Capping A Milestone Year, NASA Announces Completion of SLS Critical Design Review

From NASA: "For the first time in almost 40 years, a NASA human-rated rocket has completed all steps needed to clear a critical design review (CDR). The agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) is the first vehicle designed to meet the challenges of the journey to Mars and the first exploration class rocket since the Saturn V." Image Credit: NASA/MSFC

From NASA: “For the first time in almost 40 years, a NASA human-rated rocket has completed all steps needed to clear a critical design review (CDR). The agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) is the first vehicle designed to meet the challenges of the journey to Mars and the first exploration class rocket since the Saturn V.” Image Credit: NASA/MSFC

NASA’s skyscraper-size Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, the successor to the agency’s space shuttle program that ended four years ago and the first exploration class launch vehicle to be developed since the days of the Apollo moon program, has cleared all the steps to complete its Critical Design Review (CDR). This crucial milestone comes nearly a year after the first successful test flight of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV), designated Exploration Flight Test 1 (EFT-1); the capsule, along with SLS, will be instrumental in taking astronauts back into deep space for the first time since 1972’s Apollo 17 lunar mission.

NASA divulged that the CDR examined the Block 1 configuration of the launch vehicle, which is billed as having a 70-metric-ton (77-ton) lift capacity; it will boast two segmented boosters manufactured by Orbital ATK and four Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-25 engines, the space shuttle’s workhorses. The SLS Program completed the review in July; in addition, a separate review was made by the Standing Review Board, comprised of NASA and industry experts familiar with the program.

An SLS in its Block 1 configuration goes up, up, and away in this artist's rendering. Image Credit: NASA/MSFC

An SLS in its Block 1 configuration goes up, up, and away in this artist’s rendering. Image Credit: NASA/MSFC

NASA underscored the amount of data required to undertake the extensive review: “Throughout the course of 11 weeks, 13 teams – made up of senior engineers and aerospace experts across the agency and industry – reviewed more than 1,000 SLS documents and more than 150 GB of data as part of the comprehensive assessment process at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, where SLS is managed for the agency.”

The Standing Review Board confirmed that SLS’s technical milestones are “on track to complete system development and meet performance requirements on budget and on schedule.” The agency’s Program Management Council, led by Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot, was briefed concerning the CDR this month. The review for individual elements including the core tank stage, twin boosters, and engines was completed successfully.

SLS Program Manager John Honeycutt emphasized the importance of this CDR by stating: “This is a major step in the design and readiness of SLS. Our team has worked extremely hard, and we are moving forward with building this rocket. We are qualifying hardware, building structural test articles, and making real progress.” A short NASA video released today further underscores the vital nature of the CDR, as the program is now “cutting metal” and producing flight hardware for every element. Following a 2017 design certification, a flight readiness review will take place before 2018’s Exploration Mission 1 (EM1), a shakedown flight that will test the integrated systems of the Block 1 launch vehicle, the European Space Agency (ESA)-built Service Module, and an Orion MPCV. This mission will see Orion making a circumlunar flight, the first of its kind utilizing a human-rated spacecraft since Apollo.

Video Credit: NASA’s Marshall Center on YouTube

The completion of the CDR comes during a year of milestones reached for SLS. Its solid rocket booster was test fired seven months ago, NASA’s Pegasus transport barge is being made larger to support moving the colossal rocket, acoustic sound-suppression testing is occurring, F-18 Hornet fighter jets are carrying out flight tests for SLS flight software development, test stands are being built or modified, Kennedy Space Center’s (KSC) iconic Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) is being upgraded to support SLS, launch pad 39B is being prepared, the rocket’s Mobile Launch Platform (MLP) and Crawler Transporter are being prepared, and both qualification and flight hardware for the first SLS vehicle itself are being constructed for the inaugural 2018 launch on the EM-1 flight with NASA’s Orion deep-space MPCV, which itself conducted its first flight test last December.

