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posted by martyb on Sunday July 08 2018, @03:02AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the SLS-plans-are-"up-in-the-air"? dept.

Rocket Report: Japanese rocket blows up, NASA chief ponders purpose of SLS (and other news)

NASA Administrator ponders what to do with the SLS rocket. During a Q&A with Politico, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine was asked about how the space agency views commercial launch vehicles. His response: "As we move forward, we're going to have to maybe rethink... at what point do we start taking advantage of those commercial capabilities to the extent that they drive down cost, give us more capability, and what do we do with SLS?... We're not there yet, but certainly there's a horizon here. Is it 10 years? I don't know what the answer is, but what we can't do in my view is give up our government capability, our national capability, when we don't have an alternative."

Speaking of timelines ... NASA doesn't exactly have the "national capability" of the SLS rocket yet in the heavy-lift class, either. We've heard rumors of a slip to 2021 for the first launch date, in which case Blue Origin's New Glenn has a fighting chance to fly first, as SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket has already done.

Blue Origin targets Moon landing by 2023. Blue Origin's business development director, A.C. Charania, said at a conference that the company's Blue Moon program is "our first step to developing a lunar landing capability for the country, for other customers internationally, to be able to land multi metric tons on the lunar surface." The company has not said what role its large orbital rocket under development, New Glenn, would play in a mission to the Moon.

BFR is a privately funded next-generation reusable launch vehicle and spacecraft system developed by SpaceX. It was announced by Elon Musk in September 2017.[8][9] The overall space vehicle architecture includes both launch vehicles and spacecraft that are intended to completely replace all of SpaceX's existing space hardware by the early 2020s as well as ground infrastructure for rapid launch and relaunch, and zero-gravity propellant transfer technology to be deployed in low Earth orbit (LEO). The large payload to Earth orbit of up to 150,000 kg (330,000 lb) makes BFR a super heavy-lift launch vehicle. Manufacture of the first upper stage/spacecraft prototype began by March 2018, and the ship is projected to begin testing in early 2019.[5]

Related: First SLS Mission Will be Unmanned
After the Falcon Heavy Launch, Time to Defund the Space Launch System?
President Trump Praises Falcon Heavy, Diminishes NASA's SLS Effort
SpaceX BFR vs. ULA Vulcan Showdown in the 2020s
NASA's Chief of Human Spaceflight Rules Out Use of Falcon Heavy for Lunar Station
NASA Could Scale Down First Manned Flight of the SLS
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine Serious About Returning to the Moon
Jeff Bezos Details Moon Settlement Ambitions in Interview
This Week in Space Pessimism: SLS, Mars, and Lunar Gateway


Original Submission

Related Stories

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

After the Falcon Heavy Launch, Time to Defund the Space Launch System? 57 comments

An op-ed written by Lori Garver, a former deputy administrator of NASA, suggests cancelling the Space Launch System in favor of Falcon Heavy and BFR:

SpaceX could save NASA and the future of space exploration

The successful launch of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket is a game-changer that could actually save NASA and the future of space exploration. [...] Unfortunately, the traditionalists at NASA — and their beltway bandit allies — don't share this view and have feared this moment since the day the Falcon Heavy program was announced seven years ago.

The question to be answered in Washington now is why would Congress continue to spend billions of taxpayer dollars a year on a government-made rocket that is unnecessary and obsolete now that the private sector has shown they can do it for a fraction of the cost? [...] Once operational, SLS will cost NASA over $1 billion per launch. The Falcon Heavy, developed at zero cost to the taxpayer, would charge NASA approximately $100M per launch. In other words, NASA could buy 10 Falcon Heavy launches for the coat of one SLS launch — and invest the remainder in truly revolutionary and meaningful missions that advance science and exploration.

While SLS may be a "government-made rocket", the "beltway bandits", also known as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Orbital ATK, and Aerojet Rocketdyne, are heavily involved in its development. The United Launch Alliance (Boeing + Lockheed Martin) have also shown that they can build their own expensive rocket: the Delta IV Heavy, which can carry less than half the payload to LEO of Falcon Heavy while costing over four times as much per launch.

