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NASA Approves Production of Most Powerful Rocket Ever

timothy posted about three weeks ago | from the because-rockets dept.

NASA 146

As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, NASA has given a green light to the production of a new motor, dubbed the Space Launch System, intended to enable deep space exploration. Boeing, prime contractor on the rocket, announced on Wednesday that it had completed a critical design review and finalized a $US2.8-billion contract with NASA. The last time the space agency made such an assessment of a deep-space rocket was the mighty Saturn V, which took astronauts to the moon. ... Space Launch System's design called for the integration of existing hardware, spurring criticism that it's a "Frankenstein rocket," with much of it assembled from already developed technology. For instance, its two rocket boosters are advanced versions of the Space Shuttle boosters, and a cryogenic propulsion stage is based on the motor of a rocket often used by the Air Force. The Space Frontier Foundation, an advocacy group and frequent NASA critic, said Space Launch System was "built from rotting remnants of left over congressional pork. And its budgetary footprints will stamp out all the missions it is supposed to carry, kill our astronaut program and destroy science and technology projects throughout NASA."

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I dont see a problem here (5, Interesting)

ganjadude (952775) | about three weeks ago | (#47387761)

. Space Launch System's design called for the integration of existing hardware, spurring criticism that it's a "Frankenstein rocket," with much of it assembled from already developed technology.

I would much rather them use existing tried tech and incrementally advance them rather than try a radical new design. A new design would take extra years of testing before it is ready for use but if we can tweak existing tech, and make it useful for deep space why not??

Based on the next sentence it tells me that they are more concerned with bringing home the bacon than making progress in space.

Re:I dont see a problem here (4, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | about three weeks ago | (#47387775)

Yeah I don't see how "propulsion stage is based on the motor of a rocket often used by the Air Force" is a negative thing about it. If anything that suggests they might actually be able to deliver something that works.

Re:I dont see a problem here (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47387807)

The problem is that this rocket was designed by the senate so the money would be spent in as many states as possibles. US senators are usually lawyers, not engineers, there's no way they have the technical knowledge to design a good rocket.

Re:I dont see a problem here (2)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about three weeks ago | (#47388271)

Yeah I don't see how "propulsion stage is based on the motor of a rocket often used by the Air Force" is a negative thing about it.

It's a leftover from the early days of NASA. See, NASA was a CIVILIAN agency, and couldn't associate with those warmongers in the Air Force and Navy.

As a result, NASA rockets used only technology that wasn't developed with a military purpose in mind. So no ICBMs as launch vehicles, that sort of thing.

Yes, I know they ended up using Atlas and Titan II, because their civilian-designed rockets wouldn't fly at first. But from Saturn forward it's been pure as the driven snow....

Re:I dont see a problem here (2, Insightful)

cavreader (1903280) | about three weeks ago | (#47388603)

Without the war mongering Air Force and Navy or the military in general most of the technology you enjoy using today would be non-existent or significantly less advanced. Technology advances in general have been accelerated ever since the Chinese, Persians, Greeks, and Romans began trying to conquer the world. Civilian companies working on space technologies today are all taking advantage of work pioneered by the warmongers to advance science and make profits. They have all benefited from the trillions of dollars spent by governments who put no price tag on one upping their potential adversaries to build the better mousetrap. And while NASA might have budget problems the military sure doesn't which is where new material sciences, advanced computer technologies, and new propulsion systems are being created.

Re:I dont see a problem here (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about three weeks ago | (#47388749)

pure as the driven snow....

...driven by the exhaust of military jets built [and/or made up of parts made] by the same contractors who build stuff for NASA.

Re:I dont see a problem here (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about three weeks ago | (#47388825)

Not arguing. Merely pointing out that "once upon a time..." when NASA was being created, the people in charge really had a "we want no military hardware, nor the results of military research here, because we are all about PEACEFUL space exploration"....

And apparently, a few of them have managed to retain that mindset.

Note that they're as anti-business as they are anti-military - if it's not driven purely by SCIENCE! it's got no business here. Hence the "Elon Musk is the Debhil, and SpaceX is his Great Temptation away from the purity of SCIENCE! into crass mercantilism.

Yeah, yeah, they buy everything they use from companies way bigger than SpaceX...consistency is a hobgoblin of small minds....

Re:I dont see a problem here (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about three weeks ago | (#47389033)

But from Saturn forward it's been pure as the driven snow....

Perhaps as pure as snow falling from the skies in Bejing. Both the Atlas and Delta systems are based on old military hardware. The Shuttle was partly Air Force. And since the United Space Alliance (USA! USA!) is Boeing and Lockheed which, together, form a substantial part of the Military Industrial Complex, the difference between 'civilian' and military is basically the paint job.

Re:I dont see a problem here (1)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47388477)

It's just rather old fashioned compared to the Russian single cycle engines from the 1970's.

