Congress, NASA, White House

WSJ op-ed calls on the President to kill the SLS

In an essay in Monday’s issue of the Wall Street Journal, Robert Walker and Charles Miller make a pitch to President Obama: complete the job he started in his first term in handing over space transportation entirely in the private sector. “Just as the government does not design or build automobiles, ships, trains or airplanes, NASA should not be designing, building or launching rockets to go to low Earth orbit,” they argue.

Specifically, they want the President to kill the Space Launch System, the heavy-lift rocket that emerged from the 2010 compromise about the administration’s policy, saying that those launches should be turned over to the private sector. “The U.S. private space industry has now succeeded beyond the imagination of most politicians,” they argue, citing successes with the commercial cargo and the fact that private industry actually has more experience in developing new rockets (Atlas 5, Delta 4, Falcon 9) than NASA. A “full privatization” of space transportation would make American industry more competitive, reduce costs for the DOD and NASA, and allow the space agency to focus more on cutting-edge technologies, they claim.

“Why spend approximately $20 billion to build an unneeded SLS super-heavy-lift rocket, for instance, when existing commercial rockets can carry payloads more often, efficiently and cheaply?” they ask near the end of the op-ed. One issue, of course, is that the SLS will launch payloads heavier than any existing commercial rocket. (That could be mitigated though multiple-launch architectures and the development of propellant depots, although Walker and Miller don’t go into that level of detail in the piece.) The other, bigger issue, is the political fight that would ensue if President Obama decided to cancel the SLS, upending the existing compromise reached in 2010 that includes support for SLS as well as commercial crew. Would the White House, dealing with bigger issues from the “fiscal cliff” to gun control, be willing to spend the political capital needed to push through Congress what Walker and Miller propose?

164 comments to WSJ op-ed calls on the President to kill the SLS

  • Mark R. Whittington

    SLS is unneeded only if one concludes that human space exploration is unneeded. The Internet Rocketeer Club has never offered a coherent alternative. Sadly, Robert Walker, a former member of Congress, ought to have known better than to offer this disastrous proposal.

    • Mark. I know you aren’t that ignorant merely from the standpoint that I and many others have shown links to you for the relevant studies from NASA, industry and academia over and over again that indicate human exploration can actually be done more easily without SLS. What I and others can’t understand is, what is the reason for the purposeful selective memory act? You aren’t doing the space program or the future of your country in space any favors with that attitude.

      • Mark R. Whittington

        Rick, logic alone suggests that any architecture that requires nine launches for every asteroid mission and four for every lunar mission (no one has suggested doing Mars without heavy lift) is simply unworkable and unsustainable. I’ve read the studies too and have talked to people with expertise who have suggested to me that until we access extraterrestrial sources of fuel, refueling depots are unworkable and likely more expensive than heavy lift. Heavy lift plus off planet fuel depots would be the the way to go.

        • JimNobles

          Heavy lift plus off planet fuel depots would be the the way to go.

          Do you feel that SLS, as currently envisioned, would fulfill the heavy lift role in this scenario?

        • Yes, Mark, as has been repeatly pointed out to you, under the old paradygm of doing things “logic alone suggests that any architecture that requires nine launches for every asteroid mission and four for every lunar mission (no one has suggested doing Mars without heavy lift) is simply unworkable and unsustainable.” is indeed the case. But that is only true if launches continue at their historically high prices. For instance, heavy-lift does not necessarily equal SLS and you know it! ULA has quoted HLV development with a payload equal to SLS Block II of $5.5 billion to NASA, SpaceX has quoted $2.5 billion for one with 20 metric tons more payload than SLS block II, both together would be far less than the most optimistc projections for SLS development.

          Why not let NASA use the difference to develop depot technology and sophistated deep spacecraft? We’ve been building launchers to put things in space for a half a century, why do you want to insult NASA’s capabilties by having them reinvent the wheel yet again when private industry can now do it cheaper? Shouldn’t NASA be doing the truly advanced cutting-edge stuff instead? Again, why the selective memory?

          Have you given any thought to the time, sometime in the future, when books, articles and papers will be written about this debate concerning the freeing of NASA’s innovative capabilities through a handover of the launch aspect to the commercial market? Do you not realize how ridiculous your positions in your many articles up to this point are going to look? You could show some mental flexibility and maybe get some admiration from future generations by turning yourself around rather than end up being a laughable foot-note in some historian’s chronology. Both you and I will probably be foot-notes at best, but the least we can do is make sure that our footnotes show us as being on the right side.

          • Fred Willett

            Actually the FISO group published a Mars program modelled arounda 50t max lift capability. A capability that is easily within reach of an evolved Delta IV Heavy, and, of course the Falcon Heavy.

            • Fred, I actually agree with you. But my point was that even if you accept a launcher with SLS’s payload capacity as a necessity, then SLS is still a turkey compared to other super HLV possibilities.

        • Dark Blue Nine

          “any architecture that requires nine launches for every asteroid mission and four for every lunar mission… is simply unworkable and unsustainable… until we access extraterrestrial sources of fuel, refueling depots are unworkable and likely more expensive than heavy lift.”

          This is a flat out lie. Multiple studies like these below concluded the exact opposite — that forgoing the billions of dollars required for new heavy lift development and the high expense of heavy lift operations allowed lunar and asteroid architectures to be fielded for much less and much sooner:

          http://images.spaceref.com/news/2011/F9Prop.Depot.pdf

          http://www.ulalaunch.com/site/docs/publications/AffordableExplorationArchitecture2009.pdf

          http://goldenspikecompany.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/French-et-al.-Architecture-Paper-in-AIAA-Journal-of-Spacecraft-and-Rockets.pdf

          “I’ve read the studies too and have talked to people with expertise…”

          Read studies where? Talked to whom?

          Your Internet Rocketeer Club?

          • Hi Dark Blue Nine,
            I totally agree with you. But you haven’t been around and long as some of the rest of us and don’t know that most of the links you are pointing out to Mark in your comment above and your comment below, have been given him numerous times. It sometimes like seems ad infinitum, ad nauseum. He will continue to behave as though he never heard of them.

            • Dyslexia! Should be “seems like” instead of “like seems” in the above comment. :)

            • Dark Blue Nine

              “Hi Dark Blue Nine,
              I totally agree with you. But you haven’t been around and long as some of the rest of us and don’t know that most of the links you are pointing out to Mark in your comment above and your comment below, have been given him numerous times. It sometimes like seems ad infinitum, ad nauseum. He will continue to behave as though he never heard of them.”

              I’ve posted on this forum for years and know Whittington to be an inveterate liar. These kinds of lies should still be refuted with evidence.

              • Bennett In Vermont (@BennettVermont)

                At 8:12 pm Dark Blue Nine wrote “I’ve posted on this forum for years “

                Yes, but not as “Dark Blue Nine”.

                Was “Major Tom” your handle up ’till about 12 months ago?

                You can’t have it both ways you know. Either you have the history and all it entails, or you have a new start. Not that you needed a new start, Major Tom had bucket loads of respect from all of us old timers…

              • Dark Blue Nine

                @Bennett

                Yes, I’m “Major Tom”. Same poster.

        • Ferris Valyn

          The reality is not Heavy Lift vs Propellant Depots/distributed lift. Both are viable options.

          The reality is whether you go a commercial route, or a non-commercial route. Multiple papers exist that talk about how to grow a commercial launch vehicle (most likely options are Atlas V or Falcon 9) into an HLV that would be cost effective. And don’t think for a moment that there isn’t a non-commercial option for propellant depots.

          The success of the propellant depot comes in part BECAUSE it of commercial spaceflight.

        • libs0n

          “any architecture that requires nine launches for every asteroid mission and four for every lunar mission (no one has suggested doing Mars without heavy lift) is simply unworkable and unsustainable.”

          Medium lift launchers cost less so that you can afford more of them in relation to a single SLS, or the SLS program costs. Many dozens of such launchers have already been launched by ULA’s EELV fleet since they became operational, representing many moon missions worth of launch already occurred. Domestic launchers already launch at a frequency that put lie to your beliefs. Foreign launchers launch at a rate that even exceeds that, so I believe American industry can as well. SpaceX’s offerings will increase the domestic launch frequency even more. Go tell ULA and SpaceX that their launch manifests are unworkable and unsustainable.

          ISS was assembled with over two dozen launches and receives many new launches every year, and more to come. According to you this is impossible. So more proof that you’re wrong.

    • Guest

      Actually, Mark, I just did. Lunar Direct. It goes live on Valentine’s day. Lucky for you it saves your beloved SLS if that’s what the powers that be decide they want to do. You don’t need humans to land on the moon and explore and process regolith, and you don’t need humans to rendezvous with asteroids and explore their content and return it. You don’t need a large expendable heavy lift launch vehicle either, but, and here is the catch, if you want to develop the moon and the asteroids, then a large reusable heavy lift launch vehicle can do the job in a big way that astronauts simply can’t, but in a way that is astronaut friendly as well. This is why Obama wanted a five year delay on this thing, to get the propulsion and approaches to this endeavor sorted out. Consider it sorted out. Now you need to make some very hard decisions.

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “The Internet Rocketeer Club has never offered a coherent alternative.”

      ULA has offered an EELV Phase 2 launcher with the same throw weight as the 70-ton version of SLS for about one-fourth the price (~$2.3 billion in 2004 dollars versus $9-10 billion).

      http://www.ulalaunch.com/site/docs/publications/EELVPhase2_2010.pdf

      SpaceX has offered a Falcon Super Heavy launcher with greater throw weight than the 120-ton version of SLS for nearly one-tenth the price (~$2.5 billion versus $20+ billion).

      http://www.nss.org/articles/falconheavy.html

      Heck, SpaceX is developing a 53-ton Falcon Heavy — more than a doubling over the nation’s current biggest launcher, Delta IV Heavy — at no cost to the taxpayer.

      From a Google search, there’s no Internet Rocketeer Club on the web (except in your deranged posts). But industry has clearly offered multiple, better HLV alternatives to SLS.

      The only reason not to take industry up on their offers is retaining Shuttle jobs and votes in key states and congressional districts. If that’s what you’re defending, then be upfront about it. Otherwise, don’t make up lies about there being no alternatives to SLS. There are many good ones.

    • josh

      huh? sls, if it’s not killed soon, will ruin human spaceflight for nasa.

      the alternative is clear: falcon heavy and a mission architecture based of fuel depots. another option would be to give spacex the contract to develop a true hlv. it would cost a small fraction of what is going to be needed for the senate launch system.

    • Robert G. Oler

      Mark R. Whittington
      January 28, 2013 at 7:32 am · Reply

      SLS is unneeded only if one concludes that human space exploration is unneeded. The Internet Rocketeer Club has never offered a coherent alternative. Sadly, Robert Walker, a former member of Congress, ought to have known better than to offer this disastrous proposal.>>

      this is incoherent even for you Mark.