Orbital ATK's SLS solid rocket booster Qualification Motor-1 (QM-1) test fire March 11, 2015 at the company's test stand in Promontory, Utah. Photo Credit: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace

Orbital ATK’s SLS solid rocket booster Qualification Motor-1 (QM-1) test fire March 11, 2015 at the company’s test stand in Promontory, Utah. Photo Credit: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace

Test outcomes concerning the twin segmented boosters and the RS-25 engines, too, have yielded success. In May, NASA and Orbital ATK released their findings from the Qualification Motor-1 (QM-1) test fire. It was revealed that the 154-foot-long booster, the largest of its kind in the world, performed well at the highest end of its accepted propellant temperature range; the test was regarded as a “resounding success.” Orbital ATK released a report stating: “Current data show the nozzle and insulation performed as expected, and ballistics performance parameters met allowable requirements. Additionally, the thrust vector control and avionics system provided the required command and control of the motor nozzle position.” A cold-temperature test, Qualification Motor-2 (QM-2), is expected to take place next spring. Following the completion of that milestone, Orbital ATK will be ready to proceed toward EM-1.

Meanwhile, the seventh test fire of an Aerojet Rocketdyne’s RS-25 engine, the same kind of engine that powered the space shuttles to Earth’s orbit from 1981 to 2011, went off without a hitch in August; the test was carried out by a development engine. More test fires of both flight and development engines will take place at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in southern Mississippi throughout this fall. The engines have been modified for SLS and have new state-of-the-art controller units, characterized as “brains” that communicate with the launch vehicle.

One big change was revealed concerning SLS today: the launch vehicle’s paint scheme. NASA revealed that part of the CDR concluded that the 200-foot-tall core stage and Launch Vehicle Stage Adapter (LVSA) will not be painted white, but will remain orange. This compromise was made presumably to conserve weight; the first two space shuttle missions in 1981 utilized external tanks painted white, but soon the paint was nixed to conserve approximately 600 pounds of weight. A NASA report last month stated that a test version of the LVSA is being fabricated; this component is vital in connecting SLS’s core stage and upper stage.

An SLS Block 1 launch vehicle hoists an Orion spacecraft from KSC's Pad 39A. Image Credit: NASA/MSFC

An SLS Block 1 launch vehicle hoists an Orion spacecraft from KSC’s Pad 39A. Image Credit: NASA/MSFC

NASA continued that integrated spacecraft and payloads are nearing their CDR completion, while other future program reviews will focus on SLS integration and flight readiness. The first human-helmed flight of SLS is to take place no later than 2023, with targets such as asteroids and Mars, our closest planetary neighbor, in our sights.

AmericaSpace’s Editor Mike Killian contributed to this story.

Be sure to “Like” AmericaSpace on Facebook and follow us on Twitter: @AmericaSpace

.

Missions » SLS » EM-1 » Missions » SLS » QM-1 » Missions » SLS » QM-2 » Missions » SLS »

27 comments to Capping A Milestone Year, NASA Announces Completion of SLS Critical Design Review

  • Forrest Scott Wood

    Alright! Getting closer to having hardware on the launchpad.

  • Byron Hood

    Great news. Go SLS!

  • Colorado

    “Following a 2017 design certification, a flight readiness review will take place before 2018’s Exploration Mission 1 (EM1),-This mission will see Orion making a circumlunar flight, the first of its kind utilizing a human-rated spacecraft since Apollo.”

    I suggest a grass roots campaign to re-fly the Apollo 8 mission in 2018, a half a century after human beings first left the gravitational field of Earth; a symbolic restarting of the space age.

  • Joe

    A wonderful idea.

    Unfortunately, the current budgets being provided to the Orion Project will not allow it to be ready for a crewed flight by that date. That sad unnecessary situation is not likely to change before the end of January 2017, if then.

