One of the more disconcerting rumors mentioned in Florida Today’s article about Obama’s plans for NASA, is the idea of “annual test flights” at KSC, to retain workforce skills. These tests were compared to Ares I-X, and made it sound as though they thought these test flights would be a continuation of the Ares-I program in some form or other. I find it amusing that in all the EELV-based architectures evaluated by ESAS or by the A-com, it was assumed that there would be a several billion dollar cost to shut down the shuttle infrastructure. This always helped to make the EELVs look worse or only slightly better than some shuttle derived scheme (funny how adding $11B to your competitor’s approach can do that). But now people are realizing that if you have a 5-8 year gap between Shuttle retirement and when an HLV could come on-line, that you need something to keep the ground ops people around and trained. Funny how that never seems to be factored in to the costs on the SDHLV side of things.
Ares I-X was one of the most retardedly colossal wastes of money NASA has done since I started paying attention to space. $500M for a single flight test of a non-representative booster. For the amount of money they wasted on Ares I-X, they could’ve probably funded two COTS-like commercial crew projects over the same time period, and probably had a solution to the gap (not that a solution to the gap was actually in their interests). Or they could’ve funded an Orbital Express scale demo of cryo propellant transfer. Or several microlanders from Ames (which all disappeared in the bloat when the program got sucked into the Shelbyville blackhole). Now they want to continue that at an even faster pace for several years. What a steal!
If there is any reality to this rumor, I hope someone puts it out of our misery while there’s still time.