      ” logic alone suggests that any architecture that requires nine launches for every asteroid mission and four for every lunar mission (no one has suggested doing Mars without heavy lift) is simply unworkable and unsustainable. >>

      How is that, the space station was assembled in precisely that manner. The only way what you post has some reality in it is that if you envision every non LEO mission by the US done as a “throw it all away until you get the crew back” effort like Apollo; more attempt to reinvent the 60′s.

      You are stuck in the past Mark, and that is why like the tea party and SArah Palin your ideas are slowly but surely slipping into the dust bin of history.

      what happen to you? Obama hate. RGO

    • DCSCA

      “The Internet Rocketeer Club has never offered a coherent alternative…”

      That’s a bit harsh, Mark. In fact, their Magnified Importance of Diminished Vision is what it is– going in circles, no place fast. Regardless, any space advocate would want them to succeed, just on their own dime. The only rationale they can present for HSF ops is to make a buck– and as it’s a limited market w/low to no ROI in that venue, deep,private capital investment remains largely skeptical of pitching six-figure priced sub-orbital jaunts for the likes of Aunt Bea and Opie. But it’s quaint. In the long run, it is going no where, which is why government financing of commercial LEO ops at the expenswe of funding gov’t BEO projects of scale is a waste.

  • DCSCA

    Walker… =eyeroll= an ex-congressman turned lobbyist; a fellow traveller w/thw likes of Fred Thompson and Newt. [It was 'Newt Gingrich, Moon President', who years ago once opined to students that NASA should have been disbanded after Apollo ended.]

    These Reagan era ideologues are insidious. What’s in play here has little do w/spaceflight ops ‘per se’ and everything to do w/the invasive philosophy of privatizing government services pushed by Gingrich, Walker, et al. If this forum was about philatelics these same privateers would be rooting for FedEx and UPS over the USPS.

    “complete the job he started in his first term in handing over space transportation entirely in the private sector. “

    No.

    “kill the Space Launch System.”

    No.

    “Would the White House, dealing with bigger issues from the “fiscal cliff” to gun control, be willing to spend the political capital needed to push through Congress what Walker and Miller propose?”

    No.

    “The U.S. private space industry has now succeeded beyond the imagination of most politicians…”

    Except it hasn’t. THEY HAVE FLOWN NOBODY. Not a living, breathing soul. Which doesn’t take much imagination a’tall. Just some risk-taking.

    Accordingly, attention privateers: imagine this reality: Iran today successfully launched a monkey – yes, a living, breathing mammal- into space and ‘returned the shipment–” per Reuters. http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/28/us-iran-space-idUSBRE90R0DV20130128

    The Iranians are lofting monkeys into space, Welcome to Oz, Mr. Walker. You ain’t in Kansas anymore– or Pennsylvania for that matter.

    Fly somebody. Tick-tock, tick-tock.

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “Accordingly, attention privateers: imagine this reality: Iran today successfully launched a monkey – yes, a living, breathing mammal- into space and ‘returned the shipment–’”

      The Iranian monkey flight was a suborbital launch, genius. Burt Rutan and other “privateers” flew _humans_, not monkeys, to the same suborbital altitudes over nine years ago.

      Your criticism is a decade late and based on the wrong species.

      “The Iranians are lofting monkeys into space, Welcome to Oz, Mr. Walker.”

      Why would he care when the U.S. industry Walker is supporting made the same achievement with humans years ago?

      “Fly somebody. Tick-tock, tick-tock.”

      They have, multiple times. Your clock is broken.

      • DCSCA

        “Your criticism is a decade late…”

        =yawn= Except it’s not.

        In fact, it has been thirty years in the making and merits repeating: what’s in play here has little do w/spaceflight ops ‘per se’ and everything to do w/the invasive, conservative philosophy of privatizing government services pushed by Gingrich, Walker, et al. If this forum was about philatelics these same privateers would be rooting for FedEx and UPS over the USPS.

        The Iranian monkey, rocketed to space, apogeed higher than Rutan’s experimental, drop/assist shuttlcock, which hangs in the Smithsonian BTW, w/t other non-operational aerospace antiques. But if you want to link that to Iran ‘Hsm-ming it up’ in the here and now – go for it.

        In fact, what Iran has demonsted in the present day is the capacity to replicate the rocketry (and the associated systems, including life-support) similar to the early NASA Mercury/Redstone chimp flights along w/all the geo-political implications. So what you’re highlighting is commercials failure to orbit anybody since Rutan’s X-15-styled redux shuttlecocker a decade past Even he lamented this in a Florida lectgure in November, aired recently on C-SPAN.

        Fly somebody. Orbital flight. We’re talking big league play- the kind government have done for half a century. Launch, orbit and return a crew or two safely. =eyeroll= Commercial advocates now have the likes of tailgrabbing cellar-dwellars North Korea orbiting a satellite- albeit uncontrolled, a la Sputnik- and Iran lofting a ‘Ham’ while Space X has orbited the cheese and passively delivered a ton of sundries on two grocery runs, replicating what Progress has been doing better, servicing LEO space platforms, docking thermselves- for decades.

        Stop pitching false equivalency, take the risk NASA did with Glenn half a century ago. Fly somebody.

        Commercial should be capable of doing it by now. If commecial would take trhe risk and accomplish that a few times, it would give privateers well deserved and hard earned street cred and the political leverage to push SLS toward its own fiscal cliff, genius.

        Until commercial proves itself with safe, successful, crewed orbital flights, it’s all nothing more than dragon-loads of press releases, seasoned w/ideological talk by Walker and his ilk, promising ‘things to come’– that was a work of science fiction, too. Fly somebody. Until then, the only think that’s flying for ommercial— is time. Tick-tock, tick-tock.

        • Dark Blue Nine

          “Except it’s not.”

          Yes, it is. You whined about U.S. commercial human flights to suborbital altitudes, claiming that the Iranians are ahead because they’ve launch a monkey. But you’re wrong and nearly a decade late because SpaceShipOne made that accomplishment with human astronauts nine years ago.

          Think before you post, genius.

          “The Iranian monkey, rocketed to space, apogeed higher than Rutan’s experimental, drop/assist shuttlcock”

          How do you know? The flight hasn’t been confirmed by State, DOD, or anyone else outside Iran:

          http://www.spacepolicyonline.com/news/iran-claims-successful-suborbital-launch-of-money-but-u-s-cannot-confirm

          It’s wonderful how much faith you have in the Iranian propaganda machine, genius.

          “similar to the early NASA Mercury/Redstone”

          Iran’s Pishgam is a small, rail-launched rocket. It’s nothing like the old MRLV. And there is no Iranian equivalent of a Mercury. A small biological payload container is nowhere near the size of a human-scale capsule.

          You are technically illiterate, genius.

          “Stop pitching false equivalency”

          Pot, kettle, black. No other poster here is equating lower primate test subjects with human astronauts. Or equating a small, rail-launched rocket with the MRLV. Or equating a biological payload with a human-scale reentry capsule.

          Only you are capable of such idiotic comparisons, genius.

          “Tick-tock, tick-tock.”

          There goes your Tourette’s again, genius.

    • common sense

      Darn! The Chinese will own the Moon and have a fortress on it and then the Iranians will have suborbital monkeys to do… something out of this world.

      I guess it’s why China has built a relationship with Iran over the years and that the whole space market is already gone. Might as well stop all space program, I’d say.

      Your geopolitical flair is well… something out of this world.

      Impressive.

  • I look forward to the first Falcon Heavy test flights, which will give folks like Dana Rohrabacher the ammunition to pose to their porking collegues the question, “Why are we spending $20 billion to build a rocket when we can buy a Falcon Heavy for a lot cheaper that will do the job now?”

    The answer, of course, will be “oink, oink, oink” and nonsense about how only government rockets can be trusted. Never mind there hasn’t been a government rocket program successfully implemented since the 1970s — and even then, the Shuttle was years behind schedule, billions over budget, and went on to kill fourteen people.

    • DCSCA

      “I look forward to the first Falcon Heavy test flights, which will give folks like Dana Rohrabacher the ammunition….”

      Nonsense, Stephen. The only silver bullet Dana needs is for space X to launch a crew or two safely and get ‘em up, around and down. Until you prove yourself capable of manned orbital spaceflight, SLS is a ‘go.’

      • Coastal Ron

        DCSCA moaned:

        The only silver bullet Dana needs is for space X to launch a crew or two safely and get ‘em up, around and down.

        As usual, you are confused. The Falcon Heavy is not being built for transporting crew, but for transporting cargo to LEO and beyond. The SLS is mainly meant for cargo, since it doesn’t require a 70-130mt rocket to lift the over-weight Orion/MPCV.

        So the issue at hand is not whether commercial space can fly humans to space – NASA already feels that they can, and is planning on using them for flights in 2016. The issue is whether NASA should be building and running a transportation system that is too large for any known needs. If NASA needs something bigger than what ULA currently offers (which NASA hasn’t said that they do), then the Falcon Heavy is available for 1/3 the price and twice the payload.

        Other than your fictitious “government programs of scale”, which we have to borrow 42 cents of every dollar to fly, NASA doesn’t need to spend $30B on an unneeded rocket. Falcon Heavy becoming operational, and $0 cost to the U.S. Taxpayer, proves that the SLS is nothing but a jobs program.

  • I can’t say I’m a big fan of SLS, essentially a surviving Ares component redesigned by political compromise, I’d trade it for further research into those fields that remain stubborn to the confidently planned progress into dust mitigation, in situ resource utilization and Altair. But who would launch the latter, except the Falcon Heavy, one supposes. It was our understanding the SLS was to provide access to Deep Space manned expeditions, not low Earth orbit. We’re not exactly anticipating the return of showboat lunar orbit and flyby manned missions, now touted for 2017.

    The arguments will continue, but we’ve also long considered the very real possibility that SLS will go the way of Ares V as budget constraints inevitably tighten the screws and Congress has to make choices over discretionary spending between new post offices and SLS. In the end, having cancelled Ares, Congress and this president may end up having spent as much or more on a cancelled SLS than on the scrapped Ares V.

  • Neil Shipley

    What happened with COTS will happen with CCiCap and will demonstrate that NASA is not necessary wrt building and flying cargo and humans to leo.
    Wittington has not a jot of Whit nor DCSCA with the interminable ‘fly somebody, fly somebody’. No need for any further discussion. Tick tock.

    SLS – just a jobs program. Orion, the same although perhaps more likely to fly than SLS if they can just get their weight under control. Oh, and don’t forget costs.
    Hey Whit et al, what about that boondoggle huh!? Sequestration or the equivalent’s coming you know!! How will NASA adjust to a say 10% budget hit?

  • amightywind

    The notion that you can cut NASA’s budget without cutting it’s core mission seems lost on these fools. Accelerate the SLS program! I have had it with GOP gadfly adventurists like Walker.

