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posted by martyb on Wednesday May 06 2020, @05:05AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
NASA will pay a staggering $146 million for each SLS rocket engine:

NASA has previously given more than $1 billion to Aerojet to "restart" production of the space shuttle era engines and a contract for six new ones. So, according to the space agency, NASA has spent $3.5 billion for a total of 24 rocket engines. That comes to $146 million per engine.

The NASA news release says that Aerojet has "implemented a plan to reduce the cost of the engines by as much as 30 percent," noting the use of more advanced manufacturing techniques.

[...] NASA designed these brilliant engines in the 1970s for the space shuttle program, during which they each flew multiple launches. A total of 46 engines were built for the shuttle at an estimated cost of $40 million[*] per engine. But now these formerly reusable engines will be flown a single time on the SLS rocket and then dropped into the ocean.

There are four engines on a Space Launch System rocket. At this price, the engines for an SLS rocket, alone, will cost more than $580 million. This does not include the costs of fabricating the rocket's large core stage, towering solid-rocket boosters, an upper stage, or the costs of test, transportation, storage, and integration. With engine prices like these, it seems reasonable to assume that the cost of a single SLS launch will remain $2 billion into perpetuity.

[...] There are a lot of things one could buy in the aerospace industry for $146 million. One might, for example, buy at least six RD-180 engines from Russia. These engines have more than twice the thrust of a space shuttle main engine. Or, one might go to United Launch Alliance's Rocket Builder website and purchase two basic Atlas V rocket launches. You could buy three "flight-proven" Falcon 9 launches. One might even buy a Falcon Heavy launch, which has two-thirds the lift capacity of the Space Launch System at one-twentieth the price[...]

[...] SpaceX is building the Raptor rocket engine to power its Super Heavy rocket and Starship upper stage. The Raptor has slightly more power at sea level than the RS-25, and is designed for dozens of uses. According to SpaceX founder Elon Musk, it costs less than $1 million to build a Raptor engine. The company has already built a couple dozen of them on its own dime. So there's that.

[*] Not adjusted for inflation.


Original Submission

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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: 3, Insightful) by deimios on Wednesday May 06 2020, @05:35AM (31 children)

    by deimios (201) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday May 06 2020, @05:35AM (#990984) Journal

    That's like 78 Tomahawks or almost 2 F-35A fighters.

    Unacceptable, better spend it on more tools to spread democracy to the world.

    /sarcasm

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by qzm on Wednesday May 06 2020, @05:41AM (29 children)

      by qzm (3260) on Wednesday May 06 2020, @05:41AM (#990985)

      Or, you know, instead of trying to suck up to 'ANYTHING done in the name of NASA is good' our view is a case of two wrongs, and some of us wouldnt think that makes a right.

      There are now viable private options at a TINY fraction of the price (Currently SpaceX, but others coming along..) - THESE should be supported, and the money spent on actual missions, not on propping up these ancient aerospace dinosaurs.

      • (Score: 3, Informative) by Immerman on Wednesday May 06 2020, @12:26PM (28 children)

        by Immerman (3985) on Wednesday May 06 2020, @12:26PM (#991033)

        Doesn't matter - SLS was designed to provide a politics-proof development program for a heavy launch vehicle at a time before SpaceX was credible, and in the face of previous attempts that kept being canceled partway through.

        For better and worse, it'll be almost impossible to cancel SLS until it's flown a few missions. And it's not entirely clear that we should do so before there's a viable alternative. Starship will render it completely obsolete, but it doesn't yet exist, and if Musk were hit by a bus tomorrow it's not clear that it ever would.

        NASA's clearly starting to lean hard toward private alternatives, but they're not the ones calling the shots on SLS - it'd take a major congressional upheaval to cancel that before it's finished.

        • (Score: 2, Insightful) by khallow on Wednesday May 06 2020, @01:30PM (27 children)

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday May 06 2020, @01:30PM (#991045) Journal

          For better and worse, it'll be almost impossible to cancel SLS until it's flown a few missions. And it's not entirely clear that we should do so before there's a viable alternative.

          There's already viable alternatives. Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy. Nobody needs the heavy payloads of the SLS. But if they ever do, the private world has demonstrated that it can develop such vehicles at a fraction the cost of NASA.

          • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Wednesday May 06 2020, @10:38PM (19 children)

            by Immerman (3985) on Wednesday May 06 2020, @10:38PM (#991186)

            >Nobody needs the heavy payloads of the SLS
            Not for current projects, but it makes industrializing space a LOT easier when your integrated machines and modules can be much larger. There's also a chicken-and-egg problem - nobody will *ever* need heavier launch capability than exists at the time, because nobody is stupid enough to design and build equipment that can't be launched with existing rockets. The rockets have to come first, then people will figure out how to use them.

            > if they ever do, the private world has demonstrated that it can develop such vehicles at a fraction the cost of NASA.
            No, they haven't. That's kind of the point. They seem to be well on their way towards doing so, but nobody has yet demonstrated that they can actually deliver. Once they deliver, the SLS will become much harder to justify.

            • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday May 07 2020, @03:58AM (18 children)

              by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday May 07 2020, @03:58AM (#991237) Journal

              Not for current projects, but it makes industrializing space a LOT easier when your integrated machines and modules can be much larger.

              NASA won't have the funds. Keep in mind a fundamental paradox of SLS. Because it costs so much, NASA won't have the funding to ever use SLS for anything other than a few token launches, even if they should get it working right. These smaller rockets are far more effective at industrializing space because a) they launch now, and b) they're far cheaper.

              > if they ever do, the private world has demonstrated that it can develop such vehicles at a fraction the cost of NASA.

              No, they haven't. That's kind of the point. They seem to be well on their way towards doing so, but nobody has yet demonstrated that they can actually deliver. Once they deliver, the SLS will become much harder to justify.

              No, they have! For example, NASA did a study [soylentnews.org] where in an appendix, they compared the cost of SpaceX's development of the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9. Bottom line is that NASA would have costed the development at an order of magnitude more than SpaceX actually spent! For that appendix, they actually had access to SpaceX's books to verify those development costs too.

              And of course, the costed amount would just be the initial amount allotted. Expect more as the project balloons in cost just like every other orbital launch vehicle NASA has ever developed. The effectiveness of the SpaceX approach has been demonstrated and it's way lower cost. Also consider that NASA has yet to pay for any Super Heavy work, yet SpaceX has done a bunch of development work anyway. None of the "Old Space" contractors would move an inch on such a rocket without a government contract securing enough funding.

              So it's kind of the point that SpaceX has already demonstrated it can do the job for vastly less than NASA could ever do. It's time for NASA to completely abandon white elephant projects like the SLS which have negative value because they steal funding from space projects that could be flown now rather than possibly in a decade for a lot more.

              • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Thursday May 07 2020, @02:12PM (17 children)

                by Immerman (3985) on Thursday May 07 2020, @02:12PM (#991326)

                >NASA won't have the funds.
                NASA won't be the ones industrializing space. Of course, at SLS prices only the most ambitious of private interests will even consider it either.

                >No, they have!
                They have a single example of someone succeeding at small scales at much lower cost, for reasons they don't understand. A single data point does not make for a general trend, and certainly doesn't guarantee that their success can scale to much larger and more ambitious (and expensive) projects. For example, if SpaceX hadn't pivoted to steel, the recent string of test failures would have dealt them a major financial blow that would have slowed things down considerably. At best.

                I completely agree that Starship will eventually render SLS obsolete - it might even manage to do it before SLS actually flies. And hopefully that will be enough to put an end to the SLS program. I would certainly be very disappointed if a new SLS-style program were created at this point, but the SLS program continues for political reasons that have nothing to do with its technical merits, because it was designed that way to keep it from being canceled for reasons that also had nothing to do with its technical merits. Cancelling it will take an immensely compelling argument, and "we may soon have a much better privately-developed rocket" makes for a poor argument for a politician to want to cut a large flow of cash into their state.

                • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday May 07 2020, @02:19PM (16 children)

                  by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday May 07 2020, @02:19PM (#991328) Journal

                  They have a single example of someone succeeding at small scales at much lower cost, for reasons they don't understand.

                  Much lower cost is more than an order of magnitude lower cost. I figure at least a factor of 20.

                  For example, if SpaceX hadn't pivoted to steel, the recent string of test failures would have dealt them a major financial blow that would have slowed things down considerably. At best.

                  Funny how that worked. NASA would have an additional dozen requirements that would be pushed through no matter what. SpaceX already adapted.