    • Colorado

      Well…It’s not probable, but it’s not impossible either. Maybe if the hobby rocket blows up again and SpaceX goes out of business and NASA suddenly decides the space station to nowhere should be decommissioned now- as originally planned- and Mars gets put on the shelf as the “horizon goal” and the Moon becomes the new destination.

      If the space agency was honest with the public about the effects of cosmic radiation on astronauts and admitted that Mars is a ridiculous fantasy, at least until a cislunar infrastructure is created, and that the flexible path is not practical- all that is left is the Moon.

      Low Earth Orbital assembly using inferior lift rockets is a dead end. It is a hopeless mess compared to just going direct to the Moon with a SHLV like the SLS. The only resource that is going to allow humans to explore further into the solar system is the ice on the Moon. That is the reality that the present regime wants to keep hidden. We can only hope the next President does not have Lori Garver as her space adviser. Might as well rename it the space tourist agency.

      • Arth

        ISS isn’t going nowhere anytime soon. Right now it’s the gateway to manned exploration/exploitation of the Moon, Mars and the rest of the solar system. Why repeat the mistakes of the 70’s? Billionaire hobby rockets are going to be around to stay just like the millionaire hobby planes of the 1920’s turned into the airlines of today. I’m happy that SLS/Orion is finally getting around to the EM-1 flight. But, NASA shouldn’t abandon LEO just to launch into BEO and beyond. This time NASA seems to be on the right track, with Congress backing the SLS/Orion and the President backing the Commercial vehicles. Each forcing the other to compromise to produce a viable space program for the nation. For those of you who claim that SLS is too expensive, it’s the freaking government in a FAR contract!! Of course it’s going to be expensive. Same as an aircraft carrier. And for those of you who want the CCP vehicles & ISS to go the way of Skylab, maybe, the gov should ground all the commercial aircraft in the U.S. and conduct civilian passenger flights on military cargo flights using the C-17, C-5, C-130.

        • Colorado

          LEO is the gateway to nowhere. It is endless circles a couple hundred miles up. The “gateway” to the Moon is the Super Heavy Lift Vehicle and the Moon is the “gateway” to anywhere else. We cannot go anywhere else unless we go to the Moon and utilize it’s location and resources first.

          We ARE repeating the mistakes of the 70’s with NewSpace; it is just a cheaper version of the pay-for-itself-cargo-bay-of-dreams. NASA “shouldn’t abandon LEO just to launch into BEO-“?

          Of course it should leave LEO behind and that is what the entire NewSpace business plan is against. And this becomes obvious when scatological insults and hate branding are considered normal- as in the reply below.

        • James

          Arth- “ISS isn’t going nowhere anytime soon.”

          Yep. I really like the International Space Station and maintaining and expanding it over the next fifteen to a hundred or more years is smart and quite doable, even with limited budgets.

          The ISS in LEO is both affordable and useful. Anyone who claims otherwise is wrong because we humans can afford and need ISS enabled LEO research in a reduced radiation and ‘minimal risk’ environment that is close to the beautiful safe haven of the Earth’s surface. And we can also afford a whole lot more, including the Moon, Mars, and Ceres.

          “This time NASA seems to be on the right track, with Congress backing the SLS/Orion and the President backing the Commercial vehicles.”

          That isn’t quite right. The “vehicles” aren’t really very “Commercial”, are they?

          And the President cannot ‘back’ anything because he lacks the ‘power of the purse’. He can however, for about one more year, continue to ‘distribute’ needed and valuable NASA SLS/Orion assets to his ‘political huckster friend’ and force NASA leaders to talk nonsense about Mars in order to continue to sabotage NASA’s needed and serious SLS/Orion Lunar mission planning.

          Yep, despite the President’s empty rhetoric, Mars isn’t anywhere near being ‘on the table’ for upcoming SLS/Orion missions. The Moon is ‘on the table’. See the broadly bipartisan pro Moon NASA Authorization Act of 2010 (PL 111–267) of September 29, 2010.

