NASA officially delays SLS first flight to 2019


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Government in action! Despite spending almost $19 billion and more than thirteen years of development, NASA today admitted that it will have to delay the first test flight of the SLS rocket from late 2018 to sometime in 2019.

“We agree with the GAO that maintaining a November 2018 launch readiness date is not in the best interest of the program, and we are in the process of establishing a new target in 2019,” wrote William Gerstenmaier, chief of NASA’s human spaceflight program. “Caution should be used in referencing the report on the specific technical issues, but the overall conclusions are valid.”

Anyone who is a regular reader of Behind the Black will not be surprised by this. Beginning as far back as March 2015 I began noting the various issues that made a 2018 launch unlikely. All that has happened here is that NASA has gone public with what has been obvious within the agency now for two years.

The competition between the big government SLS/Orion program and private commercial space is downright embarrassing to the government. While SLS continues to be delayed, even after more than a decade of work and billions of wasted dollars, SpaceX is gearing up for the first flight of Falcon Heavy this year. And they will be doing it despite the fact that Congress took money from the commercial private space effort, delaying its progress, in order to throw more money at SLS/Orion.

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5 comments

  • LocalFluff

    Yeah, no surprise.
    Since the center core of Falcon Heavy is different from a F9 core anyway, they could make it fatter, as was proposed for Angara-7. If they add another ring of 16 engines, it might get similar capability as SLS Block I.

    The main reasons for the new delay, from the GAO report summary:

    • the Orion program’s European Service Module is late and is currently driving
    the program schedule; [I KNEW IT WOULD HAPPEN]

    • the SLS program had to stop welding on the core stage—which functions as
    the SLS’s fuel tank and structural backbone—for months after identifying low
    weld strengths. Program officials stated that welding resumed in April 2017
    following the establishment of a corrective action plan;

    • the EGS program is considering performing concurrent hardware installation
    and testing, which officials acknowledge would increase complexity;

  • LocalFluff

    Oh how they boasted about building the biggest welding machine in the galaxy for the SLS. Now it is a source for delay. And remember that they are working with components which they have known since 35 years. But suddenly they don’t know how to weld the oxygen tank in the first stage, i.e. in the Shuttle’s external tank. And instead of having the best spacecraft engineers in the world build Orion’s service module, they outsourced that part to beginners in Europe. I think they did that deliberately in order to be able to blame ESA for the delay they knew was coming anyway for other reasons!

    The engines and boosters of EM-1 are literally reused from Shuttle flights. They don’t have to build them, just pick them up from the storage! And still the cost has taken off like a Pluto rocket!

  • pzatchok

    It will fly 6 months after the last check is cashed.

    lets work at making that day real soon.

  • Gealon

    Or better yet, let’s work at making sure there are no more checks to cash. It’s clear they are unwilling to do the job, so why give them the money?

  • wayne

    Gealon–
    –on board with cutting off the checks! (We need some claw-backs, as well.)

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