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[New] Space Launch System / Orion Discussion Thread


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4 hours ago, YNM said:

As much as this would've been a fairly capable launcher I'm glad we didn't follow through with that one.

I honestly wonder what would be the 'easiest' way out for NASA to uprate SLS so it'd actually be useful to send a cargo to land once a la Apollo. Extra SRB segment ?

Ares I was pretty awful.

As for SLS, it needs to have the capability to send ~65-70 tons to TLI, short of that, it's not useful.

 

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4 hours ago, YNM said:

As much as this would've been a fairly capable launcher I'm glad we didn't follow through with that one.

I honestly wonder what would be the 'easiest' way out for NASA to uprate SLS so it'd actually be useful to send a cargo to land once a la Apollo. Extra SRB segment ?

I fear that "moar boosters" and few external struts around rocket is not so simple in real life than in KSP. I do not know easiest way to proceed to something useful, because there are many political issues which are much more important in SLS project than any possible space operation ever. But I am sure that fastest, cheapest and the most reliable way would be to cancel whole SLS and pay SpaceX and/or Blue Origin to faster development of super heavy launch vehicle.

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1 hour ago, Hannu2 said:

I fear that "moar boosters" and few external struts around rocket is not so simple in real life than in KSP.

5-segment boosters have been proposed since a long time ago. Although I suppose Block 2 is pretty much the same thing. Block 2 is only 45 tons to TLI still however so it's 15 tonnes short of the 60 tonnes ideally needed (30 tonnes for lander and/or extra cargo with the crew).

1 hour ago, Hannu2 said:

But I am sure that fastest, cheapest and the most reliable way would be to cancel whole SLS and pay SpaceX and/or Blue Origin to faster development of super heavy launch vehicle.

I question if their timeline could be significantly accelerated. One thing for sure is that whatever they end up making can have the launch cadence for EOR-type mission rather than half-arsed LOR.

Edited by YNM
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1 hour ago, Hannu2 said:

I fear that "moar boosters" and few external struts around rocket is not so simple in real life than in KSP. I do not know easiest way to proceed to something useful, because there are many political issues which are much more important in SLS project than any possible space operation ever. But I am sure that fastest, cheapest and the most reliable way would be to cancel whole SLS and pay SpaceX and/or Blue Origin to faster development of super heavy launch vehicle.

SLS is als a patriotic symbol, sure routine resupply missions to the ISS can be outsourced but would you really respect NASA if they just decided to outsource all of Artemis to some billionaire with a burning hole in their wallet.

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3 minutes ago, SpaceFace545 said:

SLS is als a patriotic symbol, sure routine resupply missions to the ISS can be outsourced but would you really respect NASA if they just decided to outsource all of Artemis to some billionaire with a burning hole in their wallet.

Why not?

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21 minutes ago, SpaceFace545 said:

would you really respect NASA if they just decided to outsource all of Artemis to some billionaire with a burning hole in their wallet.

I mean, Saturn V was built by Boeing, North American Aviation, Douglas and the CSM/LM by Rockwell and Grumman. NASA didn't actually manufacture it themselves. They were all pretty much a large company by that time, with all the post-war aviation industry in boom.

The only thing different this time is that while SV was an entirely new thing built almost from the ground-up, SLS is trying to train and suit an old dog for new job, the only thing properly new being the Orion capsule. Using existing tech (from 4 decades ago at retirement, mind you) would've made sense when it was only a few years out of use, but a whole decade is too long.

Edited by YNM
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NASA is a clerk with a chalk at the blackboard with job vacancy table.

Sacks  are carried by specially trained people.

Edited by kerbiloid
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18 minutes ago, kerbiloid said:

NASA is a clerk with a chalk at the blackboard with job vacancy table.

Sacks  are carried by specially trained people.

like boeing, lockheed martin, and northrup grumman

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2 hours ago, tater said:

Ares I was pretty awful.

I have said this a thousand times but I will never understand why they didn't just build Jupiter DIRECT. Keep building virtually identical SRBs and SLWTs, design a thrust puck adapter and a payload adapter, and mount the early Orion CEV on top using the exact same Shuttle OMS engines to power Orion's service module and complete orbital insertion. Exactly the same launch profile as the Shuttle. Exactly the same contractors as the Shuttle.

