fredinno

KSC meeting protrays SLS as scrambling for a manifiest plan (+ a probable SLS manifiest)

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http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2016/01/ksc-meeting-sls-scrambling-manifest-plan/

 

A huge meeting was recently conducted by NASA to its employees in the VAB this January, provided an update on KSC's current and future initiatives.

 

There were a few hard truths stated in this meeting- the first being its employment.

 

NASA currently employs about 14,500 people directly- with Software and IT workers making up 22% of NASA's workforces, Aerosciences at 15% (the original NACA section of NASA) and less than 50% being involved in Space. A call was made- "It's time to make decisions, no just collect more data." Also, NASA's workforce is aging- the average age of its employees having gone up from 42 to 49 years old- which can affect its influx of new ideas. To counter this, NASA is now to target new hires out of college, with half of NASA's new hires to be from "GS-11 or below".

 

Another hard truth told was regarding NASA's budget- which is surprisingly in turmoil now, despite NASA getting another $1 Billion in funding compared to last year- the amount of money NASA will need to fund its Congressional obligations (it's "to-do list") has also increased to $3 Billion due to the addition of new obligations, such as the Europa Clipper probe lander, and a new start on Orion HAB work. However, NASA's budget pressure may ease once JWST launches in 2018, and Commerical Crew becomes operational in 2017 (development is more expensive than operation). But for the meantime, NASA is in between a rock and a hard place with its budget.

 

As usual, a large segment of NASA's funding is going to the SLS/Orion (the "Senate Launch System"). Though it has been (consistently) better off in its development than Ares I, it still lacks a manifiest beyond EM-1. Though NASA has created numerous planning manifiests, the public has still been only given the vague "[we are] visiting an asteroid by the mid 2020s and Mars by the mid 2030s"- protraying a future that lacks definition (a major critcism of this program.) NASA has cited this to numerous factors, most particularly funding- something that is a common NASA problem.

 

NASA has also confirmed the ICPS and Block I SLS will not be man-rated, with a desire to use the launch hiatus from 2018 - 2021 to develop SLS Block IB, the projected (at least early) SLS workhorse. This will save $250 Million; however, such a switch has affected the original plans for SLS/Orion.

 

Originally, the EM-2 mission was intended to be a manned repeat of EM-1, a manned Orion/SLS Block I test flight, sending Orion to flyby the Moon before returning to Earth. Now, EM-2 will launch on Block IB, sending a Orion crew to Low Lunar Orbit and back. However, this means another SLS unmanned test mission must be undertaken between EM-1 and EM-2. This mission will be a cargo mission- though an unmanned spacecraft is almost certainly going to hitch a ride as well due to the high cost of an SLS launch. NASA hopes this will be Europa Clipper, but that is still simply speculatory (and in any case, is likely too soon to launch then). Thus, EM-2 will become the 3rd SLS flight, and will now launch NET (no earlier than) 2022. The 4th flight (of the so far confirmed manifiest) is the manned segment of the Asterod Redirect Mission, sending a Manned Orion to a Asteroid Boulder in Lunar Orbit to study it, and return samples. This SLS/Orion Mission is now confirmed to occur NET 2024, as had been suspected for quite some time. One last note is that SLS Block II is not expected to be developed until 2028, with Manned Mars landings aiming for 2039 (something I think is an unlikely goal for numerous reasons).

 

However, even this manifiest is subject to change, as a new political administration in charge next year may (and has, previously) affect plans signifcantly, for better, or for worse. NASA has also stated SLS requires launching at least once a year to be viable- something that is implied to require a larger influx of money (and goals) for the Orion/SLS program.

 

TL;DR: NASA's "budget increase" of 1 Billion has a lot of strings to it.

 

SLS now has a somewhat solid near-term manifest:

 

EM-1: Orion & SLS Block I test, carrying "all up" Orion on a Lunar Flyby Trajectory. (2018)

EM-1A: EUS & SLS Block IB test, carrying unspecified unmanned payload. (2021)

EM-2: Manned Orion & SLS Block IB test, sending Orion into a Low Lunar Orbit and back. (2022)

EM-2A?: (probable, but unconfirmed): SLS Block I, sending Europa Clipper to Jupiter. (2023)

EM-3: Asteroid Redirect Mission, manned. SLS Block IB sending, Orion to captured boulder in Lunar Orbit (2024)

 

 

Speculative:

EM-?-?: Lunar Space Station/Long Duration HAB Missions? (2024-?)

(NASA got funding and a requirement from Congress to start a commercial competition for Orion HABs, somthing which will need to be tested in Cis-Lunar space. However, this portion is still speculative, as NASA literally just began working on this.)

EM-2B? ESA's JUICE on SLS? (2023)

Edited by fredinno

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EM-2 is not certain to be manned. That'll make another 8 years from now before we see a manned Orion flight...

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Just now, Nibb31 said:

EM-2 is not certain to be manned. That'll make another 8 years from now before we see a manned Orion flight...

