The Augustine Commission – Final Report – Hits and Misses – Part 4

(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).

Chapter 5.0 Launch to Low-Earth Orbit and Beyond

In this section, The Augustine Commission examines launch vehicles. We begin with the opening statement, with which we agree:

Launch to low-Earth orbit is the most energy-intensive and dynamic step in human space exploration. No other single propulsive maneuver, including descent to and ascent from the surfaces of the Moon or Mars, demands higher thrust or more energy or has the high aerodynamic pressure forces than a launch from Earth. Launch is a critical area for spaceflight, and two of the five key questions that guide the future plans for U.S. human spaceflight focus on launch to low-Earth orbit: the delivery of heavy masses to low-Earth orbit and beyond; and the delivery of crew to low-Earth orbit.

5.1 Evaluation methodologies for Launch Vehicles

The Commission used “cost, performance and schedule parameters, as well as safety, operability, maturity, human rating, workforce implications, development of commercial space, the consequences to national security space, and the impact on exploration and science missions”. They note that some of these are quantitative and some are qualitative measures. Evaluations of the claim for each launcher was made and adjusted, and the uncertainty was assessed. Historical bounds were employed where appropriate. Some 70 lower-level metrics were used to construct 13 top level metrics.

5.2 Heavy Lift to Low-Earth Orbit and Beyond

The Commission began by reiterating the Constellation plan to loft about 600 metric tons (mt) per year to low Earth orbit (LEO). By comparison, NASA launched 250 mt per year during Apollo and the International Space Station (ISS) has a mass of about 350 mt.

Figure 5.2-1 listed the five candidates and their lift to LEO (see Launch Vehicles for visuals) and Figure 5.2.1-1 gave Trans Lunar Injection (TLI) with no refueling and with in-space refueling:

Launch Vehicle LEO TLI no refueling TLI in-space refueling
EELV Super Heavy 75 mt 26 mt 55 mt
Directly Shuttle Derived 100-110 mt 35 mt 75 mt
Ares V Lite 140 mt 55 mt 120 mt
Ares V 160 mt 63 mt 130 mt
Ares V plus Ares I 185 mt 71 mt 150 mt

Notice that the Commission has brought the potential of in-space refueling front and center, either as propellant transfer from one spacecraft to another (as in a dual launch Ares V Lite or Jupiter 246), or from a true propellant depot, which would be supplied by commercial contract. However, “the Committee found both of these concepts feasible with current technology, but in need of significant further engineering development and in-space demonstration before they could be included in a baseline design”. Thus, the initial set of evaluations would need to examine the mass that an Earth Departure Stage (EDS) could push through TLI without refueling.

A detailed study of launch reliability of multi-launch missions commissioned by the Committee concluded that at most three critical launches be used. Reasonable chances for success required 90+ days of on-orbit life for an EDS or propellant depots.

Subsequent to Shuttle retirement, the need for NASA to launch 400 to 600 mt to LEO each year would consume much if not all of the existing and planned excess EELV capacity. Further, it would be expensive.

Finally, the Commission notes that heavy lift vehicles “would allow large scientific observatories to be launched, potentially enabling them to have optics larger than the current five-meter fairing sizes will allow. More capable deep-space science missions could be mounted, allowing faster or more extensive exploration of the outer solar system”.

All the foregoing was seen as justification for the development of Heavy Lift vehicles. The Commission then reviewed the choices in the chart above.

Ares V: This is the most capable of the proposed rockets. Together with the Ares I, it can launch 185 mt to LEO, 71 mt through TLI and land 14 tons of cargo only on the lunar surface, or 2 mt of cargo plus crew. Ares V requires expansion of the External Tank (ET) to 10 meters, the development of new 5.5 segment solid rocket motors (SRM), development of a regenerative version of the RS-68 engine and the development of the J2-X second stage engine (modified from the Saturn J2 engine).

Ares V Lite: Ares V Lite is a derivative of the Ares V, but with an LEO payload of 140 mt. This rocket would require the completion of the 5 segment SRM under development for Ares I. The remaining new Ares V components would still require development. For lunar missions, the Ares V Lite would be human-rated and used in the “dual mode”. In single launch it can place 14 mt of cargo on the lunar surface, and with a larger Lander than Ares V, it can land 5 mt of cargo plus crew.

SDLV Side-Mount: The side-mount and the in-line SDLV both use the existing Space Shuttle ET, the 4 segment SRM and the Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSME). The side-mount replaces the Shuttle with a cargo pod. The Committee combined the side-mount with the in-line variants for purposes of evaluation. They did note, however, that “the side-mount variant is considered an inherently less safe arrangement if crew are to be carried, and is more limited in its growth potential”.

SDLV In-Line The in-line variants are represented by the Jupiter family of rockets, as proposed by the Direct team. The Committee assumed that three Jupiter 241 vehicles would be used for a lunar mission, and that 5 mt of cargo could be landed with crew. No figure was given for a cargo only dual-launch mission, but the report states that more than 20 mt of cargo can be landed by a single Jupiter 241 using in-space refueling. Now, the three launch scenario is peculiar. Perhaps the Commission was trying to replicate the LEO loft mass of a dual Ares V Lite mission (2 x 140 mt). However, that much fuel, lander and crew far exceeds the Constellation Program (CxP) requirements. Furthermore, Ross Tierney, from Direct, has stated that “the right 2-launch Jupiter architecture is actually capable of landing 19mT of useful payload mass on the lunar surface every crew mission…Given that the Ascent Module only consists of about 6.4mT of that, this architecture is actually capable of landing almost the same 14.5mT* cargo modules as CxP are currently planning to land using cargo-only missions”. So we are left with unanswered questions concerning the assumptions and evaluations made by the Commission, not only about SDLV, but the Ares mission architectures.

EELV Super Heavy The Extended Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) is represented by the Atlas 5 Phase 2 Heavy, which consists of the core rocket plus two boosters of the same basic design along with an upgraded common upper stage (to be used by both Atlas and Delta). The common upper stage would use four RL-10 rocket engines, which have a long history of successful flights aboard Titan, Delta and Atlas among others. This configuration is capable of lofting a maximum of 75 mt to LEO. A dual launch configuration with in-space refueling is capable of conducting Flexible Path missions.

