Artemis Updates

Integrated Lunar Lander at Shackleton Crater. Image: NASA

We are returning to the Moon by 2024, declared Vice-President Mike Pence in a March 26th announcement and the program, NASA Administrator Bridenstine announced on May 13th will be called Project Artemis.

But, unlike previous efforts to return to the Moon that required years of development and construction of elements before actually flying, making them in reality dead-on-arrival, NASA and its contractors are today fortunately well along in building flight hardware for Artemis 1, our first lunar orbit mission, and until recently known as Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), as well as for Artemis 2, formerly Exploration Mission-2 (EM-2). Congress‘ consistency in pursuing space policy goals and supporting authorization law over the last 14 years, starting with the NASA Authorization Act of 20051 and continuing through 20082, 20103, and 20174, as well as annual appropriations from 2011 through 2019, has ensured that, as stated in the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, “…[the] United State government has its own transportation to access space”5 in order to, as reaffirmed in the National Aeronautics And Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017, promote its “…leadership in the exploration and utilization of space….”6

One thing missing from NASA’s current line-up to return astronauts to the Moon is a lander. To address this, NASA’s Human Landing System (HLS) was announced on April 26, 2019 with a solicitation for contractors to develop “…a Human Landing System (HLS) [as a] complete integrated lander….”. According to the announcement, the HLS is to consist of three parts; a Descent Element; an Ascent Element; a Transfer Element.

NextSTEP-2 Appendix-H Draft BAA, p. 26
NextSTEP-2 Appendix-H BAA 08-30-2019

Buried in NASA’s NextSTEP-2 BAA Draft Appendix-H Virtual Industry Forum on July 23, 2019 (Pages 26, 35), and found as recently as an updated NextSTEP-2 Appendix H: Human Landing System DRAFT Broad Agency Announcement August 30, 2019 (Page 30, Sec. 4.3.3.6.4 Launch Operations), is the mandate that only commercial launchers could be used to deliver the mission-critical proposed lunar lander to Gateway.

That only commercial launchers would be allowed for launching mission critical, expensive lunar lander hardware was unexpected, arrived with no prior communication between NASA and the aerospace community about whether such an exclusive mandate of commercial launchers was even a rational idea, and caught many in the aerospace community, not to mention Congress, by surprise. Those in the aerospace community planning for future exploration of the Moon and beyond had expected that, “[t]he role of [the Space Launch System] in the [exploration] architecture is to transport items of extremely high value, including crew members and expensive integrated systems.”,7 at least until NASA’s Appendix-H BAA Draft landed. Because SLS is the only rocket capable of launching large elements, like an integrated lunar lander, there was a general assumption within the aerospace community that it would the default launcher for beyond-Earth exploration missions. When Congress balked at HLS’s commercial launcher mandate, NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) Directorate claimed that the mandated use of commercial launchers is because, according to NASA studies, SLS production would not be able to keep up with demand. HEO promised to provide to Congress those studies justifying this claim, yet like an always sought-after but never seen snipe, such reports have yet to surface.

Several aerospace companies working on lander concepts for NASA’s future lunar surface activities had set their sights on single-stage, reusable landers that would act as testing grounds for developing and maturing technology needed to take astronauts to Mars, such as Lockheed Martin’s MADV, proposed in 2017. For example, on October 3, 2018 Lockheed Martin’s released a proposal for a single-stage crewed lunar lander.

Lockheed Martin’’s crewed single-stage lunar lander concept on the surface of the Moon. Image: Lockheed Martin

In the accompanying white paper, Concept for a Crewed Lunar Lander Operating from the Lunar Orbiting Platform-Gateway, Lockheed Martin engineers describe in-depth their crewed lander as a fully reusable system that would incorporate flight-proven technologies and systems from NASA’s Orion spacecraft and have a dry, or empty, mass of 48,500 lbs (22MT). The Lockheed Martin engineers, acknowledging that, “Lunar lander missions and lunar exploration systems cannot simply become a point solution for the Moon…,”7, make the case for their single-stage, reusable lander as a building block towards future Mars vehicles that would be eventually tested on the Moon. According to Lockheed Martin, after NASA’s Appendix-H BAA Draft was released, that concept was shelved because the weight was far in excess of what any launcher, other than SLS, could launch to the Moon.

