Space Access Update #96 9/26/00 
                Copyright 2000 by Space Access Society 

This issue will be almost entirely about NASA's SLI ("Space Launch 
Initiative"), a grab-bag of old and new RLV programs.  We have two 
main news items: One, advance work for the House-Senate conference on 
the final version of next year's NASA funding is underway and the 
actual conference could take place in the next few days.  Two, we're 
changing our goal from zeroing funding for the core (and we think 
badly misdirected) "RLV Competition" SLI line-item, to getting 
language into the bill preventing NASA from spending all the money on 
NASA's own peculiar launch needs (as they currently look far too 
likely to do) and none on genuine commercial launch support. 


 - What's Wrong With SLI?  One-Page Summary

 - FY'01 NASA SLI Funding: The Tactical Situation 

 - Alert: Urgent! Contact House, Senate Appropriators And Ask Them To 
   Fix NASA SLI By Adding Commercial Support Language 


               What's Wrong With SLI?  One-Page Summary 

We hear some people are still puzzled as to why we've opposed funding 
the central part of NASA's new "Space Launch Initiative".  It seems 
our Updates #91-95 (at aren't short and simple 
enough.  OK, we'll try to boil it all down to one page: 

The heart of our problem with NASA SLI is that it looks far too likely 
to spend all available RLV development funds for another five years on 
NASA's internal launch needs, while doing little or nothing for US 
commercial launch requirements - requirements NASA has a statutory 
obligation to support.  (42 USC 2451 section c.) 

Just as bad, SLI as currently conceived looks like it'll end up not 
even meeting NASA's launch needs: 

 - Officially, SLI aims to support only those commercial launch needs 
that can be "converged" with NASA's desire for continued Shuttle-class 
lift to Station.  This is like a government "Road Travel Initiative" 
that will fund any plausible design submitted - as long as it can 
carry eight people a thousand miles while towing a thirty-ton trailer.  
Tough luck for anyone who believes the road vehicle market "sweet 
spot" isn't an eighteen-wheeler Winnebago... 

 - Unofficially, commercial considerations that conflict in any way 
with NASA Shuttle/Station's needs will lose at NASA, every time.  The 
Shuttle/Station organization makes up half of NASA, by far the largest 
power center within the agency.  No matter how good the intentions of 
the SLI planners, recent history demonstrates that the Shuttle/Station 
bureaucracy dominates NASA's decisionmaking process on any issue they 
care about - and they care very much about new launcher development. 

 - Recent history also demonstrates that launcher designs resulting 
from such a process will have no luck finding commercial investors 
willing to pay for them, absent massive government subsidy, because 
the Shuttle/Station bureaucracy's idea of a useful launch vehicle 
flies far too seldom, eats far too many man-years per flight, and has 
far too many political strings attached.  

 - It doesn't help that the established major aerospace contractors 
have little real incentive to compete with their own existing high-
cost launchers, and thus tend to give low-cost launch projects less 
than top priority for internal corporate resources. 

On its current path, SLI "RLV Competition And Risk Reduction" looks 
all too likely to spend $2.4 billion over the next five years on 
nothing of any use to anyone at all, NASA included. 

By "recent history", by the way, we mean both Shuttle and the more 
recent X-33 project.  Every last one of the preceding conclusions is 
glaringly obvious given rational examination of the abject failure of 
X-33.  Unfortunately it's still taboo within NASA to even admit that 
X-33 is a failure, let alone hold open discussions of its lessons. 

"Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it", and SLI 
despite minor tinkering with the X-33 formula is dead on course to 
repeat most of X-33's major conceptual mistakes. 

We recommended at the start of the year that NASA separate support for 
their in-house launch requirements from support for US commercial 
launch needs, and pursue the latter via multiple smaller projects from 
both established and startup vendors rather than via one or two 
megaprojects from the established major aerospace firms. 

We see no reason to change these recommendations.  We will be pursuing 
implementation of them for the forseeable future.  We expect that 
support for our position will only grow as the abysmal failure of 
SLI's predecessors becomes more obvious.  


            FY'01 NASA SLI Funding: The Tactical Situation 


NASA is asking the Congress for $145 million in Fiscal Year 2001 
(Federal FY'01 begins this October 1st) to start their new $2.4 
billion-over-five-years "RLV Competition and Risk Reduction" project 
as the largest single part (over half) of "Space Launch Initiative" 
(SLI), a program nominally aimed at reducing costs and improving 
reliability for both NASA and US commercial space launch customers.  
(The total request for SLI this year is $290 million, the overall SLI 
five-year budget is $4.5 billion.  We currently support the other non 
"RLV Competition" components of SLI.) 

  The Current Situation 

The Congressional budget process has gotten caught up in Presdential 
election year politics.  The Republican Congress is now very unlikely 
to cut anything the Democratic White House has requested, lest the 
President veto spending bills then again accuse the Congress of 
committing "train wreck" and "shutting down the government". 

