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posted by martyb on Sunday November 10 2019, @07:09PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the when-pork-flies dept.

White House warns Congress about Artemis funding

The White House warned Congress in a recent letter that without funding increases for its exploration programs, NASA won't be able to achieve the goal of landing humans on the moon in 2024.

The Oct. 23 letter from Russell Vought, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), to Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, addressed overall issues with appropriations bills that Shelby's committee had approved in recent weeks, including the Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) bill that funds NASA.

"The Administration appreciates the Committee's continued support for space exploration, reflected in the $22.8 billion provided in the bill for NASA," Vought wrote in the letter, first reported by Ars Technica.

He took issue, though, with the funding provided for exploration research and development, which includes work on lunar landers and the lunar Gateway. "However, the $1.6 billion provided for exploration research and development (R&D) is insufficient to fully fund the lander system that astronauts would use to return to the Moon in 2024," he wrote. "Funding exploration R&D at the $2.3 billion level requested in the FY 2020 Budget is needed to support the Administration's goal of returning to the Moon by 2024."

From the Ars Technica article:

Congress has mandated that NASA use the more costly SLS[*] booster to launch the ambitious Europa Clipper mission to Jupiter in the early 2020s, while the White House prefers the agency to fly on a much-less-expensive commercial rocket. In a section discussing the Clipper mission, Vought's letter includes a cost estimate to build and fly a single SLS rocket in a given year—more than $2 billion—which NASA has not previously specified.

[*] SLS: Space Launch System.

At the U.S. Air Force Space Pitch Day on November 5, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk put a much smaller number on the cost of launching a fully reusable Starship:

"A single Starship will expend about $900,000 worth of fuel and oxygen for pressurization to send "at least 100 tons, probably 150 tons to orbit," Musk said. SpaceX's cost to operate Starship will be around $2 million per flight, which is "much less than even a tiny rocket," he added.


Original Submission

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Starship Prototype Mk1 Fails During Propellant Tank Loading Test: Onwards to Mk3 21 comments

SpaceX Starship Mk. 1 fails during cryogenic loading test

SpaceX's first full-scale Starship prototype – [Mark 1 (Mk. 1)] – has experienced a major failure at its Boca Chica test site in southern Texas. The failure occurred late in the afternoon on Wednesday, midway through a test of the vehicle's propellant tanks.

The Mk. 1 Starship – which was shown off to the world in September as part of SpaceX's and Elon Musk's presentation of the design changes to the Starship system was to fly the first 20 km test flight of the program in the coming weeks.

The main event of today, the Mk. 1 Starship's first cryogenic loading test, involved filling the methane and oxygen tanks with a cryogenic liquid.

During the test, the top bulkhead of the vehicle ruptured and was ejected away from the site, followed by a large cloud of vapors and cryogenic liquid from the tank.

There will be no attempt to salvage Starship Mk1, with focus instead shifting to Mk3 (in Texas) and Mk2 (in Florida):

Minutes after the anomaly was broadcast on several unofficial livestreams of SpaceX's Boca Chica facilities, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk acknowledged Starship Mk1's failure in a tweet, telegraphing a general lack of worry. Of note, Musk indicated that Mk1 was valuable mainly as a manufacturing pathfinder, entirely believable but also partially contradicting his September 2019 presentation, in which he pretty clearly stated that Mk1 would soon be launched to ~20 km to demonstrate Starship's exotic new skydiver landing strategy.

Musk says that instead of repairing Starship Mk1, SpaceX's Boca Chica team will move directly to Starship Mk3, a significantly more advanced design that has benefitted from the numerous lessons learned from building and flying Starhopper and fabricating Starship Mk1. The first Starship Mk3 ring appears to have already been prepared, but SpaceX's South Texas focus has clearly been almost entirely on preparing Starship Mk1 for wet dress rehearsal, static fire, and flight tests. After today's failure, it sounds like Mk1 will most likely be retired early and replaced as soon as possible by Mk3.

Above all else, the most important takeaway from today's Starship Mk1 anomaly is that the vehicle was a very early prototype and SpaceX likely wants to have vehicle failures occur on the ground or in-flight. As long as no humans are at risk, pushing Starship to failure (or suffering unplanned failures like today's) can only serve to benefit and improve the vehicle's design, especially when the failed hardware can be recovered intact (ish) and carefully analyzed.

Video of the rupture is available on NASASpaceFlight's forums. Start with this forum post and continue down the page for other pictures and videos.

