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posted by martyb on Tuesday March 12 2019, @02:07AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the Merlin,-Falcon-9,-and-Falcon-Heavy-were-developed-for-less-than-$1B-total dept.

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

Related Stories

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?

House Spending Bill Offers NASA More Money Than the Agency or Administration Wanted 15 comments

House spending bill offers $21.5 billion for NASA in 2019

A House appropriations bill released May 8 offers more than $21.5 billion for NASA in fiscal year 2019, a significant increase over both what the agency received in 2018 and what the White House proposed for 2019.

While there is no mention of the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) or the possibility of raising the James Webb Space Telescope's $8 billion spending cap, there is plenty of money for a Europa mission (a favorite of Rep. John Culberson) and continued development of the Space Launch System (SLS):

The bill, though, does specify funding for some programs. It calls for spending $545 million on the Europa Clipper mission and $195 million for a follow-on lander. NASA requested only $264.7 million for Europa Clipper and nothing for the lander. NASA said in the budget proposal it was seeking to launch Europa Clipper in 2025 on a commercial vehicle, while the bill calls for the use of the Space Launch System and a launch by 2022. In its budget proposal, NASA estimated needing $565 million in 2019 to keep Europa Clipper on track for a 2022 launch but warned of "potential impacts to the rest of the Science portfolio" if funded at that level.

The bill includes $1.35 billion for Orion and $2.15 billion for SLS, the same funding those exploration programs received in 2018. NASA requested slightly less for each: $1.164 billion for Orion and $2.078 billion for SLS. The bill fully funds the administration's request for the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway, at $504 million in 2019.

WFIRST was given $150 million in a 2018 omnibus spending bill, staving off its possible cancellation, but its future may still be in peril due to JWST delays:

Congress, in the 2018 omnibus spending bill, provided $150 million for WFIRST, which many interpreted as a rebuke to the administration's proposal even though Congress had yet to take up the 2019 budget. However, Congress passed the 2018 omnibus spending bill just days before NASA revealed another delay, and potential cost overrun, for JWST, complicating the future of WFIRST.

As with PACE, work on WFIRST is continuing for 2018 as the appropriations process for 2019 plays out in Congress. The mission's next major review, for Key Decision Point B, is scheduled for May 22, which will allow it go into Phase B of its development.

"We were funded fully through FY '18," said Jeff Kruk, WFIRST project scientist, at the Space Studies Board meeting May 3. "We have to be ready to proceed should Congress decide to continue funding the mission. The only way we will meet the cost cap is if we stay on schedule."


Original Submission

NASA Administrator Ponders the Fate of SLS in Interview 4 comments

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

SpaceX's Falcon Heavy Could Launch Japanese and European Payloads to Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway 17 comments

SpaceX's Falcon Heavy eyed by Europe/Japan

According to RussianSpaceWeb, SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket is under serious consideration for launches of major European and Japanese payloads associated with the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (formerly the Deep Space Gateway).

[...] The first payload considering Falcon Heavy for launch services is the Japanese Space Agency's (JAXA) HTV-X, and upgraded version of a spacecraft the country developed to assist in resupplying the International Space Station (ISS). HTV-X is primarily being designed with an ISS-resupply role still at the forefront, but RussianSpaceWeb recently reported that JAXA is seriously considering the development of a variant of the robotic spacecraft dedicated to resupplying the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (LOPG; and I truly wish I were joking about both the name and acronym).

[...] Regardless of the LOPG's existential merits, a lot of energy (and money) is currently being funneled into planning and initial hardware development for the lunar station's various modular segments. JAXA is currently analyzing ways to resupply LOPG and its crew complement with its HTV-X cargo spacecraft, currently targeting its first annual ISS resupply mission by the end of 2021. While JAXA will use its own domestic H-III rocket to launch HTV-X to the ISS, that rocket simply is not powerful enough to place a minimum of ~10,000 kg (22,000 lb) on a trans-lunar insertion (TLI) trajectory. As such, JAXA is examining SpaceX's Falcon Heavy as a prime (and affordable) option: by recovering both side boosters on SpaceX's drone ships and sacrificing the rocket's center core, a 2/3rds-reusable Falcon Heavy should be able to send as much as 20,000 kg to TLI (lunar orbit), according to comments made by CEO Elon Musk.

That impressive performance would also be needed for another LOPG payload, this time for ESA's 5-6 ton European System Providing Refueling Infrastructure and Telecommunications (ESPRIT) lunar station module. That component is unlikely to reach launch readiness before 2024, but ESA is already considering Falcon Heavy (over its own Ariane 6 rocket) in order to save some of the module's propellant. Weighing 6 metric tons at most, Falcon Heavy could most likely launch ESPRIT while still recovering all three of its booster stages.

Previously: NASA's Chief of Human Spaceflight Rules Out Use of Falcon Heavy for Lunar Station

Related: NASA and International Partners Planning Orbital Lunar Outpost
Russia Assembles Engineering Group for Lunar Activities and the Deep Space Gateway
This Week in Space Pessimism: SLS, Mars, and Lunar Gateway


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

Politics: Impact of the Midterm Elections May be Felt at NASA 16 comments

The outcomes of several races in the 2018 midterm elections may have an impact on the Europa Clipper mission, as well as other NASA priorities:

Perhaps the most significant loss occurred in Texas's Seventh Congressional District, home to thousands of the employees at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. A political newcomer, Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, defeated the incumbent John Culberson, who has served in the House since 2001. Culberson, an attorney, doesn't have a science background. But he grew up in the 1960s building telescopes, toying with model rockets, and reading popular science magazines. For the past four years, Culberson has pushed his colleagues in the House and the Senate to steadily grow nasa's budget, for projects including its climate-science programs—which may come as a surprise, given the congressman's party line on climate change.