Re:I dont see a problem here (3, Insightful)

wbr1 (2538558) | about three weeks ago | (#47387829)

In my opinion the problem is not reuse of existing tech. It allows reuse of manufacturing capability, it comes with well known maintenance and troubleshooting procedures, etc. The problem is handing the gov a huge bill for doing very little, and using existing tech to milk out a big payday, and not choosing the tech based on suitability, or using it to advance the science any. The latter is something Boeing has been very good at.

re: i dont see a problem here (2)

ed.han (444783) | about three weeks ago | (#47387865)

er...am i alone in thinking
look: if it means fast, then i'm good with it. we haven't replaced the shuttle yet and philosophically, we need our own menas of getting our people into space rather than relying on a nation with whom relations are potentially quite variable.

ed

Re: i dont see a problem here (1)

Smallpond (221300) | about three weeks ago | (#47387907)

NASA is doing what it should do, spend research dollars on stuff companies won't do. Space-X and other commercial ventures will be able to do day-to-day launches.

Re: i dont see a problem here (3, Interesting)

bbn (172659) | about three weeks ago | (#47387953)

SpaceX already has Falcon 9 Heavy which will do most of what NASA wants to do with SLS. In addition SpaceX is developing the Mars Colonial Transporter http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M... [wikipedia.org] which will put 100 tons of cargo on Mars. In comparison the SLS will only put 100 tons in low earth orbit.

Oh and the Mars Colonial Transporter will be reusable.

Re: i dont see a problem here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47388121)

Falcon 9 has a payload capicity of 13,150 Kg to LEO. Their major customer is NASA.
SLS is to have a payload capacity of 130,000 Kg to LEO. Thats 10 times as much.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falcon_9#Falcon_9-R
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Launch_System

MCT is just a wet dream Musk has.

Re: i dont see a problem here (1)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47388167)

The parent mentioned Falcon 9 Heavy i.e. a variant of Falcon 9 planned for the next year. It will take 53 tons to LEO.

Re: i dont see a problem here (1, Flamebait)

bbn (172659) | about three weeks ago | (#47388173)

This SLS will not bring 130 ton to LEO. They are just working on the small version, that will not do much more than Falcon 9 Heavy (53 tons vs 70 tons for SLS).

The SLS project will be cancelled long before they manage to test the 130 ton version.

Re: i dont see a problem here (5, Informative)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about three weeks ago | (#47388227)

Falcon 9 has a payload capicity of 13,150 Kg to LEO.

He said "Falcon 9 Heavy" (the original name of the Falcon Heavy). So 50,000kg to LEO, should fly in the next year or two, and cost less than $100m per launch (say $150m with a "NASA paperwork tax".)

SLS is to have a payload capacity of 130,000 Kg to LEO.

SLS Block "zero" will lift around 60,000kg, and may fly in 2017 or 2018. Development will have cost $10-12 billion from now 'til then. It won't be able to lift Orion (which won't be ready anyway).

Block I is meant to loft 70,000 kg to LEO, flying in 2021 at the earliest. Development will have cost $21 billion from now 'til then. It will be able to lift Orion, but only for 14 day missions around the moon and back.

Block IA is meant to lift 105,000kg, some time in the mid-2020's. And Block II, the one you are talking about, with 130,000kg to LEO, by 2032. Development will have cost over $50 billion from now 'til then.

That doesn't include any other hardware, nor any launch or mission costs. Just development.

Re: i dont see a problem here (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | about three weeks ago | (#47388127)

SpaceX do not "already have" a Falcon 9 heavy, its still in development and won't have its first launch until next year at the earliest.

Re: i dont see a problem here (2)

bbn (172659) | about three weeks ago | (#47388179)

Next year is much sooner than SLS.

The main reason that Falcon 9 Heavy is delayed is said to be that they are sold out on stages. They can't produce them fast enough to spare some to test the heavy.

Re: i dont see a problem here (1)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47388261)

And the first test launch of SLS isn't planned for another three years. SLS will be completely obsolete before its first launch! They should cancel the entire thing and split its budget between the commercial crew & cargo programs, planetary science, and perhaps more ISS upgrades like a full size artificial gravity module.

Cost plus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47387871)

Welcome to cost plus billing.

Hollywood studios aren't the only ones with creative accountants.

When calculating costs it is amazing how one can allocate money and still be within GAAP.

And of course the the billing for labor. Like a guy that costs you $30/hour (with taxes and benefits) gets billed out at $60/hour or more.

Get some engineer that's been out of work (not hard in this economy) and pay him low and you can still bill him out at pre-recession levels.

Re:I dont see a problem here (1)

gman003 (1693318) | about three weeks ago | (#47388107)

My problem with SLS is that it's a rocket built almost entirely on existing tech, and it's still taking them this long to develop it. You're taking existing engines, existing boosters, and (in some configurations) existing upper stages, and yet you still have nothing to show after three years and millions of dollars? Not to mention all the design work you could reuse from almost identical programs that got scrapped - I'm sure there's work from Ares V that could be reused.

Re:I dont see a problem here (5, Insightful)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about three weeks ago | (#47388011)

. Space Launch System's design called for the integration of existing hardware, spurring criticism that it's a "Frankenstein rocket," with much of it assembled from already developed technology.

I would much rather them use existing tried tech and incrementally advance them rather than try a radical new design. A new design would take extra years of testing before it is ready for use but if we can tweak existing tech, and make it useful for deep space why not??

