Dumb and Dumber US Space Funding

The new House NASA funding bill is full of cost-plus contracts for Boeing. The new bill talks about Mars in 2033 but does not dedicate funds towards that goal.

The White House Artemis Program pushed for the Moon as a cornerstone of human exploration for the next decade or two and to develop a lunar base. The White House program at least tried to include SpaceX and Blue Origin and other companies. The Artemis program still kept the wasteful Boeing Space Launch System.

The Senate bill is in line with the NASA-White House Artemis moon program.

The House and Senate bills will have to be reconciled.

The Senate and White House approach is wasteful. They do not cut the Boeing SLS program. The House bill is even more wasteful as they want to delay going to the moon from 2024 to 2028 and to keep SpaceX and Blue Origin out of the NASA funding.

SpaceX needs to just get the Super Heavy Starship working and land on the moon with it by 2023. SpaceX also needs to generate tens of billions from the Starlink satellites so they will move funding and resources than NASA by around 2025. Clearly, the US space funding system will remain broken.

Boeing will continue to abuse cost-plus contracts for many billions of dollars. Nothing was delivered for over twenty years from SLS.

The House Bill has authorized to be appropriated to NASA for fiscal year 2020, $22,629,000,000 as follows:
(1) For exploration, $6,017,600,000, of which $1,406,700,000 shall be for the Orion multi-purpose Crew Vehicle, $2,585,900,000 shall be for the Space Launch System, $590,000,000 shall be for Exploration Ground Systems, and $1,435,000,000 shall be for Exploration Research and Development.
(2) For space operations, $4,140,200,000.
(3) For science, $7,138,900,000, of which $1,971,800,000 shall be for Earth Science, $2,713,400,000 shall be for Planetary Science, $1,306,200,000 shall be for Astrophysics, $423,000,000 shall be for the James Webb Space Telescope, and $724,500,000 shall be for Heliophysics.
(4) For aeronautics, $783,900,000.
(5) For space technology, $1,100,000,000

16 thoughts on “Dumb and Dumber US Space Funding”

  1. That would’ve been cool but:

    1) If I have a choice between cool things with wings just barely getting to LEO and mundane but really cheap rockets delivering massive payloads to BEO, I’ll chose the latter. (Note: SLS is not such a rocket.)

    2) My hatred of Boeing Defense and Space has grown to the point where any failure causes me to cackle. I’m OK with the old-timey military-industrial complex gouging the bejeezus out of us if they’re actually competent to deliver stuff that’s useful at the end of the day. Boeing doesn’t fill the bill any more.

  2. Welcome to the MIC corporate welfare system. Space X and Blue Origin need to start employing politicians and lobbyists as “consultants.” One thing to note is that with government spending bigger is better since it allows for more taxpayer money to be siphoned off. Space X and Blue Origin need to get more expensive to get more taxpayer money.

  3. They are not dumb. They are evil.
    Wait until they start squeezing the life out of the first companies that start making a profit in space. It will be “for the children”.

  4. It doesn’t work like that. The carrots and sticks are all legal.

    Boeing can offer legislators subcontracts in their districts, which are excellent for getting votes in the next election. And they can command huge numbers of campaign contributions.

    But both of these tactics work mighty fine as sticks as well. “Nice subcontract you’ve got in your district there. We seem to recall that we were happy to set that up for you before the last election. Be a shame if something… happened to it, wouldn’t it?” And of course there’s always the competitor in the next election, who’s happy to take the campaign contributions.

    It occurs to me that, while it’s easy for SpaceX, Blue Origin, and the ecosystem of new space companies to match Boeing’s proficiency with lobbying and campaign contributions, the thing they can’t do is command the massive network of suppliers and sub-contractors that Boeing can, because their whole business model is predicated on more vertical, in-house operations–that’s why they can beat Boeing and the other incumbents so handily on cost. But it puts them at a sustainable disadvantage when it comes to lobbying. Since NASA is ultimately the purchaser of 90% of BEO missions until the tech and the market mature enough to work without their help, Boeing can mess new space up for quite a while.

  5. Monopolistic crony capitalism continues. As for a manned Mars mission, conventional rockets are barely adequate for the job. And NASA has never tested spin-induced gravitation…could astronauts thrive in low Martian gravity? Could they even recover from months of micro-gravity coming and going to and from Mars? Untested and not likely.

  6. When is someone with enough sense and gumption going to end this money monster let it go the way of the dodo bird. What a waste of scarce NASA resources and capital on an outdated system of rocketry that will cost a billion dollars every time it launches and it isn`t even reusable. SpaceX`s Starship`s will be at least a hundred times cheaper and will be completely reusable. Talk about wasting money it is time to wake up, Boys.

  7. This is basically the Obama-era Journey to Mars, but with a different piece of busywork. JTM had the Asteroid Redirect Mission as busywork, and later replaced that with the Gateway when even JTM’s SLS patrons became embarrassed by the half-assed-ness of ARM.

    Now we’ve got a couple of lunar flags and footprints lunar missions as busywork.

    I don’t know why the House Democrats are putting up with this, because it still feeds more pork to red states in the Southeast than blue states on the West Coast. Perhaps the answer is that they’re not really paying attention yet, due to impeachment sucking the oxygen out of everything, and the grownups will fix things real soon now.

    The other curious thing: Boeing has been pushing really hard to negotiate a long-term SLS core production deal, to get NASA as locked-in as possible to the architecture before it becomes embarrassingly obvious that it’s stupid and prohibitively expensive. This bill doesn’t help with that, because it pushes out the bulk of SLS operations close to the end of the decade. By then, there’s a pretty good chance that Starship will have completely pantsed Boeing, and they’ll have no leverage for the long-term deal.

    I think the answer to this one is that Boeing thinks it’s possible to strangle New Glenn and Blue Moon in their cradles by denying them commercial access to Artemis, and keeping Starship out of cis-lunar simply by denying it access to any cis-lunar payloads. But it seems pretty desperate.

  8. Boeing isn’t abusig anything, that would be the House of Representatives. They are abusing their “constinutents” for their actual masters, the people that pay to get them elected.

  9. NASA at its best is when it does what has never been done before like probing planets (including the moon missions), and testing novel aircraft designs. I wish they would put all that “exploration” money toward breakthrough rocket technology, like nuclear rocket engines, or something pie in the sky but still semi-realistic like scaling up antimatter production for use as a fusion trigger. Or, imagine if they put all that money just in probes, we could have a sub-surface Europa mission.

  10. Everyone on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology should have their financials investigated. I’m not sure if Boeing is dumb enough to bribe them outright, or smart enough to give them a “job” when they’re out of Congress.

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