NASA's marketing of how many elephants, locomotives and airplanes could be launched by various versions of SLS is a perfect example of the frivolity of developing, building and operating their own rocket. NASA advertises that it will be able to launch 12.5 elephants to LEO on Block I SLS, or 2.8 more elephants than the Falcon Heavy could launch. But if we are counting elephants — the planned Block II version of SLS could launch 30 elephants, while SpaceX's BFR could launch 34. Talk about significant.

Wait, what? 70 metric tons (SLS Block 1) / 63.8 metric tons (Falcon Heavy) = ~1.09717868339. 1.097 * (12.5 - 2.8) = ~10.6 elephants lifted by SLS Block 1 versus 9.7 for Falcon Heavy.

NASA documents list 12 elephants for SLS Block 1 (70 metric tons), and 22 for SLS Block 2 (130 metric tons). The author might have lifted some numbers from a Business Insider article that (incorrectly) estimates that 12.5 elephants can be lifted by Falcon Heavy, while SLS Block 2 can lift 30 elephants, and 34 for BFR. Perhaps we are dealing with a mix of adult and juvenile elephants?

President Trump Praises Falcon Heavy, Diminishes NASA's SLS Effort 65 comments

Trump on Falcon Heavy: "I'm so used to hearing different numbers with NASA"

During a cabinet meeting on Thursday inside the White House, President Donald Trump called attention to several model rockets on the table before him. They included an Atlas V, a Falcon 9, a Space Launch System, and more. The president seemed enthused to see the launch vehicles. "Before me are some rocket ships," the president said. "You haven't seen that for this country in a long time."

Then, in remarks probably best characterized as spur of the moment, the president proceeded to absolutely demolish the government's own effort to build rockets by noting the recent launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket. He cited the cost as $80 million. (The list price on SpaceX's website is $90 million.)

"I noticed the prices of the last one they say cost $80 million," Trump said. "If the government did it, the same thing would have cost probably 40 or 50 times that amount of money. I mean literally. When I heard $80 million, I'm so used to hearing different numbers with NASA.''

NASA has not, in fact, set a price for flying the SLS rocket. But Ars has previously estimated that, including the billions of dollars in development cost, the per-flight fees for the SLS rocket will probably be close to $3 billion. Indeed, the development costs of SLS and its ground systems between now and its first flight could purchase 86 launches of the privately developed Falcon Heavy rocket. So President Trump's estimate of NASA's costs compared to private industry does not appear to be wildly off the mark.

[*] SLS: Space Launch System

Related: Maiden Flight of the Space Launch System Delayed to 2019
WFIRST Space Observatory Could be Scaled Back Due to Costs
Safety Panel Raises Concerns Over SpaceX and Boeing Commercial Crew Plans
After the Falcon Heavy Launch, Time to Defund the Space Launch System?
Trump Administration Budget Proposal Would Cancel WFIRST
Leaning Tower of NASA
NASA Moving to Scale Back the Space Technology Mission Directorate


Original Submission

SpaceX BFR vs. ULA Vulcan Showdown in the 2020s 16 comments

The United Launch Alliance's CEO Tory Bruno has been making his case for the upcoming Vulcan rocket and Advanced Cryogenic Evolved Stage. The system could compete against SpaceX's Falcon Heavy and BFR in the mid-2020s:

The maiden flight of the Vulcan currently is targeted for the middle of 2020. Two successful commercial launches are required as part of the government certification process, followed by a required upper stage upgrade to improve performance, either moving from two to four Centaur RL10 engines or using a different set of engines altogether. If all goes well, ULA will introduce its new upper stage in 2024, the Advanced Cryogenic Evolved Stage, or ACES, that Bruno says will revolutionize spaceflight. "This is on the scale of inventing the airplane," Bruno told reporters during the media roundtable. "That's how revolutionary this upper stage is. It's 1900, and I'm inventing the airplane. People don't even know what they're going to do with it yet. But I'm confident it's going to create a large economy in space that doesn't exist today. No one is working on anything like this."