Culberson has fiercely supported one mission in particular: a journey to one of Jupiter's moons, the icy Europa. As chair of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science, Culberson more than doubled the amount of money the space agency requested from Congress for an orbiter around Europa, from $265 million to $545 million. He also threw in $195 million to support a lander to the moon, which nasa hadn't even planned for, but would of course accept. Scientists suspect that Europa's frozen crust covers a liquid ocean that may sustain microbial life. Culberson was intent on sending something there to find it. "This will be tremendously expensive, but worth every penny," he said last year, during a visit to nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to check its progress.

With Culberson out of the House, the funding portfolio for the Europa mission could change. "I don't see any obvious members of Congress, Republican or Democratic, who'd be taking up that mantle of leading the Europa efforts, so I imagine that those are likely to start to wane," said Casey Dreier, a senior space-policy adviser at the Planetary Society, a nonprofit space-advocacy group.

Dreier said the development of the Europa orbiter, known as Clipper, will certainly continue. Since nasa formally approved the mission in 2015, engineers and scientists have made significant progress on the design of the spacecraft. But without a steady flow of funding, its launch date could slip, he said. The lander is on shakier ground. "I don't think you're going to see money for the Europa lander to continue showing up, because that's money that nasa has not been requesting," Dreier said.

See also: Culberson's ouster could spell big problems for NASA's Orion program, experts say
NASA's Europa lander may be in jeopardy after the midterms — and some are fine with seeing it go
What the 2018 midterms mean for NASA and planetary science

Previously: House Spending Bill Offers NASA More Money Than the Agency or Administration Wanted


Original Submission

Politics: When Space Science Becomes a Political Liability 39 comments

The Planetary Society reports:

Representative John Culberson, an 8-term Texas Republican and staunch supporter of NASA and planetary exploration, lost his re-election bid to Democrat Lizzie Fletcher last week. Many factors played into this outcome, but one bears consideration by space advocates: his support for the scientific search for life at Europa was seen as a weakness and attacked accordingly.

Over the past four years, Culberson used his chairmanship of the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) appropriations subcommittee to increase spending on NASA and missions to search for life on Europa. He directed hundreds of millions of dollars to this effort and played a critical role in getting the Europa Clipper mission officially adopted by NASA and the White House. And he did this without cannibalizing other NASA programs. His motivation was passion, not parochialism, as the prime benefactor of these federal dollars was California's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, located far outside his Houston-area congressional district.


Original Submission

Here's Why NASA's Audacious Return to the Moon Just Might Work 42 comments

Here's why NASA's audacious return to the Moon just might work

Speaking in front of a high-fidelity model of the Apollo program's Lunar Module spacecraft, Vice President Mike Pence charged NASA with accelerating its Moon plans last week. Instead of 2028, Pence wanted boots on the ground four years earlier, before the end of 2024. This marked the rarest of all moments in spaceflight—a schedule moving left instead of to the right.

Understandably, the aerospace community greeted the announcement with a healthy dose of skepticism. Many rocket builders, spaceship designers, flight controllers, and space buffs have seen this movie before. Both in 1989 and 2004, Republican administrations have announced ambitious Moon-then-Mars deep space plans only to see them die for lack of funding and White House backing.

And yet, this new proposal holds some promise. Pence, as well as NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, have adopted a clear goal for the agency and promised enduring political support. Moreover, they have said the "end" matters more than the "means." This suggests that whatever rockets and spacecraft NASA uses to reach the Moon, the plan should be based on the best-available, most cost-effective technology. In short, they want to foster a healthy, open competition in the US aerospace industry to help NASA and America reach its goals.

Europa Clipper Mission Confirmed 9 comments

Mission to Jupiter's Icy Moon Confirmed

An icy ocean world in our solar system that could tell us more about the potential for life on other worlds is coming into focus with confirmation of the Europa Clipper mission's next phase. The decision allows the mission to progress to completion of final design, followed by the construction and testing of the entire spacecraft and science payload.

[...] The mission will conduct an in-depth exploration of Jupiter's moon Europa and investigate whether the icy moon could harbor conditions suitable for life, honing our insights into astrobiology. To develop this mission in the most cost-effective fashion, NASA is targeting to have the Europa Clipper spacecraft complete and ready for launch as early as 2023. The agency baseline commitment, however, supports a launch readiness date by 2025.

Also at Ars Technica, The Register, CNN, and CNET.

Related: Amino Acids Could Exist Just Centimeters Under Europa's Surface
Impact of the Midterm Elections May be Felt at NASA
White House Budget Request Would Move Launches from SLS to Commercial Providers


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  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Snotnose on Tuesday March 12 2019, @02:30AM (14 children)

    by Snotnose (1623) on Tuesday March 12 2019, @02:30AM (#813036)

    and don't have kids. The deficit is going to kill this country, if not the entire global economy (we ain't the only ones running up credit cards to stupid levels).

    Be interesting to see how those F-35's work when other countries (cough China cough) quit buying up our debt.

    --
    Now I'm worried. I just spent several minutes using Where's My Droid and my phone's flashlight to, ... find my phone.
    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by PartTimeZombie on Tuesday March 12 2019, @02:38AM (13 children)

      by PartTimeZombie (4827) on Tuesday March 12 2019, @02:38AM (#813038)

      I'd be more worried about the $750 billion the Defense Dept. wants for 2019. I mean $21 billion is a lot of money but at least it's not just going to be used to destabilize the countries your government doesn't like.

      • (Score: 2) by takyon on Tuesday March 12 2019, @02:46AM (6 children)

        by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Tuesday March 12 2019, @02:46AM (#813040) Journal

        https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/cost-iraq-war#chapter-title-0-4 [cfr.org]

        I don't think Afghanistan $$$ [wikipedia.org] is even counted in that number.

