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posted by Fnord666 on Sunday April 30 2017, @11:39PM   Printer-friendly

The first launch of the SLS has slipped again:

NASA has decided it must delay the maiden flight of its Space Launch System rocket, presently scheduled for November 2018, until at least early 2019. This decision was widely expected due to several problems with the rocket, Orion spacecraft, and ground launch systems. The delay was confirmed in a letter from a NASA official released Thursday by the US Government Accountability Office.

The Falcon Heavy will be able to deliver payloads that are similar to what SLS Block 1 can carry:

In its maiden flight configuration, named Block 1, the heavy-lifter will be able to haul up to 77 tons (70 metric tons) of cargo to low Earth orbit, more than double the capacity of the most powerful launcher flying today — United Launch Alliance's Delta 4-Heavy. The Block 1 version of SLS will fly with an upper stage propelled by an Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10 engine, based on the Delta 4's second stage.

SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket, scheduled to make its first flight later this year, will come in just shy of the SLS Block 1's capacity if the commercial space company gave up recovering its booster stages.

NASA plans to introduce a bigger four-engine second stage on the EM-2 launch, a configuration of the SLS named Block 1B.

GAO report.

Original Submission

Related Stories

Trump Space Adviser: Mars "Too Ambitious" and SLS is a Strategic National Asset 52 comments

Trump space adviser: Blue Origin and SpaceX rockets aren't really commercial: Scott Pace likens heavy-lift rockets to aircraft carriers.

In recent months, the executive secretary of the National Space Council, Scott Pace, has worked assiduously behind the scenes to develop a formal space policy for the Trump administration. In a rare interview, published Monday in Scientific American, Pace elaborated on some of the policy decisions he has been helping to make.

In the interview, Pace explained why the Trump administration has chosen to focus on the Moon first for human exploration while relegating Mars to becoming a "horizon goal," effectively putting human missions to the Red Planet decades into the future. Mars was too ambitious, Pace said, and such a goal would have precluded meaningful involvement from the burgeoning US commercial sector as well as international partners. Specific plans for how NASA will return to the Moon should become more concrete within the next year, he added.

In response to a question about privately developed, heavy-lift boosters, the executive secretary also reiterated his skepticism that such "commercial" rockets developed by Blue Origin and SpaceX could compete with the government's Space Launch System rocket, which is likely to make its maiden flight in 2020. "Heavy-lift rockets are strategic national assets, like aircraft carriers," Pace said. "There are some people who have talked about buying heavy-lift as a service as opposed to owning and operating, in which case the government would, of course, have to continue to own the intellectual properties so it wasn't hostage to any one contractor. One could imagine this but, in general, building a heavy-lift rocket is no more 'commercial' than building an aircraft carrier with private contractors would be."

I thought flying non-reusable pork rockets was about the money, not strategy. SpaceX is set to launch Falcon Heavy for the first time no earlier than December 29. It will have over 90% of the low Earth orbit capacity as the initial version of the SLS (63.8 metric tons vs. 70).

Previously: Maiden Flight of the Space Launch System Delayed to 2019
First SLS Mission Will be Unmanned
Commercial Space Companies Want More Money From NASA
U.S. Air Force Will Eventually Launch Using SpaceX's Reused Rockets

Original Submission

Launch of James Webb Space Telescope Could be Further Delayed 33 comments

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is warning of possible further delays to the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST):

A government watchdog is warning that the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the long-awaited successor to the Hubble that's been beset by schedule snafus and cost overruns, might face further delays. NASA announced in September it had pushed back the launch date of the JWST from late 2018 to some time in the spring of 2019 due to testing delays partly blamed on Hurricane Harvey's impact on Texas' Gulf Coast in August.

On Wednesday, lawmakers on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee were told it could take even longer to launch the world's most powerful telescope. "More delays are possible given the risks associated with the work ahead and the level of schedule reserves that are now (below) what's recommended," said Cristina Chaplain, director of Acquisition and Sourcing Management for the Government Accountability Office.

[...] Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's associate administrator for science missions, told lawmakers he expects the space agency will be able to meet the spring 2019 schedule. "I believe it's achievable," he said.

Previously: James Webb Space Telescope Vibration Testing Completed
Launch of James Webb Space Telescope Delayed to Spring 2019

Related: Maiden Flight of the Space Launch System Delayed to 2019
NASA Unlikely to Have Enough Plutonium-238 for Missions by the Mid-2020s
WFIRST Space Observatory Could be Scaled Back Due to Costs

Original Submission

First SLS Mission Will be Unmanned 9 comments

The first SLS flight, around the moon, will not include a crew.

The first flight of NASA's next-generation heavy-lift rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), is now scheduled for 2019 and will not include a human crew, agency officials said today (May 12).

As of 2016, NASA had planned for the SLS' first flight to take place in 2018, without a crew on board. But the transition team that the Trump administration sent to the agency earlier this year asked for an internal evaluation of the possibility of launching a crew atop the SLS inside the agency's Orion space capsule.

