Oldspace Arrogance and SLS

Jason Rian at the blog Americaspace just ran a series on Newspace trolls and the damage they do to the industry. There were four posts total with Newspace hatred starting and newspace troll tactics for the next three. His theme seems to be that Newspacers hate NASA and Oldspace so much they can’t see straight and constantly indulge in troll tactics. Apparently if you comment on technical or financial matters, you were changing the subject, and if you answered his troll points you were being rude. I only tried a couple of comments before realizing that whatever I said would be wrong. Apparently I have severe trouble with reading comprehension.

There are plenty in Newspace that are rude, wrong or arrogant. I have seen just as many in Oldspace that are as bad with an additional level of arrogance based on accomplishment. Much of that accomplishment seems to be a generation or so back with a circular reasoning on the effectiveness of NASA and company. One difference seems to be that Newspace activists get it that if something is unaffordable, it will end, usually badly.

Jason seemed to think that the message itself must always be polite by his personal definition. His personal definition seems to be that no criticism is allowed unless he does it himself. He talked down to several of us in the course of a few hundred comments accusing several of lying, selective quoting, changing the subject etc…Comment behavior that is accepted in other blogs will not be tolerated here and so on. Selenian Boondocks is a fairly focused and polite place in my opinion. I think that that is because we are interested in accomplishing something like shredding bad ideas and developing good ones. We don’t accuse each other of trolling and hating when we have a difference of opinion. If you look for something to agree or disagree with, you will find it. By Jason’s definition, we would all seem to be rude, trolling, haters. So be it.

The theme that we are killing the industry with our behavior was constant. “I can’t wait to see Newspace screw up and get somebody killed and then pay for its’ behaviour.” is not an exact quote but captures the flavor of fifty or more variations. I think he is incapable of understanding that rude behavior is partially in the eyes of the beholder, or that the behavior of the fan base has little impact on the working industry. I have been POed at Rand, Pat, Ed, and others from time to time, and still consider them friends and read what they write for the information content. Jason, welcome to the group, but get your butt off your shoulders.

Compromise is a totally different concept than work the issues and find the answers. One complaint is that Oldspace gave a bit on SpaceX and therefore Newspace should give a bit on SLS. I don’t mix chili peppers and chocolate ice cream. Each has their place and compromise is not ever it. If the mission is a Mexican dinner, chili peppers, if desert the ice cream. Mix them together on my plate and you will wear them both. Either the chilis or the ice cream can be replaced if cost, quality, or taste dictates. SLS is jalapeno on an ulcer.

Newspace hasn’t demonstrated capability yet? How long since NASA has developed a space launch vehicle? No respect until the rocket has a track record? Yes I am disappointed in Newspace slow progress. I am even more disappointed in Oldspace posturing as if they had the answers when it is their grandfathers that developed the systems they use for the most part.

SLS at the heart of the discussion needs to be addressed constantly and with intensity. No Newspacer I am aware of believes that SLS is affordable. Billions per year for development for a decade or so until flying a couple of missions a year at a billion each is not a realistic plan in the current economic climate. Anyone that cares to address this in a manner that makes sense is welcome to try. Don’t do the stupid percentage of our GNP or national budget though. A hamburger at 1/100 of 1% of my personal budget will rot if the price doubles.

The technical issues with SLS must be addressed if anyone wants a serious discussion. Friends of mine have kept up even if I haven’t on issues of overweight and escape among others. A serious discussion of these issues does not include any variation of take my word for it regardless of the source.

SLS must make a business case for itself if it is to move forward. Government systems not making an honest business case are a strong part of the financial mess the country is in today. Soundbites of commercial to LEO and SLS beyond divide by a negative number and get nonsense. Make the case that SLS is worth the money or leave it alone. It is arrogant in the extreme to claim that SLS is the only way to get manned missions beyond LEO not to mention wrong.

The mission of SLS, if it actually had one of course, could be duplicated by any number of variations of current hardware. A propellant depot in LEO and another at L1 filled by whoever shows up can refuel the upper stage of an Atlas, Delta, Falcon, or other manned vehicle to increase the BEO throw weight by an order of magnitude. Less mission risk as mentioned here hundreds of times as the only mission critical flight is the last one by the most experienced and dependable rocket available at that time.

The safety of SLS is questionable to say the least. Minimal full up testing before putting humans on it sounds like a game of Russian roulette.  A virtually untested rocket that probably hasn’t outgrown infant mortality doesn’t seem like a good transportation system six decades into the space age.

Prove me wrong and I back off. Until then, it’s just Oldspace trolling.

