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NASA Space

Report: NASA May Miss SLS Launch Deadline 59

An anonymous reader writes: A post at the Planetary Society's blog summarizes a report from NASA's Office of Inspector General which says the agency will struggle to get launch facilities up and running in time for the Space Launch System's November 2018 launch deadline. "Ground systems are a critical piece of the SLS-Orion infrastructure. All three elements are tightly integrated, with ground systems requiring significant input from the rocket and capsule designs." To be more specific, NASA has found 462 separate inter-dependencies, less than two-thirds of which have been resolved so far. "The Mobile Launcher must be moved into the Vehicle Assembly Building for testing prior to the delivery of SLS and Orion. When it comes time to stack the rocket and capsule for the first flight, there may be a 'learning curve,' said the OIG, where engineers work through unforeseen glitches." They're also worried about having to develop all the software to run these systems before the hardware is in place to test.
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Report: NASA May Miss SLS Launch Deadline

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    But it would be news if they made the launch date

    • by Anonymous Coward


    • Given the present environment on Capitol Hill, I think it would be news if they launched at all. At the end of the day, I think that of the successes NASA will have had, it will be best known for their incubation of commercial launch and infrastructure services. Not the Moon, not Mars, not earth sciences, ..., but rather their work wresting control of the rockets upon which crew and cargo are sent heavenward as well as their habitation from Congress and the MIC.
    • Potemkin rocket launch delayed!

    • Agreed.

      NASA is an awesome organization, but the political requirements they have which seem to be congressional mandates to pump good money after bad into hogs like Lockheed, Grumman, Harris, etc... is their greatest failure.

      I have tried many times to find any records of successful projects from the companies building the SLS. Not once have they ever come close to deadline or within 100% of their original budget. They appear to habitually underbid on contracts to win them. They then appear to invest heavily
      • First off, tesla will be recycling their batteries. In fact, giga-factory was developed for that. Secondly, NASA is not the problem. Congress, more specifically the neo-cons, are. As such, once spacex and BO are competing with reusable engines, the GOP can go pound sand or each other.
  • by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Friday March 20, 2015 @04:58PM (#49304977)

    Outsource the whole operation to SpaceX or Boeing and then have them be responsible for hitting the deadline.

    It won't cost more then what it currently costs, the US will retain the internal capability to do the work... and we'll be able to put real pressure on the whole institution to actually hit deadlines.

    They want to get paid? Deliver on the contract.

    • I can't say about SpaceX and they already have their Falcon Heavy in the works (which doesn't match the SLS specs), but Boeing is already the prime contractor for most of the SLS vehicle -- "Boeing is the prime contractor for the design, development, test and production of the launch vehicle cryogenic stages, as well as development of the avionics suite." []

      Being an old school aerospace contractor, Boeing knows the risks to deliver new, cutting edge space hardware*. I doubt t

      • by Guspaz ( 556486 ) on Friday March 20, 2015 @06:34PM (#49305639)

        Boeing is doing SLS on a cost-plus contract. SpaceX' work for NASA is a fixed-price contract.

        What that means is that, with a cost-plus, if a contractor goes over budget, then NASA will pay for the overage, no matter how much it is. With a fixed-price contract, NASA pays a fixed amount, and any overages are up to the contractor to absorb.

        There are certain justifications for cost-plus, for example a small company where a fixed-price contract could bankrupt the company if something goes wrong. In that case, NASA gets nothing, because there is no opportunity to fund the overage. But with a cost-plus, the safety net is there, where NASA would have the choice to either terminate the contract, or pay the overage.

        The problem comes when you have big companies like Boeing doing cost-plus contracts, who are perfectly capable of absorbing cost overruns without going bankrupt. They have no incentive to stick to any sort of budget or schedule.

        • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Friday March 20, 2015 @07:06PM (#49305807)

          To add to all of this, NASA is taking on a large part of the responsibility for "systems integration" for SLS/Orion. This is where major cost overruns originate. And when Boeing has a cost plus contract, every requirements clarification NASA produces represents a change order Boeing can bill for.

          This is the wet dream of every government contractor.

      • There's no reason Boeing couldn't be doing this on a fixed price model. In fact, they should be doing it. SpaceX would take the contract on that basis. And frankly they're making some really good progress with delivering high quality products at a fraction of the competition's price.

      • their Falcon Heavy in the works (which doesn't match the SLS specs)

        Especially in the $/kg area. :-p

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      Boeing wouldn't take it. Would SpaceX? I'm not so sure, they haven't launched the Falcon Heavy yet. We know they're working on the Raptor engine and even bigger rockets, but not if they're at the point they'd accept a fixed price contract. Sure they might say they will all the while SLS negates any chance NASA will actually do it, but it's easy to bail on that. I think SpaceX would be better off with a runner-up contract, like with the "Commercial Crew" program. There's probably not room in NASAs budget for

      • If you offered them a chance to take boeing's contract they'd make it work. The money is too good.

        • I agree, Boeing has a death grip on the contracts, there was even a article how they are deathly afraid of SpaceX
          • They should be afraid. They aren't offering competitive service. They have that "in" of being a weapons contractor which opens a lot of doors.

            Possibly spaceX should develop some missiles. Seriously. It might help them. Maybe produce some cruise missiles or something. There are close ties between the Pentagon and NASA. NASA likes to pretend they're not there but you can see it in the budget. Programs are shifted between the two organizations dynamically depending on which ever one has more room in their budg

            • They should be afraid. They aren't offering competitive service.

              Boeing/ULA has already announced the retirement of Delta IV Medium. It could be either because Delta IV Medium was utterly uncompetitive already, or because Delta IV Medium will have even fewer chances to get any contracts after Falcon 9 gets certified, or because ULA wants to blackmail the Congress into re-allowing the import of RD-180 for national security payloads.

      • We know they're working on the Raptor engine and even bigger rockets

        All that while doing important contributions [] to the problem of rocket engine analysis.

  • by cmdr_klarg ( 629569 ) on Friday March 20, 2015 @05:36PM (#49305217)

    You must find and itemize any and all unforeseen problems that could crop up, complete with solutions and procedure to minimize their impact.

  • Maybe they could do something crazy like making a general puopse launch center that can handle SLS, Space-X, others, now and into the future instead of starting from scratch on each new program.

  • NASA has found 462 separate inter-dependencies, less than two-thirds of which have been resolved so far.

    sounds like someone deleted systemd from their software repo. ;)

    • Sounds like someone failed to do a proper "systems engineering" job in the first place. Part of that job is identifying system interfaces between the parts early, then controlling the interface. In computer terms, the PCI specification is the interface between the PCI slot and the PCI card that goes in the slot. You have to control that specification so the parts will work together. A rocket and the launch site it uses are just bigger and more complicated interfaces.

  • It was not that complicated to launch stuff during the space race time with USSR. Was NASA killed by quality control procedures?
    • First off, it IS complicated. This IS rocket science.
      Secondly, the problem is the GOP. They want NASA as a jobs bill only in their district. Private space is not under their control so they have issues.

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