                  • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Thursday May 07 2020, @02:33PM (15 children)

                    by Immerman (3985) on Thursday May 07 2020, @02:33PM (#991335)

                    >SpaceX already adapted.
                    Yeah, but they were able to do so because they got lucky - someone noticed that some steels have a better strength-to-weight ratio than carbon fiber at cryogenic temperatures. If steel didn't happen to have those properties, or nobody noticed, there weren't a lot of other options.

                    Now, far be it from me to badmouth luck - but it's not something to count on

                    And hey, assuming they pull off Starship SH, then there will be two data points to go on. Actually, at this point we have several other rocket companies having reached orbit as well - all at a much smaller scale, but that makes for several more data points. Then we can start talking trends - in 2011 we couldn't. SpaceX's Falcon 9 success at much lower cost might well have been a fluke.

                    • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday May 07 2020, @02:48PM (14 children)

                      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday May 07 2020, @02:48PM (#991339) Journal
                      The thing is, that study was published in 2011. The evidence was already building up when they started SLS. Even ten years earlier, we had the EELV (Evolutionary Expendable Launch Vehicle) program which consisted of the Atlas 5 and Delta IV. Even back then, we could have made things work with those rockets. One has to go back 30 or more years.

                      But even then, NASA was trying to obstruct commercial launch - first with a Shuttle monopoly law from 1975-1984, and then with an enforced oligopoly of launch providers with niche monopolies (Orbital's Pegasus, Boeing's Delta II, Lockheed's Atlas II, Titan IV (for military payloads of the same size as the Atlas II), and of course, the Space Shuttle (for NASA projects and later the ISS)). This only got busted open in the first place when the US military got tired of it and started the EELV program in the mid 1990s. A half century of obstruction and white elephants.

                      NASA should in theory be pushing the envelope. Not just with cutting edge technology and exploration, but also with US industry. If they had pushed commercial launch back in 1970, IMHO things would be amazingly different today, we'd be 30-40 years ahead of where we are now. That is an amazing lost opportunity.
                      • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Thursday May 07 2020, @03:03PM (7 children)

                        by Immerman (3985) on Thursday May 07 2020, @03:03PM (#991344)

                        Yes - a study with a single data point about a fledgling space launch company that might have just gotten lucky. Very promising, but not necessarily relevant to short-term (less than a decade) goals.

                        As for the rest - I won't argue there. When government bureaucracies get cozy with specific suppliers, it rarely ends in high efficiency. The military has plenty of its own examples of that.

                        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Saturday May 09 2020, @03:38AM (6 children)

                          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Saturday May 09 2020, @03:38AM (#991947) Journal

                          Yes - a study with a single data point about a fledgling space launch company that might have just gotten lucky.

                          Because luck will somehow get you somewhere with rockets? A lot of people have tried that and often died that. Sorry, you can't spend an order of magnitude less and expect luck to make up the difference. You need to get it pretty close just to have a functioning system.

                          As to the "single" data point, it consists of two rockets and three rocket engines all developed way under schedule and budget compared to NASA.

                          • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Saturday May 09 2020, @03:04PM (5 children)

                            by Immerman (3985) on Saturday May 09 2020, @03:04PM (#992040)

                            Luck comes in lots of forms - chance permeates the functioning of our society to the point that statistical analysis shows that your financial success in life is primarily down to luck. (Followed by being born into money - which is also luck)

                            Maybe somebody had an incredibly valuable insight early on in the design process, which won't be repeated. Maybe a small team of designers had just the right synergy to really excel, and now one of them has left, or several more have been added, and the synergy is gone. A million little things can cause an occasional radical outlier - there's never any guarantee that any one-off performance can be duplicated. Especially when you start talking about trying to scale things up. Lots of things work well at a small scale or in a small team, that just don't scale up as you try to grow - it's actually a major problem encountered by a lot of small businesses that try to "take things to the next level".

                            • (Score: 1) by khallow on Saturday May 09 2020, @03:49PM (4 children)

                              by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Saturday May 09 2020, @03:49PM (#992062) Journal

                              Luck comes in lots of forms - chance permeates the functioning of our society to the point that statistical analysis shows that your financial success in life is primarily down to luck. (Followed by being born into money - which is also luck)

                              In a deterministic world, what is "luck" and what is "not luck"?

