Intelsat 14 – Atlas V Launch

At 10:33 PM Phoenix time, we have eight (8) minutes and counting until a planned hold at T minus 4 minutes in the launch of the Atlas 5 carrying the Intelsat 14 satellite.

Intelsat 14 - Construction

Intelsat 14 under construction.
Credit: ULA TV

Intelsat 14 on Atlas 5

T minus 8 Minutes.
Credit: ULA TV

Launch is scheduled beginning at 10:50 PM Phoenix time. Weather is satisfactory.

We have a new T minus zero scheduled at 11:15 PM Phoenix time. Weather is green through the window. Extended hold due to reprogramming the flight computer (to take into account balloon data) taking longer than expected.

Weather Balloon Profile

Weather Balloon Profile.
Credit: ULA TV

Wind Shear Aloft

Wind shear aloft.
Credit: ULA TV

And the weather information updates are taking a long time. New launch time is 11:35 PM.

Wind shear aloft is a problem. Flight profile would not be good. A new balloon has been launched, and we are awaiting a new launch time.

And the weather aloft has now pushed the launch back to 11:55 PM Phoenix time. The US Air Force Range has approved the change. It is going to be a late night for all concerned.

Eye Candy Details

Eye Candy Details.
Credit: ULA TV

Details at T minus 4 minutes and holding for weather

More Details, at T minus 4 minutes and holding for weather.
Credit: ULA TV

The latest word from ULA is that “Things are improving with regard to developing a new flight program. They’re going to have one more shot to create a new program if this one doesn’t work, that will take us to the end of the window.”

All of this is based on the changing wind profiles aloft.

Weather aloft has improved. The launch director is polling all systems prior to coming out of the hold.

… and we are GO for LAUNCH!

T minus 3:48

T minus 3:48 and counting.
Credit: ULA TV


Credit: ULA TV


Credit: ULA TV


Credit: ULA TV

Animation - Centaur Burn

Animation – Centaur Burn.
Credit: ULA TV

Animation - Centaur Burn

Mid Course Correction.
Credit: ULA TV

All systems are go. We are on the way to Geo Stationary Orbit.

Good Night All.

The Augustine Commission – Final Report – Hits and Misses – Part 5

(Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Wrap Up.)

In Part 1, we looked at the pieces strewn about our living room floor. In Part 2, we examined the Goals and Destinations in Chapter 3.0. And in Part 3, the three current Human Space Flight programs were reviewed (International Space Station, the Space Shuttle and the Constellation Program). In Part 4, we looked at the launch vehicles examined by The Augustine Commission.

Chapter 6 of the Augustine Commission Final Report deals with Program Options and Evaluation. This is one of the many contentious issues commentators have with the Commission. While they did select five possible exploration programs (Chapter 6), and while they did evaluate various launch vehicles (Chapter 5), the Committee seems to have ignored the possibility that different launch vehicles have greater or lesser ability to cover the five exploration programs. This failure may in the end, prove to be disastrous for human space exploration. As we write, the Space Shuttle infrastructure is being actively dismantled. The end result of failing to evaluate the physical infrastructure and the human infrastructure capable of supporting a Shuttle derived architecture may be that the United States is left with no heavy lift human space flight capability for at least the next several decades. We may have surrendered our space faring capability to Europe, China, Russia, India and Japan.

6.1 Evaluation Criteria

As noted by the Commission:

The Committee did not intend that the evaluation would generate a single numerical score; rather, it would provide a basis for comparison across options, highlighting the opportunities and challenges associated with each. Assigning weights to individual figures of merit is within the purview of the ultimate decision-makers.

Three primary evaluation dimensions were identified:

  • Benefits to Stakeholders
  • Risk
  • Budget Realities

These three dimensions were expanded into 12 criteria for comparing the options.

  • Exploration Preparation
  • Technology Innovation
  • Science Knowledge
  • Expanding and Protecting Human Civilization
  • Economic Expansion
  • Global Partnerships
  • Public Engagement
  • Schedule and Programmatic Risk
  • Mission Safety Challenges
  • Workforce Impact
  • Programmatic Sustainability
  • Life-Cycle Cost

6.2 Key Decisions and Integrated Options

6.2.1 Key Decisions

1. What should be the future of the Space Shuttle?
2. What should be the future of the International Space Station (ISS)?
3. On what should the next heavy-lift launch vehicle be based?
4. How should crews be carried to low-Earth orbit?
5. What is the most practicable strategy for exploration beyond low-Earth orbit?

