NASA: Two SLS Launches Likely Needed For $3 billion+ ARM

Keith's note: At today's Small Bodies Assessment Group (SBAG) telecon, I asked Lindley Johnson via Webex "Can you show the chart again that has SLS as a launch option for the ARM spacecraft? Does this mean TWO SLS launches needed - one for ARM and another for crew?" He confirmed that yes, there will be two SLS launches - one SLS for the ARM spacecraft (Delta IV seems less desirable) and the other SLS for the crew. So ... this $1.25 billion cap for the ARM mission ignores the $1 billion-plus cost of a SLS for the ARM spacecraft, and the $1 billion-plus cost of SLS/Orion. So ... we're looking at a $3-4 billion cost for the whole ARM effort.

Keith's update: Johnson's charts are now online here. Pages 14-17 make explicit mention of SLS as a candidate for both the ARM spacecraft and the crewed launch. In the past, when asked if SLS is a candidate for the ARM spacecraft, HEOMD AA Bill Gerstenmaier has always said "no". Clearly there has been a change of mind.

One thing to consider: NASA is supposed to consider commercial launch alternatives unless there are compelling performance or technical reasons not to. Delta IV is mentioned, but no consideration seems to have been given to Falcon Heavy or the new Atlas that has been proposed. Of course, you can expect NASA to tweak things such that only SLS can meet the requirements because they have to.

51 U.S. Code § 50131 - "Requirement to procure commercial space transportation services" (full text below)

Current through Pub. L. 113-234. (See Public Laws for the current Congress.)
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(a) In General.-- Except as otherwise provided in this section, the Federal Government shall acquire space transportation services from United States commercial providers whenever such services are required in the course of its activities. To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers.

(b) Exceptions.-- The Federal Government shall not be required to acquire space transportation services under subsection (a) if, on a case-by-case basis, the Administrator or, in the case of a national security issue, the Secretary of the Air Force, determines that--

(1) a payload requires the unique capabilities of the space shuttle;
(2) cost effective space transportation services that meet specific mission requirements would not be reasonably available from United States commercial providers when required;
(3) the use of space transportation services from United States commercial providers poses an unacceptable risk of loss of a unique scientific opportunity;
(4) the use of space transportation services from United States commercial providers is inconsistent with national security objectives;
(5) the use of space transportation services from United States commercial providers is inconsistent with international agreements for international collaborative efforts relating to science and technology;
(6) it is more cost effective to transport a payload in conjunction with a test or demonstration of a space transportation vehicle owned by the Federal Government; or
(7) a payload can make use of the available cargo space on a space shuttle mission as a secondary payload, and such payload is consistent with the requirements of research, development, demonstration, scientific, commercial, and educational programs authorized by the Administrator.

(c) Agreements With Foreign Entities.-- Nothing in this section shall prevent the Administrator from planning or negotiating agreements with foreign entities for the launch of Federal Government payloads for international collaborative efforts relating to science and technology.

(d) Delayed Effect.-- Subsection (a) shall not apply to space transportation services and space transportation vehicles acquired or owned by the Federal Government before October 28, 1998, or with respect to which a contract for such acquisition or ownership has been entered into before October 28, 1998.

(e) Historical Purposes.-- This section shall not be construed to prohibit the Federal Government from acquiring, owning, or maintaining space transportation vehicles solely for historical display purposes.

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on January 7, 2015 11:19 AM.

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