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NASA Transportation Upgrades

NASA Approves Production of Most Powerful Rocket Ever 146

As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, NASA has given a green light to the production of a new motor, dubbed the Space Launch System, intended to enable deep space exploration. Boeing, prime contractor on the rocket, announced on Wednesday that it had completed a critical design review and finalized a $US2.8-billion contract with NASA. The last time the space agency made such an assessment of a deep-space rocket was the mighty Saturn V, which took astronauts to the moon. ... Space Launch System's design called for the integration of existing hardware, spurring criticism that it's a "Frankenstein rocket," with much of it assembled from already developed technology. For instance, its two rocket boosters are advanced versions of the Space Shuttle boosters, and a cryogenic propulsion stage is based on the motor of a rocket often used by the Air Force. The Space Frontier Foundation, an advocacy group and frequent NASA critic, said Space Launch System was "built from rotting remnants of left over congressional pork. And its budgetary footprints will stamp out all the missions it is supposed to carry, kill our astronaut program and destroy science and technology projects throughout NASA."
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NASA Approves Production of Most Powerful Rocket Ever

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  • by ganjadude ( 952775 ) on Saturday July 05, 2014 @08:35AM (#47387761) Homepage

    . Space Launch System's design called for the integration of existing hardware, spurring criticism that it's a "Frankenstein rocket," with much of it assembled from already developed technology.

    I would much rather them use existing tried tech and incrementally advance them rather than try a radical new design. A new design would take extra years of testing before it is ready for use but if we can tweak existing tech, and make it useful for deep space why not??

    Based on the next sentence it tells me that they are more concerned with bringing home the bacon than making progress in space.

  • by PoconoPCDoctor ( 912001 ) <> on Saturday July 05, 2014 @08:50AM (#47387821) Homepage Journal
    From 10 miles away in Titusville, Fl. I will always remember the pounding of my chest form the rockets. Let's go to Mars.
  • by schwit1 ( 797399 ) on Saturday July 05, 2014 @09:05AM (#47387869)

    The high cost and slow development of SLS will increasingly make it a loser in its political battle with the new commercial companies. Eventually legislators will recognize its impractically and unaffordability -- especially if the commercial companies continue to meet their milestones and achieve success, as they have been doing. When that happens, the influence of individual senators like Shelby to shovel pork to their particular states or districts will be outweighed by the overall political benefits for everyone in Congress to get American astronauts into space quickly and cheaply on an American-built spaceship.

  • by bbn ( 172659 ) <> on Saturday July 05, 2014 @09:39AM (#47387953)

    SpaceX already has Falcon 9 Heavy which will do most of what NASA wants to do with SLS. In addition SpaceX is developing the Mars Colonial Transporter [] which will put 100 tons of cargo on Mars. In comparison the SLS will only put 100 tons in low earth orbit.

    Oh and the Mars Colonial Transporter will be reusable.

  • by cheesybagel ( 670288 ) on Saturday July 05, 2014 @10:13AM (#47388079)

    This summary is a load of bull. As is the article. Production of a new motor my ass. The SLS is supposed to use 4 RS-25 Space Shuttle Main Engines in the center core, of which there are 15 and parts of another in stock, and two 5 segment Solid Rocket Boosters similar to those of the Space Shuttle. The second stage is based on a Delta IV EELV second stage using the RL-10. What is 'new' here in terms of propulsion? They are adding another segment to the SRBs. Whoopie do.

    Get this: SLS is predicted to cost as much as the Space Shuttle did per year, but it will launch once every 2-3 years instead of 4 times a year like the Space Shuttle. If you do the math they have RS-25 engines for 3-4 flights. SLS is expendable remember? The production assembly line for RS-25 has been closed years ago. So if they want to fly more than 3-4 flights with it they will probably have to design a new engine which will take like 5 years to do. At best. The whole thing is sheer nonsense.

  • Re:I wish them well (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FatLittleMonkey ( 1341387 ) on Saturday July 05, 2014 @11:16AM (#47388309)

    I don't understand the criticism regarding ...

    Basically, they are repeated all the old mistakes of Shuttle and ISS. Single unaffordable top-down designs, expensive sole-source cost-plus contracts, convoluted designs more intended to feed the contractor networks in Congressional districts than to deliver improved hardware, flubbery half-hearted missions that mutate to fit the rapidly contracting hardware abilities rather than hardware designed for missions. And because everything is so expensive and poorly planned, development has to be smeared out over decades, giving time for endless Congressional budget games with the attendant schedule and cost blow-outs, and design compromises piled on top of design compromises just to get something launched.

    Paraphrasing Gen. Augustine, in the analysis over Constellation (SLS's precursor), "If someone handed it to NASA, already build and paid for, NASA still couldn't afford to operate it."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 05, 2014 @07:45PM (#47390579)

    In his 2010 budget proposal, President Obama essentially proposed the elimination of US Manned Spaceflight. He cancelled the Constellation program and replaced it with NOTHING. The ISS would have continued for a few years with Americans riding Russian rockets to and fro, and there was a nod to "commercial space" guys like SpaceX (who would have had ISS as their only actual destination for just a few years, but that was it - no PROGRAM, no PROJECT, no DESTINATION. This was no surprise, since early in his 2008 campaign, Obama had promised the teachers unions that he would stall NASA for at least 5 years and shift the money to "education".

    In an act of nearly open rebellion rarely seen these days in Washington, Obama's proposal went down in bi-partisan flames. NOBODY in either party supported him. His NASA team then proposed continuing the Orion capsule but launching it unmanned (without a launch abort system) on an EELV to the space station only for use as a "lifeboat". That did not go over well in congress either. Obama agreed to extend the life of ISS as far as to 2028 (but Russia has thus far only agreeed to 2020) but that too was not enough to make the Senate happy. A bi-partisan group of senators led by Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison came up with the SLS plan and forced it upon the administration. THAT is why its bitter critics call it the "Senate Launch System".

    Without this rocket, the future of NASA and its astronauts would be nil. Critics live in a fantasy world where cancelling SLS would mean the cash would flow to their fave fanboy rockets - SOME imagine piles of cash for waves of EELV launches, while others imagine Elon Musk getting the billions and building a Mars Colonial Transport rocket... NEITHER would happen; Once you take that cash from NASA, the political support for spending that money "in space" will go away because the congressional districs affected all around the country would collapse. in 2010 we nearly saw this, and NASA facilities in Florida and Texas are already practically "ghost towns" as a result. ONE more event like the 2010 fight could end it. Once NASA gets out of manned spaceflight, ISS ends - and then there's no destination for "commercial" spaceflight companies and no certainty of customers bying tickets. People who want Musk and SpaceX to thrive need NASA to be in the manned space business and SLS is in that path (it keeps the manned program going, but is too big to be practical for routine ISS crew rotations). As for the lie that it's so expensive that there's no money to develop payloads: it's been repeatedly debunked - Once SLS is flying, the development money will no longer be being spent and in subsequent years that part of the NASA budget will pay for payload developments. The real key to SLS is that it develops a hugely-capable rocket during years Obama intended to waste and where he had no space "vision", and that rocket will be available to future presidents who won't have to wait to develop it and can USE it if they HAVE a "vision thing"

In English, every word can be verbed. Would that it were so in our programming languages.