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posted by martyb on Tuesday October 27 2020, @02:36AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the entry-for-SpaceX dept.

NASA SLS megarocket shortage causes tug-of-war between moon missions, Europa exploration:

NASA is choosing between human missions to the moon and a robotic mission to Jupiter's icy moon Europa as the agency manages its limited supply of megarockets in the coming years.

The agency began developing its Space Launch System (SLS) in 2010, intending for the rocket to be the agency's primary vehicle for crewed and deep-space missions. But work has been slow, and NASA and Boeing, which builds the vehicles' two main stages, are only now testing the core stage of the first SLS. It won't fly until late next year, when it makes the first flight of NASA's Artemis lunar-exploration program — an uncrewed trip around the moon known as Artemis 1. The schedule will therefore be tight for the third Artemis launch, which aims to land two astronauts near the moon's south pole in 2024.

Meanwhile, engineers are building the Europa Clipper spacecraft, designed to learn enough about the moon's ice shell, subsurface ocean and geology to help scientists determine whether the hidden ocean may suit the needs of life as we know it. And Congress has mandated the agency also use an SLS rocket to launch Europa Clipper — without consideration for whether one may be available.

[...] In terms of rocket science, right now, Europa Clipper can launch on a commercial vehicle, like SpaceX's Falcon Heavy or United Launch Alliance's Delta-IV Heavy rocket, although the mission would then need a longer cruise time to reach its destination.

But in terms of the law, NASA's hands are tied.

"Because of that, we're planning to build the Europa Clipper and then put it into storage, because we're not going to have an SLS rocket available until 2025," Bridenstine said. "That's the current plan. I don't think that's the right plan, but we're going to follow the law."


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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: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27 2020, @02:52AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27 2020, @02:52AM (#1069161)

    penis mousetrap goes snap then i go hahahah and i karate chop 5 slabs of thick frozen ice with my pee pee.

    3 pee pee

  • (Score: 5, Informative) by khallow on Tuesday October 27 2020, @03:16AM (5 children)

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday October 27 2020, @03:16AM (#1069166) Journal
    This is merely a taste of the dysfunction that the Space Launch System promises to bring for the next few decades, should we not wisely end it in the next few years. Just like the Space Shuttle, the SLS takes the oxygen out of the room. NASA can't have both a space program and an SLS. Here, the conflict appears to be over SLS launch frequency. But because the rocket is so expensive to launch, they can't just make two and launch them both in 2024 - that extra one or two billion dollars just isn't there in the budget.

    Basic common sense stuff can't be done because the rocket doesn't have the economics to allow it to happen. And in a US with growing fiscal weakness, the "just launch twice" solution is likely to never happen.
    • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Tuesday October 27 2020, @03:42AM (4 children)

      by c0lo (156) on Tuesday October 27 2020, @03:42AM (#1069171) Journal

      Basic common sense stuff can't be done because the rocket doesn't have the economics to allow it to happen.

      The basic common sense of the last two decades says if you want something cheap, go make it in China. Might work for SLS too (large grin)

      --
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
      • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27 2020, @03:56AM (2 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27 2020, @03:56AM (#1069175)

        > if you want something cheap,...
        if you want something cheap, and you don't mind giving away your IP,...

        ftfy

        That's the most common reason I hear from small companies that tried to have fairly complex things made in China. After they got samples back (which often looked pretty good), a clone, but unbranded product was on the world market, undercutting the price of the original. Often within weeks--there's no shame (and apparently no penalty either) in stealing IP in China.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27 2020, @04:13AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27 2020, @04:13AM (#1069179)

          if you want something cheap, and you don't mind giving away your IP,...

          ftfy

          That whoosh... was it deafening?

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27 2020, @05:19AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27 2020, @05:19AM (#1069191)

          Good for them, they learn fast. Can't say the same about you.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27 2020, @02:40PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27 2020, @02:40PM (#1069292)

        No worries,

        I'm sure they already have the plans. But is kind of like school textbooks. It was so screwed up to begin with, that nobody in their right minds would actually copy it.

  • (Score: 1) by John Bresnahan on Tuesday October 27 2020, @10:15AM (7 children)

    by John Bresnahan (5989) on Tuesday October 27 2020, @10:15AM (#1069231)

    Elon Musk’s Starship project is coming along nicely.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by takyon on Tuesday October 27 2020, @12:51PM

      by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Tuesday October 27 2020, @12:51PM (#1069266) Journal

      If we're lucky, 15km SN8 launch and annual update presentation within a week or two.

      --
      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by DannyB on Tuesday October 27 2020, @02:21PM (5 children)

      by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday October 27 2020, @02:21PM (#1069283) Journal

      I would also point out: How many Falcon Heavy launches can you buy for the cost of a single SLS launch?

      Would it be possible, and if so, cheaper, to design a large mission to fly on multiple FH launches rather than a single SLS launch? Including the cost of mission design changes for multiple smaller FH payloads.

      Now it seems FH isn't all that much smaller than SLS. From this . . . [spacenews.com]

      The Falcon Heavy has a slightly lower lift capacity than the Space Launch System, 64 metric tons to low Earth orbit as opposed to 70 metric tons. And the SLS has a larger fairing that can accommodate a wider payload. Enhancements down the line will increase the Space Launch System’s capabilities even more.

      However, the Falcon Heavy has two distinct advantages over the Space Launch System. Even in the totally expendable mode the SpaceX rocket costs just $150 million to launch. Just as important, Falcon Heavy has already flown.

