KSC meeting portrays SLS as scrambling for a manifest plan, NASASpaceFlight
"An "All-Hands" style meeting was held in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) on Monday, overviewing the spaceport's current and future initiatives.
"During the all-hands meeting, according to the report, Lightfoot told employees the space agency is considering moving humans off of EM-2 and onto EM-3. The reason he cited is NASA's desire to use a more powerful upper stage on EM-2. For the EM-1 first test flight, NASA is using an "interim" upper stage, but, to use the interim stage for a crewed flight, NASA would have to spend $150 million or more to ensure it is reliable enough for humans. Because NASA may not want to fly crew members on the initial flight of its untested upper stage, EM-2 may have to be re-designated as a non-crewed mission as well. During the Florida meeting Lightfoot expressed his preference for launching a Europa spacecraft. This robotic mission has widespread support in Congress, but, as Ars has exclusively reported, it will not be ready to fly until the end of November, 2023, at the earliest. If that is the case, EM-3, the first mission to carry astronauts into space, would not occur until 2024 or 2025, long after initially promised."
"With its external stakeholders, primarily Congress, NASA executive management has committed to a 2023 EM-2 launch with a 70 percent schedule confidence level. However, NASA's internal direction to the programs is to work to a 2021 EM-2 launch date, which has a schedule confidence level close to zero at requested funding levels. ... Externally committing to a 2023 launch for EM-2 while making decisions based on a 2021 launch date is a risky situation, because safety could be unnecessarily compromised unless guiding safety principles are established and maintained."
Keith's note: So ... NASA originally said that it needs SLS for the whole #JourneyToMars thing - just like Ares V. Then reality sets in (as it always does) and NASA's response is to keep two sets of books - the internal set says that it will launch humans on SLS in 2021 while the public one aims for 2023. Now there's a third set of books is being kept wherein a 2024-2025 launch date is being worked. But wait there's more. Because HEOMD can't get its own payloads ready to fly on the rocket that was designed to carry them, there's a desperate rush to find something - anything - to fly on SLS. Right on cue Congress votes to require NASA to fly a Europa lander and to do so on SLS. Again, just like NASA started to do with Ares V when problems arose. Soon enough you'll start to see a stealthy encroachment on SMD's budget to help pay for SLS costs under the whole Europa thing. No doubt Congress will make yet another run at Commercial Crew and Cargo as well to free up some cash for SLS.
- GAO Finds NASA SLS Costs Not Credible, earlier post
- NASA Employs Faith-Based Funding Approach For SLS, earlier post
- NASA Delays First Crewed Orion Flight By Two Years, earlier post
- NASA Can't Decide What SLS Engines It Does/Does Not Need, earlier post