Mammoth SLS Booster Test Fired in Utah One Final Time Before Inaugural Orion EM-1 Launch

booster for the most powerful rocket in the world, NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), successfully fired up Tuesday for its second qualification ground test at Orbital ATK's test facilities in Promontory, Utah. This was the last full-scale test for the booster before SLS’s first uncrewed test flight with NASA’s Orion spacecraft in late 2018, a key milestone on the agency’s Journey to Mars. Photo Credit: John Studwell / AmericaSpace

Booster for the most powerful rocket in the world, NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), successfully fired up Tuesday for its second qualification ground test at Orbital ATK’s test facilities in Promontory, Utah. This was the last full-scale test for the booster before SLS’s first uncrewed test flight with NASA’s Orion spacecraft in late 2018, a key milestone on the agency’s Journey to Mars. Photo Credit: John Studwell / AmericaSpace

The solid rocket booster that will propel NASA’s skyscraper-size, 300-plus-foot-tall Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and its Orion spacecraft in the coming years marked off a significant development milestone in March 2015, and again today (June 28, 2016), unleashing its fury on a barren mountainside at Orbital ATK’s test stand in Promontory, Utah, for the Qualification Motor-2 test fire (QM-2). The 154-foot-long booster, the largest of its kind in the world, ignited to verify its performance at a cold motor conditioning target of 40 degrees Fahrenheit—the colder end of its accepted propellant temperature range. When ignited, temperatures inside the booster reached nearly 6,000 degrees.

More than 530 instrumentation channels were used to help evaluate 82 defined test objectives that will support certification of the booster for flight.

The first of 10 flight segments for the two solid-rocket boosters of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) was cast last month at Orbital ATK’s facility in Promontory, Utah. Photo Credit: Orbital ATK

The first of 10 flight segments for the two solid-rocket boosters of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) was cast last month at Orbital ATK’s facility in Promontory, Utah. Photo Credit: Orbital ATK

“This final qualification test of the booster system shows real progress in the development of the Space Launch System,” said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Seeing this test today, and experiencing the sound and feel of approximately 3.6 million pounds of thrust, helps us appreciate the progress we’re making to advance human exploration and open new frontiers for science and technology missions in deep space.”

With hardware testing to support qualification of the boosters for flight now complete, and assuming the test was as much a success as QM-1, Orbital ATK is now ready to proceed toward the first flight of the SLS, an uncrewed mission to validate the entire integrated system, currently scheduled to fly on the Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) in late 2018 (at the earliest, and likely to slip further).

Small voids were previously discovered prior to QM-1 between the propellant and outer casing of the booster’s aft segment, which demanded a lengthy investigation and trouble-shooting effort by Orbital ATK and NASA to determine root cause(s) and corrective actions before they could move forward with booster testing for QM-1 (which had been significantly delayed due to the issue). The problem which significantly delayed QM-1, however, was not an issue with the QM-2 booster.

“Finding no defects in the segment insulation we’ve inspected is a huge accomplishment for our teams, and something that hasn’t been done on past NASA programs,” said Bruce Tiller, deputy manager of the SLS Boosters Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Marshall manages the SLS Program for the agency. “That’s a testament to the work we’ve put in on refining our manufacturing processes and materials.”

With QM-2 there have been five fully developed, five-segment SRBs fired up on Orbital ATK’s Promontory, Utah, T-97 test stand since 2009, with the most recent prior to QM-1 (March 2015) having been conducted in 2011, and all performed fine. The first three tests, known as the Development Motor test series (DM-1, DM-2, and DM-3), helped engineers measure the new SRB’s performance at low temperature, verify design requirements of new materials in the motor joints, and gather performance data about upgrades made to the booster since the space shuttle program.

The five-segment SLS boosters will burn for the same amount of time as the old shuttle boosters—two minutes—but they will provide 20 percent more power, while also providing more than 75 percent of the thrust needed for the rocket to escape the Earth’s gravity.

“Ground tests are very important – we strongly believe in testing before flight to ensure lessons-learned occur on the ground and not during a mission,” said Charlie Precourt, Vice President and General Manager of Orbital ATK’s Propulsion Systems Division and four-time space shuttle astronaut. “With each test we have learned things that enable us to modify the configuration to best meet the needs for the upcoming first flight.”

“Today’s test is the pinnacle of years of hard work by the NASA team, Orbital ATK and commercial partners across the country,” said John Honeycutt, SLS Program manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. “SLS hardware is currently in production for every part of the rocket. NASA also is making progress every day on Orion and the ground systems to support a launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. We’re on track to launch SLS on its first flight test with Orion and pave the way for a human presence in deep space.”

The SLS. Image Credit: NASA

The SLS. Image Credit: NASA

The first of 10 flight segments for the boosters that will be employed on that first SLS flight, EM-1, was recently cast as well. Earlier this year workers filled the insulated metal case of a booster aft segment with propellant and let it solidify, or “cure,” for several days.

The five-segment solid rocket booster has been in development for years, having been initially designed to launch NASA’s Ares rockets for the agency’s cancelled Constellation program. The booster is similar to the four-segment SRBs that helped launch NASA’s now retired space shuttle fleet, but it’s larger and incorporates several upgrades and improvements.

Orbital ATK also received a $47 million contract from the U.S. Air Force earlier this year for development of something similar: “a solid rocket propulsion system prototype to support the EELV program for national security space missions.” The rocket, if it ever manifests into reality, would use VAB high-bay 2 at KSC and launch off pad 39B—the same pad as SLS.

Although the boosters themselves will provide 75 percent of the power needed to break Earth’s hold, the SLS will still employ four engines of its own—former (upgraded) liquid-fueled space shuttle RS-25 engines—which are currently at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi undergoing their own series of tests.

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SLS QM-2 Studwell

SLS QM-2 Studwell

SLS QM-2 Studwell

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Missions » SLS » QM-2 » Missions » SLS »

112 comments to Mammoth SLS Booster Test Fired in Utah One Final Time Before Inaugural Orion EM-1 Launch

  • Never Forget Dick Scobee

    Hey, how are those o-rings holding up lately?

    • Joe

      In the unlikely event that is a serious question: Since they were redesigned after the Challenger they have held up very well.

      In the more likely situation that it is intended as “humor”: Dick Scobee was a big supporter of the Space Program in general and the Shuttle Program in particular. On one occasion he gave several of us (then) young engineers a lecture about risk and hoping that an accident would never halt the program. Doubtful he would appreciate your expropriation and use of his name. You should really find yourself a more respectable hobby.

  • James

    “Orbital ATK also received a $47 million contract from the U.S. Air Force earlier this year for development of something similar: ‘a solid rocket propulsion system prototype to support the EELV program for national security space missions.’ The rocket, if it ever manifests into reality, would use VAB high-bay 2 at KSC and launch off pad 39B—the same pad as SLS.” Quote from the above article.

    Would a five meter diameter “solid rocket propulsion system” be useful for both the EELV and SLS programs? Could such a five meter diameter SRM based EELV use for an upper stage a modified version of the SLS’s EUS?

    “The Exploration Upper Stage (EUS) is scheduled to debut on Exploration Mission 2 (EM-2). It is expected to be used by Block 1B and Block 2 and, like the core stage, will be 8.4 meters in diameter.” From: ‘Space Launch System’ at: Wikipedia

    A super heavy kerolox AR1 rocket engine powered core, of similar dimensions to that of the SLS’s 8.4 meter diameter core, with two to four of the SLS’s SRBs might also be able to use a modified version of the SLS’s EUS and eventually be useful for missions to send supplies to the Lunar surface.

    In any case, it is nice to see real progress being made in developing our SLS and the international Orion in preparation for getting humans back to the Moon to do “in situ resource utilization”.

    “(2) The regions of cis-lunar space are accessible to other national and commercial launch capabilities, and such access raises a host of national security concerns and economic implications that international human space endeavors can help to address.
    (3) The ability to support human missions in regions beyond low-Earth orbit and on the surface of the Moon can also drive developments in emerging areas of space infrastructure and technology.
    (4) Developments in space infrastructure and technology can stimulate and enable increased space applications, such as in-space servicing, propellant resupply and transfer, and in situ resource utilization, and open opportunities for additional users of space, whether national, commercial, or international.” From: PUBLIC LAW 111–267—OCT. 11, 2010
    At: http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/516655main_PL_111-267.pdf

    Where are the various new Lunar Landers? How about a reusable Lunar Lander based on the SLS’s EUS? Using what we already have developed could be wise.

    Maybe some updated older designs would work out just fine. Could a lander based on the SLS’s EUS also sometimes serve as a “Truck”?

    “The Apollo LM Truck (also known as Lunar Payload Module) was a stand-alone LM descent stage intended to deliver up to 11,000 pounds (5.0 t) of payload to the Moon for an unmanned landing. This technique was intended to deliver equipment and supplies to a permanent manned lunar base.” From: ‘Apollo Lunar Module’ at: Wikipedia

    • James

      “The issue of access to the PSLV has pitted U.S. satellite companies against launch vehicle developers. Satellite companies, particularly those planning constellations of dozens or hundreds of small satellites, argue that there is not enough capacity among existing vehicles to meet their needs, forcing them to see out alternatives like PSLV.”

      From: ‘House committee seeks details on Indian launch policy’ By Jeff Foust July 6, 2016 At: http://spacenews.com/house-committee-seeks-details-on-indian-launch-policy/

      Perhaps a new launcher based on the “Mammoth SLS Booster” would have lots of launch work.

      If need be, perhaps an Ares I type of launcher based on the “Mammoth SLS Booster” could even be more capable than the Falcon 9 Full Thrust.

      Ares I:
      “Payload to LEO 25,400 kg (56,000 lb)” From: ‘Ares I’ at: Wikipedia

      Falcon 9 Full Thrust
      “Payload to LEO FT: 22,800 kg (50,300 lb)” From: ‘Falcon 9’ at: Wikipedia

    • Jester Gambolt

      A 5 meter diameter SRB is possible, larger SRBs (up to 6.6 meters in diameter) were test fired in the 1960s.

      However, the biggest problem with going bigger with SRBs is the thrust levels. While high thrust is exactly what you want to launch large payloads into space, the acoustic forces from high thrust levels damages launch pads, even with the Shuttle the flame trench and pad equipment had to be repaired after each launch. Extensive renovations have had to be done on the LC-39B launch pad to handle the forces generated by the SLS, going to higher thrust levels than the SLS would require much more of that work.

      • James

        Jester Gambolt –

        There are some new and efficient acoustical engineering sound suppression technologies that might be useful in protecting launchpads. If you are an acoustical engineer or a really curious technical person, you might want to take a look and see if they could be used with an enlarged water deluge system.

        Launchpad damage might not be a real showstopper, but I vaguely remember reading an Internet comment, from someone that seemed to be usually accurate, that the glass windows on homes businesses many miles away might shatter if we go too far above 10,000,000 pounds of thrust for a launch vehicle at Launchpads 39A and 39B.

        You or some other person that posts here might know if that broken window issue is a real possibility.

        Nonetheless, a five meter diameter SRM with about the same launch thrust as an SLS SRB should be doable if it is shorter or has a different initial burn pattern inside the motor.

        Note: “260 inch solid HL”

        And, “Gross Mass: 831,345 kg. Empty Mass: 85,321 kg. Thrust (vac): 1,804,460 kgf. Isp: 263 sec. Burn time: 114 sec. Propellants: Solid Isp(sl): 238 sec. Diameter: 6.6 m. Span: 6.6 m. Length: 18.3 m. Country: USA. No Engines: 1. AJ-260-2 Status: Devel.”

        From: http://www.friends-partners.org/partners/mwade/stages/260lidhl.htm

        Note:

        “ATK proposed an advanced SRB nicknamed “Dark Knight”. This booster would switch from a steel case to one made of lighter composite material, use a more energetic propellant, and reduce the number of segments from five to four.[44] It would deliver over 20,000 kN (4,500,000 lbf) maximum thrust and weigh 790,000 kg (1,750,000 lb) at ignition. According to ATK, the advanced booster would be 40% less expensive than the Shuttle-derived five-segment SRB.”

        And, “In February 2015, it was reported that SLS is expected to fly with the five-segment SRB until at least the late 2020s, and modifications to Launch Pad 39B, its flame trench, and SLS’s Mobile Launcher Platform were evaluated based on SLS launching with solid-fuel boosters.[25]”

        From: ‘Space Launch System’ at: Wikipedia

        Also:

        “The three-stage rocket would be made of two solid-fueled lower stages, each made in-house by Orbital ATK, and a cryogenic third stage consuming liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. The engine for the third stage would be the BE-3U powerplant, a derivative of the engine Blue Origin currently flies on its New Shepard suborbital rocket.”

        From: ‘Details of Orbital ATK’s proposed heavy launcher revealed’
        By Stephen Clark May 27, 2016
        At: http://spaceflightnow.com/2016/05/27/details-of-orbital-atks-proposed-heavy-launcher-revealed/

  • Doug Booker

    Mammoth SLS Booster…

    Good choice of title. Will probably be extinct soon…

    • James

      “A mammoth is any species of the extinct genus Mammuthus, proboscideans commonly equipped with long, curved tusks and, in northern species, a covering of long hair. They lived from the Pliocene epoch (from around 5 million years ago) into the Holocene at about 4,500 years ago[1][2] in Africa, Europe, Asia, and North America.” From: ‘Mammoth’ at Wikipedia

      Perhaps the “Mammoth SLS Booster” also has about “5 million years” before we’ll have to worry about it becoming “extinct”.

      As William Gerstenmaier noted, “Seeing this test today, and experiencing the sound and feel of approximately 3.6 million pounds of thrust, helps us appreciate the progress we’re making to advance human exploration and open new frontiers for science and technology missions in deep space.”

      Maybe some snarky folks just have lots of “progress” and “thrust” envy or perhaps they really don’t want to see America “advance human exploration and open new frontiers”.

      • TomDPerkins

        ” Maybe some snarky folks just have lots of “progress” and “thrust” envy or perhaps they really don’t want to see America “advance human exploration and open new frontiers”. ”

        The SLS only incidentally has anything to do with accomplishing that. It’s really about redistributing congressional dollars to congressional districts.

        And incidentally, inasmuch as it is a high profile solid booster effort, it’s doing more to proliferate ICBM, IRBM, TBM missile tech then SpaceX is.

        Every nation using such weapons moving to solids as soon as they very able.

        • James

          It may be “a high profile solid booster effort” but its builder doesn’t claim it is so cheap it will enable the colonization of that cold, distant, radiation hell called Mars that lacks a magnetic field and thick atmosphere to protect humans on its surface from extremely nasty Galactic Cosmic Rays.

          “Out in space, it is estimated that it would take about three days for every single one of your trillions of body cells to be hit by a high-energy proton (the lightest and most common galactic cosmic ray). Over the course of a year, each of your cells would likely have encountered at least one heavy and damaging iron nuclei. Other types of radiation are relatively weak and diffuse, sort of like a BB pellet, making a galactic cosmic ray a cannonball – large, weighty, and packing a punch.”
          ‘Space Radiation Remains Major Hazard for Humans Going to Mars’ By Adam Mann 4/24/2014 at Wired

          ‘Space Radiation Remains Major Hazard for Humans Going to Mars’ and of course for anyone claiming an intention to retire on Mars.