NASA’s Appendix-H BAA Draft not withstanding, launching “extremely high-value items, including crew members and expensive integrated systems” on some variant of SLS because, to state the obvious, NASA, the agency leading the charge to return to the Moon as a stepping stone to exploring Mars, is the owner, if you will, of SLS. One would think that the space agency would therefore want to amortize the development costs by using its own launcher for delivering extremely high value, expensive integrated systems, like a lunar lander. Additionally, crew-rating means reduced risk. The payload capabilities of the cargo variants of SLS range from 48,500 lbs (26MT) to nearly 100,000 lbs (45MT) respectively and therefore can transport heavy cargo of extremely high value, such as 48,500 lbs (22MT) single-stage lunar lander, in a single launch, unlike any other launcher available.

Commercial launcher lunar payload capabilities span from approximately 22,000 lbs (10MT) to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy expendable version’s 33,000 lbs (15MT), although it has only actually delivered the 14,771 lbs (6.7MT) Intelsat 35e to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO).

LauncherTLI/Lunar Payload Capacity
Falcon Heavy15 MT
New Glenn12 MT
SLS Block 1A26 MT
SLS Block 1B37 MT
SLS Block 245 MT
SLS TLI/Moon Lift Capabilities. Image: NASA

Whether the payload capability of commercial launchers to inject a payload onto a trajectory to the Moon is 11 tons (10MT) or 16.5 tons (15MT), there is still the niggling issue of getting the payload into orbit about the Moon and rendezvousing with Gateway. Recall that the two-person Apollo Lunar Module had a fueled mass of between 33,500 to 36,200 lbs (15.2MT to 16.4MT) upon arrival at its orbit of just 66 miles (100 km) above the Moon’s surface. Any Artemis lander arriving at the Moon will still need to rendezvous with Gateway, which will be in a near rectilinear halo orbit (NRHO). Orbit insertion into Gateway’s expected NRHO, likely ranging from 940 miles (1,514 km) to 43,037 miles (69,262 km) above the Moon’s surface, only requires a change of velocity, or delta-V, penalty of about 480 mph (215 m/s) penalty.

But there is a delta-V penalty none-the-less. And that means cargo sent to the Moon cannot be dry, or unfueled. Even a lightly “wet”, or fueled lander element means that the wet mass will move-out, or trade against, dry mass, which consists primarily of structural and tankage mass. Think ever smaller lunar lander elements and the accompanying diminished ability to host astronauts on the lunar surface, which means reduced science capabilities.

Lastly, there is nothing in the history of aerospace, or any other industry for that matter, that would give one the impression that cutting-up integrated system, driven by an unexpected reduction in transportation capability, results in time-savings, lower-costs, reduced risk, or any other good outcome. Even assuming that the lunar lander concepts that contractors have previously worked on can now be divvied-up into sufficiently small enough pieces so as not to exceed the limited payload capacity of commercial launchers, there are now other risks. For one, if one of the commercial launches of the lunar lander elements has an “event”, so much for that mission and the HSL elements already stationed at Gateway and boiling-off their cryogenic fuel. Taking a lesson from our last, and only, lunar program, during the Apollo program, NASA didn’t try to break-up the Apollo lunar lander module so a smaller launcher, say a Titan or Saturn 1B, could launch it to the Moon, but developed a launcher appropriate to the task. Congress has done that with SLS.

Yet, some would say that while there are risks and obvious payload inconveniences to using commercial launchers, the cost of doing so must out weight, or at least balance, those negatives. Though shocking it may be, the truth is that the commercial launcher route is not the money-saver that so many assume. Take the Falcon Heavy, which is, to state the obvious, the “heavy-hitter”, at 16.5 tons (15MT) when it comes to commercial launchers, and thus the likely choice for most HLS contractors searching for a commercial launch option. In a Tweet on February 12, 2018, Elon Musk disclosed a cost of $150 per FH expendable.

SpaceX also claims that Falcon Heavy can deliver 16.5 tons (15MT) to the Moon, which makes the cost per kilogram $10K/kg. But this claim must be taken with some serious reservations.