          Congress decides where the money is going to be spent, not the highly partisan whims of the President or the ‘many needs’ of his ‘political Martian friend’.

          That carefully written space law and the broad international support for doing human and robotic Lunar surface ISRU missions makes all of the President’s empty anti-Moon and pro Mars rhetoric seem like nothing more than an inane attempt to kick the NASA human space exploration ‘can’ down the fantasyland road as far as possible.

          • Colorado

            “Yep. I really like the International Space Station-”

            And as always, space enthusiasts disagree on some aspect or detail and are hopelessly divided. We will never be able to influence any policy without some kind of agreement and common goal.

            The ISS is a hole in space sucking up 4 billion a year- and that figure is soon to double and triple when the major maintenance issues require funding.

            In reality with minor modifications the space shuttle was capable of six month missions. The ISS was and is the ultimate 100 billion dollar boondoggle. It is ironically the very “jobs program” the NewSpace fans wail and gnash their teeth about. Except the ISS is the only destination for their flagship company so it is golden and not to be criticized.

            What a farce. 40 years of LEO space stations going in endless circels, going nowhere, is enough.

      • James

        Colorado – “If the space agency was honest with the public about the effects of cosmic radiation on astronauts and admitted that Mars is a ridiculous fantasy, at least until a cislunar infrastructure is created, and that the flexible path is not practical- all that is left is the Moon.”

        However, that very narrow, politically partisan inspired, and scientific failure of the leaders of our “space agency” to be intellectually “honest” “about the effects of cosmic radiation on astronauts” and the reality “that Mars is a ridiculous fantasy” isn’t occurring with the leaders in the national space programs of other countries. Those intellectually honest space leaders in other countries want the Moon. And tapping the Moon’s resources and many other rich opportunities is what they will most likely get.

        With or without NASA and the SLS and Orion, other countries will most likely work together to discover and tap the Lunar resources which are the critical factor for developing the Moon and the rest of cislunar space.

        And if those countries don’t have NASA and the SLS and Orion seriously involved with their jointly discovering and learning how to tap Lunar resources to develop the Moon and the rest of cislunar space, then most likely they won’t want or need NASA’s politically clumsy and zigzagging ‘nonscientific’ leaders involved with human missions across our Solar System.

        NASA’s leadership, under the ever wandering beyond LEO human spaceflight planning sabotage and failures of our President, is currently ‘lost in a human spaceflight fantasyland’.

        See: ‘Lunar Water Creates New Capabilities in Space’ October 8, 2015 by Paul Spudis

        Yep, our President hates the SLS and Orion and all the Lunar, cislunar, and beyond cislunar development they will help to enable.

        Nonetheless, we do have a Presidential election coming in about a year.

        • Colorado

          “Yep, our President hates the SLS and Orion and all the Lunar, cislunar, and beyond cislunar development they will help to enable.”

          “Hate” branding is one of those things that may or may not get you kicked off this forum. I doubt he “hates” the SLS. I very much understand he liked the campaign contribution Musk gave him and was happy to give the infamously blunt “been there” speech. That is how the game is played. And to many people it is all just a game and they will tell you to relax and laugh a little and not take it all too seriously. They may even post a cartoon mocking you for the gravitas of your comments. Of course others think it IS important and will use whatever gutter tactics they can, from thinly veiled insults to shocking scatological inferences.

          Several years ago I noticed the flood of anti-SLS and anti-NASA comments being generated by NewSpace sycophants and how this mob was taking over all the space discussion forums. They have since come to consider themselves the voice of America and entitled themselves to the moral high ground and use any obnoxious arrogant and misleading language they can on any who dare to disagree with their dogma.

