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Archive for the ‘SLS’ Category

Gingrich-SLS a “Political Pork-Barrel”

From Spacepolitics.com-

Former Speaker of the House and current 2012 Republican presidential candidate said Thursday he would “absolutely” privatize human spaceflight if elected president. Speaking at a town hall meeting in Dallas, Gingrich was asked about the Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket that NASA is developing as required by the 2010 NASA Authorization Act. “I think it is disgraceful the way getting into space has been turned into a political pork-barrel. It’s an abuse of the taxpayer and an abuse of America’s future,” he said, according to a statement from the Space Frontier Foundation, which also provided a transcript of the exchange. “It is a tragedy that between bureaucrats and politicians we have reduced NASA to the point where we are relying on Russian rockets to get to the space station…”

Full story…

OK, so Gingrich is against pork-barrels. He wants alternatives to government-led programs. I did a quick google to see if Gingrich is consistent with this view, and he’s a flip-flopper.

From Prospect.org-

When it comes to the Iraq War, Gingrich has a long history of flipping, flopping, and then flipping again. As Alex Koppelman reported in Salon last year, “As a close advisor to the administration over the past six years, and an intimate of both Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Gingrich was a powerful advocate both for the idea of invading Iraq and for the botched way in which it was done.” A member of the influential Defense Policy Board, Gingrich helped draw up war plans at the Central Command for the Middle East in Tampa, Fla. And his Oct. 16, 2002 USA Today column about Iraq was titled, “Strike Sooner Than Later.”

Full story…

Well there ya go. If Gingrich was really into private solutions and getting government out of the way, he would have told the oil companies to hire their own mercenary army to invade Iraq and take the oil!


NASA’s Detailed Study of SLS Alternatives from a Year Ago, Told Ya So


Nasawatch is still running some news bits about that NASA Powerpoint it got from last July that discussed just about everything on SLS and alternatives, including international partners and fuel depots.

From Nasawatch-

…it is obvious that even a year ago pragmatic thought was given to how a variety of launchers could be used for human, cargo, and other launch purposes including ways that mission profiles (DRM 4) usually associated with a HLV could be accomplished in whole or in part by the use of expendable launch vehicles. A more detailed look at what was being reviewed last year can be found at “Human Exploration Framework Team Presentation Online“.

Full story and comments…

Duh. This was discussed last time people were fussing over SLS vs alternatives, about a year ago. I don’t recall seeing the previous year’s charts online, but NASA did do a good, pragmatic study, as reported here. The study took into account different mission scenarios, lift capacity to carry out those missions, and different combinations of rockets that could do it (existing or planned), plus the time required to build the different fleets of rockets and/or depots, complexity, and reliability. SLS would cost more, but turntimes between missions are less and it’s not so complex.

If you replace SLS with a fleet, you still have to build the fleet at the right time and get them all into space when you need them, without anything going wrong.

Maybe Congress just wanted an SLS because it’s tall and looks cool. Maybe they looked at all the numbers and decided to keep it simple. (And then there may be uses for it they don’t want to talk about.)


Nasa Flip-Flops on SLS vs Fuel Depots? Well, Maybe

Nasawatch has a headline that says “NASA Studies Show Cheaper Alternatives to SLS.” Well, yes, and no. Click on the article and it takes you to Spaceref where we learn that this comes from a press release by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher! Yeah great source. Like we should really care what a politician says.

The Nasa source is supposedly a real fuel depot study, linked here, dated last July 21. This looks like an updated version of some of the same study charts that showed SLS to be the best choice over a year ago. You can actually do things cheaper with fuel depots, but the flip side is you actually have to develop and own some fuel depots, and you still have the logistics and manufacturing turntimes to build more vehicles if you have no SLS. Click the link and read to the end where it talks about the necessary conditions to use depots. (and don’t pay attention to politicians!)


SLS trades lean towards opening with four RS-25s on the core stage

From Nasaspaceflight.com-

The Space Launch System (SLS) is undergoing final refinements – known as trades – on a preferred baseline for the opening flights, with documentation showing a preference to debut the Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle (HLV) with four RS-25s on the core stage, instead of three. Should this become an approved configuration, it would allow for full utilization of the propellent that can be contained inside the stretched core.

