Op-Ed in The Hill: NASA is Playing Favorites With SpaceX

Dragon capsule separated from Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

Well, this is interesting.

There’s an opinion piece in The Hill concerning the CRS-7 accident:

Time for NASA to stop playing favorites with Elon Musk’s SpaceX

The op-ed deals with the handling of the investigation in the June 2015 loss of a Dragon spacecraft by NASA and SpaceX. It supports a provision in the Senate appropriations bill that requires the FAA to produce a public summary.

After promising to produce a public summary last year, NASA reversed itself last month. The agency said it was not required to produce one and said the responsibility lies with the FAA.  So, Senators are telling the FAA to produce one.

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  • Arthur Hamilton

    Not playing favorites. Playing favorites would be the Congress authorizing millions of dollars to cover damages to government payloads(Orbital ATK).

  • Terry Stetler

    Yup. And the author ignores Orbital’s disasterous 40 year old NK-33 purchase, replacing it with a Russian RD-181, and the Antares first stage being made by Yuzhnoye, a Ukrainian company recently linked to North Korea getting what looks like an RD-250 engine variant for there ICBM.


  • Mr Snarky Answer
  • Vladislaw

    this didn’t play well .. the hill is not as supported by the far right as it used to be… they have moved to the center of a lot issues and lost a lot of hard commentators .. the comments were all pro SpaceX and non for the paid shill Langer

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    When you spend years whining, complaining and nay saying rather than building *new* hardware and you end up having to buy crap heads like this as your moat dries up. To put ATK and SpaceX in perspective Antares has flown less since 2013 than F9 has LANDED in 8 months of 2017!! Put that in your pipe and smoke it Langer.

  • duheagle

    The Institute for Liberty seems to be a one-man PR/lobby shop attempting to pass itself off as some kind of conservative think tank. Right now it is apparently being paid to dump on New Space in general and SpaceX in particular as well as to oppose the privatization of air traffic control.

  • redneck

    I think a few people have figured out that the organizations focus on multitudes of reports and investigations beyond the necessary are the antithesis of those that get things done. It is likely that there is an unwritten understanding that pushing too hard on excess paperwork will result in less actual flight with little or no safety gain.

    The lies or policy shift of promising a report and then not delivering is the strongest legitimate complaint I see here.

    I see similar things in construction where large established companies have to subcontract to leaner companies to get things built at all.

  • Saturn13

    http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=51344 Ukraine says completely false. Did they ever start building RD-180 like they said they might?

  • Terry Stetler

    You expected Ukraine to confirm it? Need a bridge?

  • Terry Stetler

    That about sums it up….

    (About 2013-14 a French politico talked of a SpaceX steamroller if landings worked.)

  • James

    After having read the article and looking up the IFL it seems to be another group of basically PR artist who have been paid to crap on spaceX in particular and new space over all.

  • BeanCounterFromDownUnder

    Wel it’s an opinion and it’s well out of date. Everyone else has moved on. Sooo, why bother.

  • duheagle

    I’m sure that’s exactly what Russia wants everyone to think.

    Ukraine has been building this engine family since Soviet times. It’s a Glushko design. Like his better-known kerolox engines, it’s an oxidizer-rich, staged combustion engine, but burns hypergolics instead of kerolox. The original engine in this family was designed as the 1st stage powerplant of the RS-36 (SS-18) ICBM. The latest RS-36 models – still in service – use a modestly evolved version of the original engine.

    This engine family was also the basis for the first stages of all the various Tsyklon satellite launchers, for which Ukraine has yet to find a market. The entirety of production of this engine goes to Russia.

    I think it overwhelmingly more likely that North Korea got its engines through Russia than directly from Ukraine.

  • IamGrimalkin

    But then why make Orbital ATK do it? If you think reports etc. are unnecessarily then they should be unnecessary for Orbital ATK too.

  • redneck

    It’s necessary if your corporate culture is focused on process and pork.

  • IamGrimalkin

    The point is, why is is necessary for Orbital ATK but not for SpaceX? I don’t see why Orbital ATK would want NASA’s inquiry to be publically published, much like SpaceX wouldn’t. So why the discrepancy?

