Audit finds SLS unlikely to launch in 2018


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A NASA audit has found that it is unlikely that the first SLS test flight will take place as scheduled in 2018, and that the first manned flight is also likely to be delayed from its 2021 launch target.

“NASA’s first exploration missions — EM-1 and EM-2 — face multiple challenges that will likely delay their launch,” the report states. The missions “are not likely to launch by 2018 or 2021, respectively,” it continues.

When might a crew launch? Hard to say.

The report says incomplete NASA information makes it “more difficult for both the agency and external stakeholders to gain a full understanding of the costs of that mission or to assess the validity of the agency’s launch date assumptions.”

If the first manned flight happens in 2023, as now expected, it means that it will occur 20 years after George Bush first proposed the Crew Exploration Vehicle (Orion) and the heavy lift rocket to put it into space. The total cost to fly this one mission will be approximately $43 billion.

Let me repeat that: $43 billion and 20 years to fly a single manned mission. Does no one in government see something wrong with this picture?

Posted from the West Bank settlement of Beitar Illit.

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7 comments

  • Juan

    This right here is why I can’t for the life of me figure out why the gentleman took issue with your paper on commercial vs. government run space flight.

    I know rockets aren’t legos, but how the heck it has taken them 20 years to reconfigure pieces of an already developed launch system is beyond me.

  • Tom Billings

    “This right here is why I can’t for the life of me figure out why the gentleman took issue with your paper on commercial vs. government run space flight.”

    The gentleman, “Scott Pace”, is part of the Beltway academic space culture that is fed straight out of grants from the federal government. He took over from John Logsdon, in a Space Policy chair, IIRC. This position, and physical proximity to the people that control the money, makes one very skeptic that the system of delivering that money will ever be disrupted.

    Yet, that is what will be happening eventually. Scott naturally finds it hard to believe his Patrons will go from Big Frogs in a Small Pond, to little amphibians being hunted by fast moving fishy predators through the estuary of a river that leads down to the sea. All that has to happen for that to take place is for several commercial companies to burst through the walls of the small NASA Pond, giving us all access to the river. Tadpoles are still in denial.

    “I know rockets aren’t legos, but how the heck it has taken them 20 years to reconfigure pieces of an already developed launch system is beyond me.”

    It would stretch on forever if the committee chairs had their way, as long as it keeps feeding people in their districts, so that those voters have no incentive to donate to primary challengers come the next election. Primary challenges are the bane of professional politicians. Even when they win the primary, their chances of losing the general election go way up.

  • ken anthony

    This is why it often takes a war to make progress. Sad!

  • Edward

    Juan wrote: “how the heck it has taken them 20 years to reconfigure pieces of an already developed launch system is beyond me.

    I think that Congress is not committed to their project. Many (such as Tom Billings, above) believe that SLS and Orion have devolved into jobs programs that make Congress feel good and spread jobs to various congressional districts. If true, then Congress is squandering the talent, skills, and knowledge at NASA and several contractors at the expense of our progress in space exploration and expansion. Either way, research into how space can make our lives on Earth better is delayed by the delays in exploring the possibilities of space.

    A secondary problem is the White House. Bush’s Constellation project would probably have already flown people around the Moon, by now, had Obama not killed it, and money would already be being spent developing a lunar lander. I suspect that Trump is trying to not further delay NASA’s manned flight program by messing up what NASA already has, as Obama did.

    There are others who are truly committed to exploring and expanding into space. Private companies and organizations such as SpaceX, the Planetary Society, and Mars One (if Mars One is serious) are committed to Mars. Other companies and organizations seem committed to return to the Moon. Privately designed rockets are proposed to perform either or both missions. For the past decade, Bigelow Aerospace has tested, on-orbit, relatively inexpensive space habitats, and these could be employed for either or both missions as well as for privately owned space stations or even space tourist destinations. I believe that all of these organizations are more likely to reach their goals earlier than any government program can.

  • mkent

    “A secondary problem is the White House. Bush’s Constellation project would probably have already flown people around the Moon, by now, had Obama not killed it, and money would already be being spent developing a lunar lander.”

    No, and no!

    Had Constellation continued, the first flight of Ares 1 / Orion wouldn’t have been until 2019, and that was only if the Shuttle retired in 2010 and the Space Station splashed in early 2016 (neither event happened then). Ares 1 / Orion needed the Shuttle and Station budget just to meet 2019, during which it would fly a test flight. Then those programs would have paused (without the Station, there would have been no where for an Orion to go), and Ares V would have received the bulk of the funding in order to be ready for a test flight by 2028.

    Then Ares V would have paused, and funding for the Altair lander and the Earth Departure Stage would have received priority. All of that would have been done for the first all-up test flight of the Constellation system in 2035.

    That was the Constellation program as it actually existed. Don’t mistake it for a budgetary fantasy where NASA gets billions more in free money every year to speed it up.

  • Edward

    mkent
    You wrote: “That was the Constellation program as it actually existed. Don’t mistake it for a budgetary fantasy

    I will defer to your timeline. I was going on the original “return to the Moon no later than 2020” goal, and did not find a more reality-based (historical) timeline for Constellation. Reality (read: “politics” or “budget”) always gets in the way of the original intent (read: “fantasy”). It seems that reality was especially harsh for Constellation.

  • ken anthony

    “$43b over 20 years with nothing to show for it?”

    Taxpayer: “Disgusting!”
    Politician: “Happy times are here again!”
    Scientist getting the pork: “Justified.”
    Scientist out in the cold: “I’m a taxpayer, damn it!”

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