  Based on the next sentence it tells me that they are more concerned with bringing home the bacon than making progress in space.

It's the standard problem when you're a tech. The client likes to give you a solution and ask you to build it, rather than give you a problem and ask you to solve it.

If their goal is to save money, then state that in the requirements. If you want it to work with existing tech, then state that. By instead putting what you think the solution is directly into the requirements you're not only limiting your techs ability to solve the problem, you're also hiding your true goals from them. That tech probably has far better solutions for that problem than you could possibly think of so let them work on it.

Better requirements would be:
We want to go to mars for less than $20 billion.

Short, simple, Let the technical experts run with that.

Re:I dont see a problem here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47388313)

That tech probably has far better solutions for that problem than you could possibly think of so let them work on it.

Ok, the requirement is:
Spread the pork around the senators' states so their corporate sponsors and voters are happy.

Now see if you could come up with a different/better solution other than the one they handed to you.

Re:I dont see a problem here (2)

khallow (566160) | about three weeks ago | (#47388419)

Easy. For starters, I wouldn't bother with rockets. Just cut checks to the right people.

Re:I dont see a problem here (5, Interesting)

cheesybagel (670288) | about three weeks ago | (#47388079)

This summary is a load of bull. As is the article. Production of a new motor my ass. The SLS is supposed to use 4 RS-25 Space Shuttle Main Engines in the center core, of which there are 15 and parts of another in stock, and two 5 segment Solid Rocket Boosters similar to those of the Space Shuttle. The second stage is based on a Delta IV EELV second stage using the RL-10. What is 'new' here in terms of propulsion? They are adding another segment to the SRBs. Whoopie do.

Get this: SLS is predicted to cost as much as the Space Shuttle did per year, but it will launch once every 2-3 years instead of 4 times a year like the Space Shuttle. If you do the math they have RS-25 engines for 3-4 flights. SLS is expendable remember? The production assembly line for RS-25 has been closed years ago. So if they want to fly more than 3-4 flights with it they will probably have to design a new engine which will take like 5 years to do. At best. The whole thing is sheer nonsense.

Re:I dont see a problem here (2)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about three weeks ago | (#47388171)

Space Launch System's design called for the integration of existing hardware

I would much rather them use existing tried tech and incrementally advance them rather than try a radical new design.

The reason for incremental development is that your engineers and technicians learn their "craft", gradually learn where they can shave off millimetres and where they have to add more. Work out what works better than expected and what is clumsy and stupid and needs to be redesigned. A kind of guided evolution of technology.

However, the first couple of flights of SLS will be using actual Shuttle orbiter engines (SSMEs) salvaged from the three retired orbiters. Experimental, first generation, beyond-the-state-of-the-art-at-the-time, hideously complex and overengineered engines which haven't been in production since the late 1980s and whose designers are all in nursing homes.

Most decidedly not using "proven technology, incrementally advanced."

but if we can tweak existing tech, and make it useful for deep space why not??

SLS and the Orion capsule are costing around $3 billion per year during development. The first manned launch will be no earlier than 2021, and insiders suggest that deadline will slip several years. But from now until 2021, ignoring the tens of billions spent so far, SLS/Orion will cost $21 billion in development before the first crew is launched. However, that configuration is only capable of reaching the moon and back, carrying no cargo besides the Orion capsule, and the capsule will only have 14 days life support. By the time the SLS Block II and Orion's long-duration service module are developed for deep space missions, around 2032 (plus delays), the cost will be over $50 billion (plus overruns). That, of course, doesn't include actual launch costs; nor does it allow for developing any mission hardware, such as landers/rovers/surface-habs/etc.

That $21 billion would buy 140 Falcon Heavy launches, or about 7000 tons of payload. The $50 billion could buy over 300 FH launches, or over 16000 tons of payload. The equivalent of more than two full International Space Stations every year.

Or more realistically, four FH and one F9/Dragon, 200 tonnes and 7 crew, for just $750 million per mission, up to four missions per year for the same budget. Or, starting in, say, 2019 to mark the 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11, you'd have $15 billion free to develop additional boosters/landers/rovers/habitats/etc, then two missions per year, leaving $1.5 billion every year for other projects, hardware, and operations.

In other words, the opportunity cost of SLS/Orion, ie, what they prevent, is enormous.

Re:I dont see a problem here (1)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | about three weeks ago | (#47389535)

In other words, the opportunity cost of SLS/Orion, ie, what they prevent, is enormous.

Obviously that has nothing whatsoever to do with the priorities here.

Senate Launch System Hyperforce Go! has been approved! Welfare for mediocre engineers must continue! After all, Boeing can't be expected to keep paying all those STEM graduates with purely military pork. Haven't you heard? The military pork is taking a cut. But the pork must flow, so this project that has been carefully nursed along in the Powerpoint Engineering stage for over a decade for just this eventuality can now be turned on so that Boeing corporate profits don't take a hit when the military pork gusher is throttled back by... $21 billion. If Boeing profits took that big a hit, they'd have to lay off all those STEM graduates, which would make the supposed STEM shortage in the US an even more transparent lie. And that might affect votes. Can't have that.

