What you can do with the $35 billion Ares-1 "price"
August 23, 2009

In the latest four years and especially in the last months of "human spaceflight revision" I've read lots of crazy and absurd proposals and suggestions (like the orbital refuel, the RESIZED-Ares-5-called-Direct, the "cheaper commercial ISS resupply services" that will have a price-per-ton of payload to LEO up to FOUR times the, already "stellar", NASA costs, the resurrection of the Shuttle-C, etc.) but the ABSOLUTE WINNER of this list of INSANE ideas is the suggestion (that I've read with my eyes in a NASA slide!!!) to finish the ISS, then, BURN IT in the atmosphere in 2016 like a giant $168 billion Mandala!!!

At the 2nd place of the list (just seconds after the winner) there is the, NASA officials, incredible and unintentionally self-ironic claim, that, the (seriously flawed) Ares-1 can be made "within eight years" (+ further delays...) just having "enough funds" since its development (and ONLY its development WITHOUT real rockets ready to fly) should cost "only $35 billion"... + possible cost overruns, of course... :)

So, I've decided to write this article, to show, in detail, WHAT you can do, with the $35 billion Ares-1 development "cheap price" comparing it with other space-related options.

Four years ago, in a discussion (about the Shuttle vs. ESAS costs) on a space forum, I was influenced, but just for a few days, by some "experts" that have said (nearly everyday) "how much expensive" was the Shuttle in comparison with the (expected) "cheap" costs of the new Ares-1 and Orion.

After some search about the true Space Shuttle costs (and some calculations of the REAL Ares-1, Orion and Moon missions prices) I've soon discovered (then, said, in several posts on the same forum, that, few months ago has deleted and censored over 1000 of my 1600 posts, fortunately saved before on my PC) how much HIGH, the ESAS hardware and missions was, in 2005 (when the expected costs, was just a FRACTION of today's projections) and how FALSE, all claims (from lots of propaganda-men) was about the "high costs" of the Shuttle flights!

The annual budget of the Shuttle program is around $3.2 billion, so, each flight has a "price" under $650 million if launched five times per year, or $800 million if launched four times per year, or $1.1 billion if launched three times per year.

With $35 billion it's possible to use the Shuttle fleet 11 years more from 2011 to 2021 and for up to 55 more missions (at five missions per year) that's absolutely in the Space Shuttle capabilities, since, each Orbiter, was designed to fly 100 times and (clearly) the last three Shuttle available, haven't flown 300 times!

But, the most IMPRESSIVE figure of this option, is the number of astronauts and tons of cargo that you can carry to LEO in 11 years with 55 further Shuttle missions!

These figures are: up to 400 astronauts (enough for 100 Moon missions!!!!!!!!) AND (since the Shuttle can carry astronauts AND cargo) up to 1300 TONS of cargo to a 100 nmi LEO (for SEVEN Moon missions assembled in space!!!!!) or 1200 TONS of cargo to the ISS or 900 TONS of pressurized cargo to the ISS that's over 20 TIMES the entire pressurized cargo expected to be carried by the $3.5 billion CRS program!!!

The second option to use the $35 billion of the Ares-1 development, is to buy many Delta 4 Heavy to accomplish the Moon missions with several launches of smaller parts assembled in space.

The last I know, a Delta 4 Heavy costs $450 million, but it's not man-rated, so, if we include the costs to man-rate it the price could reach $500 million.

So, with $35 billion, we can buy up to 70 man-rated Delta 4 Heavy, that are enough rockets, to accomplish TEN full Moon missions using seven D4H for each mission!!!

A much better option is to use this money to build 100 FAST-SLV that is THE BEST "recipe" of all shuttle-derived rockets, since, its "ingredients" (standard SRB, SSME and ET) are ready available, cheap and already man-rated!

With 100 shuttle-derived FAST-SLV rocket (I concept that I've proposed over 3.5 years ago and should costs about $350 million each) will be possible to accomplish up to 50 Moon missions (with two FAST-SLV per mission) that are FIVE Moon mission per year between 2016 and 2025.

If your goal is to carry the american astronauts to the ISS, the best choice is to use, the Ares-1 funds, to buy up to 700 Soyuz "seats" (at today's $50M price per seat) from Russia (as NASA has already done, with three contracts awarded to Russia) so you will send up to SEVEN american astronauts per year to ISS, for the next 100 years!!!! ...or, for the next 200 years, if Russia will sell you again the Soyuz seats at the past (lower) $25M price per "seat"... :)

The SSTO is one of the most absurd rocket's concepts invented, so crazy and absurd, that, I haven't lost, so far, not even an hour of my time to write an article, to explain in detail, "how much" crazy and absurd is the SSTO concept (since, it looks clearly obvious to me, but, incredibly, not so, for many rocket "scientists" that still study and support this crazy concept!) in fact, a true, real, working SSTO was never built so far, since it can't reach the Earth orbit, or, if it will, someday, the payload carried to LEO will be minimal and very expensive!!!

