NASA Presses on With SLS Development as Launch Vehicle Undergoes Critical Design Review

From NASA: "Artist concept of NASA's Space Launch System wireframe design. The SLS Program is kicking off its critical design review May 11 at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama." Image Credit: NASA/MSFC

From NASA: “Artist concept of NASA’s Space Launch System wireframe design. The SLS Program is kicking off its critical design review May 11 at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.” Image Credit: NASA/MSFC

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) Program, designing NASA’s next heavy lift launch vehicle intended to carry spacecraft and astronauts beyond low Earth orbit, is currently undergoing a critical design review. While this major milestone is underway, engineers recently tested the launch vehicle’s hydrogen burn-off igniters, and continue to analyze results from the QM-1 booster test fire that took place on March 11th at Orbital ATK’s test facility in Promontory, Utah. In addition, work is proceeding on the B-2 Test Stand at Stennis Space Center, which is being drastically modified to support SLS.

The design review started May 11th at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. According to the space agency, SLS’ boosters, stages, and engines have already completed their own reviews; Spacecraft and Payload Integration & Evolution (the SPIE Office, in charge of the Orion stage adapter, the interim cryogenic propulsion stage, and the launch vehicle stage adapter) is in the process of completing its own review. The integrated design review of SLS, according to NASA, is estimated to conclude in late July.

Engineers have also made strides in developing essential components of SLS. On May 5th, tests (nine to take place in total) of the vehicle’s hydrogen burn-off igniters began at the U.S. Army’s Redstone Test Center on Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville. SLS will have four RS-25 engines, and two five-segment solid rocket boosters. The purpose of the hydrogen burn-off igniters (the vehicle will have 12) is to rid excess hydrogen from the vehicle’s aft end, which can potentially spark an explosion.

From NASA: “Sparks fly as a hydrogen burn-off igniter test is conducted May 5 at the Redstone Test Center on Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville.” Video Credit: RTC/NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

According to David McDaniels, an aerospace engineer in Marshall’s Fluid Dynamics branch, “Hydrogen burn-off igniters are more like small rocket motors than an explosive. They generate enough of a propellant plume to carry the sparks at least 15 feet to the right place to burn off any excess hydrogen.” These igniters are similar to the ones used during the space shuttle era, which were highly visible in launch footage just prior to liftoff. NASA stated that the tests were being filmed by high-speed cameras to gauge measurements including how far particles were thrown, and their area of coverage.

From NASA: "NASA began work May 13 on a major milestone in its preparation for testing the core stage of its new Space Launch System (SLS), beginning lifts of large structural steel sections onto the B-2 Test Stand at Stennis Space Center." Photo Credit: NASA/Stennis Space Center

From NASA: “NASA began work May 13 on a major milestone in its preparation for testing the core stage of its new Space Launch System (SLS), beginning lifts of large structural steel sections onto the B-2 Test Stand at Stennis Space Center.” Photo Credit: NASA/Stennis Space Center

In addition, engineers continue to inspect components of the solid rocket booster fired during the Qualification Motor-1 test fire (QM-1) in March. SLS’ boosters are being designed by Orbital ATK. In a recent AmericaSpace article, Mike Killian reported that initial findings showed the test to be an unqualified success:

“The [QM-1] test also demonstrated the booster’s ability to meet applicable ballistic performance requirements, such as thrust and pressure. Other objectives included data gathering on vital motor upgrades, such as the new internal motor insulation and liner and an improved nozzle design. ‘Current data shows the nozzle and insulation performed as expected, and ballistics performance parameters met allowable requirements,’ noted Orbital ATK in their report. ‘Additionally, the thrust vector control and avionics system provided the required command and control of the motor nozzle position.’” This week NASA further announced, “Disassembly and inspection of the booster is ongoing, but preliminary analysis of the test data shows all test objectives were successfully completed during the hot fire.”

Of course, the boosters will be subjected to further testing prior to actual flight. Killian added in his report, “A cold-temperature test, at a target of 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the low end of the propellant temperature range, is planned for QM-2 before the hardware testing to support qualification of the boosters for flight will be complete, at which point Orbital ATK will then be ready to proceed toward the first flight of SLS, an uncrewed flight to validate the entire integrated system, currently scheduled to fly on the Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) in late-2018.” These powerhouse boosters are expected to be 20 percent more powerful than their counterparts used on the space shuttle, providing much of SLS’ thrust required to escape gravity.