          Their lingo is fairly easy to pick out and includes “the rocket to nowhere” and “the senate launch system” and “porkonauts” and….about a half dozen other recognizable terms. Along with these they endlessly hype certain concepts such as fuel depots and LEO assembly with smaller lift rockets and reusability. They deny the Moon is a worthwhile destination and will regurgitate the standard line about making humankind a multi-planet species; but they are really all about tourist space stations. So a few people have used counter-terms that contest their playbook and……it drives them nuts. It really upsets them and smokes out the lurkers who portray themselves as non-partisan.

          “Hobby rocket” and “space station to nowhere” are of course considered blasphemy. I consider them fair representations of the truth.

  • …hobby rocket blows up…station to nowhere

    The usual hateful message from Gary Church.
    His comments are about as welcome (and useful) as a morning gift from my neighbor’s dog on my front lawn.

    • James

      Perhaps the real problem is the “usual hateful message” about the Moon from our President.

      Yep, the essential issue appears to be the President’s “hateful” political messaging against NASA leading international efforts to go back to the Moon and his substituting the mandated and nonscientific NASA support for his favorite ‘political Mars huckster friend’ instead of having NASA’s leadership fully implement the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 (PL 111–267) of September 29, 2010 which even includes an Orion International Space Station emergency mission capability.

      Our President has also managed to efficiently ‘stab in the back’ Orion and economical and diverse dual launch SLS Lunar mission capabilities by ‘renting out’ the historically unique and impressively massive Launchpad 39A to his favorite ‘political Mars huckster friend’, despite the reality of that ‘political friend’s’ ongoing demonstrated inability to build a reliable and on-time launcher of any size, let alone a large SLS sized launcher that might make full use of our valuable national Launchpad 39A asset.

      Lots of folks get really tired of the President’s ever wandering and empty rhetoric space policy that seems to be a classic ‘bait and switch con’ to primarilly benefit his ‘political Mars huckster friend’ by ‘guaranteeing’ that ‘political friend’ a twenty year massive launchpad monopoly to assure his ‘friend’s’ politically empowered ‘commercial’ position in the future development of the Moon and cislunar space.

      Every space-faring nation’s leadership, except America’s President, has national expectations of tapping Lunar resources.

      NASA and our SLS and Orion and Launchpad 39A are no longer even ‘players’ in the official international planning of tapping the Moon’s resources. And perhaps that is why NASA Administrator Charles Bolden anxiously noted recently, “If we are not collaborating with everybody, we’ll be on the outside looking in.”

      To put it mildly, “hateful” and foolish spitefullness might best describe the President’s wandering empty suit space policy that ignores our national space security interests and law, and instead seems to prefer promoting the narrow monetary interests of his ‘huckster political friend’.

      And remember, his own party, which is also my party, went on record to desert and ignore his nonsensical anti-Moon rhetoric and instead supported the broadly bipartisan pro Moon NASA Authorization Act of 2010 (PL 111–267) of September 29, 2010, which the President signed and is still the relevant space law.

      A ‘law breaker’ or ‘law ignoring’ President who ‘handsomely rewards’ a ‘huckster political friend’ with a valuable and unique monopoly lease on an Orion/SLS needed national launchpad asset for legally mandated Lunar, cislunar, and LEO mission capabilities does tend to annoy and greatly disappoint some folks who believe the President is supposed to follow the law and set an excellent example in having high and ethical standards of behavior.

      And for the record, I used to be a supporter of our President.

      • Arth

        Great. Why don’t you send your message to your HOR & U.S. Senate representatives telling them that because they refused to raise NASA’s budget the $6 billion or more needed per year, they have cooperated with the President in undermining NASA’s job of launching to BEO 4 or more times a year using SLS/Orion. Also, that they have cooperated in forcing NASA to give up one of it’s potential SLS launch pads (39A) to the President’s “political Mars huckster friend.”

