This isn’t a space transportation system; it’s a cathedral:

The foundation that was already there at Michoud was too weak to support the tool. We had quite a job to reinforce it, to dig it out and then put it back so it could hold up the Vertical Assembly Center. To give you context for the magnitude of the new foundation, Louisiana is not known for its hard soil, and the new foundation that we laid for the Vertical Assembly Center would hold the largest building in downtown New Orleans, 1 Shell Square.

For a program that’s likely to fly, at best, twice.

12 thoughts on “SLS”

  1. So, they want to build one SLS a year?

    The fiscal insanity aside, they also have a mission problem; they can’t seem to figure out what to do with this monstrosity. IMHO, the ARM mission was thought up mainly to give SLS/Orion something to do – it makes no sense otherwise to put the retrieved space pebble in lunar orbit rather than multi-pass grazing (no heat shield needed) aerobraking it into LEO.

    This is a clear example of how useless SLS is, because if it was even slightly useful, they wouldn’t be so hard-pressed to figure out what to do with it.

  2. It’s telling that NASA won’t talk about anything after EM-2. My guess is, either they already know the program’s hosed, or they expect the next administration to kill it, and don’t want to be stuck with termination costs.

    1. GAO just made a couple of interesting remarks about the future of SLS:

      Assessments of Selected Large-Scale Projects
      March 2015

      Additionally, the SLS program has not defined its future missions or finalized its plans regarding future flight rate. Further, NASA’s cost estimates do not provide any information about the longer-term, life-cycle costs of developing, manufacturing, and operating the SLS. For example, NASA’s baseline estimate for SLS does not cover program costs after the first non-crewed launch or costs to design, develop, build, and produce either of the program’s two variants. As a result, the long-term affordability of the program is uncertain.


      The long-term affordability of the SLS program is largely unknown because NASA has not selected specific human exploration missions beyond the second SLS test flight in 2021 and NASA’s baseline cost estimate does not provide any information about the longer-term, life-cycle costs of developing, manufacturing, and operating the launch vehicle or costs associated with the 105- or 130-metric ton variants.

      1. NASA administration did not want the damned thing. They ordered an outside review of Constellation which said Ares V should be cancelled and all possible alternatives considered in order to fit available budget. Instead they were forced by the senate to rehash Ares V into this monstrosity. This project and James Webb space telescope are boondoggles.

        I think they are just doing what they were told to do with the shortest time horizon possible in case a future administration comes to their senses and finally cancels this crap.

  3. OBTW, I’m not sure I understand what Ms Barnes means by We all firmly believe there’s not a business case that you would make the investment in this rocket to do two and done.

    If I understand it aright, Boeing’s current contract calls precisely for “two and done.” That is, for delivery of two SLSes for EM-1 and EM-2. Doubtless they would like to get contracts in the future to deliver a steady stream of rockets at the rate of one or more a year, but that’s a wish, not a reality, as she says.

    So the question I have is, was Boeing’s business case for entering into the present contract predicated on the assumption that that steady stream of rockets would follow it? And will the company lose money if they just execute the present contract successfully?

    1. I’m sure not. It’s a purely cost-plus contract. Boeing isn’t putting a dime of their own money in it. I think she means “business case” from the government’s perspective, not Boeing’s.

      1. I think she means “business case” from the government’s perspective, not Boeing’s.

        Could be. As an ex-govie and ex-beltway bandit, I’ve always found it bizarre that the government, starting a few decades ago, tries to use business terminology in describing its activities. Maybe “business case” and “customers” and “ROI” can occasionally be used as metaphors, but they are at best metaphors, not reality. Government, for better or worse, isn’t business, it doesn’t have the same purposes or measures of performance as business. You could as easily ask what the business case of Bhuddism is.

  4. So .. they keep saying this is going to take us to Mars. We know just one SLS will not get us to mars… so at one launch a year .. who many years to launch what you need for a Mars mission?

    1. It’s worse than that. IIRC there’s no budget left for any decent payloads even for near space let alone increased launch rate. I guess you can still use it to launch a vat of water into space.

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