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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: 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.

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