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4 hours ago, MaverickSawyer said:

They're putting schedule above safety.

At this point, schedule violations are a deadlier threat for their project than 10 kK plasma.

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4 hours ago, DDE said:

At this point, schedule violations are a deadlier threat for their project than 10 kK plasma.

I guarantee that if they miss a flaw in the heat shield design, that will be even more deadly to the project. Loss of vehicle, even without crew, will put a rather abrupt end to any further attempts at NASA doing an in-house manned spacecraft.

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2 minutes ago, MaverickSawyer said:

I guarantee that if they miss a flaw in the heat shield design, that will be even more deadly to the project. Loss of vehicle, even without crew, will put a rather abrupt end to any further attempts at NASA doing an in-house manned spacecraft.

Wouldn’t that be an excuse for a massive increase in funding to ensure that such cases never happen again, and that “their sacrifice does not go in vain”?

The pork must flow.

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1 minute ago, DDE said:

Wouldn’t that be an excuse for a massive increase in funding to ensure that such cases never happen again, and that “their sacrifice does not go in vain”?

The pork must flow.

Funding isn't the issue in the long run. It's a lack of courage to take any risk. NASA is flat-out, pants-fillingly terrified of another astronaut dying on a mission. The only reason they're not terrified of the ISS is because, in an emergency, the crew can evacuate the station and be on the ground in, what, under two hours? Going to the Moon, that's 3 days, minimum. They look at Apollo 13 as a case of "We dodged a MASSIVE bullet there" instead of "Hey, they found a way to make it home safely despite the odds being heavily against them".

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A friend was prettyy annoyed at F9b5 not being built from the start with backup hydraulics (last RTLS landing failure), since the point is reuse. He thinks it's sloppy engineering given that reuse in b5 is not just an add-on, it's a primary goal.

This lack of redundancy on heat shield monitoring avionics is similarly lousy, IMO, since testing that is about the only useful data that can come from the Orion they fly (it won't have life support, so EDL is literally the only point in the boilerplate).

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I know that "every gram counts" in spaceflight, but I can't understand why you would willing opt to NOT be at least dual redundant on spaceflight hardware, especially manned. Maybe it's my aviation-centric background and training, or maybe I care about safety and reliability more than costs and schedules... But I'm deeply concerned by this trend, not just at NASA, but across the industry as a whole.

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2 hours ago, MaverickSawyer said:

[NASA] look at Apollo 13 as a case of "We dodged a MASSIVE bullet there" instead of "Hey, they found a way to make it home safely despite the odds being heavily against them".

The details of how things went wrong to produce Apollo 13 shows that systems are complex and what's needed is an attention to detail and a drive to get it sufficiently right overall and every time.  And to keep checking.  What happened (and the actual details of the seriousness of some of these is still uncertain):

  • design change in DC bus voltage from 28 to 65 Volts;
  • Beechcraft only partly implementing changing the LOX tank electrical components, e.g. didn't change the thermostat;
  • the LOX tank in question being dropped as an assembly 2 inches when removed from Apollo 10;
  • problems emptying the tank using the normal drain line;
  • prelaunch ground testing that afterwards used the heater to boil off the LOX to empty it;
  • the inadequate thermostat likely damaged by overheating;
  • in flight, standard stirring and heating of the tank
  • damaged thermostat arced out and caused the LOX tank to explode;
  • damage to only other LOX tank immediately adjacent;
  • all 3 fuel cells quickly starved of LOX;

and now there's a failure of all power in the CSM.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_13#Activities_and_report

The only reason we know this is the massive records kept during the Apollo Program by NASA and subcontractors and them being combed after the fact from what was know about the explosion.

The only reason the crew survived is pre-mission preparation for Apollo including thinking of all sorts of failures, including those prior to TLI and allowing the use of the LEM as a lifeboat.  The only reason the ground staff and crew dealt with this is they were practiced over and over again with handling failures.  Unfortunately, it didn't go far enough to prevent the mishaps that lead to the Apollo 13 accident and others.  E.g. not until after Apollo 13 was a third LOX tank included more separate from the other 2 to prevent a single incident knocking out both tanks.