        --
        [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
        • (Score: 2) by PartTimeZombie on Tuesday March 12 2019, @06:51PM (5 children)

          by PartTimeZombie (4827) on Tuesday March 12 2019, @06:51PM (#813413)

          Good lord that's a lot of money just to suppress some people who didn't fly some planes into some buildings.

          It probably would have been cheaper to solve the problem properly and invade Saudi Arabia.

          • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday March 14 2019, @09:12PM (4 children)

            by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday March 14 2019, @09:12PM (#814473) Journal

            Good lord that's a lot of money just to suppress some people who didn't fly some planes into some buildings.

            They merely employed the people who did.

            It probably would have been cheaper to solve the problem properly and invade Saudi Arabia.

            Even though Afghanistan officially provided material support to Al Qaeda while Saudi Arabia did not? It's interesting how someone can simultaneously damn Saudi Arabia for funding of Al Qaeda and involvement in 9/11 by a few of its citizens while simultaneously ignoring that Afghanistan not only provided a territory for Al Qaeda to operate in, but was paying them substantially for mercenary services too.

            • (Score: 2) by PartTimeZombie on Thursday March 14 2019, @09:50PM (3 children)

              by PartTimeZombie (4827) on Thursday March 14 2019, @09:50PM (#814503)

              Here are some quotes from a Wikipedia article on the 9/11 Commission:

              Commission chairmen Lee H. Hamilton and Thomas H. Kean accused the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of making a conscious decision to impede the commission’s inquiry...

              The two co-chairs of the Commission, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, believe that the government established the Commission in a way that ensured that it would fail

              And, under the heading "Denying support from Saudi Arabia"

              The 9/11 Commission report concluded that while 15 of the 19 hijackers who carried out the attacks were from Saudi Arabia, there was no evidence the government of Saudi Arabia funded the attacks. However, it does identify private individuals and organizations in Saudi Arabia as the primary funding source for al-Qaeda overall.
              Former Senator Bob Graham, the co-chair of an earlier congressional report into the 9/11 attacks, has called for re-opening an investigation into Saudi funding of the attack and the declassification of documents discussing the subject, including 28 pages from that report.

              Read all about it here. [wikipedia.org]
              The money used to employ the people who flew the planes came from Saudi Arabia, but the US invaded Afghanistan and Iraq.

              • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday March 14 2019, @10:33PM (2 children)

                by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday March 14 2019, @10:33PM (#814517) Journal

                The 9/11 Commission report concluded that while 15 of the 19 hijackers who carried out the attacks were from Saudi Arabia, there was no evidence the government of Saudi Arabia funded the attacks. However, it does identify private individuals and organizations in Saudi Arabia as the primary funding source for al-Qaeda overall.

                So the 9/11 commission agrees with me? Then what's the problem? Again, we have Al Qaeda operating openly in Afghanistan with a military unit [wikipedia.org] of several thousand based in Northern Afghanistan at the time of the 9/11 attacks. Meanwhile we have support from a few Saudi citizens. So we're to invade Saudi Arabia for stuff it didn't do and ignore the transgressions of the Taliban government?

                • (Score: 2) by PartTimeZombie on Thursday March 14 2019, @11:45PM (1 child)

                  by PartTimeZombie (4827) on Thursday March 14 2019, @11:45PM (#814537)

                  it does identify private individuals and organizations in Saudi Arabia as the primary funding source for al-Qaeda overall.

                  But let's invade Iraq.

                  • (Score: 1) by khallow on Friday March 15 2019, @03:16AM

                    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday March 15 2019, @03:16AM (#814628) Journal

                    But let's invade Iraq.

                    That's a different ball game. I happen to think the world is better for that invasion, BUT it was justified on bogus grounds and a number of people apparently knew that ahead of time (such as Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Rumsfeld who suddenly changed his story when it became evidence that WMD would not be found in Iraq around March, 2003).

      • (Score: 1) by patricepetticoat on Tuesday March 12 2019, @03:30AM (5 children)

        by patricepetticoat (7344) on Tuesday March 12 2019, @03:30AM (#813048)

        Shit. Seems like we really need to hear from the real Donald Trump. Is there some sort of incantation to bring those incoherent ramblings over here. I summon thee to comment on this and the above specifically.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 12 2019, @03:48AM (2 children)

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 12 2019, @03:48AM (#813056)

          the real Donald Trump

          @realDonaldTrump
          @realDonaldTrump

          Does that count as three or does the first not count?

          • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Tuesday March 12 2019, @06:28PM (1 child)

            by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday March 12 2019, @06:28PM (#813405) Journal

            The first does not work because it is quotes.

            The second two cancel each other out because they resonate at the same frequency but exactly half way out of phase.

            --
            Calmly vote. Fill out your ballet and drop it in the ballet box. Don't dance around bothering the pole watchers.
        • (Score: 2) by realDonaldTrump on Tuesday March 12 2019, @08:03PM (1 child)

          by realDonaldTrump (6614) on Tuesday March 12 2019, @08:03PM (#813446) Homepage Journal

          You know what I'm going to say. If you read my Journal. You know. After so stupidly spending $7 trillion in the Middle East, the corrupt Food Starved Maduro regime must go! We are here to proclaim that a new day is coming in Latin America. In Venezuela and across the Western Hemisphere, Socialism is DIEING -- and liberty, prosperity, and democracy are being REBORN. The fight for freedom has begun! #VenezuelaStrong [twitter.com]

          • (Score: 1) by patricepetticoat on Thursday March 14 2019, @11:20PM

            by patricepetticoat (7344) on Thursday March 14 2019, @11:20PM (#814528)

            Weird how your comments often have scores of 2 or higher. Did you buy your second one the same way Laura Loughlin bought her daughter a place at USC? Is that in your Journal too? #Fullhouseeducation

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 12 2019, @03:44AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 12 2019, @03:44AM (#813054)

    Are we nearing a good timeline?

