Author Topic: SLS General Discussion Thread 7  (Read 241361 times)

Offline Mackilroy

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Re: SLS General Discussion Thread 7
« Reply #1180 on: 08/04/2022 04:29 pm »
[...] we shouldn't cavalierly throw away people's livelihoods - but surely contractors can compete to design and build payloads of all kinds instead of a hobbled, fourth-rate rocket.

Does this implicitly assume the skills needed to build payloads are the same skills used to e.g. cast large solid motor segments? At first blush that seems unlikely.

What it certainly does assume is that there is somehow value in spending money to not further educate people whose skillset apparently doesn't allow them to find a real job. Surely if they're not capable now, they'll be even less so in five years.


It’s a little unclear if you’re referring to what I said, but I’m assuming nothing of the sort.

Online Coastal Ron

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Re: SLS General Discussion Thread 7
« Reply #1181 on: 08/04/2022 05:43 pm »
If you are going to suggest an alternative to SLS, you need to consider the workforce.

No, you don't. Now that the SLS design is done, testing is close to being complete (assuming Artemis 1 succeeds), then there really isn't that big of a workforce left on the SLS program. Not when compared to other government programs.

That's not to say it isn't an expensive program, because it is, but that is because of the materials and technology, not the workforce costs.

And from a skills standpoint, the people building the SLS today can easily shift to other jobs within their corporations or areas of expertise.

The SLS exists today because of the money going to the corporate entities that build the SLS, and the vast amount of that money is not related to paying salaries. So while jobs tend to be a local political pain point, they are a minor cost from the standpoint of Boeing, Northrop Grumman, etc.

And if Congress wanted to fund a jobs program, fine, let's define the goals and boundaries and then fund it. The SLS program is not a job programs, it has been way to shovel money to certain politically connected corporations.

The sooner we eliminate such programs, the sooner NASA can be allowed to actually do cost effective space exploration - if that is what our political leaders really want...
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Online yg1968

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Re: SLS General Discussion Thread 7
« Reply #1182 on: 08/04/2022 07:30 pm »
If you are going to suggest an alternative to SLS, you need to consider the workforce.

No, you don't.

Even Jim and VSECOTSPE said that the transition of the workforce would be an issue and they are not exactly SLS supporters.

Online VSECOTSPE

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Re: SLS General Discussion Thread 7
« Reply #1183 on: 08/04/2022 07:55 pm »
From the Drier op-Ed:

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In fact, Congress is generally eager to provide funding over and above the amount NASA requests for the rocket. Again, this is independent of which party controls Congress. This suggests a broad coalition is invested in the program; the SLS is not dependent on a single powerful lawmaker... Funding is a proxy for political priority.

Funding is a proxy for power, not priority.  While not entirely dependent on one lawmaker, power over SLS funding is not distributed evenly in Congress.  Most of that power is held by a very small number of congressmen who have positions on appropriations committees and who have a parochial interest in the SLS jobs in their state or district. 

If you polled all 535 US congressmen about what their top ten priorities or programs for the country are, only a handful or two would put SLS on that list.  Only some of those handfuls sit on the appropriations committees that control federal discretionary budget spending.  The fact that SLS funding been sustained year after year despite changes in party control doesn’t mean that SLS is a bipartisan national priority.  It just means that: 1) SLS is a parochial issue for certain congressmen, and 2) some of those congressmen are positioned well on appropriations committees to direct NASA funding.

There is no broad, deep congressional coalition for SLS (or for NASA for that matter).  There’s just a few interested lawmakers on appropriations committees.  By far the most important of those congressmen to SLS, Senator Shelby from Alabama, retires next year.  Shelby has been the appropriations committee chair/ranking member for most of SLS’s existence.  His position is one of the four most powerful positions in Congress with regard to allocating the annual federal discretionary budget.

Without Shelby, the task of sustaining funding support for SLS will largely fall to Representative Aderholt, whose district includes the southern suburbs of Huntsville, Alabama, which presumably some of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and SLS program management workforce calls home and votes from.  Aderholt is the ranking member of the House appropriations subcommittee that covers NASA.  Unlike Shelby, Aderholt does not hold one of the four appropriations committee chair/ranking member positions in Congress.  Rather, he holds one of the 48 appropriations _sub_committee chair/ranking member positions in Congress.  Aderholt’s power is literally a fraction (like 1/12th if it could be quantified) of Shelby’s.

In terms of a nominal annual budget cycle, Aderholt will probably be capable of sustaining SLS funding from his position as chair/ranking member of the House appropriations subcommittee covering NASA.  But if the annual budget cycle for SLS or NASA is not nominal — if for example the Administration terminates SLS or starts funding an alternative in some future budget request — it’s unclear whether Aderholt could reverse that direction.  There was no doubt that Shelby could stymie such a move as one of the four appropriations committee chairs/ranking members.  (And Shelby did so when Bridenstine tried to find a new ride for Orion.)  But it will be much harder for Aderholt as one of 48 appropriations subcommittee chairs/ranking members.