                              • (Score: 1) by khallow on Saturday May 09 2020, @03:50PM

                                by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Saturday May 09 2020, @03:50PM (#992063) Journal
                                ugh, non-deterministic world.
                              • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Saturday May 09 2020, @05:42PM (2 children)

                                by Immerman (3985) on Saturday May 09 2020, @05:42PM (#992095)

                                Good luck is when chance benefits you, bad luck is when it harms you. Both happen pretty much continuously, but as with any random occurrence the net benefit will tend to vary wildly over time. Which is why anecdotes and small sample sizes are worth only slightly more than nothing in scientific research - you can't draw any meaningful conclusions from them because the noise is probably greater than the signal.

                                • (Score: 1) by khallow on Saturday May 09 2020, @11:40PM (1 child)

                                  by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Saturday May 09 2020, @11:40PM (#992169) Journal
                                  Ok, so now, what is chance?

                                  For example, suppose we have a game of chance which on the flip of a fair coin (which can only flip head or tails), gives you 10% of what you bet on heads and on tails, takes away 10%. Repeatedly playing the game over and over, rebetting whatever your current stake is, will slowly reduce your money by about 0.5% per game on average. Now suppose you get 20% when you flip heads and only lose 10% when you flip tails. Suddenly, it's a net earner with about 4% return per game on average.

                                  There's a very small chance that you could win big with the first game payouts and lose big with the second after playing a bunch of games. But the odds against those events happening go up as you keep playing.

                                  We could say this is all chance, but it's chance with a thumb on the scale. That's the problem with calling things "luck". You're ignoring that the probabilities are almost always biased. There are a number of companies that were in the same place as SpaceX was (for example, Rotary Rocket [wikipedia.org],Ball Aerospace [wikipedia.org], and E-Prime Aerospace [eprimeaerospace.com]) with a launch vehicle idea and a bunch of money. Why they failed where SpaceX succeeded is not just luck.

                                  Further, treating this as one data point or one observation is misleading. As I noted, there were numerous achievements - the development of two rockets and three rocket engines, and in addition seven launches (2 sucessful launches out of 5 of the Falcon 1 and 2 subsequent successful launches of the Falcon 9). United Launch Alliance (ULA) also had two successful launch vehicles and its parent companies were trusted enough by NASA to develop the SLS and Orion vehicles. NASA had plenty of opportunity, not just with SpaceX, to develop more advanced and capable launch vehicles from existing ones, which would have had a far lower dependency on "luck" and massive spending over long periods of time than their SLS approach.
                                  • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Monday May 11 2020, @03:48AM

                                    by Immerman (3985) on Monday May 11 2020, @03:48AM (#992653)

                                    My point is only that there's a lot of noise in that signal. Trying to forecast from extremely limited information is an exercise in bias and superstition. And at the time the bias and superstition mostly favored business as usual.

                                    Would it have made more sense to put the money towards Starship? Maybe. The government oversight that would likely entail might also have killed them. They also weren't really in a place to seriously think about Starship yet - they had years of challenges to embrace first. And that's assuming the money would have been available for anything else space related in the first place - pork has incredible motivating power in getting a budget approved, and SpaceX doesn't do pork. Would it have been better for space development if NASA had simply not gotten the money at all and crossed their fingers that Starship would materialize?

                      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 08 2020, @05:17PM (5 children)

                        by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 08 2020, @05:17PM (#991736)

                        > NASA should in theory be pushing the envelope.
                        NOPE. NEVER. They are a POLITICAL organization now (and most of their existence). Sorry to say they are just an expensive offshoot of congress. I always wanted to work for them when I was a wee lad, but when I did work WITH them in the 90s, I was so glad I went private. THEY are the main problem with spaceflight today (and the they included their main arm, congress).

                        >If they had pushed commercial launch back in 1970, IMHO things would be amazingly different today
                        NOPE. There has been some very amazing advances over the years.
                        CAD (huge really-especially with built in analysis tools). 3D printed production metals. Metal plate/metal honeycomb bulkheads. Thinner, more consistent metal sheeting(exterior and pressure vessels). Better forming with titanium. Better nozzles. Electric Thrust Vector Controllers vs hydraulic. Better/cheaper IMUs. Smaller/lighter electronics. MUCH better batteries (we used NiCad WELL into the 2000s). To put it in line with the article, solids($14) vs liquids ($1-2/lb) although that doesn't include the price of the turbo-pump.