  • If you can’t get the Wall Street Journal link to work because it requires an account, Google the title “Commercial Space Exploration Needs an Obama Relaunch” and you’ll get a working link.

  • mike shupp

    I read that WSJ op-ed and didn’t see a word about human space flight beyond NEO. I don’t think Walker and Miller really want the US government to be part of ANY space program that might interest most of the folks posting here.

    • Justin Kugler

      That is likely because NASA isn’t likely to get beyond LEO until it stops spending the bulk of its Exploration budget just getting there.

      • Yep, Justin. As you and I both know, the reason for that situation is SLS. Though ironically its supporters claim it is supposed to accomplish just the opposite.

      • Gary Warburton

        Yes Justin, that is the most astute observation regarding space access I ever heard.

      • amightywind

        You are jealous of SLS funding levels, while working on the most lavishly funded NASA project ISS) of all time? Breathtaking hypocrisy.

        • Justin Kugler

          I said nothing of the sort. You are deliberately misconstruing my post. I simply pointed out, rightly, that there is no money left for missions or mission systems in the Exploration budget because MPCV and SLS consume the lion’s share. This is the exact same problem that Constellation had.

      • Guest

        There is an extreme logical disconnect coming with these kinds of blanket statements by NASA employees. The problem of ‘getting there’ is more or less the same for any launch vehicle, public or private, small or large. The problems is one of mass efficiency. To get there required large launch vehicles. Payloads they carry are for the most part much smaller and lighter than the launch vehicle and vastly more expensive. So for you to claim that spending money on ‘getting there’ is the problem is just plain wrong. Not even wrong. The problem is that NASA and every other launch vehicle provider has been throwing away 90% of their mass and half their costs AFTER they ‘get there’. I’m sorry to say but you are merely propagating the myth that expendable launch vehicles will be cost effective for doing anything in space – ever. It just isn’t true. EELVs are extremely expensive launch vehicles. They will never be cost effective for anything besides DOD high value missions. It’s game over for expendable anything for NASA. But I know how hard paradigm changes are – for NASA.

        • Neil Shipley

          No that’s not it. The real issue is that current contracting methods do not encourage competition hence there is no incentive for U.S. launch providers (ULA) to do better. Now that we have a viable alternative available in the form of SpaceX, launcher costs have reduced by at least 50% IIRC to the point where at SpaceX can compete and win business on the international stage. That’s with their F9. Their FH offers even further reductions in $/kg to orbit.

          In addition, to address the waste issue, SpaceX are working on reusables as part of their strategic plan. Parachutes haven’t worked for the launch vehicles so they’ve switched to try fly-backs. Parachutes have worked with their current Dragon Cargo however rather than simply rely on those, they’re now working on DragonRider which will utilise at this point, both chutes and engines.

          Note that this is a private company, no government funding for the reusable initiatives. Meanwhile the older companies stand back and hope it fails. Typical since they exist totally on government cost-plus contracts whereas SpaceX has a manifest of approximately 50:50 government to non-government.

          If you want proof as the the better contracting method for development of new systems, then look no further than COTS and CCiCap Programs. Government incentives for new services via milestone based payments awarded on ‘successful’ completion of the milestones.
          FAR contracts successfully deliver regular services such as the Cargo Resupply Contract to ISS awarded to SpaceX and Orbital.

        • Fred Willett

          The problems is one of mass efficiency. To get there required large launch vehicles….I’m sorry to say but you are merely propagating the myth that expendable launch vehicles will be cost effective for doing anything in space – ever.
          At the moment all we have is expendables. So we have to compare SLS against other expendables. If something better is developed that’s great. but that is in the future.
          So SLS is expected to cost $1B plus (NASA figures) compared to $125M for Falcon Heavy.
          That’s $1B for 70t on SLS vs $125M for 53t on FH.
          Work it out for yourself which constitutes the better value.
          If you still think it’s SLS I know a good doctor….

        • Justin Kugler

          I am not a NASA employee, nor have I been one for quite some time. I work for a space research non-profit now and was a NASA contractor before that. I haven’t been a civil servant in years.

          The problem is cost efficiency. For what it will cost to develop, build, and fly Ares V/SLS, NASA could deploy a complete medium-lift-based modular exploration architecture. DBN has already linked to some of the relevant studies that show this. It’s simply not true that NASA can’t do affordable exploration using expendables. It can’t do affordable exploration using the expendables that Congress has required.

          That said, I actually agree that the EELVs are probably not the way to go in the long run. Andy Aldrin gave a great talk at PM Challenge 2011 about the lessons learned from the EELV program and the appropriate balance of risk and cost. (He thinks the taxpayer got a great deal, actually.) In the Q&A session afterwards, Aldrin conceded that SpaceX would force everyone to reconsider how they do business if they succeeded. I think we’re just about at that tipping point.

          In my opinion, NASA should set requirements, including cost and scope constraints, and procure the launch services that best meet those requirements from industry. That may well end up being some kind of reusable launch architecture. In any event, NASA’s own cost models show that such an approach could be as much as 4-10 times less expensive than in-house development.

          Launch services procurement should then free up NASA’s limited resources to focus on BEO vehicles, systems, and technology development. Unfortunately, Congress has currently mandated that as much of the Shuttle and Constellation technology and workforce be retained as possible… and that includes their costs. This runs in direct opposition to the recommendations of the Aldridge Commission’s report on how best to execute the Vision for Space Exploraton, I might add.

          No myths here. Just program management 101. The vehicles should not be ends in and of themselves, as they are right now. They should have a mission and a purpose to fulfill to return value to the taxpayer.

      • DCSCA

        “That is likely because NASA isn’t likely to get beyond LEO until it stops spending the bulk of its Exploration budget just getting there.”

        If you view spaceflight- HSF LEO ops- as a projection of geo-politcal influence on Earth, NASA is doing what government does. ‘Exploration’ is a quaint figleaf- a civil overlay- to the geo-political and miltary implications, which were the genesis of government HSF opas to begin with. If you want to simply ‘explore’ in this era– go robot.

        • Justin Kugler

          I capitalized “Exploration” specifically in reference to the associated line items in the NASA HEOMD budget.

          My personal goal in my career is to do what I can with the opportunities available to bring the resources of the Solar System within our economic sphere and, thus, help humanity develop into a spacefaring species.

          I may not see it in my lifetime, but I want to at least help push us in the right direction such that the costs can be lowered enough for humans to put our proverbial eggs in more than one basket. If it was just about science for its own sake, I would go robot.

          • amightywind

            How will you do that doing fish experiments and photo-ops on ISS? At least with Constellation you had a chance to get your fingernails dirty. I basically agree with you, except I would substitute ‘American’ for ‘humanity’.

            • Justin Kugler

              The whole point behind the ISS National Laboratory is to open it up to non-NASA utilization. Something Congress got right is that NASA would always put its own research ahead of anyone else, so they wrote it into law that NASA is obligated to make at least half of its research capability on the ISS available to other users and chartered the creation of a non-profit to manage National Laboratory access and do the kind of market development and fundraising that NASA cannot.

              I got out of Constellation because I knew it was a programmatic dead end. At CASIS, I get to help lay the foundations for a space economy that goes beyond just telecommunications. Helping entrepreneurs figure out the best way to take advantage of the ISS for their business and advising my NASA counterparts on how to make the Station more accessible is a lot more fun than writing simulation code ever was.

          • DCSCA

            “My personal goal in my career is to do what I can with the opportunities available to bring the resources of the Solar System within our economic sphere and, thus, help humanity develop into a spacefaring species.”

            Good perspective, Justin. Of course, humans are already a space-faring species. And given the mere 110 year span time from the start of powered flight– about one and a half human lifetimes on average– humans have moved out pretty far and fast into the 5 billion year old solar system. It may be, for our generation, the moonshot and a few robot probe will be all we’ll see– which is much more than the Keplers, the Gallileos, the Magellans, the Drakes and so on ever saw in their life spans combined.

            It’ll happen. It may not be American led, but it will occur– one day.

    • josh

      i’m not interested in any space program involving sls since it won’t get uns anywhere in the end. it’ll be a dead end.

    • Charles Miller

      Dear Mr. Shupp,

      I am posting here in response to the same criticism you posted on NASA Watch.

      There is only so much you can say within the ~800 limit of an op-ed in a major newspaper. You can’t address every issue in a satisfactory manner.

      For those who want the more extended version or have other questions, read my essay at The Space Review from last November 5th titled “How the US can become a next generation space industrial power”.

      http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2184/1

      Or you can watch my speech on the exact same subject that I gave to the Marshall Institute here:

      http://www.marshall.org/article.php?id=1141

      Onwards and upwards,

      - Charles

      Charles E. Miller
      NexGenSpace

    • Robert G. Oler

      mike shupp
      January 28, 2013 at 11:58 am · Reply

      I read that WSJ op-ed and didn’t see a word about human space flight beyond NEO. I don’t think Walker and Miller really want the US government to be part of ANY space program that might interest most of the folks posting here.>>

      In 800 or less words not even the fiction Sam Seaborn (spell) from The West Wing or David Frum from Bush43 or Ted Sorenson, JFK’s great speechwriter can cover everything! RGO

  • mike shupp

    Let’s try this again. I read the op-ed. I don’t think Walker and Miller would approve of manned space flight beyond NEO even if we could do it for free. Or even if the rest of the world got together and paid us for it.

    They don’t like government run manned space programs. Okay?

    • Justin Kugler

      I’ve met Miller. He, much like Neil deGrasse Tyson, thinks NASA should be out on the frontier and leave LEO logistics to private industry.

      • mike shupp

        Okay, fair response. I may have misjudged Miller; I lack your experience. And possibly I’m being too harsh to Congressman Walker as well.

      • DCSCA

        Yes, NdGT’s advocacy is similar to that proposed by Arthur C. Clarke in 1969- penned in the epilogue of the book, ‘First Men On The Moon’- it is still in print at B&N. But NdGT doesn’t advocate that commercial LEO ops should be financed at the expense of BEO ops as NASA faces flat budgets.

        • Coastal Ron

          DCSCA blurted:

          But NdGT doesn’t advocate that commercial LEO ops should be financed at the expense of BEO ops as NASA faces flat budgets.

          He likely doesn’t advocate that people run around yelling “tick tock, tick tock” regarding fictitious deadlines for demonstration commercial crew transportation to LEO. In fact, the amount of things he doesn’t advocate for would likely fill a whole building.

          What a maroon.

          • DCSCA

            “In fact, the amount of things he doesn’t advocate for would likely fill a whole building…” croaked Ron.

            Except in his case, he’s credentialed with a platform to present a position, contrary to yours, which fills the airwaves, the web and publishing venues reach around te planet– and off it. =eyeroll=

            • Coastal Ron

              DCSCA moaned:

              Except in his case, he’s credentialed with a platform to present a position

              Nevertheless, his comments don’t move the dial one way or the other. He’s a nice guy – I enjoy seeing him on the Daily Show – but his views on how we should do space exploration are a little off. But all things considered, his opinions are far better than yours, so yet another reason I like him better than you… ;-)

              • DCSCA

                Nevertheless, his comments don’t move the dial one way or the other.