The SSTO looks not a "true rocket concept" but the philosopher's stone or the unsolved psychoanalytic conflict of many rockets scientists, since they PERFECTLY KNOW that an SSTO can't work (or never can be so, propellants vs. payload, efficient, like every multi-stage rocket!) and that the laws of physics, the Tsiolkovsky rocket equation, the Earth gravity (and the common sense) are all against them and the SSTO, but, they, tenaciously and stubbornly, always love the SSTO concept and try to really design it!

However, the most incredible part of this story, is that NASA and Lockheed Martin have REALLY TRIED to design and build an SSTO and have BURNED over $1.2 Bn to develop the X-33 "technology demonstrator" before delete the entire project eight years ago!!!

Well, I did NOT want to suggest to develop an SSTO (nor to restart the X-33 project) of course, but, if NASA has burned so much money to develop a (so crazy and absurd!) vehicle like the X-33 why it does not spend a small part of the $35 billion (it now wants to burn to develop the, even crazier and absurd, Ares-1) to develop a new, smaller, safer, cheap and easy to build and manage, crews-only, hundreds times reusable (but not SSTO) Space Shuttle???

Its development should cost $10-15 billion, but its advantages could be incredible!!!

In 19+ years of life, the Hubble Space Telescope had a cost of over $7 billion, including its servicing missions (only the SM4 price was been over $1.7 billion) but it has given incredible scientific results and amazing images of the universe so, why don't use the Ares-1 bucks to build and launch many other HSTs?

The costs to build now a brand new (and fully updated to the best today's technology) HST, and to launch it in space, should be around $3.5 billion, so, with the Ares-1 R&D money, it's possible to build and launch up to TEN new HSTs or (maybe) only two-three new space telescopes, but, much MUCH BIGGER than Hubble, enough big to catch the image of lots of exoplanets!

The "price" of the (truly amazing) Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers was been only $400 million each (including the rockets to launch them!) so, assuming a today's Mars rovers "unit price" around $350M each including the rockets (the lower price is thanks to the, already paid, R&D costs and to the scale-economy that come from build many dozens Mars roves) we can build and launch up to 100 MARS ROVERS to have (at least) 200,000 hours of Mars exploration!!!

A good Moon rover can be smaller and simpler than a Mars rover and (most important) needs a much smaller rocket to launch it (the price of a Moon rover should be around $100M, at NASA costs, including the rockets) so, the Ares-1 "price" is more than enough to build and launch (at least) 350 Moon rovers to accomplish a total and detailed exploration of the Moon surface as suggested FOUR years ago in my proposal of VME - Vision for Moonrovers Exploration!!!

If you aren't one of the "out of their minds guys" that want to BURN in the atmosphere the $168 billion ISS, but, you find it very useful, think that, with $35 billion we can build a SECOND space station (often, someone forget that we have just ONE space station!) in Earth orbit (near the Hubble or at a much higher altitude or in a lunar transfer orbit, to assist the eventual lunar-convoys' assemblies) or (best) in lunar orbit, and, building it using less (but much bigger) modules (like the Skylab) this second/cheap space station can be BIGGER than the ISS!!

What you've read so far, is only a funny story, since, fortunately, the idea to BURN so much money to develop the Ares-1 is only a proposal, that (I feel) will never come true, but, unfortunately, the bad news is that NASA has ALREADY BURNED or will burn soon, a giant amount of billion$ to develop many wrong, useless and senseless, projects, like spend $3 billion just to add a segment to the SRB, the awarded $1.2 billion contract to develop the new (and useless) J-2X, spent over $1.7 billion for the risky and useless Hubble SM4, paid $360 million for the Ares 1-X test, given away or already awarded $4 billion to SpaceX and Orbital Sciences for the COTS program and the very expensive CRS program, for a grand total (that surely lacks of other expenses) of over $10 billion!

Just for your curiosity, the $10 billion already burned was enough for... THREE further years (from 2011 to 2013) of Space Shuttle missions (with at least 10-15 launches, up to 100 astronauts and over 300 tons of cargo carried to the ISS) OR to buy over 250 standard SRB OR over 170 SSMEs OR over 500 RS-68s OR over 125 Shuttle ETs OR 20 man-rated Delta IV Heavy OR up to 30 FAST-SLV (to accomplish 15 Moon missions!!!) OR over 200 Soyuz "seats" (at the new, higher, $50M per seat price!) OR to develop a new, smaller, Space Shuttle OR to build and launch THREE further Hubble telescopes OR send 30 new rovers on Mars OR send over 100 rovers on the Moon OR build, launch and assemble (at least) FIVE more giant ISS modules, etc.

Look better !!!  Direct is ONLY a slightly RESIZED Ares-5 !!!

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