          Elon Musk’s promotion of cheap ‘private’ ICBM/launcher technology to ‘pave’ a quick road to Mars is setting folks up for needless space exploration failures and deaths and more deaths here on Earth from the improved versions of cheap SCUD types of ICBMs/launchers that will enable long distance terror attacks everywhere on the planet.

          NASA and the President endorsing Elon Musk’s cheap ‘private’ ICBM/launcher mantra as America and the world’s key to ‘Mars Soon’ missions is nonscientific babble that Congress is unlikely to fund because it ignores the many unknowns and known high risks of trying to conduct Mars surface missions anytime soon.

          Elon Musk’s emphasis is on cheap ‘private’ ICBM/launchers. The issue of what types of propellants are used or how they are burned is largely irrelevant because the cheapness factor of the ‘private’ ICBMs/launchers is the new international pixie dust that will magically allow humans to colonize Mars Soon.

          The fear, deaths, and political mess left on Earth from everyone having such cheap ‘private’ ICBMs/launchers for the dual purpose of launching communication/weather/navigation/national security satellites or various types of warheads is of no consequence to those who live in the President’s and Elon Musk’s ‘Mars Soon’ fantasy universe.

          One might wonder if Americans will still trust and support the federal government, or its space agencies, if they come to the conclusion that our President’s efforts via NASA and the NRO have enabled the new and profitable international goal of cheap ‘private’ ICBMs/launchers and their proliferation that causes death, fear, and terror everywhere.

          • Tracy the Troll

            James,

            “One might wonder if Americans will still trust and support the federal government, or its space agencies, if they come to the conclusion that our President’s efforts via NASA and the NRO have enabled the new and profitable international goal of cheap ‘private’ ICBMs/launchers and their proliferation that causes death, fear, and terror everywhere.”

            Thank you for finally explaining why space launch has been made to be extremely expensive for so long. I understand now that in providing cheap access to space private space companies are creating the environment for assured human self- destruction because we cannot compete against each other rather we can survive only through a monopolistic centralized authority of control over such dangerous technology.

            • James

              Tracy the Troll –

              Talking up cheap low tech ‘private’ ICBMs/launchers as the way to colonize Mars is both foolish and dangerous because just like atomic technology that same dual use cheap low tech ‘private’ICBM/launcher technology could enable a lot of misery here on Earth.

              If folks around the world think human spaceflight is about enabling terrorists to have cheap ‘private’ ICBMs/launchers, it will be a rough road getting the social and political support needed to get humans and robots to the Moon, Mars, and Ceres.

              Elon Musk being a political supporter of the President and gaining monopoly control of the critical national asset known as Launchpad 39A isn’t an example of a “private space” guy doing something good to reduce the costs of access to space, but it is an example of ‘stabbing the SLS in the back’ by increasing costs, complexity, and risks for dual SLS launches for International Orion Lunar surface missions.

              Elon Musk gaining monopoly control of the Launchpad 39A also increases the risks of SLS/Orion beyond LEO missions by significantly reducing or even completely eliminating the quick ‘launch on need’ second SLS/Orion rescue launch option for when an Orion mission gets in trouble in cislunar space. And Apollo 13 should have taught us the need for robust rescue options for cislunar human space missions.

              Cislunar space is going to see many Orion and other human spacecraft missions and the diverse risks that are inherent in those missions means robust backup SLS/Orion launch capabilities such as offered by our nation’s enormous Launchpad 39A and Launchpad 39B are essential.

              Perhaps if Elon Musk was actually interested in private space efforts he wouldn’t be sucking money and ‘grabbing’ monopoly control over the critical enormous Launchpad 39A asset away from NASA and the American taxpayers. Instead he would completely finance and build his own private spacecraft and enormous launchpad.

              Elon Musk appears to be playing a political game of trying ‘shut down’ our national SLS/International Orion Lunar options in order to support his vague ideas of retiring on distant and radiation rich Mars.

              Reducing risks for beyond LEO human spaceflight is the critical goal. Increasing SLS flight frequency by doing International Orion launches will reduce both the risks and costs of those missions.

              Elon Musk also appears to be trying his political best to help the President kill the production of the SLS and this would eliminate both the Exploration Upper Stage (EUS) that is the large and very useful and highly efficient hydrolox second stage for the Space Launch System and the core’s RS-25 which is the most efficient large hydrolox rocket engine in the world and the biggest competition for any large rocket engine SpaceX might someday produce.

              If Elon Musk and the President eliminate the SLS, the real competition posed by any future large launcher that might make good use of the “Mammoth SLS Booster” is also eliminated.

              If Elon Musk and the President eliminate the SLS, the real competition posed by the hydrolox Exploration Upper Stage (EUS) being a much more efficient upper stage than anything SpaceX has is also eliminated.

              However, political support from a lame duck President while also making claims of intending to soon colonize distant and radiation rich Mars might not be a winning logical proposition to impress both our international space exploration partners and Congress that have had an ongoing wise fixation on tapping the resources and other diverse opportunities offered by the nearby Moon.

              See also: ‘Delusions of a Mars Colonist’ by Paul Spudis June 21, 2016 At: http://www.spudislunarresources.com/blog/

              • Ben

                fwiw, Elon Musk and SpaceX’s SuperPAC donate to members of both political parties. Their goal with donations is to further their own interests, of course.

                With respect to pad 39A and the SLS, it seems likely that he isn’t explicity trying to “Stab the SLS in the back”, as much as trying to do the best for his company, as one might expect. He has stated that he doesn’t consider SLS to be competition to SpaceX’s rockets. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwFEulcns8I

                Also, I don’t know that if Blue Origin had won the pad it would have been available for SLS launches. Multi-user doesn’t necessarily mean SLS-compatible.

                The reason pad 39A was leased in the first place was to reduce costs to NASA. That “enormous Launchpad 39A” costs a lot to maintain. NASA put out a request for proposals for bids. SpaceX didn’t “take” it from NASA and the SLS. NASA asked if anyone wanted to lease it (and pay for it’s maintenance).

                • Joe

                  Hi Ben,

                  I do not want to beat this horse too much, as I do not agree with James about cheap ICBM’s being the goal of either SpaceX or the current administration. Do not know what Musk’s overall motives are, as much of what he says does not make sense to me.

                  However, the following should be noted:

                  (1) In going into SLS development still functional equipment at the Michoud Facility capable of producing External Tankage to support an SLS
                  flight rate of 8/year was replaced (at some expense) with new “improved” hardware that can (so we are told) only support a maximum SLS flight rate of 2/year.

                  (2) Whenever lunar missions using the SLS Block I dual launch architecture are brought up the administrations response has been it is not practical because there is only one launch pad (after giving up use of 39A).

                  While Blue Origin’s 39A proposal did not specify it could be used by SLS Block I, it did not preclude it either (so it is not unreasonable to believe SLS use of the pad was intended) and the SpaceX proposal did.

                  That is not incontrovertible proof that it was the Administration’s intent (whatever SpaceX’s may have been) was to make the SLS look as bad as possible (after it was forced on them by the Congress), but it is certainly enough circumstantial evidence to give a rational observer doubts as to motive.

                  That is the limit of my interest in this conversation.

                  • TomDPerkins

                    ” Do not know what Musk’s overall motives are, as much of what he says does not make sense to me. ”

                    Well, you do know what they are. I have no doubt you can restate them with clarity. Because you do not share them or the precepts behind them, you are imputing ulterior motives.

                    “(1) In going into … rate of 2/year.” <– It seems quite likely the chief improvement was the distribution of more congressional dollars to congressional districts via the cost plus business model.

                    “(2) Whenever lunar missions … use of 39A).” <– In seeking to maintain relevance as the cost/plus business model expires, NASA at the KSC must offer something of relevance to what is replacing the cost plus thieves. BO had no prospective hardware specs for what 39A could be developed into (and still doesn’t). SpaceX is a customer which was ready to cut metal at the time future uses of 39A were being explored, graditam ferocitor was simply too gradual. The earlier bird got the worm.

                    Imputing more to it than that is conspiratorial thinking.

                    “He has stated that he doesn’t consider SLS to be competition to SpaceX’s rockets.”

                    And he’s quite right. SLS cannot compete with the BFR, because the fundamental fact of transportation economics remains true for the BFR, SLS, and the HEUS both–that rocket is most efficient, which provides to the mass you want to accelerate the desired delta vee for the fewest dollars.

                    If it can do the job, then cheaper is better.

                    • Joe

                      “SLS cannot compete with the BFR…”

                      Nothing can compete with the BFR at this point because there is no BFR with which to compete.

                      The BFR is (at this point) a series of grandiose promises by Musk.

                      Maybe SpaceX will add detail later this year as they have promised. If they do add sufficient detail then maybe the BFR can be technically evaluated. Unless and until that happens the BFR is a myth.

                    • Joe

                      “BO had no prospective hardware specs for what 39A could be developed into (and still doesn’t).”

                      Anyone interested in actual information, as opposed to more “TomDPerkins-isms”, might want to read the article at the link below:

                      https://techcrunch.com/2016/06/28/blue-origin-breaks-ground-on-new-facility-to-develop-orbital-rockets/

                      And that is without the need to repeatedly attack SLS/Orion with steams of misinformation.

                    • TomDPerkins

                      ” Unless and until that happens the BFR is a myth. ”

                      It is less of a myth than the rest of Bezos’ system.

                    • Joe

                      “It is less of a myth than the rest of Bezos’ system.”

                      I did not refer to “Bezos’ system” because you did not compare it to the SLS as you did the BFR – i.e. – “SLS cannot compete with the BFR…”

                      However, since you brought it up, “Bezos’ system” (which is not intended as an SLS competitor) is supposed to be a two stage to orbit booster using:

                      (1) The BE-4 (LNG/LOX) engines currently being developed in a joint project with ULA (which plans to use it in their Vulcan Booster) in the first stage.

                      (2) The BE-3 (Hydrogen/LOX) engines currently flying on the New Shepard Vehicle in the second stage.

                      While that makes “Bezos’ system” at an earlier stage of development than the SLS, it also makes it much further along in development than the BFR.

                      Therefore your statement is factually incorrect.

                  • Ben

                    Fair enough,

                    I agree it seems likely that the Administration is trying to kill SLS.

                    Agreed it seems wasteful to “upgrade” a facility into a less capable one.

                    ’nuff said.

              • Ben

                Trying to kill the RS-25 to remove competition for “any large rocket engine SpaceX might someday produce” seems like an odd conclusion.

                First of all, the RS-25 is already developed and has been produced. So all that can be done trying to kill the development/production of the expendable variant.

                Secondly, SpaceX doesn’t seem to have any inclination to either sell its engines or buy engines from anyone else, making it a moot point if a better engine is developed.

                Eliminating the EUS to prevent a better upper stage than SpaceX has, also seems an odd conclusion. The Centaur upper stage already performs MUCH better than anything SpaceX has built and will likely continue to do so considering the new engine family SpaceX is developing is Methane not Hydrogen fueled.

                • James

                  The SLS’s EUS is much larger and more powerful than the Centaur upper stage.

                  The SLS’s “Mammoth” Boosters are each much more powerful than the Falcon 9.

                  Mr. Musk claims he is going to develop an extremely large launcher.

                  Size obviously counts.

                  Politically eliminating any potential rival large upper stage, such as the SLS’s EUS, that is more efficient than what he can develop may make ‘business’ sense.

                  Politically eliminating any potential use of the SLS’s “Mammoth” Boosters that individually are much more powerful than the Falcon 9 may make a lot of ‘business’ sense.

                  Politically eliminating the use of the SLS’s RS-25 rocket engine that is much more efficient than anything SpaceX may build could make a lot of ‘business’ sense.

                  Trillions of dollars will be made in the development of the Moon and the rest of cislunar space. Mr. Musk looks to what is coming and not just at the current launch situation.

                  Rocketry is also a political game that Mr. Musk has been playing and doing pretty good at it. The evidence is his ability to tap taxpayer money to minimize his own investments in space.

                  Jeff Bezos is an entrepreneur that unlike Elon Musk doesn’t seem to need taxpayer money to access space. Which person is a better example of private enterprise at work to reduce the high costs of space access?

                  Which person ‘needs’ to find political Mars Soon excuses to tap taxpayer money while also trying to eliminate the SLS/Orion cislunar mission system?

                  • Joe

                    “Jeff Bezos is an entrepreneur that unlike Elon Musk doesn’t seem to need taxpayer money to access space. Which person is a better example of private enterprise at work to reduce the high costs of space access?

                    Which person ‘needs’ to find political Mars Soon excuses to tap taxpayer money while also trying to eliminate the SLS/Orion cislunar mission system?”

                    Excellent points.

                    But since Blue Origin/Bezos is at least as much a commercial space company (that is privately financed) as is SpaceX/Musk, it is interesting that reference to that fact makes (and I am not referring to Ben in this) so many SpaceX fans so agitated.

                    • TomDPerkins

                      ” Which person ‘needs’ to find political Mars Soon excuses to tap taxpayer money while also trying to eliminate the SLS/Orion cislunar mission system?” ”

                      None do.

                      The proponents of Moon first / Moon main / and even Moon only are the ones proposing to spend taxpayer money on the crony capitalist, cost plus business model.

                    • Joe

                      Actually Bezos is interested in both Lunar and Asteroid resources before Mars and is running Blue Origin with much less government interface than SpaceX.

                      So once again you seem factually challenged, however – “spend taxpayer money on the crony capitalist, cost plus business model” – good pointless name calling. Glad to know you are maintaining the tradition.

                  • Ben

                    It seems worth pointing out that SpaceX “accessed” space without gov’t funds too. With the Falcon 1. The Falcon 1 rocket was/is more capable than Blue Origin’s New Shepherd rocket. At least with respect to payload to orbit, if not reusability.

                    Also considering that Blue Origin did bid and get funding in the CCDev1 and CCDev2 funding rounds, it seems more likely that they were incapable of providing a workable proposal for the CRS and CCiCap funding rounds. I expect that Blue Origin is spending Jeff Bezos’s money because it hasn’t been able to get gov’t money.

                    The other question is how related the “Mars soon excuses” are to the gov’t money for SpaceX? SpaceX (along with Boeing, Sierra Nevada, Orbital Sciences, and others) has been biding on NASA request for proposals (RFPs). Essentially all of SpaceX’s gov’t funding has come through NASA development contracts (for LEO capability not mars capability), and launch contracts.

                    The only Mars related gov’t funding for SpaceX (that I’m aware of) is the 2018 Red Mars mission where SpaceX is to receive ~30m in services from NASA in exchange for some Mars retro-propulsion EDL data. Not exactly a huge source of funds…

                    The only argument I can think of for SpaceX’s “Mars soon excuses” helping gov’t funding, would be if some how NASA was preferentially awarding them contracts because of those “Mars soon excuses”. SpaceX seems plenty capable enough to win the contracts even without any Mars hype. If you have another explanation I would be interested to hear it.

                    • Ben

                      *Red Dragon, not Red Mars

                    • Joe

                      Hi Ben,

                      “Also considering that Blue Origin did bid and get funding in the CCDev1 and CCDev2 funding rounds, it seems more likely that they were incapable of providing a workable proposal for the CRS and CCiCap funding rounds.”

                      Interesting point.

