SLS and Orion: September 2016 Archives

How I learned to stop worrying and love the big $60B NASA rocket, Ars Technica

"So if NASA makes 20 SLS flights by the end of the 2030s, the rocket will roughly cost the agency a total of $60 billion, or $3 billion per flight. Now imagine NASA issuing a Request for Information for heavy lift in 2011. Say the agency was willing to pay a fixed-price sum of $10 billion to a private company to develop a 100-ton heavy lift launch vehicle and a per flight fee of $500 million. Either SpaceX, United Launch Alliance, or another company (Blue Origin, perhaps) certainly would have been capable of delivering a flight-ready rocket within a decade. After buying 20 launches, NASA would still have $40 billion left to spend on things other than rockets. During this decade, then, the agency could have focused on deep space habitats, landers, in-space propulsion, Mars gravity studies, and more. When the private rocket was ready to go in 2021, NASA would be prepared to fly meaningful missions. This isn't a hypothetical, by the way. Back in the late 2000s, United Launch Alliance outlined a path of upgrades for its Delta IV Heavy rocket that included derivatives (based upon an innovative ACES upper stage and new engines) that could get 90 tons or more to low-Earth orbit. This could be flying today for less than $10 billion. This was common knowledge to NASA and the aerospace community at the time SLS came into existence, but Congress wasn't interested."

Keith's 29 September update: Sources report that a substantial portion of the contractor staff working for the SLS safety contractor at NASA MSFC QD34 want out and are asking for reassignment to other programs. Many are openly looking for new jobs elsewhere. The prime contractor has been told by NASA MSFC management that if anyone leaves SLS safety support without permission or by other than NASA-directed termination that the incumbent contractor risks not receiving consideration during the contract re-competition next year. SLS safety risks under development are being deleted. People are scared to come forward with issues. SLS management was at Michoud and Stennis for an AOA yesterday and today. This was reportedly a topic for discussion.

NASA OIG: NASA's Management of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle Program

"Over its life, the Orion Program has experienced funding instability, both in terms of overall budget amounts and the erratic timing of receipt of those funds. In past reports, we noted that the most effective budget profile for large and complex space system development programs like Orion is steady funding in the early stages and increased funding during the middle stages of development. In contrast, the Orion Program's budget profile through at least 2018 was nearly flat and Program officials acknowledged that this funding trajectory increased the risk that costly design changes may be needed in later stages of development when NASA integrates Orion with the SLS and GSDO. In addition, Orion officials noted that the timing of appropriations affected their ability to perform work as planned, with the Program receiving its funding between 4 and 8 months after the start of fiscal years 2012 - 2016. ... Finally, the Program is working toward an internal planned launch date significantly earlier than the Agency's external commitment date or estimates by an independent review board. We are concerned that such an optimistic approach, given the Program's flat budget profile, increases the risk that Orion officials will defer certain tasks, which ultimately could delay the Program's schedule and increase costs."



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

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