The House passed their version of the "HUD/VA/Independent Agencies" 
appropriation bill (NASA is the largest of the "independent agencies) 
earlier this summer, with all $290 million for NASA SLI cut.  The 
Senate Appropriations Committee has now "marked up" and approved their 
version of the HUD/VA bill with the $290 million for SLI restored. 

The next step is for a House-Senate Conference Committee to work out a 
compromise version HUD/VA appropriations bill, which will then go back 
to the full House and Senate for approval (likely rubber stamp at that 
point) then to the President for signature into law.  We hear that the 
HUD/VA conference will include negotiators from the White House to 
make sure the final product won't become election-year veto bait.  

  Our Response 

Under these circumstances, we see the chances of sustaining any 
significant part of the House's SLI cuts as essentially nil.  We are 
shifting our focus to inserting language directing NASA to do SLI in a 
manner less likely to waste the time and money involved, a goal we 
have a real chance of achieving if enough of you decide to help. 

The HUD/VA conference could take place late this week, or it could be 
postponed from days to weeks.  Either way, the staffers are working 
out the shape of the final version right now, and the time to contact 
members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees and ask them 
to fix NASA SLI is before the end of this week. 
The essence of the changes we think needed are: 

1) NASA SLI should give US commercial launch technology needs the same 
priority as NASA internal launch needs. 

2) NASA SLI should support a variety of US commercial needs without 
regard to their degree of "convergence" with NASA internal needs. 

3) NASA SLI should devote a significant proportion of their resources 
to supporting US startup launch companies as well as the established 
launch vendors, via formal small business setasides. 

We support addition of the following language to the HUD/VA 
appropriation in conference:  

The Committee finds that NASA Space Launch Initiative as currently 
planned give undue precedence to NASA's internal launch requirements 
over US commercial launch requirements.  The Committee reminds NASA of 
its statutory obligation to "seek and encourage, to the maximum extent 
possible, the fullest commercial use of space." (42 USC 2451 c) 

The Committee directs NASA to revise its Space Launch Initiative plans 
to address commercial space launch requirements as well as NASA 
internal launch requirements regardless of the commercial 
requirements' degree of "convergence" with NASA internal launch 
requirements, and to report these revised plans back to the 
Appropriations Committees of the House and Senate within ninety days.  
Funds appropriated under the "RLV Competition And Risk Reduction" line 
shall not be released until this report is made and accepted by the 

In order to reduce program risk by assuring greater diversity of 
projects, no more than one quarter of the "RLV Competition And Risk 
Reduction" funds over the life of the program shall be awarded to any 
one project.  

In order to encourage entry of new vendors into the space launch 
field, at least one quarter of the "RLV Competition And Risk 
Reduction" funds over the life of the program shall be awarded as 
Small Business Setasides, no more than one third of this amount to be 
awarded to any one project. 


  Alert: Urgent! Contact House, Senate Appropriators And Ask Them To 
          Fix NASA SLI By Adding Commercial Support Language 

What happens in the next few days could affect the direction of US 
space transportation development for decades to come.  Please, help us 
try to steer things in a positive direction.  The stakes are huge.

We ask all of you most urgently to write, fax, or phone Representatives 
Walsh and Mollohan and Senators Bond and Mikulski, the Chairs and 
Ranking Minority members of the House and Senate HUD/VA subcommittees, 
and tell them there's a major problem with NASA Space Launch 
Initiative that needs fixing in the HUD/VA conference. 

Also, if your Representative is on the House Appropriations HUD/VA 
Subcommittee, or if either of your Senators is on the Senate VA/HUD 
Subcommittee (see attached list or take your nine-digit zip and check 
at we ask you to write 
fax or phone their Washington DC office and tell them NASA SLI needs 
fixing.  Alabama activists especially, work Senator Shelby and 
Representative Cramer - most of the SLI money is going to NASA 
Marshall in Huntsville, and they need to be warned that absent fixes, 
the SLI money will likely end up as wasted as the billion already 
poured into X-33. 

  How To Do This 

We strongly urge you to write letters, then either snail-mail them or 
fax them before the end of the week.   Yes, we know, writing letters 
and physically mailing them is a thrash, faxing them only a bit less 
so.  The congressional staffers who'll be dealing with your messages 
know this too.  They tend to give weight to incoming messages 
according to degree of difficulty in sending them - the harder it was 
for you, the more they figure you care.  Paper mail gets the most 
consideration, faxes a bit less, voice calls less (but still 
significant), and email, alas, gets almost no consideration at all.  
Please, send letters if you can, otherwise phone.