                      However Ben Evans reported at the time on this website that NASA Administrator Bolden actually recruited Blue Origin to compete in that early round of Commercial Crew and that they chose not to compete in the later rounds of their own volition.

                      That could be because they were technically incapable of competing, as you suggest, or it could be they simply had other more pressing priorities and did not want further government entanglement at that point.

                    • Gray Roger

                      Poor Bezos. Forced by Bolden to take millions of dollars from NASA that he didn’t want. I wonder who twisted his arm to make him take millions of dollars from the state of Florida to fund his new factory?

                    • Joe

                      Gray Roger,

                      If you do not believe that Bolden recruited Blue Origin to participate in Commercial Crew, you would have to take that up with Ben Evans. As I said I got that information from his reporting on this website.

                      If you do not like the State of Florida encouraging new business to come to the state, you would have to take that up with the State of Florida.

                      Curiously, you do not seem to have similar qualms about Musk taking far more money in direct subsidies from the Federal Government to develop the Falcon 9, which is used primarily for non-government “commercial” launches.

                    • James

                      Ben –

                      “It seems worth pointing out that SpaceX “accessed” space without gov’t funds too. With the Falcon 1. The Falcon 1 rocket was/is more capable than Blue Origin’s New Shepherd rocket. At least with respect to payload to orbit, if not reusability.”

                      Ben, perhaps reality is a bit different concerning your “SpaceX ‘accessed’ space without gov’t funds” comment.

                      “According to the company statement, SpaceX has sold Falcon 9 to a U.S. government customer. SpaceX still plans to make Falcon 5 available in late 2007.

                      The announcement today comes at a time when the company has yet to fly its Falcon 1 booster.”

                      From: ‘SpaceX to Tackle Fully Reusable Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle’
                      By Leonard David, September 8, 2005 At: space.com

                      “FALCON Small Launch Vehicle

                      As a step toward implementing the hypersonic cruise vehicle concept, DARPA and the Air Force propose developing, by 2010, a global strike capability that would launch common aero vehicles on a low-cost, mission-responsive small launch vehicle. DARPA and the Air Force are developing the small launch vehicle under a separate contract.”

                      And, “Space Exploration Technologies Inc., El Segundo, Calif., is being awarded a $4,000,000 increment of a $8,000,000 other transaction for prototypes agreement.”

                      And, “Under the newly awarded agreements, each team will conduct a 10-month phase IIa preliminary design and development effort to mature their launch vehicle designs. In addition, one of the companies, Space Exploration Technologies, will conduct an early, responsive launch demonstration.”

                      And, “In 2005, DARPA and the Air Force will select one or more of the phase IIa teams to conduct detailed design and fabrication of their launch vehicle.”

                      From: ‘FALCON Small Launch Vehicle’ at globalsecurity

                    • James

                      “FALCON

                      The overall FALCON (Force Application and Launch from CONtinental United States) program announced in 2003 had two major components: a small launch vehicle for carrying payloads to orbit or launching the hypersonic weapons platform payload, and the hypersonic vehicle itself.[2]”

                      And, “Small Launch Vehicle

                      The DARPA FALCON solicitation in 2003 asked for bidders to do development work on proposed vehicles in a first phase of work, then one or more vendors would be selected to build and fly an actual launch vehicle. Companies which won first phase development contracts of $350,000 to $540,000 in November 2003 included:[9]

                      AirLaunch LLC, Reno Nevada
                      Andrews Space Inc., Seattle Washington
                      Exquadrum Inc., Victorville California
                      KT Engineering, Huntsville Alabama
                      Lockheed Martin Corp., New Orleans Louisiana
                      Microcosm Inc., El Segundo California
                      Orbital Sciences Corp., Dulles Virginia
                      Schafer Corp., Chelmsford Massachusetts
                      Space Exploration Technologies, El Segundo California"

                      From: ‘DARPA Falcon Project’ at Wikipedia

                    • James

                      “Merlin was a gas generator cycle engine that used a pintle style injector, an injector design adapted from the Apollo Lunar Module engine. Some Merlin features were similar to NASA’s mothballed FASTRAC engine, including use of a similar turbopump manufactured by Barber Nichols.

                      And, “Kestrel, which also used a pintle injector, was a pressure fed design.”

                      From: Space Launch Report: ‘SpaceX Falcon Data Sheet’ at http://www.spacelaunchreport.com/falcon.html

                      “Fastrac or alternatively MC-1 engine was a pump-fed liquid rocket engine developed by NASA for use on small inexpensive, expendable rockets. Fastrac uses RP-1 kerosene and liquid oxygen as propellants in a gas-generator power cycle.”

                      and, “Ignition of engine was achieved via starter fluid injected into combustion chamber before kerosene was fed.”

                      And, “The engine design used an inexpensive, expendable, ablatively cooled carbon fiber composite nozzle, and produced 60,000 lbf (285 kN) of thrust.”

                      And, “Engine system development testing of the MC-1 began in 1997 [4] and continued until the Fastrac program was cancelled 2001,[5] 48 tests were conducted on three engines using three separate test stands.[6]”

                      And, “The engine never flew, but with NASA’s cooperation much of the MC-1 design and technology was adopted by the private corporation SpaceX for its Merlin 1A engine[7]”

                      And, “The basic principles of the Fastrac design (namely, a pintle injector and ablatively cooled chamber) lived on in SpaceX’s Merlin 1A engine, which used a turbopump from the same subcontractor.[7] The Merlin-1A was somewhat larger engine with a thrust of 77,000 lbf (340 kN) versus 60,000 lbf (270 kN) for Fastrac. The same basic design was capable of much higher thrust levels after upgrading the turbopump. The latest variants of the Merlin-1D achieve 185,500 lbf (825 kN) of thrust as of April 2016, but is a regeneratively cooled engine.[8]”

                      From: Fastrac (rocket engine) at Wikipedia

                      “NASA has begun full-engine, hot-fire testing of the Fastrac rocket engine. A 20-second, full-power test this month at NASA’s Stennis Space Center, Miss., demonstrated operation of the complete engine system.”

                      And, “Fastrac is a 60,000-pound-thrust engine that will be used for the first powered flight of NASA’s X-34 technology demonstrator. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., designed and developed the Fastrac engine.”

                      And, “‘This engine will dramatically reduce the cost of launch systems for space transportation. Last Thursday’s test is a key step toward demonstrating that the engine’s inexpensive parts and technologies work well together.'”

                      And, “Marshall Center engineers are in their second year of design, analysis and component-level testing of parts such as the injector, gas generator and turbopump. This month’s series of testing at Stennis marked the first time for the whole engine system to be operated at full power.”

                      And, “Up to 85 full-engine tests are scheduled at Stennis this year. NASA engineers will examine data collected during full-engine testing to determine if engine design models and analyses are correct.”

                      From: “Fastrac Full-Engine, Hot-Fire Test Successful — New Rocket Engine Could Dramatically Reduce Launch Costs”
                      Source: Marshall Space Flight Center
                      From: ScienceDaily March 16, 1999

                      Maybe a series of history articles on the origins of the Fastrac and Merlin rocket engines, SpaceX, and the Falcon I would be useful.

                    • James

                      “The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the U.S. Air Force have awarded funding to four teams for the second phase of the Falcon Small Launch Vehicle (SLV) program. The goal of the Falcon SLV program is to develop and demonstrate an affordable and responsive space lift capability.

                      Each team was awarded an other transaction for prototypes agreement. The teams and agreement values are:

                      Airlaunch LLC, Reno Nev.; $11,372,342
                      Lockheed Martin Corp., Space Systems Co., New Orleans, La.; $11,691,215
                      Microcosm Inc., El Segundo, Calif.; $10,498,353
                      Space Exploration Technologies Inc., El Segundo, Calif.; $8,000,000

                      Under the newly awarded agreements, each team will conduct a 10-month phase IIa preliminary design and development effort to mature their launch vehicle designs. In addition, one of the companies, Space Exploration Technologies, will conduct an early, responsive launch demonstration.

                      From: ‘DARPA, Air Force Kick Off Falcon Phase II Small Launch Vehicle’ Press Release From: Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Friday, September 17, 2004
                      At: http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=15074

                      “Orbital Sciences Corp. in Chandler, AZ and Space Exploration Technologies in El Segundo, CA received a $100 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for Responsive Small Spacelift Launch Vehicles and targeted/low inclination orbit launch vehicles and launch services. In addition, three firm-fixed-price delivery orders were issued under the contract for Responsive Small Spaceflight (RSS) User’s Guides (Raptor I, Raptor II, and Falcon I external link configurations).”

                      And, “These are basic contractors with five-year ordering periods; the Air Force can issue delivery orders totaling up to the maximum amount, although requirements may involve less. Solicitation began January 2005, negotiations were completed April 2005, and work will be complete by April 2010.”

                      From: ‘$100M for Small Spacelift Vehicles and Support’
                      April 19, 2005 By Defense Industry Daily staff
                      At: http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/100m-for-small-spacelift-vehicles-and-support-0378/

                    • Ben

                      I stand corrected.

                  • Ben

                    Perhaps a better way to sum up my reply:

                    “Rocketry is also a political game that Mr. Musk has been playing and doing pretty good at it. The evidence is his ability to tap taxpayer money to minimize his own investments in space.” Agreed.

                    “Jeff Bezos is an entrepreneur that unlike Elon Musk doesn’t seem to need taxpayer money to access space.” Maybe he isn’t using gov’t money only because he can’t win the contracts to do so.

                    • TomDPerkins

                      “Rocketry is also a political game that Mr. Musk has been playing and doing pretty good at it. The evidence is his ability to tap taxpayer money to minimize his own investments in space.”

                      Actually it all seems to be done with an eye to maximizing his investment in space. For example, the Air Force is paying him 50c on the dollar for SpaceX developing a vacuum optimized LOx/LCH4 Raptor as a HEUS. Dare we compare figures of merit, at the close of the effort, how well that goes compared to what OldSpace offers, or even what BO is doing, per the below?

                      ” Maybe he isn’t using gov’t money only because he can’t win the contracts to do so. ”

                      He is developing with a DoD contract the upper stage engine. I believe that one is LOx/LH2. Unless I am misremembering him for a different developer.

                  • Ben

                    The SLS boosters produce ~2x the thrust of a Falcon 9 first stage.

                    But, they have an ISP of 237s vs 282s of the Merlin 1Ds and they have a fuel fraction of ~85% vs a fuel fraction of ~95% for the Falcon 9 1st stage. [SLS booster fuel fraction assumed to be similar to Shuttle booster fuel fraction]

                    If launched with no payload the SLS booster would have a delta-V of about 4500 m/s vs the 8000 m/s of the Falcon 9 first stage.

                    [sarcasm]
                    It’s almost like they were developed for different purposes…

                    • Tom's Drinking Game

                      Gosh, the 8000 m/s of the falcon should almost be able to do the work of both 5 segment boosters then. It’s another Musk miracle!

                    • James

                      Ben –

                      The SLS boosters produce ~2x the thrust of a Falcon 9 first stage.

                      “But, they have an ISP of 237s vs 282s of the Merlin 1Ds and they have a fuel fraction of ~85% vs a fuel fraction of ~95% for the Falcon 9 1st stage. [SLS booster fuel fraction assumed to be similar to Shuttle booster fuel fraction]

                      If launched with no payload the SLS booster would have a delta-V of about 4500 m/s vs the 8000 m/s of the Falcon 9 first stage.”

                      Are you sure that the fuel fraction will remain the same after they make the switch from the steel casings to the much lighter carbon filament composite material casings? I suspect not.

                      Are you sure the mammoth booster will always “have an ISP of 237s”?
                      I suspect not.

                      “One of the contracts, awarded to ATK, involves research into propellant mixes and composite materials for advanced solid rocket boosters.”

                      From: ‘IAA-SEC2014-5-Space Exploration: The Imperative of Global Cooperation NASA’s Space Launch System: An Enabling Capability for International Exploration’ By Stephen D. Creech, Todd A. May, and Kimberly F. Robinson

                    • James

                      Ben –

                      “During the early 1980s, the long-range performance improvement plans involved development of a graphite/epoxy Filament Wound Case (FWC) to replace the
                      steel case in the HPM design. This composite motor
                      case (see Fig. 6) design (developed by Hercules Inc.) reduced the case weight from 98,000–69,000 lb (44,500–31,300 kg) resulting in an additional 6,000 lb (2,700 kg) of Space Shuttle payload capability.”

                      From: American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
                      ‘Reusable Solid Rocket Motor—Accomplishments, Lessons,
                      and a Culture of Success’ By Dennis R. Moore and Willie J. (Jack) Phelps Page 4

                      Note also Ares I:
                      “Payload to LEO 25,400 kg (56,000 lb)” From: ‘Ares I’ at: Wikipedia

                      Falcon 9 Full Thrust “Payload to LEO FT: 22,800 kg (50,300 lb)” From: ‘Falcon 9’ at: Wikipedia

                      And:

                      “This mixture gave the solid rocket motors a specific impulse of 242 seconds (2.37 km/s) at sea level or 268 seconds (2.63 km/s) in a vacuum.”
                      From: ‘Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Booster’ at: Wikipedia

                    • Ben

                      This mixture gave the solid rocket motors a specific impulse of 242 seconds (2.37 km/s) at sea level or 268 seconds (2.63 km/s) in a vacuum.”
                      So your saying that 237 isn’t accurate. Maybe it should be 242. fine. They improved it by 5s of ISP. cool.

                      Lets just recalculate with a FWC and an ISP of 242s then.
                      I’ll just estimate the weight benefit by applying the same fraction of weight reduction to the SLS booster as from your quote.
                      This takes the fuel fraction from 85% -> 89.4%
                      (15% * 69000/98000) = 10.6% structure.
                      new SLS Booster Delta-V: 5335 m/s.

                      This doesn’t change the point that they are different rockets designed for different purposes…

                      With respect to Ares I:
                      I suspect the difference between the 25400 kg to LEO of Ares I and the 22800 kg to LEO of the Falcon 9 FT is probably more due to the much more powerful second stage of the Ares I than first stage performance.
                      Ares I second stage:
                      Propellant mass: ~135,100kg
                      Engine J-2X, ISP = 448s

                      Falcon 9 FT second stage:
                      Propellant mass: ~107,500kg
                      Engine Merlin 1D Vac, ISP 345s

                      Here is a ROUGH estimate of performance differences:

                      INPUTS:

                      Falcon 9 2nd stage:
                      dry mass ~4000kg
                      Merlin 1D dry mass ~500kg
                      propellant load: 107500kg
                      ISP (VAC): 348s

                      Ares I 2nd stage:
                      dry mass: ?
                      J-2X dry mass: ~2500kg
                      propellant load: 135100kg
                      ISP (VAC): 448s

                      Falcon 9 FT 1st & 2nd stages:
                      Payload to LEO: 22800kg. -> delta-V ~9005m/s

                      Falcon 9 FT 1st stage Ares I 2nd stage:
                      Assume Low end Ares I 2nd Stage dry mass:
                      dry mass = 6000kg (4000kg – 500kg + 2500kg)
                      Payload to LEO: 40000 kg to LEO.

                      Falcon 9 FT 1st stage Ares I 2nd stage:
                      Assume Higher Ares I 2nd Stage dry mass:
                      dry mass = 10000kg
                      Payload to LEO: 36000 kg to LEO.