6.2.2 Integrated Options

The Committee identified five basic options: One based on the Program of Record (POR – Constellation – Ares I and V, Orion and Altair), and four alternatives. Options 2 and 3 were budget compatable alternatives to the POR. Option 4 was a Moon First program (with two variations), and Option 5 was the Flexible Path (avoiding the gravity well of the Moon).

6.2.3 Methodology for Analyzing the Integrated Options

Two budgets were used. The “Constrained Budget” used the FY 2010 budget, while the “Less Constrained Budget” allowed for an increase by 2014 of $3 Billion per year higher than FY 2010.

6.2.4 Reference Cases of the Entirely Unconstrained Program of Record

The Program of Record was evaluated and found to be a total of $45 Billion over the FY 2010 budget by 2020, wherein it is $5 Billion a year over FY 2010 in 2016 and $7 Billion per year over FY 2010 in 2019.

6.3 Integrated Options Constrained to the FY 2010 Budget

6.3.1 Evaluation of Integrated Options 1 and 2

Option 1 was found to allow for rocket development, but lacked funds for exploration. Option 2 extends the lifetime of the ISS, delays rocket development, and has no funds for exploration.

6.3.2 Examination of alternate budget guidance

The Committee found no alternatives to Options 1 or 2 that were viable under the FY 2010 budget. This conclusion has been disputed.

6.4 Moon First Integrated Options Fit to the Less-Constrained Budget

6.4.1 Evaluation of Integrated Options 3 and 4

Option 3 was to execute the POR under a less constrained budget. The ISS is de-orbited in 2010, and the Shuttle flies the remaining missions into 2011. Human lunar return occurs in the mid 2020s and the lunar base becomes operation late in the decade. An alternate extending ISS to 2020 was found to push these dates out by three to four more years.

Option 4 uses the less constrained budget, scraps Ares I and substitutes commercial crew services by 2016 It extends the ISS to 2020. Ares V is scrapped in favor of a dual-launch Ares V Lite vehicle for lunar missions.

Option 4A retires the Shuttle in 2011, while Option 4B extends the Shuttle to 2015 and develops a Shuttle Derived Heavy Lift vehicle in place of Ares V Lite.

6.4.2 Examination of the key decision on the ISS extension

Given the International Partnerships that have been developed, and the fact that the extension to 2020 would only delay the lunar return by a few years, the Committee found that the extension provides greater value than ending the ISS mission.

6.4.3 Examination of the key decision on Ares V vs. Ares V Lite dual launch

Baseline Ares V has more launch capability than the Saturn V, but current NASA studies show that when used in combination with Ares I, it does not have enough launch capability to robustly deliver the currently planned landing and surface systems to the Moon.

The Committee concluded that Ares V Lite represents less development risk, likely will reduce costs and provides more substantial margin for the lunar mission.

6.4.4 Examination of the key decision on the provision of crew transport to low-Earth orbit

Commercial crew services, based on a high-reliability rocket with a capsule and launch escape system could significantly reduce development costs, as well as lower operating costs.

6.4.5 Examination of the key question on Shuttle extension

The Committee favored early retirement of the Shuttle (2010 or 2011), although they noted several advantages to Shuttle extension to 2015, including up-mass and down-mass capability and workforce retention.

6.5 Flexible Path Integrated Options Fit to the Less-Constrained Budget

6.5.1 Evaluation of Integrated Option 5

Option 5 operates the Shuttle into 2011 and extends the International Space Station mission until 2020. A variety of destinations beyond low earth orbit are possible. The Committee developed three variants of this option.

  • Option 5A develops the Ares V Lite, visits the Lagrange points, near Earth objects, on-orbit refueling and achieves a lunar return by the end of the 2020s.
  • Option 5B develops commercial heavy lift capability, restructures NASA, and follows a similar mission profile as 5A, but on a slower time line.
  • Option 5C scraps Ares V Lite and develops a Shuttle Derived Heavy Lift vehicle. 5C follows a similar mission profile as 5A, but on a slower time line.

6.5.2 Examination of the key question on Ares V family vs. Shuttle-derived heavy launcher

While the Shuttle derived in-line launch vehicle (SDLV) with two four-segment solid rocket motors (SRM) and the 8.4 meter external tank (ET) was the 2005 ESAS candidate for the cargo vehicle, it was forced to evolve into the Ares V due to the problems encountered with the underpowered Ares I. For some reason, the Committee decided that in order to match the capabilities of the Ares V, or the Ares V Lite dual-launch mission, that there had to be three SDLV launches. Therefore, operations would be more costly.

