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[New] Space Launch System / Orion Discussion Thread


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2 minutes ago, tater said:

To be fair the test stand alone probably cost more than SpaceX has spent in Boca Chica in total, there's a lot more at risk. With the core stage added in it certainly costs more than SpaceX has spent to date in Boca Chica I'd wager. (counting zero SLS dev costs, because adding those in it starts getting silly)

Yeah, fair enough. NASA's testing strategy is very different to SpaceX's too - NASA does not want to test the first SLS flight article to failure.

But it is amazing to see the pace that SpaceX is building and testing Starship prototypes, compared to NASA's years of dillydallying around with SLS.

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Artemis I—the first launch of the combined SLS‐Orion system—is a planned 22‐ to 25‐day uncrewed mission anticipated for November 2021, over 3 years later than initially scheduled. Artemis II will be the first crewed flight of the combined system and NASA has committed to a launch readiness date of no later than April 2023, but slippage in the Artemis I launch date likely will result in a delay of the Artemis II launch to August 2023. According to our estimates, by the time Artemis II launches the Agency will have spent $19 billion in development costs on Orion ($6.3 billion of which was spent on development of the crew vehicle under the predecessor Constellation Program). NASA plans to spend an additional $3 billion in production costs on the Orion Program by the time Artemis II launches, $2.2 billion of which will fall under a new contract with Lockheed for future Artemis missions signed in September 2019. Artemis III, which is included in this new production contract, will support the return of humans to the Moon in 2024. The total projected Life Cycle Cost for the Orion spacecraft through FY 2030 is $29.5 billion.

 

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So they are saying by 2023 it will have flown 2 times. Assuming it then flies every year until 2030 (1 per year), that's 9 Orions (8 crewed) for 29.5 B$.

3.27 B$ per flight all costs included. Amortize dev over 20 flights? 1.975B$/flight. 30? 1.65B$/flight. LOL.

That's not SLS, just Orion (glad the SM is "free" from a taxpayer standpoint).

SLS is 2 B$ per launch (not counting dev at all, 900M for the SRBs, almost 600M for the RS-25s, the rest has to be at least 500M). So we have a lower bound on Artemis flight costs of 3B$/flight (zero dev costs included), and an all-in program cost in the multiple billions per flight (well in excess of Shuttle per flight costs by some multiple).

 

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Artemis I is an uncrewed test flight of the
combined Orion/SLS system, anticipated for
November 2021, that will fly 38,000 miles beyond
the Moon to demonstrate the integrated spacecraft system before a crewed flight. The mission will also test Orion’s heatshield at a high-speed re-entry. Because the test flight is uncrewed, systems-level tests for the Artemis I test flight do not include the environmental control and life support system, waste management system, fire detection/suppression system, and a fully operational Launch Abort System.

As I have said before, and this proves it, Artemis I is a boilerplate. The first all-up flight is in fact Artemis II, with crew aboard. Given the delays it seems inexcusable that all systems are not tested at some level to me—it's not like this is a "cheap" version, it costs as much as a an aircraft carrier.

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The second crewed flight of the Artemis Program is scheduled to take place approximately 14 months after Artemis II.

November 2023 + 14 months is 2025.

Edited by tater
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The Orion spacecraft for Artemis missions III to V will cost on average nearly $900 million each— a cost that does not include the expense for development of the docking system or additional per-mission pricing for docking hardware.41 NASA procurement officials explained docking requirements were too immature at the time the production contract was being negotiated to include docking as part of the spacecraft’s base capabilities. In addition, they noted that Artemis II has no docking capability because the objective of the mission is a lunar fly-by.

Can't help but laugh at this.

So the first actual all up SLS/Orion launch is in fact Artemis III.

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26 minutes ago, tater said:

Can't help but laugh at this.

So the first actual all up SLS/Orion launch is in fact Artemis III.

Lol, whatever happened to 'don't test the whole system for the first time on the first crewed flight' :P

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Like for your collation, but very much dislike. What a colossal waste of money. Aside from fairing volume and monolithic payloads (unnecessary for a moon landing) there's nothing SLS can do that commercial vehicles can't do by EOR.

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7 minutes ago, RCgothic said:

Like for your collation, but very much dislike. What a colossal waste of money. Aside from fairing volume and monolithic payloads (unnecessary for a moon landing) there's nothing SLS can do that commercial vehicles can't do by EOR.

