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NASA Space Launch System (SLS)

fredymac

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For any interested in DARPA management and budget, this is the $3.5 Billion 2020 budget report from the Congressional Research Service. An excerpt regarding DARPA structure:

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The “DARPA model” is characterized by a flat organization that empowers its tenure-limited program managers with trust, autonomy, and the ability to take risks on innovative ideas. Congress has aided DARPA’s efforts by granting the agency certain flexible acquisition and personnel hiring authorities, which have allowed DARPA to engage with people and entities that may have otherwise been reluctant to interact and do business with DOD.
------------------------------------

The use of short term directors recruited from outsiders is why DARPA is willing to pursue efforts that failed on previous attempts. Institutionally, DARPA sticks to the goal of pursuing any high risk technology which would confer significant advantage to the US and which is not being supported by the major services. Failures go with the directors and new directors are free to make fresh attempts.

If I were to change anything, it would be in the selection process for awarding contracts. I would include a penalty assessment for any prior contract where a company demonstrated low internal commitment (self funding) and no intent to leverage results into a product or service to create or disrupt markets. The Boeing XS-1 would be a good example.

Hopefully, when DARPA tries again, Spacex might put in a bid.
 

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RanulfC

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.........

We have a choice. The status quo as reflected by SLS ...

"We" as a commercial service consumer have several choices, one of which is SpaceX, one of which is NOT SLS. NASA and the government (NASA and DoD specifically) also have several choices one of which is SpaceX, one of whIch IS SLS. The current "status quo" reflects several different and varied commercial launch vehicles that are available and have been modified to meet the requirements of NASA and the DoD payloads. NASA however is still mandated BY LAW, (Congress) to use the SLS "where possible" and "when available" and are charged with keeping the program going. (Again, by Congress) They are however allowed to seek and utilize cheaper and less capable, (or more capable is those existed) commercial launch vehicles that meet their criteria or can be modified to do so.

Hence you may have noted the Artemis lander entry that still specified and baslined an SLS for its launch vehicle was in fact not the design chosen by NASA? You know the folks you keep accusing to pushing the SLS over anything else? This is a loophole driven decision that is allowed under NASA procurement guidelines allowing NASA to set-aside the SLS for time-critical reasons which is what is being used. However those landers will be designed to include NASA requirements as a primary goal since NASA is paying to have them designed and built. Even SpaceX is proposing a dedicated Starship lander design to meet the NASA requirements.

SLS was never given a requirement to 'save money' nor was it ever required to lower cost to orbit. It was mandated by Congress, who in fact are directly in charge of NASA through their budget and annual authorization requirement. NASA was told to build and use it, period. Now as part of that Congressional authorization there is a subset that allows NASA to use Commercial launch services as long as they meet NASA requirements, (or will build something that will meet those requirements) for both payloads and crew. Some payloads which are more or less SLS specific will indeed fly on that launcher, likely sometime in the future but current interpretation and usage of the authorization allows a possible use of future commercial capability to fly these payloads. That of course depends greatly on how far Congress is willing to allow NASA to go.

...or the opportunity to realize a 100 fold cost reduction in launch costs.
To some, that opportunity is worth incentivizing and reward if accomplished. And to others it provokes ridicule.

What's odd is there is no one actually arguing the argument YOU are making, and just so you know that's called a "strawman" argument with no substance or ability to stand on it's own outside your own 'justification' in the framing argument.

It also has nothing to do with SLS since that is something NASA has to do BY LAW which you don't seem to want to understand. You then miss the rather obvious and probably more salient fact that NASA is in fact incentivising and rewarding your stated 'opportunity' as much as they legally can both indirectly and directly yet you are the one who heaps ridicule upon them for not tossing out their legally mandated (by Congress once again in case you missed that part) program to fully pursue what you see as the 'better' option.

That's not how it works and if you would like to have it work differently then it is Congress you need to address not blaming NASA on some internet forums.

I see a profound "we know better" attitude not reflected by actual fact or demonstrated by argument. Instead it is the usual shut up and obey attitude typical of bureaucrats (regardless of whether you are or not).

Except we HAVE demonstrated both by fact and argument that we appear to actually "know better" than you why your arguments are sperious and invalid in the forum in which you've presented them. Your ridicule of NASA for something that is not under their control, continued misunderstanding and refusal to learn about how such things actually work has annoyed some here to feel less and less civil about your stubborn attitude of "I know better" which has as you've noted failed in both fact and argument and your calls for others to essentially "shut up and obey" has not helped calm tempers. I don't think there are any bureaucrats per-se on here and I doubt they'd take the time to try and educate you or enlighten you on how the Federal government works or how Federal agency is limited and restricted by the people who provide their direction and budget. (That's Congress once again, not you) Some of us have actually taken that time and effort but it would appear you are going to simply refuse to understand any of it.