                You don’t really have a metric to measure that. And his venues access a broader demographic.

    • libs0n

      Exploration is possible with commercial medium lift rockets, like the EELVs, and SpaceX’s rockets, and some, including myself, believe that this a superior solution to attain that goal than HLV based exploration, although that is possible as well under a commercial rubric. You are slandering people who could believe in space exploration just as much as you, but in a different way to go about it.

      “They don’t like government run manned space programs.”

      If that were the case they would be calling for the elimination of NASA, not NASA buying its launch needs from the private sector. You can’t have NASA purchasing rockets from the private sector unless NASA has a space program that needs rocket launches.

      • mike shupp

        I’m not slandering anyone for rejecting space exploration via heavy lift vehicles. I’m slandering them for rejecting HLVs without providing alternatives for manned space exploration and for suggesting smaller launchers used for LEO can handle all our space needs — in other words, for suggesting policies which would leave humans trapped in earth orbit indefinitely.

        As for the abstract issue of whether SpaceX and other companies ought to be encouraged to develop “commercial” launchers of any size for ferrying astronauts or supplies to ISS, or indeed anybody’s kit to anywhere, and whether that’s an acceptible substitute for NASA building and operating its very own launchers for NEO operations — that’s fine by me. I’d even be willing to argue it’s overdue. I don’t know I’m happpy about relying too much on just one or two suppliers, but maybe the market’s not going to be big enough for more for some time. I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.

        • Neil Shipley

          Hi Mike.

          Look, the idea of allowing commercial to ferry cargo is already here. SpaceX have their CRS contract so it’s no longer an ‘idea’. Orbital, the other company is on track for test flights and deliveries this year and there’s no indication that this will be a problem.

          Crew is underway with CCiCap and all companies are meeting their milestones. It’s likely that we’ll end up with 2 companies offering crew services in the way that 2 companies offer cargo services. That’s always better than simply a single U.S. point of failure which is what we had with Shuttle.

          I don’t see it as a big step from leo to beo provided the capability is there. That’s where NASA should be focusing it’s efforts but with the SLS and Orion, there’s no money. These programs are, as has been pointed out innumerable times, simply money black holes providing jobs and security for NASA employees and consequently jobs for politicians whose districts depend on these programs.

          One should also point out that there have been many jobs created by the new companies. SpaceX has somewhere around 3,000 employees now. I’m sure there are at least an equivalent number around the other companies such as Boeing, SN, Orbital, etc, that didn’t exist previously.

          And you know, I wouldn’t mind so much if the amount spent on the NASA programs wasn’t so large as to impact anything else that NASA was trying to do. But that’s not the case.

        • Coastal Ron

          mike shupp said:

          I’m slandering them for rejecting HLVs without providing alternatives for manned space exploration and for suggesting smaller launchers used for LEO can handle all our space needs

          I think it is up to HLV supporters to prove that existing rockets cannot handle what we need, not the reverse.

          And really, no one is clamoring for rockets larger than what we have. Certainly no one that has any money to spend. But we do know that we can build 450mt assemblies in LEO using existing 20mt-class rockets, of which we have four available, and a 5th coming soon (Falcon Heavy would just lift two 20mt payloads).

          There are also plenty of studies that have been done by both the aerospace industry and NASA itself that have shown that there is a path to BEO exploration using existing rockets, and it requires the same technologies that we would need with an HLV anyways (fuel depots, autonomous tankers, SEP tugs, etc.).

          In the transportation industry, usually the path towards building larger vehicles is that existing customers are clamoring for larger vehicles. The 747 was a response to existing airlines that had gate constraints, and the new Triple-E container ships are a response to the need to further lower costs. Both can show how existing vehicles currently support their needs, and don’t support their needs.

          By contrast, the SLS cannot show any customer demand, and existing customers are perfectly happy with what they have. The other issue you have to look at is affordability. Can NASA afford to operate the SLS, and build and operate the SLS-only payload missions for it? From what I can tell, Congress has ignored this issue, and anyone using simple math would see that NASA can’t afford to use the SLS in a safe manner (at least two launches per year), even if it given to them free of cost.

          So bottom line here is that yes, there are demonstrated alternatives to the SLS, the need for the SLS has not been justified, and NASA can’t even afford to use the SLS if it was given to it for free.

          That’s why the sooner the SLS is cancelled, the sooner we’ll be able to leave LEO in a sustainable fashion.

  • My sense is that the WSJ appeal will fall on deaf ears within the Administration. Given the positions stated by Lori Garver at the AIAA convention in Pasadena as well as the apparent work being done within NASA on various early usages of the SLS including an EML2 mission, it seems to me that the Administration has given up on its earlier position (5-year delay on HLV) and is now fully embracing the SLS. However, I agree that a successful Falcon Heavy launch will strengthen the hands of SLS opponents and that that opposition will continue strong for as long as SLS operations costs a significant fraction of NASA’s budget (i.e. the lifetime of SLS).

    Two Falcon Heavies docked in LEO would yield up to 106 tonnes, nearly Apollo’s 117. A moderate-sized lunar ice harvesting operation would yield enough water for propellant to refuel an Earth-return vehicle meaning that only a single Falcon Heavy would be needed per manned mission to the Moon.

    An asteroid-derived water mining program, or a larger lunar ice-mining operation delivering propellant to LEO, or a propellant depot delivery system from Earth would negate the need for an SLS for Mars missions.

    So, as I see it, the SLS will eventually become unnecessary provided any of these alternate programs move forward in a timely manner. Obviously funding for these programs could make all the difference in seeing that happen.

    • “Given the positions stated by Lori Garver at the AIAA convention in Pasadena as well as the apparent work being done within NASA on various early usages of the SLS including an EML2 mission, it seems to me that the Administration has given up on its earlier position (5-year delay on HLV) and is now fully embracing the SLS.”
      I don’t see it that way. The administration is going along with that because that was the deal they struck to get Commercial Crew. As soon they can practically axe SLS, they will, because they never wanted it to begin with.

    • DCSCA

      “My sense is that the WSJ appeal will fall on deaf ears within the Administration.”

      This president put space in the out box in his 2010 KSC speech. It’s off the ‘to-do’ list and the administration has moved on from it. NASA humiated itself in front of him when they scrubbed a shuttle launch he hauled his family down to attend when the agency had months to prep and ‘get it right.’ Yes, he’s done with space and moved on. Look to Hillary. She has a personal interest in the space program and interest at that strate of government is rare these days. Her administration may may re-ignite interest from the CIC once she’s elected president. Until then, as JJF noted at the symposium, the policy is to ‘muddle along.’ But these Reagan era ideologues sre wasting what minimal credibility they have left on this SLS thing. The geo-political/military implications bigfoot the short-sightedness of the Magnified Importance of Diminishwed Vision.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Just read the op ed. What this should be viewed as is in the larger political context of the cleavage of the GOP into a “sane” fraction and those who are simply nut cakes. As poll after poll shows the GOP to be an extremist party there are people in it who are trying to figure out how to return to some solid middle ground; some notion of “closing the deal” on various issues to move them off the plate.

    A part of this is simply a second term victory but it is also the notion of 1) policies and programs that are collapsing despite the “exaggerations” of politicians who are parroting Whittington’s missives and 2) simple non performance.

    It doesnt take a rocket scientist to see that SLS is a path to nowhere and is stopping a real space effort; but the GOP is in grave danger (“Is there any other danger?”) of becoming the party of the various industrial complexes which are slowly falling out of favor with the American people.

    SLS will die this year and Orion will not be far behind. I suspect Webb survives but only if they get it together. RGO

    • mike shupp

      Just me, of course, but I got to think voters would be more impressed by the Republican Party’s new found rationality if it modified its policies on (a) Hispanics, (b) Abortion, (c) Gay marriage, (d) medical care and social security, (e) wage stagnation, (f) labor unions, (g) torture, (h) ill-considered wars. Space policy issues would be pretty far on most people’s lists, I’d suspect, especially on an issue like launch vehicles which really lacks a partisan focus.

      I realize I’m unusual.

      • JimNobles

        I agree with you. Space is a very low priority except for space cadets and some aerospace companies.

        I also don’t think the Whitehouse is going to put much effort into killing SLS anytime soon. I suspect they feel they have bigger fish to fry and to spend their energies on.

        I suppose that could change if an effort is made to educate the many members of congress on the foolishness of the SLS path to heavy-lift. If the Whitehouse felt they had enough traction on the hill they might make a move on it.

        • I read somewhere that last year someone commissioned a poll asking people where to cut the federal budget. The two choices were the Defense budget and NASA.

          People who think the masses will arise in outrage to protect the NASA budget are clueless, if not delusional.

          • mike shupp

            You mean people have given up hating foreign aid? There’s a long long tradition of people ranking space and foreign aid as their least preferred government expenditure. Not coincidentally, there’s a long tradition of people who think space and aid both get about 25% of the federal budget…

            Dr Levy on that Lost In Space panel had an anecdote. Some time back, when he had to travel on airlines, he’d ask his seatmates in the coach section which got more federal money: Space or Defense. And almost always people said they were about the same size. So now and then, he got an upgrade to Business class, where he’d meet older and wealthier and better educated individuals, and he asked them the same question. And he’d get the same answer.

            • Paul

              Those poll results are consistent over time. Historically, NASA has fallen below foreign aid in public polls of spending priorities. Heck, NASA falls below farm subsidies. Only defense typically polls lower.

          • Robert G. Oler

            Stephen C. Smith
            January 28, 2013 at 6:45 pm · Reply

            I read somewhere that last year someone commissioned a poll asking people where to cut the federal budget. >>

            this is the same poll that showed people would cut defense spending to below pre 9/11 levels…NASA and Defense have an enormous hill to climb; few think that we are getting any value for the money…

            and when we spend twice on defense what the next top 10 do and more money at NASA then the rest of the worlds space agencies combined…well

            RGO

          • Replying to my own post … Did a quick Google search and found this Harris poll from March 2012. By 52% to 39%, respondents supported cutting the space program.

            By party, those who wanted to cut the space program:

            Republican: 52%
            Democratic: 56%
            Independent: 52%
            Tea Party: 51%

            I think the important thing to remember is that this is talking about government space, not space exploration or exploitation. As I’ve pointed out many times, if you combine both government and private sector spending, overall spending on space is way up.

            As the private sector foots more of the bill, political apathy becomes increasingly irrelevant.

            • DCSCA

              Space has never polled much higher than 60 or more and that was in the peak of the Apollo days when it had high media exposure. It has always had a broad but shallow appeal. People like it- they just don’t want to pay for it. That attitude goes for a lot of things, doesn’t it. =eyeroll=

      • common sense

        You mean if the GOP became the Democratic Party?