Newspace, Oldspace, or just Space fan behavior has virtually no effect on operations, investigations, or even future contracts in this industry. My opinion of SLS has no more effect on the program than my opinion of SpaceX or XCOR has on their operation. This lack of direct effect extends to many of those with far better connections than mine. I posted this one because I was annoyed, which is a terrible reason. Also because many of us need a bit of humility to understand that any effect we have is mostly second or third order in that someone that does do real work might grow a seed from these discussions into a viable plant. We need enough tolerance in our communications to work together, and enough care to dispute points that should not be left standing without argument.

There are a lot of people in NASA that are exceptional. There are a lot of people in the Oldspace companies that are exceptional. Newspace has lower numbers of exceptional people mainly due to the fact that they have far far less people total. Let us honestly evaluate the people, equipment, and systems we consider important without honoring any of them for fictitious performance.




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I do construction for a living and aerospace as an occasional hobby. I am an inventor and a bit of an entrepreneur. I've been self employed since the 1980s and working in concrete since the 1970s. When I grow up, I want to work with rockets and spacecraft. I did a stupid rocket trick a few decades back and decided not to try another hot fire without adult supervision. Haven't located much of that as we are all big kids when working with our passions.

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About johnhare

I do construction for a living and aerospace as an occasional hobby. I am an inventor and a bit of an entrepreneur. I've been self employed since the 1980s and working in concrete since the 1970s. When I grow up, I want to work with rockets and spacecraft. I did a stupid rocket trick a few decades back and decided not to try another hot fire without adult supervision. Haven't located much of that as we are all big kids when working with our passions.
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21 Responses to Oldspace Arrogance and SLS

  1. John "CheshireNoir" Parker says:

    Hear hear!

    Can arrogance be a form of trolling? Yes it can, and I’d have written Jason off as a “Master Troll” much earlier than you did. Your patience was more than mine.

    (As an aside, I’ve actually had a “Chilli-Chocolate Ice Cream” before and it’s a surprisingly tasty dish! The creamy ice-cream extinguishes the burn of the chilli almost immediately and so you get this delicious chilli-chocolate wave. I guess I’m trying to say sometimes there is no right / wrong answer)

  2. johnhare johnhare says:

    Thanks for the lift. I almost never post annoyed and seriously thought I might have to pull it when I got back home, cooled off a bit and checked the feel of it. As for the chili-chocolate, I guess I’ll have to try a bit harder to find combinations that everyone thinks would be bad.

  3. Author says:

    No link? Really now.

  4. Andrew W says:

    I thought there was a bit of strange reasoning on the “NewSpace hasn’t achieved anything” claim: NewSpace companies haven’t achieved much.

    But what about SpaceX and Orbital?

    Oh, they’ve been around for more than 10 years so aren’t really NewSpace anymore.

    So the only way a NewSpace company can achieve anything while they’re still NewSpace is to do it in less than ten years.

    Not an easy task in modern spaceflight.

  5. johnhare johnhare says:

    There are four different posts and hundreds of comments back and forth over there spanning a few weeks. I never did get into posting links.

  6. mike shupp says:

    My take on all this … Jason Rhian is mistaken in viewing the criticism he’s been getting as “New Space trolling.” Other hand, he’s got some real grounds for his unhappiness.

    Let’s start here for an example. What’s in the middle of your post? Five paragraphs denouncing the SLS, as the presumed object of adoration for Old Space fanatics. Bluntly, this is silly. There are half a dozen Congressmen who think a heavy launch vehicle based on pieces of the space shuttle is the cost effective sine qua non for future space missions. There are 430 other Congress members, just about all in their 70’s, none with technical degrees, who haven’t the slightest idea of what the US needs for future spaceflight and not much interest, who defer to the people who claim that expertise — if you look at the newspapers, you may notice there are other things than spaceflight that attract the attention of our legislators.

    But that’s it. Half a dozen Congressmen, and perhaps the top brass at ATK/Thiokol and Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Nobody else. Even among NASA boosters, the most optimistic thing anyone can find to say about the SLS is something like “It’s what Congress wants, so I guess we should build it.” This is not exactly glee and enthusiasm, is it? And yet, space enthusiasts who dislike NASA insist over and over again that space enthusiasts who generally approve of NASA are fanatical supporters of the SLS.

    Knock it off, please. It’s perfectly possible to argue that NASA is generally worthy of support without being an admirer of the SLS. It’s even possible to scorn the SLS while still considering that things like space colonization are going to be difficult and expensive enough to require extensive federal support and that in such a context a healthy, robust NASA will be essential.