This is a clear Committee miss, as the current planned lunar return missions can be accomplished with good margin by a dual-launch SDLV program, thus costing less than the Ares V Lite. There is no need for the enhanced capabilities of the dual-launch Ares V Lite.

6.5.3 Examination of the key question on NASA heritage vs. EELV-heritage super-heavy vehicles

The Committee considers the EELV-heritage super-heavy vehicle to be a way to significantly reduce the operating cost of the heavy lifter to NASA in the long run. It would be a less-capable vehicle, but probably sufficiently capable for the mission. Reaping the long-term cost benefits would require substantial disruption in NASA, and force the agency to adopt a new way of doing business.

6.6 Comparisons Across Integrated Options

6.6.1 Cross-option comparisons

The Flexible Path program (Option 5A) scores more highly than the Baseline (Option 3) on 9 of the 12 criteria outlined in section 6.1 ( See figure 6.6.1-1). The higher rankings include:

  • Exploration Preparation (due to much more capable launch system)
  • Technology (due to investment in technology)
  • Science (because of more places visited)
  • Human Civilization (due to the ISS extension)
  • Economic Expansion (because of commercial involvement in space elements and crew transport)
  • Global Partnerships (gained by extending the ISS)
  • Public Engagement (by visiting more new locations, and doing so each year)
  • Schedule (exploring beyond low-Earth orbit sooner)
  • Life-Cycle Costs (due to commercial crew services)

6.6.2 Examination of the key question on exploration strategy

Three exploration strategies were examined in Chapter 3. The choice of Mars First was found not to be viable due to technological problems. Two strategies remained:

  • Moon First on the Way to Mars, with surface exploration focused on developing capability for Mars.
  • Flexible Path to Mars via the inner solar system objects and locations, with no immediate plan for surface exploration, then followed by exploration of the lunar and/or Martian surface.

The Moon first is favorable to lunar science and exploration (although much can be done robotically). The Flexible Path missions explore more of the Solar System, while initially doing less on the Moon. Flexible Path has the advantage of developing infrastructure for deep space exploration, including the moons of Mars and Mars itself. The Committe notes that:

Considering that we have visited and obtained samples from the Moon, but not near-Earth objects or Mars, and also that the Flexible Path develops the ability to service space observatories, the Science Knowledge criterion slightly favors the Flexible Path. Broadly, the more complex the environment, the more astronaut explorers are favored over robotic exploration. In practice, this means that astronauts will offer their greatest value-added in the exploration of the surface of Mars.

Final Scoring

Although the Augustine Commission did not publish a final tally of the scores (for reasons they made clear), the following table does compare and tabulate the scores.

Option Description Science Safety Cost Schedule NASA / Industry Jobs US Skills Retention Exploration Capability Technology Space Colony Potential Commercial Benefit Public Engagement international Cooperation Sustainability Total
1 The Status Quo 0 0 0 -2 -1 -1 -2 -2 -2 -1 -1 -2 -1 -15
2 ISS Extension plus Moon 0 0 1 -2 -1 -1 -2 1 -1 1 -1 0 0 -5
3 Status quo + $3 B 1 -1 0 0 0 -1 0 0 0 0 0 -2 0 -3
4 Shuttle + Moon 1 -1 1 0 0 -1 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 4
4B Shuttle 2015 + Moon 1 -1 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 1 0 0 1 5
5A Flexible Path + Ares Lite 2 -1 1 1 0 -1 2 1 1 2 1 0 0 9
5B Flexible Path + Commercial 2 -2 2 1 0 -1 1 2 1 2 1 0 -1 8
5C Flexible Path + Jupiter 241 2 -2 0 1 0 -1 1 1 1 2 1 0 1 7

Option 5D: We will have more to say about this proposal in our final segment: “Wrapped Up” or “The Augustine Commission for Dummies”.

Option Description Science Safety Cost Schedule NASA / Industry Jobs US Skills Retention Exploration Capability Technology Space Colony Potential Commercial Benefit Public Engagement international Cooperation Sustainability Total
5D Flexible Path + Direct 2 -2 1 1 1 1 2 1 1 2 1 1 1 13

(Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Wrap Up.)