Doug Stanley, the notorious ESAS leader has said some strange things (this is his option three, one being Ares I and two Ares V):
Eliminating Ares 1 and 5 and all shuttle infrastructure could save NASA future costs that could eventually be applied towards exploration by significantly reducing the workforce and fixed infrastructure costs. This approach would require “commercial” crew transportation for ISS and exploration missions, and would likely require propellant depots to compensate for the smaller commercial launch vehicles. This was not politically feasible in 2005, but perhaps could be today. Additional detailed cost analysis is required, however, to determine the true cost of a procurement that would require paying for two human-rated capsules and launch vehicles to refine the rather optimistic estimates of the Augustine committee.
Umm. The multi-launch scenario technical analysis in ESAS was a travesty. (One launch pad-> too many delays->multi launch not an option. Hello? And lots of other things, like the unbearable cost of manrating, which suddenly vanished a couple months ago when Doug last spoke…) And now Doug is turning around and saying it might be more politically feasible today? Way to wash your hands! So, politics tolerates more launch delays now? Or politics is sufficiently advanced to launch from more than one pad (or VIF)?
I’ve certainly heard stories from before ESAS of how Doug Stanley had been open minded to commercially launched capsules. So what was this nefarious political influence that caused the ESAS to be so bad and subsequently practically freeze most commercial progress for the next 5 years.
One quite obvious road was clear from day one when shuttle retirement was a real thing in the future: a simple capsule on an EELV for ISS taxi. Those rockets exist and fly and have a history. The sooner development is started, the better, the smaller the gap. You can use that for other purposes as well.
I do agree that more than just the Augustine panel report would be nice.