We would have been flying crew from US soil to the ISS this whole time and building experience toward something like the SLS but far more capable. And we would have had time to upgrade Orion's service module, too.

48 minutes ago, SpaceFace545 said:

...would you really respect NASA if they just decided to outsource all of Artemis to some billionaire with a burning hole in their wallet.

Spoiler

not to talk politics or anything but what is more American than rich robber barons

 

5 minutes ago, Starhelperdude said:

does anyone know something about the block 2 booster's performance?

Nope, no one does because they haven't even picked a design yet. 

The use of newly-built F-1A engines (two per booster) would work remarkably well and would largely obviate the inherent stupidity of using hydrolox sustainer engines.

But that wouldn't let enough pork flow so they will probably try to go with advanced solids.

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I've heard that advanced solids are pretty much locked in at this point, and that whenever they debut that will be block 2. It won't be as much of a performance increase as liquid boosters. Nowhere near 60t to TLI.

I reckon it'd need a 5th RS25 and liquid boosters to hit that milestone. Might need to stretch the core further, and the boosters would probably be larger diameter as well which is all kinds of disaster for GSE compatibility.

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Lead times on programs like this are long, and SpaceX dominating the launch market was not really something anyone even considered at the start of even the SLS project, much less the Constellation program it came from (before SpaceX existed).

I make an effort not to bring SpaceX counterfactuals into SLS discussions. The problem with SLS from the start was a failure to set mission goals, and rough architecture FIRST.

If Orion was a given (sunk cost), then that math needed to include Orion as the crew vehicle, which invariably leads to the 65-70+ tons to TLI requirement for SLS.

All that is regardless of cost, scheduling, how many States are involved in building it, etc. This is why it has always been a bad design. Harping on cost, etc, is fun (and so very easy), but the underlying fact is that SLS is not good for ANY task.

Too big and way, way, way too expensive for LEO.

Not big enough for any crew BLEO missions that are worth doing.

Far too expensive for uncrewed missions where the huge C3 shines.

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20 hours ago, DDE said:

The SLS is the Angara but if Roscosmos had a budget.

*mic drop*

Sorry, it is a bit late to move to Alabama.

19 hours ago, mikegarrison said:

Neither Starliner nor Dragon are designed for long-duration flights.

Dragon can be parked at the ISS for a month (presumably Starliner can do the same).  A lot depends on just how long this "long duration" has to be.

7 hours ago, YNM said:

As much as this would've been a fairly capable launcher I'm glad we didn't follow through with that one.

I honestly wonder what would be the 'easiest' way out for NASA to uprate SLS so it'd actually be useful to send a cargo to land once a la Apollo. Extra SRB segment ?

The  powerpoint slides I googled implied that Block  2 would have "evolved boosters".  My guess is that they would be liquid, but who knows.  Pretty typical of the whole project to talk of "evolving" a 50-year old design after using it more or less unchanged.  To do this, you'd presumably need F-1 engines (which were printed and test-fired for SLS evaluation already), as the STS boosters are the most powerful rocket motor ever used to get into space (presumably to be eclipsed by the SLS booster), and entire Atlas or Falcon9 boosters don't come remotely close to the thrust-weight produced by each booster.

Block 1b was supposed to add an extra "exploration upper stage".  Note that this keeps the first stage with RS-25 engines and increases payload by ~50%.  My guess is that the numbers on charts containing this have wildly overestimated SLS-block 1's capabilities.

For sending cargo to TLI (with a craft with enough  delta-V to land on the Moon) Falcon Heavy is the way to go.  For sending cargo by the time Artemis flies, you will likely have your pick of Starship, Vulcan, New Glen, and possibly New Armstrong.

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1 hour ago, wumpus said:

you'd presumably need F-1 engines (which were printed and test-fired for SLS evaluation already)

Huh. Interesting.

1 hour ago, RCgothic said:

I've heard that advanced solids are pretty much locked in at this point, and that whenever they debut that will be block 2. It won't be as much of a performance increase as liquid boosters. Nowhere near 60t to TLI.