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Consider the distinct appropriations bills drafted each year by the House and Senate. While the final bill represents a compromise between the two, each individual bill is exclusively the output of that chamber. The trend is clear: since its inception in 2012, both the House and Senate have added additional funds to the SLS program. Not just in some years, but in every single year of the program’s existence, regardless of which party controlled the chamber, and regardless of financial or schedule performance of the project:

All true but myopic.  Drier’s op-ed ignores the role of the Executive Branch (President/White House/OMB/NASA) in setting federal discretionary budget priorities.  One of the main reasons appropriators have been able to increase the budget for SLS over the President’s request since 2012 is because the President’s budget made requests for SLS funding in the first place.  As the saying goes, the President proposes and Congress disposes.  If the President proposes reducing SLS funding, the job of Aderholt (or whomever) goes from boosting the SLS budget to reversing the cut to the SLS budget.  If the President proposes zeroing SLS funding, the job of Aderholt (or whoever) goes from boosting the SLS budget to saving the SLS budget.  It’s much harder for an appropriator to increase or sustain budget support for SLS (or any program) when the President hands that appropriator a budget request for that program that is going down or zeroed out.  If SLS funding is allocated elsewhere in the President’s budget, the appropriators who benefitted from that reduction to SLS will just as zealously guard the windfalls to their priorities and programs.

This is especially true over multiple years.  Congress appropriates with a one-year outlook, while the President proposes five-year budgets.  The President has complete control over the direction of the outyears.  While an appropriator might delays reductions, it is difficult for an appropriator to stop a President from terminating or replacing a program once that decision has been made.  As we saw with Shuttle over Bush II and Obama, Administrations will eventually draw down a program over time, year over year, even if an appropriator manages to insert an extra launch or other additional activity.

Because he is personally associated with the congressional origins of the “monster rocket”, it’s unlikely that NASA Administrator Nelson will support an SLS program drawdown or alternative.  But Nelson is also almost 80 years old.  At some point after he’s gone (and maybe while he’s still in the Administrator’s suite), the rubber will hit the road (or the stuff will hit the fan) and this Administration or another will grapple with SLS because of budget pressures, impacts on Artemis and Mars programmatics, the usual reviews at the start of a new Administration, or (hopefully not) accidents.

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For many, it sounds like a straightforward argument: cancel the slow and outdated SLS and direct its $2.6 billion per year into novel public-private partnerships like SpaceX’s Starship, which promise to revolutionize access to space.

Drier misses or misportrays the argument here.  It makes no sense to to just transfer $X billion from one space transportation provider to another.  That’s doesn’t change or solve anything.  I’m sure some rabid SpaceX fanboy has made exactly that argument, but that’s not what is actually being talked about.

The real argument is to reduce the amount being spent on space transportation so more budget is available to actually do things in space.  Whether SLS or something else, space transportation is just one part of a larger Artemis human lunar program, and it’s not the part that produces results in terms of scientific research, technological advancements, economic frontiers, or international partnerships. Space transportation is a means, not an end.  It should be managed as a fungible function that goes to the provider(s) that deliver the best flight safety, capability, and cost so that the most resources can be concentrated on mission and programmatic outputs.

And that’s the other part of the argument that Drier doesn’t understand or conveniently ignores.  The argument isn’t just about cost.  It’s (more importantly) also about capability and safety.  SLS launches only once every year or two.  That constrains the Artemis Program to sub-Apollo flight rates for astronauts and precludes an advanced human lunar surface program and/or a human Mars program as well.  And at the agency level, NASA will not commit to a loss-of-crew requirement for Orion/SLS that is better than the Space Shuttle.  Probabilistically, Orion/SLS may kill astronauts at rates higher than projected for Shuttle when it was shut down.  Budgets and jobs are one thing.  But we should care more that the nation’s civil human space flight programs are productive, that they advance frontiers, and that they don’t needlessly risk astronaut lives.

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Now imagine this argument from the perspective of a congressional representative from Alabama, home of the SLS: first cancel the SLS and lay off tens of thousands of constituents, then take that money that had previously allowed their voters to have good incomes, mortgages, and a sense of pride from a high-status project and give instead to California and Texas, where SpaceX is located. You may get laughed out of the room.

This is the core dilemma for those who want to end the SLS: how do you make a politically viable alternative? The answer must involve building a new coalition that is stronger and more motivated than the one currently invested in the status quo.

This is the one part of his op-ed where Drier sorta gets something right.  If/when the Executive Branch decides to draw down or terminate SLS, it needs to have its act together on what it plans for the SLS workforce.  If the Executive Branch doesn’t have its act together, then Congress will step into the void and there will be a repeat of the transition from Orion/Ares I/Constellation to Orion/SLS. Workforce management has always been a soft underbelly for NASA, and the agency and its leadership will have to step up and show where they want the bellybuttons to go in their new plan.  If they don’t, Congress will make decisions on the basis of parochial, rather than national, interests.