I will never stand for someone saying either government or private organizations are better.  It depends on nature of their missions, their doctrine, their training, and their leadership.  Spaceflight has plenty historical examples of excellence and failure for both types.  And all failures are ultimately failures in leadership.

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11 hours ago, Jacke said:

The details of how things went wrong to produce Apollo 13 shows that systems are complex and what's needed is an attention to detail and a drive to get it sufficiently right overall and every time.  And to keep checking.  What happened (and the actual details of the seriousness of some of these is still uncertain):

  • design change in DC bus voltage from 28 to 65 Volts;
  • Beechcraft only partly implementing changing the LOX tank electrical components, e.g. didn't change the thermostat;
  • the LOX tank in question being dropped as an assembly 2 inches when removed from Apollo 10;
  • problems emptying the tank using the normal drain line;
  • prelaunch ground testing that afterwards used the heater to boil off the LOX to empty it;
  • the inadequate thermostat likely damaged by overheating;
  • in flight, standard stirring and heating of the tank
  • damaged thermostat arced out and caused the LOX tank to explode;
  • damage to only other LOX tank immediately adjacent;
  • all 3 fuel cells quickly starved of LOX;

and now there's a failure of all power in the CSM.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_13#Activities_and_report

The only reason we know this is the massive records kept during the Apollo Program by NASA and subcontractors and them being combed after the fact from what was know about the explosion.

The only reason the crew survived is pre-mission preparation for Apollo including thinking of all sorts of failures, including those prior to TLI and allowing the use of the LEM as a lifeboat.  The only reason the ground staff and crew dealt with this is they were practiced over and over again with handling failures.  Unfortunately, it didn't go far enough to prevent the mishaps that lead to the Apollo 13 accident and others.  E.g. not until after Apollo 13 was a third LOX tank included more separate from the other 2 to prevent a single incident knocking out both tanks.

I will never stand for someone saying either government or private organizations are better.  It depends on nature of their missions, their doctrine, their training, and their leadership.  Spaceflight has plenty historical examples of excellence and failure for both types.  And all failures are ultimately failures in leadership.

I've been following this thread from the shadows for a while and this, is by far one of the best comments in a long time.

 

Saying either is superior is a faulty statement as NASA is intentionally taking the slow road, and letting companies like SpaceX drive LEO development. SpaceX may also be developing a rocket that may beat out SLS. NASA is likely hoping it'll be developed, but NASA, having outlived other companies promising the moon (in SpaceX's case, this is meant literally), and falling short. So it's no surprise that NASA continues development on SLS. It isn't to say that NASA won't use it, it's a fail safe for if SpaceX makes an irreperable mistake, ff SpaceX ends up shifting development, or even if SpaceX succombs to economic pressures, and goes bankrupt (giant companies have imploded rather suddenly in the past). So NASA continues until BFR or any other vehicle is proven ready.

Just my thoughts. I'm tired of the NASA bashing. I know SLS and LOP-G aren't NASA's best ideas, but there's nothing we can do without joining congress. Some positivity would liven the thread up greatly.

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...

Y'know, there are days... There are definitely days.

 

Back on topic. I'm not saying that NASA is inferior or superior to companies like SpaceX. I am saying that they're making some decisions that are decidedly odd, to the point of raising serious questions about the possibility of a disconnect between management and reality, one that could well proven fatal to astronauts... Or, worse yet from the perspective of the people calling the shots, it could put a permanent end to their careers and aspirations.

 

Maybe that's why they're slowballing SLS... So that they aren't the ones in the path of the metaphorical fertilizer striking the rotary impeller.

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23 minutes ago, MaverickSawyer said:

raising serious questions about the possibility of a disconnect between management and reality,

Those questions need not be raised. Ever.

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22 minutes ago, MaverickSawyer said:

Really? So one should always trust management, without hesitation? That sounds hopelessly naive.

Having schedule issues too? You left your redundant sarcasm detector behind.

