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NASA abandons 4th attempt to complete SLS dress rehearsal countdown

UPDATE: NASA today decided to scrub a fourth attempt to complete a full dress rehearsal countdown of its SLS rocket on April 21 later this week, and roll the rocket back to the vehicle assembly building (VAB).

NASA said that its contractors, as well as its agency’s, will use the next several weeks to address problems that cropped up during the fueling tests when the SLS rocket returns to the large Vehicle Assembly Building. For example, gaseous nitrogen system supplier Air Liquide will upgrade its capabilities. NASA will also replace a faulty check valve on the upper stage of the rocket, as well as fix a leak on the mobile launch tower’s “tail service mast umbilical,” a 10-meter-tall structure that provides propellant and electricity lines to the rocket on the pad.

This situation is increasingly becoming a big problem for NASA, and the SLS rocket. After returning it to the VAB it will take several weeks to address the issues that caused the aborts on the previous attempts. If the agency then repeats the wet dress rehearsal to make sure all is well and then returns the rocket again to the VAB, it would delay the actual launch to late summer or early fall. At that point the two strap-on solid rocket boosters will have been stacked almost two years, almost twice as long as they are supposed to before launch.

The agency could attempt to roll out the rocket for a dress rehearsal, and then proceed directly to launch. That would allow the possibility of a launch in the early summer, but for that plan to work everything must work perfectly.

The many problems during the dress rehearsal were in themselves not bad marks against the rocket or program. This was a test to iron out kinks in the launch procedures, and such issues should be expected. The real problem is that these kinks during launch countdown are being worked out now, at the very end of development, rather at the beginning. They suggest that the rocket has a lot of engineering loose ends that were not thoroughly tested and worked out in development, thus increasing the likelihood of a complete failure during actual launch.

This rocket was first conceived in 2004. Its development, in fits and starts, has now been on-going for 18 years. The total cost exceeds $30 billion (not including the $20 billion or so spent on the Orion capsule). That it is not ready to launch is a striking condemnation of our entire government. The rocket was designed by Congress, and NASA’s program to build it has been costly, slow, and poorly managed, from the beginning.

As I wrote in 2011, it should have been scrapped more than a decade ago, replaced with rockets from the private sector. Had our incompetent federal government done that we would likely be launching humans to the Moon, now, and saved a lot of money in the process.

Original post:
NASA has now scheduled for no earlier than April 21, 2022 its fourth attempt to complete a SLS dress rehearsal countdown, stymied the last time by a hydrogen fuel leak.

Each delay puts further pressure on the agency’s hope of launching in June. And each launch delay puts the rocket’s solid rocket boosters farther and farther past their use-by date that officially arrived in January.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!


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Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


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  • Tregonsee

    They should have put this out of our mi$ery years ago. WWED. What would Elon do?

  • Ray Van Dune

    WWED? Rocket garden addition.

  • john hare

    I’m betting they waver the solids well past the sell by date.

  • Ray Van Dune

    Well, they don’t waiver the big fireworks, by the time they get them replaced, there will be a SpaceX rocket orbiting the moon, if not standing tall on it!

  • Ray Van Dune

    I meant “Well, IF they don’t waiver the big fireworks….”

    My typing as solid as the Senate’s chances for a Merit Badge in “Rocketry”!

  • wayne

    Totally convinced it’s going to explode.

  • commodude

    SLS is a tribute to the political bribery (oops campaign contribution) system that runs the country. Nothing is as permanent as a bureaucratic program.

  • Steven

    Yeah but how many people did it employ on the way? THAT is the only thing the federal government cares about, NOT about piffling things like if the rocket works…

  • wayne

    After it explodes, they’ll spend 3 years reconstructing the debris, as part of an extensive (and costly) accident investigation. No stone left unturned and all….

    Dwight D. Eisenhower –
    Farewell Speech – Address to the Nation –
    January 17, 1961

  • wayne

    The relevant bit from the above, concerning the “scientific technological elite”

  • Jeff Wright

    ALS/NLS, Magnum, CaLV, Ares V DIRECT….this should have been built years ago. D-IV assembly would likely have gouged the taxpayer more. SD HLLV advocates have been on the outside looking in when Venture Star was the rage.. they finally sit in the drivers seat and now everyone wants to cut their throat…

  • sippin_bourbon


    Not just the jobs. Sometimes it is direct money into projects. And I am sure that none of those politicians have any ties to who works those projects.

    But the jobs is not really their direct measure. It is the numbers that they can convert into direct votes and campaign donations.

  • GaryMike

    Recycle the thing before launch, while it has recoverable scrap value.

    Launching it into the ocean won’t pay anything back to us taxpayers.

  • Well, there goes another few months slip in the FAA decision on environmental issues at Boca Chica. That or the FAA finally succumbs to the anti-tech “environmentalists” and requires a full, new environmental assessment that will take years to complete. And new issues will be created when SpaceX moves to launching in Florida, SLS or no SLS.

  • Jeremy, Alabama

    SLS is awful. Bolting together existing, warehoused components onto some tubes lengthened a few feet is not a $30B program. And a $20B airtight 60s-tech capsule is … words fail.

    But. If the feds are going to waste $50B, the GOP can waste it on welfare for engineers in my back yard, or the Dems can waste it on the “war on poverty” while creating a new class of dependents/voters. A Hobson’s choice, I would take SLS.

  • Jeremy, Alabama: You need to read my 2017 policy paper, Capitalism in Space (a free pdf download).

    Thus, we never had to make a Hobson’s choice, if we had demanded our politicians do the right thing. Private enterprise has always been a better choice over SLS, that would accomplish things quickly and cost far less.

    Sadly, Americans haven’t been demanding right action from our politicians for decades. We thus get the government we choose.

  • GaryMike

    Pardon me for quoting myself: “Launching it into the ocean won’t pay anything back to us taxpayers.”

    I missed the opportunity to make a point about unnecessary sunk cost.

  • pawn

    Most of it is going into the ocean either way.

  • pawn

    Does anyone here know what the root cause was of all the hydrogen leaks in the summer of 1990?

  • David

    When you’re right, you’re right Mr. Zimmerman. And to your credit, on this subject, you’ve been spot on for more than a decade.

    Nice work.

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