  • redneck

    See above. If you are focused on paper CYA, the Orbital is on the right track If you are focused on performance, then SpaceX is. Depends on your corporate culture.

  • publiusr

    That makes them conservative how exactly? I guess they are mad that Elon got any propping up from Uncle Sam. I know Stossel turned on Elon pretty fast.

  • publiusr

    Energetics missiles–you have to prop that up.

    Old ICBMs? That may be a threat.

  • publiusr

    I’m pretty sure RD-180 is a kerolox burner. It is a Zenit/Energiya strap-on engine–the RD-170 (F-1 level) cut in half.

    The RS-36 is smaller:

    That’s Tsyclon/Dnepr–it uses the RD-250…which is hypergolic

  • duheagle

    Here’s IFL’s list of issues from its website:

    The Trillion Dollar Regulatory State
    The War on Small Business
    Small Business Paperwork
    Health Care Security
    Property Rights
    Eminent Domain
    Government Land Ownership
    Endangered Species and Wetlands
    Man-Made Weather Control, otherwise known as “Anthropogenic Climate Change” or “Global Warming”
    Energy Policy
    Gas Prices
    National Security Policy and the “Outsourcing” of Critical Defense Components
    Occupational Safety and Health Policy
    Comparative Risk Assessment and Environmental Policy
    Intellectual Property Rights
    Internet Freedom
    Market-Oriented Technology Policy

    Looks, at least superficially, pretty right-wing to me. YMMV.

    Perhaps the attacks on SpaceX and New Space are based, at least in part, on the brainless meme that’s been going around in some right-wing circles for a long time that Elon Musk is some sort of Obama golf buddy or something. Mostly, though, I expect it’s based on someone who can write a check of suitable size having done so.

    Most of these topics don’t seem to have been the subject of a lot of recent attention from ILF.

    ILF also has an “Iceland Watch” project going for some reason. I decided I didn’t have time to look into what that was all about. My guess is that it’s mainly about IFL having received a check from someone who’s actually involved in Icelandic politics.

    Stossel is a doctrinaire libertarian. Elon Musk is not. Enough said about that.

  • duheagle

    I’m aware of all that. Glushko designed all these engines, the kerolox burners like RD-180 and RD-170, and the hypergol burners like RD-250. I was merely making the point that he was more famous for the kerolox engines.

  • duheagle

    The story probably wasn’t fake in the sense of being a deliberate falsehood. It’s most probably just another in the near-infinitely-long series of poorly-researched MSM stories by reporters with zero expertise in the subject matter area under discussion and – it would seem – no Google skills either.

    The idea that the Norks were using some version of the RD-250 was the invention of the International Institute for Strategic Studies guy, Elleman, who wrote the IISS paper upon which the NYT report was based.

    Problem is, the RD-250 is a dual-chamber engine design. The Nork rockets – of which Elleman actually had in-flight close-up photos in his IISS report – pretty clearly use single-chamber engines. Elleman attempts to explain this rather significant discrepancy by positing some conspiracy to not only provide engines to the Norks, but engineering know-how to enable them to convert the engines to single-chamber operation.

    Occam’s Razor says the Nork engines aren’t RD-250’s.

    What they actually are is an interesting question. Commenter with the handle “Xander” over on Space News explained that the Nork engine config shown on Elleman’s missile photos most closely matches a different Soviet-era engine – the RD-0205 – that was the 2nd stage engine of an experimental Soviet ICBM from the early 60’s.

    Updated versions of this engine are still in use today on the 2nd and 3rd stages of the Proton. This engine is produced in Russia, not Ukraine. That suggests the actual source of the Nork engines is also Russia, not Ukraine.

    Elleman, the author of the IISS paper that touched off this kerfuffle, is married to a Russian. The bald-faced weirdness of the RD-250 accusation certainly does nothing to discourage speculation – a lot of it, understandably, coming from Ukraine – that Elleman is part of a Russian disinformation plot to point fingers at Ukraine in order to both cover Russian covert aid to the Norks and to alienate the US from Ukraine. I’m not normally one to buy into Eastern European conspiracy theories, but this one seems to have a much more reasonable basis than most.