The Vulcan will stand 228 feet tall with a first stage powered by two engines provided by either Blue Origin, a company owned by Amazon-founder Jeff Bezos, or Aerojet Rocketdyne. Blue Origin's BE-4 engine burns methane and liquid oxygen while Aerojet Rocketdyne's AR-1 powerplant burns a more traditional mixture of oxygen and highly refined kerosene.

[...] ULA plans to begin engine recovery operations after the Vulcan is routinely flying and after the ACES upper stage is implemented. Bruno said the engines represent two-thirds of the cost of the stage and getting them back every time, with no impact on mission performance, will pay big dividends. SpaceX, in contrast, must use propellant to fly its Falcon 9 stages back to touchdown. Heavy payloads bound for high orbits require most if not all of the rocket's propellant and in those cases, recovery may not be possible. As a result, SpaceX's ability to recover rocket stages depends on its manifest and the orbital demands of those payloads.

"Simplistically, if you recover the old booster propulsively then you can do that part of the time, you get all the value back some of the time," Bruno said. "Or, you can recover just the engine, which is our concept, and then you get only part of the value back, about two thirds ... but you get to do it every single time because there's no performance hit. So it really turns into math."

ULA expects to fly at least 7-8 more Delta IV Heavy rockets between now and the early 2020s, with some Atlas V launches happening concurrently with the beginning of Vulcan launches in the mid-2020s.

The U.S. Air Force has just awarded ULA a $355 million contract to launch two Air Force Space Command spacecraft, and SpaceX a $290 million contract to launch three GPS Block III satellites.

In addition to testing BFR with short hops starting in 2019, SpaceX plans to send BFR into orbit by 2020. The company is leasing land in Los Angeles, reportedly for the construction of BFR rockets.

Related: SpaceX's Reusable Rockets Could End EU's Arianespace, and Other News
Boeing CEO Says His Company Will Carry Humans to Mars Before SpaceX
Zuma Failure Emboldens SpaceX's ULA-Backed Critics; Gets Support from US Air Force [Updated]
SpaceX to Launch Five Times in April, Test BFR by 2019


Original Submission

NASA's Chief of Human Spaceflight Rules Out Use of Falcon Heavy for Lunar Station 43 comments

NASA chief explains why agency won't buy a bunch of Falcon Heavy rockets

Since the launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket in February, NASA has faced some uncomfortable questions about the affordability of its own Space Launch System rocket. By some estimates, NASA could afford 17 to 27 Falcon Heavy launches a year for what it is paying annually to develop the SLS rocket, which won't fly before 2020. Even President Trump has mused about the high costs of NASA's rocket. On Monday, during a committee meeting of NASA's Advisory Council, former Space Shuttle Program Manager Wayne Hale raised this issue. Following a presentation by Bill Gerstenmaier, chief of human spaceflight for NASA, Hale asked whether the space agency wouldn't be better off going with the cheaper commercial rocket.

[...] In response, Gerstenmaier pointed Hale and other members of the advisory committee—composed of external aerospace experts who provide non-binding advice to the space agency—to a chart he had shown earlier in the presentation. This chart showed the payload capacity of the Space Launch System in various configurations in terms of mass sent to the Moon. "It's a lot smaller than any of those," Gerstenmaier said, referring to the Falcon Heavy's payload capacity to TLI, or "trans-lunar injection," which effectively means the amount of mass that can be broken out of low-Earth orbit and sent into a lunar trajectory. In the chart, the SLS Block 1 rocket has a TLI capacity of 26 metric tons. (The chart also contains the more advanced Block 2 version of the SLS, with a capacity of 45 tons. However, this rocket is at least a decade away, and it will require billions of dollars more to design and develop.)

SpaceX's Falcon Heavy TLI capacity is unknown, but estimated to be somewhere between 18 and 22 tons (between the known payloads of 16.8 tons to Mars and 26.7 tons to geostationary orbit).