Past experience with Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contracts has shown that initial pricing quotes on commercial resupply launches by SpaceX can in subsequent contracts grow substantially while claimed cargo to be launched might experience underperformance. Between CRS-1 and CRS-2, cost, and therefore cost per kg, grew 50% for SpaceX, as detailed in NASA OIG Report IG-18-016. This means that SpaceX’s initial CRS-1 cost-per-mass grew from $80K/kg, as detailed in NASA OIG Report IG-13-016, to approximately $120K/kg for CRS-2. Strikingly, this price jump occurred despite SpaceX transitioning into reusability of its Cargo Dragon and Falcon 9. SpaceX’s cost growth was an outlier; between CRS-1 and CRS-2 Orbital Sciences’ prices actually decreased for its expendable Cygnus cargo vehicle and Antares rocket.

SpaceX Cargo Dragon Approaching ISS, May 25, 2012. Photo: NASA

What’s more, in IG-13-016 report, the NASA OIG reported that Orbital Sciences claimed it would carry 2,700 kg while SpaceX claimed 2,500 kg per launch. Subsequently, in IG-18-016, NASA’s OIG reported that, “…Orbital ATK averaged 2,723 kg and SpaceX averaging 1,569 kg of pressurized upmass for last CRS-1 missions through 2017.” NASA’s OIG, in explaining SpaceX’s cost growth, wrote in IG-18-016 that SpaceX, “…indicated that their CRS-2 pricing reflected a better understanding of the costs involved after several years of experience with cargo resupply missions”. Yet, Orbital Sciences seemed more than capable in 2008 in understanding costs involved in launching cargo to ISS without needing years of experience. In any case, it is not unreasonable to worry that SpaceX’s claims that it can launch 16.5 tons (15MT) at $150M to the Moon will experience pricing increases and payload underperformance once the company has, “…a better understanding of the costs involved after several years of experience….”

All of this is to show that a 25%-50% cost increase of the currently quoted $150M for an expendable Falcon Heavy could actually occur and raise the price to $188M-$225M. It will take, at a minimum, three FH launchers to deliver into lunar orbit the same cargo mass as one SLS 1B. A cost increase of 25%-50% would mean that the total cost for delivering the lunar lander elements with three launches of the Falcon Heavy, the commercial launcher with the highest, if 16.5 tons (15MT) can be considered high, payload capacity, could grow from $450M to $563M-$675M. Lastly, it bears mentioning SpaceX’s history over the last four years of anomalies8 and its over-promises and under-deliveries in commercial cargo and crew9 might not exactly inspire great confidence that its entry into new endeavors, such as lunar cargo delivery, will be without occasional hiccups, ergo increased risk.

But isn’t that steep price much cheaper than the costs for an SLS that is bandied-about on the Twittersphere? In truth, the marginal cost for a dedicated cargo SLS 1A, which could launch all three HLS elements together, as a government funded equipment (GFE) rocket is $450M, according to a cost estimate that NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Directorate (HEO) provided to NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) for the Europa Clipper launch. At the very least, SLS is price competitive with the Falcon Heavy.

Orbital ATK Cygnus Approaches ISS, December 09, 2015. Photo: NASA

It was Congress that created, and for 9 years consistently maintained, our nation’s capabilities–Orion, SLS. and Ground Systems–that today enable a lunar exploration program to begin in the near future. As in 2010, it now seems that it is up to Congress to fix another situation created by NASA headquarters. One quick remedy would be to send NASA’s HEO, and in particular its Human Lunar Exploration Programs office, back to the drawing board.

Fundamentally, it begs the question of why solicitation authoring and management, as well as source selection, does not rest with the actual person tasked with managing the Human Landing Systems program, Lisa Watson-Morgan. Instead, according to the NASA NextSTEP-2 Omnibus BAA Amendment document (p. 17 Sec. 5.3), source selection currently rests with the Director for the Advanced Exploration Systems Division for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, located at NASA headquarters. That should change. After all, with great fanfare, on August 16th, NASA Administrator Bridenstine announced that Marshall Space Flight Center would host the Human Landing System (HLS) Program office, with Lisa Watson-Morgan named its head. She, and her team, are closest to the problem, contractors, and the technology and should be given free reign to select awards and manage the HLS, just as John Honeycutt, SLS program manager, and Mark Kirasich, Orion program manager, do.