    Leading to — probably — the thing which really ticks off Rhian. I haven’t really tried to gauge the extent of New Space vs Old Space sentiments at his site or elsewhere, but I do visit a fair number of space-related sites, and it seems fairly clear that many space buffs younger than I (and Rhian?) don’t have much liking for NASA. It seems NASA employees, whether civil servants or contractor personnel, are stupid and lazy. They’re drones, who have forgotten how to work for a living, or how to think, and it’ll be nothing but simple justice if none of the tens of thousands of them laid off this decade never find technical employment ever again.

    Also, the ones that haven’t been laid off owe their continued good fortune simply to the fact that corrupt Representatives and Senators are deliberately using NASA centers in their districts as jobs programs, a la the CCC. (It is quite strange to notice that equally corrupt Congressmen with DoD contractors in their districts aren’t attempting to pull off the same stunt, but I guess not all Congressmen are equally skilled at the arts of government.)

    And of course, we should all note that NASA has the worst executives and managers in history. Not the worst of NASA managers in history — the worst managers of all the world in all of history. Compared to the dunderheads at NASA, from Charles Bolden on down, the crew that ran Nazi Germany’s death camps were paragons of skill and practical experience. This finds almost universal agreement, and the only valid subjects for argument are how much of NASA must be eliminated to make the future safe for the space entrepreneurs of tomorrow, and how quickly this would happen in an ideal world — defined as one without liberal legislators.

    At this point a little light might dawn. This is not an argument about New Space vs Old Space. It’s not an argument about propellant depots vs obsolescent heavy lift launchers. It’s not reasoned disapproval of specific actions taken at NASA. This is libertarian love poetry.

    And libertarians, like all young lonely idealistic men, wish to love and be loved. No wonder they keep bugging Jason Rhian.

  7. Andrew W says:

    Mike Shupp, many of these “young lonely idealistic men” are in their 50’s and 60’s, their frustration with the “Old Space” system is a result of watching it fail to deliver over the last 40 years.

    Old Space supporters want to do the same thing over and over again and expect to get a different result, isn’t it time to recognize that the system needs changing if you want a different result, and that it’s not about individuals?

    I’ve seen plenty of support for the SLS from old space supporters, your claim that it’s only supported by “Half a dozen Congressmen, and perhaps the top brass at ATK/Thiokol and Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Nobody else. ” is just nonsense.

    One think that draws my contempt is people who put words into the mouths of those they see as their adversaries. Your comment does little other than that.

  8. mike shupp says:

    Andrew: Feel free to despise me, I doubt that you’ll be the first. You might want to spend a day or two plowing through comments at SPACE POLITICS and THE SPACE REVIEW and TRANSTERRESTRIAL MUSINGS before rejecting my remarks however.

    As for the need to “change the system” to get “different results,” I quite agree. I wish SpaceX well, I hope things go well for Orbital Sciences, I am skeptical but keep my fingers crossed for Golden Spike and Deep Space Industries and other new firms. I even have some medium hopes for Richard Branson.

    None of which means I want to abolish NASA, or even want to cut NASA back much, or that I blame all of NASA’s woes on its administrators. There are bunches of space enthusiasts with different opinions, I concede, and my simple point was that many of them express those opinions reflexively in ways which irritate some of us old farts. It’s not a matter of intellect, in my estimation, just a difference of orientation.

    I seriously doubt that spaceflight is the only issue that divides libertarians and traditionalists in the modern world.

  9. ken anthony says:

    Name calling just isn’t productive. Mike, I didn’t see anything to despise, but by some standards they’d label you a troll for things you just said, which is ridiculous since you tried to make a substantive argument. But what happens when you try to make a substantive argument and your host ignores your points and continues to insist… YOU… are nothing… but a badly behaving… TROLL.

    A substantive argument doesn’t mean you’re right or wrong. It means you expressed points which others should be free to disagree and make their substantive arguments.

    Do people behave badly? Tell them specifically what is objectionable and move on. Some of the things people find objectionable are nothing more than style. Get over it.

    I have pointed out that by the definition of troll, many that are being accused are not. That point has not made much headway. When appropriate I will continue to press that point, but doing so can get me labeled a troll.

    Being falsely accused is one of the worst behaviors possible. It would be good if people stopped imputing bad motives and give people a break for being imperfect. Ignoring the substance of an argument to call somebody names is the dark side.

    I would much rather discuss the merits of SLS here.

  10. ken anthony says:

    For example, what has already been spent on SLS in the last few years would be more than enough to have colonists on mars using vendors that already have equipment ready or near ready (as in nothing really new is needed.) …and that is without fuel depots which would just make things easier.

    How can that be justified?

  11. Paul451 says:

    Re: Support for SLS.
    What you said would be credible if there was any real criticism of SLS coming from anyone except those who are apparently now labelled “NewSpace trolls”.