Does the SLS need to launch more than 18 tons to TLI? No. All of the currently planned components of the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (formerly the Deep Space Gateway) have a mass of 10 tons or less due to flying alongside a crewed Orion capsule rather than by themselves. Only by 2027's Exploration Mission 6 would NASA launch more massive payloads, by which time SpaceX's BFR could take 150 tons to TLI or even Mars when using in-orbit refueling.

Related: NASA Eyeing Mini Space Station in Lunar Orbit as Stepping Stone to Mars
NASA and Roscosmos Sign Joint Statement on the Development of a Lunar Space Station
President Trump Signs Space Policy Directive 1
Russia Assembles Engineering Group for Lunar Activities and the Deep Space Gateway
After the Falcon Heavy Launch, Time to Defund the Space Launch System?
President Trump Praises Falcon Heavy, Diminishes NASA's SLS Effort


Original Submission

NASA Could Scale Down First Manned Flight of the SLS 1 comment

Exploration Mission 2 using the Space Launch System was originally planned to launch using the Block 1B version, which includes the Exploration Upper Stage and can carry 105 metric tons (105,000 kg) to to low-Earth orbit. Now that Congress has given NASA additional money for a second SLS mobile launcher, the agency has the ability to fly astronauts on the smaller Block 1 version of SLS, capable of lifting 70 metric tons to LEO:

The SLS has been in development for the last decade, and when complete, it will be NASA's main rocket for taking astronauts to the Moon and Mars. NASA has long planned to debut the SLS with two crucial test missions. The first flight, called EM-1, will be uncrewed, and it will send the smallest planned version of the rocket on a three-week long trip around the Moon. Three years later, NASA plans to launch a bigger, more powerful version of the rocket around the Moon with a two-person crew — a mission called EM-2.

But now, NASA may delay that rocket upgrade and fly the same small version of the SLS for the crewed flight instead. If that happens, NASA would need to come up with a different type of mission for the crew to do since they won't be riding on the more powerful version of the vehicle. "If EM-2 flies that way, we would have to change the mission profile because we can't do what we could do if we had the [larger SLS]," Robert Lightfoot, NASA's acting administrator, said during a Congressional hearing yesterday [2h15m22s video].

[...] Meanwhile, it's also possible that the second flight of the SLS won't carry crew at all. NASA also needs to launch its upcoming mission to Jupiter's moon Europa pretty soon. Known as Europa Clipper, the mission is mandated by Congress to fly on the SLS by 2022. Lightfoot mentioned that Europa Clipper could come before the first crewed flight of the SLS. It just depends on if the Orion crew capsule, which will carry astronauts on the SLS, is ready before Europa Clipper is ready. If the Europa spacecraft comes first, then it could also fly on the small Block 1 rocket.

The trans-lunar injection (TLI) payload capacity for SLS Block 1B is 39.2 metric tons, enough to carry a ~25.9 ton crewed Orion capsule with an 8-10 ton component of the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (LOP-G), as was the original plan for Exploration Mission 2. Block 1 cannot accomplish these two tasks at the same time. Perhaps they should launch LOP-G using Falcon Heavy instead?


Original Submission

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine Serious About Returning to the Moon 26 comments

NASA chief on Moon return: "This will not be Lucy and the football again"

In 1989, President George H.W. Bush announced the Space Exploration Initiative, a long-range commitment toward the human exploration of deep space, beginning with a return to the Moon. "Major parts of that policy went forward, but establishing permanence on the Moon was abandoned," Bridenstine said Tuesday. Then, in 2004, President George W. Bush announced a bold plan to send humans back to the Moon, where they would learn how to operate in deep space and then go on to Mars. This became the Constellation program. Again, major parts of that policy went forward, Bridenstine said. But NASA abandoned the drive back to the Moon.

Before the US Senate confirmed pilot and former congressman Bridenstine, the Trump administration announced a plan to send humans back to the Moon. "To many, this may sound similar to our previous attempts to get to the Moon," Bridenstine said Tuesday. "However, times have changed. This will not be Lucy and the football again."