Summary of Findings

  • Heavy Lift capability is beneficial to human exploration as well as national security and the scientific community.
  • In-Space refueling represents a significant benefit to space transportation systems beyond low Earth orbit. It requires development and would not be on the critical path. A prudent approach is to develop Heavy Lift capable of early missions and phase in in-space refueling when it becomes available.
  • A new emphasis of sustainable operations is needed. “NASA’s design culture emphasizes maximizing performance at minimum development cost, repeatedly resulting in high operational and lifecycle costs. A shift in NASA design culture toward design for minimum discounted life-cycle cost, accompanied by robustness and adequate margins, will allow NASA programs to be more sustainable”.
  • In-Space Propulsion for missions beyond LEO that last for weeks or months require stages using efficient engines with high-reliability restart capabilities.

The Lunar Surface Capabilities of the various systems are compared in the following table:

Launch Vehicle LEO Cargo Only Cargo and Crew
EELV Super Heavy 75 mt NA mt NA mt
Directly Shuttle Derived 100-110 mt 14 mt* 5 mt*
Ares V Lite 140 mt 14 mt 5 mt
Ares V plus Ares I 185 mt 14 mt 2 mt

5.3 Crew Launch to Low-Earth Orbit

Crew safety is an overriding issue in human space flight. The safe delivery of crew to LEO and their return is critical. This is the fourth key question (see Part 1) that the Committee examined. The assumed that Orion would be the crew vehicle, and that the launch vehicle would either be government provided and operated, or a commercial service.

Ares I was selected in 2005 as part of the ESAS study, and was expected to be operational in 2012. The Constellation program now projects initial operational capability (IOC) in 2015, and the Committee thinks this will slip further. Both budgetary and design problems have been encountered.

International Transportation was deemed acceptable by the Committee. However, sustained U. S. leadership in space requires domestic crew launch capability.

A human rated EELV was considered by the Commission. An independent study found that the launch of Orion on the Delta IV Heavy was technically feasible, but the long term development and carrying costs offset any savings versus Ares I.

Commercial Transport of crew to LEO is a hot topic. The Committee asked “can a simple capsule with a launch escape system, operating on a high-reliability liquid booster, be made safer than the Shuttle, and comparably as safe as Ares I plus Orion”? A number of factors were considered:

  • A strong role for NASA oversight of the development would be required.
  • The cost to NASA of underwriting design, development, test, and evaluation (DDT&E).
  • The potential non-NASA uses of LEO crew transport

The Committee made several estimates of total costs, and arrived at a preliminary estimate of $5 Billion dollars. Assuming a “less-constrained” NASA budget, a commercial LEO crew transport service could be available by 2016.

Finally, the Committee assessed the risks to the human space flight program associated with commercial crew transport. Such development could distract from the near-term goal of developing commercial cargo capability. The commercial community might fail to deliver a crew transportation system. The fall-back position for NASA would be human rating the Heavy Lift Vehicle. The Committee assumes that the first stage of the HLV will be developed as quickly as possible. We leave the implications of this statement as an exercise for the reader.

5.4 Additional Issues in Launcher Selection

Launch Vehicle Performance and Costing The factors in this section include:

  • Evaluation of the claimed cost, schedule and performance of the various launch vehicles.
  • The advantage of shifting to commercial purchase of space transportation systems.
  • The loss of the workforce and expertise built up within NASA from shifting to commercial sources.
  • The health and viability of the solid rocket motor industry from all-liquid fuel launch vehicles.

Launcher Reliability The Committee reviewed the historical reliability of the Shuttle, Saturn, Titan, Delta and Atlas programs. Launchers derived from existing systems have shown greater reliability in early stages of development than newly developed systems.

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


The Augustine Commission – Final Report – Hits and Misses – Part 3

(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.

Chapter 4.0 Current Human Spaceflight Programs

The current U.S. human spaceflight programs are the operational Space Shuttle Program and the U.S. portion of the International Space Station (ISS). The next human spaceflight effort, the Constellation Program, is in development.

4.1 The Space Shuttle

The Commission reviewed long history of the Space Shuttle, its two fatal accidents, and the increasing complexity of missions, especially those since the return to flight in 2005. Early missions were 4 to 7 days and rarely involved a space walk. Current missions are 13 to 14 days and have involved as many as 5 space walks. The Hubble repair mission is typical.

The Shuttle was scheduled for retirement in 2010, and the replacement vehicle was scheduled to arrive in 2012. After four years of development, the Constellation Program does not expect this replacement vehicle to arrive before 2016, at the earliest. Currently, the time between Shuttle missions is averaging 100 days. With six missions remaining, the schedule calls for completion in 2010, an average of only 64 days between flights. The schedule would extend into the middle of 2011 if current prudent safety practices are maintained.

The Committee explored three scenarios for the Shuttle:

  • Scenario 1: Prudent Shuttle Fly-Out. As noted, the current Shuttle schedule has little or no margin remaining. Scenario 1 is a likely reflection of reality. It restores margin to the schedule, at a flight rate in line with recent experience, and allocates funds in FY 2011 to support Shuttle operations into that fiscal year. Based on historical data, the Committee believes it is likely that the remaining six flights on the manifest will stretch into the second quarter of 2011, and it is prudent to plan for that occurrence and explicitly include the associated costs in the FY 2011 budget.
  • Scenario 2: Short-Term Support for the ISS. Space Shuttle retirement will have an impact on the ISS (described more fully in a subsequent section). Scenario 2 would add one additional Shuttle flight to provide some additional support for the ISS and ease the transition to commercial and international cargo flights. It could enhance early utilization of the ISS, offer an opportunity for providing more spare parts, and enable scientific experiments to be brought back to Earth. This additional Shuttle flight would not replace any of the planned international or commercial resupply flights.
  • Scenario 3: Extend Shuttle to 2015 at Minimum Flight Rate. This scenario would extend the Shuttle at a minimum safe flight rate (nominally two flights per year) into FY 2015. Once the Shuttle is retired, the U.S. itself will no longer have the ability to launch astronauts into space, and will have to rely on the Russian Soyuz vehicle. That gap will persist until a new vehicle becomes available to transport crew to low-Earth orbit. Under the current program, the resulting gap is expected to be seven years or more. This scenario, if combined with a new crew launch capability that will be available by the middle of the 2010s, significantly reduces that gap, and retains U.S. ability to deliver astronauts to the ISS.