                      It’s a rough estimate, but I think it shows the point. The 2nd stage of the Ares I is what drives the better payload to LEO of the Ares I. Also, LOX/LH2 is MUCH than LOX/RP-1 for 2nd stages…

                      tldr: I respectfully disagree.

                    • Ben

                      PS

                      Feel free to run the numbers yourself. I don’t think I made a mistake though…

                    • Ben

                      James, Reading your comment from July 4, 2016 at 4:01 am

                      It would appear we are already in relatively close agreement with respect to the Ares I 2nd stage.

                      You just believe cancelling Ares I was a bad idea.

                      The 2nd stage of the Ares I does more of the work of getting a payload into orbit than does the 2nd stage of the Falcon 9.

                    • James

                      Ben –

                      “This takes the fuel fraction from 85% -> 89.4%
                      (15% * 69000/98000) = 10.6% structure.
                      new SLS Booster Delta-V: 5335 m/s.”

                      Very high “fuel” fractions may become doable in the 2020s or 2030s for all boosters and launchers, including the core of the SLS.

                      Higher “fuel” fractions than the suggested approximately “89.4%”, based on “early 1980s” technology, for the SLS’s future SRB/First Stage of an Ares I type of launcher/Orbital ATK’s proposed heavy launcher may be quite doable.

                      “Dry Weight Reduction Approaches
                      Probably THE greatest possibility for direct revolutionary dry weight reductions overall [space access, in-space propulsion and power, payloads] is the structural application of carbon nano tubes [reference 11]. By this is meant somehow combining the nano tubes into a contiguous nano tube structural material, not simply producing nano tube composites, which have FAR lower performance.”

                      And, “Estimates of the potential impact of structural nano tubes define the borders of the imaginable – up to a factor of 8 [some allege even more] dry weight reductions. The physics indicate the potential is there and marching armies around the globe are working the requisite technology to make it happen.”

                      And, “Such material capabilities would obviously have tremendous impacts everywhere, upon everything – military and civilian, space and non-space, energy conservation and warming, etc. the impetus behind the major research efforts worldwide in this arena. Nitride nano tubes are of interest for higher temperature applications.”

                      From: ‘Advanced-to-Revolutionary Space Technology Options – The Responsibly Imaginable’ By Dennis M. Bushnell Langley Research Center 2013 At: http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20130011698.pdf

                      Currently, the total insulation weight for the five-segment SLS “Mammoth” Booster is less than the total insulation weight for a four-segment Space Shuttle Reusable Solid Rocket Motor, or RSRM.

                      “Consequently, the overall thermal diffusivity of PBI-NBR was considerably lower than ASNBR and enabled the reduction in total insulation weight for the baseline design of the Ares first stage, and now the SLS booster motor. Typical insulation weight on a four-segment RSRM was approximately 20,500 pounds whereas the five-
                      segment SLS booster motor is baselined at approximately 18,600 pounds.”

                      From: ‘FIVE-SEGMENT SOLID ROCKET MOTOR DEVELOPMENT STATUS’
                      By Alex S. Priskos, Space Launch System Booster Manager NASA, Marshall Space Flight Center
                      At: http://ntrs.nasa.gov/search.jsp?R=20120014501

                      Note also that Solid Rocket Motor based LEO launchers and boosters may sometimes offer lower gravity induced velocity losses due to high thrust levels and acceleration rates that can minimize the time spent ‘fighting gravity’.

                    • Ben

                      Yes carbon-nanotubes may turn out to be an amazing structural material.

                      But, as you say, the reductions will help all launchers. So, while interesting, doesn’t really affect the whole “falcon 9 1st stage vs. SLS booster” discussion.

                      I would not expect a 8 fold decrease in dry weight though.

                      As you just stated, the SLS boosters have 18600 lbs of insulation alone. Unless the carbon nanotubes reduce or remove the need for the insulation, the insulation alone will make it impossible to achieve a 8x reduction.
                      (the insulation is something like ~1/4 of the dry weight now…)

                      With the falcon 9, much of the empty weight of the stage is in the engines. So unless they are somehow planning to make engines out it, an 8x reduction is probably impossible there as well.

                      With respect to the reduction in gravity losses, certainly a higher thrust can reduce them, but remember that you need to limit g-loading as well. The falcon 9 already has to throttle back to prevent damage to payloads, this aspect would need to be considered before a very large solid booster could be used.

                    • James

                      Ben –

                      “With respect to the reduction in gravity losses, certainly a higher thrust can reduce them, but remember that you need to limit g-loading as well. The falcon 9 already has to throttle back to prevent damage to payloads, this aspect would need to be considered before a very large solid booster could be used.”

                      Note that the Delta II’s liquid propellant RS-27A rocket engine cannot be throttled, but nonetheless works quite well with up to 9 strap-on solid rocket boosters that burn out prior to main engine cutoff.

                      Perhaps a massive solid rocket second stage paired with a large and high performance hydrolox third stage could also effectively mitigate excessive first stage g loading.

                      Note also:

                      “That development of the lightweight casings is one focus of the Air Force’s initial funding award to Orbital ATK earlier this year, Steinmeyer said.”

                      And, “Up to six strap-on solid rocket boosters — the same 63-inch-diameter auxiliary motors Orbital ATK is developing for ULA’s Vulcan and Atlas 5 rockets — could be stacked around the base of the Next-Generation Launcher.”

                      And, “The two-segment Castor 600 first stage could be lengthened to a four-segment version called the Castor 1200.”

                      From: ‘Details of Orbital ATK’s proposed heavy launcher revealed’
                      By Stephen Clark May 27, 2016
                      At: http://spaceflightnow.com/2016/05/27/details-of-orbital-atks-proposed-heavy-launcher-revealed/

                    • Ben

                      Using strap-on boosters that burnout part way through the main stage-1 burn helps in that it effectively throttles the first stage thrust.

                      Certainly the problem is solvable. Solid 1st (or more) stages have been used by many countries to reach orbit for the first time.

                      I was merely trying to point out that increased initial T/W ratio in an engine that cannot be throttled isn’t always a good thing. Uses strap on boosters allows your system to effectively “change throttle” during the ascent.

                      A downside of adding boosters, of course, is the added cost. You are then building a larger launcher, and the SLS boosters are already huge. (You could use a smaller core booster, but this discussion was about a rocket with an “SLS booster”-like first stage)

                    • James

                      The Falcon family has evolved, just like the Titan family of launchers did, into larger capacity launchers.

                      However, the Falcon 9 Full Thrust kerolox launcher has a lower payload to LEO capability than NASA’s previously proposed Ares I solid propellant/hydrolox launcher.

                      Most of the proposed propellant depots, in LEO or orbiting the Moon, involve hydrolox storage facilities.

                      Why?

                      The very high Isp numbers of several American and international hydrolox rocket engines that power various highly efficient upper stages work well with our future capabilities of mining H2O ice from the Moon’s polar regions to make hydrolox based propellant depots the most doable and affordable means of developing Cislunar Space.

                      In any case, if resupplied with propellant, the hydrolox second stage of the Ares I/or similar solid propellant/hydrolox combo launcher would probably be a far more useful Earth orbit departure stage or Lunar orbit departure stage for future Mars missions than the kerolox second stage of the Falcon Full Thrust.

                      Eventually, SpaceX’s powerful methane/liquid oxygen staged combustion Raptor rocket engine will probably be developed and used as a second stage engine on the Falcon Full Thrust, Falcon Heavy, and the first stage and second stage of the proposed Mars Colonial Transporter.

                      However, methane doesn’t appear to be as readily available on the Lunar surface as frozen water is.

                      Thus our President’s choice in picking a much lower Isp methane/oxygen upper stage launcher winner, SpaceX, and the American hydrolox upper stage losers, SLS, Ares I, Ares V, and Atlas V for the commercial, military, and NASA launch marketplace, appears to be a de facto attempt to hamstring America’s future efforts to tap Lunar H2O to produce hydrolox in preference of tapping Mars CO2 and H2O to produce methane and oxygen propellants.

                      Our President picking his political friend’s ‘Martian’ methane ISRU based upper stage for America’s low cost rapid response launcher family for the military and intelligence communities does appear to have many possible future negative consequences for America’s leadership in developing Cislunar Space.

                      A future RS-25 derived upper stage hydrolox rocket engine with a high expansion ratio nozzle might have an Isp of over 480 versus a future methane Raptor upper stage rocket engine with a high expansion ratio nozzle that might have an Isp of around 380.

                      Water is plentiful both on the Moon and Mars. Which type of rocket engine might do more to develop the Moon, and the rest of Cislunar Space, and Mars?

                      The historical evidence seems to be that politics often rules in rocketry.

                      America’s de facto and dejure space policy at this time needs to be largely based on the many real benefits that tapping Lunar H2O and other resources offer us and the international community, and should not be based on politically narrow and divisive Mars methane hucksterism.

                      The eventual real methane propellant resupply limitations in developing the Moon, and the rest of Cislunar Space, of a three core Falcon Heavy launcher with a methane Raptor rocket engine powered second stage needs to be carefully and publicly compared to what diverse Lunar and Cislunar Space development options are possible with the SLS and its 8.4 meter diameter Exploration Upper Stage (EUS) powered by four hydrolox RL10 engines or an Ares I type of three or four core launcher with a solid rocket motor second stage and large hydrolox third stage.

                      If America de facto doesn’t want to follow our relevant space law and lead in developing the Moon and the rest of Cislunar Space, other nations will be willing and able to lead such international space development efforts.

                      “FARNBOROUGH, England – The European Space Agency’s penchant for a major lunar exploration program that would precede a full-scale exploration of Mars was fully in evidence on July 12 with the signing of a contract to put an ESA drill on Russia’s Luna-Resurs lunar lander.”

                      From: ‘ESA plans Euro-Russian lunar exploration to go beyond Apollo ‘gift shop visit” By Peter B. de Selding — July 14, 2016 At: http://spacenews.com/esa-sets-euro-russian-lunar-exploration-goals-to-go-beyond-apollo-gift-shop-visit/

                    • Ben

                      Agreed, Hydrolox engines are the highest ISP chemical engines (excluding the exotic ones).

                      Hydrolox comes with the advantage of trivially easy propellant generation from a resource widely available in the solar system (water).

                      (I’ve electrolyzed water into oxygen and hydrogen in my living room. I haven’t even considered generating methane in my living room…)

                      Hydrolox comes with its own challenges though. Since liquid hydrogen is so cold, fuel tanks frequently require a large amount of active or passive thermal management. This may be insulation or some form of refrigeration system or a re-condensing system. But regardless, they all cost weight. Hydrogen also causes hydrogen embrittlement in steels, limit material options for plumbing. It is also prone to leaks due to it’s small molecules.

                      Now as you pointed out it has fantastic ISP for a chemical rocket. And the above challenges I’ve pointed out have been solved/mitigated in the multiple Hydrolox engines that have been and are being used.

                      But, the fact of the matter stands that using Hydrogen increases dry mass and is hard to store long term (leaks & boiling). These issues can almost certainly be solved but it will likely cost more dry mass. (i.e. thicker insulation combined with an active system or some such)

                      I suspect SpaceX chose Methalox because the issues are less than those with Hydrolox. (Still cryogenic, but less insulation required and none needed between the oxygen and methane tanks.)
                      It can still be produced via ISRU if not as easily as Hydrogen & Oxygen. It isn’t available on the Moon, but then again the Moon isn’t SpaceX’s goal.

                    • Ben

                      One of the articles you linked earlier claimed:
                      Obama wanted to:
                      -Suspend constellation for 5 years
                      -Put that funding into “High Technology Development”
                      (which perhaps means new Engines, Commercial Space etc)
                      -Re-evaluate at that point.

                      What he did:
                      -Try to suspend constellation and fund commercial space.
                      -Get pushback from congress that resulted in the set of rockets/Spacecraft for Constellation being turned into just SLS and Orion.
                      -Largely give up on further space issues except pushing for some funding of Commercial Space.
                      -Decide the moon was “unworthy” as we’ve “already been there”

                      As a result, we get Commercial space with some funding, but not as much as originally planned, and SLS+Orion funded, but with a low launch rate and no funding for real missions.

                      Agreed, Politics does unfortunately frequently rule with Space issues.

                      Elon Musk’s wanted to do Mar’s stuff even without NASA. I believe he just managed to convince Obama/NASA that Mars was the best option.

                      But as others have pointed out, NASA’s “Mars Focus” can easily be changed to a “Moon Focus” with a new administration.

                    • Joe

                      Ben,

                      “It can still be produced via ISRU if not as easily as Hydrogen & Oxygen. It isn’t available on the Moon, but then again the Moon isn’t SpaceX’s goal.”

                      Actually if you check the results from the same probes that discovered the large quantities of water at the Lunar Poles, they also found significant quantities of other volatiles including those required for making Methane.

                      As you note more difficult to do than Hydrogen, but if you can do on Mars, you can do it on the Moon.

                      Score another one for the Moon.

                    • James

                      Ben –

                      “-Decide the moon was ‘unworthy’ as we’ve ‘already been there'”

                      What he also did:

                      Decided to have NASA not follow the international human Lunar surface missions space law which he had signed.

                      See: http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/516655main_PL_111-267.pdf

                      Have a great week Ben!

                    • James

                      Joe –

                      “As you note more difficult to do than Hydrogen, but if you can do on Mars, you can do it on the Moon.

                      Score another one for the Moon.”

                      Yes.

                      Note:

                      “The Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS)mission was designed to provide direct evidence (1). On 9 October 2009, a spent Centaur rocket struck the persistently shadowed region within the lunar south pole crater Cabeus, ejecting debris, dust, and vapor. This material was observed by a second ‘shepherding’ spacecraft, which carried nine instruments, including cameras, spectrometers, and a radiometer. Near-infrared absorbance attributed to water vapor and ice and ultraviolet emissions attributable to hydroxyl radicals support the presence of water in the debris. The maximum total water vapor and water ice within the instrument field of view was 155” kilograms plus or minus “12 kilograms”.

                      And by mass, “the mean water concentration is 5.6″% + or – “2.9%”.

                      With the percent (%) relative to H2O in grams of compounds:

                      H2O is 100.00%

                      H2S is 16.75%

                      NH3 is 6.03%

                      SO2 is 3.19%

                      C2H4 is 3.12%

                      CO2 is 2.17%

                      CH3OH is 1.55%

                      CH4 is 0.65%

                      OH is 0.03%

                      All numbers and the quotes are from:

                      ‘Detection of Water in the LCROSS Ejecta Plume’

                      By Anthony Colaprete, Peter Schultz, Jennifer Heldmann, Diane Wooden, Mark Shirley, Kimberly Ennico, Brendan Hermalyn, William Marshall, Antonio Ricco, Richard C. Elphic, David Goldstein, Dustin Summy, Gwendolyn D. Bart, Erik Asphaug, Don Korycansky, David Landis, Luke Sollitt in SCIENCE VOL 330 22 OCTOBER 2010

                      Clearly Lunar water is available in concentrations worth mining.

                      These results also indicate the possible usefulness of NH3, or ammonia, as an ‘easy to mine’ Lunar ISRU propellant for arc jet, nuclear, or chemical reaction based rocket engines.

                      Early X-15 test flights used two of the XLR11 rocket engines that burned ethyl alcohol and liquid oxygen.

