Despite $10 billion Constellation rocket program failure Mike Griffin may lead US defense procurement

Michael Griffin led the NASA Constellation rocket program which spent over $10 billion (2004-2010) before it was cancelled.

Led a program that spent a lot of money but delivered nothing

Mike Griffin has been nominated by the Trump administration to be the principal deputy undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.

At the first meeting of the National Space Council Oct. 5, Griffin warned that U.S. adversaries have “figured out that space is critical to the United States’ method of fighting and winning wars, and they are taking, with all deliberate speed, steps to nullify that advantage.

The Ares I prototype, Ares I-X, successfully completed a test launch on October 28, 2009. Launch Pad 39B was damaged more than with a Space Shuttle launch. During descent, one of the three parachutes of the Ares I-X’s first stage failed to open, and another opened only partially, causing the booster to splash down harder and suffer structural damage. The launch accomplished all primary test objectives.

Delays in the Ares I development schedule due to budgetary pressures and unforeseen engineering and technical difficulties would have increased the gap between the end of the Space Shuttle program and the first operational flight of Ares I. Because the Constellation program was never allocated the funding originally projected, the total estimated cost to develop the Ares I through 2015 rose from $28 billion in 2006 to more than $40 billion in 2009. In December 2011, NASA administrator Charlie Bolden testified to congress that the Ares I would cost $4–4.5 billion a year, and $1.6 billion per flight.

Now talking big about spending a lot of money on aviation and space

What is needed is an “overarching commitment of the United States in all things aerospace,” Griffin said. That would require a concerted effort to ensure “We will never again fail to have a human presence in space. We will never again have a slower airplane than we used to have. We will never have, again, an airplane that can’t fly as high as we used to have. We will never retreat from the frontiers of aviation and space.” This is a concept that the Chinese and Russians understand well, Griffin added.

The Chinese are building and have tested hypersonic systems that can “overfly our air defense and underfly our missile defense,” he said. If the secretary of defense ordered an aircraft carrier into the South China Sea and China didn’t want it there, “that carrier would be at risk,” he said. “If this is a position that the United States cares to accept going forward, then I would submit that we are on our way to being the American version of losing the British Empire.”

It does not sound like Mike Griffin has learned any lessons about having more efficient development. He mainly argues for turning open the procurement taps wide and leaving them open.

For those support pacificism, Mike Griffin will continue the US overpayment for military and space systems. So the US will continue to get less bang for the bucks.

9 thoughts on “Despite $10 billion Constellation rocket program failure Mike Griffin may lead US defense procurement”

  1. It isn’t hard to reform NASA.

    1. NASA must use commercially available launch vehicles for access to LEO.
    2. 45% of NASA’s budget should be spent on human colonization of space. Let NASA decide between Moon, Mars, or inflatables.
    3. 45% of NASA’s budget should be spent on scientific exploration of outer space (telescopes, robots)
    4. 10% of NASA’s budget should be spent on R&D.

    But in the end to be more effective Congress would need to give up control of the pie. Which they won’t do.

    • How about giving them a real goal! Not only a real goal. But what about, keeping politics to a minimum. Your observation are superficial. What do you think is behind this pork. Who is writing the specs? Who is demanding that this or that is made in their district. You dont think DARPA is loaded with pork? Think again!

  2. NASA is a waste of money. Even though the pencil and pen story was a myth it does hit close to the mark on NASA’s incompetence and overspending

  3. OK, Ok, ok… the general sentiments of authors and commentors alike is NASA blew $10,000,000,000 and we got nothing from it. (connecting other dots…) NASA is a pork barrel entity and should be either disbanded, or something even more radical. Look at Musk! He’s managed to get launch-cost down to 10% of what NASA’s budget called for.

    Well – I’ve said it before, but it serves to be stated again – those observations are true, superficially. However, we really need to look deeper at how NASA garners its appropriations, and from there makes its Janus¹ budget.

    The bottom line is this: NASA has a huge budget. It isn’t a secretive agency. It necessarily must lobby the representatives of Congress to get ALL of its items included in an appropriations budget. Various reps find “positive political spin” within their constituency for some – but not all – of the projects. They find (of course) way more positive spin for projects that have feeder-tech and facilities in their states and congressional districts.

