SLS and Orion: January 2016 Archives

Charles D. Walker: Don't relinquish all space exploration to private firms, Charles Walker, Arizona Daily Star

"The idea is attractive, even if commercial plans for a Mars mission are hypothetical at best. But as much as I support the private space industry, experience and common sense tell me that a commercial Mars human landing won't ever get off the ground not unless NASA goes there first. Businesses are slaves to short-term balance sheets, and private space-industry investors and shareholders are notoriously risk-averse. Even wealthy entrepreneurs won't throw their money away. They'll back straightforward missions like delivering cargo to the space station 250 miles above the Earth using mature and well-tested technologies if they can turn a profit within a reasonable time with acceptable risk."

Keith's note: This is the sort of Pro-SLS, only-government-can-explore sort of nonsense that Mary Lynne Dittmar and her Coalition for Deep Space Exploration are pushing. (this op ed is linked to from the Coalition's website). This is how Dittmar retweeted a link to this op ed:

This statement by Dittmar is fundamentally silly given that the "whims of market or investors" are precisely what push the management of Lockheed-Martin, Boeing, Orbital ATK, ULA, Aerojet, and the rest of the aerospace sector to pursue big government projects such as Orion and SLS. Dittmar can't have it both ways.

Keith's additional note: At the NASA Advisory Council meeting last year, Bill Gerstenmaier made it very clear that NASA needs to have a fully commercialized LEO infrastructure in order to free up NASA resources to focus on SLS/Orion-based exploration of cislunar space - and later, of Mars. When asked what would happen if that LEO commercialization did not happen, Gerstenmaier said that NASA would have to reassess how it would accomplish its exploration goals. Clearly, Mary Lynn Dittmar, NASA's future exploration of space is intimately tied to the success of LEO commercialization - an activity that will be driven by the "whims of market or investors". Besides, everyone knows that NASA's ability to explore is, always has been, and always will be "held hostage to whims of" -- Congress. As such, what is wrong with trying to find an alternate path to enable the exploration and utilization of space?

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.

Payload concerns, high costs, and competition cloud future of NASA rocket, Ars Technica

"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."

Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel Annual Report 2015, ASAP

"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

Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel Annual Report 2015

"In October 2015, NASA published what it called "a detailed outline" of its next steps in getting to the Red Planet. Unfortunately, the level of detail in the report, NASA's Journey to Mars: Pioneering the Next Steps in Space Exploration, does not really validate whether NASA would be capable of achieving such an ambitious objective in a reasonable time period, with realistically attainable technologies, and with budgetary requirements that are consistent with the current economic environment."

- Kicking The Can Down the Road to Mars, earlier post
- NASA Begins Its Journey To Nowhere, earlier post
- Yet Another NASA Mars "Plan" Without A Plan - or a Budget, earlier post
- NASA's Strategic Plan Isn't Strategic - or a Plan, earlier post
- Charlie Bolden's Meandering Strategic Plans, earlier post



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This page is an archive of entries in the SLS and Orion category from January 2016.

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