      --
      Calmly vote. Fill out your ballet and drop it in the ballet box. Don't dance around bothering the pole watchers.
      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by takyon on Tuesday October 27 2020, @02:40PM (4 children)

        by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Tuesday October 27 2020, @02:40PM (#1069291) Journal

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Launch_System [wikipedia.org]
        https://old.reddit.com/r/SpaceLaunchSystem/comments/8j5jum/sls_block_1_payload_now_95_tons/ [reddit.com]
        http://www.parabolicarc.com/2018/05/20/payload-2020-sls-launch-air/ [parabolicarc.com]
        https://arstechnica.com/science/2018/09/china-appears-to-be-accelerating-development-of-a-super-heavy-lift-rocket/ [arstechnica.com]

        To be fair, sometime around 2018 NASA adjusted the payload to LEO estimate for SLS Block 1 to 95 metric tons (SLS Block 1B = 105 metric tons). Not that it's a good deal, but it's better than originally anticipated.

        --
        [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by DannyB on Tuesday October 27 2020, @03:05PM (3 children)

          by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday October 27 2020, @03:05PM (#1069299) Journal

          I like comparing to FH since it is flying. Even a fully expended FH, thus lifting maximum payload weight, is cheaper than SLS.

          Starship is making progress. And it will be exciting. If it materializes, I wonder how it will change the perception of SLS.

          --
          Calmly vote. Fill out your ballet and drop it in the ballet box. Don't dance around bothering the pole watchers.
          • (Score: 5, Informative) by takyon on Tuesday October 27 2020, @03:26PM (2 children)

            by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Tuesday October 27 2020, @03:26PM (#1069308) Journal

            There's already plans to use Falcon Heavy + Dragon XL for the Lunar Gateway, possibly Falcon Heavy for Europa Clipper, and a Starship lunar landing variant. Missions that were originally intended for SLS are shifting to SpaceX.

            Further Starship development, landing Starship on the Moon, etc. will increase pressure to kill SLS. But SLS will probably survive to its first launch in late 2021, early 2022. Best case scenario, it will only fly once, and the crewed SLS + Orion launches will be cancelled.

            --
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            • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Tuesday October 27 2020, @05:22PM (1 child)

              by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday October 27 2020, @05:22PM (#1069385) Journal

              What you describe, the cancellation of SLS, is so remarkably sensible that it strains credibility that it could or ever would happen. Like a wild kook theory found online somewhere.

              --
              Calmly vote. Fill out your ballet and drop it in the ballet box. Don't dance around bothering the pole watchers.
              • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Tuesday October 27 2020, @06:05PM

                by Immerman (3985) on Tuesday October 27 2020, @06:05PM (#1069423)

                It'll be really hard to cancel the SLS program in the short term - its early missions (and thus it) were made almost politically unkillable in response to previous Shuttle replacements being repeatedly killed in response to election cycles.

                On the bright side, it seems that NASA is seriously (and officially) considering Falcon Heavy and Starship for future missions, so even if SLS isn't formally killed, it may well be mothballed as soon as the first batch of "politically immortal" rockets is completed.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27 2020, @12:47PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27 2020, @12:47PM (#1069263)

    one-way throw away rockets are even worse when used for test runs ...

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by DannyB on Tuesday October 27 2020, @02:52PM

      by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday October 27 2020, @02:52PM (#1069296) Journal

      one-way throw away rockets are even worse when used for test runs ...

      You misspelled "more profitable".

      --
      Calmly vote. Fill out your ballet and drop it in the ballet box. Don't dance around bothering the pole watchers.
  • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27 2020, @02:38PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27 2020, @02:38PM (#1069290)

    I recall somebody doing something like that a long time ago in this country. I think it had something to do with tea?

    If there is a cheaper, faster, safer option it is would be interesting to see if that mandate would survive a lawsuit.

    My guess is the SLS budget is as high as it is because money is being siphoned off for black projects. So the mandate for the SLS, isn't really a mandate for the SLS, so much as a mandate that the fed has some place to hide spending. Groom lake has to get funded from somewhere.

    So I doubt they have much complaint about inventing some other massive boondoggle whose purpose is to never be completed. Really they should have just made the thing out of cardboard.

    • (Score: 3, Funny) by DannyB on Tuesday October 27 2020, @02:57PM

      by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday October 27 2020, @02:57PM (#1069297) Journal

      You are overlooking the HUGE savings that SLS provides by not letting used Space Shuttle engines go to waste!

      Consider the benefits* to be gained by taking an expensive, and reusable engine, and putting it on an expendable launch vehicle.

      * to contractors

      --
      Calmly vote. Fill out your ballet and drop it in the ballet box. Don't dance around bothering the pole watchers.
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27 2020, @04:03PM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27 2020, @04:03PM (#1069334)

    TFS title should read: "NASA SLS Megarocket Shortage Causes Tug-of-war Between Moon Missions, Europa Exploration, and funding The Big Welfare Machine"

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by DannyB on Tuesday October 27 2020, @05:27PM (1 child)

      by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday October 27 2020, @05:27PM (#1069392) Journal

      Senator Shelby, I thought Republicans were against welfare.

      Unless it is to rich, powerful people.

      And corporations are people too!

      --
      Calmly vote. Fill out your ballet and drop it in the ballet box. Don't dance around bothering the pole watchers.
      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday October 27 2020, @06:42PM

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday October 27 2020, @06:42PM (#1069445) Journal

        And corporations are people too!

        Because the rich, powerful people really give a shit about that, amirite?

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27 2020, @11:49PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27 2020, @11:49PM (#1069584)

    frying in the morning.

    SLS appears to be flaming in the face of the members supporting it.

    The big old space folks' plan of probably, eventually making it work at some cost is no longer the best game in town.

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