    This is what it looks like either 132 years before Archer's famous mission to Qo'noS or 132 years before Forrest's famous mission to Qo'noS. And of course that further depends on the ethical framework used to define good.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 12 2019, @01:27PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 12 2019, @01:27PM (#813226)

    everybody building rockets and spaceships with millimeters, kilos and liters should get at least 500 melleons mooore.
    we dont want no steanking inches, pounds and gallons in space least we start a intergalactic war because aliens consider us dumb and are thus convinced of a sure win.

  • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday March 12 2019, @02:43PM (31 children)

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday March 12 2019, @02:43PM (#813273) Journal
    While this is a positive move, it remains that Congress may reinstate funding for the SLS. The beast is not finished yet.
    • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Tuesday March 12 2019, @04:34PM (25 children)

      by Immerman (3985) on Tuesday March 12 2019, @04:34PM (#813343)

      I'm not entirely convinced of that. I mean, in general, yes, this is probably a step in the right direction for NASA, but it may be a bit premature. Though assuming the SLS Block1 will still be completed it at least gives an option for heavy payloads in the near term.

      The problem is that, at present, there aren't actually any alternatives. If SpaceX pulls off the BFR, then we should be set - well, as soon as they make a "fairing style" cargo version at least, capable of delivering huge objects to orbit. That should cover most of what the SLS could launch - but that timeline could slide a long ways before they actually offer a reliable launch option. And without the BFR, the only other options in that class are the Russian and Chinese superheavy rockets that have planned first missions in 2028 (and I'm *sure* that timeline won't slip /sarcasm). Nothing else is even close - the New Glenn will be in the same class as the Falcon Heavy, with less than a quarter of the payload to LEO as the SLS or BFR.

      Of course, putting NASA on notice to start using commercial superheavy flights when available does put SpaceX, etc. in a better position to be able to find customers, which should help keep them on track, as well as potentially freeing up a whole lot of resources for NASA to develop projects capable of taking advantage of the increased launch capacity.

      • (Score: 2) by takyon on Tuesday March 12 2019, @05:54PM (10 children)

        by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Tuesday March 12 2019, @05:54PM (#813388) Journal

        Falcon Heavy is a viable alternative for the job of launching LOP-G segments to lunar orbit. LOP-G missions would be the primary function [wikipedia.org] of SLS.

        SpaceX's Falcon Heavy Could Launch Japanese and European Payloads to Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway [soylentnews.org]

        What Falcon Heavy can't do is send crew and LOP-G segments together. There are no plans to send humans on Falcon Heavy at the moment, although I can't imagine it would be that difficult to send a Crew Dragon 2 and some minor cargo to LOP-G atop a Falcon Heavy.

        --
        [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
        • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Wednesday March 13 2019, @03:58AM (9 children)

          by Immerman (3985) on Wednesday March 13 2019, @03:58AM (#813578)

          >I can't imagine it would be that difficult to send a Crew Dragon 2 and some minor cargo to LOP-G atop a Falcon Heavy.

          True. However, being able to get them back again might prove more challenging. I'm not sure the Dragon 2 is capable of providing the delta-v needed to return to Earth from lunar orbit.

          • (Score: 1) by khallow on Wednesday March 13 2019, @06:03AM (8 children)

            by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday March 13 2019, @06:03AM (#813600) Journal

            True. However, being able to get them back again might prove more challenging. I'm not sure the Dragon 2 is capable of providing the delta-v needed to return to Earth from lunar orbit.

            Send two Falcon Heavies then. A key problem here is that we don't need the capabilities of an SLS, but we will need orbital assembly. So might as well use the vastly more economical Falcon Heavy (and/or the BFR) and use orbital assembly which you were going to develop anyway. Or even the considerable number of 20-25 ton payload rockets currently in existence.

            The "option for heavy payloads" is pretty low value - one doesn't need to put objects directly in a transfer orbit and the larger fairing size isn't that useful. For example, going with Atlas V Heavy (or maybe it was Delta IV Heavy, which is more expensive, but not Space Shuttle expensive) for assembling the ISS (International Space Station) in place of the Space Shuttle would have saved a huge amount of money (about 20 billion USD from discontinuing the Shuttle in 1990 instead of 2011 and at least halving the price of putting each segment into orbit) at the cost of a slight decrease in the volume of the station (about a 20% reduction in the cross section area of a segment from 4.5 meters diameter to around 4 meters, IIRC). My understanding is that the US could have put three ISS clones in orbit for the fraction of the ISS cost (about $100 billion including those two decades of Shuttle extensions) that the US paid (and its partners paid about $30 billion more on top of that!).

            The real problem with the SLS is that it sucks the oxygen out of the room just like the Apollo, Shuttle, and Constellation programs did and leaves little money left over for more permanent development and infrastructure building.

            • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Wednesday March 13 2019, @03:12PM (7 children)

              by Immerman (3985) on Wednesday March 13 2019, @03:12PM (#813756)

              It's more complicated than that though. I'm fairly certain that the Dragon 2 is not designed to re-connect with a booster in orbit, nor to dock with a space station while still connected to a booster. Unless you plan for everyone to spacewalk back to the return vehicle, you need something that's capable of both slow, ultra-precise docking maneuvers, and delivering enough delta-V to get back to Earth.

