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NASA finally lets the Space Launch System out of the bag

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  • NASA finally lets the Space Launch System out of the bag

    NASA has selected the design of a new Space Launch System that will take the agency's astronauts farther into space than ever before, create high-quality jobs here at home, and provide the cornerstone for America's future human space exploration efforts.

    This new heavy-lift rocket-in combination with a crew capsule already under development, increased support for the commercialization of astronaut travel to low Earth orbit, an extension of activities on the International Space Station until at least 2020, and a fresh focus on new technologies-is key to implementing the plan laid out by President Obama and Congress in the bipartisan 2010 NASA Authorization Act, which the president signed last year. The booster will be America's most powerful since the Saturn V rocket that carried Apollo astronauts to the moon and will launch humans to places no one has gone before.

    "This launch system will create good-paying American jobs, ensure continued U.S. leadership in space, and inspire millions around the world," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. "President Obama challenged us to be bold and dream big, and that's exactly what we are doing at NASA. While I was proud to fly on the space shuttle, tomorrow's explorers will now dream of one day walking on Mars."

    This launch vehicle decision is the culmination of a months-long, comprehensive review of potential designs to ensure the nation gets a rocket that is not only powerful but also evolvable so it can be adapted to different missions as opportunities arise and new technologies are developed.

    "Having settled on a new and powerful heavy-lift launch architecture, NASA can now move ahead with building that rocket and the next-generation vehicles and technologies needed for an ambitious program of crewed missions in deep space," said John P. Holdren, assistant to the President for Science and Technology. "I'm excited about NASA's new path forward and about its promise for continuing American leadership in human space exploration."

    The SLS will carry human crews beyond low Earth orbit in a capsule named the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. The rocket will use a liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen fuel system, where RS-25D/E engines will provide the core propulsion and the J2X engine is planned for use in the upper stage. There will be a competition to develop the boosters based on performance requirements.

    The decision to go with the same fuel system for the core and the upper stage was based on a NASA analysis demonstrating that use of common components can reduce costs and increase flexibility. The heavy-lift rocket's early flights will be capable of lifting 70-100 metric tons before evolving to a lift capacity of 130 metric tons.

    The early developmental flights may take advantage of existing solid boosters and other existing hardware. These flights will enable NASA to reduce developmental risk, drive innovation within the agency and private industry, and accomplish early exploration objectives.

    "NASA has been making steady progress toward realizing the president's goal of deep space exploration, while doing so in a more affordable way," NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said. "We have been driving down the costs on the Space Launch System and Orion contracts by adopting new ways of doing business and project hundreds of millions of dollars of savings each year."

    NASA elected to initiate a competition for the booster stage based on performance parameters rather than on the type of propellant because of the need for flexibility. The specific acquisition strategy for procuring the core stage, booster stage, and upper stage is being developed and will be announced at a later time.
    As you can see in the red text, the goal of this $10 Billion rocket is not just to expand the reach of humanity, but to employ as many people as possible in the process, ensuring that we have a rocket, but no room in the budget to put any payload on top.

    SLS finally announced by NASA Forward path taking shape

    SLS Forward Work:

    It now appears as noted at the time that the initial schedules and costings (leaked or otherwise) were based on worst case estimations, with only the 2017 opening launch date for the vehicle confirmed during Wednesdays announcement.

    The fear the second SLS mission which would be the first crewed launch would have to wait until 2021, a four year gap between flights, is now heavily associated with only a total worst case scenario, the disaster schedule as one source claimed.

    Instead, an increased flight rate, based mainly on finding additional uses of the large fairing design and upmass capability of SLS, has been intimated. Former Space Shuttle Program (SSP) manager John Shannon has also been tasked with creating a schedule and mission architecture for the vehicle.

    Work on a schedule and funding path is being worked internally by NASA and in the political arena, but as of this week, no long-term schedule can be cited until the key driver of the funding profile which is classed as still under consideration, and not final is officially created.

    A lot will depend on what the Congress is able to provide through the annual appropriations process, with the only official targeted flight being SLS-1, in 2017. This date is set, with no allowance for it to slip to the right, even in the event of unexpected funding issues.

    Work on later goals such as the Upper Stage for the 130mt version of SLS, or mission content for SLS flights would instead be slipped or re-worked to protect the 2017 date, which is likely where the worst case 2021 date for SLS-2 and the low flight rate through to 2032 was formed, based on a scenario where initially achieving the 2017 IOC date suffered from major issues.
    The joke being that a Lunar fly by can be done no later than 2015 on a Falcon Heavy, and a NEO mission no later than 2020. A rocket of this size is really only suited for lunar colonization and interplanetary missions, and Obama canceled that. Its only planned cargo, the Son of Orion, currently named MPCV, is completely redundant to all the commercial manned capsules, but will still cost us another $6 billion.

