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posted by martyb on Wednesday March 28 2018, @09:27AM   Printer-friendly
from the How-many-Falcon-Heavy-launches-would-that-buy? dept.

Congress has given NASA $350 million for a second mobile launcher for the Space Launch System:

The problem stems from the fact that NASA's current mobile launch platform wasn't actually built for the SLS. NASA has been modifying a platform that was originally built for a rocket that never saw the light of day — the Ares 1, a vehicle that was meant to send humans back to the Moon as part of the now-canceled Constellation program. When the Constellation program was replaced with the SLS program in 2011, NASA decided to simply upgrade the mobile launch platform the agency had already built for Ares 1 to support the Space Launch System. The SLS is a much bigger and heavier vehicle than the Ares 1 was going to be, so NASA has had to reinforce the base of the platform, as well as expand it to accommodate the larger size of the rocket and its engines.

[...] Now, Congress is telling NASA to build a second platform, likely due to safety concerns. Building the new platform could potentially move the second flight of SLS up to 2022 instead of 2023. Otherwise, having such a huge gap between the first and second flight of the rocket could cause engineers to forget the valuable experience they gained from flying the rocket the first time. "When that happens, you have all the people — in your ground systems and in mission control — you have them sitting around for months at a time with nothing to do," Casey Dreier, director of space policy at the Planetary Society, tells The Verge. "And in the absence of real rocket launches, you might lose good people."

But another unofficial motivation could be optics. Further delays would be a bad look for the perennially delayed SLS program. The first flight of the SLS has been consistently pushed back — from 2018, to 2019, and then to 2020. And even when the first two flights of the vehicle are done, the rocket will probably only launch once a year.

Contrary to a Trump administration NASA budget proposal, the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) has received additional funding:

Lawmakers provided $150 million for the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope, or WFIRST, which the Trump administration proposed canceling last month. Set for launch in the mid-2020s, WFIRST would be next in NASA's line of big observatories in space after Hubble and the James Webb Space Telescope. It was the top priority for NASA's astrophysics program in a National Academy of Sciences decadal survey released in 2010. The agency's policy is to follow cues from the science community encapsulated in the decadal survey reports.

Agency managers last year were wary that WFIRST could exceed its $3.2 billion cost cap, and Thomas Zurbuchen, head of NASA's science directorate, in October ordered a team at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland — home of the WFIRST project office — to study how the mission could be modified to fit under the budget limit.

Officials drafting NASA's budget request for fiscal 2019 decided WFIRST was too expensive, but the mission has enjoyed strong support from Congress. In an apparent reference to WFIRST's proposed termination, lawmakers wrote that they "reject the cancellation of scientific priorities recommended by the National Academy of Sciences decadal survey process."

Previously: Trump Administration Budget Proposal Would Cancel WFIRST
Leaning Tower of NASA

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  • (Score: 3, Funny) by eravnrekaree on Wednesday March 28 2018, @02:43PM (1 child)

    by eravnrekaree (555) on Wednesday March 28 2018, @02:43PM (#659532)

    The comparison to the wall is not apt. The wall is necessary for the national security of the United States as a part of a comprehensive border security system that also involves border guards. The point of the wall is to cause it to take more time to cross the border, since they have to try to climb over the thing, which gives border control agents more time to respond. The wall will have an electronic survellience system so they know where attempted crossing are occurring. Walls are proven to work in other areas such as in Israel, where the wall has reduced the number of violent incidents in Israel greatly. Israel used to have security incident much more often than now. So if you think walls wont work, tell that to Israel, and they laugh at you.

    Given that drugs are being smuggled across the border, illegal aliens are stealing jobs from Americans and depressing wages, and that violent gangs from Mexico such as MS-13 are coming in, building the wall is a national security imperative. The wall will save over decades trillions of dollars. The estimated cost of illegal immigration on taxpayers is approximately $120 billion per year, more than twice the construction cost of the wall, over a decade thats over a trillion dollars. Ironically, by reducing the growth of the welfare system partly due to illegal aliens getting welfare payments via anchor babies, we will have more money available for our space program. So it will save us money in the long run. In fact the wall will pay for itself quickly as a part of a mass deportation program to remove illegal aliens from the country and to end birthright citizenship.

    SLS isnt strongly related to national security since many other launch platforms exist, and since it is more expensive than Space X technology so it ends up leaving less money for the more effective and less costly programs. SLS being retained is actually a huge disappointment. The whole thing is a huge pork barrel wasteful spending, and the entire program should be cancelled. Instead, we should rely on an array of COTS providers instead including SpaceX BFR and BlueOrigin. The fact is there are many in NASA who want SLS cancelled and want SpaceX technology be used instead, because many in NASA do want the agency to be able to do the things it should be doing which is peering deeper into the universe and carrying out its science missions, rather than the money in the Federal budget being tied up in the SLS pork swamp.

