It’s kind of amusing to note (as several others on the blogosphere have now) that the supposedly “safe, simple, soon” Crew Launch Vehicle is turning out to be as difficult to pull off as many of us have been saying all along. The fact that modifying an SSME for airstart would be extremely difficulty if not impossible is hardly news. I don’t have an exact number on how many SSME’s were destroyed trying to get its startup sequence worked out, but it was a disturbingly high number. And that was with a slow, ground-launched startup sequence. As a friend of mine quipped, “every blip or jiggle in the SSME startup sequence has at least one trashed engine proving its neccesity.”
But don’t worry folks, so what if there really is no off-the-shelf hardware on this vehicle, NASA says that this will have about a 2000:1 odds of blowing up on any given launch. They’re so smart that they knew the reliability to four significant figures before they even figured out how many segments the SRB was really going to need, or which engine was going to be used on the upper stage. Impressive.
I have to say that what NASA is doing with its COTS program, with Centennial Challenges, and with the money it’s setting aside for microgravity research, is actually pretty darned good. It’s just sad that the percentage of NASA’s budget over the next five years that is going to stuff that has a potential of opening up the space frontier for the rest of us is such a small percentage of the money getting blown on the Space Shuttle, and on legalized graft like the Shaft.
Michael and several others like to point out that the Shaft and finishing up ISS with the Shuttle is more or less the price we have to pay for things like COTS, but it still doesn’t make it any less galling to see so much money being thrown down such an obviously useless hole like this.
I still think that if the Shaft is supposed to be such a great deal, such a superior space launch vehicle, that NASA should require ATK to come up with all but $1B of the funding, and use the rest of that money saved on actually promoting a thriving commercial space transportation infrastructure. Why should the nation have to foot the bill when ATK pulls the good ol’ bait-and-switch on us?
I feel Shafted.