    I hope Mr. Shannon studies up on wet workshops, because that is the only way we will get our moneys worth out of this behemoth. However, the inline configuration makes it much more difficult to exploit the empty tank than the sidemount option, which would cost about 40% less.

  • #2
    Re: NASA finally lets the Space Launch System out of the bag

    As Ive said before, NASA is both unconstitutional and a waste of tax dollars. The 20bil they spend should be put to better use by putting it back in the hands of tax payers (or china, rather).


    • #3
      Re: NASA finally lets the Space Launch System out of the bag

      NASA Tests Deep Space J-2X Rocket Engine at Stennis

      NASA conducted a 40-second test of the J-2X rocket engine Sept. 28, the most recent in a series of tests of the next-generation engine selected as part of the Space Launch System architecture that will once again carry humans into deep space. It was a test at the 99 percent power level to gain a better understanding of start and shutdown systems as well as modifications that had been made from previous test firing results.

      The test at NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center in south Mississippi came just two weeks after the agency announced plans for the new SLS to be powered by core-stage RS-25 D/E and upper-stage J-2X engines. The liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen J-2X is being developed for NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne.

      I sure wish Stennis would tell me before they test these things! I live almost 20 miles from there (as the crow flies) and with bad weather in the area, I was looking to the skies for a tornado. But it sure is nice to know that there's hope after the shuttle program.

      I am disappointed, though, that Air Products isn't making the LH2 and LOX for this project but at least the stock is still rising.


      • #4
        Re: NASA finally lets the Space Launch System out of the bag

        A J-2X would make a wonderful county alarm clock, wouldn't it.


        • #5
          Re: NASA finally lets the Space Launch System out of the bag

          Originally posted by jviehe View Post
          As Ive said before, NASA is both unconstitutional and a waste of tax dollars. The 20bil they spend should be put to better use by putting it back in the hands of tax payers (or china, rather).
          I'm glad not everyone in the US is as curmudgeonly as you. Nasa has been one of the greatest US exports of all time (I'm struggling to think of anything that matches it) and not only that the good will they foster through partnerships with other countries is also a huge boon. I'm glad successive US presidents have seen beyond the pure bottom line of mere economics and seen that space exploration can inspire people in ways that nothing else can. Yes, space exploration is expensive and sometimes the pay-off is not always obvious but millions of children around the world have been inspired to work hard and get into engineering or other related professions because of the things NASA do and I think they do a wonderful job.

          If NASA is unconstitutional then so is all art and anything creative that gets government funding and I'd hate to live in a country like that.


          • #6
            Re: NASA finally lets the Space Launch System out of the bag

            Originally posted by PeterUK75 View Post
            If NASA is unconstitutional then so is all art and anything creative that gets government funding and I'd hate to live in a country like that.
            You'd object to having the portion of your taxes that's put towards inappropriate functions left in your hands so you could direct its use? Assuming for arguement's sake that you are very pro-arts, you can direct your arts money to what you deem worthwhile rather than what some bureaucrat likes; further, you can keep your money local, or direct it to inner-city youth, or whatever else, rather than having the government decide that for you; and you can supplement your arts funding with your estwhile NASA funding, your corporate welfare funding, and probably a number of other 'rebates'. (Or reword accordingly if you consider NASA top priority, or Solyndra, or ... ) But if you'd rather have your money controlled and directed by somebody else, that's certainly your right. But it's not your right to decide my money should be controlled and directed by somebody else...


            • #7
              Re: NASA finally lets the Space Launch System out of the bag

              Now that the hand wringing is largely over, the actual rocket scientists can get to work engineering the beast.

              SLS mission schedule improving Crewed Moon mission moving to 2019

              September 30th, 2011 by Chris Bergin
              With all cylinders now firing on NASAs exploration planning effort, the development and early mission schedule for the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion are starting to fall into place, with dramatic improvements being worked for NASAs opening crewed Beyond Earth Orbit (BEO) mission with the Orion (MPCV), which is moving to the left by two years.

              SLS Missions:
              That manifest showed that it would take until SLS-13 for the debut of the fully evolved 130mt version of the SLS, scheduled for 2032. The schedule was rightly criticized. However, it was always represented as a worst case scenario manifest not least because the full mission outline for the SLS launches was yet to be created. This work is currently ongoing under the leadership of former Space Shuttle Program (SSP) manager John Shannon.
              The expected realization of an improved manifest is now starting to be fulfilled, just weeks after the SLS was officially announced, in turn allowing for a full test plan effort to be worked.
              SLS-1, a 70mt version of the SLS, is still expected to debut in 2017, with a crew capable Orion (Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle) being sent on a test trip around the Moon. The 2021 debut of SLS/Orion for the crewed version of this mission is now being pushed to the left by two years, with a launch date of 2019.
              Note that is a manned orbital mission, an Apollo 8, not a landing, as there is no room in the budget for a lander.