How have times changed? During his brief address, Bridenstine listed several technologies that he believes have lowered the cost of a lunar return. These include the miniaturization of electronics that will allow for smaller robotic vehicles, the decreasing costs of launch, private investment in spaceflight, commercial interest in lunar resources, and new ways of government contracting. (Bridenstine did not mention the Space Launch System rocket or the Orion spacecraft).

The speech was only a few minutes long, so I wouldn't read too much into the absence of SLS/Orion. But it's no secret that BFR could deliver 150 metric tons to the Moon or Mars by using in-orbit refueling, vs. a lot less when using the expensive SLS.

Previously:

Related:


Original Submission

Jeff Bezos Details Moon Settlement Ambitions in Interview 49 comments

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin are looking to partner with NASA and ESA to help create settlements on the Moon. However, he implied that he would fund development of such a project himself if governments don't:

Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos says his Blue Origin space venture will work with NASA as well as the European Space Agency to create a settlement on the moon. And even if Blue Origin can't strike public-private partnerships, Bezos will do what needs to be done to make it so, he said here at the International Space Development Conference on Friday night.

[...] To facilitate a return to the moon, Blue Origin has a lunar lander on the drawing boards that's designed to be capable of delivery 5 tons of payload to the lunar surface. That's hefty enough to be used for transporting people — and with enough support, it could start flying by the mid-2020s. Blue Origin has proposed building its Blue Moon lander under the terms of a public-private partnership with NASA. "By the way, we'll do that, even if NASA doesn't do it," Bezos said. "We'll do it eventually. We could do it a lot faster if there were a partnership."

[...] It's important to point out that moon settlement isn't just a NASA thing. Bezos told me he loves the European Space Agency's approach, known as the Moon Village. "The Moon Village concept has a nice property in that everybody basically just says, look, everybody builds their own lunar outpost, but let's do it close to each other. That way, if you need a cup of sugar, you can go over to the European Union lunar outpost and say, 'I got my powdered eggs, what have you got?' ... Obviously I'm being silly with the eggs, but there will be real things, like, 'Do you have some oxygen?' "

This Week in Space Pessimism: SLS, Mars, and Lunar Gateway 25 comments

NASA's Space Launch System: Rocketing Towards Cancellation?

The National Space Society recently held a conference in Los Angeles, and SLS was apparently a hot topic at the gathering. Over the course of four days of mingling with space industry muckety-mucks, Politico Space reports it heard multiple rumblings that bode ill for the Space Launch System money-pot.

For one thing, SLS has been marketed as key to NASA's efforts to eventually put astronauts on Mars. But as Politico reports, attendees at the conference expressed doubts as to "the wisdom or efficacy of a crewed mission to Mars in the next decade." California Republican and House space subcommittee member Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, for one, criticized the technology as too immature to support a manned Mars mission, saying "I think all this talk about going to Mars has been premature," and warning that NASA won't actually be ready to conduct a manned Mars mission before "20 years from now, maybe more."

Astronaut Chris Hadfield says the rockets from NASA, SpaceX, and Blue Origin won't take people to Mars

[Chris] Hadfield, who's now retired, shares his expertise about rockets, spaceships, spacewalking, and Mars exploration in a new web course on the online platform MasterClass. To follow up on those lessons, we asked Hadfield what he thinks about the future rocket ships of three major players in the new space race: NASA's Space Launch System, SpaceX's Big Falcon Rocket, and Blue Origin's New Glenn rocket.

[...] "Personally, I don't think any of those three rockets is taking people to Mars," Hadfield told Business Insider. " I don't think those are a practical way to send people to Mars because they're dangerous and it takes too long."