While true—even in the timeframe of early Artemis missions—it's not really a fair comparison since NASA had no way of knowing this would be true. When Orion started, SpaceX and Blue Origin existed, but neither had launched anything at all, much less achieved orbit (and BO has yet to do that in its 20th year of existence). Dragon had flown in the proper SLS era (SLS started 2011), but was still new, and not crew rated.

There was also no real possibility of heavy lift at that point. Delta IV H was it aside from the proposed SLS (and that's not very heavy lift). A proposed FH at the time doesn't buy much (and frankly still doesn't, IMO, as most mass to LEO is in fact residual props in stage 2).

All that said, the problem with SLS/Orion remains the same as it was in 2011. It's a rocket to nowhere. Too big and expensive for LEO, too small to do anything actually useful. Designing a jack of all trades is a legitimate design goal—but it needs to be able to actually do some "trades." It is in fact capable of one mission—sending an overmass capsule to distant lunar orbit. Sadly, that's not actually useful.

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2 minutes ago, tater said:

While true—even in the timeframe of early Artemis missions—it's not really a fair comparison since NASA had no way of knowing this would be true. When Orion started, SpaceX and Blue Origin existed, but neither had launched anything at all, much less achieved orbit (and BO has yet to do that in its 20th year of existence). Dragon had flown in the proper SLS era (SLS started 2011), but was still new, and not crew rated.

There was also no real possibility of heavy lift at that point. Delta IV H was it aside from the proposed SLS (and that's not very heavy lift). A proposed FH at the time doesn't buy much (and frankly still doesn't, IMO, as most mass to LEO is in fact residual props in stage 2).

All that said, the problem with SLS/Orion remains the same as it was in 2011. It's a rocket to nowhere. Too big and expensive for LEO, too small to do anything actually useful. Designing a jack of all trades is a legitimate design goal—but it needs to be able to actually do some "trades." It is in fact capable of one mission—sending an overmass capsule to distant lunar orbit. Sadly, that's not actually useful.

It wouldn't be too bad if they could get a decent launch rate - or even just two at around the same time to do a Lunar Double Rendezvous. 

But they can't do that... so it's pretty terrible.

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I don't really object to the idea that NASA needed to develop a superheavy lift launcher and a capsule.

But I very much object to the price tag, the time taken, the low flight cadence, and the end result.

Edited by RCgothic
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40 minutes ago, RCgothic said:

I don't really object to the idea that NASA needed to develop a superheavy lift launcher and a capsule.

But I very much object to the price tag, the time taken, the low flight cadence, and the end result.

Honestly the money and delay is much less of an issue to me than the lack of a mission that it can actually accomplish.

SHLV? Sure, go for it!

What do we want to be able to do? How much mass does that goal take in LEO, to TLI, etc? If the requirement is "we want to send 'more than Apollo' to the lunar surface for sustainable missions" then we need enough in LEO to send more than 40-whatever tons to TLI.

That's not complicated math. They KNOW what Apollo sent to TLI (on this day, 51 years ago). If their mission requirements are higher now (longer stay, more astronauts), then it MUST exceed that. Not negotiable. Note that they could still have EOR with non-SLS as part of this, but the SLS payload needs to be able to throw substantially more than 50t to TLI, even if some of that is sent to orbit on "not SLS."

Edited by tater
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1 hour ago, tater said:

Honestly the money and delay is much less of an issue to me than the lack of a mission that it can actually accomplish.

SHLV? Sure, go for it!

What do we want to be able to do? How much mass does that goal take in LEO, to TLI, etc? If the requirement is "we want to send 'more than Apollo' to the lunar surface for sustainable missions" then we need enough in LEO to send more than 40-whatever tons to TLI.

That's not complicated math. They KNOW what Apollo sent to TLI (on this day, 51 years ago). If their mission requirements are higher now (longer stay, more astronauts), then it MUST exceed that. Not negotiable. Note that they could still have EOR with non-SLS as part of this, but the SLS payload needs to be able to throw substantially more than 50t to TLI, even if some of that is sent to orbit on "not SLS."

