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Space Transportation Systems "-ilities"

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


Affordability, Process & Practices ("How")

April 23, 2015

"There is a lack of clarity regarding what the Certifying Official is actually addressing."

"Neither view was the intent of the original certification plan. The intent was a partnership that leveraged the commercial practices and experience of SpaceX and decades of Air Force experience to meet the needs of the Air Force for confidence in the capability and reliability of the SpaceX launch system. In particular, it was never envisioned that the Air Force would drive changes in design, processes, and organization to achieve certification. Neither was it expected the Falcon 9 launch experience would suffice to provide the needed confidence in Falcon 9 v1.1 for national security payloads. Instead, it was expected there would be a manageable set of issues requiring resolution, some requiring resolution at the top level."

"The Balance between the What and How

The daily focus of members of the NECT for the past decade or so has been intensely on confidence in individual successful deliveries to orbit. That requires assessment of specific processes and hardware associated with the specific launch vehicle. The traditional approach is prescriptive."

Affordability, Cost Estimating

March 14, 2015

"This is the fourth edition of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Cost Estimating Handbook (CEH), updating the 2008 edition. The purpose of this handbook is to serve as a guide for cost estimating at NASA."

Affordability, Cost Data

July 30, 2014

  • [Paper] [Presentation] Edgar Zapata, Carey McCleskey, "An Analysis and Review of Measures and Relationships in Space Transportation Affordability," 50th AIAA / SAE / ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference, 2014.


July 27, 2012

Affordability, Cost Data

"On May 2, 2007, the Air Force waived the requirement for Boeing to provide certified cost or pricing data for a significant amount of hardware associated with the production contract. The hardware is still being used, and the waiver, while officials believe it afforded DOD a reduced price, has limited government insight into cost or pricing data on a large lot of launch vehicle hardware, including engines, purchased at that time. The lack of certified cost or pricing data for this hardware has contributed to years of Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) reports that consistently find ULA proposals inadequate for government evaluation and contract negotiation."

July 24, 2012

Affordability, NASA Budget, Analysis

  • Dr. Sally Ride, Dr. Ed Crawley, Jeff Greason, and Bo Behmuk, "Scenario Affordability Analysis," Review of Human Space Flight Plans Committee, August 12, 2009.

“I think it’s fair to say that our review group drew the short straw, and I drew the shortest by having to actually do this presentation”.  -Sally Ride, 2009

May 25, 2012

Affordability, Competition

Increasingly affordable and reliable transportation to and from space is linked to an increasingly competitive and encouraging economic environment.

  • Shown below, the Dragon spacecraft nearby to the International Space Station (ISS) on May 25, 2012.


May 18, 2012

Affordability, Competition


April 3, 2012

Affordability, Market Demand

"Planetary Resources is establishing a new paradigm for resource discovery and utilization that will bring the solar system into humanity’s sphere of influence."

February 2, 2012


Affordability, Technology

  • [Report] "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, National Research Council, 2012.

"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

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


August 3, 2011

Affordability, Cost Estimating

"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."


December 8, 2010

Competition, Affordability

Increasingly affordable and reliable transportation to and from space is linked to an increasingly competitive and encouraging economic environment.

  • Shown below, the 1st launch of the Spacecraft "Dragon" atop the 2nd Launch of the Space-X Falcon-9 rocket on December 8, 2010.


October 29, 2010

Affordability, Cost Estimating

"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."


October 10, 2010

Increasingly affordable and reliable transportation to and from space is linked to an increasingly competitive and encouraging economic environment.

  • Shown below, the Virgin Galactic VSS Enterprise first crewed free flight, October 10, 2010.


July 26, 2010

Affordability, Learning


July 20, 2010

Increasingly affordable and reliable transportation to and from space is linked to an increasingly competitive and encouraging economic environment.

  • Shown below, the Virgin Galactic VSS Enterprise test flight of July 15, 2010.

June 4, 2010

Increasingly affordable and reliable transportation to and from space is linked to an increasingly competitive and encouraging economic environment.

  • Shown below, the first Space-X Falcon 9 launch on June 4, 2010.


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 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, the climb to orbit.


These video's show alternate launch abort system designs recently tested by NASA.

Launch Abort System 1 - Video


Launch Abort System 2 - Video


Affordability, Cost Estimating

This is a record of successfully attaining orbit, not spacecraft reliability once on orbit. The Bayesian "Probability of Success" or "p.o.s". is k(lv) +1/n(lv) +2 (see attached table), so that the risk of a launcher without much of a track record is accounted for and a launcher with, say, and 0 and 1 record, is not given a zero probability of success. The raw data, minus the graph/sorting, and the subtraction effect/analysis, is credited to Ed Kyle and his Space launch Report and reliability statistics.

"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, The 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."


Affordability, Cost Estimating, Construction of Facilities

Affordability, Sustainability

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


Affordability, Costs, Budgets

Also see - Stewart Money, "Competition and EELV: Challenges and Opportunities in New Launch Vehicle Acquisition – Part 1,” Future In-Space Operations Forum, 2012.


"Affordable and sustainable space exploration remains an elusive goal. We explore the competitive advantages of evolving towards independent operators for space transportation in our economy. We consider the pros and cons of evolving business organizations that operate and maintain space transportation system assets independently from flight system manufacturers and from host spaceports. The case is made that a more competitive business climate for creating inherently operable, dependable, and supportable space transportation systems can evolve out of today’s traditional vertical business model—a model within which the voice of the operator is often heard, but rarely acted upon during crucial design commitments and critical design processes. Thus new business models may be required, driven less by hardware consumption and more by space system utilization."


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Website Contact: Edgar Zapata, NASA Kennedy Space Center