              Now, perhaps the Dragon 2 actually has that capability, but I suspect a revised "Dragon 3" with at least larger fuel tanks would be necessary. However, given SpaceX's apparent development roadmap, perhaps a passenger Starship is a more likely candidate. They clearly plan to be able to dock it with the ISS, and lunar orbit should be well within its capability.

              • (Score: 1) by khallow on Wednesday March 13 2019, @03:46PM (6 children)

                by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday March 13 2019, @03:46PM (#813769) Journal

                I'm fairly certain that the Dragon 2 is not designed to re-connect with a booster in orbit, nor to dock with a space station while still connected to a booster.

                So what? It's easier to modify the Dragon 2 to connect/dock appropriately than it is to build a hugely expensive rocket that won't have a credible purpose.

                Unless you plan for everyone to spacewalk back to the return vehicle, you need something that's capable of both slow, ultra-precise docking maneuvers, and delivering enough delta-V to get back to Earth.

                Every human spacecraft made today is capable of those things. I include the Soyuz and Shenzhou capsules along with the US spacecraft. You just need to attach an appropriate docking mechanism.

                • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Thursday March 14 2019, @06:35PM (5 children)

                  by Immerman (3985) on Thursday March 14 2019, @06:35PM (#814365)

                  Except that they've already committed to building a passenger Starship, and have even already sold an early flight on one. Plus it's likely a simpler vehicle than the cargo version with it's giant hinged fairing that interferes with structural symmetry. It doesn't matter how much cheaper and easier it would be to modify the Dragon 2, if they already plan to make Starship anyway. And Starship should rapidly become cheaper per-launch than a Dragon capsule anyway. And of course, if the Dragon's track record is any indication, NASA certification is the difficult part of the process, and would likely have to be repeated on a

                  And it does have at least one credible and important immediate purpose: marketing footage. And let's be honest - a great deal of Musk's success has been due to his ability to manage the media image of his companies.

                  Not to mention, being able to launch an entire dedicated temporary space station larger than the ISS (by pressurized volume), pre-loaded with any experiments, entertainment, etc., for less than the cost of a single Falcon 9 launch, is going to have lots of research and recreational potential. *I* probably won't be able to afford it, but plenty of others will. That kind of space even allows for dual-purpose launches: you might launch a mission to service the ISS (likely not possible for the cargo/fairing version) using 10% of the available capacity, vastly exceeding anything currently available, while using the remaining 90% of capacity for recreational space tours or independent orbital experiments. If NASA is already funding the launch, then the extra passengers are pure profit.

                  Then there's the fact that he also intends this thing to be able to land on the moon and return - and an orbital cargo split fairing is unlikely to work in a substantial gravity field. Plus, it can serve just as well as a temporary lunar base as a temporary space station, which should dramatically simplify early scouting and development missions to the lunar surface.

                  There's also the plan to sell ridiculously fast sub-orbital passenger flights.

                  And of course, it's also vital to a longer-term purpose of getting to Mars, which seems to be the vision actually driving Musk, and thus arguably the single most important purpose of any of his rockets.

                  >Every human spacecraft made today is capable of those things.

                  Umm, no, they're not. From what little I can find none of the capsules you mention are capable of returning from lunar orbit under their own power. Shenzhou has never been to lunar orbit, and while Soyuz-L has it appears to have used a separate booster for the return.
                  Generally speaking our space "toys" have fallen into two distinct classes: Boosters, that can impart significant delta-V, but lack the capacity for precision maneuvering, and capsules such as you mention, that can perform precision maneuvering, but can typically only deliver a the relatively small amount of delta-V to begin reentry from low Earth orbit. To service a lunar orbital station you'd need to do both.

                  For reference: Getting from low Earth orbit to low lunar orbit requires about 4km/s of delta-V (assuming high thrust, low thrust doubles that), though the return only requires about 1.3km/s if you make use of atmospheric aerobraking. That's still just shy of half the 2.7km/s needed to return from the lunar surface, and a *lot* more than needed to deorbit from LEO. The space shuttle typically made a 200-550fps (61 - 168m/s) reentry burn to return from LEO, depending on altitude. So you're talking about around 10x the necessary delta-V to return from lunar orbit.

                  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delta-v_budget [wikipedia.org]
                  https://space.stackexchange.com/questions/12011/how-could-a-90-m-s-delta-v-be-enough-to-commit-the-space-shuttle-to-landing [stackexchange.com] (I couldn't find the specific numbers referenced in the manual)

                  • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday March 14 2019, @06:55PM (4 children)

                    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday March 14 2019, @06:55PM (#814373) Journal

                    Except that they've already committed to building a passenger Starship, and have even already sold an early flight on one. Plus it's likely a simpler vehicle than the cargo version with it's giant hinged fairing that interferes with structural symmetry. It doesn't matter how much cheaper and easier it would be to modify the Dragon 2, if they already plan to make Starship anyway. And Starship should rapidly become cheaper per-launch than a Dragon capsule anyway. And of course, if the Dragon's track record is any indication, NASA certification is the difficult part of the process, and would likely have to be repeated on a

                    While true, it still remains that NASA could pay for the modification to Dragon 2 on top of Starship and still pay orders of magnitude less than it would with the SLS approach. Second, with respect to NASA certification, you can be sure that the SLS won't have to (because it won't be able to) pass the same certification process.

                    Not to mention, being able to launch an entire dedicated temporary space station larger than the ISS (by pressurized volume), pre-loaded with any experiments, entertainment, etc., for less than the cost of a single Falcon 9 launch, is going to have lots of research and recreational potential.

                    I'll believe that when I see it. I don't buy those numbers at present. That's based on BFR having a mass fraction to LEO which I think may be impossible for a chemical propulsion system to achieve. We'll see.