                        Small nit: add Orbital's Taurus and X-37 to your list.

                        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Friday May 08 2020, @06:45PM (4 children)

                          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday May 08 2020, @06:45PM (#991765) Journal

                          NOPE. There has been some very amazing advances over the years.

                          The most important of those amazing advances is higher launch volume which is purely an economic issue. SpaceX had a slow season in 2019, but it still managed 13 launches for the year (and had 20 launches for 2018). The point here is that a SpaceX-like business could have thrived in the 1970s and 1980s with the technology of those days. But it would need launch volume. NASA killed that by first a decade of creating a monopoly for the Space Shuttle on all payloads, public and private, and then the stagnant launch oligopoly for a decade after that. SpaceX couldn't have been created much earlier than it was and still have a viable market for its products!

                          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 08 2020, @07:10PM (3 children)

                            by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 08 2020, @07:10PM (#991783)

                            I still partially disagree. Iridium went up in the 90s and Orbital was launching about 20 flights a year back then. They could have done more since they had several different vehicles. I'd say the biggest killer was cell phones (killed Iridium) and lack of sophisticated micro sats (tech problems back then). There just wasn't the market like today and we've had a whole evolution of the tech.

                            • (Score: 1) by khallow on Friday May 08 2020, @09:30PM (2 children)

                              by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday May 08 2020, @09:30PM (#991818) Journal
                              Orbital's peak launch rate [wikipedia.org] was six flights in 1998. OSC had other launch vehicles [wikipedia.org], but only the Minotaur I was active back then - it launched twice in 2000.
                              • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 09 2020, @04:53AM (1 child)

                                by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 09 2020, @04:53AM (#991961)

                                Wrong. PEGASUS peak launch rate was 6. That is hardly the whole fleet. And nothing in your links list the military launches except in passing. Here shows some, but many are still missing:
                                https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1997_in_spaceflight [wikipedia.org]
                                and also other years. Incomplete though. Can't find a better site showing the whole fleet (~35 vehicles in the 90's).
                                Also, I said 90's and Minotaur was just being developed during that time and was the beginning of the end IMNSHO. We were discussing events 25-35 years ago that woulda/coulda/shoulda, but didn't. Orbital and Coleman Research were the Space-X of their day. Young and growing fast. You can hardly find evidence of Coleman online anymore in the launch business, and Orbital has been swallowed by ATK and NG and are a shadow of their former selves. If Iridium had been successful, it might have been a different world, but cell phones stole the business and the rest is history. And again, none of it had anything to do with NASA.

                                • (Score: 1) by khallow on Sunday May 10 2020, @12:22AM

                                  by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Sunday May 10 2020, @12:22AM (#992172) Journal
                                  I only count Pegasus since they were the only orbital launch vehicles. There were 5 such launches. The other 5 were suborbital with one failure and one partial failure.
          • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Thursday May 07 2020, @01:10AM (6 children)

            by Immerman (3985) on Thursday May 07 2020, @01:10AM (#991215)

            Also, that's just not relevant to when the SLS program was created - SpaceX was a fledgling company that had just barely managed a handful of orbital launches and wasn't really being taken seriously yet, Falcon Heavy was just a "future goal", and nobody else had reached orbit. The Space Shuttle was being decommissioned, Ares V had been recently canceled, and we weren't going to be launching large military satellites on Russian rockets. If we wanted reliable heavy-lift potential under U.S. control, a cancel-proof SLS program was the safe bet. (notwithstanding cost-plus contracts...)

            It no longer matters that it might well be much better to spend that money on other things - the SLS deal was made so that it'd take a political miracle to break it. A working Starship + SuperHeavy would hopefully deliver that miracle, but it doesn't seem realistic to expect a series of exploding pressure tanks to make quite such a compelling argument.

            • (Score: 2) by takyon on Thursday May 07 2020, @01:55AM (1 child)

              by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Thursday May 07 2020, @01:55AM (#991221) Journal

              A working Starship + SuperHeavy would hopefully deliver that miracle, but it doesn't seem realistic to expect a series of exploding pressure tanks to make quite such a compelling argument.

              It's a matter of timing, that's all.