While the Commission strongly leans toward scenario 1, it acknowledges good reasons for scenario 3, since American access to the International Space Station (ISS) and material support of the ISS are very important.

4.2 The International Space Station

Construction of the International Space Station was begun in 1998 and was scheduled to be completed with an aggressive Shuttle schedule. The Columbia accident suspended construction, and Russia kept the ISS alive until the Shuttle returned in 2005. Construction was slowed by the prudent flight rate and the ISS was completed this year. It is scheduled to be decommissioned in 2015, and splashed into the Pacific Ocean.

It is now acknowledged that such a course would shred the current International Partnership involving the ISS. Further, retirement of the Shuttle puts the ISS on fragile footing with regard to supply and maintenance.

The Commission entertained three scenarios:

  • Scenario 1: End U.S. Participation in the ISS at the end of 2015.
  • Scenario 2: Continue ISS Operations at the Present Level to 2020.
  • Scenario 3: Enrich the ISS Program and Extend through 2020.

Scenario 1 was rejected. Scenario 2 keeps the ISS alive for use by the international community, but does “not allow the ISS to achieve its full potential as a National Laboratory or as a technology testbed. The majority of the funding is devoted to sustaining basic operations and providing transportation”.

With Scenario 3, the Commission provides discussion and insight into the importance of additional funding associated with the extension of the ISS mission. Two quotes illustrate this:

The National Research Council Space Studies Board has recently initiated a decadal survey of life and microgravity science that will identify key scientific issues and strategies for addressing them. This is the first decadal survey in this area, and it will bring the most modern scientific understanding to bear on what questions may be answered in the decade through 2020

The Committee believes that the Space Station can be a valuable testbed for the life support, environmental, and advanced propulsion technologies, among others, that will be needed to send humans on missions farther into space. It also has the potential to help develop operational techniques important to exploration.

Having examined two active human space flight programs, the Committee waded into the thorny world of the Briar Patch.

4.3 The Constellation Program

The Constellation Program consists of the Orion crew exploration vehicle (CEV), the Ares I crew launch rocket, the Ares V cargo launch rocket and the Altair Lunar surface access module (LSAM).

The Orion was originally designed to field a crew of six for missions as long as six months, with a service module and launch abort system (LAS). Due to reduced capabilities anticipated for the Ares I, the Orion is facing continuing design changes, reducing its capacity to four crew, and requiring other design compromises. The report concludes that:

When compared to historical programs, the most likely delay to the Orion availability approaches 18 months. Additional critical paths exist through ground test and flight test.

At this point, the report examines the historical record and the mismatch between program contend and funding (see Figure 4.3.2-1. Constellation Program Funding Profiles. Source: NASA, p. 59):

  • ESAS original funding was scheduled to rise from $4.5 Billion in 2009 to $10.0 Billion in 2017.
  • Fiscal Year 2009 budget was to rise from $3.3 Billion to $8.3 Billion by 2017.
  • Fiscal Year 2010 budget rises from $2.9 Billion to $6.8 Billion in 2017.

These cuts have severely hampered the Constellation Program. This is a 45% reduction in budget in 2009 from the ESAS budget voted by Congress to the actual appropriated amount, and a 32% reduction by 2017. Congress and the previous administration are to blame for failing to fulfill their promises (what’s new?), and NASA is to blame for believing the unfunded promises of the politicians. Plenty of rope to hang everybody.

The next target of the Commission is the Ares V (about which much will be said later). To quote the report, “The Ares V, still in conceptual design, promises to be an extremely capable rocket—able to lift 160 metric tons of cargo into low-Earth orbit”. Now this classification of Ares V is interesting, because as we have previously noted, the Program of Record (PoR – Constellation; see CxP 70000 Constellation Architecture Requirements Document (CARD) Rev 3 Change 001, March 2009), requires that 71.1 mt of cargo be sent to the Moon (“the lander must mass no more than 45,000kg, Orion mass 20,185kg, ASE mass 890kg and there is 5,000kg of Manager’s Margin included for safety. That’s a grand total of 71,075kg or 71.1mT of total spacecraft mass being pushed thru TLI”). This is one of the “Misses” that the Commission makes. Instead of scoring proposed architectures by the requirements of the program proposed to justify the architecture, scoring seems to have been done against an architecture, absent the program. One wonders why Ares V needs to be so big.

Altair is by-passed in this chapter with a reference back to chapter 3.0. Subsequent to the release of the Commission’s report, development of Altair has been suspended, pending decisions by the current administration.

Finally, the Committee deals gingerly with Ares I:

The Ares I is currently dealing with technical problems of a character not remarkable in the design of a complex system – problems that should be resolvable with commensurate cost and schedule impacts. Its ultimate utility is diminished by schedule delays, which cause a mismatch with the programs it is intended to serve.

We are left, therefore, with hits and misses so far. Hits include the Goal. Also, the value of the Shuttle for up-mass and down-mass in the support of the ISS. Furthermore, the potential value of the ISS for scientific research, international cooperation, space based construction and maintenance, technological testing and human factor research.

Misses focus around the arbitrary choice of hardware capability without regard to Goal or mission.

Part 4 next.

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

The Augustine Commission – Final Report – Hits and Misses – Part 2

(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. Let’s take a closer look at the Erector Set left behind by the Augustine Commission. The pieces parts are contained in Chapters 3-6.

Chapter 3.0 Goals and Future Destinations for Exploration

Most discussions concerning the Final Report have noted the importance of the having a Goal established in order to define both destinations and architectures to achieve them. Lets start with this extended quote from the Final Report:

3.1 Goals for Exploration

We explore to reach goals, not destinations. It is in the definition of our goals that decision-making for human spaceflight should begin. With goals established, questions about destinations, exploration strategies and transportation architectures can follow in a logical order. While there are certainly some aspects of the transportation system that are common to all exploration missions (e.g. crew access and heavy lift to low-Earth orbit), there is a danger of choosing destinations and architectures first. This runs the risk of getting stuck at a destination without a clear understanding of why it was chosen, which in turn can lead to uncertainty about when it is time to move on.

One can certainly agree with the rationale for starting with Goals. However, the final phrase leads one to pause. Does the expression “when it is time to move on” mean that we abandon destinations along the path toward our Goals? Rather, does it mean that we add what’s next to our collection of destinations when we have gained the required competence and experience from work on the most recent addition to our expanding list of destinations? We shall keep these questions in mind as we work through Chapter 3.