Another remedy would be to allow the contractors the freedom to develop their lander concepts free of any mandates regarding launcher, whether commercial or SLS. It is reasonable to expect that contractors developing lander proposals are fully capable of choosing the best launcher to meet their needs. It should go without saying that, by mandating the use of any launcher, commercial or otherwise, NASA headquarters is dictating the launcher technology first, which forces the contractors to back-up their lander design to meet that mandate. That is putting things backwards and is antithetical to Steve Jobs’ point that the user experience, or product, not technology, should come first. Stipulating commercial launchers handcuffs contractors as they work to develop lunar lander concepts that not only safely deliver astronauts to the Moon’s surface but also build hardware and software experience useful for later exploration of the beyond.

Lastly, should a contractor’s proposal include SLS to deliver the lunar lander payload to Gateway, it should be NASA, not the contractor, that acquires the launcher since the space agency owns the SLS program. Otherwise, contractors will face a multi-year process of dealing directly with a medusa of SLS contractors needed to “buy” an SLS, making the freedom to choose the launcher a mere charade.

NASA headquarters has a not-so-distant history of making dramatic changes to programs without first consulting with industry and others in the aerospace community. It is hard to fathom how NASA’s mandate handcuffing HLS contractors to less performant and more risky commercial launchers, rather than at the very least allowing them the freedom to let their lander design dictate the launcher, promotes and motivates developments enabling the U.S. to send astronauts to Mars and beyond. Rather, one can make the case that such a mandate instead makes the HLS program barely more than a one-off lunar program. In today’s vernacular, the mandate would be considered a bug, not a feature.

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  1. NASA Authorization Act of 2005, Title I, Sec. 101, (b) (PL 109-155; 42 USC 16611) ↩︎
  2. NASA Authorization Act of 2008, Title IV, Sec. 402 (1), Sec. 403 (PL 110–422; 42 USC 17731) ↩︎
  3. NASA Authorization Act of 2010, Title III, Sec 301 (PL 111-267; 42 USC 18321) ↩︎
  4. NASA Transition Authorization Act Of 2017, (PL 115-10; 131 STAT. 21 ↩︎
  5. “While commercial transportation systems have the promise to contribute valuable services, it is in the United States national interest to maintain a government operated space transportation system for crew and cargo delivery to space.”, NASA Authorization Act of 2010, Sec 2 (9) (PL 111-267; 124 STAT. 2808; 42 USC 18301 (9)) ↩︎
  6. “In order to ensure continuous United States participation and leadership in the exploration and utilization of space and as an essential instrument of national security, it is the policy of the United States to maintain an uninterrupted capability for human space flight and operations”, NASA Transition Authorization Act Of 2017 (PL 115-10; 131 STAT. 35; 51 USC 50101 ↩︎
  7. Concept for a Crewed Lunar Lander Operating from the Lunar Orbiting Platform-Gateway (page 4) ↩︎
  8. SpX-7 (June 28, 2015), Amos-6 (September 1, 2016), Crew Dragon abort test explosion (April 20, 2019), Crew Dragon parachute test failure (spring 2019) ↩︎
  9. Gwynne Shotwell testimony before Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee, March 25, 2010, “SpaceX firmly believes that we can get astronauts to the International Space Station within three years of contract award largely based on the fact that our Dragon capsule was designed from the inception to carry crew with minor upgrades from our cargo vehicle.”(1:44-2:00) ↩︎

12 comments to Artemis Updates

  • john hare

    I agree there are a number of things about SpaceX that are questionable. Even supporters are not happy with the all SpaceX all the time recommendations of some fans. I also agree that the people in the field need to be able to choose systems and suppliers based on ground truth and not political votes. A lot of critical decisions should be made by the people busting their knuckles on the hardware.

    There are a number of slants in this article though. Marginal cost of an SLS against full price of competing vehicles ignores total program costs. Risks of orbital rendezvous are overstated, while orbital refueling is ignored . Risks of depending on a vehicle years from flight that will have little flight history before critical missions. Some of the reasoning based on upgrades many years from implementation.

    It will be interesting to see how this all plays out in the next few years. Especially if any of the commercial companies hit a real launch stride.

