Ironically, despite the fact that they literally received almost seven times more funding than Crew Dragon and Starliner, SLS and Orion, they are probably, if not more, delayed than their commercial brethren. Initially intended to unscrew the test flight in 2017, there is now little chance that this mission (known then as EM-1 and now as Artemis-1) will launch by 2022, a delay of about half a decade. The cost of the SLS / Orion program recently amounted to $ 30 billion, a figure that is likely to rise to ~ $ 40 before it launches once. Of that funding, about a third went to Boeing, the main contractor responsible for the comic delay of the SLS Core Stage – the orange booster pictured above.
The Commercial Crew Development Program is likely to cost NASA $ 8B for only 9-10 years and produce two high-performance (relatively) inexpensive spacecraft. After the demo launches, NASA will move to fixed-price contracts with SpaceX and Boeing to send astronauts to the ISS several times a year.
To put it simply, if Bridenstein actually cared about protecting the "American taxpayer's investment" more than making their holiness a political weapon, he would not be built as a card house with the least resistance to his attempts to overthrow. SLS / Orion delays and cost overruns, and he certainly won't waste his breath complaining that he's the CEO of SpaceX or not talking about it.
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