Response to Hadfield's remarks: SpaceX BFR can be used for massive space development, orbital, lunar and Mars colonization

Damage Control: Boeing-Sponsored Newsletter Praises Space Launch System (SLS), Trashes Saturn V 29 comments

Elon Musk pegs SpaceX BFR program at $5B as NASA's rocket booster nears $5B in cost overruns

[Compared] to Boeing's first serious 2014 contract for the SLS Core Stages – $4.2B to complete Core Stages 1 and 2 and launch EM-1 in Nov. 2017 – the company will ultimately end up 215% over-budget ($4.2B to $8.9B) and ~40 months behind schedule (42 months to 80+ months from contract award to completion). Meanwhile, as OIG notes, NASA has continued to give Boeing impossibly effusive and glowing performance reviews to the tune of $323 million in "award fees", with grades that would – under the contracting book NASA itself wrote – imply that Boeing SLS Core Stage work has been reliably under budget and ahead of schedule (it's not).

[...] Boeing – recently brought to light as the likely source of a spate of egregiously counterfactual op-eds published with the intention of dirtying SpaceX's image – also took it upon itself to sponsor what could be described as responses to NASA OIG's scathing October 10th SLS audit. Hilariously, a Politico newsletter sponsored by Boeing managed to explicitly demean and belittle the Apollo-era Saturn V rocket as a "rickety metal bucket built with 1960s technology", of which Boeing was very tenuously involved thanks to its eventual acquisition of companies that actually built Saturn and sent humans to the Moon.

At the same time, that newsletter described SLS as a rocket that will be "light years ahead of thespacecraft [sic] that NASA astronauts used to get to the moon 50 years ago." At present, the only clear way SLS is or will be "light years" ahead – as much a measure of time as it is of distance – of Saturn V is by continuing the rocket's trend of endless delays. Perhaps NASA astronomers will soon be able to judge exactly how many "light years ahead" SLS is by measuring the program's redshift or blueshift with one of several ground- and space-based telescopes.

Here's a typical Boeing shill response (archive) to the NASA Inspector General report.

See also: Will the US waste $100+ billion on SLS, Orion and LOP-G by 2030?

Previously: Maiden Flight of the Space Launch System Delayed to 2019 (now delayed to June 2020, likely 2021)
First SLS Mission Will be Unmanned
After the Falcon Heavy Launch, Time to Defund the Space Launch System?
NASA's Chief of Human Spaceflight Rules Out Use of Falcon Heavy for Lunar Station
House Spending Bill Offers NASA More Money Than the Agency or Administration Wanted
NASA Administrator Ponders the Fate of SLS in Interview
There's a New Report on SLS Rocket Management, and It's Pretty Brutal


Original Submission

White House Budget Request Would Move Launches from SLS to Commercial Providers 49 comments

NASA budget proposal targets SLS (Space Launch System)

The White House's fiscal year 2020 budget request for NASA proposes to delay work on an upgraded version of the Space Launch System and would transfer some of that vehicle's payloads to other rockets.

The proposal, released by the Office of Management and Budget March 11, offers a total of $21 billion for the space agency, a decrease of $500 million over what Congress appropriated in the final fiscal year 2019 spending bill signed into law Feb. 15.

A major element of the proposal is to defer work on the Block 1B version of the SLS, which would increase the rocket's performance by replacing its existing Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage with the more powerful Exploration Upper Stage. The budget "instead focuses the program on the completion of the initial version of the SLS and supporting a reliable SLS and Orion annual flight cadence," the OMB budget stated. The first SLS/Orion mission, without a crew, is now planned for the "early 2020s," according to the budget, an apparent slip from the planned 2020 launch of Exploration Mission 1.

NASA had previously planned to use the Block 1B version of SLS to launch elements of its lunar Gateway, using a "co-manifesting" capability enabled by the rocket's greater performance. Instead, according to the budget document, those components will be launched on "competitively procured vehicles, complementing crew transport flights on the SLS and Orion."

[...] The budget proposal would also remove one non-exploration payload from the SLS manifest. The proposal offers $600 million for the Europa Clipper mission, enabling a launch in 2023. However, NASA would instead seek to launch the mission on a commercial launch vehicle rather than SLS, a move it claims "would save over $700 million, allowing multiple new activities to be funded across the Agency." The fiscal year 2019 budget request also proposed a commercial launch of Europa Clipper, but Congress placed into law in the final funding bill the requirement to use SLS for that mission.

Are we nearing a good timeline?