                      However:

                      “Later flights were undertaken with a single XLR99 rocket engine generating 57,000 pounds-force (250 kN) of thrust.”

                      And, “The XLR99 engine used anhydrous ammonia and liquid oxygen as propellant, and hydrogen peroxide to drive the high-speed turbopump that delivered propellants to the engine.”

                      From: ‘North American X-15’ at: Wikipedia

                      “The XLR99 engine was the first large, throttleable, restartable liquid-propellant rocket engine. Development began in the 1950s by the Reaction Motors Division of Thiokol Chemical Company to power the X-15 research aircraft. It could deliver up to 57,000 pounds force (254 kN) of thrust with an Isp of 279 seconds (239 seconds sl). Thrust was variable from 50 to 100 percent, and the restart capability allowed it to be shut down and restarted during flight when necessary.”

                      And, “After one hour of operation, the XLR99 required an overhaul. Operating times nearly twice that were recorded in tests, but declared largely unsafe. The basic X-15 aircraft carried fuel for about 83 seconds of full-powered flight, while the X-15A-2 carried fuel for just over 150 seconds. Therefore, each XLR99 was capable, in theory, of between 20 and 40 flights before an overhaul.”

                      From: ‘Reaction Motors XLR99’ at: Wikipedia

                      Early Lunar Landers based on the SLS’s Exploration Upper Stage (EUS) seem doable.

                      The 8.4 m , or 28 ft, diameter EUS has four LOX/LH2 RL10-C rocket engines with a total thrust of 440 kN (99,000 lbf).

                      “Propellant mass up to 129,000 kg (285,000 lb)”

                      From: ‘Exploration Upper Stage’ at: Wikipedia

                      “The RL10 was designed for the USAF from the beginning as a throttleable motor for the Lunex lunar lander, finally putting this capability to use twenty years later in the DC-X VTOL vehicle.”

                      And, “Thrust (vac.) 110 kN (25,000 lbf)
                      Isp (vac.) 450 to 465.5 seconds (4.413 to 4.565 km/s)”

                      And, “The Common Extensible Cryogenic Engine (CECE) is a testbed to develop RL10 engines that throttle well.”

                      And, “In 2009 NASA reported successfully throttling from 104 percent thrust to eight percent thrust, a record for an engine of this type.”

                      From: ‘RL10’ at: Wikipedia

                      Space X’s future Raptor rocket engine is a much higher thrust engine than the RL10 and it may take some time to develop or ramp up the extensive Lunar polar mining and propellant production to the high level needed for providing the large Landers based on such a powerful engine with the needed large amounts of liquid methane and liquid oxygen such large vehicles would likely require.

                      “Thrust (SL) 2,300 kN (510,000 lbf)[1]”
                      “Isp (vac.) 363 s[2]”
                      “Isp (SL) 321 s”

                      From: ‘Raptor (rocket engine)’ at: Wikipedia

                      However, SpaceX’s pressure fed kerolox Kestrel rocket engine designed by Tom Mueller might be capable of modifications to enable it to burn several different propellant combinations, or even use H2O2 as a mono-propellant, and thus could become a useful engine for various types of Lunar and Martian Landers.

                      “Thrust (vac.) 6,900 pounds-force (31 kN)
                      Thrust-to-weight ratio 65
                      Chamber pressure 135 pounds per square inch (930 kPa)
                      Isp (vac.) 317 seconds (3.11 km/s)”

                      And, “Dry weight 52 kilograms (115 lb)”

                      From: ‘Kestrel (rocket engine)’ at Wikipedia

          • Jeff Findley

            Actually while you could use a Falcon 9 as an ICBM, it’s not at all ideal for the task. Solids are ideal for ICBMs because they can be stored (fully fueled) in silos or submarines for decades and still be launched at a moment’s notice. Liquid fueled launch vehicles which use cryogenic propellants (e.g. sub-cooled LOX is the oxidizer in Falcon 9) are much harder to store fully fueled for extended periods of time. And if you don’t store them fully fueled, they take far too long to load with fuel and oxidizer to be useful as a rapid response ICBM.

            That’s why TomDPerkins said that nations pursuing ICBM technology move from liquids to solids when they have the technology needed to do so.

            • James

              Jeff Findley –

              Your “to be useful as a rapid response ICBM” solids versus liquids discussion isn’t covering a real issue because cheapness is the only relevant criteria.

              SpaceX can preload the large Falcon 9 with the easy to store RP-1. Final loading of the super chilled liquid oxygen can be accomplished much later and within a half hour, or less, of initiating the process.

              An easy to transport kerolox ICBM/launcher, about the size of a fatter Falcon 1 but a little shorter, could most likely be designed to be loaded with RP-1 in five minutes and liquid oxygen within 10 minutes. Perhaps both propellants could be loaded at the same time.

              But propellant loading time or “rapid response” isn’t really the big issue.

              Cheapness is the big issue. It is a bit like the old cheap big gun costs versus much more costly missiles issue. Notice that various military units still have lots of big guns, except now some big guns can fire self-steering projectiles.

              In any case, the relatively easy to store H2O2, or hydrogen peroxide, liquid oxidizer is available and has long been used in rocket engines.

              ‘New Hydrogen Peroxide Engine Tested’
              “Chandler – – A new, low-cost rocket engine fueled by a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and JP-8 – a grade of kerosene commonly used as jet fuel – was successfully tested last month at NASA’s Stennis Space Center, Miss.”

              And, “The engine uses a non-toxic, environmentally clean hydrogen peroxide oxidizer and JP-8 kerosene-based fuel to generate 10,000 pounds of thrust. The relatively simple design makes it cheaper than similar rocket engines. Instead of using a complex turbopump to increase the pressure and flow rate of fluids entering the engine, propellant tanks are pressurized.”

              And, “Using peroxide as an oxidizer also saves money. Since peroxide can be handled at ‘room temperature,’ engine materials don’t have to withstand the range of temperature extremes required with an oxidizer such as liquid oxygen, which is stored at minus 298 degrees Fahrenheit before it is used in the Space Shuttle Main Engines.”

              From: SPACEDAILY July 1, 1999

              Obviously H2O2, or hydrogen peroxide, is quite a useful oxidizer.

              Note also:
              “Beal Aerospace fired today the largest liquid rocket engine built since the historic Apollo program of the 1960s. The 810,000-pound vacuum thrust hydrogen peroxide/kerosene engine, designated the BA-810, is the Stage 2 engine for Beal’s forthcoming BA-2 heavy-lift launch vehicle, scheduled for inaugural launch in 2002.”

              And, “It is the largest engine ever built by a private program with no ties or funding by the government. Beal Aerospace is a fully private company dedicated to build more reliable and economic access to space for the international satellite community.”

              And, “Propellant is fed to Beal Aerospace Technologies-built engines using helium pressure. This reliable pressure-fed technique negates the use of costly and complicated turbo pumps.”

              And, “Reusable technologies will be utilized for primary stage recoveries at sea.”

              From: ‘Beal Aerospace Fires Largest Liquid Rocket Engine in 30 Years’
              Press Release From: Beal Aerospace Posted: Saturday, March 4, 2000
              At: http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=1047

              For an international perspective:

              “On Tuesday October 7th, Nammo passed a historical milestone by successfully firing the first of a series of large hybrid rocket motors it has been developing.

              And, “Nammo’s hybrid technology is based on a rocket propellant combination of hydrogen peroxide as the oxidizer and synthetic rubber as the fuel.”

              And, “The firing lasted for a predefined 10 seconds, producing a maximum thrust of 30 kN (or 3 tons).”

              And, “The hybrid rocket motor tested on October 7th is not only interesting from a new technology development perspective; it is also the first building block for the North Star Rocket Family. This family of affordable sounding rockets and small launchers, is developed to launch small satellites into orbit from Andøya Space Center in Northern Norway.”

              From: ‘NAMMO SUCCESSFULLY TEST FIRES LARGE HYBRID ROCKET MOTOR’ Project News
              October 23, 2014 At: http://www.bloodhoundssc.com/news/nammo-successfully-test-fires-large-hybrid-rocket-motor

              And for a reusable JP-4 and 90% hydrogen peroxide oxidizer rocket engine we have:

              ‘The Lockheed NF-104A was an American mixed power, high-performance, supersonic aerospace trainer that served as a low-cost astronaut training vehicle for the X-15 and projected X-20 Dyna-Soar programs.’

              And, ‘In addition to the standard J79 jet engine a Rocketdyne AR2-3 rocket engine was fitted at the base of the vertical fin. This engine burned a mixture of JP-4 jet fuel and 90% hydrogen peroxide oxidizer solution. The NF-104 carried enough oxidizer for approximately 100 seconds of rocket engine operation. The thrust level could be adjusted to maximum or approximately half power by the pilot using an additional throttle lever on the left side of the cockpit.’

              From: ‘Lockheed NF-104A’ at Wikipedia

              Do we really want cheap ICBMs/launchers or do we mainly want cheap hype and Mars hucksterism? Sometimes I wonder about that.

            • James

              Jeff Findley –

              “Actually while you could use a Falcon 9 as an ICBM, it’s not at all ideal for the task.”

              Concerning the potential “Operationally Responsive” use of liquid propellant launchers, perhaps you might want to read:

              From: ‘Space Exploration Technologies’ Falcon I Launcher: Towards Operationally Responsive Spacelift’
              By G. Shotwell and A. Chinnery
              40th AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference and Exhibit Fort Lauderdale, Florida

          • John hare

            Can we condense your theory to “space flight needs to be as difficult and expensive as possible to forestall potential ICBM development?”

            • James

              No.

              However, it is not wise to promote dual use cheap ICBM/launcher satellite/weapon technology as something that every billionaire, rocket loving group, and nation in the world has an economic or security need to develop and own.

              Do we really want new SCUD missile technology with a world wide range to become common in the world?

              • Ben

                James,

                You are aware that there are other new orbital launcher companies right?
                including:
                Firefly Space Systems (Firefly Alpha, first launch 2018)
                RocketLab (Electron, first launch Q4 2016)
                Virgin Galactic (LauncherOne, first launch 2017)
                InterOrbital Systems (Neptune, first launch eventually)
                + others

                You seem to think that development of these rockets/companies can/should be prevented. Whether or not “we” promote these companies, they are showing up because there is a perceived market need (and because people can do whatever they want with their money).

                If rocket production was made Illegal in the USA, the USA based companies may simply move somewhere else.

                • John hare

                  Ben,
                  Good points. It’s not Musk against oldspace, it’s about multifaceted progress by many players against the reactionaries.

                • James

                  Ben –

                  No, I wasn’t aware of “InterOrbital Systems (Neptune, first launch eventually)”.

                  However, the real issue is one of our nation’s leadership carefully considering all the potential ramifications of what they loudly endorse.

                  For decades we appeared to have a strong national space policy of discouraging ICBM/launcher/missile technology proliferation, but now we de facto appear to the world to have switched our national policy to pro private, cheap, low tech ICBM/launcher/missile technology proliferation.

                  The relevant question is, “Why?”

                  Where is the carefully laid out analysis as to exactly why and how our President’s and NASA’s new intellectual and financial support for the proliferation of private, cheap, low tech ICBM/launcher/missile technology is a really great idea that will improve the national security of America and the world?

                  Where is the lively public discussion on all the possible implications of this de facto new pro private, cheap, and low tech ICBM/launcher/missile technology proliferation space policy?

                  Please show me the careful and strong intellectual and logical case for our new and obvious de facto switch in our national space policy to a pro private, cheap, and low tech ICBM/launcher/missile proliferation policy.

                  “The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) is a multilateral export control regime. It is an informal and voluntary partnership among 35 countries to prevent the proliferation of missile and unmanned aerial vehicle technology capable of carrying above 500 kg payload for more than 300 km.”

                  And, “The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) established in April 1987[1] by the G7 countries: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Great Britain, and the United States of America. The MTCR was created in order to curb the spread of unmanned delivery systems for nuclear weapons, specifically delivery systems that could carry a payload of 500 kg for a distance of 300 km.”

                  And, “At the annual meeting in Oslo on 29 June – 2 July 1992, chaired by Mr. Sten Lundbo, it was agreed to expand the scope of the MTCR to include nonproliferation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for all weapons of mass destruction. Prohibited materials are divided into two Categories, which are outlined in the MTCR Equipment, Software, and Technology Annex. Membership grown to 35 nations, with 4 additional nations, including Israel. India also joined on 27th of June 2016 adhering to the MTCR Guidelines unilaterally.”

                  And, “Since its establishment, the MTCR has been successful in helping to slow or stop several ballistic missile programs, according to the Arms Control Association: “Argentina, Egypt, and Iraq abandoned their joint Condor II ballistic missile program. Brazil, South Africa, and Taiwan also shelved or eliminated missile or space launch vehicle programs. Some Eastern European countries, such as Poland and the Czech Republic, destroyed their ballistic missiles, in part, to better their chances of joining MTCR.” In October 1994, in order to make the enforcement of MTCR Guidelines more uniform, the member states established a “no undercut” policy, meaning if one member denies the sale of some technology to another country, then all members must adhere.”

                  And, “In 2002, the MTCR was supplemented by the International Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (ICOC), also known as the Hague Code of Conduct, which calls for restraint and care in the proliferation of ballistic missile systems capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction, and has 119 members, thus working parallel to the MTCR with less specific restrictions but with a greater membership.In 2002, the MTCR was supplemented by the International Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (ICOC), also known as the Hague Code of Conduct, which calls for restraint and care in the proliferation of ballistic missile systems capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction, and has 119 members, thus working parallel to the MTCR with less specific restrictions but with a greater membership.”

                  From: ‘Missile Technology Control Regime’ at Wikipedia

                  And since we just passed a law that basically puts the Moon up for grabs on a ‘first come first ownership of resources’ basis, it would appear that everyone on the planet Earth now has to get it in gear and build, build, build private, cheap, low tech ICBM’s/launchers/missiles to ensure they get a large piece of the Lunar resource pie.

                  There is currently very big money being made in Cislunar space and the money making opportunities are going to increase once we start tapping the Moon’s resources and other opportunities.

                  “RocketLab” is going to use its relatively small “Electron” rocket to launch a robotic Lunar surface mission.

                  Is developing Lunar mission capable private, cheap, and low tech ICBM/launcher/missile technology, be the launchers big or small, now the ‘smart thing’ for small countries and billionaires to do if they don’t want to be left behind and miss out on getting a piece of the Lunar resource pie or a good chunk of the money to be made in the rest of Cislunar space?

                  And when some future American President starts to talk about the importance of the “informal and voluntary” “Missile Technology Control Regime” will everyone start to roll their eyes or simply laugh until they cry or fall over and roll around on the carpet while giggling and chortling about what a crazy funny person the President is?

                  Mixed messages on private, cheap, low tech ICBM/launcher/missile technology transfers and proliferation could mean the “informal and voluntary” “Missile Technology Control Regime” will collapse under the mad economic and high tech jobs scramble to get a ‘fair’ chunk of the trillions to be made in Cislunar space.

                  And the question remains, ‘Do we really want a future ten or twenty or thirty years down the road where everyone on Earth has private, cheap, low tech Super SCUD/R-7a rocket technology that allows them the option of reaching out across the world and blowing up any building, stadium, or any other target that might annoy a small nation, billionaire, or group of rocket lovers for whatever odd reason?’