While results of these tests continue to be scrutinized, the B-2 Test Stand located at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi is undergoing modifications in order to support SLS’ core stage for future testing. NASA announced, “A major step in the modification involves repositioning and extension of the test stand’s Main Propulsion Test Article (MPTA) framework, which supports the rocket stage for testing. The framework was repositioned on the stand late last summer. Now, work has begun to add the large structural steel sections that will extend its height.” The MPTA, originally designed to support space shuttle testing, will have 100 feet added to its current height of 61 feet, and will “gain weight” in the form of a million pounds of steel.

While the integrated design review continues to take place, SLS’ engineers – coming from a variety of aerospace backgrounds and NASA space centers – continue to make progress in developing the first “beyond Earth” rocket seen since the likes of the mighty Saturn V.

From NASA: "Orbital ATK technicians detach the center forward segment from the forward segment of NASA's five-segment booster that fired up for testing March 11 at Orbital ATK's test facility in Promontory, Utah. The two-minute static test was the first of two ground tests to support qualification of the boosters that will help launch the first flight of NASA's new rocket--the Space Launch System (SLS)." Photo Credit: Orbital ATK

From NASA: “Orbital ATK technicians detach the center forward segment from the forward segment of NASA’s five-segment booster that fired up for testing March 11 at Orbital ATK’s test facility in Promontory, Utah. The two-minute static test was the first of two ground tests to support qualification of the boosters that will help launch the first flight of NASA’s new rocket–the Space Launch System (SLS).” Photo Credit: Orbital ATK

 

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50 comments to NASA Presses on With SLS Development as Launch Vehicle Undergoes Critical Design Review

  • Gary Church

    I have read hundreds of comments over the years by NewSpace fans declaring the SLS would never fly. Probably thousands of such vehement statements dripping with NASA-hate have been posted.

    I am so happy to be able to comment on this awesome machine. The next step is tooling at Michoud and the workers to increase core production. It will undoubtedly happen.

    • Well here, read Tim Urban’s latest, most excellent post (link below).

      You’re head will undoubtedly explode, thus saving Americaspace moderators the trouble of banning you from yet another web site.

      http://waitbutwhy.com/2015/05/elon-musk-the-worlds-raddest-man.html

      • Joe

        Gary is not a member of my fan club or vice versa, but I do not believe even he has ever said Musk is not great at self promotion and generating a cult following.

        The gushing article to which you link is therefore pretty typical. I waded through the first couple of paragraphs before the worship got to deep and did notice one thing worthy of comment, the statement that Musk is the – “real-life inspiration for Iron Man’s Tony Stark”.

        That canard gets endlessly repeated, yet the Tony Stark character first appeared in Marvel Comic’s in 1963 about 8 years before Musk was born.

        You guys really do believe Musk to be somehow supernatural don’t you. He managed to inspire Stan Lee to write the Tony Stark character a decade before Musk was even conceived.

        • Tim uses a little comedy and xkcd style stick figures to make his web site more fun to read.
          This is obviously lost on people who have no sense of humor.

          The Tony Stark thing is obviously referencing the 2008 “Iron Man” movie, most normal grown-ups never heard of Tony Stark until the movie.

          Supernatural? That’s a ridiculous straw man cliche.

          Musk builds rockets, you research children’s comic books.

          Whatever.

          • Joe

            (1) “Tim uses a little comedy and xkcd style stick figures to make his web site more fun to read. This is obviously lost on people who have no sense of humor.”

            I do not care about his stick figures, in the midst of fawning over Musk he made as many do a ridiculously inaccurate statement concerning Musk and what an inspiration he is.

            (2) “The Tony Stark thing is obviously referencing the 2008 “Iron Man” movie, most normal grown-ups never heard of Tony Stark until the movie.”

            Most normal grown ups used to be kids who read comic books, nice try at weaseling out of the stupid mistake though.

            (3) “Supernatural? That’s a ridiculous straw man cliche.”

            If it is a cliché to you as regards Musk you must hear it a lot, wonder why?

            (4) “Musk builds rockets, you research children’s comic books.”

            Actually I am an engineer with over 20 years experience in Aerospace – How about you?

            (5) Whatever.

            At last something we can agree on.

            Better luck in your next attempt at Musk aggrandizement.