        • Colorado

          Your warped version of the political situation is not going to fly with the regulars here who are well versed in the Byzantine funding war going on in and outside of NASA. Concerning Human Space Flight, the flexible path, a certain “entrepreneur”, and Beyond Earth Orbit operations, your version does not hold any water. It is the oldest trick in the NewSpace playbook; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reductio_ad_absurdum

          • Arth

            And your version holds water? Very funny.

            • Colorado

              My version is all about water- specifically, the ice on the Moon as radiation shielding. That is what it all comes down to really. If you want to laugh at the reality of Human Space Flight but take the NewSpace flimflam as gospel that is up to you. Enjoy!

        • Joe

          Arth said:

          “Great. Why don’t you send your message to your HOR & U.S. Senate representatives telling them that because they refused to raise NASA’s budget the $6 billion or more needed per year, …”

          Actually, the Augustine Commission said the increase figure was $3 Billion/Year and even that may have been overstating the cost somewhat as they were using some questionable (and never explained) cost wraps.

          http://www.universetoday.com/39566/augustine-commission-current-funding-wont-get-nasa-out-of-low-earth-orbit/

          From the article:

          “The Augustine Commision developed five alternatives for the Human Spaceflight Program, including a “Moon First” option or a “Flexible Path.” They said that funding at an increased level of $3 billion additional each year would allow for either plan.”

          Arth also said:

          “Also, that they have cooperated in forcing NASA to give up one of it’s potential SLS launch pads (39A) to the President’s “political Mars huckster friend.””

          While I agree that giving up Pad 39A was a bad mistake, it is misleading to say Congress cooperated with the Obama Administration in that process. More like they could not stop it from happening.

          • Colorado

            Thanks for the link Joe, from the study;

            “Key Questions to Guide the Plan for Human Spaceflight-

            The Committee identified the following questions that, if answered, would form the basis of a plan for U.S. human spaceflight:

            1. What should be the future of the Space Shuttle?
            2. What should be the future of the International Space Station (ISS)?
            3. On what should the next heavy-lift launch vehicle be based?
            4. How should crews be carried to low-Earth orbit?
            5. What is the most practicable strategy for exploration beyond low-Earth orbit?

            The Committee considers the framing and answering of these questions

            individually, and in a consistent way, to be at least as important as their combinations in the integrated options for a human spaceflight program.”

            Yes, it was definitely the framing that mattered most in my view.

            The future of the shuttle should have been a cargo version without the orbiter. From day one. A key failure, perhaps THE key failure of the entire shuttle program. This failure was compounded into a complete disaster for Human Space Flight when the Sidemount option was rejected.
            The future of the ISS should have been to decommission it as soon as practical. There was and is nothing more to learn after decades of LEO space stations. It goes around and around a couple hundred miles up and eats billions of tax dollars a year for no result. LEO is a dead end. Space really begins at GEO, 22,236 miles up.
            The next Heavy Lift Vehicle should have started with developing reusable pressure-fed boosters as originally proposed for the shuttle. The less attractive option was to continue development of the SRB’s with the 5 segment version. In this matter significantly improving lift-off thrust by using 4 of the SRB’s was not entertained. Yet another failure.
            Crews should NOT be carried to LEO but should instead go directly to a radiation sanctuary in orbit around the Moon, eventually under the surface of the Moon, and ultimately to a GEO sanctuary to await transfer to a fully shielded cislunar ferry. There was never any point in having people in LEO after Apollo 8. No point at all.
            The ONLY “practical strategy” for Beyond Earth Orbit exploration was to acquire space radiation shielding from lunar ice, assemble, test, and launch nuclear propelled true spaceships from outside the Earth’s magnetosphere- from the Moon. Both LEO and Mars are non-starters. The Moon is the only path to space and it is not flexible.

            NewSpace proponents have completely mislead and misinformed the public concerning the realities of spaceflight.

    • Colorado

      “The usual hateful message from Gary Church.
      His comments are about as welcome (and useful) as a morning gift from my neighbor’s dog on my front lawn.”