It requires the agency to actually do its H/R homework, but as long as the White House supports some exploration direction for NASA human spaceflight, there should be considerable demand for Orion/SLS bellybuttons.  MSFC could be doing in-space and possibly nuke propulsion, not HLVs.  KSC could be leveraging its ground-based cryogenic propellant management expertise for large-scale in-space transfer and storage demos.  JSC could be doing life support systems for lunar surface systems and long Mars missions, instead of an Earth orbit taxi.  Etc.  NASA doesn’t have to create a new “coalition” to kill SLS.  It just needs to competently show Congress where the the existing SLS workforce would go.

FWIW...
« Last Edit: 08/04/2022 11:02 pm by VSECOTSPE »

Online VSECOTSPE

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Re: SLS General Discussion Thread 7
« Reply #1184 on: 08/04/2022 08:50 pm »
No, you don't. Now that the SLS design is done, testing is close to being complete (assuming Artemis 1 succeeds), then there really isn't that big of a workforce left on the SLS program.

I’ve personally seen no evidence that the SLS (or Orion or EGS) workforce is shrinking as these programs transition from development to operations.  In the normal world, that development to operations workforce transition should be happening and budgets should be going down accordingly.  But that’s not what happened with the STS workforce and budget in the late 1970s/early 1980s (both were basically flat), and that is not what is happening with the Orion/SLS/EGS budget and workforce now.  If Boeing or NG or AJR were laying off or transitioning large parts of these workforces to other activities, we’d hear about it and see it reflected in the budgets.  AFAIK, we don’t.

I don’t know what drives this STS and Orion/SLS/EGS deviance from the normal development/operations workforce drawdown and handover.  It may be political pressure to maintain employment.  It may be the really high operational complexity/experimental nature of these vehicles. It may just be poor/non-existent NASA workforce management.  Probably all the above.

The contract consolidation goals for these programs are 50%, but EPOC and the others don’t kick in until Artemis V in 2028 at the earliest (baseline), more likely 2029-2030 (cadence/content) or later (my judgement, FWIW).  That’s well over the five-year budget plan horizon, so we won’t see workforce reductions or savings from those efforts for some years to come, either.

If we get there later this decade/early next, here’s a copy and paste from the Commercial SLS thread with a presentation and observations regarding the size and likelihood of such drawdowns and savings based on prior experience and more competitive alternatives...

=========================

Some useful history...

Quote
Contract Consolidation – Shuttle (USA)

Consolidated multiple Shuttle prime contracts to single prime run by 50/50 Boeing/Lockheed LLC United Space Alliance in late 1995
– Costplusaward/incentivecontractstructure
– Consolidationwasnevercompleted(ET,SSME,RSRMnotincluded)
Total Shuttle program cost reductions between 1993 and 1998 approx. 30%

GAO, NASA IG, and other reports noted that reduction in Shuttle workforce/cost was result of several ongoing initiatives, not just USA contract consolidation
• Difficult to differentiate savings related to each initiative

Quote
Contract Consolidation – EELV (ULA)

Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program consolidated two competing contractors (Boeing/Delta IV and Lockheed/Martin Atlas V) into single contractor (United Launch Alliance) in late 2006
– Expected commercial launch services market did not materialize (circa 1998); made continued operations of two competing launch services financially untenable

Created a monopoly for ULA for DOD/National Security flights

Initial estimated savings approx. $100M to $150M per year
– Savings not realized; by 2012 – “critical” Nunn-McCurdy breach notification
Eventually moved to 36 vehicle (“core”) block buy of Atlas + Delta (2013)
– Reported 4.3% savings per year vs. previous contract approach

Award of second contract to SpaceX in 2014 ended ULA monopoly; forced ULA to begin making substantial cost reduction/consolidation initiatives

Quote
Contract Consolidation – International Space Station
 
Consolidation of 4 Work Package contracts initially awarded for Space Station Freedom consolidated to single Prime (Boeing) 1993
– McDonnellDouglasandRocketdynerelegatedtosubcontractors; cancellation of 4th Work Package
– BoeingsubsequentlyacquiredbothMcDonnellDouglasand Rocketdyne

Significant amount of change surrounding transition from Space Station Freedom to ISS makes it difficult to extract useful data or draw useful general quantifiable conclusions

https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/13_webb_alt_acq.pdf

My bottom line observations:

— USG savings from contract consolidation efforts are hard to track and range from a few percent to maybe 30 percent, at best.  SLS contract consolidation will almost certainly not achieve 50% savings and is likely to produce minimal/no savings.  It should probably be sold as an effort to control costs/fight inflation versus reduce costs.

— Competition is key.  As the ULA experience shows, monopolization increases costs, regardless of contract consolidation.  To avoid cost increases under a consolidated SLS contract, NASA will have to credibly threaten to remove missions/payloads from the SLS manifest unless Deep Space Transport LLC maintains/reduces costs.

