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[New] Space Launch System / Orion Discussion Thread

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I am reading more and more negative things about costs and cannot separate rumors from the truth. What do some of the more informed people think about the SLS program? Is it really all just political? Ula with Atlas and delta are also extremely political but in fairness they deliver and are exceptional launch systems. Will the launch cost really be 1 billion? That will be basically shuttle 2.0 and we know how that ended. If we take development cost into account it will be more than 2 billion unless the SLS launches very frequently. I do not understand how it can be so expensive to develop a launcher. From what I read it cost 14 billion so far. What are they doing? Apollo was expensive but they delivered and in their defence they basically had to invent every single component of the saturn. 

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1 billion? that is the marginal cost, you are looking at 2-2.5 billion per launch.

 

p.s. 

there is a tread about sls 4 post lower than this post

 

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40 minutes ago, Flavio hc16 said:

1 billion? that is the marginal cost, you are looking at 2-2.5 billion per launch.

 

p.s. 

there is a tread about sls 4 post lower than this post

 

And somehow I managed to overlook it again...... 

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The SLS fans would probably enjoy it if the new round of talking about how awful it is took place in another thread, lol.

1 billion per launch has to be low, really low, as we know for a fact that each of the first 4 SLS LVs has 508 million worth of RS-25s in it. Proponents used to say that this was also dev cost for the new production RS-25 engines, but they've been given over a billion to do that now, as well (getting production going). In fact, I think the first 4 new ones are more than the 128M$ we just paid (each) for the first 16 that were previously used. (any SLS fans want to buy my 5 YO Land Rover for more than I paid for it?)

The program cost is fixed at something like 2-3 billion a year with no launches, so assuming they fly once a year, it's perfectly fair to say that the cost is the vehicle costs (marginal launch cost), plus the program costs. Note also that Orion alone is about a billion a flight. So every flight with Orion on top is ~4 billion (optimistically).

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18 minutes ago, tater said:

Orion alone is about a billion a flight

I don't care about the Orion price for obvious reasons, but I still can't get how a 20 t capsule+engines can cost like a multi-deck cruise liner after fifty years of space flights.
https://www.marineinsight.com/cruise/top-10-most-expensive-cruise-ships-in-2019/

Do they reinvent physics every time?

Edited by kerbiloid

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48 minutes ago, kerbiloid said:

I don't care about the Orion price for obvious reasons, but I still can't get how a 20 t capsule+engines can cost like a multi-deck cruise liner after fifty years of space flights.
https://www.marineinsight.com/cruise/top-10-most-expensive-cruise-ships-in-2019/

Do they reinvent physics every time?

The purpose of Orion, and the purpose of SLS is to put money in various Congressional districts. Any space exploration that gets accomplished is a happy, collateral effect.

The two systems accomplish this admirably.

 

 

 

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The SLS would have been cool long ago.

As it is now, it is obsolete before it even flies. Musk has made the entire SLS program redundant.

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1 hour ago, tater said:

The SLS fans would probably enjoy it if the new round of talking about how awful it is took place in another thread, lol.

1 billion per launch has to be low, really low, as we know for a fact that each of the first 4 SLS LVs has 508 million worth of RS-25s in it. Proponents used to say that this was also dev cost for the new production RS-25 engines, but they've been given over a billion to do that now, as well (getting production going). In fact, I think the first 4 new ones are more than the 128M$ we just paid (each) for the first 16 that were previously used. (any SLS fans want to buy my 5 YO Land Rover for more than I paid for it?)

The program cost is fixed at something like 2-3 billion a year with no launches, so assuming they fly once a year, it's perfectly fair to say that the cost is the vehicle costs (marginal launch cost), plus the program costs. Note also that Orion alone is about a billion a flight. So every flight with Orion on top is ~4 billion (optimistically).

Those numbers are nonsensical to me. How the hell can a command module cost 1 billion per flight. That is the same amount as the entire saturn V cost in todays money. I read those things but simply refused to believe those were the real numbers. What do they spend that money on? Coffee machines and giving everyone on the project a mercedes G class as a firm car? 

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16 minutes ago, KerikBalm said:

The SLS would have been cool long ago.

As it is now, it is obsolete before it even flies. Musk has made the entire SLS program redundant.

The shuttle was also cool but also useless. To be fair it is still cool looking...... 