Robert Lightfoot, NASA's acting administrator, said during a news conference today that, based on the results of this internal evaluation, a crewed flight would be "technically feasible," but the agency will proceed with its initial plan to make the rocket's first flight uncrewed.

[...] SLS' first flight will be called Exploration Mission 1, or EM-1, and will send an uncrewed Orion capsule (which has already made one uncrewed test flight, aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket) on a roughly three-week trip around the moon. The first crewed flight, EM-2, was originally scheduled to follow in 2021.

Source:NASA Won't Fly Astronauts On 1st Orion-SLS Test Flight Around the Moon
Also at:
NASA Study Warns Against Putting Crew On Huge Rocket's First Flight
NASA Denies Trump's Request to Send Astronauts Past the Moon on New Rocket

Previously: SpaceX to Fly Two Tourists Around the Moon in 2018
Maiden Flight of the Space Launch System Delayed to 2019

SpaceX might beat SLS to the moon with humans.

Original Submission

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  • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Monday May 01 2017, @12:05AM (2 children)

    by kaszz (4211) on Monday May 01 2017, @12:05AM (#502059) Journal

    Let's see..

    Saturn 5 by NASA
    Mass into LEO: 140 ton
    Cost per launch: 1160 million US$ in 2016 value of which $110 million was for vehicle
    Ready: 1967 - 1973

    Space Launch System by NASA
    Mass into LEO: 70 - 130 ton
    Cost per launch: 500 million US$ (2012 projection)
    Ready: 2019 Q1

    Falcon Heavy by SpaceX
    Mass into LEO: 63.8 ton
    Cost per launch: 90 million US$ for up to 8 000 kg to GTO
    Ready: 2017 Q3

    (1 ton = 1000 metric kg)

    Seems like SpaceX will beat NASA in their own game. And SLS really is a Senate Lunch System with elaborate powerpoints but not so much getting done. Elon Musk astronauts on Mars by 2021 after all?

  • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 01 2017, @07:11AM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 01 2017, @07:11AM (#502163)

    The SLS is more of a giant pork barrel project than a meaningful system. As always, I think we need to give timelines to put things into context. The SLS system came to life around 2010. To date it has still not had a single launch and it won't have a single launch for at least a total of 9 years. This first flight, that is now being delayed, is supposed to be an unmanned lunar flyby. Now let's go back in time. JFK made his famous space speech in 1962. At the time we had only barely put a man into orbit around our planet. We were starting from near ground zero in terms of space technology. 6 years later in 1968 we had our first manned lunar flyby. A year later in 1969, a total of 7 years after that speech, we landed a man on the moon.

    Zero tech to man on the moon = 7 years in 1962. Complete tech to lunar flyby = 9+? years in 2017.

    I think the big problem is motivations. The company behind the SLS is ULA. ULA (united launch alliance) is an anticompetitive merger of Boeing and Lockheed. Congress doesn't care about space. They just want the SLS to bring lots of jobs and money to their various districts so they can get reelected. ULA doesn't care about space. Their goal is nothing but profit. Congress and ULA want the same thing - lots of really big high dollar contracts. Whether these ever lead to anything is of secondary concern. This is not NASA's SLS. They're being dragged along here. They don't get to decide where their funding goes. Congress does. And since congress wants the ULA, that means NASA works as a cheerleader for it or congress can slice and dice the budget of their projects that actually are doing things.

    On top of all of this, SpaceX has announced they will be carrying out a manned lunar flyby next year. It's hard to say when they started since they never had any open dedicated project for this and have received exactly $0 in public funding specifically for this purpose. And that's really the difference. Their motivation is not money but colonizing Mars, and lo and behold suddenly things start happening not only much faster but on extremely low budgets. Oh, I failed to mention. The SLS has already hoovered up about $10 billion in funding - expected to go well over $20 billion before completion, and it's still well over budget nonetheless. Each SLS launch is also 'targeting' a cost of about half a billion dollars. A SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch will cost $90 million and is expected to decrease sharply in the coming years thanks to their successful efforts at creating true reusability.

    Hopefully this is something Trump could deliver on. Cut the SLS and redirect that funding to commercial space.

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Monday May 01 2017, @12:47PM

      by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {}> on Monday May 01 2017, @12:47PM (#502242) Journal

      A SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch will cost $90 million and is expected to decrease sharply in the coming years thanks to their successful efforts at creating true reusability.

      New Horizons had a mass of 478 kg [] when it launched, 77 kg of which was hydrazine propellant, 30 kg of scientific payload. It launched on an Atlas V-551, which costs about $100 million [], maybe more. Falcon Heavy can apparently get a 3,500 kg payload [] to Pluto.

      Falcon Heavy will be able to deliver 3-4 times as much payload [] as Falcon 9 []. Atlas V has similar capabilities to Falcon 9 and a similar cost to Falcon Heavy.

      One thing to note: the top estimates for payload are based on the system being fully expendable [].

      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 []