SLS still has no mission

Week Three: Ninth Anniversary Fund-Raising Drive for Behind the Black

It is now the third week in my annual anniversary fund-raising campaign for Behind the Black.

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At a meeting at the Kennedy Space Center on Monday, outlining the status of the Orion/SLS program, managers admitted that the program still lacks funding for any missions past its initial 2018 unmanned test flight.

Internally, a huge amount of work is continuing to take place on providing SLS with Design Reference Missions (DRMs). However, those are only for planning purposes and the outlook continues to change, resulting in uncertainty. Numerous factors are to blame, with funding once again mentioned as an issue during the KSC meeting – citing SLS is “lacking booked missions at this time due to tight funding.”

In other words, Congress has not provided NASA any funding for any real SLS missions. I also don’t expect Congress to ever do so, since the cost per launch ranges from $3 to $14 billion, depending on how you calculate the numbers. This is in comparison to the estimated per launch cost of about $100 to $150 million for a Falcon Heavy launch, capable of putting in orbit about two-thirds that of SLS. Even a stupid Congressmen can read these numbers and figure out that they will get a lot more bang per buck dumping SLS for Falcon Heavy.



  • D K Rögnvald Williams

    Never underestimate the power of pork to a politician.

  • pzatchok

    There will never be a mission.

    They have wishes and goals but no missions.

  • Edward

    A couple of months ago, Aviation Week (now published biweekly) had an article telling us that the SLS manifest was filling up fast. Unfortunately, the AW article also admitted that the three or four robotic payloads that might eventually be on the manifest were only ideas and not even in the proposal phase. Even the article Robert linked to mentions only one robotic payload, and that is only a hoped-for mission (to Europa). Meanwhile, Congress still has not proposed funding for any SLS missions or manifests, and providing funding is Congresses purview, not NASA’s.

    So far, SLS has no mission and has no manifest. No wonder NASA is worried.

    Then again, SLS is Congress’ toy, and we taxpayers/voters do not seem to be able to get them to rein in their excessive spending.

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