            • Good lord, it’s 2015, there’s a whole generation of young to middle aged people who have never seen a comic book from 50 years ago. To 99% of the public around the world, “Iron Man” is a movie that came out in 2008, for you to obsess over that is well…insane.

              You’re an engineer with 20 years experience in Aerospace? Well then act like it for kripes sake.
              Grow a sense of humor. Geez, I’m glad I don’t have to work with you.

              I have you beat by a decade in aero/mechanical. When I was a kid I was into “Magnus Robot Fighter” and “Space Family Robinson” because they were genuine science fiction, I never did get the superhero thing.

              >>attempt at Musk aggrandizement
              I was making an attempt to get Gary Church’s head to explode, in hopes that the comments on this otherwise great web site might become a useful forum. You are not helping, go away.

              • Joe

                “Good lord, it’s 2015, there’s a whole generation of young to middle aged people who have never seen a comic book from 50 years ago.”

                “I have you beat by a decade in aero/mechanical.”

                If you have me beat by a decade you are plenty old enough to have seen “a comic book from 50 years ago”.

                “To 99% of the public around the world, “Iron Man” is a movie that came out in 2008, for you to obsess over that is well…insane.”

                My own experience is normal adults (the sane ones as well)that have children (or grandchildren) that like the Iron Man movies, enjoy it because they remember having read the comic books and it helps bridge the generation gap.

                “When I was a kid I was into “Magnus Robot Fighter” and “Space Family Robinson””

                So, by your own definition, you are not a “normal adult” because you used to read “children’s comic books”.

                “You’re an engineer with 20 years experience in Aerospace? Well then act like it for kripes sake. Grow a sense of humor. Geez, I’m glad I don’t have to work with you.”

                I will leave to others to decide who does not have a sense of humor.

                You might as well face it the Tony Stark thing just is not working for you anymore.

                Maybe you could try this – Musk is the role model for the Bruce Wayne character in Batman.

                Then, if anyone has audacity to notice that Batman has been around since before even you were born; you can claim that “normal adults” only know Batman from the Christopher Nolan movies made after the turn of the 21st Century (pro bono advice; no consulting fee).

                “I was making an attempt to get Gary Church’s head to explode, in hopes that the comments on this otherwise great web site might become a useful forum. You are not helping, go away.”

                I do not like Gary’s stile anymore than you say you do. But if you really do not like it, why are you emulating it?

                Your head seems to be the one exploding.

                I am finished with this. I figure you will want the last word (he who posts last wins – right!).

                So have it.

        • Tim Andrews

          While only the most blind-eyed Musk fanboy would believe that Marvel’s Tony Stark originated with Elon Musk (though I’m sure many would), John Favreau did style 2008 Ironman motion picture incarnation of Tony Stark after Musk:

          “Elon Musk makes no sense — and that’s the reason I know him. When I was trying to bring the character of genius billionaire Tony Stark to the big screen in Iron Man, I had no idea how to make him seem real. Robert Downey Jr. said, ‘We need to sit down with Elon Musk.’ … Downey was right. Elon is a paragon of enthusiasm, good humor and curiosity — a Renaissance man in an era that needs them.” The resulting Tony Stark character was then just more or less a more flamboyant version of Elon Musk, with some of the extra flamboyance being inspired by Oracle CEO Larry Ellison.” – John Favreau

          The sad part of this tale is that there are many people out there with no knowledge of Ironman prior to the film.

          • Joe

            “The sad part of this tale is that there are many people out there with no knowledge of Ironman prior to the film.”

            True. For instance the real inspiration for Tony Stark was another eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_Man

            Which explains the mustache and goatee.

            Sadly Hughes had already gone completely off the rails by then, but it had been successfully covered up until that point. The writer Stan Lee later said something to the effect that Stark was Hughes except he wasn’t crazy. Did not want to bring that up since someone would have seen an imaginary implied comparison between Musk and Hughes and then somebodies head really would have exploded.

            Interesting point, I was accused above of researching “children’s comic books”. The research (such as it was)was done on a rainy day of a long holiday weekend (outdoor activities cancelled) and took about 5 minutes. That’s what it generally takes to check something like this when it does not sound right.

  • Gary Church

    As the SLS progresses and the next administration most likely points the space agency back in the direction of the Moon I expect to see three very important technologies enter the public consciousness:

    1. Transporting fissionable material direct to the Moon.
    At some point NASA will have to admit that chemical propulsion is essentially useless for interplanetary travel. The Launch Abort System for the Orion capsule makes transporting survivable packages of “pits” an acceptable evolution.

