“Space Partnering” Means More U.S. Funded Space Work For Europe?

Posted: June 20, 2011 in Songs of Space and Nuclear War
Tags: , , ,

If this is space partnering, I don’t get it.  While there’s tons of discussion regarding the health of the U.S. space industrial base, our need to compete, and the effects of globalization, the NASA Administrator offers this:

“It is my hope that we’ll be able to have Europeans in the  critical path somewhere in the exploration initiative…”

Thankfully, hope is not a strategy.  The Europeans need to be able to win the work and in that regard, they are much like the U.S.: compete or die.  And given the likely small differences in U.S. and European labor rates, only European subsidies would seem likely to tilt work towards them.  But still…

“If we don’t, then we’re not doing what I said we’re going to do, which is a new way of doing business where we do put people outside NASA in the critical path.”

Getting NASA out of its own way is fine, but the general thought is summarized more clearly here:

As NASA finalizes the design of a new heavy-lift rocket capable of sending humans beyond low Earth orbit…Bolden says he hopes U.S. companies will team with European firms to develop the heavy-lift launcher.

Why Europe (versus anywhere else)?  Also ponder a recent European teaming effort, which worked so well during the ten-year effort to buy a new USAF tanker.

Old space is already unhappy with new space upstarts like U.S.-based SpaceX.  While it might not matter much to old space if the work is lost and then goes overseas, it does matter to the U.S. industrial base, so Bolden’s thought is likely to play poorly with new space as well.  SpaceX, for example, has been competitive enough to win space launch work away from the Indians and Chinese.

There’s one reason to partner, and that’s to derive benefit.

Unfortunately, partnering for the sake of partnering is the traditional model and benefit, if it exists at all, is defined in terms of partnerships, improved relations, beneficial entanglement, and the likes.  Seldom is benefit defined in terms of performance and schedule, industrial base, or dollars and cents.

So will Europe offer enough advantage in cost, performance, and schedule to move the NASA work there?  Maybe if they sub it to the Indians, the Chinese, or to new space.

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  2. Chris says:

    The argument in this article, that having Europeans cooperate in space exploration “in the critical path” means NASA sending funds abroad to procure European products, is nonsense.
    What Administrator Bolden was referring to was the desirability of having Europeans (and Japanese, and other interested partners) agree to cooperate by developing and providing space exploration elements without which NASA could not alone pursue exploration missions. Such elements are on the critical path, because without them, the missions they contribute to are not possible. Thus, NASA gets to return to the moon, for example, because international partners contribute, say, the lunar lander. NASA saves money, international partners get astronauts on the moon.
    There is no question of NASA buying the lunar lander in this scenario. If NASA had to pay for it, then of course they would be better off buying American – and they would be legally obliged to, anyway.
    When will Americans accept even they cannot afford to do everything themselves? The Augustine Committee spelled it out, but some people just don’t want to believe it. Or would Space Farmer prefer to stay at home rather than go to the moon with a bunch of foreigners?

    • Space Farmer says:

      Stay at home vs. making “investment” to go to moon?

      Stay at home and spend my money on unmanned space. The radiation is bad for my complexion.

      Like the trend in warfare, space is all about robotics. Why does China or anyone else care about manned space? Prestige.

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