If it's solids again that'd pretty much lock the fate of SLS as a white elephant rocket, maybe launching a crew to the lunar station once every year, and additional surface payload pre-positioning when they need it.

 

Although there's one solace to be had. If they really move forward and move the ISS cooperation to a lunar station I suppose the HLO station makes sense as the other national participants probably wouldn't be able to put much to LLO either.

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18 hours ago, SpaceFace545 said:

SLS is als a patriotic symbol, sure routine resupply missions to the ISS can be outsourced but would you really respect NASA if they just decided to outsource all of Artemis to some billionaire with a burning hole in their wallet.

I can not understand all that patriotic ideology, which is so important for americans.  I am pragmatic and appreciate space operators based on what they have done. Not based on who owns them, who pays them or what they say they will do in future. I have to say that I do not have much trust on Artemis yet. There has not been any significant things or funding decisions yet. I think SLS is just political industrial subsidize mechanism, not real space program with severe objectives.

I would not be surprised if US government announced that Artemis has been cancelled and they begin a new manned Mars-program instead. There is no real will to make manned space operations or compete with other countires in USA or anywhere else. All current projects are slow small budget low priority tinkering instead of competing superpower's displays of power (like Apollo was).

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Mars was a goal before, but there is simply not enough money for that the way the sausage actually gets made.

A return to the Moon has international support, largely because it costs less, so other nations can actually contribute, and largely because while they will contribute, it's still chump-change, with American taxpayers footing the bulk of the bill.

I'd be a lot more supportive of international space efforts if the per capita share of costs (per citizen) was equal, or at least reasonably close among all the participating nations.

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If they actually still hope to find and mine the scattered lunar platinoids and lantanoids to bypass the Chinese 95% of world production of the latter , they can discuss the coming 50 years later shares.

Maybe already did.

Edited by kerbiloid
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8 hours ago, Hannu2 said:

I can not understand all that patriotic ideology, which is so important for americans.  I am pragmatic and appreciate space operators based on what they have done. Not based on who owns them, who pays them or what they say they will do in future. I have to say that I do not have much trust on Artemis yet. There has not been any significant things or funding decisions yet. I think SLS is just political industrial subsidize mechanism, not real space program with severe objectives.

I would not be surprised if US government announced that Artemis has been cancelled and they begin a new manned Mars-program instead. There is no real will to make manned space operations or compete with other countires in USA or anywhere else. All current projects are slow small budget low priority tinkering instead of competing superpower's displays of power (like Apollo was).

NASA has given many reasons for the Artemis program. But they seem to be similar to the reasons given during SEI and the Constellation program, and if "going to the Moon sustainably" is a goal, why is NASA needed? Is there something NASA has to do before SpaceX and Blue Origin can do their own things there?

I think Artemis is politically driven in response by presumably still classified reports on the progress of the Chinese crewed lunar program. All that the US intelligence community has really said is "what America did as the hare in the 60s, China is now doing as the tortoise- slow and steady". Slow and steady wins the hypothetical race, so perhaps the US wants to "win" despite there being no race as America all got there first (but currently can't go there anymore).

During the 1960s, while the "Moon Race" was very real for most of the people at NASA and of course the public, the people at the top were never really concerned, apart from shortly after the Apollo 1 disaster, because they had access to CIA reports describing how much disarray the Soviet lunar program was in. A CIA report from before the first N-1 launch still put the first Soviet crewed lunar landing in 1970 at the earliest. If this is not the case with China, then it makes sense why despite repeatedly having been unwilling to fund crewed lunar programs in the past, despite the problems caused by the pandemic, the US appears to be sticking with Artemis.

Also, given how people like to raise their voices on the internet nowadays, if the Artemis program is cancelled, the "Artemis generation" NASA has been publicizing will become the "orphans of Artemis", which would be a PR and public confidence disaster.

4 hours ago, tater said:

Mars was a goal before, but there is simply not enough money for that the way the sausage actually gets made.

A return to the Moon has international support, largely because it costs less, so other nations can actually contribute, and largely because while they will contribute, it's still chump-change, with American taxpayers footing the bulk of the bill.

