Author Topic: NASA finally sets goals, missions for SLS - eyes multi-step plan to Mars  (Read 29851 times)

Offline RDMM2081

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I'm going to need more time to digest this new plan and read through the thoughtful replies here, but I just want to chime in and say that I am excited with the concepts presented in the fantastic NSF article.  A slow and steady approach, using existing capabilities and technologies, but in a determined manner to achieve some incredible goals.  It seems like a great plan because it seems so achievable.

There is also lots of room for changes (it's not nearly as ambitious as SpaceX...) and improvement, but obviously NASA thinks it will work to at least achieve the stated goals and I don't see any technical reasons why it wouldn't.

Offline Cherokee43v6

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Re: NASA finally sets goals, missions for SLS
« Reply #41 on: 04/07/2017 05:37 PM »
I like what I've read so far.

It is a reasonable, sensible approach.  Buildable in stages and scalable as necessary.

Direct 'surface to surface' transfer may be 'sexy', but that does not make humanity a spacefaring species.  Learning to 'live' (not just survive the transit) in the interstitial realm between those endpoints is what will create that.

Someone earlier asked what the point was of the outpost vs going direct.

1) Expense, not over-all, but on an individual year basis.  Specifically, you're not spending money for an inordinate amount of time with nothing to show the taxpayers for it.  You have short term 'successes' you can point the public at for the expenditures.
2) Capability, what we learn long-term from operating in this manner is far more valuable than surface jumping.
3) Sustainability, I point to Apollo.  Surface to surface.  Dedicated single use.  One project, one cancellation.  Apollo's greatest failing was in not selling the public from the beginning on ALL the missions it could perform.  If the elements support multiple different missions from the very beginning, then their fiscal survivability is greater.
4) Expandability,  Lunar resources are mentioned but nothing specific is laid out.  However the outpost gives the ability to establish a 'home port' for one or more multi-use lunar landers.  Its location also serves as a departure and arrival hub for multiple different missions yet to be defined, whose existence would be driven by the capabilities presented by the facility.

The concept is often called 'bootstrapping', meaning doing what you can, when you can and then building on what you have done to do more.  Each new step leading to further steps that can be taken.

To me, the direct 'surface to surface' is the equivalent of pushing a deadfall log into a river and clinging to it as you drift downstream, that would then make the described architecture the equivalent of taking that same deadfall log, pointing the ends and burning out the center to make a dugout canoe.  You can just do more with the dugout canoe than the log alone.
« Last Edit: 04/07/2017 05:48 PM by Cherokee43v6 »
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Offline Jimmy Murdok

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I found recovering asteroids to lunar orbits and mining them to be more interesting than fly around the moon. I would invest in a commercial lunar lander, the ARM and let Russia, Japan and Europe put the station modules.
The deep space habitat concepts worth to wait and see where the commercial evolution is in 2025, then decide how to proceed.

Asteroids and moon land in the next 10 years would be nice achievements. This proposal move astronauts around the moon, do not justify the investment. The plans for Mars are not yet clear to justify this station.

Offline MattMason

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While I like what seems to be a plan--any plan at all--on the way to Mars, there's still the same ol' problem in the plan.

1) Assuming the government gives a care. A 1953 film, "Destination Moon", got this right 5 years before the first artificial satellite. The movie began with private investors asking the scientists (asking them for money) why the scientists didn't go to the government for funding. The answer, then and now, is still apt: Unless for a wartime footing, the government isn't interested. We went to the moon as part of the Cold War. Funding will always be short.

2) Over-dependence on one contractor. I like Boeing. But frankly, if there were some serious consideration of companies such as (but not exclusive to) SpaceX, Bigelow, Sierra Nevada and Blue Origin to build major elements, NASA would sell this better. Congress funds because congressmen and senators see something going to their constituents. If the paychecks in building such a venture still go only to people in Alabama, Florida and Texas, why would the other congressmen and senators care? Also, private spacecraft makers have a vested interest to follow what they make. Unlike NASA and Apollo, once commercial space companies spend big money, they will be financially invested to keep their work operational and grow it. Building the DSG may be cheaper (and more ambitious) since good businesses make money and plan how to make more in spending it. Governments (and NASA) do not.

