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Northrop Grumman Exec Warns of Coming "Affordability" in the Space Launch System's Future

Accepted submission by takyon at 2018-10-30 10:45:32

SLS contractor gets real, says program needs to focus on "affordability" []

For the most part, the presentations [at the American Astronautical Society's Wernher von Braun Memorial Symposium] went as usual for these kinds of events—corporate vice presidents talking about the progress they were making on this or that component of the rocket and spacecraft. Although the Space Launch System rocket is going to launch three years later than originally planned, and its program is over budget and was recently admitted [] by NASA's own inspector to be poorly managed, you would not have known it from these presentations.

However, one panelist did offer a warning of sorts to his colleagues. Former astronaut and Vice President and General Manager of Propulsion for Northrop Grumman Charlie Precourt spoke about his company's contributions to the rocket (Northrop Grumman recently acquired Orbital ATK). They are building the large, solid rocket boosters that will provide a kick off the launch pad. Yet Precourt prefaced his update with a message about affordability—as the exploration program moves from development into operations with the first flight of SLS and Orion in 2020 or so, costs must come down, he said.

[...] "We have to execute, but we also have to be planning for the future in terms of survivability, sustainability, and affordability," Precourt said. "I used all three of those words intentionally about this program. We've got to make sure we've got our mindset on affordability, and I don't think it's too early for all of us on this panel, as well as our counterparts at NASA, to start thinking about that."

[...] Precourt said contractors should consider a future in which NASA's present multibillion expenditures on rocket development costs need to be cut in half in order for the SLS vehicle to have a robust future. "All of us need to be thinking about [how] our annual budget for this will not be what it is in development," he said. "That's a very serious problem that we have to look forward to, and to try to rectify, so that we are sustainable."

If the other speakers had thoughts about Precourt's comments, they did not share them during the ensuing discussion.

Related: NASA Opens Door to Possibly Lowering SLS Cost Using Blue Origin's Engines []
NASA Administrator Ponders the Fate of SLS in Interview []
There's a New Report on SLS Rocket Management, and It's Pretty Brutal []
Damage Control: Boeing-Sponsored Newsletter Praises Space Launch System (SLS), Trashes Saturn V []

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