Re:I dont see a problem here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47388187)

You might have a point if that "tried tech" allowed them to get started immediately. But they are spending as much on development as they would have on a completely new design. In fact, a new design would probably be cheaper to design and operate, if SpaceX is anything to go by. SLS is a waste of time and money, it somehow combines all the worst parts of the shuttle and the saturn v.

Re:I dont see a problem here (2)

AJWM (19027) | about three weeks ago | (#47388521)

I would much rather them use existing tried tech and incrementally advance them rather than try a radical new design.

Except that they're not. Those solid boosters? They're "based on" Shuttle SRBs, not identical to them. Several segments longer, meaning higher internal pressures, different burn characteristics, etc. If you don't think that's going to take extra years of testing, there are several bridges I'd be happy to sell you.

Ditto for any other technologies that they're basing stuff on rather than reusing identically.

The SLS isn't also known as the "Senate Launch System" for nothing. NASA's role should be to try radical new designs, not serve as a conduit for senators to shovel pork to their constituents.

Re:I dont see a problem here (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about three weeks ago | (#47388573)

i guess i worded that poorly.

Id like them to save time by using the lessons taught. Meaning even if this is an evolutionary rocket, it will take less time than a revolutionary design

Re:I dont see a problem here (1)

Megol (3135005) | about three weeks ago | (#47389115)

You are completely right - NASA should start research of a genuinely new system from the ground up.

...
What drugs are you on?

Re:I dont see a problem here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47389299)

Because having lawyers (almost all us senators are lawyers) design the rocket is a good idea? I'm a mathematician and I could not design a rocket; lawyers are even less likely than me to design a good rocket. The senate should just write what are the basic requirements (mass the rocket should be able to lift to relevant orbits, cost) and be done with it.

Yay (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47387763)

I cant wait to read about how this will get defunded in a year. Science is so exciting.

Re:Yay (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47387795)

I got a rocket in my pocket headed for Uranus.

/ aliquis AC because this is a moderators mind game!

Re: Yay (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47387903)

Do you know what NASA stands for?

Need another Seven Astronauts

Let's hope they don't move them by train (1, Insightful)

RotateLeftByte (797477) | about three weeks ago | (#47387817)

Like two Boeing 737 Fuselages that ened up in the river after a derailment.

http://www.kwch.com/news/local... [kwch.com]

Oppss..... Someone is going to have to foot an awfully big bill for that one.

Re:Let's hope they don't move them by train (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47388199)

SRB components were moved by train for 30 years. There were a few derailments, but I don't believe any of the casings were ever written off.

The external tank was shipped by barge from louisiana.

Re:Let's hope they don't move them by train (1)

Megol (3135005) | about three weeks ago | (#47389123)

I don't know how you can get such a high moderation by posting something 100% non-topic AND 100% irrelevant to any other post AND 100% void of /. memes...

Saw the last launch of the Saturn V (3, Interesting)

PoconoPCDoctor (912001) | about three weeks ago | (#47387821)

From 10 miles away in Titusville, Fl. I will always remember the pounding of my chest form the rockets. Let's go to Mars.

Re:Saw the last launch of the Saturn V (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47387875)

I nominate you for the best comment in the thread. I just read Arthur C. Clarke's Space Odyssey 2001, and I can totally picture him coming on here and posting something quite similar.

Re:Saw the last launch of the Saturn V (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47388073)

the pounding of my chest form the rockets

Gibs mode on!

Re:Saw the last launch of the Saturn V (1)

FirstOne (193462) | about three weeks ago | (#47388413)

I viewed the last nighttime launch of the space shuttle from a bit closer, 402 causeway. It was spectacular.. The subsonic rumbling makes your clothes vibrate like a bell, and is an awesome experience. I will make a special effort to see this rocket liftoff.

Re:Saw the last launch of the Saturn V (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47388599)

"We" have already been to Mars, have you forgotten the Viking and Mariner probes?

Mars is a dead rock floating in a deadly vacuum. So what?

The bottom of the ocean is a crushing uninhabitable hell. Why don't you want to go there?

Re:Saw the last launch of the Saturn V (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about three weeks ago | (#47389079)

I'll bet you're fun at parties.

Oh. Wait.

Re:Saw the last launch of the Saturn V (1)

Megol (3135005) | about three weeks ago | (#47389139)

Not speaking for the sub-thread starter but are you sure he doesn't? I sure am.
BTW you are wrong about the "uninhabitable" part...

Saw the last launch of the Saturn V (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47388779)

No one is likely to get to Mars on something as expensive and inefficient as the SLS. Even Constellation would have been better.

How foes this compare (1)

rossdee (243626) | about three weeks ago | (#47387823)

to the Saturn V

And whats this about shuttle rocket booster? Do we really want to use solid rockets? They may be good for ICBM's which have to be ready to launch in seconds, but have not been to great for manned missions like Challenger

Re:How foes this compare (1)

Isca (550291) | about three weeks ago | (#47387855)

The boosters are not bad on their own. They have been fairly reliable and reasonably cheap (not as cheap as SpaceX's approach could be however). The bad part of the boosters/shuttle setup was simply the fact that the vehicle occupants were located next to parts that could go boom instead of on top of and away from most potential blast paths.

