Senators Urge Quick Action on SLS Decision

Joining last week’s letter from four Senators (Shelby, Cochran, Vitter, Sessions, Wicker), according to AvWeek’s Frank Morring in Senators Disagree On Rocket Approach,

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) joined a group of Republican senators, notably Orrin Hatch of Utah, in an Aug. 2 letter to Bolden and OMB Director Jacob Lew also urging quick action on SLS. But that letter, co-signed by Idaho Republican Sens. Mike Crapo, James Risch, and Dean Heller (R-Nev.), objects to the call for a propulsion competition endorsed by Shelby and the California senators until after initial flight testing with the solid-fuel boosters built by ATK in Utah.

    “We strongly believe conducting a competition earlier in the development of the SLS will only create further delays and cost overruns,” Reid and his Western Senate colleagues wrote. “…[D]uring this period of fiscal austerity, it is irresponsible to spend funds on the development of a new system, such as an enhanced liquid engine, to accomplish what is already possible through existing technology, specifically solid rocket motors.”


  1. I’m not sure what the technological future holds or might allow, but large solid propellant boooters shouldn’t be a part of it. If we are still using million-pound sized solid rockets to launch spacecraft in the year 2100, with the sort of launch procedures and economics we now associate with solids, it will be proof that progress in spaceflight is beyond our attainment — and if that’s the case, maybe we should give up now.

    • It took us a very long time to go from oars to sail, from sail to coal fueled side-wheeler, from coal to oil powered propeller, from oil to nuclear. From the time that Da Vinci first drew a screw propeller until it saw wide use took something on the order of 300 years.

      Perhaps just as Atlantic and Pacific commerce promoted advances in ship propulsion, just regularly going into orbit will do the same for rocket propulsion? Technological breakthroughs come in fits and starts, so who knows, maybe we are due for a technological breakthrough soon in rockets.

      Perhaps the focus shouldn’t be so much about the mode but that we move forward, whether by distance or technology.

      [Updated comment to correct mistake crediting Da Vinci, not Michelangelo, who drew screw propeller.]

  2. I agree. Right now in the world of huge budget constraints, it makes the most sense to work with what we have, and what works best right now (both economically and in terms of thrust per pound) is solids. We can’t just stop and wait for new technology to develop. Technology breakthroughs are based on need, not just a desire for something better. I agree that we need to move beyond our current infrastructure, but we are not quite there yet, so instead of NASA digging in their heels, they need to give the green light to go ahead with what we have.

    BTW, wasn’t it Da Vinci that drew the screw propeller?:)

Fourth Year of U.S. Space Competitiveness Decline

On @ The 90 – Death by Politics