Space Access Update #97  1/26/01 
                Copyright 2001 by Space Access Society 

contents this issue: 

 - The New Administration: A Glimpse Of Daylight 

 - Opposition To NASA SLI Growing 

 - Coming Soon In The Next Update 


             The New Administration: A Glimpse Of Daylight 

1/20/01 - As I sit and pound keys this Saturday morning in January, 
the TV is carrying the swearing-in of a new President of these United 
States, and I'm feeling a weight I'd gotten so used to I barely 
noticed it anymore lifting from my shoulders. 

Not because of partisan feelings on my part - yes, I have those, (I'm 
a wild-eyed middle-of-the-roader) but I try my damndest to keep them 
from interfering with my job, promoting radically cheaper space access 

The weight is lifting because of a genuine and deep difference between 
the administrations of the departing President and of the new one: 
Their attitude towards competition. 

A major tenet of "reinventing government" turned out to be elimination 
of "wasteful" duplication of effort in the name of "efficiency".  Put 
another way, the departing administration seemed never to meet a 
centrally-planned one-size-fits-all megaproject it didn't like.  Thus, 
the White House-mandated NASA monopoly on Reusable Launch Vehicle 
development in recent years.  Thus, NASA's spending of a billion and a 
half scarce federal RLV R&D dollars so far on essentially nothing more 
than a few hangars full of ill-assorted high-tech aerospace parts. 

In the name of efficiency, all competition for NASA's preferred flavor 
of reusable launch R&D was eliminated.  History will likely say that 
the most important thing this accomplished was to provide a glaring, 
unmistakeable, irrefutable example of what happens when an established 
bureaucracy gets a monopoly over a mission for which there's no 
national sense of urgency: The mission takes a back seat to other 
agendas, not least the timeless bureaucratic imperatives of turf-
expansion and butt-covering. 

NASA did great things back when they were driven by a sense of 
national urgency - but July 20th, 1969 was a long time ago. 

Absent unlikely-to-reappear national urgency, the only practical way 
to keep bureaucratic eyes on national goals is competition - the real 
liklihood that, if one organization bogs down into money-sucking 
viewgraph-shuffling, some other outfit will blast past it, get the job 
done, and peel off a thick slice of its next year's budget. 

The new administration is not ideologically wedded to monopilistic 
McNamaraesque "efficiency".  In national education policy, President 
Bush is pushing the idea that failure must have consequences if more 
success is wanted.  Might this carry over to our area of interest?  
There are grounds for optimism: The Rumsfeld space report specifically 
calls for competition among various government R&D outfits in 
developing and *demonstrating* new space systems.  

We don't expect all smooth sailing from now on.  The "efficiency" 
mindset is deeply embedded in the bureaucracies.  For that matter it's 
far from the only institutional roadblock to radically cheaper space 
access.  There is considerable danger the same people who found it 
reasonable and normal to routinely bolt billion dollar payloads onto 
half billion dollar rockets then spend months tinkering with them on 
the launch pad will end up in charge of reshuffled DOD space efforts. 

But for the first time in almost a decade, we will have a White House 
not reflexively opposed to the steps necessary for a new flowering of 
advanced aerospace in the nation - a flowering that can take us to the 

  Henry Vanderbilt 
  Executive Director, 
  Space Access Society 


                    Opposition To NASA SLI Growing 

Recent months have been interesting.  We lost the battle of last 
fall's budget; NASA Space Launch Initiative not only got full funding, 
but wording was slipped in that would allow SLI money to pay directly 
for Shuttle upgrades, Liquid Rocket Boosters and such - "any launch 
vehicles developed fully will be owned and operated by private 
industry".  Partially developed, however, as "Advanced Shuttle" would 
be after NASA finishes miming its way through the law's "full and open 
competition" requirement...  (There was some small good news over in 
DOD, mind - six million dollars was appropriated for USAF Phillips Lab 
work on the X-37/X-40 Space Maneuver Vehicle, helping keep AF reusable 
rocket work alive another year.) 

We're winning the battle of ideas, though.  There have been numerous 
media stories and editorials supporting our position that NASA SLI is 
misguided to the point of being a $4.5 billion assured failure.  Other 
space activist groups are starting to come around to our point of 
view, and even a Congressional leader or two have begun to express 
public doubts. 