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44 minutes ago, KerikBalm said:

The SLS would have been cool long ago.

As it is now, it is obsolete before it even flies. Musk has made the entire SLS program redundant.

While SLS is likely to be obsolete in the near future, it is not yet obsolete as neither New Glen nor Starship have finished development. (ie successful launch to orbit)

There is legitimate value in NASA continuing to fund a rocket that they know will not be cancelled(so long as they keep paying) until there is at least one(and preferably more than one) existing commercial alternative.

While the costs for SLS may boggle the mind, it is directed spending and NASA has little say over the matter.

I personally hope that both Starship and New Glen launch soon so that SLS can be set aside as no longer worth-while, but for the time being, it is still better for the space program than the federal budget ear-marks that are likely to replace it.

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1 hour ago, dave1904 said:

Those numbers are nonsensical to me. How the hell can a command module cost 1 billion per flight. That is the same amount as the entire saturn V cost in todays money. I read those things but simply refused to believe those were the real numbers. What do they spend that money on? Coffee machines and giving everyone on the project a mercedes G class as a firm car? 

https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-commits-to-long-term-artemis-missions-with-orion-production-contract

Quote

OPOC is an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract that includes a commitment to order a minimum of six and a maximum of 12 Orion spacecraft, with an ordering period through Sept. 30, 2030. Production and operations of the spacecraft for six to 12 missions will establish a core set of capabilities, stabilize the production process, and demonstrate reusability of spacecraft components.

Then:

Quote

With this award, NASA is ordering three Orion spacecraft for Artemis missions III through V for $2.7 billion. The agency plans to order three additional Orion capsules in fiscal year 2022 for Artemis missions VI through VIII, at a total of $1.9 billion. Ordering the spacecraft in groups of three allows NASA to benefit from efficiencies that become available in the supply chain over time – efficiencies that optimize production and lower costs.

3 spacecraft at $900,000,000 each, then 3 more at just 633.33 million each. Note that parts of the latter ones are actually supposedly reused from the first ones, I think.

This does not include the service module, BTW, that's just the capsule. It also doesn't amortize any of the huge dev cost (probably on the order of 20 billion to get the first one flown). I think it's fair to spread the dev cost over some reasonable number. Say over 100 flights?

Edited by tater

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8 hours ago, dave1904 said:

Will the launch cost really be 1 billion? That will be basically shuttle 2.0 and we know how that ended.

Shuttle was active about 30 years and flew more than 100 missions. It is impossible to even imagine as great success for SLS. I am surprised if it fly ever. It seems to be some kind of political support operation for certain industry.

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31 minutes ago, tater said:

https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-commits-to-long-term-artemis-missions-with-orion-production-contract

Then:

3 spacecraft at $900,000,000 each, then 3 more at just 633.33 million each. Note that parts of the latter ones are actually supposedly reused from the first ones, I think.

This does not include the service module, BTW, that's just the capsule. It also doesn't amortize any of the huge dev cost (probably on the order of 20 billion to get the first one flown). I think it's fair to spread the dev cost over some reasonable number. Say over 100 flights?

Do you really think they will get 100 flights? To where? The orion modules being designed for the moon will probably not be capable of going to mars without significant modifications and most importantly a mar transfer stage? 

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Just now, dave1904 said:

Do you really think they will get 100 flights? To where? The orion modules being designed for the moon will probably not be capable of going to mars without significant modifications and most importantly a mar transfer stage? 

No, it's dead long before 100 flights. I was just suggesting that might be a reasonable cost to add to each capsule (200M$ per for dev).

Orion was pitched by NASA as a Mars capsule entirely because the heatshield can presumably deal with a direct entry from Mars (pretty similar to entry from the Moon). Their old Mars DRAs show Orion stuck to a much larger craft. That large vehicle supports the crew on transfer, then when near Earth, they reboard the Orion, then separate and do EDL.

Orion doesn't make much sense for any mission, which is a problem it shares with SLS. Not good enough to do anything by itself that's really interesting, too overbuilt/expensive to do tasks the need doing (going to ISS, LEO, etc).