SLS Configurations:

The ongoing trades taking place at the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) are a notable change from the Constellation Program (CxP) issue of making major configuration decisions years down the line, which – in the case of Ares – was well-known as one of the contributing factors to causing impacts to the entire vehicle.

Technically, SLS could launch with three, four or five RS-25s from the outset. However, with three engines on the core, and the automatic need for the core to be “stretched” – based on the five segment boosters on the configuration – using four engines will allow the vehicle to fly fully fueled in all configurations saving the extra calculations/testing for an under-filled three engine core.

As such, it appears managers have already decided that using four engines on the first stage would be best prescribed for the SLS from the start…

Full story…


Sole-Source SLS, What Else Do People Expect?

MSFC had a big business meeting yesterday to kick off contracting for the SLS.

Here’s a preview by The Huntsville Times…

Blogs are already on about open competition for the big ticket items, but I haven’t seen anyone writing about what we knew all along, and that is this is going to be a big Boeing project. What else did you expect? The language in the NASA bill that approved SLS talked about using CxP contracts as much as practical to speed things up. We should not expect any big surprises on propulsion either.

If we want to see this project get half-done and cancelled in our lifetimes, NASA needs to streamline the process. This isn’t and wasn’t going to be a revolution.

At least critics have something else to write about besides Sen. Shelby and MSFC jobs. The truth here is MSFC is glad to get the SLS initial design work, but it is still letting people go, even today. The balance of work that MSFC will do on SLS is tiny compared to what was happening on Ares 1. MSFC was staffed up to design the Ares 1 Upper Stage and release designs for Boeing to manufacture. Those designers are gone. This time Boeing will do that part, and MSFC does “insight and oversight.” It’s hardly a make-work program for MSFC. It’s a “we still have too many people” program.

Read “NASA’s SLS Procurement: So Far, Sole Source Only” on Nasawatch…

From Spacepolitics…

NASA’s plan to sole-source most elements of the Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket has led one member of Congress to complain to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). “I have serious concerns with NASA’s attempt to avoid holding a full and open competition to acquire the SLS,” Congressman Tom McClintock (R-CA) wrote in a September 22 letter to the GAO, provided by the advocacy group Tea Party in Space (TPIS).

McClintock wrote that he believed NASA’s plans to procure key elements of the SLS through modifying existing contracts made them “de facto sole source awards” that could be in violation of the 1984 Competition in Contracting Act, which allows sole source awards only when there is a “single responsible source” to meet government needs…

Full story…

Nice try Tom, but a waste of time.


Former Astronauts Still Talking

Neil Armstrong and Gene Cernan were back in Washington, DC last week sounding off to a House Committee about the direction of human spaceflight.

Both moon landing heroes obviously don’t see the kind of enthusiasm and commitment to human spaceflight that they remember from Apollo days. Without a Red Menace to scare money out of Congress, that is not going to change.

From Humanspaceflight.com-

As the Space Launch System (SLS) continues to push on – with the latest stage being the release of the acquisition overview – NASA’s recent official announcement of the new launch vehicle has been warmly received by the first and last men to walk on the Moon. However, both Neil Armstrong and Captain Gene Cernan remain concerned by the lack of goals and destinations…


The past year has been frustrating to NASA observers, as they tried to understand NASA’s plans and progress. The NASA leadership enthusiastically assured the American people that the agency was embarking on an exciting new age of discovery in the cosmos…But the realities of the termination of the Shuttle program, the cancellation of existing rocket launcher and spacecraft programs, the layoffs of thousands of aerospace workers, and the outlook for American space activity throughout the next decade were difficult to reconcile with the agency assertions…


Until this past week, NASA had continued to disregard, ignore, and flaunt the law and the mandate of the Congress while continuing to pursue its own agenda of disabling our nation’s space program. It had become obvious that NASA as directed by the Administration has had no interest in following the law and the mandate of Congress in the development of a heavy lift launch vehicle…