The Commission set “charting a path for human expansion into the solar system” as the Goal. The Commission sees the development of competitive commercial industries and important national capabilities as one reason for setting the Goal they did. It also cited the resulting scientific, technological, engineering and mathematical skills as another reason for choosing this Goal. Finally, the moment when we “first learn to live on another planet” will be a milestone in human history.

3.2 Overview of Destinations and Approach

Destinations can be classified by duration of the mission: the Moon is days away, the Lagrange points weeks, the near-Earth objects months, a Mars fly-by a year, and a Mars landing is the longest—about 900 days for a round trip using the most likely approach. The result of two cycles of analyses collapsed the destinations and associated missions into three candidates:

  • Mars First. It is widely accepted that Mars represents the most likely candidate for a permanent expansion of human civilization beyond the Earth. Mars is unquestionably the most complex environment for exploration, and fits Dr. Steve Squyres criteria for deploying human investigators.
  • Moon First. Missions to the Moon would enable the development of the operational skills and technology for landing on, launching from and working on a planetary surface.
  • Flexible Path. The Commission notes that the Flexible Path option means “we must learn to operate in free space for hundreds of days, beyond the protective radiation belts of the Earth, before we can confidently commit to exploring Mars”.

The Final Report then examines each of these options.

3.3 Mars First

The possible scenarios for Mars First are two, described by the Commission this way:

Two scenarios have been developed to examine the human exploration of Mars. In the first, the surface of Mars would be the initial and only destination, and all resources would be focused on reaching it as soon as possible. In the second, systems would be designed for Mars missions, but would be first verified on several test flights to the Moon. The latter would require some hardware modification, but would test the systems at a planetary body near the Earth before committing to a multi-year mission to Mars. In the end, the Committee decided to use the variant with a brief test flight program of equipment and procedures on the Moon as the reference Mars First option.

The first scenario was analyzed based on the existing 2007 NASA Human Exploration of Mars Design Reference Architecture 5.0 (NASA-SP-2009-566 and NASA-SP-2009-566-ADD). This architecture is shown in Figure 3.3.2-1 (p. 36). Figure 3.3.2-2 shows the architecture of first conducting several missions to the Moon.

The Commission concluded that the technological problems were many, and that a decade of research was required before design work could commence. Further, the costs were significantly higher than for either of the other two options.

Clearly, either of the possible scenarios leaves little or no infrastructure in place, and fails the Goals criteria.

3.4 Moon First

The Commission next examined the Moon First. Here, the possibility of resource utilization for supplying propellant to the space around the Earth-Moon system, as well as the scientific value of exploration based on our incomplete understanding of the Moon drive two possible scenarios. The first is a Lunar Base, where a permanent station is established, most likely at the South Pole where solar energy would be available at all times. The emphasis would be on local exploration and resource utilization for propellant manufacture.

The alternate scenario was Lunar Global, where missions of from 14 to 180 days would be flown to a variety of sites, adjusting the program as discoveries were made.

Either of these programs would be supported by one of three architectures considered by the Committee:

  • Constellation “1.5 launch” architecture – one Ares I with Orion, plus one Ares V with the Altair lander. This combination is Integrated Option 3 in Chapter 6.
  • Ares V Lite “dual” architecture – two Ares V Lites, one with the Orion, and one with the Altair lander. This combination is Integrated Option 4A in Chapter 6.
  • A more directly Shuttle-derived launcher, which requires three launches for a crew mission plus one commercial launch of crew to low-Earth orbit. This combination is Integrated Option 4B in Chapter 6.

One is immediately struck by two contradictions within these architectures. First is the requirement for three launches for the more directly Shuttle-derived launcher, when two launches of the Jupiter 246 exceed the Constellation Program requirements. See this data sheet for the Jupiter 130 Crew and Cargo (60 mt to low earth orbit) and data sheet for the Jupiter 246 Crew and Cargo launcher (96 mt to LEO and 79 mt through TLI).

The second more serious contradiction is allowing Ares V Lite to launch crew, but requiring the Shuttle-derived vehicle to only carry cargo. The problem we face is that Ares V Lite has:

  • New Engines
  • New External Tank (10 meters)
  • New Solid Rocket Boosters (5 segment)

Each of these requires independent rating for human flight. On the other hand, both the side-mount Shuttle-derived launch vehicle and the in-line Shuttle-derived vehicle have:

  • Existing SSME (Space Shuttle Main Engines)
  • Existing External Tank (8.4 meters)
  • Existing 4 segment Solid Rocket Boosters (SRB)

The SSMEs and the 4 segment SRBs are already human flight qualified. The modifications to the ET would require flight testing for qualification of the in-line vehicle, but are minor compare to designing and building a brand new 10 meter tank. While the side-mount Shuttle-derived launch vehicle has disadvantages for launching crew, the in-line Shuttle-derived vehicle has no such drawbacks.

These contradictions place unwarranted obstacles on the Shuttle-derived vehicles, especially the in-line version.

3.5 The Flexible Path to Mars

The Commission states:

“The goal is to take steps toward Mars, learning to live and work in free space and near planets, under the conditions humans will meet on
the way to Mars. We must learn to operate in free space for hundreds of days, beyond the protective radiation belts of the Earth, before we can confidently commit to exploring Mars.

The primary attraction of this option is that we can build increasing confidence, infrastructure and expertise as we move from one destination to the next.

There are multiple destinations. Each one offers the opportunity to build different skills. Especially valuable would be for international partners to take on the challenge of Lunar Surface Exploration while NASA continues the research and development required for the Flexible Path missions. Both commercial enterprises and International Partners could handle the propellant delivery to the depots in LEO, EML-2, and eventually Phobos. All of this is aimed at the eventual establishment of permanent human presence on Mars.

From the perspective of the Goals given by the Commission, the Flexible Path option is the strongest.

3.6 Summary of Strategies for Exploration Beyond Low-Earth Orbit

The Committee concludes as follows:

Mars is the ultimate destination for human exploration of the inner solar system; but it is not the best first destination. Both visiting the Moon First and following the Flexible Path are viable exploration strategies. The two are not necessarily mutually exclusive; before traveling to Mars, we might be well served to both extend our presence in free space and gain experience working on the lunar surface.

