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The Future of NASA?


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Given SpaceX's success, sending supplies and crew to the ISS and now more recently, launching a research satellites for NASA and the ESA it seems that we are moving towards an era of the privatization of space. To me this is not necessarily a bad thing but it does make me wonder what role government controlled organizations like NASA and the ESA will play in the future?

Any speculations?

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NASA has a great deal of research on highly specialized areas, from propulsion and aerodynamics to food production and disease research. This research plays a crucial role in getting to Mars, and the technologies developed by NASA will be used on space habitats and to fix our unsustainable ways of living on Earth.

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7 minutes ago, Bill Phil said:

NASA isn't a launch service provider. They'll probably keep trucking on doing much the same thing they've been doing.

This, now cheaper launches give NASA more value for money. Larger and better launchers open new options for planetary missions. 
Their missions is doing science not launching stuff into orbit. Granted NASA also to research on planes, all from solar powered drones to much less noisy supersonic planes. 
 

Quote

Mulder: Let do something who counter that I saw for effect. 

 

Edited by magnemoe
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26 minutes ago, Entropian said:

NASA will become less and less useful for the DoD, and thus their programs will, over time, be shut down, plans scrapped, and overall disappear as the private industry takes over the role.

Or perhaps we will put compassionate people in charge instead, and NASA will continue serving to enlighten and unite us alongside its new friends in space.

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8 hours ago, Bill Phil said:

NASA isn't a launch service provider. They'll probably keep trucking on doing much the same thing they've been doing.

i see a situation where nasa starts to outsource its launches. probably to spacex or whoever the lowest bidder is at the time.  at that point nasa can focus on science.

Edited by Nuke
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NASA is concerned with cutting-edge research and development - it isn't a commercial company bent on making a profit off either contracts, fee offers or potential investment. It serves the greater good - and by that, I mean not limited to just the US. The most widely available global heightmap data is still the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) off NASA. And they keep track of other changes around us too that would affect whether humans (and other living beings) can survive or not - climate change, solar flares and geomagnetic storm, asteroids, the lot.

It's the same with weather forecasting - say, you have some commercial forecasting company, and then there's NOAA's National Weather Service (and National Hurricane Centre). NOAA still does the bulk of the work, and not just that, it provides the bulk of the results free of charge, because you can't ask someone to pay to know whether they're going to be hit by a tornado or a hurricane or not. NOAA is even part of the WMO so it can actually gather data from all the national weather agencies around the world - the same happen in reverse.

 

Your question would be more with "is ULA going to remain around or not", and I'm positive the answer is "Yes". Even SLS is technically built and (will be) launched by ULA*. This is the same with how Ariane is built by Airbus and is used by ESA, or H-IIA (and later H-3) is built by MHI and used by JAXA. Sure, they can use the more competitive commercial launchers, but they need something to make sure that they can always launch something as well.

 

* EDIT : OK, maybe Boeing, but AFAIK there'll be parts from other such long-standing American companies like Northrop etc.

Edited by YNM
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21 hours ago, Entropian said:

NASA will become less and less useful for the DoD, and thus their programs will, over time, be shut down, plans scrapped, and overall disappear as the private industry takes over the role.

While NASA does have strong ties to the military-industrial complex, it entirely exists at the will of Congress.  Congress thinks it is a useful way to distribute pork.  It also is like NSF (National Science Foundation) with way better PR, so expect it to continue taking a large chunk of the science budget.

12 hours ago, Nuke said:

i see a situation where nasa starts to outsource its launches. probably to spacex or whoever the lowest bidder is at the time.  at that point nasa can focus on science.

Remember that NASA has never built a rocket (oddball prototypes ignored).  They contract various space companies to build them, often with far too much oversight and micromangement.  While Spacex has a lot to do with the change (although it wasn't clear they were what they had in mind for commercial resupply originally.  I'd guess Orbital (the first commercial satellite launcher), although they only joined the CRS program after one of the original awardees dropped out).  The other huge reason that NASA may have to do this is ULA.  With the creation of ULA, they are effectively all of "old space".  If NASA wants to contract out a rocket to "old space", they no longer have contractors and subcontractors, they only have "ULA" (ok, they will have a few subcontractors, especially for engines.  But the contract will basically be controlled by ULA, not NASA).

10 hours ago, YNM said:

Your question would be more with "is ULA going to remain around or not", and I'm positive the answer is "Yes". Even SLS is technically built and (will be) launched by ULA. This is the same with how Ariane is built by Airbus and is used by ESA, or H-IIA (and later H-3) is built by MHI and used by JAXA. Sure, they can use the more competitive commercial launchers, but they need something to make sure that they can always launch something as well.

Pretty sure SLS is Boeing (which owns half of ULA) not ULA itself.  Boeing also isn't going anywhere (although their shareholders might not have much left) thanks to heavy-handed US government support.

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12 minutes ago, wumpus said:

Pretty sure SLS is Boeing (which owns half of ULA) not ULA itself. 

Aren't the SRBs Northrop Grumman (well, Thiokol, then ATK, but they got bought) ? But like, in any case, much like MHI wrt JAXA, there'll always be national-company government contractors.

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