…Today we are on a path of decay. We are seeing the book closed on five decades of accomplishments as the world’s leading space-faring nation. As unimaginable as it seems, we have now come full circle and ceded our leadership role in space back to the same country, albeit with a different name, that spurred our challenge five decades ago…My immediate concerns are the deterioration of our technological base, the lack of stability of the NASA budget when considering the present state of the economy, the absence of the Administration’s commitment to cooperate with Congress and forge an ambitious program, the question of continued bi-partisan Congressional support, and perhaps the most important risk with lasting effect, is the loss and dismemberment of our skilled workforce…

Full story…

Spacepolitics asks (dated Sept 23), “Did yesterday’s sound and fury signify anything?

…So this hearing may have been little more than an opportunity for critics of the administration’s plan—which, as the NASA statement implied, has the endorsement of Congress in the form of last year’s authorization act—to vent their frustrations that things aren’t going they way they would like, rather than an attempt to reshape policy in the near-term. With the current authorization act in effect for two more fiscal years, and little interest by appropriators to rectify those perceived shortcomings by, say, putting more money into SLS and MPCV (or CCDev), the current policy is likely to be in place at least into 2013. And even if a new president takes office in January 2013, space is probably not going to be a high priority for him or her given the current focus of candidates’ campaigns on jobs, the economy, and other issues outside the realm of human spaceflight.

Full story…

Nasawatch has a lot more detail and links to statements and testimony…


Congressional reaction to the SLS announcement

According to Spacepolitics.com, Congress folks saying nice things about the SLS was the norm since yesterday’s press event, except for that Grinch Rohrabacher-

Most members of Congress—with one notable exception—spoke approvingly of NASA’s announcement Wednesday of the design of the Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket, even if they also expressed some frustration that the decision took too long to make or a perceived lack of vision for NASA’s human spaceflight programs.

For example, the key senators involved in promoting the SLS, Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), joined colleagues in praising the announcement. “This is the biggest thing for space exploration in decades,” Nelson said. “Because of the delays in announcing this design, it is imperative that we work with NASA to assure that the new Space Launch System is pursued without further losses of time and efficiency, while relying on NASA’s world-class engineers and designers to continue U.S. leadership in space exploration,” said Hutchison.

Another senator vocal on NASA issues, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), was cautiously pleased with the announcement. Citing a lack of details in the announcement, he said, “I will continue to monitor this situation very closely…

Full story…

There ya go. It seems like this Congress can’t agree on anything..but with space exploration, we can get them to agree that we need to get ready to go somewhere we can’t agree on right now.


Space.com Infographic on the SLS

Space.com has a web infographic explaining the SLS-


The New SLS is Big and Makes Lots of Smoke

NASA has released a PR today with graphics to show the world (well, Congress) that NASA has been doing something lately.

From NASA-

NASA Announces Design for New Deep Space Exploration System

NASA is ready to move forward with the development of the Space Launch System — an advanced heavy-lift launch vehicle that will provide an entirely new national capability for human exploration beyond Earth’s orbit. The Space Launch System will give the nation a safe, affordable and sustainable means of reaching beyond our current limits and opening up new discoveries from the unique vantage point of space. The Space Launch System, or SLS, will be designed to carry the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, as well as important cargo, equipment and science experiments to Earth’s orbit and destinations beyond. Additionally, the SLS will serve as a back up for commercial and international partner transportation services to the International Space Station.

“This launch system will create good-paying American jobs, ensure continued U.S. leadership in space, and inspire millions around the world,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. “President Obama challenged us to be bold and dream big, and that’s exactly what we are doing at NASA. While I was proud to fly on the space shuttle, kids today can now dream of one day walking on Mars…”

Full story…

Here’s another official PR pic from today:


SLS Budget Scenarios-NASA ESD Integration Numbers

Nasawatch has posted a powerpoint that has NASA charts on SLS budget scenarios. It looks legit. There is even a discussion on Nasawatch comments about should info like this get out, but it’s not labeled SBU. Interesting. Whatever. It’s out.

Click here to get to the Spaceref.com page that links you to the SLS budget scenarios…

Nasawatch entry and comments…