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Space Transportation Systems "-ilities"

Affordability, Reliability, Safety, Maintainability, Operability, Complexity, Sustainability & Responsiveness

Understanding the Pieces

May 25, 2012

May 18, 2012

April 3, 2012

February 2, 2012

  • "NASA Space Technology Roadmaps and Priorities, Restoring NASA’s Technological Edge and Paving the Way for a New Era in Space", Steering Committee for NASA Technology Roadmaps, Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board, Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences, National Research Council. [Paper .pdf]

"Additional Comments: The development timeline for launch propulsion technologies will be critically dependent on the overall strategy and architecture chosen for exploration and the funding available. Of particular relevance is launch economics, particularly with regards to the launch rate and the mass of missions being launched. Additionally, there are technologies included in other roadmaps, especially TA02 (In-Space Propulsion) and TA04 (Robotics, Tele-Robotics, and Autonomous Systems) that open the trade space to other architecture options, such as fuel depots requiring on-orbit propellant transfer technologies. For example, one may be able to disaggregate some large space missions to be launched by larger numbers of smaller, lower cost launch vehicles. These technologies may allow more dramatic reductions in launch costs than specific launch technologies themselves."

August 10, 2011

  • "Pros, Cons, and Alternatives to Weight Based Cost Estimating" (.pdf format), presented at the 47th AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference & Exhibit, July 31 - August 3, 2011, San Diego California, by C.R. Joyner II, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, West Palm Beach, Florida, Jonathan R. Laurie, Pratt & and D.J.H. Levack, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, Canoga Park, California, and E. Zapata, NASA Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

Above - from the paper - "Figure 8.0 Historic rocket engine cost breakdown"

August 3, 2011

  • "High-Payoff Space Transportation Design Approach with a Technology Integration Strategy" (.pdf format), presented at the 47th AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference & Exhibit, July 31 - August 3, 2011, San Diego California, by C. M. McCleskey and R. E. Rhodes, NASA Kennedy Space Center, Florida, T. T. Chen, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville Alabama, and J. W. Robinson, Propellant Supply Technology Inc., California.

"This paper describes a general approach for creating architectural concepts that are highly efficient, operable, and supportable, in turn achieving affordable, repeatable, and sustainable space transportation. The paper focuses on the following: (1) vehicle architectural concept (including important strategies for greater reusability), (2) vehicle element propulsion system packaging, including integrated main and auxiliary propulsion systems, (3) vehicle element functional integration, (4) ground element functional integration, (5) simplified and automated electrical power and avionics integration, and (6) ground and flight testing before production commitments. We also provide four essential technologies that enable the high-payoff design approach: (a) parallel-tank propellant storage, such as concentric-nested tanks, for more efficient space vehicle design and operation, (b) high-thrust, LO2-rich, LO2-cooled first-stage earth-to-orbit main engine, (c) nontoxic, day-of-launch-loaded propellants for upper stages and in-space propulsion, and (d) electric controls for propulsion."

Above - from the paper - "Figure 1. Closed-compartment entry for personnel requiring design and operations effort, resulting lost time and productivity."


Affordability (and Competitiveness)

December 8, 2010


Affordability (and Cost Estimating)

October 29, 2010

  • "James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), Independent Comprehensive Review Panel (ICRP), Final Report" (.pdf).

    "As shown in Figure 5.1, the Project Budget showed that peak funding would occur in the same year as the Project PDR and that Project costs would go down by 16% in FY 2009 and 58% in FY 2011. Historically, the cost profiles of projects continue to increase after PDR. Based on the technical status of the Project, the prior deferral of spacecraft development, and the complexity of the integration and testing phase, this was a highly suspect budget profile."