— Instead of consolidating SLS contracts, NASA would be better off competing SLS functions, like heavy lift, Orion launch, and/or lunar crew transport.  As the rest of the presentation shows, competition, not consolidation, is what leads to 50% or greater cost reductions.

=========================

Online Coastal Ron

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Re: SLS General Discussion Thread 7
« Reply #1185 on: 08/04/2022 08:58 pm »
If you are going to suggest an alternative to SLS, you need to consider the workforce.
No, you don't.
Even Jim and VSECOTSPE said that the transition of the workforce would be an issue and they are not exactly SLS supporters.

Yeah, well I have decades of experience in the manufacturing world, and products and programs end all the time. The SLS program would be nothing special, and not an especially big program either now that it is transitioning to operational phase. Remember the SLS is mostly a big tank, so even though it is big it is mostly air.

One aspect of shutting down the production line of the SLS vs a reusable product like the A-10, is that because the A-10 is reusable it stays operational for many years into the future, and the supply chain for the A-10 stays active.

When the SLS program comes to an end, once the last SLS flies it will be a hard shutdown of the manufacturing system and supply chain.

And I think there is a surprisingly small percentage of the SLS supply chain that works full time on the SLS - most likely they just build SLS related stuff occasionally, and won't really notice the lack of SLS work. A few places, like KSC, Michoud, and Promotory UT might feel some pain, but again, THIS IS NORMAL IN A CAPITALIST SOCIETY.

Will the SLS program be hard to end from a political standpoint? Sure, because there is a LOT of money involved. But the need for workers to find new jobs is not a valid reason NOT to end the program - that would be socialism...  ;)
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Online Coastal Ron

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Re: SLS General Discussion Thread 7
« Reply #1186 on: 08/04/2022 09:18 pm »
No, you don't. Now that the SLS design is done, testing is close to being complete (assuming Artemis 1 succeeds), then there really isn't that big of a workforce left on the SLS program.

I’ve personally seen no evidence that the SLS (or Orion or EGS) workforce is shrinking as these programs transition from development to operations.

Boeing has to justify their Cost Plus billing, so they certainly don't have an incentive to reduce headcount.

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In the normal world, that development to operations workforce transition should be happening and budgets should be going down accordingly.

Right, in a NORMAL world. If the SLS was being built by a for-profit entity then we would be seeing a workforce change as the SLS moved through the DDT&E process and into its operational phase. However Boeing has refused to build the SLS Core Stage under a Fixed Price contract, even though they are the experts in how to build an SLS Core Stage, and they should understand enough about the product to bid a Fixed Price contract.

But money has never been an issue for Congress on the SLS program, and if anything they have studiously ignored any cost issues. Which is their right, but that doesn't make it right for taxpayers. Unfortunately NASA funding is not one of the topics of concern for the voters of the members of Congress who keep shoveling money into the SLS program.

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But that’s not what happened with the STS workforce and budget in the late 1970s/early 1980s (both were basically flat), and that is not what is happening with the Orion/SLS/EGS budget and workforce now.

Not surprising about the STS program, though at least for STS they did have FFP contracts for the ET and SRM's. But that was also a reusable transportation system, at least from the standpoint of the vehicles - even though it would be more accurate to say "re-furbishable" than "reusable".

And STS never really matured, so that could be a reason why the workforce never went down appreciably, since especially after the Challenger accident NASA was worried about how to avoid the next accident (which they didn't).

I think the lesson here is that the government is not very good at running cost effective transportation systems - too much political interference.

Quote
If Boeing or NG or AJR were laying off or transitioning large parts of these workforces to other activities, we’d hear about it and see it reflected in the budgets.  AFAIK, we don’t.

NG/ATK has been receiving money for a long time for SRB development and improvements, and they seem to continue to be funded for additional improvements, plus building SRB sets for flight units.

AJR has FFP contracts for the RS-25 and RL-10 engines, so of course we wouldn't see any changes in their employment, since if anything they ramped up to satisfy the engine contracts they received. Plus both engines were existing, and only the RS-25 needed engineering work to transition the design from the SSME.
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 sdsds

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Re: SLS General Discussion Thread 7
« Reply #1187 on: 08/06/2022 12:33 am »
Let's assume it is an agreed statement of fact that SLS is in part a "jobs program." NASA provides an organizational structure and budget within which "jobs" can be retained.

But what do e.g. members of Congress really mean when they talk about jobs? Some say they are currying favor with voters in their districts, and thus potentially doing exactly what the electorate sent them to Congress to do.

A more cynical view is that "jobs" is a metaphor for funds flowing to contractors, which are seen as big corporations that routinely line the pockets of the "fat cats" who run those corporations. Those fat cats probably don't vote in the districts in question, but they can certainly make campaign contributions. In this view discussion of jobs is a "cover" for an uglier underlying truth. Maybe for some that verges on being a conspiracy theory. YMMV.

