23 thoughts on “The Delusion Continues”

  1. Halving it’s price does not do much- their biggest achievement was charging so much.
    A question is are solid boosters no longer needed for
    any kind of space launch?
    They are for weapons of war, yes? And the supposed main political driving factor of SLS?

    But what if SLS replaces it’s solids with flyback kerosene rockets?

    The main point of big rocket is to lower launch costs and in term “too big” for market, one can launch multiple payloads.
    But SLS should just focus what it’s doing right now, and try to go faster, but don’t have long term plans of using solids?
    I would say at moment SpaceX competition is falcon 9 and heavy in terms of LEO and GEO and Starship massive advantage come Mars and using Venus.
    Or being able to aerobrake and aerocapture.
    And find it interesting that Artemis 1 did that double dip re-entry coming back from the moon.

    1. I have long thought, one could bring back Earth, hundreds of tons of lunar sample- try to lower a lunar sample to price of silver per kg.
      And I didn’t think of this before, but Starship could do this, though others could also try.

  2. Money quote: “…NASA currently manages SLS production, with Boeing and Northrop its top contractors, each having contracts under which the space agency bears any delay costs. Boeing and Northrop executives have declined to discuss plans for cutting SLS costs under the proposed commercial contract. [emphasis mine] Boeing said the potential deal was still being negotiated with NASA.”

    A license to print money. The Russians had a term for ‘unending production’, dolgostrói, for contractors making their money off indefinitely delayed government contracts…

  3. If you look at Northrop Grumman’s investor guidance over the last several years, NG consistently says “profitable growth”; they’re not into huge investments in anything except true franchise programs.

    On the Boeing front…they’re bleeding money on Commercial Crew, T-7A, KC-46, MQ-25, to the tune of more than $10 billion.

    I don’t see how either of these companies will invest in trying to make a silk purse out of a pork barrel.

  4. “The U.S. space agency is pushing ahead with plans to hand ownership of the Space Launch System (SLS) to a Boeing-Northrup joint venture in the next few years, with a goal of cutting in half the rocket’s price tag – estimated at $2 billion.’

    OK, what is the sales price or do these companies get ownership for free? Our government is just going to give them a product that cost the US taxpayer $50,000,000,000 or whatever it is up to now?

    The hard truth is that no company would buy SLS.

  5. One of the “what if’s” about the atomic bombs exploded over Japan was, “couldn’t we have just done a demonstration, blown up an atom bomb over a deserted Pacific island and invited the admirals of the Empire of Japan to watch?”

    Actually, we did such a thing in blowing up (two) low number of kilotons atomic bombs over Bikini Atol soon after WW-II. Unlike later atomic tests, this “demonstration” was well publicized (or, least the first, airburst shot of Crossroads Able), heck, we even invited Soviet observers of it.

    The term “bikini” for a certain style of French bathing suit, apparently is named after the island in the Pacific where Project Crossroads was conducted, with the idea that people fearful of atomic war during the 50’s held “bikini parties” where women wore those bathing suits, a kind of celebration of moral liberation in the face of impending death?

    Stalin interrogated his people who observed this atomic test, and the story according to Richard Rhodes, author of Dark Sun, was 1) he wasn’t all that impressed of what an atom bomb did exploded over a deserted island and 2) when his scientists replicated the first US atom bombs, he was anxious that the explosion was “at least as powerful as what the Americans showed us.” When you see “stock footage” of an atom bomb explosion, you are probably seeing the Crossroads Able test–most tests that followed were kept secret.

    President Kennedy’s utterance of Ted Sorensen’s words of “before the end of this decade landing a man on the Moon and bringing him back safely” was another one of these demonstrations, even if only an indirect one. A country that could pull off the Moon landing must at the least have highly accurate guidance for a ballistic-missile delivery of a much more powerful hydrogen bomb.

    It wasn’t just putting the fear into the Soviets, it was showing America to be “the strong horse” to the non-aligned countries of the world. In this context, what does SLS “do” apart from showing it to be the hydrogen bomb of incinerating vast mountains of money?

    With the End of the Cold War, Russia had a large number of unemployed atomic scientists (engineers, actually) and rocket scientists. Without going into all the supporting detail, there were a number of initiatives from the US to keep those Russian tech people employed, in Russia, as opposed to migrating to Iran. Or North Korea.

    Do people here consider that an element of SLS was/is to keep American aerospace engineers employed in order to maintain a technical capability that may yet become critical for our standing among nations and for national defense needs?