Previously: SpaceX Provides Update on Starship with Assembled Prototype as the Backdrop

Related: The SpaceX Starship Pushback: NASA Administrator's Scolding and More
SpaceX's Starship Can Launch 400 Starlink Satellites at Once
Artemis Program Requires More Cash to Reach Moon by 2024; SLS Could Cost 1,000x More Than Starship


Original Submission

NASA Wants to Buy SLS Rockets at Half Price, Fly Them Into the 2050s 27 comments

NASA wants to buy SLS rockets at half price, fly them into the 2050s

NASA has asked the US aerospace industry how it would go about "maximizing the long-term efficiency and sustainability" of the Space Launch System rocket and its associated ground systems.

[...] In its request NASA says it would like to fly the SLS rocket for "30 years or more" as a national capability. Moreover, the agency wants the rocket to become a "sustainable and affordable system for moving humans and large cargo payloads to cislunar and deep-space destinations."

[...] Among the rocket's chief architects was then-Florida Senator Bill Nelson, who steered billions of dollars to Kennedy Space Center in his home state for upgraded ground systems equipment to support the rocket. Back in 2011, he proudly said the rocket would be delivered on time and on budget.

"This rocket is coming in at the cost of... not only what we estimated in the NASA Authorization act, but less," Nelson said at the time. "The cost of the rocket over a five- to six-year period in the NASA authorization bill was to be no more than $11.5 billion. This costs $10 billion for the rocket." Later, he went further, saying, "If we can't do a rocket for $11.5 billion, we ought to close up shop."

After more than 10 years, and more than $30 billion spent on the rocket and its ground systems, NASA has not closed up shop. Rather, Nelson has ascended to become the space agency's administrator.

Previously:


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  • (Score: -1, Flamebait) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 10 2019, @07:36PM (8 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 10 2019, @07:36PM (#918676)

    You know the drill. Boeing, incels and reification of patriarchal control over men's sex lives, pedistalization of women, projection of Boeing's anti-woman culture on to SpaceX, justification of pork as responsible, denial of free market principles in favor of late-state capitalist oligarchy and regulatory capture, dude weed lmao, and the necessary R&D of a Multiple Chute Augmentation System.

    • (Score: 3, Touché) by takyon on Sunday November 10 2019, @07:41PM (6 children)

      by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Sunday November 10 2019, @07:41PM (#918677) Journal

      Are the memes crystallizing? Can meme magic save the space program?

      --
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      • (Score: 1) by RandomFactor on Sunday November 10 2019, @08:30PM (4 children)

        by RandomFactor (3682) Subscriber Badge on Sunday November 10 2019, @08:30PM (#918685) Journal

        I couldn't really make heads or tails of it (well, one part maybe). Is it just a meme-mash?

        --
        В «Правде» нет известий, в «Известиях» нет правды
        • (Score: 2) by PartTimeZombie on Sunday November 10 2019, @09:03PM (2 children)

          by PartTimeZombie (4827) on Sunday November 10 2019, @09:03PM (#918689)

          Is it some sort of rogue AI desperately trying to communicate?

          • (Score: 2) by Mojibake Tengu on Sunday November 10 2019, @09:35PM (1 child)

            by Mojibake Tengu (8598) Subscriber Badge on Sunday November 10 2019, @09:35PM (#918691) Journal

            I assure you, this one is not of mine. I appreciate its vocabulary, though.

            --
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            • (Score: 0, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 10 2019, @10:51PM

              by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 10 2019, @10:51PM (#918716)

              I assure you, this one is not of mine.

              That's obvious. To quality for AI, one needs to show intelligence, whatever crude,, and you don't.

        • (Score: 1) by fustakrakich on Monday November 11 2019, @04:33AM

          by fustakrakich (6150) on Monday November 11 2019, @04:33AM (#918826) Journal

          Is it just a meme-mash?

          Is that what they call it now? [youtube.com]

          --
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      • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Monday November 11 2019, @03:01AM

        by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Monday November 11 2019, @03:01AM (#918806) Homepage Journal

        I'm not sure if they are crystallizing yet, but if we can get some dilythium crystals out of it, all our energy problems are solved.

        --
        Our first six presidents were educated men. Then, along came a Democrat.
    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Monday November 11 2019, @02:46PM

      by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Monday November 11 2019, @02:46PM (#918943) Journal

      Women seem to be front and center during the Starlink launch coverage this morning. Must be a ruse Musky conceived while smonking dank weed.

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      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
  • (Score: -1, Redundant) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 10 2019, @10:17PM (6 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 10 2019, @10:17PM (#918710)

    NASA has already put numerous men in the moon, while Musk hasn't even put one woman on Mars. Talk is cheap, NASA delivered when it mattered.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 10 2019, @11:44PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 10 2019, @11:44PM (#918733)

      NASA delivered when it mattered.

      and the country gave a shit that it was being done.