For the amount of money NASA spends to develop a new system, that system should be designed to accomplish at least one specific mission. A generalist craft is a cool idea, but it needs to be able to actually do multiple missions acceptably in that case. So if one goal is the lunar surface, it needs to be able to do that. Then, if it's not enough to do Mars in 1 go (wouldn't be), then you stretch to multiple flights, other vehicles, etc to do Mars---but at least it can do something.

SLS/Orion can't do anything useful, which is the primary problem with it.

 

 

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1 minute ago, Hannu2 said:

Shuttle was active about 30 years and flew more than 100 missions. It is impossible to even imagine as great success for SLS. I am surprised if it fly ever. It seems to be some kind of political support operation for certain industry.

It flew 100 missions and killed 14 people doing so. Not exactly a success since the shuttle also cost 2 billion to launch. You cannot be critical of one and defend the other because they are one and the same.

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2 minutes ago, tater said:

No, it's dead long before 100 flights. I was just suggesting that might be a reasonable cost to add to each capsule (200M$ per for dev).

Orion was pitched by NASA as a Mars capsule entirely because the heatshield can presumably deal with a direct entry from Mars (pretty similar to entry from the Moon). Their old Mars DRAs show Orion stuck to a much larger craft. That large vehicle supports the crew on transfer, then when near Earth, they reboard the Orion, then separate and do EDL.

Orion doesn't make much sense for any mission, which is a problem it shares with SLS. Not good enough to do anything by itself that's really interesting, too overbuilt/expensive to do tasks the need doing (going to ISS, LEO, etc).

For the amount of money NASA spends to develop a new system, that system should be designed to accomplish at least one specific mission. A generalist craft is a cool idea, but it needs to be able to actually do multiple missions acceptably in that case. So if one goal is the lunar surface, it needs to be able to do that. Then, if it's not enough to do Mars in 1 go (wouldn't be), then you stretch to multiple flights, other vehicles, etc to do Mars---but at least it can do something.

SLS/Orion can't do anything useful, which is the primary problem with it.

 

 

Some people say that hindsight is why we can be critical of the shuttle but the thing is the issues were very well understood then. Hard to believe they are knowingly doing the exact same thing. Who is responsible? Nasa administration or politicians? US needs a president with knowledge of the matter and just fire them all. Give engineers a buget and a goal and tell them to get their like Kennedy. 

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32 minutes ago, dave1904 said:

It flew 100 missions and killed 14 people doing so. Not exactly a success since the shuttle also cost 2 billion to launch. You cannot be critical of one and defend the other because they are one and the same.

I did not say that one is evil and one is good. US government had some reasons to use shuttle despite its costs and safety issues but I do not believe that such reasons to use SLS will ever exist. Politicians can not continue expensive and non productive project forever if there will be similar or even larger commercial products at orders of magnitude lower cost. I think continuous chain of delays serve better real objectives of SLS than actual attempt to fly. If it fails it is game over immediately and if it works it is too expensive for operational use. But they can always announce delay of year or two and hope that politicians delay their decision to end project and give couple of billions more.

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23 minutes ago, dave1904 said:

Some people say that hindsight is why we can be critical of the shuttle but the thing is the issues were very well understood then. Hard to believe they are knowingly doing the exact same thing. Who is responsible? Nasa administration or politicians? US needs a president with knowledge of the matter and just fire them all. Give engineers a buget and a goal and tell them to get their like Kennedy. 

Government programs all have this feature.

Those of us who have a deep interest in space exploration are at odds with this simple reality. Most complaints about any expensive program are about counterfactuals that are not actually plausible in many cases. Some certainly are more plausible than others, but in the end it's all "this money could have been spent to do Y instead of X." This is the allure of SpaceX and Blue Origin---they are doing it with a singular purpose by someone (2 different people) who share our interests here. Many (most?) at NASA likely agree with people here on what they'd like to see, but that's not how the real world works. Money comes from horse trading in Congress. Things have to be done inefficiently to share the $$$, and keep support coming.

The President can't change this, either.

What we need is for the commercial providers to evolve more. Then it will become clear NASA needs to not build things that other already build. NSF has 3 year round stations in Antarctica. Some structures might be bespoke (South Pole, for example), but NSF doesn't manufacture the metal used to make the buildings. The program didn't design a 1-off aircraft to supply their facilities at the cost of billions. No, they have an LC-130 with skis on it. Something they could buy off the shelf, and perhaps make minor alterations to. That's what NASA should be doing, and eventually I think they will. The same pork rules apply, the different NASA centers will work on things that commercial doesn't do yet. They can work on habs, novel propulsion, etc.

