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Re: Recent launch failures

On Tue, 3 Aug 1999, Dave Mullenix wrote:

> Andy,
>     I've been following those cuts.  Believe it or not, a lot of people
> in the "private rocket" field are GLAD of this.  They seem to somehow
> believe that the money cut out of NASA's budget is going to wind up in
> theirs.

Yeah, I know a few of these flakes. Most of them shouldn't be out on the
street without a keper, but that's another story....

>     Wouldn't it be nice if NASA was given that billion back and required
> to use it purchase 10 Reusable Single Stage To Orbit prototypes at $100
> million each?  Put out some general specs - heft a certain mass of a
> certain size to a certain altitude and then turn the spacecraft around
> for another launch in a certain short length of time, for instance. 
> Then have everybody interested submit their proposals, choose the most
> likely ten and have them go to work.  Surely, we'd wind up with two or
> three useful spacecraft out of the ten and that would be pretty good for
> a "mere" billion dollars.  We'd probably also end up with a couple of
> new spacecraft manufacturers, each with a proven design.  Heck, they
> could put a clause in the contract saying the first satellites delivered
> into orbit had to be scientific and/or ham sats.

We don't have the clout (nor do the science types) to get that sort of
a deal passed. There was a move to get the surplus Minutemen that
the Air Force was withdrawing under START handed over to USRA
(University Space Research Association), but that idea got scuppered
when a well-connected small launch provider raised a major stink (and
spread some serious cash onto the right hands). As for the billion
dollars divided up into $100 million grants or loans, wouldn't be
enough. Even the most "rose colored glasses" types in the RLV movement
figure that it's going to take several times that to get something that
will be worth flying. And, to be honest, I wouldn't put a dime on
some of these ideas, the folks pushing them are getting "cheap
access to space" with flight numbers that make NASA's projections for
the shuttle look positively frugal!

>     But what's really sad is that several of the struggling new
> companies would refuse to submit proposals!  The myth of "private good,
> government bad" is so deep and pervasive in some circles that it would
> cause a lot of organizations to refuse government contracts, even as
> they see their fellow manufacturers biting the dust while they struggle
> in vain to find private money to make their own designs reality.

Yep, the Libby streak is pretty strong in a lot of these folks. Then
again, a lot of them wouldn't mind seeing NASA or someone else hand
out "mail contracts" for delivery of a lot of satellites from the
government. Problem is, the number of flights that they want the
government to pay them for (usually in advance) is more than the
projected needs for all of the government users *and* universities
put together. Worse, they want it so that, no matter what, the
government makes sure that they make a profit, that their money isn't
at risk in any way. All the while, most of them are waving the banner 
of "free enterprise" high and strong....

>     I don't think any of them remember how aircraft got developed from
> the Wright Brothers flyer to our present day machines.  Practically all
> the present aerospace companies and first airlines survived and grew
> with government contracts to build military aircraft or deliver mail. 
> Boeing got into jet airliners by building a series of military aircraft,
> culminating in the C-135 which got converted to the civilian 707
> airliner.  I've been trying to find out what is supposed to have changed
> since those days, but I get no coherent answers, just slogans and
> lectures on "free enterprise".

More than likely, you'll never get an answer thatg makes sense. Most of
the pwople doing this haven't a clue, IMHO, and like it that way. Case
in point: there was a group I heard of that was planning on offering
sub-orbital "jaunts" to well-heeled customers on their new launcher.
They figured to save money by not conforming to the "bundensome" rules
of the FAA (bet that's one they wouldn't have told their customers!),
and, to do this, they wer going to operate their launcher outside of
the US....in the coastal waters about 20 miles out! When it was pointed
out to them that the US territorial waters were extended (along with
most other nations) to 200 miles back in the early 1980's, they pretty
much shrugged and said that they didn't recognise any such change!
Wonder why they still ain't got any backers....?

>     I think that in the next year a lot of unemployed NASA engineers
> (probably the best and highest paid) will join a lot of unemployed
> "private rocket engineers" on the unemployment line.  It doesn't look
> too good for the American future in space.

Personal bet: 90% of the RLV companies are going to go belly up. If you
look at the historical record of aircraft makers, that projection might
be a bit low, but time will tell I guess

> Dave
> P.S. When the Final History of Folly is written, several of the juicier
> chapters will cover the last thirty years.

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