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21 hours ago, Jacke said:

The only reason the crew survived is pre-mission preparation for Apollo including thinking of all sorts of failures, including those prior to TLI and allowing the use of the LEM as a lifeboat.

It never occurred to me before, but didn't Apollo 10 (and possibly 9) have a LEM on board, or just a dummy weight (I don't think it was ready for 9)?  Had something like this happened (not the exact issue, as it likely broke when fitted for 10) could they have used the Apollo 10 LEM as a lifeboat?

PS - I've expected SLS to launch block 1 without astronauts.  Launching a one-off that won't be launched again with astronauts seems contrary to all NASA policy, and it would give them *years* to keep the gravy train going for blocks 2-3 whatever regardless if the thing turns into a giant firework or not.  Blowing up astronauts is about the only thing that can derail SLS, and NASA certainly doesn't want to do it that way.

Edited by wumpus
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4 minutes ago, wumpus said:

It never occurred to me before, but didn't Apollo 10 (and possibly 9) have a LEM on board, or just a dummy weight (I don't think it was ready for 9)?  Had something like this happened (not the exact issue, as it likely broke when fitted for 10) could they have used the Apollo 10 LEM as a lifeboat?

The LM* was not ready for Apollo 8. Apollo 8’s original mission was basically what apollo 9 did. 

Apollo 9 and 10 did have a fully functioning (albeit under fueled) LM. 

Could they have used it as a lifeboat? Yes. Though they had far less experience with the vehicle. So it would’ve been even more risky.

that said, this is off the main topic.

11 minutes ago, DDE said:

Having schedule issues too? You left your redundant sarcasm detector behind.

To be fair it’s easy to miss sarcasm on the internet. There’s a reason why people use /s after sarcastic comments to help bolster the point.

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31 minutes ago, ZooNamedGames said:

Apollo 9 and 10 did have a fully functioning (albeit under fueled) LM.

As well, the LM's for Apollo 5, 9,and 10 were from the initial production before the super weight reduction changes.  They would have had slimmer (or non-existent?) margins of error if they were used for Lunar landing.  For test flights, though, they were very useful.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 2/14/2019 at 11:17 AM, DDE said:

Wouldn’t that be an excuse for a massive increase in funding to ensure that such cases never happen again, and that “their sacrifice does not go in vain”?

The pork must flow.

Only if actual astronauts died, which no one wants.

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You know, as much as I want the Shelby Launch System to just die already, another part of me still cringes every time it comes out that, once again, the SLS is over-budget, behind-schedule, with obvious design flaws. The sheer overwhelming waste of it all is mind-boggling, and the sheer cycnical self-interest involved...

Naturally, Congress will blame everybody except the ones most responsible for this disaster: themselves.

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3 hours ago, Starman4308 said:

You know, as much as I want the Shelby Launch System to just die already, another part of me still cringes every time it comes out that, once again, the SLS is over-budget, behind-schedule, with obvious design flaws. The sheer overwhelming waste of it all is mind-boggling, and the sheer cycnical self-interest involved...

Naturally, Congress will blame everybody except the ones most responsible for this disaster: themselves.

And again with the NASA bashing hate.

Before you continue to bash SLS; bare in mind several factors from history and ongoing development-

