SLS Sticker Shock At The White House

The White House puts a price on the SLS rocket--and it's a lot, Ars Technica

"The Europa mission could be launched by a commercial rocket," Vought wrote to the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Alabama Republican Richard Shelby. "At an estimated cost of over $2 billion per launch for the SLS once development is complete, the use of a commercial launch vehicle would provide over $1.5 billion in cost savings. The Administration urges the Congress to provide NASA the flexibility called for by the NASA Inspector General."

Keith's note: Over the years I asked Bill Gerstenmaier what the cost of an SLS launch was on a regular basis. I never got an answer. Instead I'd usually get some sort of "we'll get back to you" or "we're still working on that". The ususal assumption was around $1 billion with an expectation that it would be much more. Well, now it is much more.

Of course NASA never explains where they get these numbers. They never include the real cost i.e. going back through the development of SLS into Ares V where this all started. Nor do they get into improvements in ground systems, and dead ends like certifying J-2 for Ares V and then mothballing that effort. Oh yes and then there is the cost of making reusable Shuttle SSMEs into disposable RS-25s. And then there is the cost of the payload - the only actual payload for SLS that currently exists: Orion (unless you count the cubesats that will be launched). NASA talks about using EUS but there is zero money for that new upper stage.

The $2 billion may well be the cost per unit now that all of the sunk costs are spent. But if you look at what it actually took to get to the point of being being able to actually build and fly this rocket, the reals cost per launch is much, much more than $2 billion.

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on November 9, 2019 10:53 AM.

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