      • Robert G. Oler

        mike shupp
        January 28, 2013 at 5:19 pm · Reply

        Just me, of course, but I got to think voters would be more impressed by the Republican Party’s new found rationality if it modified its policies on>>

        Mike

        What the Walker “crack in the wall” is is but a part of some people in the GOP trying to stabilize the party across a broad scale…Walker’s expertise is in “space policy” (like it or not he is thought of as an expert) and what it does is give cover to those who dont really give a darn about SLS/Orion but have been voting for it under the theory of “you vote for my pork I will vote for yours” …but when it comes time to cut the budget want to find cuts in other places…so they will go for the big cows first.

        The GOP right now is in the extraordinarily bad position of the “tail wagging the dog” meaning that the special interest which are a part of any party have actually taken over not only the policy stuff of the party but the politics…and we have reached a point in history where because of those groups the party is going in a direction that the American people as a group have decided they might not want to go.

        For instance the Neocons might still want to implement a “America uberallis” approach to mideast policy; but after two failed wars with little ornothing to show for it the American people are like “no”. The GOP wants to spend more money on defense but the American people at between the 60-70 percent group have come to the conclusion “enough is enough”…This is why the GOP right has been amping the stuff in Libya so much. It was in theory to illustrate why the US should spend even more money after all “AQ is still strong”. (never mind the logic of spending twice as much money on defense as the next 10 nations combined and not having put them down…)

        the list rolls on to the social programs (despite Tony Perkins gay rights is picking up steam and abortion is dying as an issue)…into space.

        Walker can see where SLS is going; he has been here before and all the flags are flying that this is an “bottomless cup” in terms of money to make the damn thing fly…

        so he is giving cover to the folks who dont care a damn about SLS or Orion to join with Dems to kill it when the hard votes come around.

        At some point what is probably going to happen is a 1984 style defeat for the right wing. As the party keeps being wagged by people who are essentially the lackies of the various industrial (and social) complexes that push various issues the party drifts farther out of synch. The voter fraud lie not only didnt help them at the polls but smoked them with moderates and now we have the schemes to rig the electorial college to “win even while losing”.

        The GOP has been on a downhill run since 1992 losing the popular vote in every presidential election save one…and they are likely to lose in 14 and 16 with that election probably being the end of the tea party.

        But it wont matter for SLS, it will be gone this year. RGO

      • Neil Shipley

        I’m with you on this one Mike, and you know, there are signs that the GOP is attempting to modify it’s policies. The latest is the one dealing with illegal immigrants.

    • DCSCA

      “What this should be viewed as is in the larger political context of the cleavage of the GOP into a “sane” fraction and those who are simply nut cakes.”

      Take the broader, ideological view, given the political genealogy behind the authors. This has little to do w/spaceflgiht ops ans everything to do w/their push to privatize as many government services as possible. These dinosaurs have been at it since January 20, 1981.

    • Neil Shipley

      Brave call. I’d give it two years but hope it happens sooner.

  • The President has been trying to stop NASA from regaining its heavy lift capability since he terminated the Constellation program. But there has always been a wing of the Democratic Party that views manned spaceflight as a complete waste of tax payer money. Republican president Nixon was also a huge cynic of manned space travel and took advantage of these views to help a Democratic dominated Congress terminate NASA’s heavy lift capability. And NASA’s been stuck at LEO ever since.

    But America needs heavy lift capability if we are going to cheaply and efficiently pioneer the solar system. That’s why Congress created the SLS program and why Boeing encouraged them to do so. Even Elon Musk is developing his own– heavy lift– capability for Space X.

    The government’s investment in space has been extremely lucrative for the American economy and for private industry. A company like Space X wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for the hundreds of billions of dollars of tax payer money invested in space and aerospace technology over the past 60 years.

    Opponents of the SLS simply want to paralyze the Federal government from– doing anything– in order to perpetuate their right wing extremist Tea Party philosophy.

    Marcel F. Williams

    • JimNobles

      Opponents of the SLS simply want to paralyze the Federal government from– doing anything– in order to perpetuate their right wing extremist Tea Party philosophy.

      That’s simply not true. You might say I’m an opponent of SLS (because I think it’s a boondoggle and a wrong-headed way to go for heavy-lift) but I am not a right wing extremist or a Tea Party person. When you say stuff that’s obviously not true you make yourself look bad.

      • That’s my opinion. Unless NASA is putting money in Elon’s pocket or perpetuating Elon’s agenda, most folks on this forum don’t seem to like anything that NASA does as far as our manned space program is concerned. I think that’s pretty obvious:-)

        And how is spending money on a heavy lift vehicle a boondoggle? You don’t think Boeing can do it??? Elon’s developing one, do you think that’s a boondoggle? Or are you simply saying the Space X knows a lot more about space technology than Boeing!

        Marcel F. Williams

        • Fred Willett

          Because Musk is developing a Falcon Heavy people automatically assume that he’s interested in heavy lift for it’s own sake, or to get to Mars (which he wants to do).
          In fact he needed something to carry GEO sats for which Falcon 9 is too small.
          The Falcon Heavy is the cheapest way to service that market segment. The fact that it delivers 53t to LEO is just good luck.
          More important is that it gives him plenty of margin to try for reusability. If he ends up with a Falcon Heavy that is fully reusable but only delivers 20t or 30t to LEO he will be more than happy.

        • JimNobles

          Unless NASA is putting money in Elon’s pocket or perpetuating Elon’s agenda, most folks on this forum don’t seem to like anything that NASA does as far as our manned space program is concerned.-
          -

          I can see how someone could get that impression from reading this forum as well as other forums. I however have no real problems with NASA. I don’t have any real complaints with how Charlie and Lori are handling things. I think they’ve done a pretty good job with what they’ve had to work with. I may be in the minority on that though. I’m not one of the anti-NASA people.

          I think most of the Elon vs. NASA talk comes from the situation as it has evolved into a Newspace vs. Oldspace type argument. To many NASA has become the face of Oldspace just because of what it does and how long it’s been doing it. Likewise Elon has become the de-facto face of Newspace simply because SpaceX is about a mile-and-a-half ahead of the other commercial “newspace” companies. So I think both NASA and Elon have become symbols (strawmen really) for those who argue about how to best run the space program. Most people seem to forget that all this is really about is how to spend some of our tax dollars for the space program. Should we go with cost-plus contracting or milestone pay-for-results contracting. I think sometimes that gets lost in the passions of the debate.
          -
          -

          And how is spending money on a heavy lift vehicle a boondoggle?
          -
          It depends on how the money is spent. Is it being spent wisely? Does the system it is being spent on look like it will meet our needs? Not just our pounds-to-orbit needs but our operational cost needs as well? To me SLS is a boondoggle because it doesn’t look like it is going to result in a supportable Heavy-Lift system. It looks like it will cost too much to design, build and operate. Now they are talking about flying it once every two years or so. I don’t think that’s how we should do it. Are we trying to emulate the Chinese manned space program now?

          Then there’s the political problems with SLS. It looks like exactly what it is. A project decreed by Politicians in order to funnel taxpayer monies back to companies and enterprises in their districts. When the Politicians made the decree they made no real attempt to hide their intentions and motivations about it either. I found the whole process quite ugly. And I don’t think it will look any prettier when those Politicians will have to defend SLS in the budget battles to come. Put simply, SLS seems to be alive mainly as the result of pork politics and thus is vulnerable to cancellation in a way that another system, one that stands on its own engineering and financial merits, probably wouldn’t be. I see all of this as a real problem for SLS and for space cadets in general and I don’t really want to see any more money spent on this project because I think it costs too much, may not survive cancellation attempts, and doesn’t look like it will be economical enough to do the job it is supposedly being built for. To be our next generation heavy-lifter.

          I want our next HL to be put out for bid. The people who are working on SLS now would certainly be encouraged to bid on the job. But I definitely want the job bid out. If no credible bids are presented then NASA would have to build it themselves probably at much, much greater cost. Word is that Elon (Blessed be his name) thinks he can build a vehicle near this class for about $2.5Billion. I would like to see the specs on that proposal. Or, more realistically, I like for the engineers at NASA to see the specs on that proposal.

          To sum up what turned out to be a much too long post: I don’t see all of this as a NASA vs. SpaceX thing. (Neither do NASA and SpaceX apparently because when you see videos of them together it looks like a lovefest.) I’m not against SLS because it’s a Heavy Lifter or because NASA is building it. I’m against SLS because I think it is a DOG of a system and I am confident we can obtain a similar or superior system at much less the price.

          Sorry for the length of this.

    • E. P. Grondine

      Hi Marcel

      “Even Elon Musk is developing his own– heavy lift– capability for Space X.”

      There’s a big difference between a medium heavy launcher and a heavy lift launcher.

      What are you talking about?

    • “But America needs heavy lift capability if we are going to cheaply and efficiently pioneer the solar system.
      Marcel, “cheaply and efficiently” in the context of SLS is an oxymoron. Even you ought to understand that. Nobody is saying a heavylift may not eventually be needed, just not SLS. But you know that. You’re just cranking the crank. BTW, I am not a member of the Tea Party. Your political theories make as much sense as you space policy.

      • We’re spending less than $4 billion a year in SLS/MPCV development which ain’t much.

        Being able to launch over 100 tonnes into orbit for about $500 million per launch is pretty cheap. And that’s what NASA figures the launch cost will be. The Space Shuttle could only launch about 25 tonnes into orbit, plus astronauts, for about $440 million per launch.

        And with such a rocket, manned lunar missions shouldn’t cost more than one billion to $1.5 billion (manned Ares I/V missions were estimated to cost about $1.3 billion).

        Such SLS cost would be easily sustainable with the $8.4 billion a year manned spaceflight related budget that President Obama inherited from George Bush– even if you cut that by ten or 20%.

        Marcel F. Williams

        • Fred Willett

          The Space Shuttle could only launch about 25 tonnes into orbit, plus astronauts, for about $440 million per launch.
          You’re grossly understating the costs.
          Shuttle worked out at $1.5B a flight over it’s lifetime.
          Shannon gave the cost of just keeping the shuttle workforce in place at $200M a month ($2.4B a year) before you add in launch costs. That’s around 6 flights a year to make it $440M a launch and of course the shuttle never got anywhere near that.

        • “We’re spending less than $4 billion a year in SLS/MPCV development which ain’t much.”
          It’s a lot when compared to alternative HLV’s with similar or greater payload capacity, Tinkerbell. It would be talking less than a billion per year for a ULA based equivalent or about $500 million per year for a SpaceX HLV with 150 mton payload.