In the next post, we will look at the existing human space flight programs discussed in Chapter 4.0.

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

The Augustine Commission – Postmortem – SPI Symposium

The Space Policy Institute at George Washington University hosted a half day symposium “Assessing The Options Of The Augustine Commission For Human Spaceflight” on 28 September 2009, and has now released the Notes and presentations.

Some of the participants in the Symposium (and their presentations) were:

Dr. Scott Pace, Director of the Space Policy Institute, began the proceedings by outlining the nine goals set for in the 2004 Presidential directives to NASA. Some have been, or will be, achieved:

  • Complete the International Space Station
  • Safely fly the Space Shuttle until 2010
  • No later than 2008, begin a series of robotic missions to Moon

Some are in danger:

  • Develop supporting innovative technologies, knowledge, and infrastructures
  • Promote international and commercial participation in exploration

And some will not be met:

  • Develop and fly the Crew Exploration Vehicle no later 2014
  • Return to Moon with goal of 2015 and no later than 2020
  • Aggressive in-situ resource program and robust precursor program
  • Sustained human presence on Moon for national preeminence, scientific and
    economic purposes, leading to Mars and other places

Dr. Pace reviewed the steadily declining budget provided NASA over the past five years (see the Sally Ride Slides – especially this). These cuts total approximately $42 Billion through 2020 versus the original ESAS (Exploration Systems Architecture Study) program, which topped out at $10 Billion per year in 2016 and is now expected to be only $6.5 Billion.

A critical observation was that “Budget Proposals are Policy”. Irrespective of what is said and written about America’s space policy, the budget dictates what can and cannot be done.”

Finally, Pace asked “Are there economically useful activities in space that can sustain human communities in space? Citing examples in the chart below, he concluded that we just do not know if there is anything in the upper right hand box.

Chart 1

The first panel of speakers was led by Gen. Lester Lyles (ret), a member of the Augustine Committee. His comments (see the Notes), centered around the task of the Commission. The Commission was tasked with assessing the following:

  • Present human spaceflight program
  • Future of Space Shuttle and ISS
  • The necessity of heavy lift
  • Crew access to low earth orbit and alternatives
  • Strategies and alternatives beyond low earth orbit

Major themes to be kept in mind included: safety, reliability, innovation, affordability, and sustainability.

Finally, Lyles summed up the key findings of the Commission:

  • NASA needs the right mission with the right size
  • Without an adequate budget there is no way that NASA can take on the great things it is asked to and maintain a viable program for space exploration
  • International partnerships should be addressed in greater detail than they are currently – there is lots of opportunities for greater partnerships and activities
  • Shuttle program should be extended, whether it be for a few flights or longer, it makes sense to consider any way to minimize gap
  • “Great nations do great things” – human spaceflight is a task worthy of a great nation
  • Extending ISS a “no brainer”– bottom line is we are just now completing space station and the U.S. and its international partners have only just begun to utilize scientific capabilities – Could be extended to 2025
  • NASA needs heavy lift capability – Looked at Ares 1, Ares V, and Ares V Light, but did not recommend one or the other; rather it depends on your objectives in space
  • Committee views COTS program favorably; it should be continued – Strong potential for commercial space sector to service ISS
  • A non-mission specific, basic space technology program should be established to support exploration
  • There are human spaceflight pathways to Mars – Mars is the ultimate destination, but may not be the first
  • Committee laid out alternatives for Moon and Mars and defined risks as best as they could

Tom Young, former CEO of Martin-Marietta, spoke next. One of his major themes was that the current situation was being driven by budget, and that the decisions made today will influence the course of space exploration for the rest of the century. He hoped that following the great adventure of the twentieth century – landing on the Moon and returning – the twenty-first century would not be remembered for “we saved $3 Billion dollars”.

Quoting from the analysis by Dwayne Day at The Space Review:

Young also warned that in order for NASA to be a smart buyer and to ensure success, the agency needed in-house systems engineering talent. Echoing Scott Pace’s earlier comments, he said that during the 1990s the United States engaged in a number of “acquisition reforms,” including the Air Force’s reduction of oversight of contractor operation of launch vehicles like the Titan IV as well as some of the aspects of NASA’s “faster, better, cheaper” program. (Author’s note: Young was clear that he was not criticizing faster, better, cheaper in its entirety.) “We just fired all of the experienced people,” Young said, and adopted a policy that “government would sit in the back of the room” and let the contractors run the show. “That was a horrible mistake. The net result of that experiment was $11.2 billion in failures. We tried that experiment, it was a horrible failure.”

Young finished by echoing previous speakers that human space flight was a policy issue, not a budget issue. He would quote Lyles: “Great Nations do Great Things”.

Next up was Dr. Doug Stanley, who has worked at NASA and Orbital Sciences Corporation, and is currently from Georgia Tech. One of the items he discussed was the idea that the assumptions made by NASA have driven the designs. For example, if the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) had not been required to go to the ISS, then the Moon mission would have been best accomplished with a dual launch of two identical rockets and an EOR-LOR strategy (Earth Orbit Rendezvous – Lunar Orbit Rendezvous). A single Shuttle Derived Launch Vehicle would be the most cost effective solution for the heavy lift requirements. But it would not be cost effective for ISS purposes.

On the other hand, if the focus had been solely on servicing the ISS, then commercial Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles (EELV – Delta IV) would have been selected. It would have been cheaper and quicker to operational status than building a new rocket.

Instead, NASA had to satisfy both objectives. And therefore, chose to develop two new rockets (new engines, new tanks, new solid rocket motors). This was the riskiest and most expensive course.

Young concludes with two sets of recommendations:

White House should immediately decide on:

  • ISS extension through 2020
  • Shuttle extension into 2011 and/or beyond 2011
  • Beyond-LEO human mission destination(s) and time-frame
  • Out-year available budget
  • General policy towards commercial and international ISS crew transport

NASA should be allowed to then define design reference mission(s) and requirements and perform ESAS-like architecture study to:

  • Perform apples-to-apples cost/safety/risk comparison of Augustine-defined options and selected other combinations of options
  • Re-visit EELV/SDV trades – including side-mount
  • Perform detailed definition and economic analysis of propellant depots
  • Determine true cost/risk of “commercial” crew transport
  • Examine workforce impacts of options
  • Define more detailed budgets to support 2011 budget cycle

[Ed: One has to look back at Young’s comment above about NASA thinking that a SDLV “…would not be cost effective for ISS purposes” and wonder why they did not realize that the SDLV would only need to be used for a year or so until EELV could come on line for ISS and other LEO missions. The implication is that EELV would have been cheaper than Ares I, and SDLV would have been cheaper than Ares V.]