Yup. And SLS is much less capable than the Saturn V when it comes to TLI throw weight - the result of using a vehicle configuration that is optimized more-so for sending light payloads to high energy trajectories. Part of it is the use of the RL-10 on the upper stages. Good engine for low payload masses, but you need higher thrust to better combat gravity losses. The S-IVB had something like ten times the thrust of the ICPS, and more than twice the thrust of the proposed EUS. Add to that a sub-optimal staging set up and limitations brought on by other engineering problems and you get a vehicle that really just isn't as useful. We're at the point where a recreation of the same configuration as the Saturn V but with modern technology (a 10 meter diameter three stage rocket) would have been a better option.

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It looks like I'm suggesting the ONLY plausible use for a NASA SHLV is lunar surface missions, which I should have been more clear about. There are presumably other missions that such a LV could be used for—but if they are not enumerated beforehand, and the vehicle then designed to accomplish those missions, the problem remains.

If the real purpose is to put a space station in lunar orbit, then out of the box it should have been able to do that. Block 1b is only marginally capable of that, and under the caveat that the orbit is picked by where it can go, not what orbit is in fact best for whatever the goal of such a station is. Even so, how many launches, and can those station parts be sent some other way, cheaper (even in 2011)? Mars craft? How many launches will it take? Will the proposed SHLV have a cadence to allow distributed launch for actual missions? If the cadence is possible, is the cost such that it allows those flights?
 

None of these concerns have anything to do with cost overruns, or less than transparent contracting, or schedule delays, or anything else about SLS/Orion. They are not making claims that "SpaceX could have done it better!" They are instead just statements of fact that have been true since the inception of the program—that SLS/Orion was not designed to accomplish any particular, useful mission goal, and is insufficiently capable and cost effective to be any sort of general purpose system.

Edited by tater
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Now that you mention it, wasn’t the whole point to of Constellation / Orion / SLS to  visit an asteroid and grab it, or at least a piece of it?

That lasted until someone pointed out that a robotic spacecraft to do it for a heckuva lot cheaper. But there was still these beee-yoot-iful designs on the drawing boards, along with some metal getting bent. 

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15 hours ago, StrandedonEarth said:

Now that you mention it, wasn’t the whole point to of Constellation / Orion / SLS to  visit an asteroid and grab it, or at least a piece of it?

That lasted until someone pointed out that a robotic spacecraft to do it for a heckuva lot cheaper. But there was still these beee-yoot-iful designs on the drawing boards, along with some metal getting bent. 

No.

Constellation (which had its own serious problems) was a lunar program.

Ares I was Orion on a SRB.

Ares V was a cargo-only SHLV, sort of like SLS, but with RS-68 engines—which would not have worked. No idea why they went with the dumb sustainer idea with SRBs.

Ares V launches Altair (the lander), and Orion docks and they go to LLO. Since Orion (the CEV* at the time) was supposed to also be an ISS vehicle, it was similarly not very capable SM wise. So Altair does the LOI burn (Orion only needed enough dv to get home from LLO). Altair lands, returns, Orion goes home. Ares V also seen as a cargo vehicle to deliver parts for a Mars rocket to LEO.

The ARM mission was make-work for SLS/Orion. SLS/Orion was getting built, but since they had no lander (and no money to get one), and no actual mission, they needed something to DO in a distant lunar orbit. So they were to send a robot to grab a chunk of asteroid, then bring it to lunar orbit (for reasons), then rendezvous with it way out there (for reasons), and EVA to take pieces back to Earth. The samples? Totally useful. Collecting them by hand? LOL.

Anyway, from Constellation, the bit worth keeping was the Ares V concept—even if it needed to go RS-25 so it could actually work. Cargo SHLV. Instead, they took Orion—too heavy, and designed with a small SM because they had the lander doing more work in Constellation—and stuck it on top. That is the fundamental reason why SLS just can't work as it stands. If you stipulate that the program must use Orion, SLS can never be good enough as it is. If you stipulate you must keep SLS, then they must dump Orion, and use a smaller capsule—at best SLS will send almost Apollo level mass to TLI, so instead of a more massive capsule, they need a lower mass capsule.

I don't think an architecture using SLS ever makes much sense. It's super expensive, but that would not be an insurmountable problem if it was also super capable relative to any competing vehicle. It will certainly be more capable for a while, but not nearly enough for the cost. To be really useful it needs to be able to send, well, substantially more than Apollo to TLI, I can't see any alternative to that. And I mean that as just a "naked" upper stage. If they could fly a bare EUS with a docking port that could send 60t to TLI, then commercial vehicles can send a lander to LEO, NG could send Orion, they attach to EUS, and go.