I'd be a lot more supportive of international space efforts if the per capita share of costs (per citizen) was equal, or at least reasonably close among all the participating nations.

Until a CIA analyst runs in to his supervisor's office and yells "THE CHINESE ARE GOING TO MARS".

I was born in 2001, and for all my life I have heard people say "human on Mars in the 2030s". It increasingly looks like it will slip to the 2040s or 2050s, or perhaps even 2060s. Will the government really fund a crewed Mars program when the Mars Sample Return mission, which isn't even going to come back until 2031 if it launches on time, might kill the crewed mission project in the (extremely unlikely) event that life on Mars is dangerous to human life? (This is also probably why the most detailed of available proposals- the DST architecture- involves only orbiting Mars, and whereas Constellation had a very preliminary concept of a lander, the DST version basically just has a drawing bearing resemblance to the SEI era Boeing Mars landers)

It is a dangerous world, and in China, Russia, the US, or anywhere, there are a lot of problems that can arise which take precedence over (and thus taking funding away from) a crewed Mars program, even if it sounds like a great way to boost national prestige in the 21st century.

Hopefully Artemis survives the 2020s.

Edited by SunlitZelkova
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Can Blue Origin construct a habitat? Can SpaceX design and deliver science? Can ULA muster international support and be unpolitical and uncontroversial in its public view?

NASA needs these contractors (FYI, that response of mine that was thoroughly dunked on was in reference to Orion-launching schemes, not regular cargo launches), and those contractors get a significant amount of business from NASA.

 

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52 minutes ago, SunlitZelkova said:

I was born in 2001, and for all my life I have heard people say "human on Mars in the 2030s". It increasingly looks like it will slip to the 2040s or 2050s, or perhaps even 2060s. Will the government really fund a crewed Mars program when the Mars Sample Return mission, which isn't even going to come back until 2031 if it launches on time, might kill the crewed mission project in the (extremely unlikely) event that life on Mars is dangerous to human life? (This is also probably why the most detailed of available proposals- the DST architecture- involves only orbiting Mars, and whereas Constellation had a very preliminary concept of a lander, the DST version basically just has a drawing bearing resemblance to the SEI era Boeing Mars landers)

Everyone paying attention in the early 2000s and beyond knew 2030s for Mars was not a thing, it was never funded.

Anything 20+ years off is notional, nothing more, might as well say the first human interstellar mission is in 2040.

10 years away with serious funding? More likely to happen in that rough time frame.

 

52 minutes ago, SunlitZelkova said:

I think Artemis is politically driven in response by presumably still classified reports on the progress of the Chinese crewed lunar program. All that the US intelligence community has really said is "what America did as the hare in the 60s, China is now doing as the tortoise- slow and steady". Slow and steady wins the hypothetical race, so perhaps the US wants to "win" despite there being no race as America all got there first (but currently can't go there anymore).

No.

Artemis was Bridenstine making lemonade out of the lemons (SLS and Orion) he was given.

1. SLS/Orion would continue to see money thrown at them by Congress.

2. Given that impossible to change reality, since SLS was a thing NASA has had to try and come up with something, indeed anything that SLS/Orion could actually be used for. If it was a useful vehicle, this task would be easy—but sadly it is NOT a useful vehicle. First ARM, then LOP-G/Gateway, then Gateway-Artemis.

It's really that simple, the thing is gonna fly, what to do with it?

Artemis was far more a good strategic play by Bridenstine to have a use for SLS/Orion that could survive an admin change. The first woman, and the next man to land on the Moon... was brilliant politics on his part. Bridenstine will be a tough act to follow, he did a great job with what he was given.

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1 hour ago, Clamp-o-Tron said:

Can Blue Origin construct a habitat? Can SpaceX design and deliver science? Can ULA muster international support and be unpolitical and uncontroversial in its public view?

NASA needs these contractors (FYI, that response of mine that was thoroughly dunked on was in reference to Orion-launching schemes, not regular cargo launches), and those contractors get a significant amount of business from NASA.

 

I think if they really wanted to, Blue Origin could construct a habitat, and SpaceX could design and deliver science.