                    >Every human spacecraft made today is capable of those things.

                    Umm, no, they're not. From what little I can find none of the capsules you mention are capable of returning from lunar orbit under their own power. Shenzhou has never been to lunar orbit, and while Soyuz-L has it appears to have used a separate booster for the return.

                    Generally speaking our space "toys" have fallen into two distinct classes: Boosters, that can impart significant delta-V, but lack the capacity for precision maneuvering, and capsules such as you mention, that can perform precision maneuvering, but can typically only deliver a the relatively small amount of delta-V to begin reentry from low Earth orbit. To service a lunar orbital station you'd need to do both.

                    You already outlined the division of functionality. Slap a booster on and you have the delta-v capability needed for the capsule. It's a solved problem. After all, we already have boosters (the orbital launch vehicles) that put the capsule into orbit in the first place. That's roughly 10 km/s of delta-v right there.

                    • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Thursday March 14 2019, @08:45PM (3 children)

                      by Immerman (3985) on Thursday March 14 2019, @08:45PM (#814446)

                      >...NASA pay for...SLS...
                      Sure, but why would they do that if the SpaceX Starship is already available, cheaper, and far more capable?

                      > Slap a booster on
                      Except it's not quite that simple - the booster will make the capsule far more cumbersome to maneuver precisely for docking. So the capsule would have to either detach from the booster for docking with the lunar orbital station, and then reconnect for the return to Earth orbit, or be modified (hardware or software) to be able to precisely maneuver despite a much greater mass and very different center of gravity.

                      Either could probably be done, but both likely involve considerable engineering and testing, and probably re-certification. On a capsule that SpaceX has already removed from its roadmap, and that won't have anywhere near the capability of its replacement.

                      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday March 14 2019, @09:04PM (2 children)

                        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday March 14 2019, @09:04PM (#814464) Journal

                        Sure, but why would they do that if the SpaceX Starship is already available, cheaper, and far more capable?

                        Well, the Starship isn't yet already available for starters. But then again, it's a hell of a lot more available than the SLS.

                        Except it's not quite that simple - the booster will make the capsule far more cumbersome to maneuver precisely for docking.

                        Unless, of course, the booster isn't on the capsule at the time. You don't need to dock a capsule with fueled booster. Ever.

                        So the capsule would have to either detach from the booster for docking with the lunar orbital station

                        Has my vote. I doubt anyone will ever want a booster near the station.

                        Either could probably be done, but both likely involve considerable engineering and testing, and probably re-certification.

                        Both which are already proven features of every manned space capsule out there. That is, they've already been engineered and tested before with some booster configuration (else they wouldn't get into space in the first place), and the parties involved in the design and construction of these vehicles already have experience with testing and certification for their appropriate country's space program.

                        • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Thursday March 14 2019, @09:43PM (1 child)

                          by Immerman (3985) on Thursday March 14 2019, @09:43PM (#814502)

                          Yes, they have experience with the testing and certification. That doesn't mean they want to go through it for something that doesn't serve their purposes. And a "Dragon 2-L" doesn't serve SpaceX's purposes.

                          Now, *if* a passenger Starship isn't looking to be available by the time they start sending people to LOP-G, perhaps NASA could offer enough incentive for SpaceX to take some of their engineers away from BFR development to work on a new Dragon revision, as a stopgap solution. But I suspect that would be a hard sell if the BFR/BFS were near fruition.

                          • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday March 14 2019, @11:04PM

                            by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday March 14 2019, @11:04PM (#814525) Journal

                            Yes, they have experience with the testing and certification. That doesn't mean they want to go through it for something that doesn't serve their purposes.

                            A purpose like getting paid well by someone with deep pockets?

                            My point here is not to claim that NASA will launch everything on Dragon 2s, but rather that these problems aren't particularly difficult for any party that is already putting space capsules in orbit. Going back to my original point:

                            Send two Falcon Heavies then. A key problem here is that we don't need the capabilities of an SLS, but we will need orbital assembly. So might as well use the vastly more economical Falcon Heavy (and/or the BFR) and use orbital assembly which you were going to develop anyway. Or even the considerable number of 20-25 ton payload rockets currently in existence.

                            The supporters for the SLS are playing the same game that was played with the Space Shuttle and Constellation. They tout the capabilities of the vehicle. But that ignores two very important things. First, that the capabilities are unnecessary. We can work around all the problems of using smaller payload vehicles with modest effort and cost, and launch today. Second, there's the matter of cost. It doesn't matter how awesome your launch vehicle is, if you can't afford to use it. In addition to the huge delays, the SLS has a very low launch frequency (slower than anything except possibly the Delta IV). That means each launch, when it happens, will be very expensive.

                            That's why I'm outright against funding the SLS. It's a huge drain on NASA's resources and doesn't further any US interests. What it does do, and which may lead to it lingering around decades into the future, is distribute federal swag to the right zip codes.

      • (Score: 2) by takyon on Tuesday March 12 2019, @06:11PM (13 children)

        by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Tuesday March 12 2019, @06:11PM (#813397) Journal

        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 reassessing date for first SLS launch [spacenews.com]

        Rocket Report: SLS slip likely, Pegasus problems, and EELV has expired [arstechnica.com]

        In this case, our sources continue to say there is almost no chance SLS launches in 2020.

        2021 is now the earliest we will see SLS fly, with the first launch carrying some CubeSats and no humans. A test flight.

        If SpaceX's changes to BFR's (Starship Super Heavy) design have been fruitful, it's possible that BFR can beat SLS to orbit, or even carry humans to orbit before SLS does.

        Even if separate flights are needed to carry crew and modules to lunar orbit, SpaceX will be cheaper than even the optimistic (fake) estimates of SLS launch cost.