Related: After the Falcon Heavy Launch, Time to Defund the Space Launch System?
House Spending Bill Offers NASA More Money Than the Agency or Administration Wanted
NASA Administrator Ponders the Fate of SLS in Interview
SpaceX's Falcon Heavy Could Launch Japanese and European Payloads to Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway
Northrop Grumman Exec Warns of Coming "Affordability" in the Space Launch System's Future
Impact of the Midterm Elections May be Felt at NASA
When Space Science Becomes a Political Liability


Original Submission

Head of Russian Space Agency Roscosmos Wavers on Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway 33 comments

Russia throws doubt on joint lunar space station with U.S.: RIA

Moscow may abandon a project to build a space station in lunar orbit in partnership with U.S. space agency NASA because it does not want a "second fiddle role," a Russian official said on Saturday.

[...] [The] head of Russian space agency Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, said Russia might exit the joint program and instead propose its own lunar orbit space station project.

[...] A spokesman for Roscosmos said later that Russia had no immediate plans to leave the project. "Russia has not refused to take part in the project of the lunar orbit station with the USA," Vladimir Ustimenko was quoted as saying by the TASS news agency.

FLOP-G?

Also at ABC (Associated Press).

Previously:

Related:


Original Submission

NASA Administrator Bridenstine Says It Won't Cost Much to Get Back to the Moon 29 comments

Going Back to the Moon Won't Break the Bank, NASA Chief Says

Sending humans back to the moon won't require a big Apollo-style budget boost, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said. During the height of the Apollo program in the mid-1960s, NASA gobbled up about 4.5 percent of the federal budget. This massive influx of resources helped the space agency make good on President John F. Kennedy's famous 1961 promise to get astronauts to the moon, and safely home to Earth again, before the end of the decade. NASA's budget share now hovers around just 0.5 percent. But something in that range should be enough to mount crewed lunar missions in the next 10 years or so, as President Donald Trump has instructed NASA to do with his Space Policy Directive 1, Bridenstine told reporters yesterday (Aug. 30) here at NASA's Ames Research Center.

The key lies in not going it alone and continuing to get relatively modest but important financial bumps, he added. (Congress allocated over $20.7 billion to NASA in the 2018 omnibus spending bill — about $1.1 billion more than the agency got in the previous year's omnibus bill.)

"We now have more space agencies on the surface of the planet than we've ever had before. And even countries that don't have a space agency — they have space activities, and they want to partner with us on our return to the moon," Bridenstine said in response to a question from Space.com. "And, at the same time, we have a robust commercial marketplace of people that can provide us access that historically didn't exist," the NASA chief added. "So, between our international and commercial partners and our increased budget, I think we're going to be in good shape to accomplish the objectives of Space Policy Directive 1."

We're talking about the surface of the Moon, right? Not the mini-ISS in lunar orbit that would give the Space Launch System somewhere to go?

Previously: President Trump Signs Space Policy Directive 1
2020s to Become the Decade of Lunar Re-Exploration
NASA Cancels Lunar Rover
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine Serious About Returning to the Moon

Related: Should We Skip Mars for Now and Go to the Moon Again?
How to Get Back to the Moon in 4 Years, Permanently
NASA Administrator Ponders the Fate of SLS in Interview


Original Submission

Northrop Grumman Exec Warns of Coming "Affordability" in the Space Launch System's Future 8 comments

SLS contractor gets real, says program needs to focus on "affordability"

For the most part, the presentations [at the American Astronautical Society's Wernher von Braun Memorial Symposium] went as usual for these kinds of events—corporate vice presidents talking about the progress they were making on this or that component of the rocket and spacecraft. Although the Space Launch System rocket is going to launch three years later than originally planned, and its program is over budget and was recently admitted by NASA's own inspector to be poorly managed, you would not have known it from these presentations.

However, one panelist did offer a warning of sorts to his colleagues. Former astronaut and Vice President and General Manager of Propulsion for Northrop Grumman Charlie Precourt spoke about his company's contributions to the rocket (Northrop Grumman recently acquired Orbital ATK). They are building the large, solid rocket boosters that will provide a kick off the launch pad. Yet Precourt prefaced his update with a message about affordability—as the exploration program moves from development into operations with the first flight of SLS and Orion in 2020 or so, costs must come down, he said.