Re:How foes this compare (1)

NemoinSpace (1118137) | about three weeks ago | (#47388581)

No, the problem with the boosters is not where they were located. Arguably, even the fatal design was accepted into production with the expectation that large yellow and black warning signs would be taped to them exclaiming - "USING THIS PART WHILE FROZEN VOIDS THE WARRANTY".
You see, the world is full of "thinkers" who believe it is safe to walk under a 50 ton crane because the use of hardhats have been mandated. This is nothing new, the last generation of Apollo 1 also ignored warnings of 100% O2 atmospheres and escape hatches that opened the wrong way. Feynman explained to us dopes that frozen o rings don't work, but he failed to stress that exploding stuff explodes. We are not really ever going into space. We are going to die here. But we will have healthcare by then.

Re:How foes this compare (1)

Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) | about three weeks ago | (#47387883)

SRMs are very powerful for their size. They are quite effective as boosters, a stage that will provide a lot of power for a shorter time at the start of a launch. This is one reason they are used on ICBMs, which were designed for 'fast boost' (IE burn for a very short time) to avoid any chance of intercept during launch, which would in theory be the most vulnerable phase of flight.

So SRMs are good, and likely to be used in pretty much every first stage from now to the day we invent a beanstalk or something and get rid of rockets. They have their downsides, they give a bumpy ride and you can't throttle them, but they're cheap, easy to handle (relatively), and powerful.

Re:How foes this compare (2)

0123456 (636235) | about three weeks ago | (#47388787)

So SRMs are good, and likely to be used in pretty much every first stage from now to the day we invent a beanstalk or something and get rid of rockets.

Hardly. The big problems with SRMs are that you can't reuse them and you can't test them; yes, you can test that SRM #1 worked fine on the ground, but you'll actually be launching with SRM #2, which can only be tested by firing it, which means you can't then use it to launch anything.

You can't build a cheap launcher with SRMs, because a cheap launcher has to be reusable. You can't build a really safe launcher with SRMs, because every flight is the first flight for the SRMs.

How foes this compare (1)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47388827)

Actually, the space shuttle SRBs are very reliable hardware. Even though the problem that brought down Challenger originated in one of the SRBs, the reason it cascaded out of control was because the escaping gases damaged the external fuel tank (not part of the SRB itself). Even after the explosion of the external fuel tank (and most of the orbiter along with it), the SRBs themselves kept flying intact until ground control hit the self-destruct button.

as intended (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47387825)

as intended no doubt:

"..its budgetary footprints will stamp out all the missions it is supposed to carry, kill our astronaut program and destroy science and technology projects throughout NASA."

Is it really expensive? (4, Insightful)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about three weeks ago | (#47387843)

If I compare that amount to all the money wasted so far on useless "wars" by the U.S.A., it's not much.

Amen man (1)

Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) | about three weeks ago | (#47387885)

We could be living in space colonies for the cost of Iraq.

Hell (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47388065)

If the space program had one nickel for every anti-US post on /.

we'd be in high cotton.

On Kepler-186f.

Re:Hell (2)

itzly (3699663) | about three weeks ago | (#47388131)

It looks like someone is confusing anti-US with anti-Iraq-war.

Re:Hell (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47388311)

And anti-war-on-drugs, anti-war-on-terrorism, anti-war-on-copyright-infringement, etc.

Re:Amen man (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47388303)

No, we couldn't, and why would you want to?

Re:Amen man (4, Insightful)

germansausage (682057) | about three weeks ago | (#47388395)

Nasa 2014 - about $18 billion
Iraq + Afghanistan - $4 to $6 trillion
 
So about 200 to 300 times more for the war than what NASA gets this year.

The rocket to nowhere (3, Interesting)

schwit1 (797399) | about three weeks ago | (#47387869)

The high cost and slow development of SLS will increasingly make it a loser in its political battle with the new commercial companies. Eventually legislators will recognize its impractically and unaffordability -- especially if the commercial companies continue to meet their milestones and achieve success, as they have been doing. When that happens, the influence of individual senators like Shelby to shovel pork to their particular states or districts will be outweighed by the overall political benefits for everyone in Congress to get American astronauts into space quickly and cheaply on an American-built spaceship.

Re: The rocket to nowhere (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47387933)

Written like a PR person for these unaccomplished or little-accomplished startups which have been founded on the experience and basic research done by NASA. I'd love to start a business where my R&D was done by someone else (yeah, I know, see pretty much every web startup ever). The thing is, that's by design. It's what was intended to happen. It's why we have NASA and the like to do what they do. So it works out and some people just have to criticize those who made it possible.

Now, should the contract have gone to established players with established hardware and such? I would have preferred not, but I would also prefer Congress shut the hell up about where things are sourced just because of their pork barrel crap. That kind of stuff has killed people, and it will do so again. (See two totally avoidable Shuttle accidents had the designs been what the engineers wanted, had boosters not needed to be made in sections for shipping, etc.)