  • Overspending and slow development has been a staple of NASA since before Apollo 11 (and that isn't even a joke). The Lunar Module was also behind schedule and overbudget, initially expected to be 500 million dollars before inflating to more than 1 billion dollars in development. As well as running behind schedule with Apollo 8's original mission profile basically being what Apollo 9 later achieved, but due to delays and the inability to launch before the end of the 1968 year, NASA launched a mission anyway without the Lunar Module.
  • As said by someone acting as Tom Kelly in the HBO miniseries From The Earth To The Moon, speaking on the subject of the Lunar Module development- "Perhaps the main reason we were behind schedule and overbudget was because budgets and schedules are based on previous experience with similar projects. We really didn't know how much it would cost to build a LM or how long it would take." Simple fact is that NASA has no experience with building a super heavy lift vehicle. Even if every part is being reused from a previous design (which for the first stage is just the engines), that still leaves a large portion of the vehicle uncharted territory for NASA. Territory NASA will test, and retest until satisfied to put the lives of several people on top of that rocket in 2022/2023.
  • And an additional quote from the same is another reason for the SLS being costly, "every LM will have to be handmade. There were no suppliers to buy LM parts from, and because everything on a LM was new, everything had to be tested, and tested, and tested again. The thrusters, the engines, the deployment of the landing gear, we would have to know how a LM would react when exposed to extreme sunlight or when pelted with dust. We had to know how the landing gear would perform if the LM would land on a slope. Thousands of tests, day after day, for years. Some of the tests went well. Some of them did not". Note, of course I know the SLS is not the Lunar Module, and vice versa, but the point is that new rocket, spacecraft or any development of a manned vehicle tested and put through developments for every aspect of every part so that when the launch comes, NASA is as confident as possible with the outcome and this is a style of operation built over 60 years of launching manned spacecraft. Some may claim that NASA has been unwise in the past to choose vehicles like the Space Shuttle, but the fact is NASA has always been pressured towards design compromises and changes by political ideologies, and without drifting into the politics, all that needs to be said is that a NASA has never had a day in it's existence, whether Freedom 7, Apollo 17, STS-135, or EM-2, the fact remains that there has been and always will be tests, and elaborate review panels on everything NASA does as NASA does not want to make another foobar like the shuttle again and certainly not make the same mistake which cost 14 brave astronauts their lives, and hasty decisions without their review is exactly what caused their deaths in the first place. As someone who's getting into the aviation industry myself, I can tell you there's a long and lengthy reason behind everything that agencies like NASA or the FAA does, always. It may not be the economical choice, but it's has a good reason for it. Not that it needs to be the economical choice as again, NASA has the benefit of government funding. Which leads to my next point-
  • NASA has the option to be overbudget. It's why it's government funded. Fact is large developments such as a super heavy launch vehicle incur unexpected and exceptionally large costs. Things that cannot be predicted as we haven't built one before. We've theorized or conceptualized designs, but as any test pilot will tell you, what's on paper, does not always equate to what works in reality. And unlike your ventures into KSP, NASA does not use it's astronauts as test dummies.
  • And the easy answer to the SLS problem may be "but SpaceX" or "but Blue Origin" in reference to BFR and New Glenn launch vehicles respectively. They are corporate entities tied to a fluctuating economy with the only guarantee of funding coming from their investors and stock holders, whom can cause a large sway on the companies direction. Not to mention both companies, tied to that same economy, can falter and fail to achieve any of their promises and goals as they go bankrupt. NASA however, has the benefit of not having to worry about stockholder demands or ensuring profitability. "But NASA is subject to Congress' demands" yes, but they are limited by the scope of the law, and once funding for a project is set, it is set in stone with NASA wholly set to achieve it and nothing else. Though NASA's objectives may shift with the change in the political party in the White House, and with the changing presidents dreams and expectations, their funding and their expectations set for them by Congress remain a priority with the president's demands having to run alongside the current obligations, not in competition.
  • NASA is not wholly wasteful either- they are THE driving force behind companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin, driving reusability and more importantly, ensuring that NASA's, and more importantly, the American tax dollars, return to the economy well spent, and well used. SLS isn't meant to be profitable. Like the Space Shuttle, it is intended to be a powerhouse, and more importantly, a first of it's kind. Providing NASA the essential experience and knowledge from developing, operating and flying a super heavy launch vehicle. Information that will undoubtedly prove to be essential for companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin. Elon Musk having even come forward and stating that the knowledge and experience gained from the Space Shuttle helped Musk design and develop the Falcon 9 rocket. The fact is the technology they engineer on their 'inefficient' rockets, still comes around to benefit the aerospace industry as a whole. Though other companies could achieve the first more cost effectively or on a faster schedule, they are unreliable and are subject to changing their focus or failing altogether yielding no benefit whatsoever.