3) Mentorship is missing. Following on point #2, NASA's role should be more in corralling the resources, rather than making them. If NASA feels that making the super-heavy lifter is their main job, that's fine. But "going there" is not a valid reason to make super heavy-lifters. That means NASA should be encouraging the goals of private spaceflight for a permanent commercial and scientific presence. In short, the government shouldn't be funding NASA, but private companies that want a hotel, or moonbase, or whatever.
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Offline john smith 19

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So far the only useful thing that SLS can do that Falcon Heavy can't, is launch a 10m diameter, single piece heat shield for Mars reentry. I suppose a Bigelow BA-2100 would also count.
There's that.

The other things I got were a really big telescope or a nuclear reactor.

The other things that Boeing have suggested for SLS are basically cutting the travel times to distant locations. Examples they cite are the trip to Saturn and the 200AU interstellar precursor (cuts 15 years off that).

Essentially anything is better with a really big propellant tankset strapped to it.

Still not quite clear why Boeing got the contract for this given that ULA has all the rocket building skills.
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Offline envy887

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And just now we have yet another reminder of how insanely expensive SLS is:  Bezos just announced that BO expects to spend about $2.5 billion developing the 45-tonne New Glenn.  That's only a bit more than NASA spends on SLS every year!  That means BO could develop an SLS-class lifter for less than will be spent on SLS just between now and the first flight of Block 1B!

I wouldn't call New Glenn an "SLS-class" rocket. NG can lift 45 mt to LEO while SLS can lift 70-100 mt to LEO and 26-40 mt to TLI.

He didn't.

Although, the 3-stage NG should put about 20 tonnes to TLI with a 7 meter fairing. That's a lot closer to SLS class than anything else that will fly in the next 5 years or so.

Offline Endeavour_01

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He didn't.

You're right. I'm blind. Apologies to Proponent and post deleted.
I cheer for both NASA and commercial space. For SLS, Orion, Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy, Dragon, Starliner, Cygnus and all the rest!
I was blessed to see the launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour on STS-99. The launch was beyond amazing. My 8-year old mind was blown. I remember the noise and seeing the exhaust pour out of the shuttle as it lifted off. I remember staring and watching it soar while it was visible in the clear blue sky. It was one of the greatest moments of my life and I will never forget it.

Offline oldAtlas_Eguy

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Interesting article.

NASA has a plan and mission list for SLS. As far as what in the near term commercial cis-Lunar can do the latest performance numbers for FH gives a TLI capability of about 22mt. Also with a manned Dragon cis-Lunar flight net EOY 2018, the plan could have some modification. Again the biggest selling point for SLS is it's payload volume.

Offline Bubbinski

I like this plan.

This could be the basis for a sustainable exploration plan. The deep space habitat uses SLS to put up the big elements and the commercial contractors to supply it, just like shuttle put up most of ISS and commercial has taken over. The DST is the exploration ship based there, if a DST could be built and designed to last several decades rather than just 3 missions to Mars that would be our version of the "starship Enterprise" with a crew that could go to many asteroids, comets, other points in the inner solar system as well as Mars. That would be one thing I like to see eventually. Also at some point a commercial hotel module could be added, etc.

As long as the DSH has a node with multiple docking ports and a robotic arm on it it would be a useful building block for a bigger base built up as budgets allow. This could also be the basis of commercial lunar landings. Start a 'commercial crew' plan for landings to the South Pole, Tycho, etc. by letting out a tender for that to SpaceX, Blue, Orbital ATK, etc.

The DSH could be the basis for facilities like it orbiting around Mars, Venus, Ceres, etc. deeper into the future, with more commercial launches and elements added as time goes by, and commercial tourist flights could use these way stations, as well as scientific missions. Eventually I could see commercial rockets replacing SLS when it's retired, they can get to that lift capability at some point.
I'll even excitedly look forward to "flags and footprints" and suborbital missions. Just fly...somewhere.

Offline Proponent

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Again the biggest selling point for SLS is it's payload volume.

