37 thoughts on “SLS”

  1. Apropos #Apolloism, I saw this frustrating quote from Dr. Griffin (via Jeff Foust):

    Mike Griffin: US no longer the “preeminent” aerospace power. In the lead in some, but not all, areas. #vonbraun

    Are there any facets of aerospace where he has a legitimate point, besides human spaceflight *right now*? Or is his only idea of leading aerospace means we do Apollo again?

    1. He did a Space Show appearance where he sounded a little different than the complaints leveled at him. Basically he said that SpaceX wasn’t around when they were making decisions. This is a good point. That things have changed dramatically since then is an even better point and it sounded as if he kind of got that except that he said something like, “We have to finish something. We can’t keep cancelling everything.”

      He is right about our standing. People are too dismissive of the competition. But a lot of the people (not saying you are) that are dismissive wouldn’t really mind if China controlled space.

      NASA is a bit of a mixed bag of competency and capabilities right now. It is our private companies that are standing out. We shouldn’t be arrogant and complacent though. You put laurels up where your guests can see them, you don’t put them up so that you can stare at them all day.

      1. “Basically he said that SpaceX wasn’t around when they were making decisions. This is a good point.”

        While it’s true that SpaceX was not a particularly credible entity when Constellation was being designed, there was still no reason NASA could not have asked the established rocket builders of the day to propose solutions for NASA’s launch needs.

          1. Some of the advanced EELV proposals seemed quite reasonable to me. Like the capsule on top of the Delta-IV Heavy, that got pushed in the OTV, or the clustered vehicles for delivering heavier payloads. Or ACES and the ACES propellant depots. Or the RL-60 engine. These were all low risk and would provide either necessary capabilities, like crew transfer, or expanded capabilities. But no it had to be Ares über alles.

        1. no reason NASA could not have asked the established rocket builders of the day to propose solutions for NASA’s launch needs.

          Is there any reason to believe that would have led to something flying today, assuming the traditional cost plus contracting?

          1. I think so, but my major point is that Griffin’s excuse that there was no SpaceX then is illogical.

      2. Basically he said that SpaceX wasn’t around when they were making decisions. This is a good point.

        Griffin would have stacked the deck against SpaceX (for example, in the key rationalizing of the Constellation system in the Exploration Systems Architecture Study, the operating constraints on the Stack as compared to an Atlas V were deliberately loosened) in order to reach the right conclusion, continuing use of ATK solid rocket motors and the Space Shuttle supply chain.

    2. Well, we can credit Griffin for COTS. That’s how SpaceX got its initial NASA funding to develop Falcon 9 and that’s probably what saved SpaceX as a company after all those Falcon 1 launch failures. I know the money didn’t start coming in immediately, but the mere fact they had a valid contract likely eased a lot of their financial pressure.

      Just don’t ask him to design a rocket. He’s really bad at that. Despite (or perhaps because of) all those diplomas he has. Hey, I have a PhD (just one, not several like him), and it’s things like this that give us a bad rep.

      1. I was the program executive in ESMD for COTS during Griffin’s early tenure. Griffin used a speechwriter to support COTS in a couple talks to the outside world. But internally, Griffin cut the COTS budget in half to feed Constellation. At the recent National Space Council meeting, Griffin took credit for COTS/CRS awards. While it’s obviously true that any NASA Administrator could have stopped those awards if they wanted, the fact that Griffin did not is hardly a positive mark of active program support. I think it’s more accurate to say that the COTS/CRS awards were made — and the COTS teams succeeded beyond industry norms — despite Griffin’s actions, not because of them.

  2. As a practical matter, how does SLS get killed? Obviously, reason has no effect. Announcement of better vehicles to come sooner from a proven provider has no effect. What’s the solution? They can always claim SLS Block X does something no other vehicle can provide.

        1. That article says they don’t have to be delivered until 2027. I wonder how many they can build in a year? Presumably four if they want to do a mission a year.

          $1.5 billion for this ten year deal sounds like a lot but that’s only $150 million a year or $250 million an engine. That is really affordable though, basically its 1 FH launch a year or 2 FH launches an engine. However, the next batch of engines would have to be cheaper since the startup costs are included in the contract.

          1. @George Turner Yeah, don’t you know that small-batch, locally-sourced artisanal turbomachinery is all the rage these days?

          2. Seriously, though, there’s probably an important lesson there about designers not talking to engineers not talking to fabricators, and waterfall design, and designing for mass production etc. etc.

            The new critical line on SpaceX seems to be that they’re lucky and reckless and stumbled into the right technology half by accident, and the traditional space powers will catch and pass them. But SpaceX’s management and organizational patterns were the key to all that, and I don’t see anyone but maybe BO duplicating that at all.

        2. Don’t count on those RS-25 engines. They cancelled the J-2X engine and that was way simpler. Besides who needs the RS-25 when you have SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Rocketdyne developing brand new staged combustion booster engines? Ones that don’t need solids in parallel staging? Oops there I said it.

    1. It all makes a lot more sense if you look at SLS as a program to funnel pork into selected Congressional districts. Whether anything actually flies is secondary to money being delivered.

  3. My prediction: first launch failure in 2022, five years of redesign with a second launch scheduled for 2029 and cancellation of SLS in 2027.

  4. If they launch in 2020 (or 2019) I’ll eat my hat. From the look of the program, 2023 is my best guess at a NET, and that’s assuming they get more $$$ than currently budgeted.

    I hope this thing gets canceled.

    1. Since SpaceX will fly BFS first on suborbital, it is more probable that BFS will fly before the first flight of SLS, …and BFR with Booster will launch before SLS is cancelled.

  5. As the article “explains”:

    “Per the forward plan in the contract, NASA issued a ‘Justification for Other Than Full and Open Competition (JOFOC)” in accordance with the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR).'”

    In order to “assure” the maximum possible risk reduction, NASA is using a new contracting authority simply known as “Federal Unaffordable Contracting Known To Underwrite Poop” (FUCKTUP).

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