 

*edited, thx @Barzon

Edited by tater
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To be completely fair, 34t-37t to TLI (Block 1B) works with a stretched service module if 2 can launch in quick succession. Lunar Orbit Rendezvous with a lander works.

But SLS can never fly that often.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 7/7/2020 at 9:58 AM, RCgothic said:

EUS is so going to be cancelled.

Uh, no?

ML-2's entered fabrication. Congress put EUS language in their funding bill for the third time (over the administration's objections), which also directs NASA to prioritize EUS for the 2024 period. EUS CDR will happen sometime soon, and pre-production activities have already started.

On 5/26/2020 at 6:45 PM, .50calBMG said:

So for everyone saying SLS is a complete rocket, they still don't have a production piece for mating stage one with stage two. They have a quarter of a pathfinder test article. You may counter with the fact that it is a fairly simple thing to make relative to the rest of the rocket, to which I respond "then what took so long?"

I know it's old, but that's for Block 1B. The LVSA (the Block 1 equivalent) has been done for a while.

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  • 2 weeks later...

https://mobile.twitter.com/CarlyHowett/status/1292887584243240961

Wow.

Also how to embed a tweet?

(Yes, I know this can be done far cheaper with multiple launches, but it still shows the SLS can do some seriously impressive things if the huge cost is set aside.)

Two questions: Why do they choose SLS for the launch vehicle? Because this is just a concept? (I asked this question because I don't think NASA has enough budget for SLS launches besides those planned in the Artemis program and one for the Europa clipper, and I really hope this gets the chance to launch.)

And I thought ion engines need lots of electrical power, is 5 next generation RTGs enough?

Edited by Space Nerd
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1 hour ago, Space Nerd said:

Why do they choose SLS for the launch vehicle? Because this is just a concept?

I don't know. Perhaps they're dead set on doing it with a single launch, and SLS is the only vehicle capable of that. But that graphic says they want to use SLS Block 2, which is basically just a concept too. That's a long way down the line - the only commonality that Block 2 has with Block 1 is the core stage. Currently they don't have the SRBs, or the EUS, or the payload fairing.

It really depends if Block 2 is ready in the near future. On a realistic timescale, by the time it's ready other launch vehicles will probably be able to launch the same mission at a lower cost.

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2 hours ago, Space Nerd said:

Paste link, then click "paste as plain text" (counterintuitive)

2 hours ago, Space Nerd said:

(Yes, I know this can be done far cheaper with multiple launches, but it still shows the SLS can do some seriously impressive things if the huge cost is set aside.)

Two questions: Why do they choose SLS for the launch vehicle? Because this is just a concept? (I asked this question because I don't think NASA has enough budget for SLS launches besides those planned in the Artemis program and one for the Europa clipper, and really hope this gets the chance to launch.)

And I thought ion engines need lots of electrical power, is 5 next generation RTGs enough?

Huge C3.

Insane that it uses EUS (4 RL-10), then adds another RL-10.

What's the total spacecraft mass?

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3 hours ago, Space Nerd said:

And I thought ion engines need lots of electrical power, is 5 next generation RTGs enough?

It really depends.  Small ion thrusters, yes.  Really big ones, no way.  I expect they will use a gridded ion thruster for the extra ISP, but they may choose a more advanced design like the Dual-Stage 4-Grid.  Magnetoplasmadynamic engines are really really high power, but high thrust.  Hall effect thrusters are average in everything except fuel ionization efficiency, which they excel at.  Gridded ion thrusters are higher power, but they are pretty good for their size.  The Dual-Stage 4-Grid got an ISP of 21,400 seconds, but it was left behind due to budget problems and the lead designer's death.

EDIT: The radioisotope generator's size also plays a big part in the electrical consumption of the engines.  Until we have more detail on this, I think the most likely choice will be a NASA NEXTish design.

Edited by Entropian
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Read the whole proposal, and I found they said the probe will be launched on a SLS block 1b instead.

And I suppose the reason for using SLS is they want to do it single launched, and cost is not a major factor in their consideration.

Very cool nonetheless.

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