          “Being able to launch over 100 tonnes into orbit for about $500 million per launch is pretty cheap.”
          $500 million per launch is a complete fantasy for SLS. Wake up and smell the coffee. And your shuttle figures only cover actual flight costs and not recurrent launch costs. Neither do the shuttle costs include amortization of the hardware and even your SLS figures only include an extremely optimistic estimate of only the flight costs.
          http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1979/1

          You really are living in a dream world. :)

    • DCSCA

      “Opponents of the SLS simply want to paralyze the Federal government from– doing anything– in order to perpetuate their right wing extremist Tea Party philosophy.”

      Precisely.

    • Robert G. Oler

      We are going to need far more then just cheaper lift, we are oging to need affordable technology at all aspects of space travel if we are going to go to Mars. RGO

    • amightywind

      Opponents of the SLS simply want to paralyze the Federal government from– doing anything– in order to perpetuate their right wing extremist Tea Party philosophy.

      Yes. Extreme, you know, like in paying your bills…

  • Paul

    But America needs heavy lift capability if we are going to cheaply and efficiently pioneer the solar system.

    When you use “cheaply and efficiently” in relation to SLS, you come across as someone totally disconnected from reality and sanity. It will be neither cheap nor efficient. Its only saving grace will be that it will be so expensive to develop that we won’t waste much money launching it, since there won’t be any payloads.

    In the real universe, pioneering the solar system will require far cheaper, and far more effective, launch vehicles than SLS. SLS is a pointless waste of tens of billions of dollars, a dead end with no useful purpose, supported by the stupid and the venal.

  • Guest

    SLS is a pointless waste of tens of billions of dollars, a dead end with no useful purpose, supported by the stupid and the venal.

    Again, I’m sorry to have to say this but what you are claiming here is simply not true.

    ‘Pioneering the solar system’, if that is what you want to do, is going to require extremely large fully reusable launch vehicles. The ISS has demonstrated that orbital assembly is an extremely expensive exercise, and the SLS has clearly demonstrated that full reusability is essential. We’re almost half way there. Grasshopper has demonstrated that reusability of the boosters is a given in the near future, and SLS is in theory a completely reusable launch vehicle/spaceship. If it lost a bunch of weight, added a bunch of crucial engineering features, and ditched the big expensive payloads it would make a remarkably efficient vehicle for pioneering near Earth space, the Lagrange points, the asteroids and Mars and its moons at the very least.

    Methane would be better, but it’s going to look more or less the same as SLS, only it will use liquid reusable boosters and have attitude control and integrated payloads and more engines of several different varieties, probably in different locations. So I consider the SLS as an educational exercise. One whose time is over no doubt, but useful nevertheless, showing me at least the right way to move forward.

    It’s probably not necessary to invoke the sunk cost fallacy, but if something can be salvaged from Constellation and SLS, then I’m all for it, if it yields results. The money is gone anyways, so it wouldn’t hurt to recover at least some of it forward.

    • josh

      do you even know what a sunk cost fallacy is? going forward with sls would mean throwing good money after bad. it doesn’t matter how much money was already spent if it’s unlikely that the project will succeed or that it will be worth the investment.

  • mike shupp

    I think your ideas on scale are off. Earth-ascending rockets, even large ones like Saturn V and the SLS, are ludicrously small for interplanetary flights. You need room on your transit vehicle for groups of colonists, you need room for them to move around in, you need stocks of food and water and air, you need radiation shielding, you need the supplies you’ll consume after you;ve landed, you need …. A whole bunch of stuff. You aren’t going to colonize with a single rocket any more than you’re going to ask Allied Van Lines to ship your household goods across country on a go kart.

    Other words, you need something like an asteroid to really give you capability you want. Or one of Buss Aldrin’s cyclers. Or a fleet of very large spacecraft assembled in orbit, a la von Braun’s MARS PROJECT. That’s the real problem with the SLS, it strikes me. It never was a serious answer to the needs of interpletary flight. It’s a play thing.

  • Three things to ponder–

    1) Congressional Politics: A Senator from Texas is going back home. So who protects SLS now? Nelson at the door?

    2) Budget politics: The axe is coming. SLS isn’t flying missions until 2017 earliest. Assuming an on-time/on-budget program (yah, when Pigs fly, wheeeeee). Certain vendors may have wised up to this, explaining…

    3) Vendor politics: ULA may want to get a smaller piece of a guaranteed pie with existing hardware than betting on SLS making it out of R&D.

    Two other things to ponder–

    A) Who is paying Walker and Miller? Be interesting to see if they’re getting ULA money, given that they claim Atlas V and Delta IV are “commercial.”

    B) Yes, everyone focus on SpaceX while the secrecy-crazy Amazon billionaire continues to staff Blue Origin and test pieces of flight hardware….

    ****

    Real competition would be to tear up the existing SLS contracts, setup a super-heavy program akin to COTS/CCDev, and may the best rocket(s) win. Points added to proposals incorporating fly-back/reusable hardware.

    • Neil Shipley

      Well Doug, the ‘real competition’ may result in only one contractor making the grade since only SpaceX has a program such as you’ve described. You can rule out BO which although testing and flying hardware do not have the support and manufacturing infrastructure that SpaceX has not to mention their manifest. You may get Boeing or other parties interested but only if there is a likelihood of an ongoing contract arrangement at the end.
      SpaceX is doing what you’ve described on their own dime. No other company is investing anywhere near the extent that they are on reusables.

      • Every take a look at the Air Force’s quest for a reusable launcher? Boeing and/or Lockheed Martin put in design studies if memory serves.

        You don’t think there’s not someone at ULA looking at flyback for the Atlas V first stage? I’m willing to bet that ULA “discovers” they would like to try an Atlas V or Delta IV “flyback” program sometime within the next three years. (On the AF’s dime, of course… :)

        Blue Origin is opaque, but they have talked about first stage flyback down the road.

        My point is — some NASA/DARPA/AF R&D money can speed this process along, both in terms of heavy lift throw away and flyback. Assuming SpaceX is the only one in the game moving forward becuase they’re just the shiniest this year is wrong.

        • NeilShipley

          And my point is that those organisations will be suffering budget cuts and won’t spend the money. BO can’t fund to the same level that SpaceX now can. If you can’t see that then you know nothing about funding and markets and Jeff Bezos isn’t going to write a personal cheque for say a billion dollars as starters.

          • Bezos doesn’t have to write a check for a billion dollars; he’s writing smaller checks at the moment which goes to show you don’t understand what he’s doing. And if you think he has to bankroll the whole thing, then you need to read up on how Wall Street works.

            Look at COTS and CCDev to figure it how has kept pricing down and multiple options on the table. The downside to this is you won’t get SLS-esque heavy lift capabilities “on time,” if the programs are a suitable template, but better late than not at all.

            My point here is to reset SLS as a fully competitive venture as a Space Act Agreement, rather than a jobs program for Huntsville and other parts of the country. SLS as currently structured is not a sustainable and affordable option.

            • NeilShipley

              This makes no sense. First you say that BO can use Wall Street for funding but they require a return and BO has zero of that at the moment and even VCs require a reasonable possibility. Some years away for BO at this point.
              BO has no NASA contracts and there are none on the horizon for them to bid on so no funding there.
              And how does SLS and BO figure together? Even if SLS was competitively tendered (purely hypothetical as never going to happen) BO doesn’t have any of the capabilities required for such a project.
              Sorry, there’s no logic to your post and as I said previously BO is a long way behind SpaceX and not likely to catch up any time soon. SpaceX has the jump on everyone, period!

    • DCSCA

      “A) Who is paying Walker and Miller?”

      Lobbyist Walker’s a Reagan-era dinosaur, w/a right-wing history that easy to research; Gingrich crony and backer of fellow traveller Fred Thompson’s WH run. Interesting though, that as a toupeed Pennsylvania congressman in 1986, in media reports during the Challenger accident, Walker advocated bumping commercial payloads from shuttle for DoD. He knows who butters his bread- then and now.

  • James

    WSJ: “Why spend approximately $20 billion to build an unneeded SLS super-heavy-lift rocket, for instance, when existing commercial rockets can carry payloads more often, efficiently and cheaply?”

    Because in the absence of a long term vision, in the absence of a commitment to make a difference on behalf of the American public – a difference that the average Joe can align behind – NASA Human Space Flight, as manipulated via puppet strings by Congress, has to default into survival mode. The future is now. It needs work now, to survive. And that survival (for JSC, MSFC, and KSC) takes the form of SLS.

    When an organization/Agency operates from survival, it coughs up hairballs that make no sense in the long term (the ultimate killer argument against SLS) . When an organization/Agency operates from ‘making a difference’ for all Americans, it inspires others to get behind it.

    Survival baby: Thats why there is a $20B Rocket to nowhere.

  • DCSCA

    Off-topic, but noteworthy for remembrance
    this day, January 28…

    The crew of 51-L, Challenger

    In Memoriam:

    Dick Scobee
    Michael Smith
    Ron McNair
    Ellison Onizuka
    Gregory Jarvis
    Judy Resnik
    Christa McAuliffe

    Ad Astra

  • “‘Pioneering the solar system’, if that is what you want to do, is going to require extremely large fully reusable launch vehicles.”
    At that means SLS is NOT the way to go. If or when SpaceX gets fully reusable boosters, then maybe you can have the “extremely large fully reusable launch vehicles” of which you speak. Turning SLS into a reusable vehicle, even by way of adding SpaceX side boosters would be a much more expensive and impractical proposition.

    • Guest

      Turning SLS into a reusable vehicle, even by way of adding SpaceX side boosters would be a much more expensive and impractical proposition.

      It would be nice if you could provide something in the way of evidence and technical discussion to back up a broad brush claim that you make with ZERO substantiation.

      You understand the need for evidence, discussion and engineering, right? Your claim isn’t the first absolutely baseless claim I have run across in this discussion here.

      • josh

        actually the burden of proof is on you. you’re claiming that this would be a viable option. prove it. btw: spacex has plans for its own hlv, one that will be designed for reusability from the start.

        • Guest

          Sure, one that uses methane engines that do not exist at this time as well, and are years away from operational use. So I guess that option is distant. An unmanned SLS could fly much sooner if mandated to use liquid reusable boosters and would be the shot in the arm for both old space and new space that is desperately needed given the debacle of the Constellation program and SLS and even worse, Orion and the MPCV.

          This thing is mandated BY LAW to fly before 2017. Bill Nelson is ON RECORD saying if NASA can’t make that date they shouldn’t be allowed to develop any launchers.

          They are not going to make it. They are already in violation of the law here. If they want to make 2017, they are going to have to seriously rethink the SLS.

      • Paul

        Reusable vehicles make sense when you can achieve 1000 or more launches over the course of the vehicle’s lifetime.

        There is no market for payloads of the size of SLS that could justify that kind of launch rate at any time in the foreseeable future.

        If you want to get to where reusability makes sense, you need to go with smaller vehicles launching at higher rates.

        • Guest

          I don’t think you are getting it yet. In a rational deep space ‘development’ architecture the launch vehicle IS the payload. Otherwise it just won’t work. Nobody has the kind of money necessary for this kind of endeavor, expecially one that physically destroys the launch vehicles and propulsion units every flight.

