SoylentNews is people

Title    After the Falcon Heavy Launch, Time to Defund the Space Launch System?
Date    Sunday February 11 2018, @01:32AM
Author    martyb
from the it's-past-time dept.

takyon writes:

An op-ed written by Lori Garver, a former deputy administrator of NASA, suggests cancelling the Space Launch System in favor of Falcon Heavy and BFR:

SpaceX could save NASA and the future of space exploration

The successful launch of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket is a game-changer that could actually save NASA and the future of space exploration. [...] Unfortunately, the traditionalists at NASA — and their beltway bandit allies — don't share this view and have feared this moment since the day the Falcon Heavy program was announced seven years ago.

The question to be answered in Washington now is why would Congress continue to spend billions of taxpayer dollars a year on a government-made rocket that is unnecessary and obsolete now that the private sector has shown they can do it for a fraction of the cost? [...] Once operational, SLS will cost NASA over $1 billion per launch. The Falcon Heavy, developed at zero cost to the taxpayer, would charge NASA approximately $100M per launch. In other words, NASA could buy 10 Falcon Heavy launches for the coat of one SLS launch — and invest the remainder in truly revolutionary and meaningful missions that advance science and exploration.

While SLS may be a "government-made rocket", the "beltway bandits", also known as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Orbital ATK, and Aerojet Rocketdyne, are heavily involved in its development. The United Launch Alliance (Boeing + Lockheed Martin) have also shown that they can build their own expensive rocket: the Delta IV Heavy, which can carry less than half the payload to LEO of Falcon Heavy while costing over four times as much per launch.

NASA's marketing of how many elephants, locomotives and airplanes could be launched by various versions of SLS is a perfect example of the frivolity of developing, building and operating their own rocket. NASA advertises that it will be able to launch 12.5 elephants to LEO on Block I SLS, or 2.8 more elephants than the Falcon Heavy could launch. But if we are counting elephants — the planned Block II version of SLS could launch 30 elephants, while SpaceX's BFR could launch 34. Talk about significant.

Wait, what? 70 metric tons (SLS Block 1) / 63.8 metric tons (Falcon Heavy) = ~1.09717868339. 1.097 * (12.5 - 2.8) = ~10.6 elephants lifted by SLS Block 1 versus 9.7 for Falcon Heavy.

NASA documents list 12 elephants for SLS Block 1 (70 metric tons), and 22 for SLS Block 2 (130 metric tons). The author might have lifted some numbers from a Business Insider article that (incorrectly) estimates that 12.5 elephants can be lifted by Falcon Heavy, while SLS Block 2 can lift 30 elephants, and 34 for BFR. Perhaps we are dealing with a mix of adult and juvenile elephants?

Regarding the Falcon Heavy maiden flight, Lori Garver had this to say on Twitter about the Tesla dummy payload (which has attracted some criticism):

I was told by a SpaceX VP at the launch that they offered free launches to NASA, Air Force etc. but got no takers. A student developed experiment or early tech demo could have led to even more new knowledge from the mission. The Tesla gimmick was the backup.

However, the offer may have been informal, or made too close to the launch date. And Elon Musk himself guessed that the Falcon Heavy maiden launch had a 50% chance of succeeding.

While skeptical of Elon Musk's plans to get humans to Mars by 2024, she also says that NASA employees often dismissed the Falcon Heavy launch as "never going to happen".

Now it has happened.

Here's a refresher on the costs of SLS development:

Original Submission


  1. "takyon" -
  2. "Lori Garver" -
  3. "Space Launch System" -
  4. "Falcon Heavy" -
  5. "BFR" -
  6. "SpaceX could save NASA and the future of space exploration" -
  7. "Delta IV Heavy" -
  8. "NASA" -
  9. "documents" -
  10. "Business Insider article" -
  11. "this to say" -
  12. "attracted" -
  13. "criticism" -
  14. "However" -
  15. "guessed" -
  16. "skeptical" -
  17. "says" -
  18. "After successful Falcon Heavy launch, what about NASA's SLS?" -
  19. "SpaceX Heavy Success will now publicly test US Government Spending Corruption" -
  20. "Comparison of Current and Planned Heavy Space Launch Systems" -
  21. "Boeing only has lies and empty promises about Mars so NASA will not cut off $4 billion per year for SLS rocket" -
  22. "After wasting billions on SLS US government talk about claiming Spacex Heavy Launch intellectual property rights" -
  23. "Spacex BFR ready by 2020 so kill Space Launch System and save $30+ billion" -
  24. "Big permanent moonbase by 2021 using Spacex and Bigelow has been the obvious non-corrupt choice for years" -
  25. "Only the costs of the Space Launch System are going to the moon" -
  26. "Original Submission" -

© Copyright 2024 - SoylentNews, All Rights Reserved

printed from SoylentNews, After the Falcon Heavy Launch, Time to Defund the Space Launch System? on 2024-03-01 17:44:53