Monday, September 6, 2010

Taylor Dinerman, Sunday, 9-5-10


Guest: Taylor Dinerman. Topics: Military space reorganization and policy, NASA and U.S. space policy. We welcomed back Taylor Dinerman to update us on important changes happening with the reorganization of military space within the Air Force, along with updates pertinent to the ongoing space policy debate. Please remember that you can comment on this program and rate it by visiting the newest Space Show Out of the Box blog at During our first segment, Taylor talked to us about the present structure of military space and its brief history to let us know how we got to where we are today. He then outlined many of the changes that are taking place and have already taken place, especially with regards to AF acquisition. In making his points, Taylor mentioned many of the military and intelligence programs and how they might be impacted by the reorganization changes. We also talked about the motivation behind the changes, expected outcomes, and more. As we started our second segment, we continued discussing the organizational changes and the impact upon space systems, potentially including GPS, military communication satellites, NOAH, NASA, and other programs. We talked about the role of budget tightening in this process and how these changes originated. We also talked about a fifth military service, U.S. Space Command. Later in the segment, we switched to discussing space policy. Here, Taylor focused on the compromise bill coming from the House of Representatives and the impact this might have on the possible reelection of the Arizona Democrat who is the Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics , Gabrielle Giffords. Taylor also talked about FY 11 outcomes and what might actually carry over to FY 12. The COTS program was discussed and we talked about Dragon by Space X and Orion. Later in this discussion, when asked about the future of the human spaceflight program, Taylor talked about the possibility of not being able to use the term astronaut given we might not have an American launcher for sending astronauts to space. When asked if using these terms was that important, he said it was. Listen and see what you think. We discussed heavy lift and the return to the Moon. At the end of the program, Taylor received another listener question, this one asking him if we cooperate with other nations regarding military space. Don't miss what Taylor said about this cooperation. If you have questions or comments for Taylor Dinerman, please send them in care of me at Don't forget to post your comments and more on the above listed Space Show blog.


  1. Given the unfortunate situation that the space program is in at present hard choices need to be made is we are to preserve our leadership in space. As we all know the Space Shuttle is finished and will not be extended, the Constellation Program has been cancelled as well, and the next Congress is bound to be more fiscally conservative than the present one. So it seems almost certain that there will be cuts in the space program as part of a larger package of budget reductions that will impact most areas of government spending. A crewed space program that can’t actually send anyone into space seems to be particularly vulnerable.

    Thus, the most important priority is to regain reliable access to space as soon as possible. Based on this consideration, the Orion spacecraft launched by an existing EELV seems the best option. Larry Price, the deputy program manager for the Orion program, indicated that the Delta IV Heavy would be the best exiting launcher for the Orion on the September 3 episode of the Space Show. So here we have an affordable and high-confidence means to rapidly regain access to ISS and other orbital space objectives without depending on the Russians.

    An alternative would be to count on commercial crew programs whose development is currently in progress. However, given that only SpaceX has flown so far with their Falcon 9 and Orbital Sciences Taurus II has yet to fly, it seems that they are far from achieving a “human rated” capability. So for the near term it seems reasonable that NASA should emphasize their commercial cargo developments over commercial crew. This would provide funding to keep these companies in the business and allow their launchers to develop the necessary track record to allow them to move to crewed vehicles at a later time.

    I don’t see the near-term development of a heavy lift Vehicle (HLV) to be a survivor in the budget battles ahead. First of all why cancel Ares V and then immediately start with another HLV for which mission requirements are ill defined? HLV’s can have many purposes but will have little utility without other supporting elements, e.g., lunar landers, space station components, etc. If we are going to size it for lunar missions then we are just recreating Constellation after paying all of the cancellation costs.

    HLVs could be used for a mission to a near-Earth asteroid but that would hardly justify the costs involved. Rather such missions would be considered went the necessary hardware had already been developed for other purposes. HLV development should be deferred until we are in a position to engage in a more robust space effort that is likely in the next decade.

    Perhaps a more useful alternative to a HLV would be a reusable launch vehicle (RLV). Expendable HLVs are by their nature very expensive given both there size and the relatively low number that can be produced. RLVs that could replace the capability that will be lost with the retirement of the space shuttle would be useful for a wide range of missions and would rely on modular concepts for constructing space structures and vehicles for missions beyond LEO. They would also be idea for supplying proposed orbital propellant depots. One flaw with the economic viability of RLVs to date has been the lack of missions that would utilize the infrastructure required to operate them. It is the propellant depots that would give a requirement for the number of launches of affordable cargos that would justify reusability which has been lacking until now.

    Early studies of alternative RLV concepts could proceed without requiring large near-term expenditures and provide the basis for the return to an expanded space program at a later time after the current economic issues have been hopefully resolved. In the meantime the modest program of Orion/Delta IV/commercial crew/ISS will keep the basic U.S. human spaceflight capability in place and prevent us from dependency on a possibly not so friendly foreign power.

  2. I agree that for congress restoring NASA ability to fly astronauts is vital. A NASA with no flight abilities is a non space program. I.E. effectivly worthless as far as voters are concerned.

    As to HLV on the other hand - I think that's a shoe in as well, because congress wants NASA to retain some engineering ability. If NASA can't even specify what they would need in a craft, can't figure out how to define requirements; they are effectively a dead agency again. Past that if NASA not developing something big right now - in a couple years there won't be a US industrial base to build anything for them.

    Comon theme here - the minimum necessary to survive as a viable space program - or as a nation that can support a space program.

  3. Really big agree that a MUCH better idea would be to do a program for a rapid implementation of a commercial grade RLV. Something that could replace the need for both Orion and HLV. That certainly could be fieled in 10 years if they had some push on it.

    It would be cool if they just speced a RLV contract to provide a lunar base and all transportation infrastructure including a RLV fleet to economically and safely open up space, and a lunar base to support a lot of groups lunar efforts.

    No chance in hell, but it could easly be done for a lot less then Griffin's plans..