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David Southwood Uneasy About Current Esa Plans, Will Solar Orbiter be cancelled?
Guest_BruceMoomaw_*
post Feb 21 2006, 03:22 AM
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http://www.space.com/spacenews/businessmonday_060220.html :

"The decision by Europe’s top space science governing body to spare all currently planned missions and begin work on new ones despite budget constraints is a risky strategy that may be delaying problems, not eliminating them, a senior European Space Agency (ESA) official said.

"I ' told them we are taking a high-risk approach,' ESA Science Director David Southwood said of the Feb. 9 decision by the Science Program Committee (SPC), which sets priorities within ESA’s science budget. "I gave them the government health warning. I also indicated that the alternatives to the high-risk approach are unpalatable. But it was their decision to make. When I say "high risk" I mean it’s like snowboarding — great fun, but with a chance of injury.'

"Following recommendations made by Europe’s Space Science Advisory Committee, the SPC agreed to delay the planned Solar Orbiter mission by two years, to 2015, to avoid making earlier payments. The SPC also agreed not to begin work on the Lisa gravity-wave detector until a technology-validation mission, called Lisa Pathfinder, is launched in 2009. The Lisa work is being conducted with NASA.

"The SPC had been faced with canceling one of ESA’s future science missions in response to unchallenged estimates that its current slate of missions would cost around 400 million euros ($476 million) more than ESA had available in the coming years. Southwood had given the SPC detailed cost-at-completion forecasts for all agency science missions. But he stressed that ESA could not guarantee that events outside its control — delays encountered by individual governments providing payload instruments, or launch-service suppliers, for example — would not sabotage these cost projections.

"Using these cost projections, and making assumptions about other costs including future extensions of successful missions, 'we had found a way to shoe-horn the program into' ESA’s budget, Southwood said Feb. 15. 'But I did warn them that if, in the future, I thought we were taking undue financial risks, I would not issue ITTs' — invitations to tender to industry to build mission components.

"SPC President Genevieve Debouzy said the committee does not believe it has thrown caution to the wind in agreeing to pursue all current programs and to issue calls for proposals this year for two new missions — one before 2020, and one after. 'I don’t think we have set a high-risk strategy,' Debouzy said Feb. 15. 'We looked at the cost estimates provided by ESA and we assumed them to be correct. It is the ESA executive’s job to estimate the cost and then stick to that budget. The SPC has to have confidence in these figures.'

"Debouzy said the SPC nonetheless agreed that it will review the current status of the Solar Orbiter mission, and weigh that mission’s progress against the possible call for two new missions. 'We certainly did not avoid making hard choices,' Debouzy said. 'The Solar Orbiter mission is delayed, and its backers know they are at risk of facing a new round of competition with the new missions in 2008. We want to avoid a collision between Solar Orbiter and the new missions, and that is why we will review the situation in May.'

"Solar Orbiter’s original budget estimate was 195 million euros. More-recent evaluations are that it will cost 410 million euros. ESA’s science budget is about 400 million euros per year and is slated to rise by 2.5 percent annually, or slightly more than the rate of inflation, through 2010."

"Southwood and Debouzy agree that for the current planning to work, there can be no major cost overrun — no repeat of the overruns that have afflicted the Herschel-Planck science satellites, to be launched together in 2007. The science scenario also assumes only a modest extension in the lifetimes of successful science satellites beyond their planned duration.

"With few exceptions, ESA’s science satellites routinely operate beyond their planned service lives — some substantially so. Each year’s extra operations cost money, but up to now the agency has been loath to pull the plug on a satellite that is still gathering data. Debouzy said that in the future, this will have to change. 'No one likes to do it, but we will have to make clear at the outset that, after a certain time, the mission must be ended,' she said.

"Southwood said the first test of credibility for the current plan likely will come this year, when ESA finds out whether the complicated payload instruments on the Herschel and Planck satellites will be delivered on schedule. It is not ESA, but individual ESA nations’ science laboratories that are financing these instruments. 'The SPC decision assumes, among other things, that risks associated with Herschel-Planck are under control,' Southwood said. 'I will know in six to nine months whether that is the case.' "

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Hmmph. Well, I always figured that Solar Orbiter was the mission most vulnerable to cancellation at this point -- and a cost overrun of 110% is not exactly a laughing matter. (It also makes perfect sense to delay their work on LISA indefinitely, given the little fact that NASA has just done so in the FY 2007 budget.)
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PhilHorzempa
post Apr 11 2006, 07:54 PM
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[size=2]


Is there any chance that ESA and the Russians would cooperate on
ESA's Solar Orbiter? By that, I mean, would Russia provide a Proton
launch for the rights to data from the Solar Orbiter?
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GravityWaves
post Apr 12 2006, 07:40 AM
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Although the launch mass is a large one
Russia is most likely to launch the European Sun missions - that's one of the reasons they are pushing ahead with building a Soyuz launch pad in French Guiana
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Guest_BruceMoomaw_*
post Apr 12 2006, 08:29 AM
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Yep -- Solar Orbiter is a near-copy of BepiColombo's main "Planetary Orbiter", and both of them are already set to be launched on Soyuz boosters. If Solar Orbiter is cancelled, it won't be because of any need for a huge booster.
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Marz
post Apr 12 2006, 02:53 PM
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QUOTE (BruceMoomaw @ Feb 20 2006, 10:22 PM) *
"With few exceptions, ESA’s science satellites routinely operate beyond their planned service lives — some substantially so. Each year’s extra operations cost money, but up to now the agency has been loath to pull the plug on a satellite that is still gathering data. Debouzy said that in the future, this will have to change. 'No one likes to do it, but we will have to make clear at the outset that, after a certain time, the mission must be ended,' she said.


This is kinda off-topic, but I was wondering if non-profit space clubs, like the Planetary Society or Astronomical League would be able to "adopt" missions that were about to be cut. I know this isn't realistic for any mission requiring DSN or some other killer antenna, or with missions that require active flight-operations. However, might it be feasable for others? I've seen HAM clubs with experience in tracking and commincating with satellites, dealing with frequency drift, noise, etc... and I've seen local astronomy clubs build some nice radio telescopes too. With a little extra funding from universities or the NSF as kinda a techie "internship" program, it seems like something could be salvaged.
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Bob Shaw
post Apr 12 2006, 04:00 PM
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QUOTE (Marz @ Apr 12 2006, 03:53 PM) *
This is kinda off-topic, but I was wondering if non-profit space clubs, like the Planetary Society or Astronomical League would be able to "adopt" missions that were about to be cut. I know this isn't realistic for any mission requiring DSN or some other killer antenna, or with missions that require active flight-operations. However, might it be feasable for others? I've seen HAM clubs with experience in tracking and commincating with satellites, dealing with frequency drift, noise, etc... and I've seen local astronomy clubs build some nice radio telescopes too. With a little extra funding from universities or the NSF as kinda a techie "internship" program, it seems like something could be salvaged.


It seems perfectly reasonable to me!

Bob Shaw


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Remember: Time Flies like the wind - but Fruit Flies like bananas!
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