SpaceX to launch Dragon capsule December 7

By Phil Plait | December 3, 2010 10:26 am

[UPDATE (December 8, 9:00 MT): The rocket launched! It was a perfect throw to space, and the Dragon space capsule was successfully deployed in orbit.]

[NOTE: SpaceX is webcasting their static engine firing of the Falcon 9 at about 12: 45 ET today! These are very exciting and worth watching.]

[Update: The static firing went pretty well, looks like. However, the Shuttle's not as healthy: NASA has announced the launch of Discovery has been delayed to around February 3, to give them time to investigate the cracks in the external fuel tank more carefully.]

spacex_dragonNASA has announced that the private company SpaceX will launch their second Falcon 9 rocket on December 7. This time, the Dragon space capsule will be on top of the stack! The plan is to get it into space, and then de-orbit it. If this works, it will be the first time a commercial company will have ever done this. The launch window runs from 09:03 to 12:22 EST, and if the launch is delayed the same time window exists for December 8 and 9.

The launch will be broadcast live on NASA TV.

This will be the first launch in NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation System, where NASA partners with private companies to transport crew and supplies to space. Personally, I love this idea. As I’ve said before (scroll down to #2 of My opinion on the new space policy), let private companies do the routine deliveries, and let NASA always keep looking ahead to what’s next.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: NASA, Space
MORE ABOUT: Dragon capsule, SpaceX

Comments (46)

  1. December 7th? I plan on drinking a lot of drinks made with Pineapple juice, vodka, and Midori, and proceed to get bombed!

    Okay, that was probably still tasteless, even after 70 years…

    Best of luck to SpaceX, I enjoy these ventures!

  2. PayasYouStargaze

    Oooh very cool. Let’s hope it goes well.

  3. QuietDesperation

    Will it transform into an actual dragon-bot? No? Oh. :-(

    I’m expecting too much, aren’t I?

  4. Douglas Troy

    Their web site must be getting hammered, because it’s super S-L-O-W right now.

  5. By the way, a little off topic: What about the X-37B? It recently landed after hanging out in space for the past seven months. I haven’t heard much about it. You have any thoughts, insights, or just plain speculation on it?

  6. Scott B

    Yay! A private company can now do what NASA could in the early 60s!

  7. Grand Lunar

    Well, someone’s got to say it;

    GO SpaceX!

  8. Alikar

    @Scott B

    Err yes. Just like basically any technology. My cellphone can crush any computer that only Nasa had access to either in the 60s. What is your point?

  9. Scott B

    @ Alikar:

    The basic point is that this launch is less than inspiring and this is the best any private company has been able to do. Maybe there’s some advantage to paying third party companies to do this work but I have yet to see or understand it.

  10. EdF

    Go SpaceX! Just got to tour there facilites. Amazing, it’s not like walking into a huge complex like a Boeing or a space center. It’s a bunch of hard working people building ROCKETS, yeah ROCKETS in the back of a warehouse! It’s amazing.

    I know it’s not what Phil meant, but Boeing, Rockwell, Lockheed, ULA are commercial companies that have been doing this for decades. I get the point that’s being made, but it’s false that we’re shifting from Government to the private sector all of a sudden.

  11. Ramon G

    @alikar
    Dropping your cell phone from a height of 3 feet a half dozen times on one of those old 60′s computers wouldn’t put a scratch on it. Dropping one of those old NASA computers a half dozen times from a height of 3 feet onto your cell phone would turn it into sand and dust.

    @scott b
    The hope is that they’ll finally be the ones to enable LOW COST transport of cargo and people into low earth orbit, the thing that the Space Shuttle was intended to do but failed at miserably. NASA was spending much of its money on Space Shuttle and development of Ares I. The Ares I, of course really couldn’t do that much more than existing rockets. And NASA spent nearly as much money developing just it’s launch tower as SpaceX spent developing their entire rocket system. Granted SpaceX’s reliability and crewed capabilities have yet to be demonstrated.

  12. I love that they’ve called the commercial stuff “COTS” (Commercial Orbital Transportation System) which is also used in the IT/Software space as “Commercial Off-The-Shelf”. :) Intentional double-meaning?