Given that ISS was assembled and is supplied entirely by launch vehicles with fairings no larger than 5 m, it's not obvious to me that's a big selling point in connection with a cis-lunar hab.

Offline Eric Hedman

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Again the biggest selling point for SLS is it's payload volume.

Given that ISS was assembled and is supplied entirely by launch vehicles with fairings no larger than 5 m, it's not obvious to me that's a big selling point in connection with a cis-lunar hab.
It does look like the DST will be bigger than 5 meters in diameter so that will require an SLS.  There could be a case made that the DST will be more cost effectively manufactured in one piece and put up in one launch.  At this point I suspect Congress won't let the SLS die through the next fifteen years so you might as well use it and its volume capabilities.  When New Glenn and Falcon heavy have a history of operations that's when I think SLS may fade away.

Offline dglow

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Props to NASA for finding a way to debut EUS without crew. They needed something to put on that rocket, and it's good to see Clipper bumping Orion.

I have to wonder if this adds pressure to crew EM-1. Based on this plan EM-2, now the third SLS mission, won't fly ~2023 at the earliest, right?

Offline savuporo

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Quote
The DSG component is slated to be the 8-9 metric tonne (mT) Power and Propulsion Bus of the same design as the one that would have been used on the now-defunct Asteroid Robotic Redirect Mission capable of generating 40 kW of power.

Why wouldn't such a <10 mT power and propulsion bus be put to LEO by Atlas 511 and make it to it's destination under its own steam ?
Orion - the first and only manned not-too-deep-space craft

Online AncientU

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Re: NASA finally sets goals, missions for SLS
« Reply #53 on: 04/08/2017 07:12 PM »
...

The concept is often called 'bootstrapping', meaning doing what you can, when you can and then building on what you have done to do more.  Each new step leading to further steps that can be taken.

...

If NASA were actually interested in bootstrapping, we'd have depots in orbit already, and be doing exploration with the launch capability that exists.  Could easily have started in Shuttle years. 

Today, NASA is mostly interested in justifying the existence of SLS/Orion, and keeping contractors for same funded.
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Offline RonM

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Quote
The DSG component is slated to be the 8-9 metric tonne (mT) Power and Propulsion Bus of the same design as the one that would have been used on the now-defunct Asteroid Robotic Redirect Mission capable of generating 40 kW of power.

Why wouldn't such a <10 mT power and propulsion bus be put to LEO by Atlas 511 and make it to it's destination under its own steam ?

Block 1B will have extra capacity. Since NASA will be using SLS to launch Orion, launching modules on separate flights would be a waste of money. Block 1B can carry Orion and an 8-9 mT module.

Offline Coastal Ron

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[Given that ISS was assembled and is supplied entirely by launch vehicles with fairings no larger than 5 m, it's not obvious to me that's a big selling point in connection with a cis-lunar hab.
It does look like the DST will be bigger than 5 meters in diameter so that will require an SLS.

As currently designed the Deep Space Transport (DST) requires the SLS because it was designed specifically for the SLS.  No surprise.  But that doesn't mean it couldn't be designed using smaller components that could be lifted by smaller launchers.

Quote
There could be a case made that the DST will be more cost effectively manufactured in one piece and put up in one launch.

If you look at Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), a think the case would be made for building components that can fit on commodity launchers.

Quote
At this point I suspect Congress won't let the SLS die through the next fifteen years so you might as well use it and its volume capabilities.

There are three funding "gates" that are required for the SLS to become truly operational, and only one has been funded so far:

Development - Currently funded by Congress

Operations - Some funding for long-lead material, but NASA has not told Congress how much the SLS will cost, and that could be a point of concern for Congress

Payloads - No funding yet.  The SLS and Orion are transportation elements, not mission elements like the DSG or DST.  Other than the Europa Clipper (which Gerst has suggested might not fly on the SLS), no payloads have been funded by Congress yet.  Which is why the DSG is being proposed using existing HSF elements, because otherwise it wouldn't be ready until the 2030's (Orion will have taken 18 years).

Quote
When New Glenn and Falcon heavy have a history of operations that's when I think SLS may fade away.