              We've seen the rocket landing blooper reel. People in the know understand that this is how SpaceX does development. Keep in mind that unlike the Starhopper flight, these pressure tests are not live streamed by SpaceX itself. After it's out of the prototype stage, they can prove it works by repeatedly launching Starlink sats, or by taking Bridenstine's hint from a few months ago and landing a Starship on the Moon. Except they seem to be getting paid for such a demo now, as of a week ago. Starships will be cheap enough that multiple units could be abandoned there, maybe containing some goodies and useful bulky materials that astronauts can extract later.

              To have a chance of killing SLS, SpaceX has to show off Starship feats before SLS even starts flying. In-orbit refueling in particular would deliver a severe blow to SLS since SLS can only get about 30-35% of its max LEO payload to the Moon (TLI [wikipedia.org], not surface). SpaceX could fly a commercial payload (communications satellite) on Starship as soon as next year. The November 2021 planned launch date for uncrewed SLS could easily slip due to work halting because of the coronavirus. Same with a Q4 2022 crewed launch, which could pit it against the Starship #dearMoon launch.

              --
              [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
              • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Thursday May 07 2020, @01:39PM

                by Immerman (3985) on Thursday May 07 2020, @01:39PM (#991310)

                Sure, it's the way SpaceX does things, and I'm a big fan of their trial-and-error approach - but it doesn't inspire confidence that they'll actually manage to get Starship fully operational on schedule. Not to the levels necessary to swing a political miracle. There's a lot of innovation in Starship, which also means there's a lot of potential for major setbacks due to unforseen problems. And as I think I alluded to above, there's a strong feeling that Musk engenders a cult of personality, and if anything happened to him his businesses could flounder. (Not unlike Apple, whose innovation mostly died with Jobs).

                I think you're right that it's a matter of timing - when Starship flies, SLS will be in trouble. Successful reentry and orbital refueling would make it extremely difficult to continue to justify SLS. But for now they're both future aspirations in a neck-and-neck race to orbit - and SLS has immense political support for reasons that have nothing to do with reaching orbit.

            • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday May 07 2020, @04:00AM (3 children)

              by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday May 07 2020, @04:00AM (#991238) Journal

              Also, that's just not relevant to when the SLS program was created

              The thing is, it's almost a decade past when the SLS program was created. And here we are with a massively delayed and overpriced giant rocket that no one needs and no one can afford even if they did.

              • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Thursday May 07 2020, @01:06PM (2 children)

                by Immerman (3985) on Thursday May 07 2020, @01:06PM (#991299)

                Yep, and it's just one political miracle away from being canceled. That's the problem with creating a cancel-proof project to withstand the normal political winds of changing administrations - it's also cancel-proof in the face of better options that develop independently.

                • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday May 07 2020, @01:42PM (1 child)

                  by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday May 07 2020, @01:42PM (#991312) Journal
                  I'd say that being cancel-proof is a problem in itself. Nobody ever bothers to make sensible programs cancel-proof. In space projects, it's always the white elephants that get this treatment.
                  • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Thursday May 07 2020, @02:43PM

                    by Immerman (3985) on Thursday May 07 2020, @02:43PM (#991338)

                    Well, before SpaceX, the space industry was pretty much *all* white elephants. The immense focused funding of the Apollo program had passed, which meant delivering similar funding took many more years - and that had opened the door to a track record of projects being cancelled for political reasons. After all, space delivers minimal immediate benefits, and that fat budget is mighty tempting target for politicians looking to (look like they're) tightening the government's belt.

                    I'll be glad to see it go, but at the time it was kind of the only realistic option for funding such a large project to completion. Even if SpaceX was being taken seriously, there was no way they could have gotten government funding to immediately jump to Starship development (even assuming that would have been wise) - they just didn't have the pork-spreading power of the established players.

    • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 06 2020, @05:47AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 06 2020, @05:47AM (#990986)

      Just pump more money into a failing program, that will fix it.

      /notsarcasm

  • (Score: 0, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 06 2020, @08:30AM (4 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 06 2020, @08:30AM (#991003)

    Takyon, our little insider trader and rocketmonger of a libertarian bent! May never you have to lift on a can built by the lowest bidder.

    • (Score: 0, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 06 2020, @09:05AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 06 2020, @09:05AM (#991006)

      We don't want to hear what lil' pederast guy aristarchus has to say about alt-rockets. Or anything else, for that matter.