      “Jim Hillhouse
      October 12, 2015 at 4:59 pm · Reply

      As for Coastal Ron, not on AmericaSpace, he doesn’t.

      AmericaSpace is a no-troll zone for all, regardless of views, politics, etc..”

      Prove it Jim.

      • James

        Thinking about having a “no-troll zone” reminds me of the novel ‘Apocalypse Troll’ by David Weber and the thought occurs that a “no-troll zone” should be carefully enforced ASAP across all of our Solar System.

        That Apocalypse Troll in the book was nasty.

        And there probably are some real Apocalypse Trolls out and about in our galaxy.

        Yep, maybe that is one reason I think we should ‘get NASA in high gear’ and use Orion and the SLS to help humans develop the Moon, cislunar space, Deimos, Phobos, Mars, Ceres, and the rest of our Solar System.

        Develop colonies across the Solar System and if an Apocalypse Troll, or even a bunch of them, ever shows up we ‘might’ be able to defend ourselves.

        • Colorado

          At this point we cannot even defend ourselves from spooky rocks on Halloween. I think we might want to work on that first James. But according to many people, there is nothing to worry about. And many of those are the ones who want their space station vacation and call NASA a waste of money.

          • James

            Yeah, that sure is a big and “spooky” Halloween rock. I just hope and pray ‘2015 TB145’ doesn’t ‘meet up with’ some other space rock and ‘bounce’ in our direction…

            See: ‘Massive asteroid to zip by Earth on Halloween’ by Mary Bowerman at USA TODAY NETWORK October 21, 2015.

            Yep, “we might want to work on” a defense system against “spooky” rocks “first”.

            • Colorado

              No need to worry about it bouncing in our direction. It is the next one we should all worry about. A couple times a year some rock comes along within a Moon distance or less and half the time we don’t see it till it has gone by. Sooner or later. But there is a consensus in government and industry that any planetary protection program would take money away from all the pet projects and private kingdoms already in existence so it is simply ignored.

              We may be too stupid survive and go the way of the dinosaurs.

  • James

    Initially ‘house’ the “spooky”rock interceptors in a new and large SLS launched module at the ISS.

    Launching interceptors directly from Earth requires too much delta-v and is subject to too many weather delays and other ‘show stoppers’ that interfere with the requirements of a reliable and quick response system.

    In an ideal situation the “spooky”rock interception would occur outside of the Earth’s Magnetosphere.

    Interceptors housed in large modules in GEO and Lunar orbit would be the second and third layers of defense.

    Since early detection is critical, six or more Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) types of infrared-wavelength astronomical space telescope spacecraft should be placed in Sun-synchronous polar orbits that are similar to that used by the original WISE spacecraft.

    WISE types of infrared-wavelength telescope spacecraft could also be placed in other orbits.

    Servicing and upgrading the interceptor modules and new design WISE spacecraft should be some of the many ‘duties’ of the SLS and Orion system.

    Obviously, a new SLS launchpad at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California would be useful.

    See: ‘SpaceX Breaks Ground on West Coast Launch Pad’ by SpaceNews Staff July 25, 2011 at: http://spacenews.com/spacex-breaks-ground-west-coast-launch-pad/#sthash.ZtiAnpBb.dpuf

    Yep, if a private company can afford such a West Coast heavy lifter launchpad, then so can NASA and America. Unless of course the President’s plan is to simply shut down NASA and the SLS and Orion and divert NASA’s budget to his ‘monopolistic huckster friend’.

    I played a lot of Monopoly games as a kid, so I do know a bit about ‘winning’ in such a game.

    However, as my Webster Dictionary notes, “having an exclusive privilege of engaging in a particular business or providing a service, granted by a ruler” would tend to put a new twist to that old game.

  • Colorado

    “Initially ‘house’ the “spooky”rock interceptors in a new and large SLS launched module at the ISS.”