The second panel discussion, on science and international relations, was begun by Paul Spudis from the Lunar and Planetary Institute.

Dr. Spudis fundamentally disagrees with the “Four Canons” of the Space Program, enshrined in the Summary Report of the Augustine Commission:

  • Mars is the ultimate destination
  • Heavy-lift is a requirement
  • It is necessary to get the public excited
  • There is no problem at NASA that money cannot fix

He contrasts the Current Template with the Desired Template:

Current Template:

  • Custom-built, self-contained, mission specific spacecraft
  • Launch on expendable vehicles
  • Operate for set lifetime
  • Abandon after use
  • Repeat

Desired Template:

  • Incremental, extensible building blocks
  • Extract material and energy resources of space to use in space
  • Launch only what cannot be fabricated or built in space
  • Build and operate flexible, modular, extensible in-space systems
  • Maintain, expand and use indefinitely

Obviously, Dr. Spudis takes the Long View: “My objective is to move humanity into outer space. How do you do that? By living off the land.” He wants to find opportunities in the upper right corner of Pace’s matrix.

Next up was Tom Jones, with the Association of Space Explorers and a former astronaut. His comments are summed up nicely in the abstract to the paper he presented:

By conducting a series of piloted Near-Earth Object (NEO) missions beginning about 2020, the U.S. will reinforce the scientific, economic, programmatic, operations, planetary defense, and public outreach elements of its human exploration program. Astronauts exploring a NEO would provide synergistic scientific return from a new “planetary” surface, substantially different in origin, age, and composition from those of the Moon or Mars. Explorers would assay NEO resources vital to future U.S. economic activity in space, and demonstrate extraction and utilization techniques for water, volatiles, and valuable metals. Piloted missions will also provide structural and civil engineering data needed for future deflection of hazardous NEOs. Impact prevention is a common sense, “know your enemy” mission for human explorers; the public will support space-based efforts to better understand and prevent a damaging NEO collision with Earth. Astronaut expeditions to NEOs offer dramatic, high-profile opportunities to engage the public in ground-breaking exploration more than a million miles from Earth. Finally, in the event U.S. plans for a lunar return are delayed, NEOs offer a challenging suite of alternative destinations. Easier to reach than the Moon’s surface, NEOs will nevertheless broaden U.S. space capabilities, demonstrate a firm commitment to ambitious human space activities, and increase momentum toward the eventual exploration of Mars.

Dr. John Logsdon lead of his comments on the International Space Station and International cooperation by quoting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, 16 July 2009:

“Our approach to foreign policy must reflect the world as it is, not as it used to be. It does not make sense to adapt a 19th-century concert of powers or a 20th-century balance-of-power strategy. We cannot go back to Cold War containment or to unilateralism. . . . We will lead by inducing greater cooperation among a greater number of actors and reducing competition, tilting the balance away from a multi-polar world and toward a multi-partner world.”

Dr. Logsdon advocated including India and China in multi-lateralization of space. The question in his mind was whether there would be Presidential leadership.

For the international perspective, Dr. Alain Dupas, Director of Strategic Studies at the Paris-based College de Polytechnique, presented his views on the Augustine Committee’s recent report. Europe, he said, has been under the impression that the United States had made a firm decision regarding it’s exploration program. Now, there are serious concerns about America changing its mind. Fortunately, he noted, the ISS would be supported at least through 2020. This bodes well for the discussions about the Global Exploration Strategy. Dupais noted that the Flexible Path option offered “interesting opportunities for Europe”.

Mr. Brett Alexander, from the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, led the third panel of the morning on security and commerce. One of the main points he made was that the Augustine Commission had fallen into a false dichotomy: having to choose between Ares I and commercial EELV access to space. The real issue is choosing Ares I or the International Space Station. NASA does not have the budget for both.

Finally, with regard to safety, Alexander noted that Astronauts will not fly on unproven commercial vehicles, and notes ironically that:

  • The Atlas V has a long and proven track record, and the team that puts it together and launches has a demonstrated track that goes beyond the vehicle itself.
  • Falcon 9 and Taurus II will have conducted multiple cargo flights to ISS under COTS prior to being permitted to ferry human crew to LEO
  • Contrast this with the fact that Ares 1X/1 will have completed only two test flights prior to being permitted to carry crew to LEO

Eric Sterner spoke next. He is a former Republican House Armed Services Committee staffer and currently a fellow at the Marshall Institute. He made several points concerning international cooperation as a policy decision. First, that “International cooperation is useful but policy makers should be aware international partnerships have risks. You inherit or import into your program all their bureaucracy, all the budget woes. ISS proves you can do it, but it took us 25 years.” And second, considering China. “How would the U.S. deal with human rights issues if China were a partner in space exploration? It matters what values you take into space. How do you deal with proliferation issues? The Clinton administration threatened to cut off space-related payments to the Russia for its proliferation behavior with Iran”.

Next to last was Robert Read from the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense. His remarks addressed the implications of NASA and space exploration for the Solid Rocket Motor industry. Historically, the Department of Defense (DoD) has relied on solid rocket motors for land base Minuteman III ICBM and sea launched Trident II D-5, as well as many other weapon systems. He notes that DoD is concerned that shutting down the Shuttle and SDLV programs will so shrink the market that the program might collapse. He points out that:

  • One Shuttle stack is equivalent to 10 Trident II D-5 and 17 Minuteman III missiles in terms of solid propellant weight
  • The DoD is concerned over the potential loss of SRM suppliers once the Shuttle is retired
  • The DoD will be studying the issue further, given the national security implications of further decline of the SRM industrial base.

From The Space Review article, Read’s comments concerning how delicate the industry is at the moment:

He recounted how a few years ago a small company was going to move its operations from Texas overseas. The company’s motivation was that 95% of its business was commercial and the government accounted for only 5% of its business. But moving its manufacturing overseas would have required the government to recertify all of the company’s components, at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars to the DoD, and ultimately the American taxpayers.