[...] "We have to execute, but we also have to be planning for the future in terms of survivability, sustainability, and affordability," Precourt said. "I used all three of those words intentionally about this program. We've got to make sure we've got our mindset on affordability, and I don't think it's too early for all of us on this panel, as well as our counterparts at NASA, to start thinking about that."

[...] Precourt said contractors should consider a future in which NASA's present multibillion expenditures on rocket development costs need to be cut in half in order for the SLS vehicle to have a robust future. "All of us need to be thinking about [how] our annual budget for this will not be what it is in development," he said. "That's a very serious problem that we have to look forward to, and to try to rectify, so that we are sustainable."

If the other speakers had thoughts about Precourt's comments, they did not share them during the ensuing discussion.

Related: NASA Opens Door to Possibly Lowering SLS Cost Using Blue Origin's Engines
NASA Administrator Ponders the Fate of SLS in Interview
There's a New Report on SLS Rocket Management, and It's Pretty Brutal
Damage Control: Boeing-Sponsored Newsletter Praises Space Launch System (SLS), Trashes Saturn V


Original Submission

Blue Origin Plans to Deliver Several Tons of Cargo to the Moon's Surface 44 comments

Jeff Bezos Is Planning to Ship 'Several Metric Tons of Cargo' to the Moon

Blue Origin, described by Bezos as "the most important work I'm doing," signed a letter of intent with German aerospace companies OHB Space Systems and Security and MT Aerospace at the 69th annual International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Germany on Tuesday. The OHB SE dubbed the lunar project the "Blue Moon" mission in a press release.

It's not clear exactly what cargo the Blue Moon mission would transport, but it likely includes infrastructure designed to start private business on the Moon: The IAC also detailed the launch of the "Moon Race," a competition between Blue Origin, Airbus Air and Space, and other space agencies around the world to develop technology that will bring companies around the world to the Moon.

According to a press release, the competition could involve manufacturing products and technology, manufacturing energy sources for humans to survive, getting access to water and sustaining biological life, such as plant or agricultural life—all on the Moon.

Also at Space.com.

Related: Blue Origin to Compete to Launch U.S. Military Payloads
NASA Administrator Ponders the Fate of SLS in Interview (Blue Origin targets Moon landing by 2023)
SpaceX Reveals Plan to Fly Yusaku Maezawa and Artists "Around the Moon" in a BFR
Blue Origin Wins Contract to Supply United Launch Alliance With BE-4 Rocket Engines


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  • (Score: 2) by The Mighty Buzzard on Sunday July 08 2018, @03:25AM (3 children)

    If you're asking what the JPL guys out in California think we should do with it, you're going to get a very different answer than the ones down at LBJ in Texas think. Hint: It's very likely the Texas suggestion involves strapping one to a monster truck and saying "hold my beer". That's not a dig at Texans, by the way. Hold my beer moments almost always either turn out awesome or hilarious, so I'm quite fond of them.

    --
    My rights don't end where your fear begins.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 08 2018, @04:15AM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 08 2018, @04:15AM (#704095)

      Here you go [youtube.com]!

    • (Score: 3, Funny) by driverless on Monday July 09 2018, @12:21PM

      by driverless (4770) on Monday July 09 2018, @12:21PM (#704512)

      Dear Blue Origin,

      We are very interesting in purchasing your Blue Moon rockets capable of carrying a payload of several metric tons. For our initial evaluation, we don't require an ability to get to the moon but merely to cover a test distance of approximately 10,000 kilometers. Since we are concerned about the payload, we also require a CEP of less than 500m once it reaches the intended location. Please reply at your earliest convenience with prices and shipment dates, and whether you accept payment in North Korean won.

      Sincerely,
      Kim Jong... uh, Bob. Bob Richards. From Nebraska. Who just happens to have lots of North Korean won.

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