SLS and Orion: February 2016 Archives

Fact Checking SLS Propaganda

Upon Closer Look, NASA's Exploration Systems are Game-Changers, OpEd, Mary Lynne Dittmar, SpaceNews

Dittmar: "The point is that there has never been a launch system like this - one that can deliver NASA human exploration and science missions throughout the solar system."

Keith's note: Nonsense. The Saturn V existed and flew more than 40 years ago. Abundant studies were in place whereby it could have been used to send things all over the solar system. But we threw it away. Saturn V's flew at a pace of 2 times a year. SLS launches, as NASA currently plans them, will be years apart. Your basic Saturn V could put 310,000 lb in to LEO. But the more powerful SLS will put 150,000 to 290,000 lb into LEO.

Dittmar: "For the last several years the President's budget request and congressional appropriations have been out of sync, forcing NASA and its contractors to work at a slower pace under greater budget pressure for the first part of the year until congressional appropriations are set at the necessary levels."

Keith's note: GAO: "In 2014, we found that NASA had not matched cost and schedule resources to requirements for the SLS program and was pursuing an aggressive development schedule. This situation, in turn, was compounded by the agency's reluctance to request funding in line with the program's needs. In addition, we found that the agency's preliminary life-cycle cost estimates for human exploration were incomplete."

Dittmar: "With the funding levels appropriated by Congress in the FY16 omnibus, the systems that will enable this the Space Launch System, or SLS, and the Orion crew vehicle are on track for launch of an uncrewed test mission in 2018, and a crewed mission in 2021."

Keith's note: NASA has been keeping 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.

Dittmar: "It will carry three times more than the Space Shuttle and, eventually, fly faster than anything human beings have ever hurled toward the heavens."

Keith's note: Faster than the Atlas V that launched New Horizons to Pluto? (It took 9 hours to reach the Moon).

Dittmar: "... the speed of the SLS will cut years off of planetary science missions."

Keith's note: What planetary missions? Not a single planetary mission has been approved for flight on SLS. Congress wants a Europa lander. NASA does not. There is no projected budget, no SLS vehicle has been set aside to launch it. SLS was not developed to launch planetary missions. It was designed to send humans to Mars until NASA was desperate for other ways to sell their expensive, delayed rocket - then suddenly it was designed for planetary missions. And the one mission approved by NASA that would send humans to another body in space, ARM, as been specifically banned by Congress. NASA is building the rocket and is now desperately searching for things to do with it.

Dittmar: "Further, every launch of the SLS can enable multiple missions."

Keith's note: Duh. Launch vehicles have been able to launch multiple payloads and support multiple missions for half a century.

- SLS Upper Stage Woes on The Journey To Nowhere, earlier post
- NASA Has Three Different Launch Dates for Humans on SLS, earlier post
- ASAP: NASA Has No Plan or Firm Funding For Its #JourneyToMars , earlier post
- NASA Employs Faith-Based Funding Approach For SLS, earlier post
- SLS/Orion Gets a Lobbying Organization in Washington (Update), earlier post

More SLS postings

SLS upper stage caught in political tug-of-war, SpaceNews

"NASA is stopping work, at the request of Congress, on human-rating the initial upper stage for the Space Launch System, even as the agency argues that its funding projections require it to use that upper stage on crewed missions. At issue is the future use of the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS), an upper stage derived from the Delta 4's upper stage. The ICPS is intended for use on at least the first SLS launch, which will not carry a crew. NASA confirmed Feb. 18 that it has instructed teams to stop work on efforts to human-rate the ICPS for later, crewed SLS missions, following instructions from Congress in the report accompanying the 2016 omnibus spending bill."

NASA moves to enforce early switch to EUS for SLS,

"The EUS recieved a specific reference from NASA Chief Financial Officer David Radzanowski in comments made to the media after the announcement, citing that the reduced funding could impact on implementing the EUS on the second flight of SLS."

Keith's note: On one hand NASA stops work on anything that would involve use of the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) for a crewed EM-2 mission but on the other hand its FY 2017 budget request is nowhere near enough to develop the Exploration Upper Stage (EUS) such that crewed EM-2 can stay on its current schedule. In other words the White House, NASA, and Congress are all but ensuring that the first flight of SLS with humans will most certainly slip - possibly after the second term of the next person to be elected president. NASA started this big Ares-V/SLS effort back in the middle of the Bush presidency. This latest threat to SLS could mean that more than two, double-term presidencies will have passed before NASA can send its new big rocket with anyone on board.

I wonder how many Atlas, Delta, and Falcon rockets you could have bought with the money NASA has spent on Ares-V/SLS? How much sooner could we have begun to build and operate a real cis-lunar infrastructure had we gone with private sector rockets? Yes, it would take more launches, but given the chronic inability for NASA to field its new big rocket, we'd have been further along - for less money - if we'd taken the commercial approaches first envisioned when the Vision for Space Exploration was announced in January 2004. But no, NASA is on a #JourneyToNowhere instead.

- NASA Is Building A Rocket That It Can't Afford To Use, earlier post
- NASA Begins Its Journey To Nowhere, earlier post

NASA's New Budget Would Gut Europa But Otherwise Support Planetary Exploration, Planetary Society

"Europa isn't Mars, and studying and eventually getting humans to Mars is NASA's current overriding goal. Pure politics. Several of the Congressional leaders who are strongly backing the Europa mission and planetary exploration in general are highly conservative politically. While they favor spending more money on planetary missions, they also want to cut funding for missions for NASA to study the Earth, especially climate change. Essentially proposing to push out the launch of a Europa mission to forever may be part of a hardball negotiating tactic to trade more funding for the Europa mission for also fully funding the President's generous proposed budget for Earth science missions."

Keith's note: This is hilarious. The Planetary Society is using the "politics" dog whistle when in fact politics is all that they engage in when they lobby Congress for their referred projects - and against those they do not like. In this case, they are not getting their way, so, of course it is due to that horrible Washington scourge called "politics". What will be fun to watch is when the Planetary Society eventually realizes that the only way that they are going to get their preferred Europa mission ala Rep. Culberson, is to fly it on a SLS. That means that they will have to start lobbying for SLS - and against (or not in support of) Earth science and/or commercial crew (where their extra Europa money will come from). Of course SLS is at the heart of NASA's #JourneyToMars so the Planetary Society will have to start to support that effort (which is also eating Europa funds) and not their Almost-Mission to Mars concept.

NASA Mission: Orion's Next Step, NPR Morning Edition

"The space agency hopes the Orion capsule, which has been transported to the Kennedy Space Center, will one day take astronauts to the moon and Mars. The program, however, faces budget challenges."

Keith's note: My little bit of snark is included toward the end of this story.



Monthly Archives

About this Archive

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

SLS and Orion: January 2016 is the previous archive.

SLS and Orion: March 2016 is the next archive.

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