              But they are trying to streamline the rollout process...

              SLS trades lean towards opening with four RS-25s on the core stage

              October 4th, 2011 by Chris Bergin
              The Space Launch System (SLS) is undergoing final refinements known as trades on a preferred baseline for the opening flights, with documentation showing a preference to debut the Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle (HLV) with four RS-25s on the core stage, instead of three. Should this become an approved configuration, it would allow for full utilization of the propellent that can be contained inside the stretched core.

              SLS Configurations:
              The ongoing trades taking place at the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) are a notable change from the Constellation Program (CxP) issue of making major configuration decisions years down the line, which in the case of Ares was well-known as one of the contributing factors to causing impacts to the entire vehicle.
              As such, it appears managers have already decided that using four engines on the first stage would be best prescribed for the SLS from the start.
              Revealing details of the core stage discussions, a face-to-face outbrief in late September resulted in a highly detailed presentation (acquired by L2). The meeting involved SLS operations personnel and Mission Operations Directorate (MOD) departments.

              The Block I vehicle has two missions, opening with the flight to send an uncrewed Orion (MPCV) on a Circumlunar trip around the moon, followed by a crewed lunar orbit mission. While schedules are still being worked, managers are aiming to launch SLS-1 in 2017, followed by SLS-2 in 2019.
              Block I uses a Core Stage Propulsion of LO2/LH2 with Four SSMEs (RS-25Ds) now sported by the configuration, an advance on the three RS-25Ds, as previously noted. Core Stage Tank design (structure, MPS (Main Propulsion System), avionics) will be used for all subsequent SLS flights. Tanks, MPS, and Engine interfaces will be sized for 130 mt vehicle.
              Also confirmed by the presentation, after first revealed by this site, the On-Orbit Stage will utilize the existing Delta-IV Upper Stage Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (iCPS), driven by LO2/LH2. Also known as the kick-stage, this is a temporary measure ahead of SLS purpose built hardware.
              iCPS (Delta IV) will be used for two flights: Originally planned to be used with no s/w (software) mods. Current thinking is that s/w mods will be required. Requires Delta IV flight computer redesign. Will include the following four commands: Authority to Proceed. Engine Shutdown. Upload Burn Targets. State Vector Update, added the presentation.

              Block IA will then take over, providing the mission configuration for the bulk of the 2020s, from SLS-1 to around SLS-13. This configuration will have the same appearance as the Block I, bar the Cargo version, which will debut after the Lunar missions.
              Due to the cores engine configuration, an advance on the four engines can be made moving to the full utilization of five RS-25s on the core as is noted by the overview of the Block IA, which acknowledges this version of the SLS will be when the program eventually moves on to the cheaper, expendable RS-25Es.
              Most of that additional power will come via the debut of the new advanced boosters, which will be decided via a competitive procurement, resulting in either ATK winning through with a more powerful version of their Solids, or a switch to a liquid booster, likely to powered by RP-1 (Kerosene).
              Then comes the massive 130mt, fully evolved, Block II SLS, which will be a nature advancement on the Block IA configuration, with the only difference being the size of the vehicle, as it grows by nearly 80 feet when compared to the Block IA cargo vehicle to find space for the new Upper Stage. Using three J-2Xs from the Constellation Program, development of the engines and stage will continue alongside the SLS work, prior to being held back until the Block II is ready to fly.
              Complete J-2X and put on the shelf for later use with SLS Block II. Move Integrated Stack avionics to this stage. This Upper Stage burns out prior to orbit insertion (ala Saturn V).
              This, as NASA have been claiming for some time now, will be the flagship launch vehicle that will send humans and their supporting hardware to Mars.
              Personally, I'm not sure that this thing will ever fly, or if it should as configured. I'm just about ready to let commerical take over the heavy lift mission.
              Last edited by Commodore; 10-08-2011, 11:01 AM.


              • #8
                Re: NASA finally lets the Space Launch System out of the bag

                Originally posted by jviehe View Post
                As Ive said before, NASA is both unconstitutional and a waste of tax dollars. The 20bil they spend should be put to better use by putting it back in the hands of tax payers (or china, rather).
                At this particular point in time, exploration might seem trivial, but the day is fast approaching when it will once again be a strategic necessity.

                In case you haven't noticed, the Chinese launched a space station module.

                If they progress unmolested to, say, claim the very finite water rich craters on the Moon, its game over. That is the ultimate high ground, from which everything else can be commanded. I'm not suggesting we need to interfere, but we do need to get there first, in force, to stay, as a matter of national security.