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posted by Fnord666 on Tuesday January 12 2021, @01:15AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the liberated-from-Boeing dept.

NASA's Europa Clipper has been liberated from the Space Launch System

Almost unnoticed, tucked into the 2021 fiscal NASA funding section of the recently passed omnibus spending bill, is a provision that would seem to liberate the upcoming Europa Clipper mission from the Space Launch System (SLS).

According to Space News, the mandate that the Europa Clipper mission be launched on an SLS remains in place only if the behind-schedule and overpriced heavy lift rocket is available and if concerns about hardware compatibility between the probe and the launcher are resolved. Otherwise, NASA is free to search for commercial alternatives to get the Europa Clipper to Jupiter's ice-shrouded moon.

[....] The Europa Clipper being mandated to fly on an SLS to begin with was the result of an unseemly side of congressional budget politics. The space probe was championed by former Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas), who at the time was the chair of the House appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA. In order to get support for the Europa Clipper, Culberson added the SLS mandate, which garnered support from Sen. Richard Shelby ( R-Ala.), chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Shelby's state contains a number of aerospace contractors involved in developing the SLS.

[....] As Ars Technica points out, launching the Europa Clipper on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy saves the mission $1.5 billion. An advantage of using the SLS has been that it allows for a direct path to Jupiter without the time-consuming planetary flyby maneuvers that previous missions to the outer planets have required. The Falcon Heavy alone would not be able to get the Europa Clipper to Jupiter space directly, though it might be able to if equipped with a powerful Centaur kick stage.

Both the economics and physics of getting to Europa change if SpaceX's Starship, currently under development in Boca Chica, Texas, becomes available to launch the Europa Clipper in the mid-2020s. The Starship is meant to fulfill SpaceX's CEO Elon Musk's dreams of settling Mars. But the massive reusable rocket would be available for other things, presumably including sending probes to the outer planets.

[....] The SLS has since been a lead weight on America's space ambitions. The SLS slated to launch the Artemis 1 uncrewed mission around the moon is currently stuck in a ground-based "green run" series of tests. The SLS is currently using up a great deal of the money allocated to NASA's Artemis program. The first flight is scheduled for November 2021 at the earliest.

Perhaps Boeing could rescue the SLS by introducing a new SLS-MAX product.


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:


Original Submission

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  • (Score: 2) by takyon on Tuesday January 12 2021, @01:49AM (2 children)

    by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Tuesday January 12 2021, @01:49AM (#1098711) Journal

    According to Space News, the mandate that the Europa Clipper mission be launched on an SLS remains in place only if the behind-schedule and overpriced heavy lift rocket is available and if concerns about hardware compatibility between the probe and the launcher are resolved.

    Europa Clipper is set for launch in 2024, so it could still launch on an SLS.

    2024 could be a tough sell for using a Starship. SpaceX might have a polished Starship and booster operating in 2022, and a short time to convince NASA it's safe to use it for upcoming missions.

    The compatibility issue is probably due to vibrations [spacenews.com]. If the large thrust of the rocket is a problem, an SLS MAX would just make things worse.

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    • (Score: 2) by choose another one on Tuesday January 12 2021, @12:47PM (1 child)

      by choose another one (515) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday January 12 2021, @12:47PM (#1098825)

      an SLS MAX would just make things worse.

      Pretty sure the submitter's point was that "MAX" actually is Boeing-speak for "make stuff worse"...

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 12 2021, @12:54PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 12 2021, @12:54PM (#1098830)

        It flew over my head.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 12 2021, @01:51AM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 12 2021, @01:51AM (#1098712)
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