In the tangled ball of yarn, there's another visible thread. It goes by the phrase, "preserving the industrial base." GAO (see e.g. GAO-18-45 regarding "Challenges to Minimize [Solid Rocket Motor] Supply Concerns") and the NASA Advisory Council (see e.g. Recommendation 2011-02-04 (EC-03), "Industrial Base") and the Department of Commerce (see e.g. "U.S. Rocket Propulsion Industrial Base Assessment, Final Results", 2018) all discuss this.

Looking at the industrial base question it's tempting to ask, "For whom is the base being preserved?" Or from a nationalist perspective, "In what ways do the strategic interests of the United States depend on the availability of that industrial base?"

What thumbs were on the scale during the evaluation of the RAC teams' work? (Quoting butters, "NASA commissioned the RAC study to compare launch vehicle options for human exploration following the Augustine Commission. The RAC-1 team analyzed the Shuttle-derived launch vehicle (SDLV), RAC-2 looked into an all-liquid super-heavy with a kerolox booster stage, and RAC-3 evaluated distributed launch using existing or improved EELVs. NASA declared RAC-1 to be the winner.")

Did RAC-1 win because retaining the industrial base for solid motor propulsion (including propulsion totally unrelated to spaceflight) was a national priority?
« Last Edit: 08/06/2022 01:47 am by sdsds »
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Online jadebenn

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Re: SLS General Discussion Thread 7
« Reply #1188 on: 08/06/2022 03:21 am »
And at the agency level, NASA will not commit to a loss-of-crew requirement for Orion/SLS that is better than the Space Shuttle.  Probabilistically, Orion/SLS may kill astronauts at rates higher than projected for Shuttle when it was shut down. 
This is untrue. You have been corrected on this multiple times.
« Last Edit: 08/06/2022 03:23 am by jadebenn »

Offline Mackilroy

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Re: SLS General Discussion Thread 7
« Reply #1189 on: 08/06/2022 04:21 am »
This is untrue. You have been corrected on this multiple times.

I don't recall supporters challenging his logic or reasoning, only his conclusion.
« Last Edit: 08/06/2022 04:22 am by Mackilroy »

Offline su27k

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Re: SLS General Discussion Thread 7
« Reply #1190 on: 08/06/2022 02:32 pm »
I'm not sure how much sway the jobs argument and the "preserving the industrial base" argument will have in the near future. Back in 2010 these are powerful arguments because there's a big recession and jobless number is through the roof, and NASA is literally the only game in town for HSF. While you could argue that commercial companies may one day be able to do HSF, the opposition has literal moonwalkers making testimonies saying that's unlikely. These are powerful arguments, can easily convince regular people, including non-space senators and congresspersons.

Today, the arguments are a lot less convincing, because we have real commercial company doing real HSF missions, and non-NASA HSF missions at that. Unemployment is at all time low, and there're a labor shortage everywhere, including in the aerospace and defense industry. A few years from now? I don't think the labor shortage situation will change, and commercial space capabilities will continue to improve, will very likely surpass NASA's own capability based on SLS/Orion. How can you make the "preserving the industrial base" argument when everybody can see this "industrial base" you're trying to preserve is like child's play comparing to commercial capabilities?
« Last Edit: 08/06/2022 02:33 pm by su27k »

Online VSECOTSPE

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Re: SLS General Discussion Thread 7
« Reply #1191 on: 08/06/2022 03:40 pm »
This is untrue.

Orion figures don’t change the fact that the LOC requirement for Orion/SLS is 1:75, which is lower than the LOC projection for STS at closeout, which was 1:90.  Per the ASAP:

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The Panel was less pleased that these thresholds were not significantly safer than the actual historical performance of the Space Shuttle. It was the ASAP’s hope that the inherently safer architecture of the SLS and Orion as compared to the Space Shuttle, including full abort capability, separation of energetics from the crew module, and parachute reentry instead of aerodynamic, would greatly improve inherent safety. The chosen LOC probability thresholds appear in the following table:

Flight Stage          Maximum Probability of Loss of Crew
Ascent                  1 in 300
Cislunar Mission   1 in 150
Entry                     1 in 300
Total Mission         1 in 75

In comparison, the mature Space Shuttle system’s PRA was 1 in 90 at the end of the program for a different, but not totally dissimilar, LEO mission. It is important to note that the actual performance of the Space Shuttle over 135 flights was 1 in 67, which reflects the higher actual risk early in the program due to the unknown fail- ure modes and design weaknesses (as noted in the previous section). This comparison is exemplified in a dis- turbing phrase that the Panel has heard NASA use recently: that the safety of SLS/Orion should be “no worse than Shuttle.” While these thresholds represent a “worst case” beyond which NASA would terminate the Program, and the Program has established more conservative goals, the Panel is nonetheless concerned that more conservative thresholds could not be supported.

https://oiir.hq.nasa.gov/asap/documents/2014_ASAP_Annual_Report.pdf

It’s worth noting that the actual LOC figure for Orion/SLS will likely be even lower than this, for a couple reasons.  One, PRA doesn’t capture everything, especially human error, so LOC and LOM projections are almost always higher than the vehicle’s actual performance.  For example, only one PRA analysis out of a dozen or two projected a LOC for STS that was lower than its actual performance.  We should similarly assume that all the LOC figures for Orion/SLS above are also optimistic.  And two, with a year or two between launches, the Orion/SLS flight rate is so low that every launch will be like an experimental or developmental test launch.  Workforce competence and procedures will never reach the cadence and regularity necessary to ensure routine and safe operation.  Just based on it’s dangerously low and irregular launch rate, Orion/SLS is arguably a flight disaster waiting to happen.

