The Latest SLS Follies

No biggie, just another cost increase.

Meanwhile, in non-NASA news, we may be about to launch five American rockets in two days.

[Update Saturday morning]

Things are happening in Boca Chica (among other places):

[Update a few minutes later]

Apparently the DIVH abort will delay the SpaceX attempt at dual launches.

27 thoughts on “The Latest SLS Follies”

  1. I think we should go ahead and build only four SLS launchers. One for Canaveral, one for Houston, one for Huntsville, and one for the Smithsonian. Launching them would be a horrible waste because there are much better and cheaper ways to make artificial fish habitats.

  2. Give NASA credit for knowing when to ask for increases. Nobody will oppose this because of the upcoming election. That’s a shame, because it should be cancelled.

  3. IMHO, they may actually get a launch out of SLS before the end of 2021. This would be via it blowing up during the Green Run; some components would surely rise skyward in such a case.

  4. Wondering how the ULA DeltaIV Heavy scrub will affect SpaceX schedule. They were postponed until after the NROL-44 because NatSec comes first, but that is looking like more than a day-long delay.

      1. I think the reset to T-4 was part of the abort procedure. There was no chance of launching once they had that shutdown. For one thing, at least some of the pad igniters (sparklers, basically, to ignite leaked H, as well as for engine ignition) are pyros – and have to be replaced once used.

    1. I’m so old that I can remember when people were pondering that very bet between Falcon Heavy and SLS. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I don’t know the Vegas line, but if I had to bet right now, I’d bet Starship sees orbit before SLS does. Of course, that’s a risky bet, as a lot can go wrong (more RUDs are Boca Chica, heat shield failure during reentry, etc) but, it’s far from a given that all will go smoothly regarding SLS, too.

      As an aside, NASA TV last night ran one of their old programs on SLS/Orion. A big part of it was them explaining how important it was that SLS be affordable, and how much they were doing to reduce costs (Such as using Shuttle SRBs, and “just” adding an extra segment.) That did not age well….

      1. Even if the heat shield fails on entry, it will have still beaten it to orbit. And it won’t be unsurprising if the first flight isn’t fully successful. As with Falcon, first they have to figure out how to get it to orbit. After that, they can work the bugs out of getting it home.

        1. That’s where the SLS is far ahead of Starship. If the SRBs and core stage work nominally, we know that SLS will successfully re-enter the atmosphere just as it was designed to do. After that, it’s all gravy unless it accidentally slams into a barge or something. ๐Ÿ™‚

          1. Looking at some of the recent pictures of New York, is it possible an SLS has already hit there?

          2. Let’s not forget the different goalposts here. Remember when SpaceX was learning how to land F9s, and those fiery kabooms were called “SpaceX launch attempt fails!” by the media, even though the landing was all that failed, and the payload was safely in orbit?

            I also think we’re overlooking another route by which SLS reaches orbit first; nomenclature. I’ve noticed that Musk has referred to the Superheavy as “the booster” twice in his most recent mentions. My guess; a name change is coming.

            New name for Superheavy: Starship Lauch System. SLS. And that’s about the only way SLS launches before Superheavy – via the power of nomenclature. ๐Ÿ™‚

        2. Rand, the problem with your claim of “Even if the heat shield fails on entry, it will have still beaten it to orbit.” is that it is based on a world of reason and logic, rather than the one in which we live. ๐Ÿ™‚

          Seriously though, I agree. My current guess is that getting it to orbit will be the easier task. The heat shield alone is going to be very hard to do, as we’re seeing with their tests at Boca Chica (they lose a lot of the test tiles during the hops). My guess is they will try to learn by doing (As they have been), accepting a few test flight failures as the price of speed and reduced program costs.

          1. They’ve only been playing with the tiles to date on Starship, gluing them on like Shuttle. SN8 has steel studs to attach the tiles. And all the tiles are identical so no custom fitting. It’s going to be a whole new ball game.

        3. Even if nothing works but the engines and tanks, that’s the largest expendable rocket ever. I keep remembering Musk talked about something he called Starkicker: Super Heavy plus a Starship stripped of all the recovery hardware. 200+ metric tons to low earth orbit (with first stage RTLS). That’s an Orion and Dynetics lander to low lunar orbit in one go.

          1. The Delta-IV’s three engines cost $20m each, and only beat the Raptor ISP by about 30. Even if each and every Starshiop ended up at the bottom of the Atlantic, ULA still wouldn’t be able to compete on cost per launch, much less cost per pound to robit.

          2. –George Turner
            August 30, 2020 At 1:42 AM
            The Delta-IVโ€™s three engines cost $20m each, and only beat the Raptor ISP by about 30.–

            If engine cost $20 million, wouldn’t they be useful for lunar lander- assuming the engines could be used often and with low maintenance?

  5. On Super Heavy don’t they need to be building the barge/launch platform? Thought I saw something about concerns about launching the Super Heavy from Boca Chica cause of concerns on resident safety and noise levels. A Superheavy ruding like SN4 with out looking at the numbers would be bigger explosion than N1 right? and I imagine would be # 4 or 5 on that list?
    I said before and say again no way Starship is making orbit this year, not that SLS is in the running for this year or the first half of next year. Though I’ll guess as pathetic as Boeing is, Crewed Starliner will beat both to orbit meeting that low bar.

  6. I don’t understand how the math works out. SLS cost, and time to first flight, were already basically infinity. How can it increase to 130% of that?

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