                  Do we want this private, cheap, and low tech ICBM/launcher/missile technology proliferation question to be voted on by all the people of our planet?

                  Maybe we shouldn’t allow those individuals who have experienced a V-2 or SCUD attack to vote on this private, cheap, and low tech ICBM/launcher/missile technology proliferation question because of their possible bias.

                  Maybe we shouldn’t allow those who have had a friend or relative maimed or killed by a V-2 or SCUD attack to vote because of their possible bias.

                  Maybe we shouldn’t allow those who have had a co-worker or citizen of their country maimed or killed by a V-2 or SCUD attack to vote because of their possible bias.

                  Maybe we shouldn’t allow those who have had a relative or citizen of their country maimed or killed by a nuclear weapon attack to vote because of their possible bias.

                  Maybe we shouldn’t allow the citizens of the world to vote on such an issue because they might not want to live with the fear of a private, cheap, low tech Super SCUD or R-7a warhead landing on their house or apartment building while they are sleeping in their nice comfortable beds.

                  Do we really want secretive billionaires, government spy agencies, and political donation influenced Presidents to just quietly decide who will be the winners and losers in making money on the Moon and the rest of Cislunar space?

                  And if that ‘big players decision mode’ is the way the Cislunar money making game is to be played, ‘who’ will enforce those secretive decisions and ‘how’ will those secretive decisions be enforced?

                  Will it be in the same manner that Gerald Bull’s cheap launcher days were permanently ended?

                  “Watching development of the gun, Israel feared it could be used to launch nuclear weapons, but the re-designed SCUD missiles were of greater concern at that moment. As for Iran, it was under threat from both Bull’s supergun and his re-designed SCUD missiles.”

                  “Due to Bull’s past ventures, it has been speculated that besides Iran or Israel, the CIA, MI6, or the Chilean, Syrian, Iraqi, or South African government could have been behind his assassination.”

                  From: ‘Gerald Bull’ at Wikipedia

                  So many possible enforcers! Maybe the world wasn’t happy with his super space projectile gun launcher and “re-designed SCUD missiles”. But nowadays we are ready for every billionaire to be able to build Super Duper long range versions of the SCUD and improved versions of the cheap and much bigger R-7a. My, my how the world can change!

                  No one but Elon Musk knows why he chose to open the Pandora’s Box of private, cheap, and low tech ICBM/launcher/missile technology proliferation, but with some really big help from our President and NASA, that is what he has done.

                  Maybe another question is, ‘What should be done to mitigate the real world consequences of an ill-conceived national space policy of supporting private, cheap, and low tech ICBM/launcher/missile technology proliferation?’

                  • Joe and James, sitting in a tree

                    TL,DR: Half Life 3 confirmed.

                    • Joe

                      Outstanding.

                      Knew that internet SpaceX cultists had the mental maturity of an 8 year old spoiled brat, but did not expect one to prove it by attempting to use a childish insult sane adults leave behind them when they graduate third grade.

                      Keep up the good work.

                    • Joe and James, sitting in a tree

                      I wouldn’t throw around the word “sane” when you have James up there talking about building “cheap, ugly, ICBMs”. Also, the only one mentioning Spacex is you.

                      And furthermore, I don’t like you. I find you to be toxic, confrontational, insulting, and an all around jackass. I want you to leave. You bring nothing to these posts. You are an asshole.

                    • Joe

                      “And furthermore, I don’t like you. I find you to be toxic, confrontational, insulting, and an all around jackass. I want you to leave. You bring nothing to these posts. You are an asshole.”

                      I guess that means exchanging cards at Christmas is out then.

                      Just a suggestion, but you might want to have the Pharmacy check the dosages on your medications.

                    • Ben

                      Joe is one of the least “toxic, confrontational, insulting, and an all around jackass” commenters on this forum. He disagrees with the opinions of many, but is generally civil about it.

                      If your going to call someone names, at least pick someone who deserves it.

                      Or preferably, just don’t say anything at all, personal attacks just lower the quality of the comment section and provide no benefit to anyone.

                    • Tracy the Troll

                      Joe is a Great Guy…

                      Even though he doesn’t understand that the Russians blasted CRS-7 out of the sky sending a strong signal that their cash flows are being messed with… And if the US does not pay protection money…somebody will get hurt…or seats on the Soyez to the ISS will go up to $150M US.

                    • Joe

                      Thanks for the support.

                      If those of us who can disagree, debate the issue and then (if necessary) simply agree to disagree, keep at it maybe we can keep the local trolling to a minimum.

                  • James

                    ‘Riyadh (AFP) – Saudi Arabia intercepted a ballistic missile that Yemeni rebels fired towards the kingdom’s southern city of Abha early Monday, the Riyadh-led coalition fighting the insurgents said.’

                    From: ‘Saudi intercepts ballistic missile from Yemen: coalition’
                    AFP•July 4, 2016 At: https://www.yahoo.com/news/saudi-intercepts-ballistic-missile-yemen-coalition-071451167.html

                    ‘Iranian commander warns there are 100,000 missiles ready to strike Israel’ Published July 04, 2016 At: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2016/07/04/iranian-commander-warns-there-are-100000-missiles-ready-to-strike-israel.html

                    And in other news the White House folks, NASA, and Elon Musk continue promote the glorious benefits offered by private, cheap, and low tech ICBM/launcher/missile technology proliferation in taking Earth’s scared refugees to that cold and radiation drenched hell called Mars.

                    Brilliant!

                    • Tracy the Troll

                      James,
                      Don’t you understand the justification for the new Laser weapon deployment justification…Let them send 100,000 missles… We have lasers.

                  • Ben

                    So in summary,

                    You consider the proliferation of cheap space launchers a BAD IDEA in terms of national security.

                    The current administration/Congress/NASA leadership are promoting this proliferation. Also BAD.

                    This promotion is undermining the current proliferation restrictions (MTCR). Also BAD.

                    ok.

                    Assuming I correctly parsed your points out of your post:
                    A couple counter-points:
                    *You and the “Victims of V-2 or SCUD attack” can vote for new political leadership in the elections, just like everyone else. (Assuming you’re a US citizen)
                    *The people frequenting these forums can no more change public policy with respect to launcher proliferation than you can
                    *The development/purchase of the missiles launched in the articles you reference would likely have happened regardless to the US gov’t policy with respect to commercial space launch. (they didn’t buy them from SpaceX or the other NewSpace companies, did they?)

                    just my 2 cents.

                    • James

                      Ben –

                      So in summary:

                      Do you believe in “illusory” Mars pixie dust space rhetoric or “pragmatic” space policies and laws grounded in a democratic review of our national economic and security interests?

                      Is the President ignoring PUBLIC LAW 111–267—OCT. 11, 2010, our relevant pro international Lunar and Cislunar human mission space law, a wonderful imperial act of our President because in doing so he gets NASA to directly and indirectly support his political friend Elon Musk’s launcher and spacecraft financial interests and risky ‘Mars Colonies Soon’ political campaign?

                      “(2) The regions of cis-lunar space are accessible to other national and commercial launch capabilities, and such access raises a host of national security concerns and economic implications that international human space endeavors can help to address.
                      (3) The ability to support human missions in regions beyond low-Earth orbit and on the surface of the Moon can also drive developments in emerging areas of space infrastructure and technology.
                      (4) Developments in space infrastructure and technology can stimulate and enable increased space applications, such as in-space servicing, propellant resupply and transfer, and in situ resource utilization, and open opportunities for additional users of space, whether national, commercial, or international.”

                      From: PUBLIC LAW 111–267—OCT. 11, 2010

                      Where is the carefully laid out analysis to explain exactly why and how our President’s and NASA’s new intellectual, political, and financial support for Mr. Musk’s ‘Mars Colonies Soon via the proliferation of private and cheap ICBM/launcher/missile technology’ is a really great national space policy that will do more to improve the national security of America and the world than would a policy based on NASA following our relevant space law which notes, “The regions of cis-lunar space are accessible to other national and commercial launch capabilities, and such access raises a host of national security concerns and economic implications that international human space endeavors can help to address”?

                      Our new national space policy shift to privately Colonize Mars Soon via a de facto policy of risky, private, cheap, ICBM/launcher/missile technology proliferation has had minimal informed public debate.

                      “In contrast, the space policy changes wrought in 2010 were not proffered to or discussed with Congress, our international partners, the various stakeholders in the domestic space community, or even senior officials at NASA. They were not even represented as changes to core policy, but rather were developed in secret and put forth only as part of the President’s Budget Request in February of that year. Especially telling was the fact that even Congressional Democrats were not involved; this was not a partisan decision, but a White House decision.”

                      From: ‘Statement by Michael Griffin: Hearing: The Space Leadership Preservation Act and the Need for Stability at NASA’ Status Report From: House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Thursday, February 25, 2016.

                      Unfortunately, our President appears to prefer secretive space policy decisions that prioritize the financial and Mars Soon interests of his ‘political friend’ and ignore America’s far more important “host of national security concerns and economic implications”.

                      Future Presidents may continue this manner of ‘take care of my political friend’ space policy decision making, and unfortunately that imperial, nontransparent, nondemocratic, and ‘private political friend’ based behavior will most likely significantly reduce international political and economic support for America’s leadership role in pushing to develop the Moon and the rest of Cislunar Space and eventually head off to Mars and Ceres.

                      “That statement and his cancellation of Constellation have remained sore points between Congress (on a bipartisan basis) and the White House since that time. Many in the human spaceflight community reject the assertion that returning to the Moon is unnecessary before going to Mars, insisting that systems and humans should be tested closer to home where they could return more quickly in an emergency. Indeed, high ranking NASA officials agree, but explain that the United States cannot afford the systems needed to return to the lunar surface.”
                      From: ‘House Appropriators Reject Asteroid Redirect Mission, Want Astronauts on Moon’
                      By Marcia S. Smith 23-May-2016 At: Spacepolicyonline

                      Why should the international community even consider a partnership with America in building the “the systems needed to return to the lunar surface” when all they hear from NASA officials is empty nonscientific rhetoric about how Americans are soon going to be landing on Mars?

                      Consider one famous space scientist’s personal history:

                      “Wernher Magnus Maximilian Freiherr von Braun (March 23, 1912 – June 16, 1977) was a German, later American, aerospace engineer[2] and space architect credited with inventing the V-2 rocket for Nazi Germany and the Saturn V for the United States.[3][4] He was one of the leading figures in the development of rocket technology in Nazi Germany, where he was a member of the Nazi Party and the SS.”

                      And “His early exposure to rocketry convinced him that the exploration of space would require far more than applications of the current engineering technology. Wanting to learn more about physics, chemistry, and astronomy, von Braun entered the Friedrich-Wilhelm University of Berlin for post-graduate studies and graduated with a doctorate in physics in 1934.[16] He also studied at ETH Zürich. Although he worked mainly on military rockets in his later years there, space travel remained his primary interest.”
                      From: ‘Wernher von Braun’ at Wikipedia

                      The Saturn V was the cheap human Moon mission launcher that reinforced American political and economic dominance in the 1960s and 1970s and its strong international significance and influence probably extended into the 1980s and even today.

                      Why was the Saturn V cheap? Because the ‘alternative bad karma solution’ of another direct major hot war between the large nations of the world would have cost far more. It was a far better economic and political option to use the Saturn V to divert the public’s attention into a ‘space race’.

                      That both cheap and expensive rockets embody dual use technology is obvious.

                      “The Soyuz launcher was introduced in 1966, deriving from the Vostok launcher, which in turn was based on the 8K74 or R-7a intercontinental ballistic missile.”

                      And, “It has become the world’s most used space launcher, flying over 1700 times, far more than any other rocket. Despite its age and perhaps thanks to its simplicity, this rocket family has been notable for its low cost and very high reliability, both of which appeal to commercial clients.”

                      From: ‘Soyuz (rocket family)’ at: Wikipedia

                      Elon Musk’s and Jeff Bezzos’ reinvention, demonstration, and popularization of the theory of private and cheap access to space via dual use rocket technology has provided inspiration and incentives to lots of space, technical, and business folks around the world.

                      The essential social and morality question for George Whitesides, Charlie Precourt, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezzos, and other launcher entity leaders is, “How can you provide some significant personal international leadership to directly encourage young rocket engineers, scientists, and business folks around the world to devote their energy to building spacecraft launchers instead of military missiles?”

                      How can we strengthen the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) or perhaps build new and even more useful systems to mitigate the negative consequences in the world of America’s new de facto private, cheap, low tech ICBM/launcher/missile proliferation policy that many other nations will most likely imitate one way or another for security and economic reasons?

                      How can we concretely assure all nations that the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and other related activities of modern, large, and powerful countries don’t simply exist to strangle the technical development and economic space opportunity options of modern small and medium sized countries, developing nations, and the world’s space loving billionaires?

                      How can we of the general public influence political, scientific, technical, and business folks to carefully consider the benefits of changing our human focus on gaining profits and political power by building destructive missiles of terrorism and war to instead building launchers that can put useful small, or even large, science or resource exploration robots on the Lunar surface and also launchers of various types for profitable satellites with orbits in Cislunar Space?

                      It is worth noting that Rocket Lab’s small Electron Launch Vehicle, which is capable of sending uphill small Moon Express robotic surface missions, has a cost “less than US$5 million per launch.”

                      Quote from: ‘Rocket Lab’ at Wikipedia

                      New international launchers that enable low cost robotic access to the Moon’s surface, the exploration of its ISRU resources, and many scientific and commercial opportunities are within the financial capabilities of many developing nations.

                      One the several major flaws in the Mars Soon blather from NASA, the President, and confused Space Cadets is that the Martian noise completely ignores the economic and political interests of most folks on the Planet Earth, including Americans, to be involved with and economically benefit from the exploration of space and in the tapping of the resources and diverse opportunities of the Moon and the rest of Cislunar Space.

                      The Moon and the rest of Cislunar Space is close, accessible, and potentially profitable for many nations.

                      America needs to be seen to de facto and de jure lead and assist as many nations as possible in their doable missions to access those nearby profitable benefits and resources of space.

                      America either leads and assists in those national and international Lunar surface and Cislunar Space efforts, or another nation or group of space faring nations will assume that assisting and leadership role.

                      Lead or get out of the way for someone else to lead. It is that simple.

                      “The new imaging satellites and other small satellites, or smallsats, have created a large and growing demand for small, affordable launch vehicles. Over 20 new launch vehicles are being developed to serve this demand.”

                      And, “The global space economy did not contract, even in 2009, and its growth exceeded the general economy in every year except 2010, reaching $330 billion in 2014.”

                      From: ‘Effects of changing economics on space architecture and engineering’ By Gary Oleson May 16, 2016 At: The Space Review

                      Obviously, during the next 30 years Russia’s Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center, the China National Space Administration (CNSA), the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Mitsubishi and JAXA, United Launch Alliance (ULA), the European Space Agency (ESA), Blue Origin, Orbital ATK, SpaceX, Rocket Lab, Stratolaunch Systems, Virgin Galactic, and many other large, medium, and small launcher entities will probably launch far more robots to the Moon’s surface, and satellites to the rest of Cislunar Space, than they will launch missions to Mars and Ceres.

                      Why? The business and security case closes for the Moon and the rest of Cislunar space, but it doesn’t close and won’t close anytime ‘Soon’ for far distant and cold Mars.