And it may not happen because the program’s flight rate is so low that it may only launch a handful or so of times before shutdown and get lucky like STS (and Apollo) did:

Quote
One difficulty in applying this type of analytical tool is that it can assess only the known failure modes. By definition, it cannot analyze the probability of failure modes that are not foreseen or known to the analyst. Because of this fact, history has shown us that PRAs predictably underestimate the risk unless safety factors are applied to account for the “unknown unknowns.” As described in last year’s Report and shown in Figure 4, the end-of-life (EOL) assessment of the Space Shuttle risk for a given launch showed that early PRAs significantly underestimated the actual risk being taken. Actual risk during early flights was as much as 10 to 100 times greater than the analyses indicated. Early Shuttle astronauts actually faced a 1 in 10 probability of catastrophe on each flight rather than the 1 in 1,000 probability that some analyses had indicated.

https://oiir.hq.nasa.gov/asap/documents/2014_ASAP_Annual_Report.pdf

But luck is obviously not a programmatic strategy for success.

Even if all the flight safety experts the NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel are idiots and liars (and they’re not) and the official figures and analysis in the well-sourced report above should be completely ignored in favor a PowerPoint slide with no authorship or provenance, that PowerPoint slide only promises that Orion/SLS will perform about as well as commercial crew in terms of flight safety metrics and projections. If there’s no large flight safety benefit from the enormous investment (tens of billions of tax dollars and tens of thousands of careers) being made in Orion/SLS, then why make it?  Terminate, use the commercial systems with similar flight safety projections instead, maybe invest some of the savings on low-hanging fruit to make those systems even safer, and plow the rest into a regular and safe human space exploration mission cadence instead of needlessly and expensively re-engineering the STS jigsaw into ever more rarely flying, fragile, and risky configurations and programs.

Lastly, I’d also note that the PowerPoint slide above shows evidence of the PRA gamesmanship that programs play to make their programs appear safe(r), even when there has been no actual improvement to flight safety:

Quote
EDL and In-Space Phase definitions have been changed.  The next model update will demonstrate a reduction in risk to a compliant number for EDL while increasing the In-Space risk without jeopardizing compliance to the mission requirement.

In plain terms, the program can’t meet its projected LOC requirement for the EDL phase of the mission.  So instead of addressing the cause(s) of that low LOC projection and actually making the EDL phase safer, the program is going to redefine the start of the EDL phase to later so that some of the risk during the EDL phase is accounted for in the In-Space phase.  It’s an accounting change to make the program appear safer, rather than a technical change that actually makes the program safer.  It’s not the worst thing in the world, but it’s hardly dealing with flight safety shortfalls in an honest and forthright manner.  I’ve said this before, but I don’t understand why anyone would give credence to program figures when they play (and are allowed to play) these kinds of games and when this particular program has been wildly and optimistically wrong on every other figure of program merit (performance, cost, schedule, etc.).
« Last Edit: 08/06/2022 04:00 pm by VSECOTSPE »

Offline Stan-1967

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Re: SLS General Discussion Thread 7
« Reply #1192 on: 08/06/2022 04:42 pm »
Sorry if this has been covered before,  but I don’t see that comparing the safety level of STS to SLS/Orion. 

 The chosen LOC probability thresholds appear in the following table:

Flight Stage          Maximum Probability of Loss of Crew
Ascent                  1 in 300
Cislunar Mission   1 in 150
Entry                     1 in 300
Total Mission         1 in 75

Total risk gravitates toward the highest singular risk factor.

The respective vehicles have significantly different missions.  Lunar re entry is much more demanding that from LEO,  and many failure modes while in cislunar space that lead to LOC/LOM for Orion could probably be survivable by STS that had ability to return to earth multiple times per day given cross range and orbits.

The mission drives the risk, so why the butt pucker on the comparison?  If we want to go beyond LEO,  there is much greater risk. 

Online Coastal Ron

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Re: SLS General Discussion Thread 7
« Reply #1193 on: 08/06/2022 04:47 pm »
I'm not sure how much sway the jobs argument and the "preserving the industrial base" argument will have in the near future. Back in 2010 these are powerful arguments because there's a big recession and jobless number is through the roof...