In the end, I will bet that a successful flight of Starship will outweigh the strenuous objections posted by those with strange hostility to inspiring efforts. I will also bet that individuals risking their own money and personal reputations have a far better chance where NASA and bureaucracy have failed.

Please feel free to give us some exact requirements and specifications for a 'successful flight of a Starship'. How many failures are allowed along the way? How many chances do they get if they don't fly successfully the first time? What percentage of the "full capability" will be accepted as a 'successful' flight? How many successful flights in a row will be enough to 'prove' the Starship and how soon after that must the demanded price point be achieved? And what if it isn't for any reason? Is Starship then an obvious failure? Does that mean that despite everything that SpaceX and Elon Musk will then be failures? I could go on.

You assume a hostility towards Starship and SpaceX that isn't actually there, nor is there a hostility towards 'inspiring efforts' pretty much exactly the opposite as a general rule. You also assume a knowledge and understanding of how the government works and how agencies within that government work and are required to do what they are told by those in charge of them. You assume a hostility and malevolence where there is has been actual financial and physical support of you favored commercial enterprise, but because that government agency has not thrown its full support behind your favorite idea you ridicule and belittle its efforts both past and present for some perceived but un-shown slight. Yet ignore that those individuals who risk their 'own money and personal reputations' have in fact been given public money and support for the majority of their effort to state they have a "better chance" on their own than with such public money and support. And yet those who meet your criteria in fact SEEK public money and support to further their goals and what you are REALLY complaining about is "someone" is not allowing ALL the available public money and support to flow to those you think would spend it better than those who are in fact actually tasked with raising, allocating and in fact spending those funds. (Hint: It's NOT NASA btw)

You are in fact complaining about the wrong people, in the wrong forum and on the wrong subject. But those of us that point this out are obviously only some poor 'bureaucrats' who fear our 'control' over public money will somehow be eroded by random comments on an internet forum and so come here to harass and defame you before you expose the truth to the masses. Not at all what's happening nor do things work the way you think they do but what every you need to believe I guess.

Randy
 

fredymac

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.........

Randy


If I actually included your response rather than ".......", nobody would see it.

I read through it to make sure I didn't miss anything. And there was nothing there. Not so much as a point. When you have something to say, you will find it can be expressed with brevity.
 

Byeman

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For any interested in DARPA management and budget, this is the $3.5 Billion 2020 budget report from the Congressional Research Service. An excerpt regarding DARPA structure:

------------------------------------
The “DARPA model” is characterized by a flat organization that empowers its tenure-limited program managers with trust, autonomy, and the ability to take risks on innovative ideas. Congress has aided DARPA’s efforts by granting the agency certain flexible acquisition and personnel hiring authorities, which have allowed DARPA to engage with people and entities that may have otherwise been reluctant to interact and do business with DOD.
------------------------------------

The use of short term directors recruited from outsiders is why DARPA is willing to pursue efforts that failed on previous attempts. Institutionally, DARPA sticks to the goal of pursuing any high risk technology which would confer significant advantage to the US and which is not being supported by the major services. Failures go with the directors and new directors are free to make fresh attempts.

Not a good model for space missions, which often last a decade from concept to ops
 
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fredymac

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Not a good model for space missions, which often last a decade from concept to ops

Irrelevant. DARPA only needs to establish the existence of a technological capability. Once shown, it can't be unshown and enters into the decision making process of whether to use it. It is to the operational commands to step up and make use of the technology.
 

Byeman

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Irrelevant. DARPA only needs to establish the existence of a technological capability. Once shown, it can't be unshown and enters into the decision making process of whether to use it. It is to the operational commands to step up and make use of the technology.


Huh? It is relevant and you don't get to make the call. Especially when you talk out of both sides of your mouth.
Again, the DARPA model doesn't work for space missions, which you advocated for NASA in this idiotic statement " I would abolish NASA outright specifically to RIF as much of the culture as possible before taking the individual parts and assigning them to either DOD or to a dedicated DARPA like organizational structure"

Perfect example of the major problem of the internet, it gives a voice to clueless. Before, they would only be in parks yelling at trees or on street corners screaming their nonsense at no one in particular. Now we have to deal with them infiltrating good website lowering the signal to noise ratio.
 

fredymac

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Irrelevant. DARPA only needs to establish the existence of a technological capability. Once shown, it can't be unshown and enters into the decision making process of whether to use it. It is to the operational commands to step up and make use of the technology.