  13. Joseph G

    Dang, that IS big news. It sounds like it could cut the cost of resupplying the ISS quite a bit. If it works, I wonder who gets to actually ride in the thing first? :)

  14. Elmar_M

    I am very excited and nervous about this flight. A lot depends on it and a lot of people are eager to see it fail. I would not even be surprised if their and Obamas political enemies would do try to saboutage the whole thing somehow.

    @ScottB:
    It depends on how you look at it. SpaceX did the development of Falcon and the Dragon for less money than NASA spends on heating their facilities. So in a sense they are doing something that NASA has never been able to do: Be cost efficient.

  15. CB

    @ Bill DeVoe:

    which is also used in the IT/Software space as “Commercial Off-The-Shelf”. Intentional double-meaning?

    Something like that, maybe more like an intentional shared meaning. I think it’s intended to have the same implication as COTS does elsewhere — that you’re using a standard good or service, rather than something custom for the particular job, and which is thus most likely cheaper.

    Which by the way

    @ Scott B:

    That’s the advantage of doing it this way. By having a 3rd party who provides launch services not just to NASA with a NASA-specific and NASA-specified rocket design, but to a wide variety of parties for a variety of purposes, the costs will be much lower.

    @ Edf:

    Which is really the biggest difference between the new way and the old. It’s called “commercialization”, but really it’s about how NASA does procurement. When they would pay Boeing to make something, the request for that something would come in the form of a massive stack of requirements and specifications, many, most, or even all of which requiring specialized hardware to be built in order to meet them.

    Now, NASA is going to be paying simply for capabilities, which makes the specification much simpler, and not require a brand new rocket custom-made to their standards. NASA wants to pay for a rocket/capsule capable of docking with the ISS and either dropping off or picking up a crew of astronauts. The details of how were left to those who wanted to provide that service.

    There’s also the change of not using the old cost-plus bidding process where NASA went with the lowest bidder, but then would end up paying whatever that bidders real costs actually ended up at, a worst-of-both-worlds situation. While they have given SpaceX money to aid in the development of the Falcon IX, most of the money they will be getting is for executing on aforementioned capabilities.

    This all adds up to an exciting time for NASA as far as I’m concerned. We need getting to orbit to be cheaper, and we need NASA working on tech for doing things once we’re already there.

  16. I’m all for commercial space travel, but I am a little worried. I feel that if something like the Challenger or Columbia happens at some point in the beginnings of all of this, its’ going to set the whole thing back severely. I also feel like the aspect of profit margins and strict deadlines (NASA sets them just for fun) would possibly inhibit proper safety and testing. Being that NASA is currently funding a lot of SpaceX’s development and will certainly being one of their first and primary customers, they will have well established safety rules and regulations. I guess the biggest issue would be 20 years down the road when the overall price starts to drop and the process is affordable for more of the Average Joe in the world. Let’s hope nothing like that happens though.

    I guess in the end, this will take a lot of the burden off of NASA working with aging equipment funded by miniscule budgets. They can skip the menial tasks of ferrying people and goods/equipment to the ISS and focus on developing these amazing probes and new means of conveyance to places we haven’t been… as opposed to the places we always go. It’s like a company outsourcing to save time and money. Let’s hope it pays off in a way that really bolsters the world of space exploration (and science in general) and turns NASA from the unwanted half cousin of the US government to some reasonable legitimate portion that people respect and adore.

  17. Gamercow

    I completely agree with Phil, and have been proclaiming to as many people as possible that NASA needs to stop being UPS’s space division, and become pioneers again. While any trip away from our little blue marble can ever be called “routine”, NASA’s funds can be better spent on doing amazing things like the Mars rovers, Cassini, etc.

  18. jfb

    @Scott B: for far, far less money than what NASA’s usual process would have cost, which is the whole point behind the COTS program. SpaceX’s primary goals are to reduce costs to orbit (down to < $1000/lb, although I have doubts) coupled with very high reliability.

    What they've accomplished so far is nothing short of remarkable for the relatively small amount of money and time that they've spent developing the F9/Dragon. Compare that with the development of Ares I/Orion.

  19. Blizno

    I felt a sudden thrill when I saw the picture of the capsule with solar panels proudly unfurled.

    This feels like a transitional time; when government-funded space flight starts handing the baton to commercially-funded space flight.

    It has to happen. I’m delighted to be alive to witness its beginnings.

  20. Ad Hominid

    6. Scott B Says:

    “Yay! A private company can now do what NASA could in the early 60s!”