Keep it to one page, short, neat, to the point, and above all polite.  
(Convince one staffer in the right place and we may win, annoy one 
staffer in the wrong place and we're sunk.  Be nice.)  Attach a page 
or two of background material if you must (our proposed legislative 
language, for instance) but make your main points in one clear page.  

Tell them: 
 - Who you are (Dear Senator XYZ, I'm Joe Smith from Schenectady.) 
 - If you're not a constituent, tell them you're writing to them as 
Chairman (or Ranking Minority Member) of the House (or Senate) HUD-VA 
Subcommittee on an issue of national importance. 
 - Tell them what the problem is (NASA's new Space Launch Initiative 
looks like neglecting US commercial needs in favor of NASA's own 
agenda, and likely will ultimately fail in meeting NASA's needs too.) 
 - Tell them what you want them to do (Insert language in the HUD/VA 
Appropriation telling NASA SLI to meet US commercial launch technology 
needs as well as NASA's need's.) 
 - Give them a bit of detail backing this up if you feel like it, or 
don't, or give them as a ref. 
 - Thank them for their time and/or attention in this matter, print 
it, sign it, and send it. 

Phone the DC office numbers during east coast business hours, and tell 
whoever answers you have some questions about the NASA budget.  (See 
above on being polite.)  Once you're connected to the staffer who 
handles NASA questions (or more likely their voicemail) tell them: 
 - who you are and where you're from (if you're not a constituent, 
mention you're calling them because their boss is chair or RMM of 
HUD/VA and this is an important national issue etc.) 
 - Tell them what the problem is (NASA's new Space Launch Initiative 
ignores US commercial needs in favor of NASA's desire for a Shuttle 
replacement, and likely will end up not meeting NASA's needs either.) 
 - Tell them what you want them to do (Insert language in the HUD/VA 
Appropriation telling NASA SLI to meet US commercial launch needs as 
well as NASA's.) 
 - Answer any questions they have as best you can (you can always give 
them, Update number 96 as a ref.) 
 - Thank them for their time, and ring off. 

        House Appropriations Committee, HUD/VA/IA Subcommittee 
(An address of "Representative XYZ, US House, Washington DC 20515" 
will get paper mail to your congressman, if his/her name is "XYZ".) 

                                           voice           fax 
 Walsh, James T. (R-25 NY, Chair)    1-202-225-3701  1-202-225-4042 
 DeLay, Thomas (R-22 TX)             1-202-225-5951  1-202-225-5241 
 Hobson, David L. (R-07 OH)          1-202-225-4324  1-202-225-1984 
 Knollenberg, Joe (R-11 MI)          1-202-225-5802  1-202-226-2356 
 Frelinghuysen, Rodney (R-11 NJ)     1-202-225-5034  1-202-225-3186
 Northup, Anne M (R-03 KY)           1-202-225-5401  1-202-225-5776
 Sununu, John E (R-01 NH)            1-202-225-5456  1-202-225-5822
 Goode Jr, Virgil H (I-05 VA)        1-202-225-4711  1-202-225-5681

 Mollohan, Alan B. (D-01 WV, RMM)    1-202-225-4172  1-202-225-7564 
 Kaptur, Marcy (D-09 OH)             1-202-225-4146  1-202-225-7711 
 Meek, Carrie P (D FL)               1-202-225-4506  1-202-226-0777 
 Price, David E (D NC)               1-202-225-1784  1-202-225-2014 
 Cramer Jr, Robert E (Bud) (D-05 AL) 1-202-225-4801  1-202-225-4392

             Senate Appropriations VA/HUD/IA Subcommittee 
("Senator XYZ, US Senate, Washington DC 20510" will get mail to them.) 

                                           voice           fax 
 Bond, Christopher (R MO, Chair)     1-202-224-5721  1-202-224-8149
 Burns, Conrad (R MT)                1-202-224-2644  1-202-224-8594 
 Shelby, Richard (R AL)              1-202-224-5744  1-202-224-3416 
 Craig, Larry (R ID)                 1-202-224-2752  1-202-228-1067 
 Hutchison, Kay Bailey (R TX)        1-202-224-5922  1-202-224-0776
 Kyl, John (R AZ)                    1-202-224-4521  1-202-224-2207
 Stevens, Ted (R AK)                 1-202-224-3004  1-202-224-2354 

 Mikulski, Barbara (D MD, RMM)       1-202-224-4654  1-202-224-8858 
 Leahy, Patrick (D VT)               1-202-224-4242  1-202-224-3479 
 Lautenberg, Frank (D NJ)            1-202-224-4744  1-202-224-9707 
 Harkin, Tom (D IA)                  1-202-224-3254  1-202-224-9369 
 Byrd, Robert (D WV)                 1-202-224-3954  1-202-228-0002 

Space Access Society's sole purpose is to promote radical reductions 
in the cost of reaching space.  You may redistribute this Update in 
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 Space Access Society 

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