Aviation Week & Space Technology on 10/30/00 had this to say: "...the 
initiative [SLI] is based in large part on flawed premises. The faulty 
propositions start with a belief that the space transportation needs 
of the private sector and those of NASA can be melded and served by a 
single vehicle. That did not work with the space shuttle, and there is 
no reason to think it will work now."  

And on 1/8/01 they followed with: " is high time for [NASA] to 
realize the private sector is far better suited to provide launch 
services to Earth orbit--and to setting the future direction of space 
transportation. That means letting the private sector lead the way to 
low-cost launchers that have reliability comparable to that of an 
airplane. NASA should assume a supporting role akin to the one its 
predecessor agency [NACA] played in aviation. It should separate its 
requirements for launching crews and cargo to the station, and not try 
to direct the aerospace industry to a shuttle successor that would 
somehow also serve commercial interests. A good immediate step would 
be to redirect a large part of the Space Launch Initiative to 
demonstrations of practical, low-cost launch technologies." 

Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, head of the House Space Subcommittee, 
also had a few things to say in Space News earlier this month: 
"Barring some revelation, pouring SLI resources into X-33 risks 
spending good money after bad."  "...NASA needs to be returned to the 
successful model of aviation innovation pioneered by its predecessor, 
the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, which focussed on 
generic technology development that could benefit all U.S. firms.  
This kept the government out of the business of picking commercial 
winners and losers and ensured a level playing field for all aviation 
firms interested in developing new aircraft."  "[SLI] 
degenerating into a Shuttle-replacement program focused solely on 
meeting NASA's post-Shuttle space transportation needs." 
As for our fellow space activist groups, National Space Society late 
last summer took a position opposing use of SLI money to bail out the 
troubled X-33 program (X-33 runs out of money this March, still years 
short of any semblance of a flyable vehicle), and Space Frontier 
Foundation announced their opposition to SLI as currently planned at 
their annual conference in October - shortly after SLI's first year's 
funding was passed, alas. 

We never expected even that much support in this matter from our old 
friends at NSS; the organization is structured to be cautious and 
conservative, and we are pleasantly surprised.  We hope for more from 
our colleagues in SFF, though.  We will admit to a certain degree of 
disappointment last spring when SFF's lobbying alter-ego ProSpace 
didn't pick up on the problems with NASA SLI in time for their 2000 
"March Storm" citizens' lobbying effort in Washington, but then we'd 
only started publicly pointing out SLI's problems a few months before 
that.  A year later, though, while the Foundation has some good anti-
SLI position papers on their website, details of what they actually 
plan to do about SLI are still lacking.  We await public release of 
ProSpace's "2001 March Storm Citizen's Agenda" with interest; as of 
this writing still doesn't have any 
details of what they'll ask volunteers to lobby for this spring. 

We at SAS will again be fighting to steer NASA SLI in a useful 
direction this year - at $4 billion budgeted over the next four years, 
it's far too large a slice of the limited federal RLV R&D pie to allow 
NASA to suck it all down the same old bureaucratic black hole 
unopposed - and while we hope for help from our various colleagues, we 
can't count on it.  

We're going to have to crank it up this year, as the level we've been 
working at, one very much part-time policy-analyst-slash-polemicist 
plus a handful of advisors and volunteer activists, obviously wasn't 
enough to get the job done last year.  

We've had some success in the past with lobbying visits to DC and with 
attending events where we could recruit and motivate and coordinate 
with activists, but such trips cost time and money, and we haven't 
been doing many recently.  More time away from making a living also 
costs money, but it's all part of what's needed if we're to seize this 
year's renewed opportunity to shape the future.  You reading this are 
the ones who will determine if we have a chance.  That's Space Access 
Society, 4855 E Warner Rd #24-150, Phoenix AZ 85044.  'Nuff said. 


                    Coming Soon In The Next Update 

 - RLV Startups Report 

 - News Roundup

 - Space Access '01, April 26-28 in Scottsdale Arizona 

 - R&D Competition Policy Background 


Space Access Society's sole purpose is to promote radical reductions 
in the cost of reaching space.  You may redistribute this Update in 
any medium you choose, as long as you do it unedited in its entirety. 

 Space Access Society 

 "Reach low orbit and you're halfway to anywhere in the Solar System" 
                                        - Robert A. Heinlein