    Well, let’s see shall we?

    Mercury Redstone prime contractors: McDonnell (capsule), Chrysler aerospace (booster).
    Mercury Atlas: McDonnell (capsule), Boeing (booster),
    Gemini-Titan: McDonnell (capsule), Martin (booster)
    Apollo-Saturn I: North American (capsule), Chrysler Aerospace (booster)
    Apollo-Saturn V: North American (capsule), Boeing (booster)

    In fact, NASA couldn’t do what private companies could do even 50 years ago.

    The difference here is that NASA did not initiate this development and SpaceX paid for part of that development with their own funds.

    This attempt to frame the issue as “NASA vs. free enterprise” is a falsehood. The real issue is “SpaceX vs. moth-eaten contractors who have been long established on the NASA gravy train.” The relative costs speak for themselves, but there is no doubt that Northrop-Grumman, Lockheed-Martin, and Boeing have more to spend on lobbying and deceptive propaganda.

  21. Joseph G

    When you think about the number of different hats NASA has to wear, it’s astonishing they get anything done as it is. They’ve got to tackle pretty much every technical and design discipline on the planet simply to support the science that is, at the end of the day, the primary mission of NASA. It’s high time they handed over a little bit of it to a specialized operation like SpaceX.

  22. Joseph G

    @#20 Ad Hominid: I couldn’t have put it better myself.
    Your name made me lol, too :)

  23. Brian Too

    @3. QuietDesperation,

    Finally I get the name. It’s a Transformer! Oh, you gotta hand to to SpaceX, they are good. Get us all comfortable and placid, it’s just a space ferry, nothing to see here, move along.

    Then transform, and it’s Dragonis Prime!

  24. Mike Mullen

    Well yes Space X may be be doing what NASA could do in the 60′s but it appears that current day NASA struggles even to do that so Space X aren’t doing to badly. Frankly at the current rate of progress the X-37B will be refueled, refurbished, have its death ray tuned up, and be back in orbit before Discovery launches.

  25. Buzz Parsec

    Actually, there was a problem with the static firing, and it didn’t go the full 2 seconds.

    There was a high pressure reading in one of the engines, and it shut down early. If it had been a real launch attempt, it would have aborted on the pad. (The Falcon 9 is designed to start all the engines and hold on the pad until full thrust and everything looks good. Then the launch hold-downs release, and off it goes. If something isn’t right, the computers shut it down during that 2+ seconds, and they get to fix it and try again. The shuttle does the same thing with its main engines, and once they’re all working, it ignites the solid boosters. Once the solids light, though, they have to launch, there’s no way to shut them down. But the Falcon’s all-liquid and can be shut down on the pad without launching and without breaking anything.)

    They’re going to try again tomorrow, provided they can figure out and fix whatever went wrong today. It could be a bad sensor or a real engine problem, or just the tolerances in the software were too tight and it didn’t wait quite long enough for the engines to stabilize.

  26. fred edison

    Elon Musk, you’re a madman! Mad in a good way, of course. Best of luck with the weather and everything else at SpaceX. Punch a clean hole through the sky on launch day.

  27. MadScientist

    “The plan is to get it into space, and then de-orbit it. If this works, it will be the first time a commercial company will have ever done this.”

    Shouldn’t that be the first time a commercial company had done so using some private funding? I don’t recall Boeing or Lockheed ever being government institutions or not-for-profit organizations. Or is it a case of NASA not being involved with the flight operations?

  28. The Captian

    This really bugs me, but can we stop bringing up that Space X is a “private company” every time it’s mentioned because from what I can tell most of their money has come from NASA. I mean sure, if they ever turn a profit I’m positive that will all be “private” (cause in the US the “risk” is on the public and the “reward” is always private) but from what I’ve seen taxpayers are the ones mostly funding this venture.

  29. Rocket Man

    It’s ironic that most of Space-X’s engineering brain-trust came from Boeing (McDonnell Douglas, Rockwell, Boeing) and Lockheed Martin (Martin Marietta and GD).

    How long Falcon 9 prices will hold at $60 million per flight isn’t clear (there prices have already nearly doubled from $30M to $60M since they began promoting it) and many USG customers believe that Falcon 9 prices will continue to climb to $100M or more per launch once Space-X stops “discounting” their initial few launches.

