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The competition cools off! NASA’s Space Launch System, costing billions per year, will only make its second manned flight in 2025.
SLS is to make its maiden flight in 2017, when it will carry an empty Orion crew capsule to near-Moon space and back. Another flight would follow in 2021 and, depending on factors both technical and political, could see a crew of astronauts travel to a captured asteroid NASA wants to redirect to a high lunar orbit using a yet-to-be-built robotic spacecraft.
Notionally, SLS would next fly in 2025, giving the rocket a launch rate of once every four years. NASA has been spending about $1.8 billion a year on SLS development, including construction of a rocket test stand in Mississippi, and associated launch infrastructure at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Add in the cost of the rocket’s companion crew capsule, the Lockheed Martin-built Orion, and the tab rises to nearly $3 billion a year. [emphasis mine]
At that launch rate, the NASA’s space effort is slower than China’s, which has a pace that I consider extremely tortoise-like.
But don’t worry, buckos! NASA will be keeping the seats warm in its thousands of government facilities, employing thousands of government workers doing little or nothing.