SLS and Orion: October 2019 Archives

NASA should shed lesser priorities to achieve a 2024 moon landing, Op Ed, Doug Cooke

"NASA should focus major new development on an integrated lander/ascent vehicle launched on an SLS 1B. With Orion launched on a separate SLS, the lunar landing would be achieved with these two flights, and at most one commercial launch with additional fuel. This is a much simpler approach with a significantly higher probability of success."

Keith's note: On one hand Boeing consultant Doug Cooke wants to kill Gateway because it adds complexity and increases the number of points where a failure could derail the Moon 2024 thing. No argument there. He then goes on to push for the SLS variant that features Boeing's Exploration Upper Stage (EUS) - and requires more SLS flights. The net result is likely going to be a wash when it comes to cost. And given the SLS program's chronic inability to do anything on time or within budget, there are likely to be SLS and EUS issues that will also cause the 2024 deadline to be missed.

Or, NASA could adopt an open source, multi-path, modular approach relying on existing commercial launchers, and standard interfaces. And if you have to build SLS then use it as a cargo vehicle only. If a large effort is to be mounted on the Moon and cislunar space then propellant depots should be thrown into the mix. Relying on SLS in an architecture for sending Americans and cargo back to the Moon is, itself, the prime risk factor so long as it remains in the critical path - whether it is 2024 or 2028 that you are aiming for.

Its anyone's guess right now as to how the election will turn out. As we've all seen, when a new Administration arrives they have a strong tendency to fiddle with the previous Administration's space goals. Adopting flexibility in terms of launch vehicles and space assets is the best way to assure that something will survive a potential transition and put people on the Moon. But sticking with a program that is utterly reliant upon SLS - a program that gets more expensive and extends its target date with every passing day - is not the best way to assure that we'll be heading back to the Moon. And if this whole Moon thing is supposedly being done to get humans to Mars sooner, then the need to be more flexible and creative is underscored.

Then again Jeff and Elon may just make this whole NASA Moon/Mars thing moot.

NASA Commits to Future Artemis Missions With More SLS Rocket Stages

"For the first three Artemis missions, the SLS rocket uses an interim cryogenic propulsion stage to send the Orion spacecraft to the Moon. The SLS rocket is designed to meet a variety of mission needs by evolving to carry greater mass and volume with a more powerful EUS. The EUS is an important part of Artemis infrastructure needed to send astronauts and large cargo together, or larger cargo-only shipments, to the Moon, Mars and deep space. NASA aims to use the first EUS on the Artemis IV mission, and additional core stages and upper stages will support either crewed Artemis missions, science missions or cargo missions. "The exploration upper stage will truly open up the universe by providing even more lift capability to deep space," said Julie Bassler, the SLS Stages manager at Marshall. "The exploration upper stage will provide the power to send more than 45 metric tons, or 99 thousand pounds, to lunar orbit."

NASA will award Boeing a cost-plus contract for up to 10 SLS rockets, Ars Technica

"If it seems remarkable that a government contractor would get a cost-plus contract to produce a rocket that it has had nearly a decade to learn how to build, and which has moved into production, and which is based on heritage technology--that's because it is. However, in their negotiations with NASA, companies like Boeing (and Lockheed Martin, which recently got a similar deal for the Orion spacecraft) know they have strong political backers. In the case of the SLS rocket, the Alabama delegation, which includes a Senator who effectively writes the agency's budget, has made it clear that funding the SLS rocket is his priority. So in this case, while NASA may not have necessarily wanted to give Boeing a cost-plus contract for SLS rockets for the next 15 years, it may have had little choice."

Keith's note: One small problem. The money for EUS (or an accelerated Artemis for that matter) is not there despite the forward leaning language that NASA , Boeing, and the Alabama delegation like to use. Just sayin' Indeed, if NASA had pushed the EUS earlier they could have avoided the whole Gateway thing. But NASA never does things logically.

- GAO Anticipates First SLS Launch Date In 2021, earlier post
- Today's Hearing on SLS, Orion, Artemis, earlier post
- NASA Admits That SLS Is A "Jobs Program". Wow. Who Knew?, earlier post
- GAO: Human Space Exploration: Persistent Delays and Cost Growth Reinforce Concerns over Management of Programs, earlier post
- More SLS postings


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This page is an archive of entries in the SLS and Orion category from October 2019.

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