                      “Two of the three experts who testified favored a more pragmatic approach, focusing on stepwise exploration by moving from low-Earth orbit to cislunar space near the Moon and then to the lunar surface itself. This would allow NASA to both achieve meaningful exploration goals and engage the burgeoning private space sector, which has been hungering to develop lunar resources. International partners are also more interested in the Moon than Mars.”

                      And, “This approach appeared to intrigue some Republican legislators, including subcommittee Chairman US Rep. Brian Babin, a Texan whose district includes Johnson Space Center. This group seemed eager to consider a Moon-first approach to exploration of the Solar System and sympathetic to the idea that America has unfinished business there after the Apollo program.”

                      From: ‘Space experts warn Congress that NASA’s “Journey to Mars” is illusory Testimony says NASA lacks the financial resources and technology to do the mission.’ By Eric Berger Feb 5, 2016 At: arstechnica.

                      The peaceful and international development of the Moon and the rest of Cislunar Space need to be the clear and central focus of any logically viable and politically bipartisan and sustainable American security and space policy.

                      “The most recent officially announced setting—three minutes to midnight (23:57)—was made in January 2015 due to ‘[un]checked climate change, global nuclear weapons modernizations, and outsized nuclear weapons arsenals’.[5] This setting was retained in January 2016.[6]” From: ‘Doomsday Clock’ at Wikipedia

                      “I realize the pursuit of peace is not as dramatic as the pursuit of war, and frequently the words of the pursuers fall on deaf ears. But we have no more urgent task.” John F. Kennedy American University Speech of June 10, 1963.

                      Nonsense pseudo space policies based on a president’s ‘political friendship’ and empty rhetoric based on nonscientific claims of forget the Moon because we’re going to ‘Soon Colonize Mars’ have little or zip functional usefulness for improving the security and economic interests of America, our space exploration partners, our planet, and the world’s launch companies.

                      And without a secure and prosperous home planet, the security and survival of future colonies on the nearby Moon and far distant Mars and Ceres is unlikely.

                    • Ben

                      If that’s a summary, you need to write a book…

                      To sum up my perspective on these issues:

                      In my opinion, for human spaceflight, NASA should be taking a step-by-step approach to moving into space. They should build a cis-lunar infrastructure first (Lunar orbital missions, lunar bases etc) before expanding into the rest of the solar system. This will allow issues to be worked out while still close enough to Earth for assistance. Once a solid understanding of what in necessary to thrive in cis-lunar space is developed, then NASA can look to going further.

                      On the other hand, Commercial Space companies should not be constrained by taking the same safe/lower-risk step-by-step approach. They should be free to take risks. For example, the fact that SpaceX is really exited about Mars is fine. They are a private company and they can be excited about whatever they want. NASA’s role here, in my opinion, should be a support role.

                      I consider NASA Funding the development so private companies can send missions to the ISS as a good thing. It jump starts those companies and provides a capability for NASA at a cheaper price point.

                      I consider NASA’s Commercial Space policy to be a good thing for space development/exploration:
                      It gets lots of young engineers excited.
                      It gets more companies working on developing space and starts building a business environment that will help to support a cis-lunar infrastructure.
                      It costs NASA/the gov’t/taxpayers a relative pittance when compared with NASA’s other space launchers and activities and
                      brings partial private funding to space activities.

                      All that said, the administration should not unilaterally set space policy counter to what Congress has passed.

                      Of course, security concerns should be considered and appropriate actions taken.

                      So to sum up:
                      Administration should follow the law.

                      NASA should go to moon first.

                      Commercial space companies should be free to launch their own rockets and “Go to Mars Soon” if that’s what they want to do.

                      Security concerns should be addressed, but not to the exclusion of commercial space launch companies.

                    • Tracy the Troll

                      James –

                      If you look at the reality of where we are as a Nation…Hillary Clinton was just cleared of wrong doing by keeping a separate email server that concealed her selling of services through the Clinton Foundation…There is a pretty good chance that she might be President…

                      I cannot think of a better reason to get off Earth and yes…The moon is NOT far enough away…Apparently Musk has come to the very same conclusion. So his disregard for “Business as usual is probably the result of a lot of 1% who see the same thing coming if Hillary is President and want out as well…

                    • Ben

                      Not even Musk thinks humans will be on Mars in 4 years.

                    • James

                      Tracy the Troll –

                      “I cannot think of a better reason to get off Earth and yes…The moon is NOT far enough away…Apparently Musk has come to the very same conclusion.”

                      Unfortunately, you might be right.

            • TomDPerkins

              ” Can we condense your theory to “space flight needs to be as difficult and expensive as possible to forestall potential ICBM development?” ”

              Yes, that is a perfectly fair summary of James/Gary Church’s claims that space access should be as difficult and expensive as possible in a useless, already failed attempt to prevent the laws of physics from being the same for all people. He presents no evidence whatsoever that small inexpensive launchers are synonymous with any sort of ICBM, other than of course the obvious and trivially true fact that any rocket can theoretically carry any payload.

              This indicts the SLS not less then the Falcon I.

              Or the Scud series.

              Or the V2.

              There is nothing which SpaceX could do to proliferate ICBM technology, which is not duplicative of, derivative of, and superfluous to the efforts of Verner von Braun in the 1930’s in that same regard.

              The claim is not even a cheap shot, it’s the raving of loon.

              • James

                Perhaps “the raving of” a “loon” is a wannabe Space Cadet ‘Mars Colonist’ who continues to ignore basic space realities and our relevant space law.

                “Out in space, it is estimated that it would take about three days for every single one of your trillions of body cells to be hit by a high-energy proton (the lightest and most common galactic cosmic ray). Over the course of a year, each of your cells would likely have encountered at least one heavy and damaging iron nuclei. Other types of radiation are relatively weak and diffuse, sort of like a BB pellet, making a galactic cosmic ray a cannonball – large, weighty, and packing a punch.”

                From ‘Space Radiation Remains Major Hazard for Humans Going to Mars’ By Adam Mann 4/24/2014 at Wired

                Obviously, ‘Space Radiation Remains Major Hazard for Humans Going to Mars’ and of course for anyone who is loudly proclaiming an intention to ‘Soon Colonize Far Distant Mars’, a cold fourth rate planet that lacks a dense atmosphere and large magnetic field to shield colonists on its surface from incoming “heavy and damaging iron nuclei” galactic cosmic ray cannonballs.

                Human Lunar surface ISRU missions as per our relevant space law, PUBLIC LAW 111–267—OCT. 11, 2010, are a far better deal for everyone.

                See: http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/516655main_PL_111-267.pdf

                “In this context, we must understand that if U.S. leadership in space is important to our nation, then it is necessary to have goals which potential partners might wish to embrace. A one-time visit to an asteroid or, worse, visits to a boulder which has been robotically towed into cislunar space from an asteroid, a mission not adequately supported by the budget allocated to it, a mission not even endorsed by the scientific community this does not constitute such a goal. Contrariwise, returning to the Moon did, and does. The same nations that were eager to join us in that enterprise in 2009 still wish to do so; they are simply waiting for us to lead.”

                And, “What is needed today is, first, to reestablish a sensible space policy, and then consider how an efficient architecture to implement that policy might be designed.”

                From: Statement by Michael Griffin: Hearing: ‘The Space Leadership Preservation Act and the Need for Stability at NASA Status Report From: House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology’ Thursday, February 25, 2016 At: http://spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=48488

        • Gray Roger

          You forget, Tom D Perkins. Everything about the SLS is perfect beyond compare. Any criticism of the SLS can’t possibly be valid because ELON MUSK!

          Here. Have another glass of OldSpace KoolAid. Drink, and enjoy its soothing effects.

        • Jeff Wright

          “The SLS only incidentally has anything to do with accomplishing that. It’s really about redistributing congressional dollars to congressional districts.

          Like JPL isn’t Pasadena’s pork. If it wasn’t for the fact that we have those districts–support for space would be less than it was–and they’d be no NASA for Musk and others to copy to begin with.

          HLLV advocates were pushing for ALS/NLS/Magnum/CaLV/Ares V/DIRECT/SLS long before Congress (at last) listened

          • Joe

            Good points Jeff, but do not get hope up about penetrating TomDPerkins “thinking”.

            He will just assume you are a “sock puppet” being used in some sort of conspiracy, then accuse you of spreading conspiracy theories.

          • Vladislaw

            NASA does more than just space flight. If NASA was not launching and was not allowed to launch it would still go on much as it does today, it would just add more commercial transportation services to it’s list along with FEDex and UPS and other freight haulers they use.

  • Joe

    “If NASA was not launching and was not allowed to launch it would still go on much as it does today…”

    Thanks for posting that. Something’s are just beyond parody.

    • Tom's Drinking Game

      Well, that’s part of the Musk Miracle. You can say just about anything and if you are defending the faith then it makes perfect sense (to the faithful). Either accept the miracle man or get castrated for your transgression. Haven’t you figured out how this works yet Joe?

      • James

        Ares I:
        “Payload to LEO 25,400 kg (56,000 lb)” From: ‘Ares I’ at: Wikipedia

        Falcon 9 Full Thrust
        “Payload to LEO FT: 22,800 kg (50,300 lb)” From: ‘Falcon 9’ at: Wikipedia

        The best parts “of the Musk Miracle” was his political friend getting the Ares I canceled and also the American led international human return missions to the Moon’s surface canceled while raving nonsense about how we couldn’t afford a human rated Lunar Lander, Launchpad 39A, and international human Lunar surface missions but we could afford to do much much much more costly and far more risky human Mars landings. Now have we all forgotten which wonderful political friend of Mr. Musk managed to do such illogical things?

        “In contrast, the space policy changes wrought in 2010 were not proffered to or discussed with Congress, our international partners, the various stakeholders in the domestic space community, or even senior officials at NASA. They were not even represented as changes to core policy, but rather were developed in secret and put forth only as part of the President’s Budget Request in February of that year. Especially telling was the fact that even Congressional Democrats were not involved; this was not a partisan decision, but a White House decision.”

        From: ‘Statement by Michael Griffin: Hearing: The Space Leadership Preservation Act and the Need for Stability at NASA’ Status Report From: House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Thursday, February 25, 2016 At: http://spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=48488

        For over six years we’ve had NASA’s leadership implement a ‘do everything to support Mr. Musk’s retirement soon on the radiation rich cold hell called Mars’ national space program with a constant nonscientific stream of ‘we’re going to Mars Soon’ ‘rope a dope’ blather.

        NASA’s leadership has largely become a national advertising agency for Mr. Musk’s Mars magical mystery radiation rich retirement goal and ignored the legal American led international human Lunar surface mission goals that are specified in PUBLIC LAW 111–267—OCT. 11, 2010, our relevant space law.
        See: 124 STAT. 2805 PUBLIC LAW 111–267—OCT. 11, 2010
        At: http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/516655main_PL_111-267.pdf

        The ‘new space’ folks claim we need a LEO propellant depot. Fine and dandy!

        PROFAC enthusiasts claim we could harvest the trace amount of atmosphere at orbital heights to supply oxygen for a propellant depot. Great!

        See: ‘Propulsive fluid accumulator’ at: Wikipedia

        Now comes the interesting question. ‘Which upper stage would be more useful as an Earth orbit departure stage if both are reloaded with propellants, the kerolox upper stage of the Falcon 9 or the hydrolox J-2X powered upper stage of the Ares I?

        Well that question won’t be even be asked or carefully considered because our President, a political friend of the wannabe Martian Mr. Musk, managed to get the Ares I, with its efficient hydrolox J-2X powered upper stage, cancelled and magically enough the less capable Falcon 9 launcher and its upper stage, built by Mr. Musk who will ‘Soon’ be heading off to ‘retire’ on radiation rich Mars, have taken over NASA’s center stage from the Ares I and even the SLS.

        See: ‘J-2X’ at: Wikipedia

        Mr. Musk has benefited greatly by gaining the precious and critically needed six years of extremely valuable time, and the elimination of the Ares I, through his political friend’s ‘cancellation’ of our legally required American led international human Lunar surface return missions.

        Surprise, surprise! Narrow Presidential ‘political friendship’ ‘triumphs’ over engineering, scientific rationality, and the law.

        Rocketry is as much, or even more, about politics as it is about science and engineering.

        Anyone who doesn’t understand that idea may believe that the Mission Control Center at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston is of course located right next to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. And perhaps such a confused individual also knows that Mars isn’t really that much further or difficult to get to than the Moon.

        Such is life.

        Nonetheless, the “Mammoth SLS Booster Test Fired in Utah One Final Time Before Inaugural Orion EM-1 Launch” and that is great news!

        Happy 4th of July to Space Cadets everywhere!

      • Vladislaw

        Who said anything about SpaceX and miracles? Just another mind numbing statement from the nickel section.

        When NASA grind to a halt if FEDex went bankrupt? What is the difference WHO hauls freight for NASA?

        Does NASA have to design and develop pickup trucks for delivery? 18 wheelers? Then what is the big deal that they do not design and develop frieght haulers for space? America has an aerospace industry and NASA can utilize IT for hauling freight they do not have to design and develop it themselves.

        • Joe

          Fine Vlad.

          The SLS is being designed and developed primarily by Boeing/Lockheed (two private companies) under NASA funding and direction, just as the Falcon 9 and Dragon Cargo vehicle were and the SpaceX “Commercial” Crew Vehicle is.

          It is therefore only logical that you will support the SLS.

        • James

          SpaceX got its extensively tested Fastrac MC-1 Merlin 1A rocket engine from NASA.
          SpaceX got large amounts of early, and ongoing, Falcon I and 9 launcher development money and technology transfers from DARPA/the government/NASA.

          Since when did DARPA/the government/NASA need to provide a well developed and tested engine and extensive ongoing development money and technology transfers “to design and develop pickup trucks for delivery? 18 wheelers?”

          Reality is that flying launchers and spacecraft and spaceflight missions are costly and risky activities and obviously aren’t comparable to “pickup trucks” and large trucks doing deliveries. And I know that because I’ve driven many a hard working mile carrying various kinds of loads with both “pickup trucks” and much larger trucks.

          Reality is that we have risk and cost denying lies and empty rhetorical Mars nonsense for a NASA human and robotic spaceflight policy that completely ignores the affordable Moon ISRU interests of Congress and our space exploration partners and the Lunar mission design of the SLS and Orion transportation system.

          “Moreover, when Obama assumed office, Constellation’s initial exploration aim was the Moon—an aim the Augustine report found to be ‘unsustainable.’ Now NASA’s stated goal is to send humans to Mars—the so-called ‘Journey to Mars’—which is an order of magnitude more difficult both from an engineering and fiscal standpoint. In this sense, NASA’s goals have become more unexecutable, not less.”

          And, “But the planetary science comments contain the biggest exaggeration of all. Holdren claims the scaling back of Constellation allowed NASA to spend more on things like planetary science and robotic exploration. However, consider the president’s budget request in 2013, which was made even as Obama was basking in the glow of Curiosity’s landing on Mars. His proposal cut the budget for planetary science from $1.5 billion in fiscal year 2012 to $1.2 billion in FY 2013, and down further to $1.1 billion in FY 2014 and 2015. It is hard to see how these large cuts, which explicitly precluded flagship missions like Curiosity, “revitalized” planetary science.”

