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It’s only money! At the AIAA meeting this week in Pasadena, NASA officials admitted that the Space Launch System (SLS) will likely cost half a billion dollars per launch.
That means that after only two flights this rocket will have cost about the same as the entire manned commercial program, from which three different space companies are building three different methods for getting humans into space. After three missions it will cost more, and after four missions it will have cost double. And this is assuming that the half billion dollar “target” number ends up correct.
We can’t afford this. We never could, which is why the Saturn 5 rocket was abandoned, and why the shuttle never fulfilled its stated goal of lowering the cost of access to space and after thirty years was abandoned as well. Instead, we have got to find a cheaper way to do this, and to my mind, competition and private enterprise is the only hope.