    2. The wet workshop upper stage.
    While a human-rated lander seems to be the stumbling block for a Moon return in reality it may be a blessing in disguise. Using robots to harvest water from lunar polar ice deposits and shuttle that water-as-radiation-shielding back up to empty SLS upper stages is a better initial plan for several reasons.

    3. Robot Landers.
    The volatiles trapped in lunar ice mean that automated chemical processors can manufacture methane and oxygen for rocket fuel. A large enough lander can be carried as payload with a ZBO (zero boil-off) methane system to use the SLS lander ascent engine to insert the wet workshop upper stage into a lunar “frozen” polar orbit. The ULA piston engine system being developed can be adapted for such a ZBO refueling/propulsion system and this will make a cislunar infrastructure a much more attractive proposition.

  • Gary's Drinking Game

    Gary shows his hate of “NewSpace fans” on a topic that has nothing to do with it! Drink!

  • se jones

    Gawd, if I took a drink every time Gary posted one of his hateful, ridiculous, non sequiturs, I’d be falling down drunk by noon every day.

    Moderators: when are you going to block this person?

    • As much as Mr. Church despises me, even though I do not agree with everything he says and roll my eyes every time he morphs the topic of almost every article into an opportunity to launch an off-topic tirade against the Musk-Illuminati driven New Space Conspiracy(TM), I feel he has every right to post his comments as long as he follows the posting policies of this web site. While he firmly believes that I am doing everything in my power behind the scenes to get him banned from yet another web site, in reality I have only tried to cease his personal attacks against posters like myself who have questioned his pronouncements. While I do not always agree with him, he does provoke discussions where I have actually learned new things or at least deepened my understanding of a subject if not from him, then from responses from others.

      As for the “Gary drinking game”, I think it is inappropriate… especially since it really isn’t that challenging of a game.

      • Joe

        I am somewhat conflicted here.

        First I support the drinking game, if for no other reason than drinking games are not supposed to be challenging (sorry, sometimes I feel the need to make a joke).

        More seriously, I agree with Andrew about Mr. Church’s right to free speech. However, I recently did a quick review of the comment sections attached to the articles on the “first page” of this site. At that time there were about 81 comments and over 40% of them were by Mr. Church, with most of the rest being people responding to his repetitive lectures on the one right way to do things in space. That despite the fact that a number of these articles were at most tangentially related to his topic.

        The eerie thing is at a strategic level I agree with him at least as much as I do not. But he needs to be convinced that:

        – His right to free speech does not translate into the right to drown out everyone else.

        – He needs to be more civil in debating others.

        – The need to engage in debate is part of making post he obviously wants to be controversial (i.e. he cannot dismiss anyone who disagrees with him as a cyber-bully, stalker, someone attempting to shame him, etc.).

        If the board moderators choose to take up that challenge, I do not envy them the job.

        • Gary Church

          Oh, you do not seem conflicted at all to me.
          You want me banned.

          You and your friends implied legal action against this site in an attempt to ban me. I hope the moderators don’t forget that.

          Or that both of you are dragging this toxic crusade into this thread also. If I made 81 comments (you counted them?) then you should specify who I was replying to. Most of those were replying to the harassment the three of you have relentlessly applied to me in an attempt to make me leave “your” site. As for “drowning out” everyone else- that is ironic considering the articles I do not comment on have very few or no comments.

          This would indicate that your goal is for nobody to comment on “your site” except you and your friends when you feel like it.

          I comment and the dogpile begins. The attempt to shame and humiliate me is real- the “Gary drinking game” and trademark symbol conspiracy theorist branding- and the repeated admonishments by you to stop complaining. The three of you are…..well, my too-honest replies to your goading me now mean I cannot reply with anything close to the level of insulting and demeaning remarks you three are using. Not without getting banned.

          So enjoy.

          • You’re welcome, Gary 🙂

            • Gary Church

              Always easy to bait a sadist into the open- just give them a chance to gloat. It is like candy.

              • Proof of the old adage that no good deed goes unpunished. But I guess acknowledging that someone is defending your right to post on this web site just doesn’t fit conveniently into your “everyone is against me” narrative. Whatever…. you’re welcome 🙂

                • Gary Church

                  “-acknowledging that someone is defending your right to post on this web site just doesn’t fit conveniently into your “everyone is against me”-”

                  So twisted and bizarre. Really.