      1. My take is that if your vital capability is working on such a low value project, then it’s worse than if there were no intentional employment program at all. Keep in mind those people could be more gainfully employed elsewhere.

    1. Engineers learn little by playing Lego with old Shuttle parts. Keeping unproductive programs going because they provide employment is one of the things that got the PRC into its current economic mess. We do not advantage ourselves by following this well-worn path to disaster.

    2. To those who believe a demonstration of an atomic bomb would’ve been sufficient to convince the Japanese to surrender, there’s an inconvenient historical truth that the fail to grasp. That truth is that the Japanese didn’t immediately surrender after Hiroshima was bombed. If the terrible destruction of Hiroshima wasn’t enough to convince them to surrender, what chance would a demonstration blast at some atoll would’ve done the job? Nagasaki was bombed a few days later and they still didn’t immediately surrender. Col Paul Tibbets was sent back to the US to get the one remaining atomic bomb in our arsenal when the Emperor finally announced the surrender. Even then, Japanese hardliners attempted a coup to prevent the surrender from happening.

      1. Arguably, Hiroshima *was* the demo (i.e., This could happen to Tokyo.) Then, when that didn’t do it, Nagasaki. What may have actually done the trick was the fact that the Nagasaki bomb missed the target by some distance, and still took out the city. Those bombs were little. The Hiroshima bomb destroyed about 2 square miles of a paper city. People in the basement of the Hiroshima phone company, a couple of hundred yards from the hypocenter, lived through it.

  6. Mr. Nelson and his pet boy Free certainly seem to be pulling out all the stops in an effort to have Mr. Nelson’s masterpiece outlive him. Their latest gambit is throwing shade on Starship’s potential for “delaying” Artemis 3. The point of this grumbling, IMO, is battlespace preparation for an effort, in Congress, to cancel the Starship HLS lander contract. That doing so would certainly delay Artemis 3 by at least an extra three or four years pretty obviously gives the lie to the sincerity of the expressed concern. Boeing and NorGrum would simply keep collecting their 2+ billion per year in cost-plus disbursements without really having to do anything until the end of the decade when the Blue Moon lander would, according to current plan, be ready to step in.

    This goofball scenario is almost certainly not salable to a Congress with Richard Shelby no longer in it. There simply aren’t enough members who either depend substantially on contributions from SLS supply chain players or who hate Elon Musk for reasons having nothing to do with space to make this attempted shanking look like a good deal for NASA or the nation.

    There is a near-term clock on this gambit as well. The efficacy of the FUD being spread is largely contingent on the most recent public impression of Starship being the failed initial test launch. Elon was, as usual, off by about a factor of two in initially estimating the time it would take to make repairs and essay another attempt. But sometime in August now looks pretty reasonable as a timeframe by which all could be in technical readiness for a second go – lawsuits and licenses permitting, of course. If Starship is completely – or even substantially successful on its second outing, that “delay” story gets a lot harder to sell.

    There is a part of me, I must confess, that would actually like to see Nelson and Free succeed in their sabotage of Artemis via ejection of SpaceX. On its own again, SpaceX could turn the redoutable Kathy Lueders loose to crush her erstwhile tormentors by rendering the entire Artemis effort an irrelevant backmarker. Jared Isaacman could be the next man to set foot on the Moon – perhaps immediately followed by several others including, I suspect, some ex-NASA defectors from the current astronaut corps. It’s a delicious vision.

    1. Some say Nelson and Free are putting pressure on FAA- which needs some excuse to do the right thing- which they hadn’t been doing.
      SpaceX/Starship does need Artemis other than it helps
      in regards to FAA.
      If SpaceX is allowed to launch, it could make more money without doing Artemis.
      Or Artemis is paying about 200 million per Starship launch, Starship launch is worth more than 200 million
      Or advantage of Artemis is it’s a Starship test program, SpaceX could use starlink satellites as this test program. And most payload for Artemis is rocket fuel and rocket fuel is a cheap “dummy payload”. So Artemis is better than losing a lot satellites {even if they are cheap] but SpaceX gets a lot satellite in orbit quicker, by doing it.

      1. Back in the day NASA would go to work planning capabilities around launchers that were still on the drawing boards. SpaceX is already doing test flights of the largest launcher ever built and NASA is largely trying to pretend it doesn’t really exist.

        Heck, a smarter NASA would’ve been rethinking their whole approach when Falcon Heavy was on the drawing boards, in terms of how best to leverage its cheap heavy lift capability, along with partnering up to build a cryogenic upper stage for it for NASA deep space missions.