Congress is not waiting for the private sector to "prove itself".  Congress didn't even ask the private sector if it could build an HLV to satisfy the requirements envisioned for the SLS.

The SLS is a government-only transportation system, and it will live or die based on whether there is enough government need for it.  And only Congress will be able to answer that question...
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline john smith 19

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Re: NASA finally sets goals, missions for SLS
« Reply #56 on: 04/08/2017 08:46 PM »
If NASA were actually interested in bootstrapping, we'd have depots in orbit already, and be doing exploration with the launch capability that exists.  Could easily have started in Shuttle years. 
True. In fact right now a salvo launch of all of the main US LV's toghether would put 77 tonnes in LEO within roughly a week with up to a 5 x 20m PLF.. However you would not have the benefits of a 10m x 31m long PLF that SLS can give you.
Quote from: AncientU
Today, NASA is mostly interested in justifying the existence of SLS/Orion, and keeping contractors for same funded.
NASA is an organization of 11 centres. They do not always operate well together.
"Solids are a branch of fireworks, not rocketry. :-) :-) ", Henry Spencer 1/28/11  Averse to bold? You must be in marketing."It's all in the sequencing" K. Mattingly.  STS-Keeping most of the stakeholders happy most of the time.

Offline savuporo

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As currently designed the Deep Space Transport (DST) requires the SLS because it was designed specifically for the SLS.  No surprise.

One would think we learned the lesson from ISS assembly sequence that was specifically designed for STS
Orion - the first and only manned not-too-deep-space craft

Offline Khadgars

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Quote
Development - Currently funded by Congress

Operations - Some funding for long-lead material, but NASA has not told Congress how much the SLS will cost, and that could be a point of concern for Congress

Payloads - No funding yet.  The SLS and Orion are transportation elements, not mission elements like the DSG or DST.  Other than the Europa Clipper (which Gerst has suggested might not fly on the SLS), no payloads have been funded by Congress yet.  Which is why the DSG is being proposed using existing HSF elements, because otherwise it wouldn't be ready until the 2030's (Orion will have taken 18 years).

I disagree stating no funding for payloads.  This "reveal" theoretically fits within existing HSF budget, many of the early modules will be provided by Japan and Europe while the US has time to build the DST over a longer period to fit within said HSF budget, whilst at the same time gaining valuable experience and confidence operating BLEO.

I think we can all agree SLS will be the final rocket NASA designs and operates, but SLS isn't going away anytime soon so we should all move away from trying to nail the coffin down on it in every thread and opportunity, particularly after such a pragmatic mission set that was just revealed has a decent chance of success.

I think many on here will be pleasantly surprised of the commercial opportunities that may be created out of this architecture. 
« Last Edit: 04/08/2017 09:11 PM by Khadgars »

Offline Coastal Ron

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As currently designed the Deep Space Transport (DST) requires the SLS because it was designed specifically for the SLS.  No surprise.

One would think we learned the lesson from ISS assembly sequence that was specifically designed for STS

I think there were a lot of lessons that we learned from building and operating the ISS that we should remember.

The Good:

- International partnerships can work, and can bring benefits as opposed to going it alone.  For one, being committed to a partnership likely makes funding more predictable.

- Using in-space assembly can provide for far larger end products than if you use single-launch architectures.

- Using multiple launch vehicles and multiple spacecraft can provide redundancy

- Frequent use is key to maximizing the ROI of the science, and ROI of taxpayer money.

The Not-So-Good:

- Depending on one launch vehicle design could mean a stop to your operations if there is an accident (i.e. Columbia)

- The Shuttle made 27 flights to deliver components for the assembly of the ISS, and we now know that each flight cost an average of $1.2B.  So that would be $32.4B, or about 20% of the total estimated cost of the ISS program.  And in case you're wondering, the average mass the Shuttle delivered was 9.5mT, with the largest mass being 15.9mT.  The largest payloads (the trusses) had a diameter of 4.9m and length of 17.6m.

Notice the central theme of the "Not-So-Good" section is being dependent on a U.S. Government transportation system that has no redundancy?  And that's what this new proposal relies upon?

Maybe history does repeat itself...
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

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