Thursday, August 2, 2012

Taxi to ISS and Beyond

     As of today NASA has narrowed the field for crew service support to Boeing, Sierra Nevada and SpaceX.  I found this announced on NBCMSN.whatever. Tech and Science News.  Boiling it down to these three are the ones getting future funding from NASA in the competition.  There has been a lot of hot air expelled over why shouldn't NASA just fund one development effort.
     That sort of thing leads to accusations of favoritism, squashes innovation and promotes waste.  Having three levelly matched competitors will most likely result in multiple options for services that will be scalable based on mission.  All three are being designed to carry 6-7 passengers but one will be capable of atmospheric glide reentry.  The other two will make better space workhorses for asteroid missions, interplanetary mission modules, cargo transfer and more uses.
     Unlike the Apollo race I choose to view this one as a race to build a sustainable infrastructure for a space based economy.  The Apollo program and the shuttle program suffered from the inertia of having locked in sourcing which meant if you didn't throw enough money in one company's direction then sooner or later you were going to have a critical shortage of a key component.  The company making that component would be fat for a while then move on or go under due to lack of growth.
     This way the three companies going to completion of human flight will bear all of the responsibilities for providing the service to both private industry and government.  Trimming the budget and getting faster improvement response with more options ready.  Who is stupid enough to find something wrong with that?
     My point is that this model makes better sense and it has taken us too long to get this far. 

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