  7. They should have foreseen this problem a decade ago or more. What they designed isn’t a viable launch system for much of anything, much less anything commercial. It could have limped along on big NASA science missions but those can save a fortune by switching to Falcon Heavy or Starship, leaving much more money for the actual science part.

    I imagine that at some point late in the Bristol Brabazon program the higher ups were faced with the same questions. They built it, but it has no market and nobody has a use for it. Is there any use they can put it to? Is there some niche need it could fill? Is there any interest in some kind of giant trans-Atlantic slow cargo plane conversion?

    Perhaps some of the program’s supporters are entering the bargaining stage of grief.

    1. Is there any upside to SLS {Senate Launch system}
      well Senate supported it {despite Obama}.
      And in terms of not looking past, at moment it seems
      we “could” get to the Moon sooner.
      I was against it, as I was against ISS.
      I am less against, SLS and ISS.
      It seems some good come out of ISS- maybe we will get a real space station as result. One might also point to Chinese Space Station- ISS caused it.
      I don’t like the Chinese govt, but a sort of like their station, and I am not paying for it.
      But NASA simply doesn’t cost much money- it’s the time it wastes- that is my beef.
      Also ISS gave us SpaceX. And Russian started Musk- Without ISS, Musk could not looked at russian rockets and said to himself- I can do better than this.
      But other than SLS might get us to a crew lunar landing faster, what else is doing? It’s competition for SpaceX.
      Wouldn’t you like to have that kind of competition?

  8. Funny, but less than an hour ago I read an article in which Free slams SpaceX for any delay of Artemis III beyond Dec.25.

    No mention of the SLS overruns, or any other contributing cause.

    Well, at least I now know for certain that Free is in the “Old NASA, with all costs and delays” camp.

    It disgusts me to see a poltroon like this hammer this crap… and know that he has at least a fairly good chance of getting away with it.

  9. John Noble Wilford’s epic We Reach the Moon, published days after Apollo 11 returned, gave the cost to build and launch a Saturn V as $128 million (IIRC). According to this site, https://www.usinflationcalculator.com/ , that would amount to $1,058,050,790.19 in 2023 dollars. I was surprised at that result, but it still doesn’t mean that cutting the $2 billion cost of SLS in half would make it affordable. Apollo was cancelled in large part because it was not affordable, and the only further use of the Saturn V was to launch the Skylab Workshop.

    1. Mike, I don’t believe “in large part because it was unaffordable. Maybe that was the reason LBJ mothballed SV production about a year earlier, but even with that, it was the combined Vietnam/Great Society priorities.

      I remember 68-9 well enough, and the over whelming issues were Vietnam,”Social issues” etc. It was felt that the rocket guys had had their fun, and thanks for beating Russia – even though with JFK a martyr Apollo was more a gift to his memory than anything else. Anyone who suggested continuing going to the Moon, let alone beyond it, was accused of taking money from the starving poor. I assume you recall that (in)famous) Herblock political cartoon which perfectly and powerfully expressed that relentless argument.

      I was just a kid in elementary school, but totally immersed in a sea of such attitudes, here in ‘Blue’ Bostion

  10. I see a cool new launch vehicle: the Vulcan II VE6. It would be a stretched Vulcan first stage with 4 Raptor 3 engines (one center, 3 peripheral), with 6 GEM 63XL solid strapons, and a modified (with a longer, narrow hydrogen tank) EUS upper stage with 4 RL-10C engines. 66 metric tons (143,000 pounds) to low-earth orbit.

    That would be big enough to launch Blue Moon and the Cislunar Transport to LEO. The CT could cycle between Axiom Station and Gateway, carry crew and fuel for Blue Moon, supported by LEO taxis (whichever ones are flying) to Axiom. No SLS or Orion (and assume no Starship or New Glenn, for whatever reason, with SpaceX just becoming an engine manufacturer). NASA could still call it Artemis, and the haters would be rid of Musk *and* Bezos as a bonus.

    Could happen. Well, probably not, but still…

    1. The Deep State is trying to destroy Musk and will probably succeed. So here’s the US space program for 2030-2060:

      Vulcan, New Glenn, Axiom Station, Cislunar Transport, Gateway, Moonbase.

      Mars some time after 2060, so probably NET 2090. “I propose to land a non-man of color on Mars before the end of this century, and return xumb safely to Earth.”

      Or, Musk defects to China, having outrun the agents of the Deep State. Why should Von Braun have had all the fun? Who wants to bet Kathy Lueders is the next President of SpaceX?

Comments are closed.