          Of course, if you want to launch payloads you can’t afford with expendable launch vehicles you can barely afford, more power too you. I know that won’t work either.

          • “Of course, if you want to launch payloads you can’t afford with expendable launch vehicles you can barely afford, more power too you. I know that won’t work either.”
            You’re talking about making a reusable launch vehicle out of SLS, which as currently designed is an expendable. The 150mt payload expendable rocket specified by SpaceX would cost many billions less to develop than the expendable SLS. http://www.nss.org/articles/falconheavy.html

            Given the above fact, common sense tells a person that converting the SpaceX super heavy lift vehicle to reusable is more likely to give you a lower development cost than if you converted an SLS to reusable. Also, given the cost per flight for the expendable SpaceX HLV is also less than the cost per flight of an expendable SLS, it stands to reason that the SpaceX reusable would probably cost less to fly than SLS.

      • “You understand the need for evidence, discussion and engineering, right? Your claim isn’t the first absolutely baseless claim I have run across in this discussion here.”
        Yes, I do. Especially since I’m an astrophysicist and my field requires the same thing. Where is your evidence of your contention? That’s my point.

        SpaceX has already given a quote to NASA of $2.5 billion for a non-reusable 150mt payload HLV and cost only $300 million total cost per flight. Where are your sources that say you can modify an SLS into reusability for less and that it could fly for less? http://www.nss.org/articles/falconheavy.html

        • Guest

          I’m sure SpaceX can build a wonderful expendable heavy lift launch vehicle, but what would be the point when there are no customers, missions and money to fly it? I’m also sure they will build a wonderful methane powered reusable launch vehicle as well, and that will be swell for landing huge habitats on the surface of Mars without a clue as to how to go about even the most basic life support. What I’m talking about is a hydrogen powered reusable heavy lift launch vehicle for general space development, where the vehicle itself is the payload, and which given the boiloff rates of hydrogen demand lunar and Lagrange point missions or escape trajectories to some asteroid, and then immmediate reuse as infrastructure.

          If you can come up with a vehicle that uses hydrogen, is authorized and funded, has so many problems that a redesign at the minimum is mandatory, and is capable of the kind of mass delivery that space development requires, I’d love to hear about it. But I already know that the SLS using SSMEs and RL-10s and possibly J-2S deep throttleable legacy engines is the best method of achieving my goal of full reusabliltiy in a deep space resource utilization industrial development, a program that is now mandatory given the severe population, social, economic and environmental problems that have been left unattended for several decades now.

          My sources are my own hard work, published for your critical reading enjoyment. What this boils down to is do you want to develop space, or not? I say not because most of you don’t have the faintest idea on how to physically accomplish the task at a cost that is acceptable to the general public. ISS operations are NOT the way to go about space development, that the lesson I’ve learned from it.

          Sending humans into deep space at this time in the evolution of space is dumb. Seriously dumb. That’s the message I am getting from almost everyone I respect. So yeah, I agree with you. Give SpaceX a bunch of SSMEs and RL-10s and all the help they need and then you will get a much better reusable SLS out of the deal, and in the end you will get a habitable radiation protected system for humans.

          • Justin Kugler

            The fatal flaw in your plan is the assumption that SLS will survive the same programmatic failures that got Constellation canceled. It’s simply too expensive to even do the things you hint at.

            Also, I think you’re confusing people when you talk about SLS being reusable. Most people think that means reusable over multiple launches, not dual-use, as in the second stage becoming a refuelable tug or raw material for in-space infrastructure.

            • Yes, Justin. Not only that, he cites no NASA, industry or academic studies showing this scheme is efficacious. I doubt if Congress is going to appropriate money for this based on the writings of a pseudonymous troll on a space blog. :)

              • Guest

                NASA, industry and academic studies are what gave us Constellation and the SLS and the HUGE problems that confront us. They would be the LAST organizations that I would cite on this. They have ZERO credibility when it comes to cost effective space development techniques.

              • “They have ZERO credibility when it comes to cost effective space development techniques.”
                And a pseudonymous blog troll (of whom nobody even knows his name) does?

                I don’t expect my opinions to carry any weight with the powers that be either. But at least I’m honest with myself about it.

            • Guest

              Reusability in a space development architecture (which is the only mission worth discussing when it comes to the SLS) means not sending an orbital capable core stage (deep space orbital no less) to a fiery death and then an ocean impact after sending it very nearly to the space station.

              But then again, you are part of the problem that is NASA, industry and academia when it comes to credible and cost effective space development.

              My group has been doing this kind of work for many decades, so we are not easily fooled. And symplectic integration just doesn’t lie one this.

              • Justin Kugler

                I actually agree that reusability and reliability are the key to infrastructure development, which you might have noticed from my earlier response to you. I just don’t think anyone – including you – has made an effective case for SLS being the appropriate instrument to get us there.

                What “group” are you talking about? Where is your analysis? Can you actually show us your work… or are we just supposed to take it on faith?

  • I am a strong supporter of commercial spaceflight. However, I am neutral on the question of continued development of the SLS. The reason is because I think commercial space will continue whether or not the SLS continues to be funded.

    One thing I think NASA should do is highlight the cost savings possible by following a commercial approach to space development. That SpaceX was able to cut 90% (!) off the usual development costs both for their launcher and for their crew capsule is an overwhelmingly important fact. This is something that should be trumpeted by NASA, not spoken of just in hushed tones. Such sharp reductions in costs is the only way spaceflight will truly become routine.

    Bob Clark

  • Given the above discussion about public support for space, I did some research and posted this morning a blog on the subject.

    Click here to read “Poll Position”

    I found a July 2011 CNN/ORC poll, conducted at the end of the Space Shuttle program, which found a clear majority preferred the private sector take over space exploration. Quite interesting.

    • Dark Blue Nine

      Interesting find.

    • DCSCA

      Recently reviewed a weeks worth of news in the wake of the Challenger accident from 1986– 27 years ago to the week–and the public support for HSF was strong, even in the wake of the disaster. More interestring were the bold and confident assertions by commercial advocates in the media of the massive growth of space commerce to come in, what was their “next 30 years” – our today; space hotels, tourism, manufacturing. As usual, they were wrong.

    • Replying to my own post … I found CNN’s July 2011 poll, with all the details. It’s at:

      http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2011/images/07/21/poll.july21.pdf

      So you can see how it broke down by age, ethnicity, income, gender, partisan affiliation, etc. They posed other questions too, such as how important is it for the U.S. to be ahead of the Russians.

  • Robert G. Oler

    The problem(s) with SLS/Orion are multfold

    1. Its corporate welfare. the only reason they both exist is to give Lockheed and Boeing, two ex shuttle “biggies” something to do with an infrastructure that otherwise would have nothing to do. Along the way we pick up ATK…but these are companies who had big seats at the shuttle table, gobbled up a lot of money and now have nothing substantial to show for it…

    2. they are not putting together a product. It maybe only 3-4 billion a year; but really there is nothing being put together for that 3-4 billion. A test flight in 2014 of a vehicle which is “orion like” in really shape only, the best the rocket does is maybe a 17 fly and thats unlikely. What it will mean is before the combo flies with people on it, in a high risk flight; its 15-16 years at best from concept to a crewed flight…

    And then there is nothing. Enough engines for 1 maybe 2 more flights in that “config” and then the whole stack is redone…and we are back to more money for development of whatever…who is kidding who here

    3. it is 3-4 billion dollars. Even if you toss 1 billion out for debt reduction; and consider that SpaceX and OSC have taken longer then planned; the reality is that SpaceX and OSC are still coming in quicker (with new rockets and vehicles) then the Orion/SLS stack and at a far cheaper price. Bigelow is going to put what is probably the least expensive module on the space station.

    2 billion at Bigelow and SpaceX prices gets a lot more hardware then we are getting now.

    4. There is no mission for the vehicle(s). Whittington is lying when he talks about no alternative systems or plans…but the reality is that there is no plan for SLS/Orion other then a bunch of test flights..

    anyone of these is a fail, particularly in todays budget environment…but all four

    Its time to move on. RGO

  • Guest

    I wonder if the respondents to the afore mentioned Harris Poll were told exactly what percentage of the federal budget NASA currently spends. It’s apparent most of you don’t know either. NASA’s current appropriation (since it hasn’t had a real budget in years) is less than 0.5% of the entire federal budget.

    So some of you want to zero NASA out. Great! You’ll be ending an agency that has provided numerous technological advances, put several thousand workers on the streets in a bad economy, and not make even a dimple in the federal deficit. Congratulations.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Guest
    January 29, 2013 at 5:36 pm · Reply

    I wonder if the respondents to the afore mentioned Harris Poll were told exactly what percentage of the federal budget NASA currently spends”

    so the theory is that waste is OK as long as its a small part of the budget?

    This is the most goofy notion that anyone has…it doesnt matter how little of the federal budget the 3-4 billion wasted on SLS/Orion is its 3-4 billion that could be spent well…dont be Whittington RGO

  • JimNobles

    So some of you want to zero NASA out.

    Who wants to zero NASA out! I missed that. Maybe it was one of the people who are just here mainly for the arguing…

  • MrEarl

    Just more fodder for the SLS haters restate their opinion yet again.
    Meanwhile SLS continues to make its milestones on time.

    • NeilShipley

      Yes? How do we know that? Is anyone being paid for the successful completion of those milestones? Basically they’re worth diddly squat.

    • Dark Blue Nine

      This isn’t true. EFT-1 slipped from 2013 to 2014. EM-1 slipped from 2016 to 2017.

      And we’re kidding ourselves if we don’t brace for more delays. MPCV/SLS received a $1.35 billion reduction vice the authorization in FY 2012, and is expecting a similar cut based on the House and Senate marks for FY 2013. And that’s _before_ sequestration or a budget deal gives MPCV/SLS another 5-10% haircut. EM-2 is 4,000 pounds overweight for reentry and still years from CDR. ESA still hasn’t committed the necessary funding to build one SM for EM-1, and there is no SM for EM-2 unless we’re extremely lucky with the spares for EM-1.

      Programmatically, it’s a tottering house of cards on the verge of collapse.

    • Ah, a visit from that most ardent of SLS cultists, The White Queen, errr… I mean Mr. Earl:

      Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”
      “I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

      – Lewis Carroll – from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

  • Robert G. Oler

    MrEarl
    January 29, 2013 at 8:42 pm · Reply

    Just more fodder for the SLS haters restate their opinion yet again.
    Meanwhile SLS continues to make its milestones on time.>>

    LOL and spend 1.5 billion a year going nowhere. RGO

  • MrEarl

    EFT-1 slipped because of the availability of the Delta 4 heavy. EM-1 has always been scheduled for Dec 2017 and there is still 4 months of margin.
    Sorry to burst your bubble Major Tommy.