On the other hand: maybe this one time is OK. We have no space program worthy of the name right now. Maybe we do this to get going fast and we immediately set about improving it and also designing its replacement. That is what should have happened with the shuttle program. With all we learned plus modern materials and tech, a shuttle 2.0 would be great--except for an idiot Congress and an ignorant, anti-science public of course.

Re: The rocket to nowhere (3, Informative)

0123456 (636235) | about three weeks ago | (#47388755)

Yeah. SpaceX built a new rocket engine and two new rockets, and actually launched them into space, for about the same amount of money as NASA spent putting a dummy upper stage on top of a shuttle SRB and launching it into the ocean.

Go NASA R&D!

SLS is a pure pork project, there are no funded missions that need it, and it will cost billions of dollars to launch, which means there will be few, if any, missions that ever do use it. There is no rational justification for it whatsoever.

At the rate they're going, when NASA launches a crew to Mars in an Orion capsule on an SLS booster, there'll already be tourists waiting to greet them, having been flown there by SpaceX for a tiny fraction of the cost of the government option.

Re: The rocket to nowhere (1)

fnj (64210) | about three weeks ago | (#47389103)

Maybe we do this to get going fast and we immediately set about improving it

Is 2032 your definition of "get going fast"? That's the year this hare-brained scheme is supposed to reach the level everyone is interested in; 130 tonnes to LEO. The Falcon Heavy is due to fly NEXT YEAR, and has 53 tonnes capability compared to 70 for this thing in 2021.

Deep-Space? (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about three weeks ago | (#47387891)

So what is "deep" space supposed to mean? I came in thinking that it must be outside the solar system, but apparently "deep-space" rockets take you to the moon. Which really by my definition is hardly even space. On the moon you are still basically still at Earth, it is part of the system of the planet as much as the gasses that are trapped by its gravity (which we call its atmosphere).

Re:Deep-Space? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47387981)

They are talking of an asteroid mission that would be a million miles out, four time further than the moon. To people who have spent 40 years watching Star Trek and Star Wars this doesn't feel like 'deep space' any more, but it's their definition...

Re:Deep-Space? (1)

itzly (3699663) | about three weeks ago | (#47388041)

Outside the solar system is nothing but cold hard vacuum in all directions. Why would you want to go there ?

Re:Deep-Space? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47388377)

So is beyond LEO.

Re:Deep-Space? (1)

itzly (3699663) | about three weeks ago | (#47388507)

Well, there's Mars and other planets, and the sun. And while the Moon has no atmosphere, there's still the Moon itself to study. Outside the solar system, there's nothing but vast emptiness.

Re:Deep-Space? (1)

NemoinSpace (1118137) | about three weeks ago | (#47388947)

The bible teaches among other things, that many answers are to be found in the silence.
A good physics book, a good Bible, a good glass of wine, a good woman. This is a start.
Oh, - and a towell.

Re:Deep-Space? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47389435)

If you take a woman, you won't have silence anymore.

Re:Deep-Space? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47388851)

It's not NOTHING but vacuum. Sooner or later, if you go in the right direction, you find more stars and planets. The vast majority of everything is out there; why would we NOT want to go?

Re:Deep-Space? (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about three weeks ago | (#47389021)

It is it more that 99.99% Vacuum, "Nothing but vacuum" is a correct statement.

Re:Deep-Space? (1)

itzly (3699663) | about three weeks ago | (#47389073)

Even if you wanted to go to another star, it is probably a smarter plan to wait for better propulsion technology. Any chemical rocket that we could launch in the next few decades will be overtaken by a nuclear rocket we'll launch in the next century (assuming humanity still exists in a prosperous society then).

Re:Deep-Space? (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about three weeks ago | (#47388059)

So what is "deep" space supposed to mean?
I came in thinking that it must be outside the solar system, but apparently "deep-space" rockets take you to the moon.

Which really by my definition is hardly even space. On the moon you are still basically still at Earth, it is part of the system of the planet as much as the gasses that are trapped by its gravity (which we call its atmosphere).

Deep Space is considered "outside the gravitational affect of the earth/moon system" So if this really is a deep space rocket, it's designed to go beyond the moon, and likely would be good to take us to mars or anywhere else in the local solar system. The hard part is getting out of our gravity well, once you've done that the only difference between the moon and mars is how long the car ride is.

I wish them well (1)

wjcofkc (964165) | about three weeks ago | (#47387897)

I don't understand the criticism regarding the use of modified space shuttle engines and a coolant system from the Air Force. As far as I am aware, we never lost a shuttle due to main engine failure, and the Air Force is pretty good at not blowing things up. I have been following the SLS for awhile, and if they can manage to pull off the overall designs they have in mind without budget cuts or severe cost overruns ruining things, I believe it will be a fine rocket. Otherwise SpaceX is well on their way toward manned flight and their heavy lifter among other things, so I think were pretty well covered.

Re:I wish them well (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47388051)

The continued use of solid monopropellant boosters is utterly reprehensible.
Other than that, it's all good.