Huh? It is relevant and you don't get to make the call. Especially when you talk out of both sides of your mouth.
Again, the DARPA model doesn't work for space missions, which you advocated for NASA in this idiotic statement " I would abolish NASA outright specifically to RIF as much of the culture as possible before taking the individual parts and assigning them to either DOD or to a dedicated DARPA like organizational structure"

Perfect example of the major problem of the internet, it gives a voice to clueless. Before, they would only be in parks yelling at trees or on street corners screaming their nonsense at no one in particular. Now we have to deal with them infiltrating good website lowering the signal to noise ratio.


You have wasted so much time attacking DARPA the agency that DARPA the model was no longer in discussion.

It takes you days to work up the required mentality to come up some new inane edict on how things must be done along with a 2:1 ad hominen ratio of verbage. Seems I am hearing a recurring theme on how nice things would be if only certain people were banned.
 

fredymac

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Rightly justified since their record on space projects is horrible


Apparent to one and all. Or maybe just some. Even the usually anti military crowd doesn't seem too invested in this view. I'll have to see if Netflix does a DARPA Farce series in the future.
 

RanulfC

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Rightly justified since their record on space projects is horrible

Apparent to one and all.

Why yes, which is why DARPA itself even brings it up at their own conferences:

They DO have 'success' on occasion but most of those are more in the support rather than the either directly or as an "organizer" as Gwynne Shotwell, said:
“DARPA was enormously helpful to SpaceX,” she said. That success can balance out a lot of other failures."

DARPA has been trying to 'reduce' the cost of getting to space in a serious effort for about 20 years now and keep "not succeeding" to say the least. Meanwhile NASA has managed to facilitate vastly more work by SpaceX towards that goal.

Your complaint was that NASA is wasting time and money on SLS but you ignore that they,as a Federal Agency, were mandated BY LAW, (literally as Congress wrote a law that specifically told NASA how they would design the SLS and what it would do with no regard to cost or mission) to build the SLS and the Orion spacecraft as they have been designed and built.

Randy
 

fredymac

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Why yes, which is why DARPA itself even brings it up at their own conferences:

They DO have 'success' on occasion but most of those are more in the support rather than the either directly or as an "organizer" as Gwynne Shotwell, said:
“DARPA was enormously helpful to SpaceX,” she said. That success can balance out a lot of other failures."

DARPA has been trying to 'reduce' the cost of getting to space in a serious effort for about 20 years now and keep "not succeeding" to say the least. Meanwhile NASA has managed to facilitate vastly more work by SpaceX towards that goal.

Your complaint was that NASA is wasting time and money on SLS but you ignore that they,as a Federal Agency, were mandated BY LAW, (literally as Congress wrote a law that specifically told NASA how they would design the SLS and what it would do with no regard to cost or mission) to build the SLS and the Orion spacecraft as they have been designed and built.

Randy


My complaint extends far beyond SLS. Anything NASA does winds up costing too much and taking too long. I've recited a list of programs enough times that by now it is impossible for you to be fixated on SLS alone as an honest criticism. How does SLS cost make it any different from ISS cost or JWST cost etc etc.

DARPA failure rests on a context of a relatively small budget where a "big" effort may be funded at double digit $Millions per year. Small change vs the double (or triple for ISS) digit $Billions for NASA.
 

Byeman

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They DO have 'success' on occasion but most of those are more in the support rather than the either directly or as an "organizer" as Gwynne Shotwell, said:
“DARPA was enormously helpful to SpaceX,” she said. That success can balance out a lot of other failures."

NASA had more to do with it than DARPA.
 

RanulfC

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They DO have 'success' on occasion but most of those are more in the support rather than the either directly or as an "organizer" as Gwynne Shotwell, said:
“DARPA was enormously helpful to SpaceX,” she said. That success can balance out a lot of other failures."

NASA had more to do with it than DARPA.

Actually no because she's talking the work on the Falcon 1 which DARPA essentially paid for and got SpaceX the experience they needed. She's playing to her audience of course but really DARPA was shotgunning money to various companies under the program, the majority of which went no where or outright failed but SpaceX they can point to as a success even though the Falcon 1 was not.

Randy
 

Byeman

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They DO have 'success' on occasion but most of those are more in the support rather than the either directly or as an "organizer" as Gwynne Shotwell, said:
“DARPA was enormously helpful to SpaceX,” she said. That success can balance out a lot of other failures."