Finally, John Karas of Lockheed Martin addressed the workforce issues. A major concern is the loss of talent. 35% of the workforce is eligible for retirement right now. Industry needs to see NASA with a realistic goal and adequate funding in order to attract new, young talent to learn from the old guard before they retire. America’s heavy lift capability is unmatched elsewhere, and will remain so. But it can, and is currently, slipping away with the confusion and disarray of the space policy and budget problems.

So what do we garner from this long discussion? The debate is a tug of war in many dimensions: practical, political, monetary and technical.

I would like commercial crew launch to Low Earth Orbit and the ISS, a single Shuttle Derived Heavy lift vehicle and propellant depots. But that’s just my opinion.

Mind The Gap

Mind The Gap

Mind the Gap

The following scenario is from Ross Tierney of the Direct Team. Costs and timetable have been confirmed by the Aerospace Corp under contract with the Augustine Commission to make independent assessments of all proposals:

Assuming we started fairly soon (Green Light by December 2009), we can get three Jupiter test flights off the ground before the first attempt at a Crewed launch. Two would be Jupiter-130 CLV configuration, the third would be a Jupiter-246 configuration flying with a dummy Upper Stage, simply to test the 4-engine Core.

  • Shuttle Retires in September 2012

    DIRECT assumes that we stretch the current 6-flight Shuttle manifest out by an extra 18-24 months in order to help close the gap from that direction. We don’t want additional flights because of the increased risks, and we believe it is a waste of money to extend the program all the way to 2015 when the Jupiter-130 makes that unnecessary. But a “stretch” of 2 years, instead of the currently expected 1 year stretch, has a number of merits.

  • Jupiter-130-X — December 2012

    36 months from Green Light.

    That vehicle would consist of a regular pair of Shuttle SRB’s, 3 used SSME’s (17 of which will be available at the end of the Shuttle Program), a Core Stage made from the currently existing parts of External Tank #139/140/141 modified for the purpose, along with new parts built for this flight.

    Considering that the SRB’s and SSME’s are “known quantities”, the real test here is the Avionics, modified Tanking and the Integration effort. By using reliable and fully-proven Main Propulsion Systems throughout the vehicle this should help to make this flight much lower risk than otherwise.

    Depending upon the maturity of the PLF development effort it would either have a dummy PLF or the first attempt at a fully-functional unit (which would enable some rather interesting, if high-risk, secondary payload options as described below). The vehicle would have an avionics package which we suggest is based on either a modified Atlas pack, somewhat similar to that being used for the Ares-I-X flight or alternatively a set derived from Shuttle avionics — whichever can be implemented the quickest. And this vehicle would fly from Shuttle MLP-3, modified for the purpose. LC-39B’s FSS & RSS would remain in place and a new Crew Access Arm would be needed.

    If the PLF is operational in time, we suggest a useful payload is flown on this test flight. The current leading suggestion within our team is to fly a Delta-IV Upper Stage inside the PLF, along with an Orion Crew Module. Gathering flight data for the launcher is the primary objective for the missions, but assuming the launcher works successfully, the secondary objective for this mission would be to send the Orion’s CM around the moon (a milestone in and of itself) and return it at Lunar re-entry speeds to provide real-world test data about the Orion avionics and heat shield as early as possible.

  • Jupiter-130-Y — September 2013

    45 months from Green Light.

    Again, using a standard set of Shuttle SRB’s (the same set as -X?), 3 more existing SSME’s, a much more refined version of the Core Stage (though deliberately overbuilt for additional margins) and a fully operational PLF. The first fully-qualified avionics set would be intended to fly on this vehicle and so too would the first fully-qualified Orion CM and SM.

    This flight would be intended to be as close as possible to a 100% “dress rehearsal” for the IOC Crewed flight approximately 9 months later.

    Again, a secondary payload option would be to fly another Delta-IV Upper Stage, intended once again to perform a TLI for the Orion, though this time as a precursor mission to the “Apollo 8” crewed mission which we hope to fly early in the program.

  • Jupiter-246-X — March 2014

    51 months from Green Light.

    This test flight is intended to demonstrate the 4-engine Core vehicle configuration and the staging system for the Upper Stage and gather early data for the upgrade program. The Upper Stage itself would be a dummy and there would be no payload. The flight would ultimately be sub-orbital and would end-up in the drink somewhere mid-Atlantic.

  • Jupiter-130-1/Orion-1 IOC — June 2014

    54 months from Green Light.

    Initial Operational Capability. 2 Test Flight Crew to Orbit. Test launch, plus basic capabilities of the Orion in terms of Rendezvous and Docking to ISS. Secondary Payload TBD — considered “high risk”.

  • Jupiter-130-2/Orion-2 — December 2014

    IOC Validation flight. Repeat of the previous flight to ensure everything works, or to fix any problems encountered on prior mission. Secondary payload TBD, although testing of SSPDM and any ISS resupply hardware is a logical option for this flight.

  • Jupiter-130-3/Orion-3 — June 2015

    Full Operational Capability. Crew Rotation and Supply mission to ISS, delivering any urgently required equipment to station which was considered too important to “risk” on either previous flight.

Three more launches are planned in 2015 including the “Apollo 8” flyby and the second Jupiter-246-Y test flight, which would include an active Upper Stage.

Jupiter-246-1 IOC would occur in December 2017, with FOC following a year later.

For a complete discussion of this timeline, follow the link back to NasaSpaceFlight Forum.

Prior NSSPhoenix entry on Direct 3.1.

The Augustine Commission – Letter to My Sister

My sister, who is following the blog entries about the Augustine Commission here on NSS Phoenix, wrote me and asked the following:

“OK OK since this is the other worthy human endeavor, clearly we must write our congress persons. Is it sufficient to simply tell them to LISTEN to the AUGUSTINE COMMISSION!!!!! ?”

My reply was that yes, we should tell our members of Congress to listen to the Augustine Commission. In addition, I told her that I would also advocate the exploration architecture put forward by the Direct team, which has the advantage of providing a real exploration program within the existing NASA budget. My email to her was the following:

The message is that the Augustine Commission identified the incompatibility of the Goals and the Budget.

Griffin’s Constellation program wanted the smallest crew launch vehicle (Ares I) and the largest cargo vehicle (Ares V).

Griffin wanted to be known as the biggest, baddest rocket builder ever.

