SLS and Orion: August 2011 Archives

Let the Games Begin, opinion, Mike Griffin, SpaceNews

"The administration's actions go beyond simple mismanagement of the program. They amount to a smear campaign, with convenient leaking of derogatory and misleading information to the press, to undermine public support for the program. On Aug. 5, the Orlando Sentinel cited internal NASA documents detailing a $38 billion estimate for a "new NASA moon rocket." This estimate is entirely out of line with previous projections and good management practice. Even if correct, such documents would normally be extremely sensitive and available only to NASA leadership. Their release offers yet another example of the tiresome Washington game of leaking a highly biased story in order to set the terms for an upcoming debate. Fortunately, Congress understands this, and has submitted a formal subpoena for the factual data."

Keith's note: (Gasp) Mike, I'm absolutely shocked that anyone at NASA would ever "leak" anything to the media!! I suppose your staff never leaked anything - ever. You expresss outrage that this has happened - yet a few sentences later you use data from the very same leaked documents with which to make a point. The bias of the selective history you heave forth in your editorial is eclipsed only by your hypocrisy and inconsistency.

Oh yes, word has it that Mike Griffin will be testifying before the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology in September - along with Neil Armstrong and Gene Cernan. Griffin helped ghost write Armstrong and Cernan's double header congressional appearances last year ...

NASA Money Sponge Update

NASA's smaller programs could be at risk, Orlando Sentinel

"The trend has alarmed astronomers and others, who are concerned that less-visible projects -- such as robotic Mars missions and various space probes -- will be sacrificed. "So, we have one giant money sponge (JWST) already sucking up dollars with yet another money sponge (SLS) on the drawing board. Since the money simply is not there to do either project to begin with, trying to do both of them together will devour funds from smaller NASA programs," wrote Keith Cowing in a recent post on his influential blog NASA Watch."

JWST and SLS: Dueling Giant Money Sponges, earlier post

NASA needs the go-ahead for a clearly defined mission (editorial), Huntsville Times

"SLS is not a paper rocket," Steve Cook, director of space technology at Dynetics, said Friday at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. Cook guided the audience through a power point presentation showing work that has already been done over the last six years under different program names. Cook presented slides of boosters, engines, test firings, and core components like batteries and computers for a heavy lift rocket that have been achieved at Marshall Space Flight Center and other NASA centers like Stennis in Mississippi and Michoud in Louisiana. "The physics doesn't change. A lot of work has already been done," he said."

Letter From Sens. Nelson and Rubio to President Obama Regarding the Space Launch System

"Recently, you received a letter from several senators urging the Administration to move forward with the Space Launch System (SLS) and approve the program. We agree that it is time for the Administration to commit to the plan for the new heavy lift rocket. Further delays will only incur additional costs and the continued loss of critical skills that cannot be replaced. The letter also, however, called into question funds being spent for facility upgrades and support capabilities at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) and there appears to be a misunderstanding regarding allocation of funds dedicated to development of the SLS as authorized by P.L. 111- 267. In as much as concerns about this issue may have been brought to your attention, we are writing to clarify the intent of the law."

Former NASA boss Mike Griffin says no new rocket until a new president

"Panelists were less positive on when NASA will get the green light to build the rocket. Views ranged from "we're getting closer" to "it's a brutal time for budgets and it's not going to get any easier" to a flat prediction that it won't come until the Obama administration goes. That assessment came from former NASA administrator Mike Griffin, a steady critic of the White House that replaced him as NASA chief and killed the rocket program Griffin was leading. Called Constellation, that program included two bigger rockets, one after the other, ending with a heavy-lift rocket like Congress still wants."

Bolden's Evolvable SLS

Senators Disagree On SLS Approach, Aviation Week

"On June 14, Administrator Charles Bolden selected and sent to the White House for confirmation his final choice for the SLS reference design. He essentially kept the January plan, but with a new wrinkle--a competition for a liquid-fueled strap-on that would make the SLS "evolvable" to meet the congressional requirement of an at least 130-metric-ton (286,600-lb.) lifting capability. One likely competitor for the five-segment solid would be a booster powered by a kerosene-fueled engine to be developed by Aerojet in Sacramento, Calif., and manufactured by Teledyne Brown Engineering in Huntsville, Ala. Plans already call for SLS development to be managed at Marshall Space Flight Center near Huntsville, which has experienced deep contractor layoffs with the end of the shuttle and follow-on Constellation programs. Aerojet and Teledyne Brown said in announcing their new kerosene-engine joint venture on June 3 that it could create as many as 1,400 new jobs in Alabama and California."

Keith's note: The House wants to cancel James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) outright. We haven't heard anything specific from the Senate - yet. Every time NASA mentions a cost for JWST it is higher than the previous cost. Now NASA wants to take human spaceflight funds to help pay for JWST which means less money available to build the Space Launch System (SLS). NASA's internal SLS report casts significant doubt on NASA's internal budget numbers and cost projections - which almost always means that NASA will need more money than it thinks it will need in order to build the SLS.

But NASA does not really want to build the SLS (nor does the White House) since it is simply a re-imagined variant of Ares V - a rocket that NASA already halted. The Senate is forcing the SLS down NASA's throat. Yet Congress has given no indication what level of funding it will guarantee for NASA so as to build and fly the SLS and has given no hint whatsoever of funding for the payloads that such a hugh rocket will be designed to carry. And, oh yes, OMB is telling agencies to come up with budgets for FY 2013 that include cuts of up to 10%.

So, we have one giant money sponge (JWST) already sucking up dollars with yet another money sponge (SLS) on the drawing board. Since the money simply is not there to do either project to begin with, trying to do both of them together will devour funds from smaller NASA programs. It will also pit these money sponges' ever-growing chronic need for dollars against the other's similar insatiable appetite. And all of this will happen while the Federal budget is almost certainly going to be constrained - regardless of who wins the 2012 election.