                  • Gary Church

                    “-roll my eyes every time he morphs the topic of almost every article into an opportunity to launch an off-topic tirade against the Musk-Illuminati driven New Space Conspiracy(TM),-”

                    “-I have only tried to cease his personal attacks against posters like myself-”

                    That you expect me to thank you for that is…so twisted and bizarre.

                    • As usual, you are being highly selective of what you choose to quote. You seem to have totally ignored the following:

                      “I feel he has every right to post his comments as long as he follows the posting policies of this web site.”

                      You’re welcome!

                    • Oh, and there was also:

                      “While I do not always agree with him, he does provoke discussions where I have actually learned new things or at least deepened my understanding of a subject if not from him, then from responses from others.”

                      You’re welcome!

                    • And how could I forget,

                      “As for the “Gary drinking game”, I think it is inappropriate”

                      You’re welcome! 🙂

                    • Gary Church

                      “I feel he has every right to post-”

                      You just don’t get it that what you “feel” has nothing to do with my “right” to post. You qualify everything with your self-entitled faux authority. You should not have said anything. It is self-evident I should be able to comment here. It is not up to you.

                      “-at least deepened my understanding of a subject if not from him,-”

                      You just don’t get that qualifying something with a negative makes it a negative- and by mentioning the drinking game you are adding to the humiliation and you must know that.

                      You keep playing this game you think nobody can see through.

                    • Whatever you say, Gary.

          • Joe

            “If I made 81 comments (you counted them?)”

            No Gary there were 81 comments made and you made more than 40% of them as I said. Most of the rest of the comments were in response to your original assertions (with you counter arguing to the debate you started) as I said. Nothing wrong with that other than you constantly complaining about being cyber-bullied, stalked, etc. whenever anyone dares to disagree with you in the slightest.

            And yes I counted them and did some other math. Counting to 81 (even 100) is not that hard, try it sometime.

            • Gary Church

              “-yes I counted them and did some other math.”

              Yes, it is obvious I am not being cyberstalked and foolish for saying so. Do you by chance have any comment to make about the SLS?

              • Joe

                “Do you by chance have any comment to make about the SLS?”

                Yes I do, they are all positive/supportive and I make them every chance I get. Would be making them here except for the fact that unfortunately you started off the first comment in this section with the statement:

                “I have read hundreds of comments over the years by NewSpace fans declaring the SLS would never fly. Probably thousands of such vehement statements dripping with NASA-hate have been posted.”

                You diverted the discussion (as happens repeatedly)to what is apparently your favorite subject – you and your dislike (actually hatred) of certain others that has nothing to do with the article to which this comments section is attached. I do not like many of those certain others much better than you do, but your obsession with stating your anger over and over again is massively counter productive.

                • Gary Church

                  “I have read hundreds of comments over the years by NewSpace fans declaring the SLS would never fly. Probably thousands of such vehement statements dripping with NASA-hate have been posted.”

                  A couple of excellent sentences. Perfectly accurate. The truth. While your comment branded me a hater, angry, obsessed, and “counter productive.”

                  Diverting the discussion? I began the discussion and saying NewSpace and the SLS are not part of the discussion is, again, incredibly over-the-top disingenuous.

                  Someone is angry and obsessed but it is not me.

                  • Joe

                    “A couple of excellent sentences.”

                    I am glad you like them, would you like to pay yourself any other compliments?

                    “Diverting the discussion? I began the discussion and saying NewSpace and the SLS are not part of the discussion is, again, incredibly over-the-top disingenuous.”

                    The article was about the SLS, so called NewSpace was not even mentioned. You brought it up and thus made NewSpace vs. SLS the topic of the discussion. Apparently you do not believe the subject of the article is important, only the discussion you want to have.

                    “Someone is angry and obsessed but it is not me.”

                    Sorry Gary, but your best attempts not withstanding, I am not angry and/or depressed only bored.

                    Now, it is Saturday Night and their are more pleasant things to do.

                    So have a nice evening, if you are capable of it.

  • Karol

    Emily, thank you for the great update on the progress of OUR Space Launch System. No doubt the wails and supplications to the Musksiaah by the Newspace NASA-hating howler monkeys will increase as the July CDR approval nears. I love the squeals of anguished Newspacers in the morning. It sounds like … victory!

    • Gary Church

      You Rock Karol!

      • Larry Temple

        That’s just an alt account of yours, isn’t it?