    That said, I give them a lot of credit for building the merlin engines and for looking for ways to become more affordable.

  30. Ferris Valyn

    28 The Captain – it is a private company. Actually, most of their money is from internal. Most of the development costs of Falcon 1 & Falcon 9 & Dragon came from Elon Musk, and the private capital he has raised.

    The money that NASA’s put into development is quite small, compared to other projects, like Ares I. NASA only invested somewhere in the realm of $200+ million, and one of the requirements was that there had to be private investment, so that a company could receive funds.

    Compare that to the multiple billions invested in Orion & Ares I.

    SpaceX is a private company.

  31. Messier Tidy Upper

    Good luck to Space X & I really hope they work out and all goe smoithlyand well for them but I’m really going to miss the Shuttle era. It won’t be the same.

    The November 2010 ‘Air & Space Smithsonian’ magazine had a good article on the end of the Space Shuttle porgram featuring several workers directly commenting on the programs end and what it means :

    “We had our hands on spaceships and we learned how to make them increasingly safer and then Washington pulled the plug. … We won’t have the ability to put an American on the space station, in an Amercian rocket, for at least a decade,” he says. He doesn’t hide his disappointment with President Barack Obama. “We all knew for years that the Shuttle program had a sunset but Constellation was supposed to provide human access to the space station. When Obama cancelled Constellation, he cancelled the pride that every American should have in our accomplishments. One half of one percent of the federal budget funds NASA and they can’t afford this program?”
    - Gregory Cecil, Space Shuttle tile technician quoted on page 47, “Throttle down” article in Air &Space magazine, Nov 2010.

    I agree with that – and with the likes of Neil Armstrong, Chris Kraft, Jim Lovell and many many others who think Obama’s NASA plan stinks.

  32. Ferris Valyn

    Messier Tidy Upper – in 5 years, every one of those people will be eating their words.

    We weren’t getting back to the station on Constellation

    I can point to many others, who back the decision.

    As for missing the shuttle era – its time to admit it was a failure, and move on to something that can be successful. And yes, when you don’t meet your program goals (and shuttle didn’t) its a failure.

  33. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ Ferris Valyn :

    in 5 years, every one of those people will be eating their words.

    Well, we’ll know *that* in five years then won’t we? Would be great if you are right but .. I’m not so sure.

    We weren’t getting back to the station on Constellation

    We’ll never know just what Constellation could have achieved and done. I find that very sad – its one thing to build a rocket system and find it doesn’t work and needs to be replaced – its quite another to cancel something before its even had a proper chance to show what it can do. :-(

    To go from early unmanned prototype tests to back to the drawing board -what a waste of time and effort and resources. :-(

    As for missing the shuttle era – its time to admit it was a failure, and move on to something that can be successful. And yes, when you don’t meet your program goals (and shuttle didn’t) its a failure.

    The Space Shuttle gave us an awful lot and took more astronauts into space than any other vehicle in history. It delivered the HST, launched the Magellan, Galileo, Ulyssses and much, much more to their destinations. So failure? Not exactly. The Shuttle might not have been a total success either and might not have lived up to initial expectations granted – but let’s also remember that it did an awful lot of great things too.

    Meanwhile, in other news the unmanned X-37B spaceplane has landed successfully. :-)

  34. Messier Tidy Upper

    See :

    http://www.spaceflightnow.com/news/n1012/03x37landing/

    &

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USA-212

    For the X-37B USA-212 successful flight & landing news.

    ***

    CORRECTION – The first line in #31 is meant to read :

    Good luck to Space X & I really hope they work out and all goes smoothly and well for them but I’m really going to miss the Shuttle era. It won’t be the same without it.

  35. Messier Tidy Upper

    @3. QuietDesperation :

    Will it transform into an actual dragon-bot?

    You mean something like this :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ub5bl2QNHPw

    Perhaps? ;-)

    No? Oh. I’m expecting too much, aren’t I?

    Err .. maybe just a little, yeah! ;-)

  36. Messier Tidy Upper

    One more source on the X-37B here :

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-11911335

    Because I think its a good one. :-)

    (Was trying to find this to post before but couldn’t.)

    Also via the BBC online is this :

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-11914138

    On the latest delay for the penultimate Shuttle launch ever &

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-11886942

    “‘Super-Earth’ atmosphere measured” discussing the recent “Steampunk planet” Hot Venus from a couple of days ago.