NASA had more to do with it than DARPA.

Actually no because she's talking the work on the Falcon 1 which DARPA essentially paid for and got SpaceX the experience they needed. She's playing to her audience of course but really DARPA was shotgunning money to various companies under the program, the majority of which went no where or outright failed but SpaceX they can point to as a success even though the Falcon 1 was not.

Randy

Actually, yes. Not money but advice and consulting.
 

RanulfC

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They DO have 'success' on occasion but most of those are more in the support rather than the either directly or as an "organizer" as Gwynne Shotwell, said:
“DARPA was enormously helpful to SpaceX,” she said. That success can balance out a lot of other failures."

NASA had more to do with it than DARPA.

Actually no because she's talking the work on the Falcon 1 which DARPA essentially paid for and got SpaceX the experience they needed. She's playing to her audience of course but really DARPA was shotgunning money to various companies under the program, the majority of which went no where or outright failed but SpaceX they can point to as a success even though the Falcon 1 was not.

Randy

Actually, yes. Not money but advice and consulting.

DARPA bought the first two flights before SpaceX actually tested the design fully which gave SpaceX a 'leg-up' both with publicity and money that was needed to continue development. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falcon_1) I was mis-remembering if they were involved with the DARPA FALCON program. Neither NASA nor DARPA helped out much there it seems.

Randy
 

fredymac

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Inspector General report on Orion capsule. Pretty much what you would expect.

According to our estimates, by the time Artemis II launches the Agency will have spent $19 billion in development costs on Orion ($6.3 billion of which was spent on development of the crew vehicle under the predecessor Constellation Program). NASA plans to spend an additional $3 billion in production costs on the Orion Program by the time Artemis II launches, $2.2 billion of which will fall under a new contract with Lockheed for future Artemis missions signed in September 2019. Artemis III, which is included in this new production contract, will support the return of humans to the Moon in 2024. The total projected Life Cycle Cost for the Orion spacecraft through FY 2030 is $29.5 billion.

Since the cost and schedule baseline was set in 2015, the program has experienced over $900 million in cost growth through 2019, a figure expected WHY WE PERFORMED THIS AUDIT WHAT WE FOUND to rise to at least $1.4 billion through 2023. At the same time, the program’s schedule for Artemis I has slipped more than 3 years, while the schedule for Artemis II has slipped 2 years. Additional delays are likely as both Orion and SLS complete development efforts for Artemis I in the next 16 months and prepare for Artemis II.

Given the Orion Program’s significant cost increases and schedule delays, we found that NASA has been overly generous with award fees provided to Lockheed. From contract inception in 2006 through January 2020, Lockheed received $740.9 million in award fees. We attribute these overly generous award fees to the subjective nature of award fee evaluations coupled with nebulous and dated criteria used by the program.
 

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TomcatViP

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Well... Nebulous is a good start for an Orion program

 

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The paradigm shift is underway as we transition from government pork-barrel to market place. If it won't make a buck it won't get built. I like that! Thank God for Capitalists like Branson, Bezos, and Musk.

Get NASA and the vote-grubbing, un term-limited politicians and entrenched bureaucracy out of the rocket-ship building game.

Shakespeare was right!
 

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What I find almost more amazing, it took less time to go from shooting a monkey into space to landing on the moon than it has taken to build the Orion space capsule. Couple that with the fact the NASA has spent approximately $1.4 billion per year since 2006 to build design and build the capsule and any reasonable person would have to think this is just one big joke ........ this couldn't possible happen in a civilized nation. What is even more comical, the Orion when complete will weigh roughly 22.7 metric tons, which if pure gold, would have a value of approximately $1.4 billion dollars.
 

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Inspector General report on Orion capsule. Pretty much what you would expect.

Arstechnica article on it:
Spending $16.7 billion on the capsule only is nothing short of criminal. Where does it end?
That's government efficiency for you.
Profiteering resulting from oversight having been discarded in favor of political expediency.
 

sferrin

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Inspector General report on Orion capsule. Pretty much what you would expect.

Arstechnica article on it:
Spending $16.7 billion on the capsule only is nothing short of criminal. Where does it end?
That's government efficiency for you.
Profiteering resulting from oversight having been discarded in favor of political expediency.
"Profiteering"? You mean a company making money for providing a service? The horror.
 

fredymac

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Lockheed got their award fees by doing what they were told in the manner directed by the customer and documented via extensive reviews and meetings. Having experienced being a contractor working on/within a government facility, this is the most expensive way possible to do anything. Statement of Work objectives are constantly reviewed and adjusted and all deviations or schedule changes are subjected to official scrutiny. All design changes go through formal review boards in which the customer makes the final decisions. That is how you spend $19 Billion to build a space capsule. Mind you, Lockheed is very happy to work under these conditions.
 

djfawcett

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That makes me feel so much better that they really do know what they are doing ........................................ they're just doing it the wrong way. I will sleep better tonight.
 