    • Jim Hillhouse

      John,

      This isn’t about liking, or not, SpaceX. For the HLS article, regarding comparing launch costs of cargo, here’s what I should have pointed out:

      First, to rehash a bit…two IOG reports, IG-13-016 and IG-18-016, pretty much say that SpaceX will over-promise and under-deliver. Comparing the reports shows that SpaceX delivered only 65% of pressurized cargo that it had estimated it would. During the CRS-1 contract period, it had a rocket blow-up, twice. SpaceX increased prices from CRS-1 to CRS-2 by 50% even as it transitioned Dragon and F9 into reusable systems, which should have improved its profit margins (but apparently didn’t by enough). By its own words, SpaceX said the price increases were because it didn’t understand the problem space of launching cargo to ISS. Obital ATK actually reduced its prices from CRS-1 to CRS-2. This is the company whose launcher HLS contractors will be all-but-forced to use.

      Here’s what I should have added.

      Based on IG-13-016 and IG-18-016, the cost per kg for SpaceX in CRS-1 started at $80K/kg ($1.6B/20MT) and for CRS-2 increased 50% to $120K/kg. The dream of commercial space was that payload costs would go down, not increase.

      Most importantly…

      SpaceX claims a FH can deliver 15MT at $150M, making the claimed cost per kg $10K/kg. What a deal!

      But the CRS numbers tell a far different story; that the likely cost for an FH expendable to launch 15MT is far, far higher. Based on CRS history, more like $1.2B (@$80K/kg) to $1.8B (@$120K/kg). And that’s just one FH lunar launch. And if 3 are needed?

      SpaceX would say that costs won’t be nearly so high in the case for lunar lander element launches. Well…ok.

      So, how do cargo prices drop to $10K/kg, a factor of 8 to 12, if delivering cargo on an expendable FH 390,000 kg to Gateway vs 300 km to ISS on a reusable F9/Dragon?

      This is why I wrote that an SLS is price competitive with a Falcon Heavy.

      If you have numbers that paint a better picture for SpaceX, I can talk to you on or off-line, whichever you prefer.

      Today’sHouse Space & Aeronautics Sbcmte hearing was full of interesting news.

      https://science.house.gov/hearings/developing-core-capabilities-for-deep-space-exploration-an-update-on-nasas-sls-orion-and-exploration-ground-systems

      Bowersox repeated what NASA said to House Space Sbcmte members and staffers in August, that the mandate of commercial launchers was needed for two main reasons:
      a) SLS Core Stages can only be produced and launched once every two years. But later, Bowersox walked that back a bit and instead said NASA is in the process of working on that.
      b) Most importanlty, in August NASA said it had trade studies justifying its mandate.

      Note: Members and Sbcmte staff requested a copy of that study, which has yet to arrive. Chair Horn pretty pointedly asked for it again.

      Regarding the study supporting the HLS commercial launcher mandate, he said:
      i) The HLS commercial launcher mandate is justified based on a study.
      ii) Later that became a paper.
      iii) And shortly thereafter, that became a “metric”.
      iv) He hadn’t really seen it but was told about it. He wasn’t joking.
      Cooke made a very good case that the HLS solicitation, as currently written, is dooming HLS to greatly increased mission risk, increase costs, and delays.
      a) There is no way a pieces-parts lander is easier and cheaper to make, test, launch, dock, and fuel than a single integrated lander.
      b) LOX/LH2 landers, if they can get fueled and assembled in orbit, will have small diameter descent module (5.2 m vs 8.5 m on SLS) these be taller meaning a high CG and thus face limitations on lander stability.
      c) If contractors use hypergolic to shrink the size, then one big justification for returning to the Moon–to process use lunar water ice–is moot.
      d) Docking lander elements means more places for things to go wrong and more weight, for such things as docking and other interface structures.
      e) He wasn’t surprised former NASA Dep. Admin. Garver wanted to shut-down NASA’s space exploration and turn it into an environmental outfit.

      Contractors have made it abundantly clear to Congress that they are very, very unhappy with what is going on with HLS. They imagined integrated, single-stage landers launching on an SLS 1A or 1B that would form the basis for future martian landers. Now that won’t happen. And this one, frankly idiot, move in HLS might just be the straw that will break the camel’s back on a 2024 landing. I’m hearing that maybe it’s just better to go back to the 2028 plan, kill the HLS proposal, get an authorization bill that will tell NASA what and how to do it (bc it obviously can’t itself), and start-over. We’ll know when the CR comes out. The dye will be cast when the Senate CJS Approps Sbcmte markup is done. If the $1.6B is in the Senate CJS bill, that doesn’t mean that Rep. Serrano’s House CJS Sbcmte will support it.