        • Gary Church

          Nope…Karol has the copyright on “Muskiaah” and now “Newspace NASA-hating howler monkeys.” My unique terms are “space clown wannabe’s” and “Ayn-Rand-in-Space Musk worshipers”…and variations of that. It’s all just good fun though, right? Can’t take a joke? It is not like we are malicious persecutors or anything. I hope you are not insinuating there is some (TM)old space conspiracy.

          Learn how to laugh at yourself Larry- that is the advice I keep getting.

  • Gary Church

    “– continue to make progress in developing the first “beyond Earth” rocket seen since the likes of the mighty Saturn V.”

    Anyone who has read a few books about the first space age may realize the Saturn V was not really as “mighty” as popular culture has portrayed it. The original rocket- called “Nova”- was much larger. Lunar Orbit Rendezvous allowed a smaller launch vehicle and this was critical in getting to the Moon within the ten year target. In retrospect developing Nova and going a couple years late might have resulted in the space age not ending in 1972 and continuing to the present day. If Super Heavy Lift Vehicles had continued to send payloads to the Moon at the rate of 6 a year for the last 40 years there would most likely be several hundred people inhabiting a base on the Moon, or in true space stations circling the Moon, or a combination. One of the first books I brought home from the library in elementary school was “Beyond Tomorrow, the next 50 years in space” by Dandridge Cole. In that book, published before the Moon landing, is a depiction of a lunar ice mining operation. It was suspected such resources were on the Moon even then.

    Building Nova would have meant a longer period leading up to the Moon shot to improve the various systems and it is interesting to speculate on what technique would have been used and what hardware would have landed. The improved version of the F-1 engine, the F-1A, mounted on an 8 engine Nova first stage would have had 14.4 million pounds of thrust.

    From astronautix: “By the end of 1963 NASA no longer foresaw any need for such huge launch vehicles. Saturn V studies had already begun which indicated that, using solid strap-on motors, the Saturn could deliver up to a million pounds to orbit without the need to build new vehicles or facilities.”

    The strap-on boosters under study were monolithic designs far more powerful than the segmented type used for the SLS, thus the 500 ton to LEO payload. I would be interested how much a vehicle using four of the SLS five segment SRB’s and RS-68A’s would be able to lift. Call it “Supernova.”

    • Gary Church

      I would add another book I studied as a child in the 60’s, Time’s “Man in Space”, had an artist’s depiction of a Super Heavy Lift Vehicle with quad solid rocket strap-ons; exactly what a four SRB SLS would look like.

  • Neil

    SLS may be an awesome vehicle however it doesn’t address the major issue facing NASA and Congress, that being how to fund both SLS and its payloads. So far no payload or customer has been identified or funded. So sort of seems a bit like the cart before the horse. If someone, anyone can show me where there is such a payload and the corresponding funding then I’ll be happy to agree that SLS will fly operationally. Until the …
    Cheers

    • Joe

      Hi Neil,

      This sort of game may be amusing to you, but it serves no practical purpose.

      Sadly, because the American Space Program lacks any direction from the current Administration, there are no current practical goals or funding to do anything in HSF. Therefore there are no payloads for the SLS or any payloads for human missions beyond LEO period.

      If your “solution” to that situation is to shut down what little activity there is unless and until some future administration decides to give such direction it is completely impractical.

      Such endeavors are not turned off/on like a light switch. Shut it down now and you pay a huge price (in terms of time, money and technical risk) to restart it later.

      Unless your intent is to see to it that it is as difficult as possible for there to ever be an American HSF Program again, that makes no sense.

      A reasonable question would be, is that your goal?

      • Joe, I thought you might want to know of an update to the “no payloads for SLS.” If the House appropriations for Europa mission is accepted by the Senate, which is very likely, the language requiring the Europa mission to use SLS will finally put a stake in the heart of the “no mission” argument used so often in some quarters.

        In a presentation earlier this year that was sort of an end-run around OMB and NASA, JPL’s lead on the Europa program gave House CJS Subcommittee Chairman Culberson three mission options. The most ambitious mission would put a lander on the surface with a submersible of some sort and a capability to test for life. Like anyone, Culberson’s reaction was, why go if we aren’t going to accomplish as much as possible? Such a large payload means the SLS with the new cryo second-stage.

        Once this mission is appropriated, I imagine…ok, hope, others will follow over the years. I think Rep. Culberson will help that along.