Unfortunately, the Ares I is underpowered and technically challenged (see my Kansas comments in “Bad Day At Black Rock” on the NSS Phoenix blog). And the Ares V is so big that it cannot be used economically.

Neither Ares rocket is a “shuttle derived vehicle”. Each component may look like a shuttle component, but each component is brand new and needs to be rated on its own merit, which will require time and money that NASA does not have.

The Direct team recognizes both the technological and the political imperatives, and advocates a single shuttle derived vehicle that can send crew and cargo to the ISS, as well as go to Solar System destinations with the implementation of a Centaur derived upper stage and propellant depots.

When commercial crew launch and propellant launch capabilities arrive, Direct wants NASA to focus on expanding human civilization into the Solar System.

NASA has the talent and ability to do the exploration mission. We do not want to handicap NASA with the mundane operational tasks that commercial enterprises are so good at doing.

That is the message of “Bad Day At Black Rock”.

The Augustine Commission – Bad Day at Black Rock – And a Reprieve

The House Committee on Science and Technology

Norm Augustine, Michael Griffin and Vice Admiral Joe Dyer USN (Ret.) testified before the House Committee on Science and Technology. And walked into a hornets nest of unenlightened criticism. Typical was the whining from Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of AZ, who released a statement. She wanted the Commission to do a detailed evaluation of the Constellation program, but added “We have a glancing attention to Constellation, even mentioning it in past tense.”

The chairman, Rep. Bart Gordon from Tennessee, as reported by the New York Times, employed the fallacious “sunk costs” argument to defend Ares I:

“I think that good public policy argues for setting the bar pretty high against making significant changes in direction at this point,” said Representative Bart Gordon, Democrat of Tennessee, who is chairman of the Committee on Science and Technology. “There would need to be a compelling reason to scrap what we’ve invested our time and money in over these past four years.”

Former Administrator Michael Griffin defended the Ares program, deflecting Commission concerns about the rocket’s problems with the request for more money. Pay no attention to the rocket behind the curtain. Pay no attention to the thrust oscillation problems that would shake the walls and bring down the curtain. Pay no attention to the underpowered rocket that cannot lift the curtain.

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

This was a friendlier and much better informed session. Sen. Nelson from Florida and Sen. Hutchison from Texas started with praise for Augustine.

Augustine then noted that the Commission was tasked with options, not recommendations. This had been repeatedly noted by those that have followed the three month deliberations, but needs repeating. He said the next obvious destination is Mars, but that is not possible for safety and financial reason. Then he observed that the Goals and Funding are out of whack. Keeping them as they are would mean:

“If we continued on the path of the existing program, we would have to launch six shuttles in the next 12 months. One could question if that is a safe thing to do.

“No funds for Space Station and Technology. We’d have to deorbit ISS in five years from now after spending 20 years building it. We’d complete Ares I two years after the Space Station was deorbited.

“The Heavy Lift launch capability would be delayed to the mid to late 2020s – and when we got it there would be no upper stage to put on it or Lunar hardware to launch on it. That would be delayed to the 2030s. That is the path we are on.”

That is the dismal state of affairs of the current program.

The remainder of the session explored the various options, returning again and again to the “Flexible Path” or deep space option, with several variations. The emphasis was on commercial crew transportation to low Earth orbit and a return by NASA to exploration. Near Earth Objects (NEO), the Lagrange points and space observatories, building and deploying propellant depots and Phobos as a destination were all explored, as well as the necessity of avoiding deep gravity wells like the Moon and Mars until experience, technology and funding allow.

Political Reality

Behind the scenes and away from the public reassurances to local constituencies by the Senators on the Committee contained in the “questions” to Mr. Augustine, the political realities that shape the space exploration business are working on the new directions.

The Florida workforce and the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), represented by Senator Nelson, will benefit if the Shuttle is extended to 2014 or 2015, as will the Michoud Assembly Facility where the Shuttle External Tank is manufactured. This is the territory of Senator Vitter. And the Johnson Space Center (JSC) will benefit Senator Hutchison.

Senator Shelby from Alabama will ensure continued work for the Marshal Space Flight Center.

ATK (Thiokol) will ensure that solid rocket boosters are used, either with Ares I / V or with the Shuttle Derived Launch Vehicle (SDLV), such as Jupiter.

Boeing and Lockheed Martin (UAL – United Launch Alliance) will press forward with their commercial proposals, and ensuring that the Delta and Atlas rockets are well used.

PWR Rocketdyne will appreciate additional business for its Space Shuttle Main Engine if an SDLV is built. The SDLV is almost a foregone conclusion if the Space Shuttle Program is extended beyond 2011.

While the proponents of Commercial Orbital Transportation Systems (COTS) such as Space-X and Orbital Sciences make their case to the politicians, other groups are also working on the future NASA direction. One of these groups is the Direct team, which has proposed a complete exploration architecture (also here) that knits together the political considerations discussed above.

Possible Outcomes

Given the political background to the conundrum of the NASA mission and budget, one might foresee one of three possible outcomes:

  • Abandonment of Human Space Flight beyond Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The Space Shuttle would be extended to complete its manifest in 2011. The International Space Station (ISS) would be extended to 2020 (or beyond). Purchase of American astronaut rides to the ISS would be on Russian Soyuz rockets.
  • Endorsement of the Commercialization of Space Flight with a reduction in NASA’s role to a procurer of services on bid and contract, and a modest increase in the budget. This would correspond to the UAL proposal discussed here on NSS Phoenix, where many competitors in addition to UAL would compete for the business NASA has up for bids.
  • A full blown commitment on the part of the United States to maintaining its historical preeminence in space exploration. LEO operations would be contracted from commercial entities. A Shuttle Derived Launch Vehicle would be contracted out to UAL / ATK / PWR (who already operate the facilities where the Space Shuttle components are built and assembled), and would close the gap to ISS resupply until commercial vehicles came on line. These SDLVs with a Centaur derived upper stage would be capable of NEO missions, Lagrange point (EML-2 and SEL-1 and SEL-2) space observatory missions, and Phobos and Deimos missions. Certainly enough to gather the requisite space faring skills to begin contemplating permanent stations within the deep gravity wells of the Moon and Mars. This third outcome satisfies practically all of the political forces in play.

Post your thoughts on the outcomes in the comments section.