There is a third factor to take into account, and that was in 2010 the Obama Administration was advocating cancelling the Constellation program, and Congress agreed with that. HOWEVER, Boeing and Lockheed Martin, but many other large government contractors, not only would have needed to lay off personnel, but they would have seen a reduction in REVENUE. Companies care about revenue, not people, and THAT is what the lobbyists were lobbying for, saving revenue streams in 2010. Which is why the small group of Senators crafted legislation that pretty much kept Boeing and Lockheed Martin doing what they were doing, just with a different name.

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...and NASA is literally the only game in town for HSF.

OK, but so what? NASA does what our political leaders want it to do, so really what matters is what our political leaders want to do in space. Human spaceflight (HSF) has been something that our political leaders have supported, but now we're getting close to an inflection point, where the ISS program will end, and nothing has been created that will match the amount of full-time space occupation. Artemis certainly can't support anything close to that, not on one launch per year (or even two).

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While you could argue that commercial companies may one day be able to do HSF, the opposition has literal moonwalkers making testimonies saying that's unlikely.

Those testimonies were 10 years ago, and everyone can now see how wrong they were. Plus, SpaceX has already flown a non-NASA spaceflight mission, so Pandora's box is already open. Not that it matters, since HSF really doesn't have a scaleable business model, so government money will be needed well into the future.

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These are powerful arguments, can easily convince regular people, including non-space senators and congresspersons.

Go try this. Talk to twenty people you know, and ask them how important human spaceflight is for them, versus all the other things their tax dollars are being spent on.

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Today, the arguments are a lot less convincing, because we have real commercial company doing real HSF missions, and non-NASA HSF missions at that. Unemployment is at all time low, and there're a labor shortage everywhere, including in the aerospace and defense industry. A few years from now? I don't think the labor shortage situation will change, and commercial space capabilities will continue to improve, will very likely surpass NASA's own capability based on SLS/Orion. How can you make the "preserving the industrial base" argument when everybody can see this "industrial base" you're trying to preserve is like child's play comparing to commercial capabilities?

Agreed. Not that there ever was a good justification, but it has no pretty much disappeared. When the SLS program ends, the people involved will just move onto their next job - like everyone else does. Nothing special about the SLS...
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 Mackilroy

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Re: SLS General Discussion Thread 7
« Reply #1194 on: 08/06/2022 04:57 pm »
The mission drives the risk, so why the butt pucker on the comparison?  If we want to go beyond LEO,  there is much greater risk.

The question there, I think, is that the risk commensurate to the reward we'll reap from it? Sure, space fans might accept there's more risk going to the Moon, but the general public doesn't hold the same values, and won't come to the same conclusion if astronauts die from an SLS or Orion failure. Not the way the program has been sold, which prioritized steady employment for some, steady revenue for their employers, and bolstered reelection chances for some in Congress.

Online leovinus

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Re: SLS General Discussion Thread 7
« Reply #1195 on: 08/06/2022 04:58 pm »
Sorry if this has been covered before,  but I don’t see that comparing the safety level of STS to SLS/Orion. 
Yes, in a previous thread

Online leovinus

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Re: SLS General Discussion Thread 7
« Reply #1196 on: 08/06/2022 05:04 pm »
From a the view of published paper studies, there are enough studies from the last decade, PRAs, slides, comments, Apples and Oranges, discussions, "out there" to draw any conclusion you want with respect to LOC/LOM of SLS-1. Based on all your inputs, my most recent summary of many comments and documents was here. Happy reading.

Amongst other comments, I was told in a previous thread
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@Leovinus
I don't know what the LOC values for the first SLS flight are, as they are not published anywhere, to the best of my knowledge.  Only the metrics are published, as given.  As a pure guess, I would think the risk is higher on a first flight and will be reduced with experience and proof.  We know that a crewed first flight was considered and rejected, that may have been related to not making the metrics.  We also know a booster waiver (for the propellant void issue) was granted to the first flight, so likely that too did not meet the metrics.

From a practical point of view, the PRAs and STS studies agree that the main risk sources were the solids followed by main engines which resulted in the hindsight 1:10 number for STS-1. As SLS uses new and improved but unflown solids, it is only reasonable to expect a risk increase over the Shuttle system especially for the first flight.

From a educated, taxpaying citizen point of view, we seem to lack a direct, contempary response from NASA on risk assessment of SLS vs Commercial Crew. Therefore, instead of another NASA rosy outlook press conference, I would very much like NASA to clearly state and discuss with us as adults the PRAs, risks, LOC, LOM, tradeoffs, and new SLS system, compared to the Commercial Crew Program as well, and clarify their agency vs CCP vs SLS risks. NASA wants to help with STEM education so treat us to some numbers please :) Does NASA today believe SLS is more safe than CCP with 1:270, or not? On the first flight, or not? Any waivers in effect, or not? Actually, it would be fascinating to hear how NASA discusses LOC/LOM with the people who fly on SLS.