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “EFT-1 slipped because of the availability of the Delta 4 heavy.”

      Wrong, on several counts.

      One, the MPCV for EFT-1 has experienced production issues like this one:

      “The Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) hardware processing continues to uncover new technical issues. The composite panels being fabricated are experiencing a ‘curling’ effect. Some modifications to the process have been implemented, while analysis is ongoing to expand the requirements for flatness…”

      “The EFT-1 flight tunnel post-fabrication material analysis is indicated reduced material properties. A change in the rib height to stiffen the tunnel is in work…”

      “The pathfinder tunnel to forward bulkhead weld NDE (Non Destructive Evaluation) passed with no issues. However, when cutouts were made (for analysis) cracks in the weld were created. Analysis is ongoing at this time, and further welding is on hold…”

      http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2011/11/eft-1-orion-hatch-door-orion-modal-testing/

      Two, there were multiple slips long before any contract with ULA for the EFT-1 launch was signed:

      “The mission was initially targeting for July, 2013 – before slipping to October, 2013 – per Lockheed Martin updates relating to the EFT-1 launch date. However, it was noted at that time that Orion/MPCV (Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle) teams outside of JSC were speaking of December, 2013 at earliest, with a likely slip into 2014.

      When NASA officially announced the mission, an ‘early 2014′ date was listed, as much as no definitive reason was given to the new placement on the schedule, although it is likely to be related to spreading program costs over a longer period.

      The latest launch date now appears to be Q2 (Second Quarter) or Spring, 2014 – as is expected to be manifested at the conclusion of the contract negotiations.”

      http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2012/01/eft-1-spring-2014-launch-date-contract-negotiations/

      Three, the launch date for EFT-1 has never changed in ULA’s contract:

      “‘The LV for EFT-1 is in our production and launch queue and production is underway. The projected launch date has been agreed to between ULA, LM (Lockheed Marting) and NASA and ULA (and) is on track,’ noted noted Dr George Sowers, ULA VP for Human Launch Services, during a Q&A session with NASASpaceFlight.com members.

      ‘If Orion is planning to an earlier date, that is prudent since it’s the first flight for the spacecraft and there’s more risk. The Delta IV rocket, on the other hand, is a mature product.’

      With no clear reason for the launch date moving out to the right, it is possible the launch date simply ‘matured’ out of the contract negotiations between NASA and Lockheed Martin at the start of the year, a period when the mission first moved from its late 2013 launch date into the Spring of 2014.”

      http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2012/11/eft-1-september-2014-launch-paced-delta-ivh/

      “EM-1 has always been scheduled for Dec 2017″

      No. Congress legislated 2016 for SLS to enter service.

      http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1760/1

      “and there is still 4 months of margin.”

      Nope:

      “SLS is currently scheduled to launch in 2017, but recently started to show signs it will slip into 2018 – even at this early stage of development – after a core stage design issue was revealed.”

      http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2012/10/atlas-v-saa-milestones-preparation-crewed-launches/

      Even if the team had margin, it means little at this point in time. They’re still a half-year from PDR for full system.

      “Sorry to burst your bubble Major Tommy.”

      There’s nothing to be bubbly about when this many taxpayer dollars and this many talented work years are being flushed down the toilet.

      • Dark Blue Nine wrote:

        The latest launch date now appears to be Q2 (Second Quarter) or Spring, 2014 – as is expected to be manifested at the conclusion of the contract negotiations.”

        NASA folks have told me for quite sometime that the internal target launch date is September 2014. I was told that six months ago and haven’t seen or heard anything since to make me think that’s changed.

        • Dark Blue Nine

          “NASA folks have told me for quite sometime that the internal target launch date is September 2014. I was told that six months ago and haven’t seen or heard anything since to make me think that’s changed.”

          You’re right. You’re just quoting from the middle article, rather than the last one, in that chronology I referenced on the various sources of EFT-1 slips. The last article in the chronology is consistent with a September 2014 launch date for EFT-1.

  • Robert G. Oler

    EFT-1 has all but slipped into 2018 they just wont admit it…and it wont matter the entire thing is collapsing…watch.

    Robert G. Oler

    • Egad

      EFT-1 has all but slipped into 2018

      That’s what they’re calling EM-1 (Exploration Mission 1), though it really should be called EFT-2 as it’s only testing SLS without doing any exploring(*). EFT-1 is the Orion test currently scheduled for 2014.

      (*) The same could be said for EM-2, the Apollo-8 redo.

  • vulture4

    I thought it was interesting that a solidly Republican paper would suggest cutting SLS. If it is likely to be cut, like so many other NASA projects, then every dollar spent on it is wasted and the earlier we admit the situation and stop wasting money the better. I think a small part of the money is much better spend on accelerating the return of our ability to actually launch people into space by providing adequate funding for Commercial Crew.

    • Robert G. Oler

      The Wall Street Journal is many things I dont agree with most of the economic assesments…but as you point out they are solidly Republican and they can see the handwriting on the wall.

      The GOP is slowly getting tagged with the “big business, big wealth, keep the pork going” label and it is coming time to shoot the really wounded and try and toss some overboard.

      RGO

    • I wouldn’t be so critical of SLS if Congress would actually tell NASA what it is they want us to do with it. It’s been more than two years, and Congress still hasn’t given NASA any missions or destinations for it.

      Until they do, it’s just workfare.

      • DCSCA

        I wouldn’t be so critical of SLS if Congress would actually tell NASA what it is they want us to do with it.

        It’s called the ‘Space Launch System,’ Stephen. The United States. through NASA, is going to launch heavy payloads into space. Apparently you’ve become a destination advocate, now.

        • Dark Blue Nine

          “The United States. through NASA, is going to launch heavy payloads into space.”

          No, we’re not. There’s no money in the NASA budget to build any heavy payloads for SLS. There’s not even any money to build an SM for MPCV. SLS and the MPCV capsule have eaten the entire exploration budget.

  • If you want to play thought experiments with the “future” of SLS, do the following–

    Take the R&D costs of SLS
    Compare to R&D and per mission cost for Golden Spike, assuming a 2 to 4 mission buy from Golden Spike, with at least 2 missions targeted at the poles to look at/quantify ice.
    Compare cost to first moon “flyby” with SLS/Orion.
    Compare SCIENCE RETURN between SLS and Golden Spike
    (Pause for a moment and laugh/cry at the science ROI between SLS and Golden Spike)

    Look at billions saved. Remove 20-25 percent of savings as penalty for federal deficit reduction.

    Take projected remainder “savings” and allocate across–
    $2.5 billion to haul 500 ton asteroid into CIS-Lunar parking orbit (Keck study)
    TBD CIS-lunar manned mission leveraging Golden Spike architecture
    TBD Fuel depot & CIS-Lunar outpost R&D as a Space Act Agreement
    TBD Solar-electric tugs for CIS-lunar and Mars missions

  • P. Savio

    Obama will setup another committee, most likely in late 2014 – around the time of the EFT-1 test flight, that will recommend that SLS be cancelled, and then in 2015 Obama will cancel the SLS.

    When the ISS is dumped in the Pacific in 2020 the US will no longer have a need for any Human Rated spacecraft including commercial.

    • “When the ISS is dumped in the Pacific in 2020 the US will no longer have a need for any Human Rated spacecraft including commercial.”
      Don’t hold your breath waiting for ISS to be splashed in 2020, and even if it was, there will be the Bigelow stations in orbit to provide destinations for human travelers. The earlier part of your scenario could very well be correct. However, when SLS is killed, work will begin on more practical solutions for going beyond low Earth orbit.

    • Justin Kugler

      There are no plans to deorbit the Station in 2020. That is simply the date at which the current program commitment runs out. Besides, there is not any easy plan to deorbit the Station. If that day comes, it will almost certainly have to be done in segments.

  • Guest

    2020 is not the end of the ISS program commitment. It is simply the last forecast date. The federal budget cycle plans in 6-7 year rolling forecasts so right now the budget is planned for 2020 and next year it will be 2021. There are also international agreements for how long the program is planned to continue. The Russians program manager said within the last day or two that he doesn’t anticipate the program will end anytime close to 2020. He said he does not expect to need a new station for a few years after 2020. There is an ISS de-orbit plan and has been since before the first pieces went into orbit, and I am pretty sure that its done similarly to Mir. You wait til the orbit has descended until its about to go unstable, then you use propulsion whether from Progress, the SM, or other vehicles to further slow the orbital velocity and hasten its demise so it is close to a planned trajectory and aim point. And it is I am pretty sure done as a whole and not in segments.

    • Justin Kugler

      The current agreement with the international partners runs until 2020 and my information on the deorbit plan comes from the guy who works for me and used to be on that team, so I stand by my remarks.

      Suffredini reported to ASAP himself earlier this month that the End-of-Life plan is not complete and negotiations with the Russians are still outstanding. The nominal outline he presented uses modified Progress vehicles that use up the Service Module’s on-board fuel to do a whole de-orbit, but I’ve heard there are concerns about the ability of the vehicle to withstand that approach.

  • Bill Smith

    Interesting, the science haters want to stop science, mostly they don’t want to check for life on a few moons in our own solar system. They want space corporations to dominate and to be just another industrial machine that pays them money tributes for every issue or election. Science , better science, better machines in space, reaching out further and doing more, would likely need a larger payload rocket. Would they change their idiot minds I wonder, when a large asteroid happens upon a planet killing trajectory with earth. Steeped in stupidity, they’d probably sell Kool-Aid for the event, and claim that the CO2 that blessed coal is putting in the air would protect us with magic zoomies. Save us from these truly stupid politicians and Fox employees.

  • Scott Rankine

    The Senate Launch System (SLS) is a rocket to nowhere.

    Clearly, the spirit of Apollo lives on at SpaceX, not Congress, which seems bent on forcing NASA to expend precious resources on wasteful, pork barrel make-work projects at the behest of crony aerospace lobbyists sporting suitcases of slush fund cash.

    This year we will see the first successful return of a Falcon 9 main stage to the Cape to demonstrate rapid reusability.

    In 2015 we’ll be treated to the launch of the Falcon Heavy, the largest rocket to fly since the Saturn 5.

    Next year will see the first successful crewed launch and return of a SpaceX Dragon capsule that has been designed to enable powered landings back at the Cape, unlike Orion which relies on costly and decades old ocean recovery.

    SpaceX’s vehicle roadmap dwarfs the SLS with far greater cost-efficiency and reliability. By the time the first SLS mission flies in 2018 (maybe) it will be obvious to even its most ardent fans that it makes no sense to continue with this program, meaning it will continue to live on for years burning through billions of dollars until certain Senators are no longer running for re-election.

    Orion will suffer the same fate as the superior operational capabilities and cost efficiencies of the Dragon become self evident.

    Suffice to say, the sooner we embrace the spirit of innovation and common sense that is SpaceX the better it will be for everyone, especially the American taxpayer, NASA and future generations of space explorers.

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