Re:I wish them well (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | about three weeks ago | (#47388097)

The SSME is too expensive to use in an expendable rocket like this. It was barely economic even when the engine was reused and only after they upgraded it enough so they did not need to disassemble it totally after every flight for inspection. Also the production line for the SSME was shut down when W was still President with Griffin as NASA Administrator and to get production back up again would take years and probably cost almost as much as developing a whole new engine.

Re:I wish them well (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about three weeks ago | (#47388129)

I don't understand the criticism regarding the use of modified space shuttle engines and a coolant system from the Air Force. As far as I am aware, we never lost a shuttle due to main engine failure, and the Air Force is pretty good at not blowing things up. I have been following the SLS for awhile, and if they can manage to pull off the overall designs they have in mind without budget cuts or severe cost overruns ruining things, I believe it will be a fine rocket. Otherwise SpaceX is well on their way toward manned flight and their heavy lifter among other things, so I think were pretty well covered.

reliability isn't the problem. Cost is.

Re:I wish them well (2)

voidptr (609) | about three weeks ago | (#47388155)

I think it's more the fact that the whole program feels like it is being stitched together based on which existing technologies and contractors contribute to which congressional seats, rather than which technologies are really a good fit in the long term. As well as the fact that beyond a fairly nebulous manned astroid-capture mission, there doesn't seem to be any great plan or will to have a concrete goal for the booster in general. If Congress earmarked $50B over the next decade to put a research station on the Moon or Mars and insulated it from the year-to-year whims that always infect NASA's budget process it'd be one thing, but they aren't. They're trying to build a rocket and then hope two administrations from now it gets a mission funded.

On the technical side, any believe there's no place for solid motors on crewed flight anymore except to ensure campaign donations from Thiokol and United Space Boosters.

Second, while waiting for the new SSME derivative to get finalized and into production, they intend to fly the existing engine inventory. As one of the larger flown relics from the shuttle program, and with several dozen laying around, many of us would rather see them distributed to smaller museums that didn't get orbiters instead of splashed in the ocean. And as a result of the decision to use up the existing stock, the entire expendable stack is built around an engine that's was originally designed for reusability, with all the cost and engineering penalties that implies, and is ultimately too small for the job anyway. If you don't try to fly the existing SSME stock, something like a larger, more modern F1 derivative may start to make more sense, enabling a more powerful liquid first stage without having to bolt solids on the sides to get it off the pad.

Re: I wish them well (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47388183)

So then, why not just give the contract to space-x, seems they're on the same path, and their's looks cooler.

Re:I wish them well (1)

wjcofkc (964165) | about three weeks ago | (#47388287)

Everyone in this thread has made excellent points regarding the problems with re-using the main engines, as well as using solid rocket boosters. I see the folly.

Re:I wish them well (4, Interesting)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about three weeks ago | (#47388309)

I don't understand the criticism regarding ...

Basically, they are repeated all the old mistakes of Shuttle and ISS. Single unaffordable top-down designs, expensive sole-source cost-plus contracts, convoluted designs more intended to feed the contractor networks in Congressional districts than to deliver improved hardware, flubbery half-hearted missions that mutate to fit the rapidly contracting hardware abilities rather than hardware designed for missions. And because everything is so expensive and poorly planned, development has to be smeared out over decades, giving time for endless Congressional budget games with the attendant schedule and cost blow-outs, and design compromises piled on top of design compromises just to get something launched.

Paraphrasing Gen. Augustine, in the analysis over Constellation (SLS's precursor), "If someone handed it to NASA, already build and paid for, NASA still couldn't afford to operate it."

KSP (2)

ysuman (2915059) | about three weeks ago | (#47388275)

Is it bigger than the Rockomax!

Jebediah Kerman approves (2)

spiritplumber (1944222) | about three weeks ago | (#47388329)

Looks like getting the KSP dev team to talk to NASA was productive!

Please, Please, PLEASE ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47388341)

Don't design it with o-rings this time

Re:Please, Please, PLEASE ... (1)

fnj (64210) | about three weeks ago | (#47389047)

Don't design it with o-rings this time

What do you think "five segment SRB" means? The segments of the solid rocket booster are bolted together, and each joint sealed against the raging fire inside by several o-rings plus heat resistant putty. All because it's "too hard" to transport them from the factory to the launch pad in one piece.

In the 1960s, Goodyear already had a proposal for a very large nonrigid airship to carry outsize rocket assemblies. It was never funded.

Re:Please, Please, PLEASE ... (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about three weeks ago | (#47389281)

Which brings you to the logical logistics solution: build your engines where you launch them. If only we could figure out a way to put 268 congressional districts in northern Florida and the other 267 near Vandenburg AFB, we'd have it made. The only reason any of the other NASA centers - and most of the "inclusionary" contractors exist are for congressional pork (the possible exception being Goddard/Wallops, due to proximity to DC).

Size Matters (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47388475)

Why build a huge rocket when interplanetary probes could be assembled in orbit and given a relatively gentle nudge toward their target? An assembly station in orbit would eliminate the need to escape Earth's gravity and end this whole, "Mine is bigger than yours," contest. NASA needs a huge shift in its approach to space travel.

