Same Choices,Same Story Here

There’ve been a lot of stories in the press lately about Constellation and its progress or supposed lack thereof. The alleged danger that the program is in. Could it be that when there’s nothing real to report that people try to stir up old news?


The fact is that Constellation is targeting March 2015 for the first crewed flight to the International Space Station, with Orion aboard the Ares I rocket. That date hasn’t changed for some time. We did originally give our teams a very tough challenge in the early days of the program of making this milestone in September 2013. And they worked hard toward it. But the fact is, we needed more money early on. Given the way budget cycles work, we were given a budget to initial operational capability, but the critical mass we would have needed to make that earlier date just wasn’t there right away.


So we made choices. We continue to make choices. About what to do and when. About sequencing and doing things in parallel that we might ideally do in a different fashion given every dollar we wanted when we wanted it. But who gets that? The reality is that we are very fortunate to have a budget that will enable us to get to a crewed flight in 2015, but we’re going to have to put off some other work until we get the Ares I and Orion system fully designed, tested and flown.


Our budgets are built to accommodate the change and contingency that any development program encounters. We have, after all, not created a new system for spaceflight in over 35 years. It’s an enormous challenge and one that we welcome. There have been varying budget numbers reported in the press. The bottom line is that we had some numbers early on that we used as estimates while the overall architecture we were going to use was still under discussion. Right now we’re targeting $36 billion for Constellation’s cost through initial operational capability. That’s for hardware, the stuff that will actually get us into space.  But we also need to budget for the people and ground operations, the upcoming work that must begin on Ares V and early development work on lunar systems. When you add that in, you get to around $44 billion for Constellation through 2015.


But those budgets are still being worked out with the new Administration. In the meantime, America should be proud of the exceptional work by teams across the country for the next generation of space vehicles. We’re working hard on them every single day.


12 thoughts on “Same Choices,Same Story Here”

  1. I have been following the progress on this program on the NASA website for a while now and I think you are doing a great job. Being a lecturer in risk management, I enjoy the detail to see how the risks (cost, schedule and technical) are managed by the NASA project team. Best of luck for the upcoming test of the Ares rocket.

  2. Folks – your first test flight is now internally scheduled for 2017, and your first operational ISS crew rotation is internally scheduled for 2018 – both with only a 65% level of confidence instead of the industry standard 80%. Yet your budgetary plans call for the end of US involvement with the ISS in 2016, so that funding can be put towards Ares V development and lunar missions.

    This is crazy that you are spending 36 billion for a launcher that duplicates the lift capability of exisiting systems (Atlas, Delta) to meet a mission requirement that will be over and done with before the launcher is even ready.

  3. Keith Cowing,
    Good question. Here’s another, who wrote the blog entry?


  4. “…spending 36 billion for a launcher that duplicates the lift capability of existing systems (Atlas, Delta)…”

    Uh, I’m not a space travel expert by any means, but don’t rockets carrying astronauts have to be MAN-RATED? The money spent on new hardware that is essentially already MAN-RATED for the Constellation programs is not much considering what we’re spending on the US military on a DAILY basis.

  5. So March 2015 is still the start date you are going with? NASA documentation says that many departments list 0% (zero) confidence in March 2015, so what information would you have that goes against such information?

  6. $44 billion to develop a lift capability that already exists in EELV’s? Why???

    If one spread the costs out it would take 44 launches with payload to bring the price per launch down to $1b each.

    There has to be a cheaper, more effective way to do this!

  7. it doesn’t help any when the government keeps forcing NASA to work within the confines of a continuing resolution.

  8. I love the fact that the existing systems refuse to acknowledge what it would cost to man rate those systems – redundancy, fail-safe, closed loop certifiable. The NASA estimates of these numbers continue to be exclusively ignored. I guess it is easier to carry on a one sided conversation.

  9. yeah,
    Working on a losing horse in the space race and living large off of the government dole.

    Try direct 2.0 as it fufils the criteria as stated in 2005 for the next system to reuse up to or better than 85 % of shuttle harware AS-IS.

    Aries 1 isa redundant issue because Delta 4 and Atlas can send people into space with less money by using man rated versions of these workhorses.

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