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Has anyone already pointed out that Lockheed's "Orion" capsule is after all the capsule that Boeing proposed for the "Orbital Space Plane" program, which Lockheed won with their innovative hypersonic-lifting body design that required parachutes to land because it became unstable at low speed. Which was quite a change from the wing-body design they had pitched to that point but probably for the better since the themselves said in a paper just a few months prior that while it was called the Orbital Space PLANE program, both NASA requirements and needs statement was far more suited to a capsule rather than being forced to stick to a lifting-vehicle that could land on a runway.

Much like earlier when NASA put out the "A" phase Shuttle study contracts and everyone produced Boosters and Orbiters with wings and wheels except for Chrysler, (who fully understood they had no chance of proceeding forward) who presented the VTVL/SSTO Single-stage Earth orbital Reusable Vehicle, which met or exceeded all the NASA goals and needs as listed in the study proposal but failed to meet one requirement assumed in the program but not specifically stipulated by NASA in that it did not land on wheels after "flying" back from space.

While one can argue the idea of SSTO being able to be done with 1970s technology, even "just" used as a fully reusable booster it would have been fantastically effective to build on.

Very often in spite of political, budgetary, and public support issues we find that in fact NASA is often it's own worst enemy :)

Randy
 

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My gut feeling about the "SLS - Orion" insanity is that NASA has long understand, Congress will never allow for cancellation.

Thanks to that coming book by Lori Garver, we have some hindsight about the Constellation > SLS-Orion transition.

Congress more or less blackmailed Garver and Bolden - basically "keep the Shuttle pork barrel alive, SLS & Orion, otherwise, we will start screwing science, aeronautics, satellites - whatever is for grab in your budget."

NASA is proceeding with SLS-Orion, despite cost overruns, Lockheed, lack of funding and other plagues
- because Congress told them to do it in 2010
- because it is presently integrated into Artemis.
But make no mistake... I'm quite sure they secretely want that monstrosity to die. For obvious reasons. And they have a plan for that - to screw Congress.
One astonishing recent development was SpaceX "Moon Starship" being enlisted into Artemis.
To me, there is little doubt that NASA has a hidden agenda over this.

Now that they have SpaceX and Moon Starship onboard the Artemis train, they are patiently waiting for the system to prove itself. Within three or four years it will be done.
Guess what will happen then ?
NASA will quietly make a cost/efficiency study - something akin to "SLS-Orion vs Moon Starship for crew transfer to Artemis lunar base".
I think we already now the result of such study... NASA probably already has some idea about this, too.

To me, they will pass the said study to Congress and hopefully, it will the death blow to SLS-Orion.

I mean, for the exact same mission "let's transfer crews to cislunar space" Moon Starship completely flattens SLS-Orion like a steamroller - 100 times less expensive, and far more than Orion 4 astronauts.

Let's say these two systems, by 2026, are used for the same mission. I really can't see how could NASA justify, even for a split second, SLS-Orion against Moon Starship.

Not only it will cost $2 billion per flight; but NASA has NOT been given these billions, in its budget. Not since freakkin' 1966 !
We all know what is needed for Constellation (or SLS-Orion, same animal, different name) since 2009 - Augustine crunched the numbers quite well.
Basically, NASA will struggle to fly that thing once every two years when Moon Starship will acumulate plenty of flights during the same period - 10 or 100 times less expensive, and from a different pool of money.

Frack, it would be very much Hughes Spruce Goose vs Boeing 747. Same size (give or take) and overall shape but... it stops right there. Particularly for economical passenger transportation across the Atlantic.

Incidentally, the above says how much desperate NASA is to get ride of that last relic of Shuttle / Constellation era with Congress not allowing for it.

Since they can't kill the monster outright, they let it agonize for 15 years (2010 - 2025) - or even 21 years if Constellation is included.

Frack.
 
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Michel Van

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It is plain old cynical realism, baby.

to more cynical
the day first SLS roll out for Launch Pad 39-b
for first system Integration test on pad before maiden launch

SpaceX does regular flights with Starship to LEO, Moon and Mars
With NASA astronauts on backseats...
 

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