And partly what this blog is about (I realized in the middle that I’m typing like in a slide show, so I changed it into bullet points, as it’s an overview and not a deep text). I present my vision that should be aimed for:
What should NASA do?
- In the near term, NASA should change to EELV:s (Atlas V, Delta 4) and COTS (Falcon 9, Taurus 2) as launchers for the ISS and lunar programs.
- At the same time, NASA should do basic research and cheap small tech demonstrators for space technologies that give more for less.
- This should move humanity closer towards spacefaring.
Spacefaring? Spacefaring is making space operations routine.
- Space faring requires that space access is cheap, reliable and hassle free.
- Launch is only part of the spacefaring,
- But only from that point on can the better in-space technologies (tethers, ballutes, sails, ISRU, slings, whatnot) be developed.
- Hence launch improvements are absolutely crucial for spacefaring
How can cheap and reliable space access be reached? There must be:
- Many independent providers of space access.
- It is done largely with well reusable vehicles.
- The architecture – more of a market – is multi-faceted and the launchers can be improved, new ones can enter the market and old ones can be scrapped
This coal can be reached, in the next few decades.
Things to avoid:
Technically unrealistic choices at the highest level:
- In the NASP program, the early performance numbers were fudged and there were unacceptable internal politics meaning no real independent technical criticism would be heard at the top
- In the “Safe Simple Soon” Ares rockets vs the already flown EELV:s debacle, OMB has lacked the expertise to keep NASA on a leash so they are a “loose cannon” controlled too much by the whims of a leadership that fires all who disagree
- Countless other examples…
- Apollo was ended since it was just a short unsustainable program with a specific stunt style goal, not fitting in any overarching smart picture as a sustained capability
- STS has been an unimprovable yet critical massive monolith, barely sustainable, for various reasons
- Danger of having yet another single solution launcher (or two) just for a definite program
Lack of motivation:
- Has NASA become too big and corrupt by internal politics to really do technical or economic choices? Has it just become pure politics and internal struggles for personal or group benefits? (ESMD) There are great and talented people working there, but does it make a difference?
- What does the whole agency exist for anymore anyway? Or its current lunar program? Is it just a relic from Apollo?
- How much actually flying a few people to space every year conflicts and directs efforts away from the goal of reaching real spacefaring?
Summarized, NASA’s goal should be a spacefaring humanity in the future, not having a narrow minded program after another.