A description of SLS’s first launch

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This article provides a detailed look at the planned 2018 first launch of SLS, describing step-by-step the launch process that will send an unmanned Orion capsule toward the Moon.

As my readers know, I am not a fan of SLS. I consider it an incredible waste of money that will never accomplish anything. Nonetheless, that first launch will be a cool thing to watch, as the rocket will generate comparable energy as the Saturn 5.


  • Localfluff

    SLS is ridiculously expensive, uses 1980s style technology with capabilities of the 1960s.
    But I’m a space cadet and I realize that it is still worth the cost. Government would’ve wasted the same money on something completely irrelevant anyway. So do complain about the SLS, but accept that pragmatically this is the kind of monster that is politically possible. It is a big rocket. That makes me happy. And Congress orders NASA to build it and use it to send a lander to Europa. Even if it is ten times more expensive than it needed to be, I’m content. I’m actually very impressed by how much US politicians love space exploration. At any cost. They are kind of even more die hard than you and I are, Robert, who prefer doing things more rationally. Congress just plows ahead at any cost. They are dedicated. They just don’t know how to do it cheaper or better. But they do it anyway. That’s great.

  • geoffc

    My bet is they lauch (Late) for the 2018 mission. Then they launch a second time in 2021 (maybe) and never again after that.

  • Tom Billings

    Localfluff said:

    “They are kind of even more die hard than you and I are, Robert, who prefer doing things more rationally. Congress just plows ahead at any cost. They are dedicated. They just don’t know how to do it cheaper or better. But they do it anyway. That’s great.”

    You don’t seem to be from around these parts. They are die hard LBJians.

    They want to say what LBJ did, at the summer 1963 Astrodome birthday party he held for himself and 10,000 of his closest friends (That’s the sort of inclusive guy he was, …you were there to show deference or you weren’t his friend, and you *wanted* to be his friend!). LBJ opened his presents on stage, …and then he had the doors to the Astrodome floor open as he said “Now look what *Ahhh* brought *you*!”, while a very large convertible with all 7 Mercury Astronauts rolled in to everyone’s thunderous applause.

    This is the sort of thing that the SLS/Orion coalition in today’s Congress wants to have even a little piece of, and they sustain their careers on the dependence of voters near NASA Centers with those little pieces. It is *not* that they don’t know how to do it cheaper, it is that this is the maximum amount they believe they can squeeze out of the budget for their districts. That is their focus, not spaceflight. They *are* dedicated, to re-election and the wielding of ever-increasing power as their seniority grows. That they distort the economic and technical ground over which the rest of the Republic advances into Space is of little notice to their august selves. They will continue till the contrast between SLS/Orion with commercials like SpaceX and Blue Origin, and the propellant depots ULA has just announced delivery prices for, and the 3d made-in-Space manufacturing of equipment larger than SLS could ever hope to contain in a shroud finally make them look too silly for even the rest of Congress to agree to fund.

    Then they will have to find some other program to flog.

  • wodun

    They are dedicated. They just don’t know how to do it cheaper or better. But they do it anyway. That’s great.

    We have alternatives now. It is time to expect more from our government.

  • Edward

    Although it is very nice to do a lot of space exploration, and I very much appreciate that the US Congress is willing to spend money on it, I do not like that they overspend on any one project. Excessive spending on one project means that less is available to spend on another, or that the other one is cancelled or never funded. For the price of the overspending on one project, we could have had one or more others funded.

    Congress is willing only to spend a certain amount on space exploration. They cut back proposed budgets all the time and limit the total spending on space exploration. They do not fund every project that is proposed and NASA has committees that weed out the less valuable exploration ideas in order to concentrate on those that will bring back more discovery/information for the space buck (dollar).

    This is the tragedy of SLS. It has no mission and no space purpose. It may keep a lot of engineers employed, and I am in favor of that, but it would be so much better if those engineers were working on space hardware that would be productive.

    If they were to build space probes to explore the moon, asteroids, Mars, Venus, or other bodies then I would be happier than having them build an expensive rocket with limited use. If they were to work at commercial companies that build communication, observation, or other satellites that produced business and revenue, then they would be working on projects that increase the value of space to the rest of us.

    As it is, thousands of people are working on a rocket that will put some people into space for a mission that is unproductive and will launch a probe to Europa that could have been launched on another existing rocket.

    It is nice to have the heavy launch capability, but only when it is needed, and it is not yet needed. Instead of using that money, now, on a system we won’t need for years or decades (and it will likely be obsolete by then), it should be used on the exploration that is needed *first* in order to create the missions that will need the big, expensive, heavy-lift rocket. The timing is wrong, and the money and NASA’s expertise and capabilities are being squandered.

    It looks more like Congress is trying to relive the Apollo missions rather than move forward to the “2001: A Space Odessey” model of the future of spaceflight.

    United Launch Alliance has a vision for a near-future systematic expansion into space, and SLS is not needed for the first three decades. It may not happen as proposed, but at least they have a reasonable vision:

  • Localfluff

    SLS now has the Europa mission. And Congress now insists on going to the Moon AFAIK. Of all the money they squeezed out for themselves, at least they squeeze out a heavy launcher too. I’m just trying to make a reminder about the fact that it could not only be better, it could as be worse. Governments aren’t organized to do things in any better way.

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