    If there was wider condemnation of SLS from the traditional players, through their well-funded DC lobbyists, I could agree that it really is just a couple of Congressmen and the top brass at ATK. But instead those lobbyists are all focused on talking down the NewSpace work. (Surely you’ve seen the whisper-campaign against Commercial Crew? That they are only cheap because they’ve “taken out” safety measures.)

    The NewSpace programs are just 1/36th of NASA’s budget. Less than 1/6th the size of SLS’s budget. And yet the hostility it attracts [see your own comment as an example], you’d think SpaceX single handedly stole NASA’s entire funding and fired 10,000 employees. Why is it so wrong to take such a small share of NASA’s budget and try something different? Why must we, as Andrew said, do the same thing over and over and expect a different result?

    Re: Hatred of NASA staff, useless, blah yuk.
    Interestingly, the only people I’ve ever seen who come close to making those sorts of comments are from other NASA employees and traditional contractors speaking off the record. Ie, the only real condemnation of NASA workers comes from insiders.

    I suspect that what is being called “trolling” is really just the sometimes over the top enthusiasm many Space-Fans have for NewSpace. Having rediscovered the sense of excitement and possibility that they (we) lost over the last 40 years with NASA and the traditional vendors.

    Ie, it’s the bitterness of seeing your ex-lover all love-dovey and silly-happy with their new partner.

  12. Rob Abiera says:

    Here’s a place where Newspace trolls and fans of private enterprise are welcome!


  13. A wise old engineer says:

    I spent a couple hours working my way through the second post in the series trying to do what he was asking for – e.g. a point by point reply from a perspective of a wise old engineer. My reply was about twice the length of his actual post. Didn’t get much of an answer back other than a thank you for replying.

    Jason complains about “newspace trolls” but only ends up coming off as rude and disingenuous.

  14. johnhare johnhare says:

    I don’t do facebook. Is it worth signing up to view your link?

    A wise old engineer,
    I saw the result of your try, part of what got under my skin. And yes I should know better than to let stuff get to me.

  15. A wise old engineer says:

    Part of what I said, or part of what I was replying to got under your skin?

  16. john hare says:

    What you were replying to. To me, honest efforts by you and others was dismissed out of hand in favor of constant bashing.

    Newspace and Oldspace may not be the right divisions to make based on time in field or launch history. To me, it is more about attitude and intent.

  17. Ferris Valyn says:

    Hey John,

    I suppose I should feel honored, because that piece was in response to me consistently bringing up NewSpace points (and he uses some “examples” of my comments)

    Anyway, there are 2 big picture issues with Jason, and 1 smaller issue
    1) He does not understand that NewSpace isn’t a select group of companies, but rather a philosophy, that dictate your decisions. In his mind, SpaceX is actually leaving “NewSpace” because its 11 years old (he put a cap on it of 13 years). And I will freely acknowledge that NewSpace philosophy doesn’t always work (see one offs like the New Horizons probe) and it can go down blind alleys (can we please end the HLVs vs propellant depots debate – its really about how much you engage commercial style operations). But there is substantial power in NewSpace philosophy, as can be seen in the world of comm sats.
    2) His second big issue – he does NOT get his medium. To compare to a war situation – he keeps thinking this some sort of sniper dual, between 2 people. But things like blogging are very different, and its more like a partisan campaign. Because while convincing the other person is nice, if you can insure that the readers are seeing multiple sides, you can influence people you really need to influence. Because, lets be fair, Jason doesn’t have a lot of power. Not that its like I have a lot of power

    3) His final issue, is understanding context matters. For example – asking for a compromise, when its purely a theoretical discussion? Why? I understand that this changes when you have actual power, (and this is a complaint I have about our elected officials, but thats a separate issue), or another forcing function. But failing that, all you really have is a person’s belief and interpretation of the data. And there are other examples

  18. ken anthony says:

    You have to look no farther than the $3b or $4b a year they will spend on SLS to see that our government is not functioning. SLS is just another symptom.

    $3b gets about a flight a month or more on the Falcon XX. They just have to come up with a payload… oh, that’s the problem, they have no payload.

  19. Neil Shipley says:

    Hi John.
    Read your comments re: AmericaSpace. I’ve had a similar experience. Whenever I tried to discuss actual facts or attempted to justify my argument, I was called a troll, rude, NewSpacer and worse. Whatever. I read the articles but have given up on the discussion, mainly because there isn’t any unless you simply agree with Jason.
    Much better discussion sites around.


  20. """Newspace""" Engineer says:

    No matter what happens, whether newspace succeeds and oldspace fails or vice versa, the only guarantee is that the two parties will still be trolling each other.

    The only sensible thing to do is to get off the websites and start building.

  21. Jonathan Goff Jonathan Goff says:

    Agreed, there are few better rebuttals than flying hardware and successful businesses.


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