 

*sigh*
 

I think I've gone on long enough and have made my point quite clear. SLS brings a lot of good to the industry. If you stop looking at the red, you'll see it as the proof is right out in the open. Again, the reason why I feel this thread achieves nothing in the long run is because so many are blindly team SpaceX and follow cultural norms saying that "NASA is wasteful, NASA only builds expendable rockets, SpaceX reuses, so clearly they're better" without actually doing any comprehensive or in depth analytical research for themselves. I'm not saying SpaceX isn't doing the industry good, but SpaceX would still be testing Grasshopper and launching the Falcon 1 if it weren't for NASA's help, NASA's past research, NASA's flight experience, and most importantly, NASA's funding.

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25 minutes ago, ZooNamedGames said:

I think I've gone on long enough and have made my point quite clear. SLS brings a lot of good to the industry. If you stop looking at the red, you'll see it as the proof is right out in the open. Again, the reason why I feel this thread achieves nothing in the long run is because so many are blindly team SpaceX and follow cultural norms saying that "NASA is wasteful, NASA only builds expendable rockets, SpaceX reuses, so clearly they're better" without actually doing any comprehensive or in depth analytical research for themselves. I'm not saying SpaceX isn't doing the industry good, but SpaceX would still be testing Grasshopper and launching the Falcon 1 if it weren't for NASA's help, NASA's past research, NASA's flight experience, and most importantly, NASA's funding.

True, but the investment was pretty small for a functioning LV, and cargo delivery service. Crew Dragon is less than Starliner, too (substantially). SLS got seriously dinged by their own watchdog group, and that was just the core stage. Wait til the rest comes out, it won't look better.

Regarding your points above, the primary difference with the LM (and Apollo in general) is that the LM actually had a purpose. Which it accomplished.

This simply cannot be said of SLS/Orion. (unless the purpose is to employ Shuttle contractors, then is has a purpose)

Block 1 is basically useless. Too big for any LEO use, too small for going to the Moon. Uselessly low flight rate (at best 1/year) means that it cannot be used (if a cargo block 1 was even a thing, which it isn't) in any mission architecture that requires distributed launch. As a result, we get Gateway. A useless station that will cost yet more money, all to be occupied so briefly I'm not sure what it does aside from exposing astronauts to higher radiation risks. Blocks 1b and 2 are over the horizon, missions should be planned with Vulcan and NG (and Starship, ofr that matter) if those 2 blocks are considered real at this point.

Being in the red isn't the problem. SLS/Orion was earmarked, so it's play money NASA would not have had otherwise. It's a jobs program, so it had to be spent the way it is being spent. That said, it's galling to see them "reusing" SSMEs (that saves money!, lol) at a cost of 127 million $ per engine. They cost 40 M$ brand new. I had to buy a part and have it installed to fix my dishwasher. It was gonna be 2/3 the cost of a new machine. So I bought a new one. Who would buy a new one if the repair cost 3X the cost of a new (better) machine?

Edited by tater
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26 minutes ago, ZooNamedGames said:

Again, the reason why I feel this thread achieves nothing in the long run is because so many are blindly team SpaceX and follow cultural norms saying that "NASA is wasteful, NASA only builds expendable rockets

I'm pulling this out, I missed it above.

That's true for some people, no doubt, but I'm down on SLS because I think it's a garbage program, not because of SpaceX. Minus SpaceX and Blue Origin, it would certainly be the only game in town, and as such, I'd wish it well, but I'd still complain about how dumb it is.

What is the mission for SLS? Orion?

Not what make-work can we cobble together to use it for ( <cough> ARM<cough>), but the actual mission it is designed to do?

There isn't one. If the goal is making larger craft using a huge payload mass and fairing, that would be a useful capability! I'm all over that. That requires flying often, however, you're not building a Mars mission architecture in orbit flying even every 6 months.

A Shuttle-derived LV could have happened much faster. Shuttle-C, and move crew to a smaller LV. We could have maintained Shuttle level cadence, avoided LOC risks associated with Shuttle, and lofted truly huge payloads into the bargain---all with existing ground support stuff.

