Reason to Get an NSF L2 Subscription #2921: ESAS Appendices

For those of you who can afford it, but who haven’t done so yet, I’d suggest getting a subscription to the L2 section of Chris Bergin’ forum. They’ve typically been well ahead of the ball on several of the major NASA CxP stories that have broken over the last few years. And a lot of their work involves more than just calling up the NASA Public Affairs Office and then repeating their talking points verbatim and calling it investigative journalism.

One of the latest gems, which by itself would make an L2 subscription worthwhile (if you’re interested in the Constellation Program), is the release of 11 of the 12 ESAS Appendices (the one containing financial data on various launchers has some proprietary data in it, so it wasn’t able to be posted). These are where a lot of the methodology, data, and ground assumptions for the ESAS study were documented. Doug Stanley had referenced them during some of his Q&A threads there on the NSF forums, and originally they were supposed to be publicly released, but NASA decided not to release any of them, even though only one part had sensitive information.

Now, having seen some of what’s in them (I’ve mostly been focusing on the 300+ page appendix to Chapter 6, that details all of their launch vehicle related decisions), I can understand why some people might not want that data to see the light of day. I was hoping to get permission to post a screenshot or two and some direct quotes, but for now you’ll have to get a subscription and check it out yourself.

Some gems to look for when you get a chance, all within the first 40 pages:

  • Exceptions given in the ground rules and assumptions on maximum dynamic pressures to In-line SRM based crew launch concepts that weren’t given to any other vehicles (without the exception, all of the five-segment Stick concepts would’ve been ruled out from the start).
  • Unrealistically assuming a fixed LAS mass regardless of first stage characteristics (like T/W, max-Q, and whether you can shut them down or not).
  • Inaccurate dry mass numbers for existing EELV upper stages (just as some of the guys on had been saying for years now).

And more.  I hope someone can get NASA to finally release these publicly, because these discrepencies need to be explained.  Hopefully if NASA ever does a study like this again in the future, they’ll be more open along the way, and thus expose themselves to less negative feedback when their data finally does see the light of day.

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Jonathan Goff

Jonathan Goff

President/CEO at Altius Space Machines
Jonathan Goff is a space technologist, inventor, and serial space entrepreneur who created the Selenian Boondocks blog. Jon was a co-founder of Masten Space Systems, and is the founder and CEO of Altius Space Machines, a space robotics startup in Broomfield, CO. His family includes his wife, Tiffany, and five boys: Jarom (deceased), Jonathan, James, Peter, and Andrew. Jon has a BS in Manufacturing Engineering (1999) and an MS in Mechanical Engineering (2007) from Brigham Young University, and served an LDS proselytizing mission in Olongapo, Philippines from 2000-2002.
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17 Responses to Reason to Get an NSF L2 Subscription #2921: ESAS Appendices

  1. John Kavanagh says:

    The only hard-hitting investigative spaceflight journalism happening today is in the blogosphere. Thanks, guys!

  2. MG says:

    “these discrepencies need to be explained”

    Not likely ever to happen by anyone who decided to make those alterations to the “ground rules”.

    It appears that Ares had and many computer models had one important thing in common — hidden documentation of fudge factors that made the desired result the “best” result.

    My question remains, why was this the desired result?

  3. As much as I appreciate NSF’s investigative journalism, this is not their content. It was generated at taxpayer expense and you don’t need NSF’s permission to release it in whole or in part.


    We can only hope that one of the papers–Orlando Sun or the Times picks the story up and runs with it.

  5. Dennis Wingo says:

    I am offended that this type of material is available only on a pay per view site. I am going to make this widely known until we free the documents.

  6. Author says:

    And Orlando Sentiel is not a pay per read thing? Public record outlets are entirely free to ask for an access fee. Publicly available is not the same as free of charge.

  7. Braddock Gaskill says:

    I am offended that this material has not been available ANYWHERE for THREE AND A HALF YEARS, and that now we are in the midst of a multi-billion dollar taxpayer program based upon it.

    People have been trying to FOIA these documents for years, and direct appeals to people involved were made to make it public almost since day one (see some of NSF’s Q&A sessions with Doug Stanley, for example). But NASA chose to keep the numbers to themselves.

    Chris Bergin managed to finally pry the documents free, and he has done a great service to everyone. He is undoubtedly researching a proper story based on them now to get the information out, and afterwards will either release them from L2 himself, or NASA will be forced to release them.

  8. Pingback: ESAS Appendices Made Public |

  9. Cecil Trotter says:

    I agree with Wingo, it really chaps my a$$ that I am required to subscribe to a website to view documents, videos etc. that were created with my tax money.

  10. Bill White says:

    NASA can solve this straight away by posting the documents themselves.

  11. Adam Greenwood says:

    If NASA had nothing to hide, we would have seen the appendices already. Ergo, I don’t need to take Jon G.’s word, or the L2 sections word, that there’s something wrong with the assumptions in them.

  12. Jonathan Goff Jonathan Goff says:

    I actually agree with you guys that it’s a travesty that a) this is only coming to light now, and b) the only way that someone at NASA was willing to release this information was to a subscription site where they could keep it out of the reach of the general public. But, now that it’s out, it should be a lot easier to do a FOIA request. Just make sure you don’t ask for Appendix 12–that’s the one that has the Sensitive But Unclassified information in it that they were using as an excuse to bury the whole set of appendices. I’ll let you guys know if there are other gems that people discover.

    We’ll get this fully public.


  13. anon says:

    Griffin wanted the study suppressed so, it was.

  14. Just as a clarification to comment #12, I don’t know who gave the appendices to Chris, and was only speculating on why. That’s the typical explanation given, but I should be clear that that wasn’t meant as an authoritative statement.


  15. Chris says:

    Interesting document. It looks like 8m Core w/3 RD171 + 2x Zenit is the best heavy lift boosters out of all options.

    Who’d have thunk.

  16. Pingback: Selenian Boondocks » Blog Archive » More Thoughts on ESAS Appendix Flaws

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