      Bridenstine could fix this in an instant. But he hasn’t. He’s just coming-out of the Commercial Daze.

      I didn’t hit SpaceX nearly as hard as I could. Not nearly.

      I’ll give SpaceX credit for what it has accomplished in rocket reusability, just as I do Blue Origin.

      • john hare

        Probably the largest issue is the definition of commercial. To me, commercial is pay on delivery. Paying commercial firms to develop the vehicle and then buying rides is not what I call commercial. Your launch bid is $150M for 15T in Lunar transfer orbit, deliver or STFU. That’s how I see commercial.That is also my issue with the way “commercial” delivery is to ISS.

        When I underbid or make a mistake on a job such that I’m losing money, it’s tough sh.., complete it or don’t get paid. So possibly on that aspect, we wouldn’t be that far apart in a face to face discussion.

        It still remains that SLS is a politically driven architecture that is taking far too many resources and too much time to produce results. All other things being equal, launching in a single piece is better. All other things are not equal. Atlas V and Delta IV were available before all this started and could have been had for near marginal costs as the AF was carrying the main burden. For the resources spent on SLS to date, dozens of missions could have been flying starting well over a decade ago. Docking a lander to an orbiter or a booster to an outer planets explorer is just not that difficult

        • I would certainly agree that with “commercial”, we should be using pay-on-delivery. No complaints from me on that front, at all. I would add that this is attractive because it forces the companies to raise money from investors, as is done everywhere else other than government, to generate the needed cash for executing on a contract. Doing so would certainly weed-out the doers from the non.

          Yes, SLS is politically driven. In the 2nd paragraph, I have a footnote (5), to that point. Here’s the full test from the 2010 Auth Act (PL 110-267),

          “While commercial transportation systems have the promise to contribute valuable services, it is in the United States national interest to maintain a government operated space transportation system for crew and cargo delivery to space.”, NASA Authorization Act of 2010, Sec 2 (9) (PL 111-267; 124 STAT. 2808; 42 USC 18301 (9))

          If you read Doug Cooke’s opening statement for today’s hearing, he’s pretty clear about that, having been NASA AA at the time. But he does make a couple of good points. And best of all, his statement isn’t some gaggle of meaningless words like most statement are–the guy put in charts and graphs!

          For a short-term, you’re right; D-IV-H and Atlas V would have worked. For lunar exploration, that is. But not for beyond-Earth-Moon. The delta-V of ~11.13 km/s, where the C3 needs to be greater than 0 to go anywhere relative to the heliocentric system, is just too much to leave much of a payload, especially for crewed. SLS is meant to compact the number of launches and be safe.

          Yes, assuming chemical propulsion, we could assemble in LEO and then pop 11.13 km/s and go. But if you experience an Apollo 13 issue, even before you fly-by the Moon, you might not be able to “turn-around”. However, launching such a mission from the much shallower lunar gravity well means you only expend a meager 1 – 3 km/s, depending upon orbital altitude and other factors. Lunar departure allows for, depending on the spacecraft’s margins, emergency abort. Having an orbiting lunar station means a place to stop once the lunar transfer vehicle is out of most of Earth’s gravity well.

          If using electric propulsion, you’d need to spiral out of Earth’s gravity well, which last I saw would take 3-6 months and would bake the spacecraft, so it has its own risks. And this might have the ability to still abort, much as a lunar departure would.

          And yes, SLS is a jobs program. And given the difficulties that have been experienced, not only by NASA but by SpaceX, in building rockets, it sometimes feels like the U.S. is where it was in the 1960’s in building launchers. We need more people in the field. And to its credit, NASA is spending money at local community colleges located near centers, including MAF, to build back up the knowledge our grandparents and, in my case parents, had when they finished Apollo. This may have its own industrial payback benefiting the country, just as did Apollo.

          • john hare

            I’m going to leave it alone as my reply would be perceived as SLS bashing, possibly leading to another flamefest. We don’t need another 15 rounds of that when the next few years will answer all the questions in play.

          • Jeff Wright

            Thank you for what you do. Too many SLS haters.

      • Tom D Perkins

        ” SpaceX claims a FH can deliver 15MT at $150M, making the claimed cost per kg $10K/kg. What a deal! ” <– It is a deal, and they will deliver.