          From: ‘Juno was a success—but there is precious little coming after it Advisor claims Obama “revitalized” planetary science, but the opposite is true.’
          By Eric Berger – July 7, 2016 At: http://arstechnica.com/science/2016/07/white-house-tries-to-take-credit-for-planetary-programs-it-gutted/

          • Joe

            James,

            All very true, but of no interest to Vladislaw.

            He just like to occasionally restate his talking points.

          • Ben

            NASA funding 18-wheeler technology:
            https://www.nasa.gov/offices/ipp/centers/dfrc/news_events/SS-Truck-Aerodynamics.html
            http://www.nasa.gov/centers/dryden/pdf/88628main_H-2283.pdf

            (have to play devil’s advocate…)

            Perhaps not extensive technology transfers, but it’s something…

            • Joe

              “(have to play devil’s advocate…)”

              And doing a great job.

              (1) The information at the links could be taken to counter James’s assertion that NASA does not need to research ground transport vehicles.

              but

              (2) The information at the links could be taken to counter Vladislaw’s contention that NASA should not be involved in development of any kind of transportation systems at all (even rockets) and just leave everything to “FEDex”.

              Yes, very interesting. 🙂

              • Ben

                Indeed, NASA is involved in A LOT more than many people realize. If Aerodynamics play a role, its a safe bet that NASA is or has been involved.

                With ground vehicles, it’s in reducing drag. With space vehicles, it’s a lot more than that.

                Vlad’s idea that NASA is just going to buy “freight” services seems premature.

                For small/medium sized cargo To/From LEO it looks like that isn’t an unreasonable statement. For anything else, not yet.

                Can you buy a delivery to the bottom of the ocean from FedEx? Probably Not.
                Can you pay someone to develop something to deliver something to the bottom of the ocean? Certainly.

                But, once the bottom of ocean delivery system has been developed, and assuming enough demand exists, commercial delivery may become available.

                I assume it is lack of demand that has kept commercial delivery services from the bottom of the ocean. I expect it is a combination of technical difficulty and lack of demand that has kept commercial delivery services from, for example, the Moon.

                Will FedEx (or equivalent) ever deliver to the Moon/BEO? I hope so, because that would likely mean there are people living and working there.

                • Joe

                  “Will FedEx (or equivalent) ever deliver to the Moon/BEO? I hope so, because that would likely mean there are people living and working there.”

                  Strongly agree, but that happy day is (unfortunately) still a long way off and establishing policies to “let FedEx do it” will not speed it’s arrival

            • James

              It is interesting.

              However, I haven’t noticed NASA giving the Fastrac MC-1 engine technology to any other small launcher companies, nor do I see tens of millions of taxpayer dollars and large billion dollar contracts being given to the various new small launcher companies to build and use “Operationally Responsive” liquid propellant launchers.

              In any case, NASA doesn’t seem to be designing and building and giving away truck engines… yet.

            • James

              Ben –

              Tory Bruno noted, “new rocket engines typically cost at least $1 billion to design, test and fly.”

              From: ‘ULA plans to introduce new rocket one piece at a time’ By Stephen Clark April 13, 2015 SPACEFLIGHT NOW At: http://spaceflightnow.com/2015/04/13/ula-plans-to-introduce-new-rocket-one-piece-at-a-time/

              Unlike the above noted useful NASA Truck Aerodynamics research that was widely offered to everyone interested in it, NASA’s extensive and valuable test results of its purposely designed ‘cheap to build’ Fastrac MC-1 rocket engine seem to have been offered to only one company.

              Getting exclusive access to NASA’s Fastrac MC-1 rocket engine design and its well tested technology appears to have been a technology transfer ‘super deal’ for the new SpaceX company.

              • Ben

                But NASA hasn’t just assisted SpaceX in making a derivative of the Fastrac/MC-1 engine.

                As stated on the Fastrac/MC-1 wiki page:
                https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fastrac_(rocket_engine)

                NASA also helped Rotary Rocket. Rotary Rocket just failed as a company (as well as perhaps technically)

                NASA also wanted to use the engine for the Orbital Sciences X-34, but I’m not sure that counts as tech transfer.

                I don’t know if these companies were actually interested in engine development or if they just did the minimum necessary to use the engine.

                But they serve as some evidence that NASA is willing to help other companies than SpaceX with that engine. It just may be that other companies haven’t asked or weren’t actually interested in continuing the development of the engine.

                The Merlin 1D is a vastly more capable engine than the Merlin 1A. The Merlin 1A was more capable than the Fastrac/MC-1.

                It is part of NASA’s job to help companies. Including, but not only, SpaceX.

                • Joe

                  Not sure the Rotary Rocket Company is a good example as the company only announced a desire to use a Fastrac derivative as they began laying off staff after their original design (where centrifugal force was to be used – instead of pumps – to supply the engine with fuel) was assessed to be not practical.

                  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rotary_Rocket

                  From the Link:

                  “In June 1999, Rotary Rocket announced that it would use a derivative of the Fastrac engine under development at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, instead of the company’s own unconventional spinning engine design. Reportedly, the company had been unable to convince investors that its engine design was viable; the composite structure and gyrocopter reentry was an easier sell.

                  At the same time as this change, the company laid off about a third of its employees, lowering approximate headcount from 60 to 40. …”

                  Usually try to avoid using Wikipedia as a source, but this is in line with what I remember.

                  Rotary was one of a number of startups in the 1990’s based on the idea that a big commercial launch market was about to materialize, when it did not most went out of business.

                • James

                  Ben and Joe

                  Maybe the following is as valid a Rotary Rocket perspective as Wikipedia:

                  “A short version… Posted on: Mon Oct 11, 2004 9:48 pm”
                  “Main engine problems, a combination of technical hurdles and short funds, continued. Backoff positions were considered that used bell-nozzle engines (of various types) stuck up the Roton’s backside. The Fastrac was way too heavy, and either a new engine would have to be developed, or something done with existing engines. One design actually had an NK-33 stuck up the center(!)”

                  “Currently I’m working with Gary, Bevin, and a number of others on DARPA’s FALCON project, and a NASA exploration contract. For the record, the Titan II work was part of our low-cost Alternate Access concept, but we didn’t get the followon contract for it. Too bad…on its original schedule it would have been almost ready to fly to the ISS when the Columbia went down.”

                  From: tbrosz At:http://www.spacefellowship.com/Forum/post-8723.html

                  Perhaps the experience of some of the folks from Rotary Rocket helped to wisely guide the FALCON project and NASA, DARPA, and the Air Force’s critical technology transfers and funding for the development of the low cost Falcon family of launchers.

  • James

    Joe –

    Perhaps another issue is Jeff Bezzo’s history of private money for rocket engine and launcher technological research and development versus Elon Musk’s history from the beginning of millions and then tens of millions of dollars in government DARPA/military launcher research and development money and the the critically important time and large money saving benefit of gaining early access to the NASA designed and extensively tested cheap Fastrac MC-1 rocket engine that with some minor modifications quickly became known as the Merlin 1A rocket engine.

    Contrary to the Space Cadet myths that are widely believed, it is clear that the SpaceX ‘Skunk Works’ type of DARPA/military funded project accessed space with the military weapon/military satellite Operationally Responsive Spacelift Falcon I launcher, not a ‘privately financed launcher’.

    That Falcon I space access achievement was precisely and efficiently doable due to an apparent series of earlier government DARPA/military development contracts and the previous quick transfer to SpaceX of the NASA developed and extensively tested and critically needed cheap ‘off the shelf’ main rocket engine parts and designs for the Fastrac MC-1/Merlin 1A rocket engine design.

    See: ‘DARPA Falcon Project’ at Wikipedia

    See: “Fastrac Full-Engine, Hot-Fire Test Successful — New Rocket Engine Could Dramatically Reduce Launch Costs” Source: Marshall Space Flight Center From: ScienceDaily March 16, 1999

    ‘DARPA, Air Force Kick Off Falcon Phase II Small Launch Vehicle’ Press Release From: Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Friday, September 17, 2004
    At: http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=15074

    ‘$100M for Small Spacelift Vehicles and Support’
    April 19, 2005 By Defense Industry Daily staff
    At: http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/100m-for-small-spacelift-vehicles-and-support-0378/

    Also see the article by G. Shotwell and A. Chinnery
    ‘Space Exploration Technologies’ Falcon I Launcher: Towards Operationally Responsive Spacelift’.

    Some folks will remain in denial about it, but as far as the SpaceX Operationally Responsive launcher historical funding record shows, SpaceX and its Falcon I, Falcon 9, and Falcon Heavy family, appear to have received critical early DARPA/military/government development money and major rocket engine, scientific, technical, and timely Launchpad 39A rental assistance, and ‘sweet’ International Space Station spacecraft development and supply and human transport mission contracts from NASA due to their being designed and funded to cheaply meet military needs and requirements.

    The ‘Mars Soon’ nonsense may simply be no more than a good cover story for what appears to be essentially a new and cheap series of ICBMs/launchers for the defense/intelligence community.

    Reinventing a much cheaper and more diverse mission capable launcher family than the Titan I, II, III, 34D, and IV launcher family appears to be the Falcon DARPA/military development game.

    Like the Titan III, 34D, and IV, the Falcon I, 9, and Heavy probably won’t ever have nuclear warheads as payloads, but that doesn’t really change their overall cheap and Operationally Responsive national defense missile/launcher reality.

    That the Operationally Responsive Falcon launchers also appear cheap enough to attract private investment and because the Falcon 9 is offered by SpaceX as a low cost launcher for commercial launches of satellites and International Space Station supply and human transport missions just makes the whole Operationally Responsive launcher ‘family package deal’ even cheaper for the American military and intelligence agencies.

    See: ‘Titan (rocket family)’ at Wikipedia

    In the context of the Titan launcher’s evolution, “What would be the maximum LEO payload mass of a Falcon Heavy with the additional boost of two of the SLS’s SRBs?”

    What a Heavy Lift Launcher that would be!

    “The Titan IV was the last of the Titan family of rockets. It was retired in 2005 due to its high cost of operation.”

    And, “Payload to LEO 21,680 kg (47,790 lb)”

    From: ‘Titan’ IV at Wikipedia

    • Joe

      James,

      First of all congratulations on all of your research. I was already familiar with the lineage of Fastrac to Merlin Engines, but that is a really nice job of documenting the history.

      As far as the whole subject of “cheap ICBM’s”, the following quote from your post should be noted:

      “Like the Titan III, 34D, and IV, the Falcon I, 9, and Heavy probably won’t ever have nuclear warheads as payloads….”

      I agree with that.

      “…but that doesn’t really change their overall cheap and Operationally Responsive national defense missile/launcher reality.”

      Perhaps, but if that were to turn out to be true, I would not consider that to be an evil thing.

      Your recounting of the history of SpaceX engines to date does shine light on two more points.

      First it drastically undermines the internet line that SpaceX is some kind of libertarian commercial success story. It is as much (if not more) a hybrid public/private enterprise as Boeing, Lockheed, etc.

      Next is the approach to reusability. I witnessed an early pitch by SpaceX on what would become the Falcon 9. It was sold as a reliable but low cost expendable booster that would be able to pass crew rating muster (the pitch was to the ISS Visiting Vehicles Team) and be able to fly as many as fifty times per year. That is in line with the track back to the Fastrac. Somewhere along the way that morphed into the current situation.

      That means SpaceX is trying to back drive reusability requirements onto hardware originally meant to be expendable. Maybe they will succeed, but it is a though challenge.

      Blue Origin took the opposite approach. Beginning their hardware design from scratch with reusability requirements included from the start. That takes longer, but is more likely to succeed in the long run.

  • James

    Why was developing the Falcon Family of Launchers set up the way it was?

    “My fifth point is that it is far more preferable to give authority and resources to a small technically qualified team, with minimum oversight, to pursue an approach that takes existing or near-term technology, tests and proves a useful capability, fills-in technology as needed and available, and then improves that capability – while, of course, maintaining a vision of the desired final objective. Some have called this approach, ‘Build a little, test a little.’ I call it, ‘Build, Test, Grow.'”

    And, “Mr. Chairman, ten years ago, the technology was sufficiently mature to undertake serious development of a reusable launch capability, setting the stage for a military spaceplane. We made the initial investment and had a brilliant success with the Clipper Graham. Then we lost our way – more accurately, the Clinton Administration diverted the intended path of that ‘build, test, grow” program.”

    From: ‘ON SPACEPLANES AND X VEHICLES’ Testimony by Henry F. Cooper to the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics Committee on Science October 11, 2001
    At: http://www.tgv-rockets.com/press/cooper_testimony.htm

    Some useful insight as to how to efficiently reduce launcher and spacecraft development costs and perspectives on other related issues and projects, including the the DC-X/Clipper Graham, can be gained from that interesting testimony by Henry F. Cooper, who was “Director of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) during the first Bush Administration”.

  • James

    The SLS Block 1B super heavy-lift launch vehicle uses the “Mammoth” Boosters and an Exploration Upper Stage, and it should be able to put 105 metric tons of payload into LEO.

    Perhaps it is worth considering what might evolve in the future by considering the past.

    “Out of 270 SRBs launched over the Shuttle program, all but four were recovered – those from STS-51-L (last Challenger mission) and STS-4.[3] Over 5,000 parts were refurbished for reuse after each flight. The final set of SRBs that launched STS-135 included parts that flew on 59 previous missions, including STS-1.[4] Recovery also allowed post-flight examination of the boosters,[5] identification of anomalies, and incremental design improvements.”

    From: ‘Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Booster’ at: Wikipedia

    If Orbital ATK and NASA decide at some point that recovering and sometimes reusing the new “Mammoth SLS” Boosters makes good risk reduction and fiscal sense, how might that recovery and potential reuse be done differently then it was done with the Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Boosters?

    Eventually, evolved SLS boosters may no longer make use of the 3.71 m, or 12.17 ft, steel booster casings inherited from the Space Shuttle Program. Instead, the SLS might someday use larger diameter filament-wound casings that nonetheless could weigh much less than the steel casings used with the Space Shuttle’s boosters.

    Weight reductions due to improved material technology could eventually significantly lower the “104 t” to “104.85 t” “Dry Mass (tonnes)” of the previously proposed five segment Ares I first stage.

    Quotes and numbers From: ‘Space Launch Report – Ares I’ by: Ed Kyle Updated: 9/1/2010
    At: http://www.spacelaunchreport.com/ares1.html

    Could there someday be a way that large and heavy boosters or first stages could be air recovered by a very large aircraft and thus avoid parachuting into the ocean or needing to land vertically on a barge?

    “The Walrus HULA (Hybrid Ultra Large Aircraft) project was a DARPA-funded experiment to create an airship capable of traveling up to 12,000 nautical miles (about 22,000 km) in range, while carrying 500-1000 tons of air cargo. In distinct contrast to earlier generation airships, the Walrus HULA would be a heavier-than-air vehicle and would generate lift through a combination of aerodynamics, thrust vectoring, and gas buoyancy generation and management.”

    And, “DARPA said advances in envelope and hull materials, buoyancy and lift control, drag reduction and propulsion combined to make this concept feasible.”

    From: ‘Walrus HULA’ at: Wikipedia

  • […] crew transportation responsibilities to the ISS to commercial providers, it is expected that NASA can focus upon bringing the Space Launch System (SLS) booster to operational status—with a maiden voyage targeted for the fall of 2018—as part of efforts to […]