    Hope these links (& the quotes below) are interesting / useful /enjoyable for y’all. :-)

    ********

    “This [space] is the new ocean and I believe the United States must sail on it and be in a position second to none.”
    - President John F. Kennedy after John Glenn’s first orbits in ‘Friendship-7’ on Feb. 20th 1962.

    “The conquest of space is worth the risk of life.”
    - Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Mercury astronaut killed in the ‘Apollo 1’ fire.

    “If we privatise NASA our current pursuit of scientific knowledge would be quickly abandoned in favour of profitable ventures. True space science would die in a heartbeat. Why would private companies bother studying the origins of our universe when it would cost them billions and show no financial return? They wouldn’t. The throngs of entrepreneurs rushing into space will NOT be rocket scientists. They will be entrepreneurs with deep pockets and shallow minds. No NASA means complete anarchy in space.”
    - Page 204-205, ‘Deception Point’, (puzzle / thriller / Sf novel) Dan Brown, Corgi Books, 2001.

  37. Mike Mullen

    Constellation was a money pit. The manned component in the shape of Ares I was years behind schedule and far over budget. It was supposed to be the cheap simple and quick fix, made necessary by the failure of one program after another to deliver a shuttle replacement. Ares I was already on the same route to failure as its predecessors, having failed to meet those three basic criteria. I have even read that the single Are 1-X mock up launch cost as much as the entire Falcon 9 development program.
    If blaming Obama makes you feel better Messier Tidy Upper go right ahead. Your ire might be better focused on NASA and the politicians who see MSF as nothing but a jobs creation program, an attitude that continues with Congress attempting to mandate the design of NASA’s next rocket without a mission.

  38. Ferris Valyn

    Messier Tidy Upper

    We’ll never know just what Constellation could have achieved and done. I find that very sad – its one thing to build a rocket system and find it doesn’t work and needs to be replaced – its quite another to cancel something before its even had a proper chance to show what it can do. :-(

    To go from early unmanned prototype tests to back to the drawing board -what a waste of time and effort and resources.

    We can make some pretty good guesses, based on a lot of data. The Augustine report showed us that.

    And we aren’t “back at the drawing board.” In fact, we’ve already done a lot of tests for the various vehicles that we’ll use. Some of them are practically ready to go.

    The Space Shuttle gave us an awful lot and took more astronauts into space than any other vehicle in history. It delivered the HST, launched the Magellan, Galileo, Ulyssses and much, much more to their destinations. So failure? Not exactly. The Shuttle might not have been a total success either and might not have lived up to initial expectations granted – but let’s also remember that it did an awful lot of great things too.

    I didn’t say it didn’t do useful things. Thats not the question. The issue is, it was suppose to drastically lower launch costs, and make on orbit activities a lot cheaper. It did not deliver on that. I have no problem celebrating what we were able to do with it, but lets stop with the hero worship.

  39. MaDeR

    @MTU:
    Shuttle WAS failure. Get over it.

  40. Ramon G

    @Messier Tidy Upper
    If it makes you feel better, the latest NASA authorization bill approved by congress a month or two ago authorizes their working on most of what was the Constellation program.
    – A very large capacity booster (Ares V), intending for first demo launch before 2017
    – Solid Rocket Booster (Ares I first stage)
    – Crew Module (Orion Capsule)

    About the only thing I notice missing here is the seccond staget of the Ares I, which supposedly is just a variation on a Centaur stage.

    Now whether or not the appropration bill for this work gets through congress is another matter.
    I’m sure we can all thank congressmenfrom Florida, Alabama, Texas, and Utah for continuing this money-sucking jobs program.

  41. The Captian

    @ Ferris Valyn

    Actually the figures are around 325 mill that NASA has prepaid for the contracts for the Flacon 9 and all the figures I’ve seen for private capital raised has been in a few 50 mill chunks. So where are you finding all this private capital that space x has. As far as I can tell most of their money came from taxpayers.

