NASA official hints at further SLS delays

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In confirming that the first unmanned flight of SLS will not occur until 2019, Todd May, head of the Marshall Space Flight Center, also indicated today that the first manned flight cannot occur any sooner than 33 months after that.

May was speaking at an industry meeting in Washington, DC today. According to the article, May tried to sell the idea that the launch date for the first unmanned mission, while still officially December 2018, is going to be delayed into 2019 and a new date will be announced “soon.” This is false. NASA revealed weeks ago that the the first unmanned flight has been delayed until the fourth quarter of 2019, likely in December.

The important detail from May’s remarks, however, is this:

The first launch with a crew, EM-2, currently cannot take place for at least 33 months after the first because it will take that long to reconfigure the Mobile Transporter at Kennedy Space Center to accommodate an upgraded version of SLS with a new, taller, upper stage. [emphasis mine]

Thirty-three months after December 2019 places the first manned launch as taking place no earlier than September 2022. I have emphasized the words “at least” because we can all be certain that this work will take longer than 33 months. I predict once again that the first manned flight will not occur in 2022. It will take place in 2023, nineteen years after President George Bush proposed it.



  • wodun

    SpaceX thinks there is a market that supports frequent launches, so they built (and will build) a vehicle that can do that. NASA’s market of government launches doesn’t require frequent launches, so NASA built a rocket that can’t launch frequently.

    There is also no schedule pressure on NASA to produce a return on investment because many in the science community view that as evil and place no value on taxpayer money. Cost/benefit analysis can’t play a role when a class of people and cost plus enablers view they are entitled to taxpayer money regardless of benefits or outcomes.

    Because these groups are so entrenched in government, the best we can hope for is a dual track system that continues SLS while also allowing the COTS programs to move forward.

    Eventually, researchers will see the benefits of allowing capitalism to take place and one would hope the cronies in congress would too. If they are really concerned about their states and businesses doing well, then a vibrant and expanding space industry is in their interests.

  • wodun

    Also, I have to keep coming back to the opportunity cost of SLS/Orion. We can’t change the past, those costs are sunk but we can change the future and the money we spend on SLS/Orion could do so much more than what SLS/Orion are capable of.

  • Orion314

    They have no desire to ever launch SLS, it’s
    ‘makework” on an epic scale.

  • LocalFluff

    LookMart here talks about 5 crewed launches with SLS until 2026.

    Because they count on launching crew on Orion together with each module of the Deep [deleted] Gateway to nowhere. Just like the Shuttle did, because it was designed in the 1970s when it was still thought that assembly of space stations require manual labor, von Braun/Disney style. But since then hundreds of dockings have been made successfully with no EVA during any of them.

    SLS, if built and works, should launch probes to the outer Solar system. Using its payload capacity for upper stage fuel. Launch windows, using Jupiter gravity assists, for Pluto is in 2028, for Neptune is 2031 and for Uranus is 2034. Even the SLS should be ready for payload flights by then. Travel times are 10 years for each of them (according to an online calculator I thus suddenly got suspicious of).

    SLS cannot launch telescopes because it can never get a competitive track record of 50+ successful launches in a row in order to compete for any valuable payloads. Out of three launches to the outer planets at least one is very likely to succeed. And of course the SLS should never launch any humans. The Orion doesn’t have any transportation system foreseen for it, that’s a bit of a blunder.

  • LocalFluff: You have been warned before. No obscenities are allowed here. Do you want to get suspended again?

  • LocalFluff

    You said yourself that you don’t like abbreviations, so I spelled DSG out for you. Your requirements conflict and seem impossible to fulfill.

  • LocalFluff: DSG is an abbreviation for “Deep Space Gateway.” Don’t treat me or everyone else here like a fool. As I have said before, I like your comments, but I also expect people who comment here to behave in a civilized and thoughtful manner. I know you can.

  • Doug

    President Bush didn’t propose SLS. He proposed Constellation, which was killed by Obama and all the work on that was thrown away

  • LocalFluff

    DSG is a simple degenerative of the sick and canceled ARM mission.
    – An astronaut to an asteroid! (=ARM)
    – An asteroid to Lunar orbit.
    – A boulder of an asteroid to Lunar orbit.
    – Just the astronauts to lunar orbit without any boulder. (=DSG)

    The only thing that remains to be removed from Obama’s ARM mission now is the crew part!

    There’s still some hope. This administration hasn’t revealed its cards. It couldn’t be worse than the ARM=DSG status quo, so I am hopeful!

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