I agree that if international cooperation is a goal, NASA has a role to play as a "manager" for everyone involved.

NASA PR seems to push the sustainability side of the program more than the international aspect. My comment was more intended to point out that the idea of sustainably going to the Moon is a bit of an odd statement for this program given the unsustainable element of it in the room (Orion and SLS) as crew vehicles.

If the Human Landing System is being commercially developed, why not have the other crewed spacecraft be commercially developed too? Wouldn't that fulfill the objectives of the program better, even if Orion ends up being cancelled? Of course, as people have pointed out many times in this thread there are political reasons involved in answering that question.

21 minutes ago, tater said:

 

Everyone paying attention in the early 2000s and beyond knew 2030s for Mars was not a thing, it was never funded.

Anything 20+ years off is notional, nothing more, might as well say the first human interstellar mission is in 2040.

10 years away with serious funding? More likely to happen in that rough time frame.

 

No.

Artemis was Bridenstine making lemonade out of the lemons (SLS and Orion) he was given.

1. SLS/Orion would continue to see money thrown at them by Congress.

2. Given that impossible to change reality, since SLS was a thing NASA has had to try and come up with something, indeed anything that SLS/Orion could actually be used for. If it was a useful vehicle, this task would be easy—but sadly it is NOT a useful vehicle. First ARM, then LOP-G/Gateway, then Gateway-Artemis.

It's really that simple, the thing is gonna fly, what to do with it?

Artemis was far more a good strategic play by Bridenstine to have a use for SLS/Orion that could survive an admin change. The first woman, and the next man to land on the Moon... was brilliant politics on his part. Bridenstine will be a tough act to follow, he did a great job with what he was given.

I was 9 around the time I heard "Mars in the 2030s", so I had no idea. After 2011, I didn't pay attention to space at all until last year, so the gritty reality of space politics is a bit new to me.

I did not take into account the politics behind SLS when I wrote my post. On paper, Artemis feels a lot more serious compared to what I have read of the history of Constellation and the SEI, which is why I wonder if it has a hidden, more important motivation behind it (like national security).

Then again, there was/is the unrealistic goal of a 2024 Moon landing, which implies the program doesn't have serious (non-domestic political) motives behind it.

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24 minutes ago, SunlitZelkova said:

I was 9 around the time I heard "Mars in the 2030s", so I had no idea. After 2011, I didn't pay attention to space at all until last year, so the gritty reality of space politics is a bit new to me.

Yeah, it's kind of a mess the way the sausage gets made. The Shuttle years were at first really cool, then it became more and more obvious nothing super interesting was gonna get paid for.

 

Quote

I did not take into account the politics behind SLS when I wrote my post. On paper, Artemis feels a lot more serious compared to what I have read of the history of Constellation and the SEI, which is why I wonder if it has a hidden, more important motivation behind it (like national security).

I don't think national security plays much of a role (unless you take a few steps back and think in terms of money to keep defense contractors viable). Some pols like to talk that way, but the reality is that some programs get supported by Congress, then they will survive.

Constellation was reasonably serious (I know a couple people who worked on it back in the day), but they had some serious issues getting the design to work—and they were overlapping with the Shuttle program, that got a large chunk of budget to maintain. So in that sense SLS/Orion is more serious (they are in effect getting all the money that used to go to Shuttle), and since SLS/Orion are serious, Artemis is serious since SLS/Orion needs something to do.

 

Quote

Then again, there was/is the unrealistic goal of a 2024 Moon landing, which implies the program doesn't have serious (non-domestic political) motives behind it.

It's not about an international peeing match, it's a thing that exists (SLS/Orion) and since NASA must fly it, it might as well do something. Since there is literally nothing interesting it can do by itself, a program needed to be invented that used it. So you either have a distant lunar station (for reasons), or you land on the Moon (actually interesting).

I think most people saw 2024 as a huge long shot, but the program really needed a short time horizon since any time the goal is "10 years," it ends up being "10 years from today we will do the thing!" except they say that every year for the next few decades—the target always remaining 10 years in the future.

2024 was Bridenstine trying to move the ball down the field.

Edited by tater
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