        The delay and possible de-emphasis of SLS is good news. Additional billions of dollars will likely be burned, but the cracks are beginning to show. A fully working and ready for customers BFR is needed before the death blow can be delivered. New Glenn is also a good alternative, and there may be an option for a third stage. After New Glenn is New Armstrong, although we don't know when that would appear or what it would entail. Maybe we'll see New Armstrong fly before any Russian or Chinese superheavy launchers.

        --
        [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
        • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Wednesday March 13 2019, @03:22AM (12 children)

          by Immerman (3985) on Wednesday March 13 2019, @03:22AM (#813574)

          Keep in mind that the initial Starship will supposedly be a passenger vehicle that will be useless for launching serious payloads into orbit - that will have to wait until a later cargo version. Presumably most of the technology will transfer, but there will almost certainly be some additional lag before a split-fairing cargo version is available.

          There's also no guarantee that SpaceX will be more rapidly successful with the BFR than they were with the Falcon 9 - we can certainly hope, and they do have a lot more experience now, but the cost-per-failure is much higher now as well - a string of bad luck and they might have to slow way down to let their finances recover.

          If things go really well SpaceX could have SLS-class launch capability as early as next year. Or it might take another decade, and we'd wish we had the SLS.

          But it sounds like the proposal isn't to delay getting the SLS operational and available, just delaying the upgrades and cutting the guaranteed missions.

          And that suites me just fine. That increases the chance that we'll have at least one rocket available to get the job done, and (hopefully) free up some of NASA's available budget to put SpaceX launch capacity to work, rather than being chained to a much more expensive and limited SLS.

          Especially with the sxStarship being designed to be able to land on the moon and return to Earth with a single stop for orbital refueling, with a little luck there will be a much wider range of missions possible almost immediately.

          • (Score: 1) by khallow on Wednesday March 13 2019, @06:12AM

            by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday March 13 2019, @06:12AM (#813604) Journal

            and we'd wish we had the SLS.

            Not going to happen. There are two important observations to make about the SLS. It has no killer app. There's no valuable payload that requires it. All the proposed missions are contrived to use its performance characteristics. One can simply contrive them a different way to use a far cheaper launch vehicle.

            Second, the cost of the SLS creates a huge opportunity cost which pulls money away from more useful activities that NASA could be working on instead. While it would be moderately nice, if NASA were to have a vastly larger budget, the reality is that after adjustment for inflation, its budget has been remarkably stable for the past 40 or so years (sure there is some variation [wikipedia.org], but it's less than a factor of two from lowest year to highest) with the present year about halfway in between. That establishes the usual zero sum issues that NASA has experienced for those decades. So any money spent on SLS is taken from elsewhere.

            Further, that money goes far in existing launch services. We could be putting hundreds of tons in orbit on existing vehicles, for example, for what has been thrown away on SLS so far.

          • (Score: 2) by takyon on Wednesday March 13 2019, @12:57PM (10 children)

            by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Wednesday March 13 2019, @12:57PM (#813698) Journal

            I don't see how SpaceX will not make a cargo version prior to or simultaneously with a crewed version. They need to do unmanned flights first and they need to lift large amounts of Starlink satellites.

            --
            [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
            • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Wednesday March 13 2019, @02:37PM (9 children)

              by Immerman (3985) on Wednesday March 13 2019, @02:37PM (#813729)

              Perhaps so. I could swear though that I had heard they were going to add the cargo version later. But perhaps I'm just thinking of the tanker version.

              • (Score: 2) by takyon on Wednesday March 13 2019, @07:02PM (8 children)

                by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Wednesday March 13 2019, @07:02PM (#813874) Journal

                It might have been the tanker. Tanker is especially needed for destinations beyond LEO. Most of SpaceX's current business is LEO with some GEO/GTO. BFR can replace almost all Falcon 9 and Heavy launches, except for the ones where the customer is still nervous about using a new rocket.

                --
                [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
                • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Thursday March 14 2019, @03:51PM (7 children)

                  by Immerman (3985) on Thursday March 14 2019, @03:51PM (#814263)

                  Well, not just LEO - my understanding is that BFR should be able to service pretty much all the useful Earth orbits and even manage single-pass moonshots without refueling. Now that I think of it, I can't can't say that I've heard anything about actually entering lunar orbit, though I suspect it could do so with a low enough payload.

                  Where the tanker comes in is if you want to actually land on the moon, or leave the Earth-moon system entirely. Or I suppose, if you want to get to those higher orbits with a single LEO-sized payload.

                  And on the bright side, it sounds like the tanker won't be strictly necessary - with plans in the works to initially use unloaded Starships as a "mini tankers". Of course, every fuel-transfer maneuver is another chance to damage or destroy a rocket, but as long as you have at least two mini-tankers in play, you can at least limit yourself to a single refueling maneuver with the payload-bearing Starship.

                  • (Score: 2) by takyon on Thursday March 14 2019, @05:01PM (6 children)

                    by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Thursday March 14 2019, @05:01PM (#814299) Journal

                    my understanding is that BFR should be able to service pretty much all the useful Earth orbits and even manage single-pass moonshots without refueling

                    I would be skeptical about all of that info, especially the no-refuel moonshot. The performance of the vehicle is still in flux (150 tons to LEO estimate down to "100+ tons", and could rise with future versions). They are also using all sea level Raptor engines and introducing vacuum variants later.

                    I think the minimum we can say about it is that it will exceed the performance of expendable Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy for any destination, without considering any orbital refueling, and will likely be cheaper than Falcon 9 to begin with when in fully reusable mode. If not at the start, then after SpaceX becomes experienced at quickly inspecting and relaunching BFRs.

