Friday, June 26, 2009

Ten Questions

It would be interesting if the Human Space Flight Committee panelists asked some of their presenters the following 10 questions. The most interesting subjects for the questions are probably the Constellation management team, but something like these questions would be interesting for other panelists, too. Actually, the questions as written are probably too long for verbal questions, but I've included some background in case clarification is needed or the questions are evaded.

1. The current Constellation transportation architecture seeks to send 4 astronauts to the Moon's surface per mission. However, there is no requirement in the Vision for Exploration or Aldridge Commission documents for this number. Two astronauts would be enough to provide backup in case of injury. Including 4 astronauts instead of 2 per mission has the obvious benefit of larger crew, but it tends to drive up development cost, per-mission operations cost, and development risk. It also tends to reduce mass for equipment and engineering safety margins, and tends to extend development schedules. Increased development and mission costs reduce the funding available for other critical areas of the Vision for Space Exploration, such as technology development, innovation prizes, partnerships with commercial space, and robotic precursor missions to the Moon.

Why was a 4-astronaut mission requirement added?

Keeping in mind the goals of this committee to develop ISS transportation sooner, fit human space flight within the budget, investigate human spaceflight R&D and robotic precursor needs, and extend ISS beyond 2016, how would you adjust the transportation architecture if the per-mission requirement was relaxed to 2 astronauts?

2. One of the goals of the Human Space Flight Review Committee is to expedite a new U.S. capability to support use of the International Space Station. Keeping in mind the other goals of the Committee such as fitting within the current budget profile for NASA exploration, what are your suggestions for expediting such a capability? In other words, how would you bring such a capability online sooner than the current plan?

3. One of the goals of the Human Space Flight Review Committee is to stimulate commercial space flight capability. This is also a central and pervasive goal and exploration enabler in the Vision for Space Exploration and the Aldridge Commission recommendations. These documents also make it clear that by "commercial space flight", they don't mean large cost-plus aerospace contracts, but rather innovative entrepreneurs and businesses of all sizes that offer their space flight services to NASA *and* other markets. Keeping in mind the other goals of the Committee such as fitting within the current budget profile for NASA exploration, and thus recognizing the likelihood that any new funding would have to come out of existing human space flight programs, what are your suggestions for increasing NASA's encouragement for commercial space flight capabilities?

4. One of the goals of the Human Space Flight Review Committee is to fit NASA's exploration activities within the current budget profile. Do NASA's exploration activities fit within the budget outlined in the Administration's recent budget proposal, and if not, what are your suggestions for making these activities fit the budget? Do you see cost-saving opportunities in using commercial space flight services, using international participation, relaxing mission crew size requirements, relaxing schedule requirements, increasing research and development in low-cost approaches, or changing components of the transportation architecture?

5. Please see question #4. Could you answer those questions again, but this time assume that NASA's involvement in the ISS program is extended from 2016 to 2020?

6. One of the goals of the Human Space Flight Review Committee is to examine the appropriate amount of research and development activities needed to make human space flight more productive and affordable. The Vision for Space Exploration also emphasized research and development in a number of areas, such as in-situ space resource utilization, power systems, advanced computing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, optical communications, networking, robotics, materials, modular systems, pre-positioned propellants, advanced propulsion, and in-space assembly. The document "Launching Science: Science Opportunities Provided by NASA's Constellation System" also emphasizes a number of advanced technologies, such as aerocapture, nuclear electric propulsion, solar electric propulsion, and solar sails to support science, a central goal of the Vision for Space Exploration. The Aldridge Commission also recommended advanced technology development. In contrast, NASA has reduced its technology development efforts, canceled technology programs like New Millennium and NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts, failed to fund Centennial Challenges for several years, and broadly reduced research and development. Much of what remains in this area is directed specifically at the Constellation transportation system. Keeping in mind other goals of the Committee such as fitting human space flight efforts within the budget, what do you think is the appropriate amount of research and development activity to make human space flight more productive and affordable? What technologies would you invest in, and at what budget levels? How would you manage new technology development efforts (for example: grants? contracts? innovation prizes? DARPA model? emphasis on basic R&D, or technology demonstrations?)

