Friday, October 8, 2010

Dr. James Vedda, Friday, 10-8-10

Dr. James Vedda, Friday, 10-8-10


In addition to listening to this program at the above URL, you can access Dr. Vedda's AIAA paper we discussed during the program, "An Alternative Approach to National Space Policy" using this URL:


Guest:  Dr. Jim Vedda.  Topics: Dr. Vedda proposes an alternative U.S. space policy driven by capability.  Please note that you are invited to comment, ask questions, and rate this program on the new Space Show blog,  Additionally, you may want to read Dr. Vedda's latest book, "Choice, Not Fate" which you can buy using the One Giant Leap Foundation Amazon link. Remember, if you buy the book this way, Amazon makes a contribution to The Space Show/OGLF. Please see  In our first of two segments, Dr. Vedda talked about his AIAA paper, "An Alternative Approach to National Space Policy" which makes the case for having a capabilities driven space program, not a destination driven program.  This paper will be available for your reading and review on The Space Show Outside The Box blog for this program when I archive it on the blog.  We talked about the possibility of congressional micro management of new rocket building projects with NASA and the possibility of reductions in the NASA FY 11 budget.  We then returned to his AIAA paper and Dr. Vedda started explaining why the space program needed to be capabilities driven over destination driven.  I also asked Jim about implementing his ideas and getting them into the policy system.  As you will hear, it is an uphill battle.  We started the second segment with a listener question asking about the origin of policy influence, where does it come from, who exercises it the most, and is it best to aim it at NASA, Congress, or another organization.  Dr. Vedda said that history shows big ideas come from industry, professionals, and others outside the government and funnel through the administration back down to Congress.  Dr. Vedda then talked about influence and which groups have the most of it.  Interestingly, he had much to say about space advocacy groups and in short, said they have next to zero influence other than in culture shaping.  Listen carefully to what he had to say on this subject and share your thoughts with us using blog comments and emails to Dr. Vedda.  In making his case, he referenced several programs as examples supporting his analysis on this issue.  Later in this segment, we talked about budget cuts again and what might be likely to be cut.  Here we talked about the destructive budget process which Jim wrote about in "Choice, Not Fate."  Later in this segment, we talked about a space race with China and how the US might respond if other nations go for the destination and we are working to develop capabilities.  Jim had much to say about others going for the destination so don't miss this discussion.  We also talked about the need for an international partnership on this alternative approach and for public private partnerships to share the responsibility for designing the program and determining how its financed.  We spent considerable time discussing the potential role of the private sector in this new type of space policy.  At the end of the program, I asked him about the US decline per our recent show discussing the Futron 2010 Space Competitive Index.  If you have a question or comment for Dr. Vedda, please post it on the blog mentioned above.  You can also send them to me at and I will forward it to Dr. Vedda.


  1. G'day,

    I understand the advantage of having NASA concentrate on industrial space capabilities but wouldn't this conflict with their space science missions? How about splitting NASA into two organisations an Aerospace Development Agency and an Space Science Agency? I think that's what the Japanese have done.



  2. Really NASA doesn't do space science, they launch spectacular craft that gather huge amounts of data - or not - but they don't really do much with the data. They do the space science missions as a excuse to build the ships (or rather contract JPL and others to do them for NASA [NO JPL isn't part of NASA]), but not for science.

    Really focusing on developing industrial space capabilities is a good idea - but then you need to decide capabilities to do what? Then what do you implement to do that? You could argue for RLV cats systems as a backbone tech for any fture tourist or industrial use of space - but since neiather now exist - how do you design something for them?

    Then of course you need to deal with what get political support for NzAA programs (spectacle value and pork in districts. I.E. does anyone care for space infrastructure? Does it excite them and get cool headlines? It failed with shuttle and shuttle was then driven to become less efficient (not more) to employ more in important districts.

    Then he started talking about international cooperative projects, which causes the costs to skyrocket and the progress to flatline, as the programs mire in international bureaucracy and contradictory aims.

  3. Dr Livingston, I appreciate when you have guests on like Dr James Vedda, John Garvey, and the people from Futron who express more pragmatic, balanced views. I find shows like these much more informative and enjoyable. I agreed with Dr. Vedda that NASA's human spaceflight mission needs to be revised from an exploration perspective to a space development focus.

    However, I have a question for Dr. Vedda concerning super heavy lift launchers (SHLV). Whenever I pass a new road construction, new bridge construction, or tunnel digs, I inevitably see large construction vehicles of many types. Some so large that they would take up 2 or 3 lanes of traffic. While such vehicles could be used to transport goods and people, these vehicles are best utilized in infrastructure development. Such vehicles would be wholly unsuitable for commercial transportation. This is the way that I view super heavy lift launchers. SHLVs main function is to aid space infrastructure development. SHLV are not suited for simply commercial transportation. Though some people disagree with me, my impression from listening and reading various reports, including a recent Space Show with Dan Adamo and Dallas Bienhoff, is that the majority of space industry/flight experts believe that some type SHLV is necessary to space development/travel. That those critics who support using existing EELVs for space development outside of commercial transport are in a minority. I would like to know what is Dr. Vedda's view on SHLV and does he have an idea of the payload capacity that is necessary? If you could forward this on I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you.

    Gary Miles

  4. Gary,

    I'm not going to speculate on the appropriate payload capacity of an HLV -- I'm a policy guy, not an engineer or mission planner. The important thing is to establish the purpose first, and then build the tools to achieve it. You wouldn't buy a fleet of trucks before deciding what business your company will pursue. HLVs, like space stations, orbiting fuel depots, and other hardware, are tools, not the end result. Carrying large payloads is likely to be necessary for any big space development project, but where do they need to go (LEO, GEO, lunar orbit, lunar surface, etc.)? How often? What is their shape and volume? Do large payloads need to be brought back to Earth? Of the many questions that need to be answered, the only one that seems to be getting plenty of attention is "How many jobs will it bring to my district?"
    There's a role for the government to play in HLV development, because it won't be a profit-maker as soon as it goes operational. But the hard questions need to be answered first. So far, we haven't done that with sufficient detail or creativity. Simply saying something like "we'll need HLV to go to Mars" is not enough.