of NASA's money
Every day more, the current NASA policy about new spacecrafts and ISS re-supply looks CRAZIER and EXPENSIVE over any imagination!
And now, just following the (5-segments-SRB-like) "US taxpayers' money burning policy", NASA has awarded the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) $3.5 BILLION contract to 2 small companies, to carry a GRAND TOTAL of ONLY 50 mT of cargo to the ISS over the 2010-2015 period to replace the (soon retired) Space Shuttle!
Apart the fact that it's just a DUPLICATION of ALREADY EXISTING (or available soon) ISS resupply services (like the Space Shuttle, the european ATV, the japanese HTV and the russian Progress) it looks really INCREDIBLE that NASA (that ALWAYS claims that "hasn't enough money" for Orion, Ares, ESAS, Constellation, new exploration probes, aeronautics research, etc.) wants to pay/waste/burn a SO HUGE AMOUNT of money to do the SAME THING they can accomplish NOW with the Shuttle or the Progress!
Infact, this (truly "amazing"!!!) five-years-50 mT-to-ISS goal, should be achieved with 8 flights of the Orbital Sciences Taurus IITM launcher + Cygnus spacecraft and 12 flights of the SpaceX's Falcon 9 + Dragon capsule, each flight (accomplished with COTS derived hardware) to carry a mere 2.5 mT of cargo to the Space Station, so (assuming the CRS costs won't grow to twice or more...) EACH of these "cheap" cargo mission should cost $175 million and EACH mT carried to the ISS should cost $70 million!!!
In other words, in 2010-2015 each $175 million CRS mission will carry to ISS the SAME (~2.5 mT) payload an russian Progress can send NOW for less than $40-50 million per launch, so, the "price" of each ("commercial", then, expected to be "cheaper") CRS mission will be UP TO FOUR TIMES HIGHER than an already available, safer (for the ISS crews) and reliable Progress mission!
So, NASA wants to pay FOUR TIMES THE PRICE (+ CRS costs overruns...) to buy THE SAME cargo and ISS re-supply services of a Progress!!!
Just to add, that, since the ISS is an "international" space station, other ISS partners (Europe, Russia and Japan now, and, maybe, also China and India soon) already (or will) launch the scientific experiments and the ISS resupply (also for the american astronauts aboard the ISS) with their already available cargo vehicles, then, the full CRS program is COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY and the already awarded $3.5 BILLION could have been more effectively used for better space projects!
Last but not least, the (50 mT only) total cargo payload, the full CRS program will carry to the ISS (with 20+ missions!!!) in 2010-2015 is (nearly) THE SAME of the max cargo payload of just TWO Space Shuttles (24 mT max each) missions, then, to carry 50 mT of extra-cargo to the ISS (saving LOTS of billion$$$) NASA just need to add TWO futher ($800M each) missions to the Space Shuttle launch-manifest, saving up to TWO billion$ to be best used to speed-up the Constellation program!
However, over 40 MONTHS AGO, I've suggested (in this Sept. 2005 article) to MODIFY the Space Shuttles fleet to fly (also, but not only) CREWLESS to carry OVER 30 mT of cargo per mission to LEO or ISS, that means (with FOUR cargo missions per year) OVER 120 mT of total cargo sent to the ISS each year or over 600 mT of cargo in 2011-2015 that's up to 12 TIMES the planned cargo-to-ISS payload of the full CRS program!!!!!!!!
Also, the CREWLESS Space Shuttle may ALWAYS allow things, that, all COTS, Orion and CRS programs NEVER can give... like... VERY BIG (over 30 mT each) "smart" payloads sent to the LEO or ISS (including many NEW modules and other hardware to expand and upgrade the ISS) or to bring back to Earth (that's simply IMPOSSIBLE with the Soyuz, Orion or Dragon capsules!) the orbital assembly/disassembly/maintenance/upgrade/repair (that ONLY the Space Shuttle can accomplish) also preserving the vast knowledge and experience gained in 30 years of Shuttle missions and the Shuttle program workforce, launch and assemble NEW space stations (or other BIG infrastructures) in space without wait the Ares-5 ready to fly also for non-lunar missions (that can happen only after 2022 or later!) keep in service and ready to fly a second ISS crew's RESCUE option (when the Shuttle already is docked to the ISS for a cargo missions or launching them unmanned to bring back to Earth the entire crew safely!) and TO DO MANY OTHER THINGS IN SPACE that are (simply) IMPOSSIBLE to accomplish if the Space Shuttles will be SCRAPPED or sent to a museum!!!
Read an interesting discussion about this argument on the Irene Klotz's Free Space blog.
Read a recent, detailed and updated discussion about the COTS and CRS programs here.
Read this interesting The Space Review's article that talks also about CRS (high) costs.
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