        • ken anthony

          Jim, I must respectfully disagree.

          Make work for the SLS is not a stake in the heart (implying a dead issue) of anything for a very basic reason: buying HL commercially is going to be cheaper and have higher performance both in cost per kg and eventually even total lift. A number of HL engines and systems are being developed by various companies demonstrating a bit of healthy competition. NASA should be focusing on payloads, not launch systems we have no need for.

        • Joe

          Jim,

          Thanks for the information, did not know that.

          I actually live in Culbertson’s district and knew that he had become fascinated with Europa, so it is not surprising. He is also intent on reestablishing Lunar Return (complete with ISRU) as the goal for the HSF program. Since that would mean overturning the current Administrations policy it will take longer (if it ever happens at all), right now it would just be veto bate. His opposite number in the House Palazzo (chairmen of the Authorization Committee) is also on board Need to work on Cruz and Shelby in the Senate, but they are both pro-space generically and frustrated with the current situation; so there is at least a chance.

          Another plus of using the SLS for launching of robotics probes to the outer Solar System is that the increased flight rate would take away another talking point used in what you (tactfully) called “some quarters”. It will lower the per flight costs, currently held artificially high by the artificially low – Administration ordered – flight rates.

          I notice the “some quarters” already have checked in:

          – Ken asserts the Europa mission is only “make work” for the SLS, because there are several better HLV’s already being developed by unnamed private companies. Can only guess he means the (much talked about but never appearing) Falcon Heavy, but it only advertises a 50 metric ton payload to LEO, not the SLS 70 metric tons. Anything else is truly vaporware, an argument that used to be made about the SLS; but is no longer operable (to any neutral observer) since it is now at CDR.

          – Neil will graciously accept “a mission to Europa even if it is on SLS”. You got to love the “even if it is on SLS”, nice of him isn’t it.

          • The space press hasn’t been shouting the Europa-SLS news from the highest mt. for a lot of reasons, some noble, some less so. But I can’t see Shelby not embracing that section on the Approps bill.

            If there’s an approps fight between the chambers, it’ll be over CCP, how much to give them, and how restrictive the language should be for how it’s doled-out, and if that can get past Sen. Mikulski. Man, I’m gonna miss her.

            I confess that I haven’t followed ISRU very closely. I don’t know Shelby’s folks, but if it’s pro-exploration, that’s good; if it’s pro-Moon, that’s great. If it could be launched on an SLS to go to the Moon, Shelby should be eager to fund ISRU.

            As for Sen. Cruz, my feeling is, and that’s all it is, were Rep. Lamar Smith to support ISRU, Cruz would follow suit.

            I think am seeing what I believe is daylight between authorizers and appropriators in the House. Your thoughts?

            • Joe

              “I think am seeing what I believe is daylight between authorizers and appropriators in the House. Your thoughts?”

              I have to admit I have been focused pretty heavily on Lunar ISRU, so I do not know if the agreement that appears to exist between Chairmen Culbertson/Palazzo extends generally.

              What daylight is it you see?

    • Neil,

      SLS now has a mission beyond EM-1 and EM-2; Europa. The House FY16 CJS appropriation voted out of the Subcommittee mandates that the Europa mission be launched on an SLS. Giving the size of the mission chosen by the CJS Subcommittee, my guess is it will be the SLS IB, which will have the newer cryo second-stage. This is going to be an awesome mission.

      • Neil

        Jim. I’ll be very happy to see a mission to Europa even if it is on SLS however the cost argument does not go away. Also the time argument. How much is the mission going to cost and when is it projected to fly? I know, early days yet still the answers to these questions are troubling ones if NASA is expected to fund a viable HSF program as well as the other things currently in train and essentially flat budgets.
        Cheers

        • Cost is a function of volume–the more SLS launches, the lower the cost. And you’re right, the fixed unit costs of an SLS launcher at this time are educated guesses. That said, the selling point is, if you need to get the biggest payload somewhere the fastest, there’s no other rocket. I do know from my own brief work decades ago–ok, in the late 1990’s–that a non-swing-by trajectory certainly simplifies the mission planning big-time, not that it is a big deal.

          Specific to Europa, I admit I’m not following Europa that closely, but I recall it is set to launch in 2022, or about the time that the more advanced cryo second stage rolls-out. For a more accurate answer, I’ll have to throw that to Leonidas or any of the commenters here who are following Europa.

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