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3 hours ago, ZooNamedGames said:

I think I've gone on long enough and have made my point quite clear.  SLS brings a lot of good to the industry. If you stop looking at the red, you'll see it as the proof is right out in the open. Again, the reason why I feel this thread achieves nothing in the long run is because so many are blindly team SpaceX and follow cultural norms saying that "NASA is wasteful, NASA only builds expendable rockets, SpaceX reuses, so clearly they're better" without actually doing any comprehensive or in depth analytical research for themselves. I'm not saying SpaceX isn't doing the industry good, but SpaceX would still be testing Grasshopper and launching the Falcon 1 if it weren't for NASA's help, NASA's past research, NASA's flight experience, and most importantly, NASA's funding.

Hear, hear!

I've seen a lot of rocketry and space history go past.  I can regret certain things and decisions that were made and wish they were better.  But @ZooNamedGames is right, NASA works the way it does because that's the way it has to get funding and that's what's imposed upon it to operate, as well as being on the cutting edge.  For similar reasons, a lot of cutting edge military contracts go the same way.  And NASA does a lot within those constraints.

And there's a lot of basic aerospace knowledge out there that was researched by military and NASA budgets and learned through minor and major mishaps.  The information packed into John Drury Clark's technical autobiography Ignition! and the more detailed info available behind it and similar US government research facilities is the foundation on which today's commercial rocketry and space companies build.

I've heard tell (many steps removed) that those who should know think Elon Musk will get someone killed someday.  I've learned a bit about him and he does have his technical good points (going for face shutoff was a good decision) and he certainly strikes me as a better leader than say Jeff Bezos.  But both of them are rift through and through with what I call CEO [snip] culture (again Bezos being worse), that they almost have to have as they have investors and the business culture to play to in order for them to survive.  But that culture is but a hair's breadth away from the "put on your business hat" mentality that was the final failure that killed the crew of the Challenger.

And to borrow a term from military history, the BFR and all expectation that's laid upon it strike me as planning to go a bridge too far.

Something like Robert Zubrin's Mars Direct and what he lays out in his The Case for Mars strike me as better plans with a better chance of coming to fruition.

Edited by Deddly
Bad word removed :)
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12 minutes ago, tater said:

I'm pulling this out, I missed it above.

That's true for some people, no doubt, but I'm down on SLS because I think it's a garbage program, not because of SpaceX. Minus SpaceX and Blue Origin, it would certainly be the only game in town, and as such, I'd wish it well, but I'd still complain about how dumb it is.

What is the mission for SLS? Orion?

Not what make-work can we cobble together to use it for ( <cough> ARM<cough>), but the actual mission it is designed to do?

There isn't one. If the goal is making larger craft using a huge payload mass and fairing, that would be a useful capability! I'm all over that. That requires flying often, however, you're not building a Mars mission architecture in orbit flying even every 6 months.

A Shuttle-derived LV could have happened much faster. Shuttle-C, and move crew to a smaller LV. We could have maintained Shuttle level cadence, avoided LOC risks associated with Shuttle, and lofted truly huge payloads into the bargain---all with existing ground support stuff.

Goal for the time being is to establish a station around the moon via a space station. Orion is merely the transfer craft. It will complete the same objective as the Soyuz does today and deliver crews, with the possibility of cargo modules to the station as well, something Soyuz cannot do. 

SLS will provide experience in operating a super launch vehicle. Something no other agency or company currently has realistically planned (Musk’s BFR is not currently in the realistically planned camp but I’ll mention BFR in a second). Yes 1 launch a year is slow. But that’s early estimates, and things could change. 

As to being too small? Maybe. But that’s where B1A and B2 come in. “But they aren’t ready yet”, and they will take their normal political cadence in completing it. It will take time. That’s NASAs style. NASA takes their time for guaranteed results over immediate benefits by turning around existing hardware ala Shuttle C style.

If there was an alternative, like BFR by the time SLS launched, then NASA would fly it, albeit, after BFR has a proven flight record. But until SpaceX gets the experience and flight time that the SLS intends to provide, SLS isn’t going anywhere as that is it’s goal.

Edited by ZooNamedGames
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