Affordability (and Competitiveness)

October 10, 2010


All the "-ilities" (and Learning)

July 26, 2010

  • "Launch Vehicle Propulsion Life Cycle Cost Lessons Learned" (.pdf), Presented at the AIAA Joint Propulsion Conference July 26-28, 2010, Nashville TN by - Edgar Zapata and Russel E. Rhodes, NASA Kennedy Space Center, Florida & John W. Robinson, The Boeing Company, Huntington Beach, California


Sustainability: Competitiveness, Economics, Business and Acquisition Models

July 20, 2010

June 4, 2010


Reliability, Safety

May 26, 2010

  • A launch abort system (LAS) can address many shortcomings in the reliability of launch vehicle systems by rapidly removing a crew from harms way. It is worth emphasizing that a launch abort system does not address inherent hardware reliability, it's quality. From an operational standpoint a launch abort system adds complexity and reduces operability. There is more work to prepare for launch, rather than less, all else being equal. A launch abort system merely reacts to the reliability (or lack thereof) of the launch vehicle hardware.

A launch abort systems primary purpose is to improve the metric of loss of crew, or simply put - to improve crew safety during a portion of the mission, during a portion of the climb to orbit. These video's show alternate launch abort system designs recently tested by NASA.

See Launch abort system 1 video

See Launch abort system 2 video



Reliability, Safety

The original data, minus the graph/sorting, and the subtraction effect/analysis is credited to Ed Kyle and his Space launch Report and reliability statistics.


Affordability (and Cost Estimating)

  • DATA: "Developing a Robust, Adaptable NASA Human Space Flight Strategy Factoring Budgetary and Technological Uncertainty" or "The Primer" to NASA & Contractor Costs (October 10, 2009, Post-Augustine Committee)

  • "Shuttle Shortfalls and Lessons Learned for the Sustainment of Human Space Exploration", Presented at the 45th AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference, AIAA 2009-5346, 2-5 August 2009, Denver, Colorado by - Edgar Zapata, NASA, Kennedy Space Center, Florida & Daniel J. H. Levack, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, Canoga Park, California & Russel E. Rhodes, NASA, Kennedy Space Center, Florida & John W. Robinson, The Boeing Company, Huntington Beach, California

  • "The Joint Confidence Level Paradox, A History of Denial", by Glenn Butts, NASA Kennedy Space Center, and Kent Litton, SAIC/Craig Technologies [Download 3MB .pdf].

"The authors provide Historical Evaluation of Cost and Schedule Estimating Performance During NASA's Tenure as an Agency - Following which they introduce an optimum Hybrid model for more accurately calculating Cost and Schedule estimates in NASA's Complex systems engineering environment."




  • The Global Exploration Strategy, A framework for Coordination: Download report here or here.

"Sustainable space exploration is a challenge that no one nation can do on its own. This is why fourteen space agencies have developed The Global Exploration Strategy: The Framework for Coordination, which presents a vision for robotic and human space exploration, focusing on destinations within the solar system where we may one day live and work. It elaborates an action plan to share the strategies and efforts of individual nations so that all can achieve their exploration goals more effectively and safely."

In alphabetical order: ASI (Italy), BNSC (United Kingdom), CNES (France), CNSA (China), CSA (Canada), CSIRO (Australia), DLR (Germany), ESA (European Space Agency), ISRO (India), JAXA (Japan), KARI (Republic of Korea), NASA (United States of America), NSAU (Ukraine), Roscosmos (Russia). "Space Agencies" refers to government organizations responsible for space activities.





As any improvement in the safety, reliability or affordability of access to space and beyond is a generational endeavor...



As a complement to the paper above - also see "Competition and EELV: Challenges and Opportunities in New Launch Vehicle Acquisition – Part 1”, by Stewart Money, May 9, 2012, at the Future In-Space Operations archive site.




The following data relates especially well to Space Transportation Systems Affordability, Responsiveness, Reliability and Safety. The quality of hardware and software systems, as manifest in launch vehicle failure rates, beckons for improvement. The visible failure rates, during flight, and the less visible failures during ground processing, causing unplanned work, are inter-connected quality and technology issues for the aero-industry.


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Website Contact: Edgar Zapata, NASA Kennedy Space Center