        Note that it is not the standard, delivering the cargo, which you are actually holding them to. You are acting as if they can keep NASA happy with hem merely delivering the goods. NASA requires paperwork which will drastically increase that cost and price. That fact is no knock against SpaceX, but on NASA and the people cutting checks to them.

        • After reading the NASA OIG reports about how SpaceX’s cost for shipping cargo 300 km to ISS during CRS-1 ($80,000/km), documented in IG-13-016, grew 50% ($120,000/kg) for CRS-2, documented in IG-18-016, you claim that the cause for cost growth and high payload cost is paperwork?

          A few questions:

          1. Just to be clear, your basis for believing that SpaceX can deliver cargo 390,000km to the Moon for $10,000/kg is based on there won’t be as much paperwork?

          2. In the above two reports, where do you see cost growth of 50% by SpaceX was due to “paperwork”?

          3. When shipping mission-critical hardware to the Moon, in which billions might be wasted on a blown mission should SpaceX have another one of its “anomalies”, why do you think there’s going to be less paperwork than there is for sending cargo to ISS?

          • Tom D Perkins

            ” you claim that the cause for cost growth and high payload cost is paperwork? ” <– Off course. That’s all it can be.

            1) I know SpaceX will be able to loft material to LEO for between $25 and $250/lb with the BFR related systems, and most likely in the range $35~$75/lb. Lifting several tankers worth of fuel to permit two-way Lunar traffic will not succeed in raising the cost per pound of that cargo above $1000/lb as an extreme and unrealistic high estimate, never mind your mooted $4,500/lb.

            2) I’m not such an idiot as some as to think SpaceX’s costs for commercial launches have declined per pound able to be launched with respect to inflation while simultaneously the cost for working for NASA alone on the basis of the same launch hardware has a cost which has increased. The increased cost over and above even what was already considered by them, of working with NASA, is all that remains to explain it. Whether the OIG chooses to recognize that is beside the point, isn’t it?

            3) The SLS costs so much that safety and proper testing cannot be afforded for it and neither can be afforded cargo for it to lift–witness the serious suggestion made of avoiding even one “green run”–and it is discarded so no examination of what margins are present can be made post-launch either. It can not be as safe a vehicles as SpaceX can provide. Because SpaceX’s vehicles have fewer “anomalies” than most launch provider’s vehicles, to bring it up is either a red herring used by you as propaganda–on the presumption you will fool readers who are ignorant of space launch history–or you showing quite a drastic stupidity, an area of discussion where you have abandoned reason and facts.

            I know there will be no NASA type paperwork in the decades hence with respect to space travel because the economics and politics of transfer payments will force the United States government to abandon the then last 70 years of business as usual in paying for access to space, if not more soon even than that. That NASA may be able for a few more years to insist on business as usual with respect to the ISS…

            …but the costs its own procedures and peccadilloes require it to bear while doing so, while commercial costs continue to decrease drastically, that will prove my point rather than yours going forward.

  • jacob t Haap

    SLS has been a ” Pork” rocket from the beginning ! Artemis..is just another ” Pork” add-on…It’s a rocket to no-where and all that money should be funneled into Space X and the Star-Ship. NASA isn’t the can-do organization it once was….Make Space X the new NASA before it’s too late !

  • Frank Monahan

    Unless congress increases the budget for NASA, they’re getting nowhere by 2024. Almost 10% of the schedule (assuming a landing by 12/31/2024) has already transpired and NASA has received no increase in funding. Congress is working on a CR through November 2019 to avoid a government shutdown and the CR contains no anomalies which would be needed to provide NASA a funding increase. In fact, NASA is forcing downsizing on their field center engineering directorates, which would seem to fly in the face of logic if NASA is going to develop these systems in time.

  • Augustine Philemon Baker

    The cost for manufacturing SLS might be reduced by stream-lining the production of SRB’s (moving Northrup Grumman capabilities to Aerojet Rocketdyne in exchange for purchase order compensation (potential spacecraft to be built by Northrup Grumman: asteroid mining craft, field survey satellites, communication satellites, industrial and modular units for torus hub assembly, etc.)

    The key to economizing and scaling the aerospace industry is finding, identifying, growing, developing market awareness and expediting/boot-strapping/catalyzing private competition for in situ space resources. Thus, the SLS cost can and will go down so long as the space-craft and infrastructure which are needed for the next stage of Inter-Stellar economic development are purchased in advance of SLS rocket production.

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