      SLS is just pork.

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Monday November 11 2019, @12:05AM (4 children)

      by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Monday November 11 2019, @12:05AM (#918747) Journal

      Musk didn't get $150 billion (yet).

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      • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Monday November 11 2019, @03:04AM (3 children)

        by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Monday November 11 2019, @03:04AM (#918807) Homepage Journal

        I don't want to see Musk get $150 billion, but I do want to see his space endeavors get that kind of investment. I know, the difference may be too subtle for some of our readers.

        --
        Our first six presidents were educated men. Then, along came a Democrat.
        • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 11 2019, @09:14AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 11 2019, @09:14AM (#918875)

          I don't want to see Musk get $150 billion, but I do want to see his space endeavors get that kind of investment.

          Musk is not motivated by money so he will not get that money for himself anyway (it's not like you can use that money on yourself in one lifetime). He's motivated to make near-space accessible.

        • (Score: 2) by takyon on Tuesday November 12 2019, @04:06AM (1 child)

          by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Tuesday November 12 2019, @04:06AM (#919229) Journal

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_program [wikipedia.org]

          $153 billion is the cost of the Apollo program in 2018 dollars.

          That got us these missions [wikipedia.org] (ending with Apollo 17). $153 billion could pay for up to 76,500 Starship launches (to LEO), launching up to 7,650,000 - 11,475,000 metric tons. Or merely thousands of trips to Mars, etc.

          This capability will probably be enough to start a legitimate asteroid mining venture, space hotels, a Moon base, a small Mars colony, and plenty of other fun stuff. The majority of missions may be privately funded this time around.

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          • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Tuesday November 12 2019, @03:35PM

            by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday November 12 2019, @03:35PM (#919412) Homepage Journal

            and plenty of other fun stuff.

            Nooooo!!! No FUN STUFF!! No fun for at least 50 years, preferably 100. It's got to be tough, and miserable, so that one day, Grandpas can tell their grandkids the equivalent stories of, "We had to walk to and from school, uphill, in the snow, both ways!"

            Remember that, fun is for future generations, after the pioneers have killed off all of the hardships.

            --
            Our first six presidents were educated men. Then, along came a Democrat.
  • (Score: 2) by PiMuNu on Monday November 11 2019, @11:37AM (3 children)

    by PiMuNu (3823) Subscriber Badge on Monday November 11 2019, @11:37AM (#918899)

    > the lander system that astronauts would use to return to the Moon in 2024
    > the ambitious Europa Clipper mission to Jupiter

    > 150 tons to orbit

    Turns out Jupiter is a long way from earth orbit.

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Monday November 11 2019, @02:19PM (2 children)

      by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Monday November 11 2019, @02:19PM (#918928) Journal

      "tons to orbit" is a measurement of the performance of a rocket. Starship + Super Heavy is fully capable of sending payloads to the Moon or Jupiter.

      SLS is an untested rocket. You can test a Starship hundreds of times (including some explosions) for the price of a single crispy SLS.

      The first launch of an SLS is likely delayed to early 2021, if not later. Starship will likely fly repeatedly before that at the rate it's being developed.

      SLS is unlikely to be able to send Europa Clipper to Jupiter before 2025 [spacenews.com]. The mission may end up using a Falcon Heavy instead. Turns out Jupiter is a long way from the SLS manifest.

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      • (Score: 2) by PiMuNu on Monday November 11 2019, @03:01PM (1 child)

        by PiMuNu (3823) Subscriber Badge on Monday November 11 2019, @03:01PM (#918950)

        > "tons to orbit" is a measurement of the performance of a rocket.

        I realise that; my point is that reusability, and hence cost, depends on the delta velocity. A space probe accelerated to escape trajectory is much different to a satellite in low earth orbit, so the comparison in TFS is unfair.

        I am not sufficiently knowledgeable to know the difference, I just spot the apples vs oranges.

        • (Score: 2) by takyon on Monday November 11 2019, @03:46PM

          by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Monday November 11 2019, @03:46PM (#918967) Journal

          The other big factor is in-orbit refueling, which will allow Starship to surpass any delta-v SLS could reach, even with the honking payload.

          So SLS can get 20-something tons into lunar orbit, while Starship can get 100-150 tons there, or land it directly on the Moon.

