Beyond the Cusp

May 20, 2014

Beware Russian Revenge and the Space Station

Unfortunately for President Obama, the Russians utilized an actual and effective response to the weak and ineffective sanctions placed on Russia over the Ukraine crisis by the United States. Where President Obama laid sanction freezing accounts and financial dealings on a number of Russian oligarchs who are reputedly close to Russian President Putin, the institutions he placed such sanctions on had little if any dealings and no accounts or holdings of the Russian targets of the economic sanctions. Then the Obama administration announced further sanctions in the form of travel restrictions on Russian government and industry officials including Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. The Russians responded by placing a freeze on selling RD-180 rocket engines manufactured by NPO Energomash to the Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture United Launch Alliance (JLA). Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin went further and appeared to take great glee announcing in addition to the refusal to sell the vitally necessary rocket engines to JLA that additionally Russia simply “doesn’t plan to continue cooperation” with the United States on the International Space Station after 2020 and added a suggestion where he stated, “I propose that the United States delivers its astronauts to the ISS with the help of a trampoline.” This likely has set JLA scrambling seeking a new rocket engine provider otherwise they are either out of business or need to immediately set to work on design and development of an in house produced rocket engine. Such an endeavor would be costly, time consuming but also would have the advantage of providing a United States source for the future removing any reliance on outside the border dependence.


There will be those who will attempt to blame this entire fiasco on Elon Musk and SpaceX as Mr. Musk testified before the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee a few months back in hearings over whether or not to open up bidding to provide launch vehicles for United States military and special satellite and payload launches instead of the current practice of simply holding closed bid allowing only JLA to present bids. The blame game will point to the testimony given by Mr. Musk that there was a serious deficiency and risk taking single source bids and especially from JLA as they were completely dependent on Russian provided rocket engines for their main Atlas V booster and rocket systems. We can definitely expect the Senators from Washington State, home to Boeing, and Maryland, home of Lockheed Martin, to protest the loudest and bring as much scorn as humanly possible, or Senatorially as they are of a special breed apart, on Elon Musk. This will be another instance of the old guard, established with near monopoly control of an industry blaming every hardship and difficulty on the upstart new kid on the block in an effort to vilify them out of contention in a desperate attempt to retain their monopoly and cash cow, which in this case pays them with American tax payer’s money. The American spirit that the small guy has an equal chance to the gold ring and if he plays it straight and fair he is presumably guaranteed an equal access to any government contract. I just love American sloganeering about equality and other such, especially when it pertains to the little guy or start-up companies having equal footing when it comes to competing for government contracts like the government isn’t a fully vested partner with so many of these major and established companies. There will be those with what will be the greatest act of indignation of severe distress and harm caused by this disruptive attempt to disrupt the United States space program which has operated so efficiently and smoothly that any bumps or wrenches in the machinery must be prevented at all costs. Then will come the finger pointing at Elon Musk and SpaceX spouting viscous vindictive invectives impugning his person and his company with special emphasis on how opening up the bidding on launching of military and special satellites and payloads will increase costs, make these launches far more risk susceptible, and threaten secrecy and require added onerous requirements when assembling such satellites and payloads. Then there will be the references to the important history and dependable service of the rockets provided throughout the history of the United States space program and raising questions of the intelligence in rocking the boat at this point. Basically the argument will be to deny that competition might force improvements and added efficiency and eventual greater potential for savings by allowing more competition, after all, it would be un-American to snub the established and longstanding standard efforts of JLA in providing the needs of the space program over the decades since the initial challenge to reach the Moon with an astronaut and return them safely to Earth. We may even get to see President Kennedy’s speech challenging the United States as a nation to go to the moon before the end of the decade.


The interesting item which applies to this as inclusively as possible is the warning from President Dwight David Eisenhower who as the commanding General over the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II was more than qualified to have the specific knowledge, stated in his farewell address on January 17, 1961 stating, “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” The sole item that President Eisenhower might have gotten wrong is that the symbiotic relationship between the Federal Government and so many of the top established industry leading corporations, financial institutions, information technology companies, automobile manufacturers and companies throughout the full spectrum where government largess and corporate welfare provide so many of these institutions are almost completely dependent on the government for their profits and not solely with the military. As with so many warnings, this warning too went pretty much unheeded until it was too late and the problem had become institutionalized and intrinsically intertwined not only with numerous government agencies and departments but also with the politicians in Congress and the White House. Nowhere is this more true than the space agency both civilian and NASA. Hopefully the American people will demand that these bids to provide launch capabilities be opened to all companies for bids as this was the manner that many of the greatest advancements which made much of human space exploration possible came through completely open application methods where NASA placed a requirement out offering a prize for the person or company which came up with the best and most complete solution. This was essential in the development of much of the spacesuit designs, the Moon buggy and numerous other items which contributed to the race to the Moon’s success. It worked well then and I bet it would work today and some of the sources of the best solutions will be people who simply amaze the world and come out of their garage with the best space glove or whatever is required. Let the competitions begin and let’s be amazed.


Beyond the Cusp


1 Comment »

  1. Reblogged this on Oyia Brown.


    Comment by OyiaBrown — May 20, 2014 @ 6:55 AM | Reply

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