    SLS actually is a huge waste of money, some estimates are at $1 billion per launch. SpaceX can do the job for far less with the BFR, plus we should fund other concepts like BlueOrigin. SLS is a redux of the Shuttle program, which set the US space program back decades. The concept never worked properly, the technology was costly, expensive to maintain. SLS is no different, SLS uses old shuttle technology as if to keep the wasteful bloat going. Clearly pork cronyism at its worst. With the limited amount of money that it is willing to be commited to space funding in the US budget, we need to make sure that this money is used in a way to give us the most bang for our buck.

    SLS does not give us the most bang for our buck, being a very expensive and wasteful technology to do a job that can be done much more cheaply by nearly everyone else, including the Europeans, the Russians, Space X, Blue Origin, etc.

    NASA needs to get out of the rocket business and use COTS technology for its launches. Under the shuttle much of the space program ended up being consumed by the launch platform rather than what you launch on it. It was driven more by unrealistic science fiction than actual practical science missions. NASA needs to focus on what you launch on rockets, science programs, rather than on rockets themselves. The bureaucratic entrenchment was such that the program sort of gained a life of its own even though it was consuming vastly more money than originally intended and was a failure at doing what it was originally claimed to do. It was the most expensive launch system rather than being the space truck it was sold as.

    SLS is called Senate Launch System mainly becuase its a kickback to Shelby's Alabama where the thing is built. The procurement process allows for little innovation, its basically a big bloated government project where you cannot think out of the box or change trajectory. So, you can't find cheaper and more reliable ways to do this, your stuck with an old technology you cannot change in a significant way. It goes like this "here are some dusty old plans form the Shuttle program, they are very expensive to build are proven to consume vast amounts of money. They are proven to be unreliable and difficult to maintain. Use these to build an expensive rocket that will cause $1 billion to launch". No room for a fresh design or out of the box thinking because you are hemmed in on a set design pattern.

    COTS procurement allows more flexibility and out of the box thinking, since it says to companies, develop a launch platform that can get 150,000 kg to LEO, figure out the best and cheapest way to do it, then we will see who comes up with the cheapest, best design.

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  • (Score: 2) by fritsd on Wednesday March 28 2018, @04:46PM

    by fritsd (4586) on Wednesday March 28 2018, @04:46PM (#659572) Journal

    120 billion?

    It was a bit difficult to read, but IIRC you are saying: give the IRS a budget to monitor and punish companies that hire illegal immigrants (e.g. force serious fines if they can't show the photocopy of their workers' identification document in their safe, like in the Netherlands), instead of building Trump's ridiculous wall, then you can launch 120 SLS rockets per year instead of 1, and by inference: you can instead launch literally hundreds of SpaceX Falcon Heavy and BFR's, assemble pairs of (1 booster + 1 payload) at the ISS (Δv 9 km/s out of say 14 km/s needed for Mars), and send them to Mars or Phobos or Ceres. Let's see: several automated methane and LOX factories for Mars and Ceres, Iron(II) Oxide and LOX only on the Moon and Phobos, interplanetary launch facilities on the Moon, Phobos and Ceres, a lander, several habitats, water smelting and purification plants on Mars and Ceres, hydroponics modules and fish farms, Mars-adapted Tesla cars, several solar photovoltaic energy plants, a few solar thermal energy plants for heat and metals smelting, Aluminium and Iron smelters on all those places, a Calcium smelter on Phobos and the Moon (for batteries), a glass factory, polyethylene platic factory on Mars and maybe Ceres, rocket factory on the Moon and maybe Ceres and Phobos, ships to capture small asteroids of all three types, a volatiles factory on Ceres, a humongous telescope on the dark side of the Moon (also useful to look for asteroids and comets rich in Boron and Hydrogen which the Moon hasn't got), a factory on the Moon to make large curved sheets of Aluminium to launch to an Moon-orbit solar thermal asteroid smelting facility (with a really big PVC "vacuum cleaner bag" for the volatiles), a LED growing light factory on the Moon, vacuum adapted silicon chip foundries on the Moon (suddenly extreme UV is not a problem anymore!), an Earth based technical university to study Lego, Containerization and Chemical Technology Upscaling, a Low Earth Orbit swimming pool with transparent glass walls on the nadir side, and a Chinese restaurant on the Moon.

    Yeah, go for it!

    It's easy to forget, how extremely rich the USA is, in land and resources. I think only Congo comes close.