NASA reconfiguring future SLS planning

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Link here. This is a long (4 parts) and detailed overview of the changing state of the SLS system and its future missions. As it notes right at the start,

NASA has started updating plans and schedules for additional SLS Block 1 launches in the early 2020s after Washington added federal budget money for a second Mobile Launcher (ML) platform and umbilical tower in late March.

Construction of a new Mobile Launcher frees the first ML from a three-year long downtime for teardown and reassembly after the first SLS launch of Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), currently projected for mid-2020. Instead of being retired after one launch, the Block 1 configuration could fly multiple times.

With two mobile launches (costing almost a billion to build), NASA has more flexibility (assuming it gets full funding). It can now fly both the smaller Block 1 configuration of SLS multiple times without delaying the first launch of the planned more powerful Block 2 version expected to come later.

The article discusses in great detail the possible variations in design and scheduling for the first unmanned mission, the Europa mission, the first manned mission, and possible missions beyond, all of which are based on Congress’s continued blank check support for this very expensive and very questionable program.

Sadly, it increasingly appears that Congress is going to throw a lot of money at this program. SLS looks like it is going to fly several times, and maybe more. It will likely send Europa Clipper to Jupiter, and later astronauts on a stunt mission around the Moon. Later, the Washington cartel of big aerospace companies, NASA, Congress, and our international partners in Europe and Russia are gearing up to get LOP-G funded as well, with SLS the vehicle to launch and supply it.

All of this will cost a lot, take forever, and not make the future exploration of the solar system possible in the slightest. None of that matters however. Congress wants it, and Congress being corrupt and irresponsible is going to get it.



  • Col Beausabre

    And our long national nightmare continues…

  • COTS, Commercial Cargo, & Commercial Crew continued despite spending on SLS, Orion, & ISS. Getting adequate funding for a human-scale lander (e.g. XEUS/ACES) is more important than killing the SLS. For pragmatic reasons, we should be pushing hard for the commercial lander. Fighting the noble but probably unwinable battle against SLS shouldn’t distract from the main prize which is the commercial lander.

  • wodun

    Later, the Washington cartel of big aerospace companies, NASA, Congress, and our international partners in Europe and Russia are gearing up to get LOP-G funded as well, with SLS the vehicle to launch and supply it.

    IIRC, the SLS is only needed to deliver segments of the station that don’t use Orion as propulsion.

    COTS, Commercial Cargo, & Commercial Crew continued despite spending on SLS, Orion, & ISS.

    Yup, we have a dual track system and it is probably the best we can get. The commercial side isn’t suffering for funding either, so that’s good. But the LOP-G is also supposed to utilize a COTS like approach to how it is built, who knows how that will look? And the new lunar prospecting will also use a COTS like approach for rovers and such. It will be interesting to see how these companies use their landers for commerce as well as the infrastructure used to support them.

  • Edward

    I agree that our efforts are better spent on promoting commercial space than in killing SLS; Congress is unwilling to do so. This does not mean that I will stop complaining about the wasted effort that is put into SLS or stop pointing out how much more could be done by redirecting that money to productive projects. The problem we have is that Congress does not listen to We the People and does as it wishes; we reelect them despite their irreverence.

    An excellent example of how SLS is harming space exploration is in the delay of the Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) project. In the past, CCDev received less funding than needed to remain on schedule and SLS received more. CCDev could have been flying by now, even had there been some delays in development. Overall CCDev expenditures would have been less and we would not now be paying Russia to get us to the ISS — money that could also have been put to better use elsewhere.

    SLS and LOP-G are projects without missions. Had their designers been given missions to fulfill, such as return to the Moon, reach Mars, or both, then they could have designed SLS and LOP-G to match. It is like buying a car then deciding what you want to do with it. Did you buy a large pickup truck but will mostly drive it to work, where parking spaces are small? Or maybe you really needed a family car for long trips to the grandparents.

    So now it looks like we are spending too much money for rockets that launch at a low cadence, meanwhile there are better rockets under development that can launch at a more rapid cadence at far lower cost. Yet Congress has us committed to spending valuable resources on a low-usefulness rocket rather than on the goals most people want to see accomplished.

    Well done Congress.

  • Michael G.Gallagher

    May it blow up during it’s first launch!

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