    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by khallow on Wednesday May 06 2020, @01:36PM (2 children)

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday May 06 2020, @01:36PM (#991047) Journal

      Takyon, our little insider trader and rocketmonger of a libertarian bent! May never you have to lift on a can built by the lowest bidder.

      The great irony will of course be that the lowest bidder will happen to be the most reliable bidder too! The lowest bidder here already has a much higher launch frequency. That's essential if you ever want to find and address rare launch failure modes rather than merely futilely hope you don't have them.

      • (Score: 2) by PartTimeZombie on Wednesday May 06 2020, @09:45PM (1 child)

        by PartTimeZombie (4827) on Wednesday May 06 2020, @09:45PM (#991165)

        Shit! forced to mod you Insightful.

        Not sure what happened there. :-)

        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday May 07 2020, @02:20PM

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday May 07 2020, @02:20PM (#991330) Journal
          aristarchus posted. Everyone looks a little smarter when cast against that shadow.
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 06 2020, @12:58PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 06 2020, @12:58PM (#991041)

    Washington is having a hard time figuring out how to distribute enough cash to keep the economy viable thru the virus.
      This jobs program is shovel ready and able to disperse the cash in a wide pattern.
        Judging by the SBA loans/non-loans, distribution money is not a trivial exercise by Washington standards.
          Who would have though that Washington could not do even that?

    Not sure what this says about how to do space?
        One focused individual has worked twice. (Musk and VonBraun)
        Big beauracrazy has sort of worked, I guess.

    • (Score: 1) by khallow on Wednesday May 06 2020, @03:00PM

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday May 06 2020, @03:00PM (#991063) Journal

      Who would have though that Washington could not do even that?

      80 years of caring if the check is cashed rather than who is cashing it. Federal government has been sloppy with money for centuries, but it got worse recently when they had that big depression. Now with the Nazis and Japs acting up...

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 06 2020, @04:29PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 06 2020, @04:29PM (#991094)

    it doesn't matter because one of them is installed at the federal reserve building and powering printing presses there.

    in other (even more fake) news: coal has been found to be 4 times better suited for rechargable batteries then lithium "^_^

  • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Wednesday May 06 2020, @07:46PM (2 children)

    by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday May 06 2020, @07:46PM (#991137) Journal

    Assuming SpaceX continues to demonstrate the success and efficiency it has shown so far, it will become impossible for NASA and Congress to ignore the elephant in the room.

    The price will force more and more government users (DoD, NOAA, etc) to buy from SpaceX.

    SLS simply won't have customers. The boondoggle will become so obvious, like the elephant in the room, like the cost of a Windows / Office license, that it can no longer be ignored.

    --
    Calmly vote. Fill out your ballet and drop it in the ballet box. Don't dance around bothering the pole watchers.
    • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 06 2020, @08:18PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 06 2020, @08:18PM (#991146)

      >> like the cost of a Windows / Office license

      I prefer to view that cost as insurance against having to deal with SystemD.

  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 06 2020, @08:15PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 06 2020, @08:15PM (#991145)

    It's actually $26 million for each SLS rocket engine plus $120 million for locating the jobs in certain congress-critters districts. Bargain!

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by All Your Lawn Are Belong To Us on Thursday May 07 2020, @05:33PM (1 child)

    by All Your Lawn Are Belong To Us (6553) on Thursday May 07 2020, @05:33PM (#991402) Journal

    TFA says that they will pay 1.79 Billion for another 18 engines, therefore at a single unit cost of $99,444,444.44.

    Yes, you can certainly take the $3.5 billion for 24 engines and come out at $146 million, but that is misleading when a considerable amount of that was startup development costs and that half the price is already a sunk cost.

    Is it wasteful? Sure seems like it. I'd bet one could make the math still indicate that at "only" $100 million.

    But make the accounting accurate first, which is more than just the math.

    --
    Keep everyone ignorant of the magical world! KEEP AMERICA OBLIVIATE!
    • (Score: 1) by khallow on Friday May 08 2020, @06:50PM

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday May 08 2020, @06:50PM (#991768) Journal

      TFA says that they will pay 1.79 Billion for another 18 engines

      Don't forget the inevitable cost overruns. Accounting math is quite futile with so much slack in the system in the first place.

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