                    Another interesting aspect that probably doesn't get much consideration is that despite BFR being potentially slightly less powerful than variants of the Space Launch System (i.e. Block 2) that may never fly, BFR in an expendable mode could beat anything. Musk has also hinted [teslarati.com] that BFR could be cheaper to build than Falcon 9. We know that despite stainless steel being far cheaper than carbon fiber, material costs are a very small portion of the Falcon 9's costs. So for the guess to be true, it would have to be related to construction methods and manpower. Humanity has a lot of experience making large steel structures so it's plausible.

                    My point is that if a customer like NASA wanted to try something special, like expending the booster, additional performance could be squeezed out of BFR. And the cost might not break the bank.

                    --
                    [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
                    • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Thursday March 14 2019, @05:33PM (5 children)

                      by Immerman (3985) on Thursday March 14 2019, @05:33PM (#814329)

                      >I would be skeptical about all of that info, especially the no-refuel moonshot
                      Why? Too be clear, I'm talking about a flyby such as the one already sold, not a landing, which he has stated will require a refueling in a highly elliptic Earth orbit..

                      You posted that link above that the F9H could service the LOP-G, and a flyby is less fuel intensive than insertion into lunar orbit. If that's true, and the BFR can exceed the F9H's performance for any destination, then it should have no problem with non-landing lunar missions without refeuling. Especially once the later versions are fitted with dedicated vacuum engines. Though it does look like the current version is actually using hybrid engines if the characteristic inflection in the bell is any indicator, so they should get substantially better vacuum performance than strictly atmospheric engines.

                      Hmm, I missed the cheap BFR tweet. Seems implausible, at least in the short term, especially considering that the re-usability will prevent substantial economies of scale in manufacturing. At least until such point as there's demand for multiple launches per day (which might not be radically distant if suborbital flights become popular).

                      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday March 14 2019, @06:57PM (4 children)

                        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday March 14 2019, @06:57PM (#814374) Journal

                        Seems implausible, at least in the short term, especially considering that the re-usability will prevent substantial economies of scale in manufacturing.

                        With heavy reuse over time that's not a significant cost of launch. The real problem is propellant usage. That provides the floor to just how cheap one can make the launch.

                        • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Thursday March 14 2019, @08:35PM (3 children)

                          by Immerman (3985) on Thursday March 14 2019, @08:35PM (#814437)

                          Oh, absolutely. In fact they aim to bring the per-launch cost down below the F9 in relatively short order.

                          But that's not what the tweets takyon linked to are about - they seem to be specifically about bringing the *construction cost* of a BFR down below that of an F9:

                                  This will sound implausible, but I think there’s a path to build Starship / Super Heavy for less than Falcon 9

                                  — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 11, 2019

                                  At least 10X cheaper

                                  — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 11, 2019

                          That would be a real game changer, but I'm not holding my breath.

                          • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday March 14 2019, @09:05PM (2 children)

                            by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday March 14 2019, @09:05PM (#814466) Journal
                            Impressive if true, BUT...
                            • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Thursday March 14 2019, @09:13PM (1 child)

                              by Immerman (3985) on Thursday March 14 2019, @09:13PM (#814475)

                              Exactly.

                              • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday March 14 2019, @09:21PM

                                by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday March 14 2019, @09:21PM (#814482) Journal
                                Let me just say here, that I have never cared what Musk has tweeted about. This is in large part why. I simply don't believe it's going to be true and thus, there's not much point to discussing tweets and similar communication eruptions. Further, the whole industry is lousy with this stuff. We have all kinds of people making all kinds of unfounded claims about what their business/national space program/pet project/etc is going to do in a few short years.
                                Nothing is the usual result.
    • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Tuesday March 12 2019, @06:30PM (4 children)

      by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday March 12 2019, @06:30PM (#813406) Journal

      Congress may reinstate funding for the SLS. The beast is not finished yet.

      Put a stick in it. It's done.

      There are other congress critters who would like to steal that pork to their own districts or better into their own pockets.

      --
      Calmly vote. Fill out your ballet and drop it in the ballet box. Don't dance around bothering the pole watchers.
      • (Score: 2) by takyon on Tuesday March 12 2019, @07:17PM (3 children)

        by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Tuesday March 12 2019, @07:17PM (#813429) Journal

        https://arstechnica.com/science/2019/03/nasas-new-budget-raises-questions-about-the-future-of-its-sls-rocket/ [arstechnica.com]

        The US Senate will have much to say about this budget before it is done. In years past, the Senate Appropriations Committee, under the direction of its chairman Richard Shelby, has plussed up the administration budgets for NASA's SLS rocket.

        The Alabama senator reiterated as much last week during a session of the Space Transportation Association. Another speaker was Jody Singer, the director of Alabama's Marshall Space Flight Center, where the SLS rocket is managed.

        "As chairman of the appropriations committee, I have more than a passing interest in what NASA does. And I have a little parochial interest, too, in what they do in Huntsville, Alabama," where Marshall is located, Sen. Shelby said. "Jody, you keep doing what you're doing. We'll keep funding you."

        Shelby and his staffers will no doubt understand the implications of the president's budget and what it would mean for the utility of the SLS rocket. If enacted, these changes could spell the beginning of the end of the SLS rocket, especially if it experiences further delays. This will be one budget battle that is interesting to follow.

        Congress can and probably will ignore an initial move by the White House to kill SLS.

        --
        [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
        • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Tuesday March 12 2019, @07:46PM (2 children)

          by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday March 12 2019, @07:46PM (#813437) Journal

          I won't argue that a dying animal continues to give off signs of life for a period of time. That just makes it more sad.

          --
          Calmly vote. Fill out your ballet and drop it in the ballet box. Don't dance around bothering the pole watchers.
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