SLS/Orion

NASA is thinking about putting up crew on its very first flight.

And yet they continue to delay commercial crew because “safety is the highest priority.”

[Update a couple minutes later]

[Update a couple minutes later]

A congressional staffer told me about this last week: A hearing on NASA’s past, past, past and present, no future.

[Update a few minutes later]

More from Eric Berger.

[Update a while later]

Joel Achenback weighs in.

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[Update a while later, just before noon Pacific]

Thoughts from Keith Cowing. Yes, it’s a Hail Mary. And reckless, in my opinion. If it was to save the world, OK, but to save a bloated jobs program?

[Update early afternoon]

Here’s Marcia Smith’s take.

[Update a while later]

And here’s the story from the Chrises at NASA Spaceflight.

[Update a few minutes later]

And Jeff Foust’s take. Excellent point in comments:

If NASA agree[s] to this (putting astronauts on 1st flight of brand new rocket), they better not whine about SpaceX loading astronauts before fuel.

Indeed.

16 thoughts on “SLS/Orion”

  1. For safety and reliability, and just plain getting the bugs out, cutting metal and operating equipment can work a lot better that analytic models. But with the SLS model limiting the total number of launches, that’s not an option for them.

  2. You would think that the author of “Safe is Not an Option” would applaud such a move. I guess Rand was not serious when he called for more risk taking by NASA.

    1. If you read my book, you must have missed the point. I’m all for more risk taking by NASA, if it has some purpose other than a political stunt to pretend they’re making progress by re-enacting a mission from half a century ago.

    1. There were reasons for that that don’t apply here. For instance, Shuttle couldn’t fly (and in particular, land) without crew.

      And in retrospect, that was much riskier than anyone realized at the time. Gerst noted last week that we now estimate a one in twelve chance of LOC for that flight, when at the time they were estimating 1/500 or 1/5000…

  3. You know, Dragon was designed to enter the atmosphere from a hyperbolic orbit. If the Falcon Heavy were available, a lunar orbit mission would be a piece of cake. But if it weren’t, two Falcon 9 launches could be used to do a lunar flyby and return. The trick would be to put zero payload on one of the Falcons. The payload would be the remaining propellant. The Dragon could rendezvous with the stage, and do a restart to boost the whole stack to the moon. There’s more than enough performance remaining in that stage to do the job. It wouldn’t be possible to go into orbit and come back, however.

    For what it’s worth.

    1. I think SpaceX will (finally) launch Falcon 9 Heavy this year. It’s the first time I’ve seen actual physical hardware for it being shown. So there’s little need to plan for something without that capability.

  4. Wag the dog!

    Put the crew in a mockup and just pretend they were launched. If the rocket fails they can instantly claim a successful abort saved the crew.

    Win/win.

  5. I hear a lot of people likening this concept to Apollo 8. However, that’s a poor comparator; Apollo 8 was the first manned flight of the Saturn 5, not its first flight. It was the third flight of the Saturn 5.

    I tend to focus on the “why” of things, so I wonder why NASA is considering this. It’s been pointed out that this would delay the first launch significantly, so why do it? My guess is that this is a feature, not a bug; it give NASA a ready made excuse for a delay that is going to happen anyway.

  6. It’s clear enough; if you’re spending billions launching SLS, empty, after Dragon and Falcon Heavy (and heck, maybe New Glenn testing) are ready to go, people are really going to start to wonder what the point is.

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