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  • (Score: 2) by anotherblackhat on Monday November 11 2019, @02:16PM (3 children)

    by anotherblackhat (4722) on Monday November 11 2019, @02:16PM (#918926)

    Comparing the price of building the SLS to the cost of flying a SpaceX starship?
    I've seen estimates for Starship that put the cost to design and build it at over $10 billion.

    "A single Starship will expend about $900,000 worth of fuel and oxygen for pressurization to send "at least 100 tons, probably 150 tons to orbit,"

    So he knows the exact price of the fuel, but can only approximate the size of the cargo?

    I think we're not going to know the cost of the Starship until a few of them have blown up or worn out. (Because right now the estimates are assuming 100% reusable.)

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Monday November 11 2019, @02:34PM (2 children)

      by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Monday November 11 2019, @02:34PM (#918937) Journal

      Starship development has also been estimated to cost $2 billion. A cost the U.S. government is NOT paying for, mind you. That estimate was made before a switch to stainless steel, which has allowed prototypes to be built outside, with hastily constructed facilities.

      Cargo capability is based on an evolving design and the performance of the Raptor engines. It will be at least 100 tons, but the goal is 150 tons.

      Fuel price is based on the volume of the rocket stages, which is pretty much final for initial versions.

      The janky Starhopper prototype did not explode despite being engulfed in a fireball during ground testing. They may have to work really hard to blow these things up, or blow them up intentionally. Nonetheless, Starship build cost seems likely to be under Falcon 9, with the engines being the bulk of the cost. The engines are around $1 million each, with a goal of $250,000 each. About 43 engines needed for one Starship + Super Heavy. Keep in mind that a single fully reusable rocket could repeatedly launch all payloads from a launch site until it fails. They will eventually have more than one complete rocket at each launch site.

      The comparison is between a rocket that has been designed to be an expendable pork bundle, and a rocket that is designed for full reusability. The comparison is fair.

      https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=49092.140 [nasaspaceflight.com]

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      • (Score: 2) by anotherblackhat on Monday November 11 2019, @06:16PM (1 child)

        by anotherblackhat (4722) on Monday November 11 2019, @06:16PM (#918995)

        The comparison is between a rocket that has been designed to be an expendable pork bundle, and a rocket that is designed for full reusability. The comparison is fair.

        No, the comparison is between a rocket that that has been designed to be an expendable pork bundle, and fueling and staging a rocket that is reusable (some number of times as yet to be determined).

        My guesstimate is about $100 million to build a new Starship (Basically, 37+6 raptor engines at $2 million a piece) Whether it lasts 1, 10, 100, or 1,000 launches makes a huge difference in the price per launch.
        Even at it's most expensive that's still an order of magnitude cheaper than SLS, but not three orders.

        • (Score: 2) by takyon on Monday November 11 2019, @10:02PM

          by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Monday November 11 2019, @10:02PM (#919115) Journal

          I see no reason to believe that Starship will not be successfully reused, refueled in orbit (something Musk claims will be easy), and spammed repeatedly. That's what it's designed for. Today we saw the first "4th use" of a Falcon 9 Block 5 that was not designed to be reused hundreds of times. I will grant you that a trip to the Moon could require up to 10 ships launched for repeated in-orbit refueling. So $20 million minimum instead of $2 million. I don't think build cost will hit $100 million, even for the early full scale prototypes, since it is highly dependent on Raptor engine production with a goal of "<$250,000" per engine. Musk has previously hinted that it could cost less than Falcon 9 to build [teslarati.com]. For the very first full launch of the rocket, they want to have around 100 Raptor engines produced. These could get reused, blown up, or made obsolete if there are major engine changes. The first customers to get launched will be SpaceX (Starlink) and unnamed telecoms. By the time NASA gets its first Starship launch, the design will be more mature and the build rate of Raptor engines will be higher.

          If we want the Starship to be one and done, we could think of a partially expendable mission plan. Land the Super Heavy booster since that's easier and has the most Raptor engines. Leave the Starship somewhere after it reaches the Moon, with no expectation of recovery. Only six engines would be made inaccessible.

          $2 billion is also a conservative estimate for SLS cost. That cost could be pegged at $3 billion, or if factoring in program costs, $5 billion and up based on the total number of launches. If SLS only ever launches 3-5 times before being sent to the dustbin of history, I could see $10-20 billion per launch, making it firmly 2 orders of magnitude over the zillions of Starship launches with their own development costs factored in.

          In the end, SLS will never escape from the build cost being the approximate launch cost. With Starship, there is no expectation of expendable launches like we have seen with Falcon 9. Starship has been "overspec'd" for the purpose of enabling full reusability for every mission (with the possible requirement of creating return propellant on the surface of Mars, the Moon, etc.).

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