I moved EM-2 to after EM-1A, a test flight of SLS IB. So yes, the only thing that really changed are the names, NASA hasn't really given any official names for the newly manifested missions yet.

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Everything about this SLS project frustrates me.

Why is Congress wanting to get back into the LEO delivery business? I think NASA has a massive competitive advantage in deep space ops, and orbital habs/construction, but SpaceX (And maybe even Blue Origin in 5ish years) seem to be so much more cost effective than the SLS project. Over the planned 20 year life span, how many commercial launches could that 40ish billion buy? Especially when the point of SLS is to have some super heavy launches, and all they are planning so far is a light Orion capsule and some cube sats.

Better value than the shuttle, but not by enough!

I place zero blame for any of this on anyone in NASA, and I admit that leaving rocket design to the politicians will result in the most expensive and biggest rockets imaginable, so maybe it was all inevitable...

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41 minutes ago, Mitchz95 said:

It appears Congress seems to be wondering the same thing.

http://www.theverge.com/2016/2/3/10908408/congress-nasa-journey-to-mars-no-plan-or-money

Anyone with half a brain and a short look at the Orion/SLS program would say that, really.

We have a somewhat established short-term manifest, but it's still goalless, sadly.

1 hour ago, Admac said:

Everything about this SLS project frustrates me.

Why is Congress wanting to get back into the LEO delivery business? I think NASA has a massive competitive advantage in deep space ops, and orbital habs/construction, but SpaceX (And maybe even Blue Origin in 5ish years) seem to be so much more cost effective than the SLS project. Over the planned 20 year life span, how many commercial launches could that 40ish billion buy? Especially when the point of SLS is to have some super heavy launches, and all they are planning so far is a light Orion capsule and some cube sats.

Better value than the shuttle, but not by enough!

I place zero blame for any of this on anyone in NASA, and I admit that leaving rocket design to the politicians will result in the most expensive and biggest rockets imaginable, so maybe it was all inevitable...

"Why is Congress wanting to get back into the LEO delivery business?"

When did anyone say that? SLS only has BLEO missions planned, and SLS is too big for LEO except maybe for space stations and propellant stations.

 

Actually, SLS is based on Jupiter DIRECT, a concept which was supposed to create the cheapest In-line Shuttle-derived rocket they could make. There hasn't been a huge amount of change from that thing, during its transition to SLS, other than 5-segs instead of 4-segs. So it's actually not the most expensive option. Constellation was, and even Congress realized that was doomed, so they scaled it back to SLS.

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1 hour ago, Admac said:

Everything about this SLS project frustrates me.

Why is Congress wanting to get back into the LEO delivery business? I think NASA has a massive competitive advantage in deep space ops, and orbital habs/construction, but SpaceX (And maybe even Blue Origin in 5ish years) seem to be so much more cost effective than the SLS project. Over the planned 20 year life span, how many commercial launches could that 40ish billion buy? Especially when the point of SLS is to have some super heavy launches, and all they are planning so far is a light Orion capsule and some cube sats.

Better value than the shuttle, but not by enough!

I place zero blame for any of this on anyone in NASA, and I admit that leaving rocket design to the politicians will result in the most expensive and biggest rockets imaginable, so maybe it was all inevitable...

SpaceX is more cost efficient for a variety of reasons. 

They're smaller, and doing smaller tasks. They don't pay quite as much as other companies. They're investing more in modern technology.

There's a few. But I suspect it's mostly a cut of overheads.

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SLS is like giving someone a really cool car, but with strings. You have to pay for a driver 24/7/365, plus a mechanic. So now you can use your awesome limo... except the driver won't take you just anyplace. The driver and vehicle will ONLY take you to the kind of shoe and purse stores my wife really likes, where the cheapest thing there costs as much as a used car, and will only take you if you promise to buy stuff once you get there.

How many times can you afford to send the car off to buy a $2000+ purse?

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Yeah 90% of my SLS frustration would be solved if there was a sweet 70 ton spacecraft that could fly to places in the solar system, even unmanned but beefy. But all it has is the Orion capsule, but that's pretty underwhelming too, since it looks like it doesn't bring anything new to the table compared to crew dragon or starliner-100. I love big cool rockets, but the idea of spending a billion dollars a throw when there is nothing available to throw is pretty mind boggling.

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49 minutes ago, Admac said:

I love big cool rockets, but the idea of spending a billion dollars a throw when there is nothing available to throw is pretty mind boggling.

That's what people have failed to grasp about the Senate Launch System - it's overt and primary mission is to funnel cash and jobs into contractors and congressional districts.  It's not the next generation of space exploration and was never meant to be except as an unintended consequence and in press releases.