7. One of the goals of the Human Space Flight Review Committee is to examine the appropriate amount of complementary robotic activities needed to make human space flight activities most productive and affordable over the long term. The Vision for Space Exploration also emphasized complementary robotic missions well beyond LRO:

"NASA will begin its lunar testbed program with a series of robotic missions. The first, an orbiter to confirm and map lunar resources in detail, will launch in 2008. A robotic landing will follow in 2009 to begin demonstrating capabilities for sustainable exploration of the solar system. Additional missions, potentially up to one a year, are planned to demonstrate new capabilities such as robotic networks, reusable planetary landing and launch systems, pre-positioned propellants, and resource extraction."

Keeping in mind other goals of the Committee such as fitting human space flight efforts within the budget, what do you think is the appropriate amount of complementary robotic activity? What are the highest priority missions for such robotic activity to prepare for and complement human exploration? How would you manage such robotic efforts (for example: use of commercial Google Lunar X PRIZE derivative services? Smaller but more missions typical of NASA Ames? Larger but fewer missions?)

8. One of the approaches emphasized by the Aldridge Commission to stimulate commercial space is the use of innovation prizes. Keeping in mind other goals of the Committee such as fitting human space flight efforts within the budget, would you increase the use of innovation prizes in a program like NASA Centennial Challenges to meet exploration goals? If so, what annual level of funding do you suggest for prizes? How many innovation prizes would you fund, and how large would they be? What innovations would be the subject of the prizes?

9. In many instances the use of space infrastructure, such as propellant depots, reusable space tugs, satellite servicing nodes, additional space stations, and other such systems has been suggested to assist with lunar exploration, and also to meet other government and commercial space needs. Keeping in mind other goals of the Committee such as fitting human space flight efforts within the budget, would you allocate NASA human space flight resources towards such space infrastructure, and if so, what types of space infrastructure? How would it fit in the exploration plans? For example, could a propellant depot help NASA achieve its goal of stimulating commercial space activity? Could it provide an on-ramp for international participation in the human exploration effort? Could it help NASA achieve its goal of developing a lunar transportation system?

10. Please consider all of the previous questions as an integrated whole. Also consider all of the objectives of this Committee as a whole. Does the current Constellation plan address the objectives of the Committee? Include all components: ISS gap reduction, reaching the Moon and beyond, fitting the budget, encouraging commercial space, extending ISS, and the optimal allocation, management, and focus of technology R&D and robotic missions. If the current Constellation plan doesn't address all of the objectives, how can we change the current plan to meet those objectives? If we cannot meet all of the objectives even with changes, how can we come closest, assuming the budget is not negotiable?

7 comments:

Gaetano Marano said...

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just posted my suggestion #6 for the Human Space Flight Plans Committee and NASA: "don't dismantle or modify or upgrade the Shuttle's launch pads" http://ow.ly/f3vQ
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Rand Simberg said...

Good questions, but I think you mean "complementary," not "complimentary."

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John Kavanagh said...

One lunar robotic precursor mission that hasn't received a lot of attention is GRAIL: http://moon.mit.edu. "GRAIL’s high-resolution gravity measurements will complement LRO’s high-resolution observations of the lunar surface."

Gaetano Marano said...

.

just posted my suggestion #8 for the Human Space Flight Plans Committee and NASA:

"resize the Orion to 4.5 meters and its crew to three astronauts"

http://ow.ly/f3vQ

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Gaetano Marano said...

.

just posted my suggestion #9 for the Human Space Flight Plans Committee and NASA:

"absolutely avoid to adopt (for now) any kind of orbital refuel"

http://ow.ly/f3vQ

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Gaetano Marano said...

.

just posted my suggestion #10 for the Human Space Flight Plans Committee and NASA:

"absolutely don't adopt the SERIOUSLY FLAWED Direct concept"

http://ow.ly/f3vQ

.