Re:Size Matters (2)

Overzeetop (214511) | about three weeks ago | (#47389303)

Um, no. The "huge rocket" is just to get the major pieces into space. Space assembly makes the outrageous cost of ground assembly seem like pennies.

Also, that "gentle nudge" is anything but, with escape velocity for earth being half again the speed of low earth orbit.

We need a heavy lift vehicle that can get pre-assembled major components into space for the foreseeable future. I sincerely doubt this is the right way to do it, but when you ask the former executives of the current big space corporations and politicians to come up with a solution, this is what it will look like every time.

Are there many AFRICANS working for NASA? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47388619)

I mean, 100% Africans, or 80% Africans, not the 5% 'African' who runs it.

Why aren't there many AFRICANS working for NASA? Is it 'racism', holding them back? In that case, why haven't AFRICAN countries got their own space programmes? You know, the AFRICAN countries where there are only AFRICANS? Perhaps they haven't got enough 'diversity', (LOL), since we all know that a 'diverse' organisation is better than a 'racist' - sorry - 'white' one. More LOLs.

Great news (1)

amightywind (691887) | about three weeks ago | (#47388743)

Great news for those of us who were distressed when that turd Obama axed Constellation. The future is brighter, although 8 years late.

Alas... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47388853)

This is old technology, and about to be walked all over by Skylon...

Known by anotehr name (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47388923)

" ...its budgetary footprints will stamp out all the missions it is supposed to carry, kill our astronaut program and destroy science and technology projects throughout NASA."

I think he is confused, that was called the Space Shuttle - The single item that killed space exploration in the US forever.

Re:Known by anotehr name (1)

0123456 (636235) | about three weeks ago | (#47389011)

I think he is confused, that was called the Space Shuttle - The single item that killed space exploration in the US forever.

As bad as the shutte might have been, SLS will be worse. The fixed costs killed the shuttle, not the variable costs; a single shuttle launch cost a couple of hundred million dollars, but the price went up to well over a billion when you added in the fixed costs spread over three or four launches a year. SLS will launch at most every couple of years, so you'll not only have a couple of billion dollars per rocket, but several billion dollars of fixed costs per launch... it could easily end up being the Ten Billion Dollar Booster.

Actionable malfeasance (1)

fnj (64210) | about three weeks ago | (#47388993)

The entire Manhattan Project, start to finish, including not just the basic science and hugely diverse intricate engineering, but all the civil engineering of building vast infrastructures, and employing 130,000 people, cost only $26 billion in 2014 dollars, and took less than four years.

This is just bolting together a bunch of decades-old parts, but will dwarf that expenditure. It is the swan song of what was once a daring and imposing nation, and clearly will never be completed. All the Congressmen who vote for this budgetary pork, and the President who signs off on it, should be tried for corruption. Those at the heart of championing and designing this abortion should be tried for conspiracy to bankrupt the nation.

Re:Actionable malfeasance (2)

Overzeetop (214511) | about three weeks ago | (#47389337)

While I cannot disagree that this is not the way I'd choose to solve the heavy lift problem, to worry that $2.8 Billion (or even 26 Billion) is going to be the lie item that bankrupts the country seems to be missing the 3000 Billion we've spent over the last 13 years to avenge the loss of a pair of buildings costing less than $2.3B in today's dollars and fewer lives than the number lost in motorcycle accidents ever year.

The stupid is much deeper than this minor boondoggle.

Bring back the F1 (2)

p51d007 (656414) | about three weeks ago | (#47388995)

Good grief...we had one of the best heavy lift rockets in the world, the Saturn V launch system. (The apollo was on top, not the lift part). Even after getting hit by lightning, Apollo 12 continued to go, Apollo 13, had a center engine cutout, continued to work. Only lift rocket that had a 100% success rate. It was a proven design, and, you can bet since it was made in the era of slide rules, it could be improved on to be even better, but no, can't do that...let's just spend a TON of money we don't have, design something new, that will of course have a few billion dollars of glitches & cost overruns, and come in way over budget. (Just look at the F-35). Sometimes, it's better to look at what worked, before going off on a new design.

NASA Need New Motive (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47389313)

Working against NASA are:
1. Costs; which will surely escalate each year hence
2. Nation Research Council Report; which stated that the people NASA needs, engineers + mathematicians + scientists, will not be born for another 50 years at least and the education and training system needed to educate and train will not exist for another 40 years ... blah blah blah ... might have just asked Columbus if he would like a vacation in Fiji
3. Physics.

This calls for NEW thinking, i.e. a real super duper motive to get going to Mars.

"Climate Change"!

Since it is all too apparent that "Anthropogenic" Climate Change by CO2 is a non-existant given the observations, NASA needs to step forward by having the President declare that Mars, not humanity, is responsible for Climate Change and that we need a full military invasion of Mars to right the miss-deeds of those pesky Martians with their invisible cities and factories and invisible ray beam on Earth. The meme "Martian invisible ray beam" can serve the same as "Yellow Cake" during Bush's run-up to the Iraq invasion.

There it is. All neatly assembled and politically correct. Ripe for the picking.

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