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3 minutes ago, Hannu2 said:

I did not say that one is evil and one is good. US government had some reasons to use shuttle despite its costs and safety issues but I do not believe that such reasons to use SLS will ever exist. Politicians can not continue expensive and non productive project forever if there will be similar or even larger commercial products at orders of magnitude lower cost. I think continuous chain of delays serve better real objectives of SLS than actual attempt to fly. If it fails it is game over immediately and if it works it is too expensive for operational use. But they can always announce delay of year or two and hope that politicians delay their decision to end project and give couple of billions more.

The Pentagon would close large numbers of military bases in the US if it could. They only need and want a few. Every time they make a list, all the local politicians fight for their base---the others on the list are sensible reductions in cost, OUR base, OTOH, is vital to national security for the following reasons...

We know it works that way, the goal should be to maximize the "collateral damage" that is science/exploration. If you are working some random job for NASA (not engineering, something generic needed to keep the lights on (maintenance, administration, HR, etc )), then your concern is not sending a probe to Europa, it's getting paid (like most people, everywhere). As long as you are paid, the system is working. If doing more cool stuff efficiently was to close your local center, and lose you your job---that would be a failure to you, even if it's a win for people like us who want to see the cool things (or the people working in the sciences or tech areas that don't get fired).

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20 minutes ago, tater said:

NSF has 3 year round stations in Antarctica.

Mr Bergin has really diversified recently, hasn't he? ;)

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4 minutes ago, Barzon said:

Mr Bergin has really diversified recently, hasn't he? ;)

?

Oh, LOL. Slow on the uptake. I suppose I should have said National Science Foundation, heheh.

 

 

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I’ve talked  with some of the engineers - it’s a real mess.

Boeing has been very problematic for the engineers so far. I’ve forgotten the specific issues but it’s been a huge problem plaguing SLS since the beginning.

It’s actually going to be one of the cheapest super heavy launchers in terms of development costs. Of course SpaceX may change that but we’ll have to wait.

SLS is less powerful than the Saturn V - the claim that it’s more powerful is just false.

It also has issues with poorly done hardware installation and even hydrostatic pressure. The core is too tall. It doesn’t have enough engines either. Even the software is having issues. 

The idea of using “off the shelf” technology didn’t pan out - they had to redesign almost everything and each RS-25 performs slightly differently. 

But the real killer is launch cadence. The expected launch rate is so small and the payload capacity so limited as to make the thing almost useless for beyond LEO.

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1 minute ago, Bill Phil said:

SLS is less powerful than the Saturn V - the claim that it’s more powerful is just false.

a. SLS has higher thrust than the Saturn V

b. It has only a few tons less than the Saturn V with BOLE and EUS.

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3 minutes ago, Barzon said:

a. SLS has higher thrust than the Saturn V

b. It has only a few tons less than the Saturn V with BOLE and EUS.

Higher thrust - and lower total impulse.

It has 26 tonnes for TLI Block 1 - almost half of the Saturn V’s. Block 1b is 40 tonnes or less. Only Block 2 - which may never be developed, approaches the Saturn V’s performance, at 45 tonnes. 

Meanwhile the Saturn V could deliver over 48 tonnes to TLI.

Block 2 requires advanced boosters - there’s a real chance it will never happen.

The use of liquid hydrogen in this way is immensely inefficient - gravity losses are larger and the stage delta-v split is inefficient. The higher thrust is all from the SRBs - which have a shorter burn time than the S-IC and provide less total impulse even with the core added. 

SLS is less powerful.

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53 minutes ago, Hannu2 said:

I did not say that one is evil and one is good. US government had some reasons to use shuttle despite its costs and safety issues but I do not believe that such reasons to use SLS will ever exist. Politicians can not continue expensive and non productive project forever if there will be similar or even larger commercial products at orders of magnitude lower cost. I think continuous chain of delays serve better real objectives of SLS than actual attempt to fly. If it fails it is game over immediately and if it works it is too expensive for operational use. But they can always announce delay of year or two and hope that politicians delay their decision to end project and give couple of billions more.

I think the missions were to give the shuttle a reason and not the other way around. 

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