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54 minutes ago, Admac said:

Yeah 90% of my SLS frustration would be solved if there was a sweet 70 ton spacecraft that could fly to places in the solar system, even unmanned but beefy. But all it has is the Orion capsule, but that's pretty underwhelming too, since it looks like it doesn't bring anything new to the table compared to crew dragon or starliner-100. I love big cool rockets, but the idea of spending a billion dollars a throw when there is nothing available to throw is pretty mind boggling.

This is the reason the cancellation of Altair sucked- but it was the administration wanting Mars that did it. Anyone with any idea about NASA would quickly realize such a plan is unrealistic. Our only hope at this point is the next administration to come up with a viable plan- or not care enough to give NASA permission to come up with their own.

SLS also has Europa Clipper, and possibly JUICE, but those are really just one-offs. NASA doesn't have a program launching flagship outer solar system probes every other year (as awesome as that would be)

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The SLS hasn't been built by NASA. It should be in service by 2020. I'm guessing someone hijacked NASA's computer and looked at the idea. The SLS is capable of lifting 70 metric tons.

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Well, it's difficult to critisize the SLS without sounding like a SpaceX fanboy, so I try to make it short.

SLS (and maybe even Orion) are job- and business motors.
You have all your too-big-to-fail companies, and thei need contracts.
Also, this companies have a huge lobby.
Projects made by goverment tend to take twice the funds and time they were planned for.
It's always been this way.
My country can't even build a new airport to its capital (Berlin) because you have too many stackholders in projects of this size.
Costs are exploding, milestones are not achieved.

NASA should focus to science, fancy rovers and new technologies.
The standard stuff (launching fancy stuff into space) can be bought elsewhere.

 

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I can't stand SLS, and I'm not a SpaceX fanboy (at least not one of the irrational ones, I'm totally fine/supportive of commercial crew and I'm glad to see any rocket company succeed).

 

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BTW, people should not conflate a dislike for SLS with the person in question not wanting HLVs. An HLV is a great thing to have---under the assumption you have a need for an HLV. That's where I find myself agreeing with Zubrin. Not on Mars, specifically, but his observation that without a tangible, "big" goal that is actually worked towards, NASA sort of flounders and wastes time/money. What that goal is can be debated, but if you want SLS/Orion, then you need to come up with a program first, then figure out what kind of payloads you need delivered, then build the craft to do that job. Build it. Not white paper the thing looking for uses for the arbitrary design until the guys writing the white papers have white hair. 10 years is a long time to manage a first manned flight---and I'm not even counting the time spent on Constellation designing effectively the same vehicle (Ares V).

If NASA wants to go cislunar, great. Do it. Bend their effort to that goal, and do that as well as it can be done. Not a 1-off, but a program of those missions. Blowing a huge % of their budget so that they can get their toes wet because they cannot afford to do more is a waste of money.

I think forum members here need to realize that some of us were here for Shuttle (heck, Apollo, lol). We saw basically identical conversations that are happening here right now about planning the next step. Even with stupid STS (minus the tug and NTR ferry that formed the last S of STS), we then had to say, "Well, our moon lander will have to fit in the cargo bay..." but we still thought it might be a thing. We've had enthusiasm beaten out of us. I know people who've worked on NASA programs. They started out as anyone here in school might feel right now, and now they hope maybe something might happen, but their principal concerns have switched to socking money away for their kids' college, etc. It's frustrating, we get that, but that's reality.

SLS is a direct analog of Shuttle in terms of what it does to NASA. It's isn't a way to get off Earth, it hamstrings that effort, IMO. I'd hate to see the next decade blown the same way Shuttle killed the 80s spaceflight wise.

Edited by tater

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10 hours ago, Dr.K Kerbal said:

The SLS hasn't been built by NASA. It should be in service by 2020. I'm guessing someone hijacked NASA's computer and looked at the idea. The SLS is capable of lifting 70 metric tons.

Actually, EM-1 is the first SLS mission, so you can launch SLSs starting in 2018. 2022 is likely when it becomes fully "operational" after EM-2- by which SLS Block I will likely be retired after Europa Clipper- the Delta IV 5-meter upper stage will be retired at that point, making the upper stage expensive to make, and SLS Block I has few opportunities ahead of it, as Block IB is supposed to do most things.

10 hours ago, lugge said:

Well, it's difficult to critisize the SLS without sounding like a SpaceX fanboy, so I try to make it short.

SLS (and maybe even Orion) are job- and business motors.
You have all your too-big-to-fail companies, and thei need contracts.
Also, this companies have a huge lobby.
Projects made by goverment tend to take twice the funds and time they were planned for.
It's always been this way.
My country can't even build a new airport to its capital (Berlin) because you have too many stackholders in projects of this size.
Costs are exploding, milestones are not achieved.

NASA should focus to science, fancy rovers and new technologies.
The standard stuff (launching fancy stuff into space) can be bought elsewhere.

 

Which is something a lot of people have been saying (not that I don't agree). To be realistic though, we'd likely never get a UHLV unless it was made by the government, as otherwise NASA would likely focus on robots, an ISS successor, and maybe space repair and reusable space tugs.

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