    Also you can not compare Aries to the Dragon since the Dragon and Space X can not do half of what constellation was to do. You’re comparing the price of a Chevy Tempest to a Ferrari

  42. Ferris Valyn

    @ The Captian

    Here is the breakdown
    $100 M from Musk by 2006
    $50 M from Founders fund in 2007
    $278 M from NASA for COTS contract
    The COTS contract required that half of the money for the system come from outside development. In fact, 60-70% of the money used for COTS came from SpaceX (I assume it probably came from Elon, but it may have come from elsewhere) – you can go listen to Gwynne Shotwell http://www.thespaceshow.com/detail.asp?q=727

    Thus, if we assume that the $278 represents 40% of the money for COTS, another $417 M must come from SpaceX, or other investors for SpaceX.

    Oh, and lets also remember SpaceX won a $492 Million contract to deliver private comm sats for Iridium

    As for “can’t compare Ares to Dragon”, well
    1. Comparing a capsule to a rocket is kind of stupid, although I didn’t do that.
    2. You absolutely can compare the Dragon/Falcon 9 system to Ares I/Orion as a means of transporting humans to ISS, since Ares I can’t take Orion any further than ISS. And when you compare on that axis, its clear that Dragon/Falcon 9 beat out Ares I/Orion by a huge factor – cheaper, more people, safer, development actually happening on time and under budget
    3. Given that Falcon 9/Dragon are actually flying, and Constellation is decades away from having all of its pieces flying, I’d say a better comparison would be the Nintendo Wii to the Phantom (sorry, not a car guy, so I used gaming consoles)

  43. SpaceX as someone said on another site is “spam in a can”.I wouldn’t want to ride in something like that.I’m all about quality and dependibility.And the abort system has already been tested and was a success…on the Orion.

  44. Ferris Valyn

    Nancy Drew

    Orion is as much “spam in a can” as SpaceX is. And the abort system will get tested on the Dragon, when they get closer to that point.

    And frankly, a lot more has been tested for Dragon as compared to Orion

  45. Messier Tidy Upper

    @40. Ramon G Says:

    @Messier Tidy Upper : If it makes you feel better, the latest NASA authorization bill approved by congress a month or two ago authorizes their working on most of what was the Constellation program.

    Only a little bit better but thanks for that and for trying. :-)

    @39. MaDeR : I’ve already explained to everyone in comment # 33 the many reasons *why* I totally disagree with your blank, rude & unsupported assertion there.

  46. jfb

    Now that the dust has settled…

    Musk really threw down the gauntlet at the presser. Dragon can carry as many people as Orion (at least to and from LEO), its heat shield is designed to handle off-nominal lunar and Martian re-entry, and, most importantly, it’s already in production and flying. Orion is several years from first flight, during which time the Dragon spacecraft will be shaken out and improved. At the rate things are going, Dragon will be man-rated by the time Orion is ready to fly.

    Not that SpaceX is the greatest thing since sliced cheese. There’s still too much drama on liftoff (great big balls of fire next to the rocket, disintegrating strongbacks), there are design and process bugs to be worked out (the cracks in the 2nd stage expansion nozzle), and they’ve only had four successful flights so far (2 F1 and 2 F9). There’s some pressure to combine COTS demo flights 2 and 3 into a single flight, but if I’m NASA I say I still want two separate flights just to shake out pad procedures that much more.

    But it’s a step in the right direction, away from cost-plus and away from using HSF as a jobs program that spreads development across fifty Congressional districts. NASA’s going to be the only customer needing a spacecraft like the Dragon for the foreseeable future, so naturally the bulk of Dragon development will be funded by COTS/CRS. However, SpaceX also has strictly commercial flights on its manifest as well.

    @MTU:

    The Shuttle program failed to meet its primary goals, which were to reduce cost to orbit and provide rapid turnaround. That cannot be denied. Yes, the program accomplished some amazing things, but at huge costs, with a flawed design that led directly to the loss of two crews (mounting the orbiter at the top of the stack with a proper LAS would have allowed it to survive the kind of explosion that destroyed the Challenger, and the foam strike that doomed Columbia simply wouldn’t have been an issue).

    STS did not provide the promised bang for the buck by any stretch of the imagination, and consumed resources that could have been better spent in both the manned and unmanned programs. It had its time, and it is time to move on.

    The Constellation program (as originally constituted) was falling into the same pattern of exploding costs and diminishing capability. The program was going to be killed sooner or later; better to kill it sooner and get it over with. It will be great if the Orion vehicle itself can be salvaged and developed, with NASA buying off-the-shelf launch capability from a third party like SpaceX or ULA or whoever.

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