    This necessarily has resulted in a NASA that has facilities, feeder groups situated in nearly all 50 states. Its RIDICULOUS of course – but without scattering the crumbs around, reps wouldn’t pitch NASA’s causes. The appropriations budget would fall into tatters. Let’s put it this way: the public doesn’t give a rat’s âhss about NASA projects. They’re conditioned to suck up to the Federal funding teat … for social entitlements outlays. Precious little else.

    So. NASA ostensibly ensures some sort of hyper-politicized jerrymandering of expenditures; it gets congress to pitch the stump; it gets appropriations; they enter NASA’s earmarked and general budgets. Then it “goes dark” for another year.

    Shall we call this mendacious or corrupt? Perhaps. But I’d also like to point out that it is the necessary evil in a politically banalized (is that a word?) public expenditures world that intersects real science. There are precious few congressional reps that have any significant comprehension about space science deep enough to grok The Whole NASA endeavor.

    Likewise, NASA as that intersection of Science and Polity is also in the business of lobbying the Nation’s Astrophysics and Space Sciences community for projects, for co-investment, for continuing interest, for proposals of future endeavors. Its serious work to keep the space sciences community not just encouraged, and tolerant, but also enthusiastic and bought-in to NASA’s singular role.

    MEANWHILE … the Janus Budget … internally has a necessarily Byzantine real budget. Monies get assigned to proper (congressionally sponsored) systems. But systems buy stuff for other projects. And suppliers are coöpted to supply stuff from unblessed but otherwise nominal alternate suppliers. Sometimes with pass-thru fees. This avoids the whole process of certification and foundational polity. It also delivers twelve thousand dollar titanium hammers.

    In the end, there are truly very few people getting extraordinarily rich off the congressional monies earmarked and delivered to NASA. People “do well”. Suppliers and really “do well”. But whatever monies are quoted (and funded by Congress) are just flimflam to get critically necessary un-budget-able systems and exploratory projects funded, too.

    Hence: $1,600,000,000 to launch an SLS thru NASA. And it is exactly the same inside the various vendors’ halls. They too can only “get away” with billing NASA for some of the constituent costs of “getting ‘er done”. The rest is creative re-appropriating. And since it is COLLUSIVE on both NASA’s and vendors’ parts, NASA agrees not to look very deeply uner the kimono. Thus “space science” gets done in a politically stultifying world.

    Just saying…


    ¹ Janus – the double-faced Roman god. One face forward, one looking backward. This god is perpetuated in the English word “January”. The month that both starts a new year, and looks back on the prior one. More abstractly, a “janus budget” is a 2-faced one, with a publicly accountable number set, and an internally markedly different appropriation of monies and realities.

  4. Griffin was with Musk when the Russians spat on him–and encouraged Elon to build big. SLS is pretty much in between Direct and Ares V–so he won there too. He fought against the EELV lobby–Musk’s real enemy.

    I’d love to see him trash the McCain type fighter-jocks in the Pentagon who still think we are fighting the battle of Midway.

  5. “Charlie Bolden testified to congress that the Ares I would cost $4–4.5 billion a year, and $1.6 billion per flight.”
    I almost fell off my chair…
    Given it was intended to send a crewed capsule in LEO a few times per year , we compare with Falcon 9 and Dragon 2 that will cost probably less than 10% of that…
    Given too that NASA won’t give the GAO any number regarding the real cost of SLS per flight (let’s say if it flies 5 times per year (in their dreams), 3 times, twice or once a year)
    the rumour that SLS could cost as far as $ 1 billion per flight is probably a nice estimate.
    And because it will fly without any real payload to send beyond an orbiter to Europa (maybe a lander too) it’s as good as a zombie rocket.
    If BFR is close to F9 cost per flight (being made to be fully reusable and fly often the cost doesn’t seem a pipe dream) , the US taxpayer will have a few questions to ask…
    Administrators of NASA have very low power on NASA’s missions and hardware they are mandated to build. So I won’t throw any stone at the man.

  6. As I have posting on NBF for over 5 years now:

    Get it in your head: NASA is not a space program, it is a pork barrel program. Has been ever since we ended the Apollo program. And it always will be.

    NASA should be disbanded with certain gems like JPL transferred to DARPA and everything else shut down or sold off.

    • I agree with Ape; thought this myself for years… Disband NASA [b]OR[/b] open an office in Philadelphia so I can eat some of that tasty pork.

  7. Isn’t Griffin credited with the conception of the COTS (Commercial Orbital Transportation Services) program? I thought that started under his watch.

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