So, will someone explain to me how NASA is going to build and launch both JWST and SLS and have money left over to do all of the other things that it is both chartered to do - and directed to do - by Congress?

Ares 1 Deja Vu?

Is the answer to heavy-lift rocket cost issue bringing back Ares I?, Huntsville Times

"As NASA's new heavy-lift rocket struggles to get off the drawing board, a national space analyst says the answer to moving into deep space may be bringing back Ares I, the rocket NASA just canceled. Dr. Scott Pace, director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, raised the Ares option last week as one way out of political and financial thicket that has enmeshed the Space Launch System (SLS), which is the formal name for the heavy-lift rocket project."

Sen. Hutchison Calls on NASA to Announce SLS Design Immediately - Don't Allow Layoffs to Occur Next Week

"Today NASA is scheduled to formally receive the independent cost assessment for the Space Launch System (SLS) that was requested by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). I expect this independent assessment will confirm what myself and the NASA technical staff have known for many months - that the SLS plan is financially and technically sound, and that NASA should move forward immediately. "I remain very concerned about continuing delays. The 2010 NASA Authorization Act required NASA to bring forward a plan by January 10, 2011. The political leadership at NASA and at OMB has dragged their feet on implementation. After many requests for NASA to comply with the law, the Commerce Committee finally initiated a formal investigation earlier this summer. While that investigation is ongoing, I reiterate my call to NASA and the Administration to proceed with its SLS development program immediately, in compliance with the Assessment to NASA which confirms that NASA can move forward with implementation of SLS."

Keith's note: My question for Sen. Hutchison (and Nelson, Rockefeller etc.): regardless of what this NASA/OMB cost analysis for the SLS says, will you guarantee that the funding will be there to make it happen - all the way to launch? And what about the money to pay for the payloads that will be launched on these giant rockets - will you make a public pledge - now - to support full funding for them too? Of course you won't. None of you will.

Senators urge White House again to start work on heavy-lift rocket, Huntsville Times

"The senators believe money is being diverted from heavy-lift to other NASA spending priorities and that the White House "has no intention" of following the law on spending. OMB spokeswoman Meg Reilly issued the following statement today: "Space exploration remains a commitment of this Administration, but as we take a critical eye to every aspect of the Federal budget, we must ensure that every dollar spent in this area is used effectively and efficiently. We are working with NASA now to better understand the costs of this approach to ensure that a final plan is practicable and sustainable over the long term. At a time when we're working to find savings across the Federal government, it would be reckless to make a final determination before the results of NASA's independent cost assessment are in. This is the best approach for American taxpayers and the future of America's space exploration."

NASA LaRC Solicitation: Max Launch Abort System Attitude Control Subsystem Thruster

"NASA/LaRC is hereby soliciting information about potential sources for a 1500 lbf liquid propellant rocket engine, herein referred to as a thruster. It must be able to operate from sea level to vacuum conditions without nozzle flow separation and is quick acting as well as fast pulsing. The Max Launch Abort System (MLAS) project is considering incorporating a conventional technology liquid attitude control subsystem (ACS) for coast flight stabilization and reorientation on Flight Test Vehicle (FTV) #2."

Keith's note: Why is NASA continuing to develop an alternate launch escape system for Orion - one that it decided not to implement quite some time ago?

A Closer Look at the Max Launch Abort System, earier post

New NASA moon rocket could cost $38 billion, Orlando Sentinel

"The rocket and capsule that NASA is proposing to return astronauts to the moon would fly just twice in the next 10 years and cost as much as $38 billion, according to internal NASA documents obtained by the Orlando Sentinel. The money would pay for a new heavy-lift rocket and Apollo-like crew capsule that eventually could take astronauts to the moon and beyond. But it would not be enough to pay for a lunar landing -- or for more than one manned test flight, in 2021. That timeline and price tag could pose serious problems for supporters of the new spacecraft, which is being built from recycled parts of the shuttle and the now-defunct Constellation moon program. It effectively means that it will take the U.S. manned-space program more than 50 years -- if ever -- to duplicate its 1969 landing on the moon. That is certain to infuriate NASA supporters in Congress, who last year ordered NASA to build a new heavy-lift rocket by December 2016 -- a deadline the agency says it can't meet."

Draft Letter to NASA in Support of Solid Rocket Motors Circulating on Capitol Hill

"As you know, the final design of the SLS is long overdue. This is perplexing since the parameters for the final design are clearly articulated in the Authorization and Appropriations Acts. The Authorization Act clearly states the SLS "shall be designed from inception as a fully integrated vehicle capable of carrying a total payload of 130 tons or more..." The Appropriations Act reinforced this requirement by stating "the heavy lift launch vehicle system... shall have a lift capability not less than 130 tons." Both statutory texts were carefully crafted and agreed upon after consultation with rocket propulsion experts who unanimously concluded these design specifications were required to ensure a meaningful spaceflight program. These same experts also determined these legal requirements could only be realistically met through the use of solid rocket motors."

Keith's note: this letter is being circulated around Capitol Hill in search of additional signatures. Senate sources link this directly back to the Utah congressional delegation.

Reader note: The following from transcript of video of Senate press gallery statement by Sen. Orrin Hatch after the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 was reported out of committee: "...the Commerce Committee's bill has established certain requirements which the [Space Launch] System must meet. After speaking with experts in Utah, it is their conclusion that these requirements can only be realistically accomplished by using solid rocket motors." video - press release



Monthly Archives

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries in the SLS and Orion category from August 2011.

SLS and Orion: July 2011 is the previous archive.

SLS and Orion: September 2011 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.