    No. Initially decommission the space station to nowhere and establish a permanent presence first in lunar orbit and then under the surface of the Moon. Then acquire shielding (from lunar ice), assemble, test, and launch a fleet of true nuclear pulse propelled spaceships that would then be able to act as…..spooky rock interceptors.

  • James

    If we discover something ‘spooky’ and small incoming that is traveling at 78,000 miles per hour like 2015 TB145 as it passes near the Moon, and unlike 2015 TB145, is instead headed for a meeting on Earth in slightly over three hours, we don’t currently have any interceptor that if it was launched from the Moon could even catch up with such a potentially dangerous and high velocity object.

    Yep, a future “true nuclear pulse propelled spaceships’ might be able to catch up with a small and “spooky” rock if that object is discovered just after it passes the Moon, but it would take such a ‘pulse’ spaceship accelerating at one ‘g’ about one hour to achieve a velocity equal to that 78,000 miles per hour velocity noted with 2015 TB145, and by the time that pulse spaceship actually catches up with the “spooky” object, the spaceship might well be in the Magnetosphere where the spaceship’s nuclear pulse propulsion explosions could make some folks a bit unhappy and its closing velocity with the “spooky” target could be well over 165,000 miles per hour which might add some real difficulty to actually hitting it.

    Whereas an ISS based chemical powered interceptor would be much cheaper and thus easier to sell to politicians around the world, and such a LEO based interceptor starts out with a velocity of 17,000 miles per hour and could within five minutes or less add an additional velocity of up to 24,000 mph and might have a closing intercept velocity with the “spooky” target of around 90,000 to 115,000 miles per hour and result in only one nuclear explosion within the Earth’s Magnetosphere.

    If the “spooky” incoming small rock traveling at 78,000 miles per hour, like 2015 TB145, is discovered late when it is within 100,000 miles of the Earth, then the ISS based interceptor might sometimes still be able to hit it, while the Lunar based ‘pulse’ spaceship would most likely arrive too late.

    However, four additional SLS launched space stations with interceptor modules spread out at equal distances from each other and the ISS, and in the same orbit as the ISS with its interceptor module, might significantly improve the odds of ‘nailing’ such a nasty and high velocity “spooky” small rock that was discovered ‘late’ by the defensive system.

    Using the large lift capability of the SLS to put in orbit an initial LEO defensive shield against “spooky” rocks would be a good beginning and should indicate to everyone that we are not “too stupid survive” and have no intention of going “the way of the dinosaurs.”

    Eventually, five additional interceptor module space stations in GEO and two in a stable low Lunar orbit could be quite useful additional defensive layers for incoming “spooky” objects.

    And yes, three meters of Galactic Cosmic Ray H2O shielding surrounding each of those beyond LEO interceptor space stations would be quite useful.

    In any such defensive system against “spooky” rocks, Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or (WISE), types of astronomical space telescope spacecraft need to be placed in Sun-synchronous polar orbits around the Earth and some in GEO and the Lunar surface could also be quite useful.

    Maintaining those WISE type of satellites and Lunar telescope facilities to keep them in excellent working condition is critical to seeing the “spooky” small or large object as early as possible and maximizing the odds of an interceptor being able to hit and fragment the incoming “spooky” ‘whatever it is’ as early and far away from Earth as possible.

    SLS/Orion servicing and upgrade missions to the WISE spacecraft would be quite useful and this goes back to what I noted previously about the need for building an SLS launchpad at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

    Since it is getting close to Christmas, maybe we should also request that Launchpad 39C at Cape Kennedy Space Center be upgraded into an SLS launchpad.

    And we do need to start seriously planning SLS and International Orion enabled ISRU missions to the polar regions of the Moon ASAP.

    Maybe China, India, Moon Express, Rocket Lab, and Golden Spike could build the Lunar Landers for those SLS/Orion missions. That would be quite helpful.

    See: ‘U.S. Considers Making it Easier To Launch from India’ by Jeff Foust October 23, 2015