Online VSECOTSPE

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Re: SLS General Discussion Thread 7
« Reply #1197 on: 08/06/2022 06:55 pm »
The mission drives the risk, so why the butt pucker on the comparison?

NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel states that it is an imperfect comparison, but they also explain that it’s as apples-to-apples as we can get to understand the relative risks.  If these missions included rendezvous, docking, lunar ascent/descent, surface operations, etc., then there’d be a real apples-to-oranges issue.

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If we want to go beyond LEO,  there is much greater risk.

Obviously.  (Or at least greater unknowns.)  We’ll have to undertake unavoidable risks that we can do little about to push back the frontier.

But we shouldn’t take on dumb risks that we can do something about.  We shouldn’t use a crew transport system that is no safer in its flight regime than STS was in its flight regime.  We terminated STS because it killed astronauts at an unacceptably high rate.  We shouldn’t use a new crew transport system that promises to do no better, especially when newer, riskier segments (rendezvous, docking, lunar ascent/descent, surface operations) on future missions will bring the PRA figures down even further.

Online jadebenn

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Re: SLS General Discussion Thread 7
« Reply #1198 on: 08/06/2022 07:00 pm »
It’s worth noting that the actual LOC figure for Orion/SLS will likely be even lower than this, for a couple reasons.  One, PRA doesn’t capture everything, especially human error, so LOC and LOM projections are almost always higher than the vehicle’s actual performance.  For example, only one PRA analysis out of a dozen or two projected a LOC for STS that was lower than its actual performance.  We should similarly assume that all the LOC figures for Orion/SLS above are also optimistic.
No? This is fudging the numbers. You can't say "the numbers aren't what they are" in a risk comparison. I could say that late Shuttle numbers were still over or under-estimating risk, but without an actual basis in data to make that claim, it would be rank speculation.

And two, with a year or two between launches, the Orion/SLS flight rate is so low that every launch will be like an experimental or developmental test launch.  Workforce competence and procedures will never reach the cadence and regularity necessary to ensure routine and safe operation.  Just based on it’s dangerously low and irregular launch rate, Orion/SLS is arguably a flight disaster waiting to happen.
While I do agree the low raunch late isn't optimal, this is an incredibly hyperbolic statement.

One difficulty in applying this type of analytical tool is that it can assess only the known failure modes. By definition, it cannot analyze the probability of failure modes that are not foreseen or known to the analyst. Because of this fact, history has shown us that PRAs predictably underestimate the risk unless safety factors are applied to account for the “unknown unknowns.” As described in last year’s Report and shown in Figure 4, the end-of-life (EOL) assessment of the Space Shuttle risk for a given launch showed that early PRAs significantly underestimated the actual risk being taken. Actual risk during early flights was as much as 10 to 100 times greater than the analyses indicated. Early Shuttle astronauts actually faced a 1 in 10 probability of catastrophe on each flight rather than the 1 in 1,000 probability that some analyses had indicated.
What is your evidence that this analysis does not take "unknown unknowns" into consideration? You appear to be arguing that NASA PRA has not evolved at all since the 1970s.

Even if all the flight safety experts the NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel are idiots and liars (and they’re not) and the official figures and analysis in the well-sourced report above should be completely ignored in favor a PowerPoint slide with no authorship or provenance, that PowerPoint slide only promises that Orion/SLS will perform about as well as commercial crew in terms of flight safety metrics and projections.
...For a much more complex mission with much higher inherent risks. Lunar orbit isn't LEO. Safety is not a deorbit burn away.

I’ve said this before, but I don’t understand why anyone would give credence to program figures when they play (and are allowed to play) these kinds of games and when this particular program has been wildly and optimistically wrong on every other figure of program merit (performance, cost, schedule, etc.).
Then you are not engaging in technical analysis. You are saying the figures are wrong because you believe they aren't credible. That is entirely different from saying the safety case is bad. To expand on the analogy from earlier, you're saying the apples might look better than the oranges, but you believe the stall owner is actually selling mutant strawberries, so they're not.

If you want to engage in technical analysis, engage in technical analysis. If you want to engage in speculation and doubt, engage in speculation and doubt. Certainly, it is not impossible that the safety case is wrong, but you have absolutely not evidence to say it is wrong.
« Last Edit: 08/06/2022 07:05 pm by jadebenn »

Online Robotbeat

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Re: SLS General Discussion Thread 7
« Reply #1199 on: 08/06/2022 07:05 pm »
Replying to jadebenn’s slides showing 1/3500 LOC for ascent.

Ascent LOC of 1/3500 is absurd. The LAS only does 1/25 estimated (itself probably optimistic) from the same chart, and you can’t tell me that a rocket that has never flown (& will only have flown once before) has Only a 1/140 chance of failure! That’s a straight up lie and is nowhere close to historical early launch statistics.

It’s exactly the kind of hubris that led to the Boeing Starliner problems and Shuttle LOC.
« Last Edit: 08/06/2022 07:06 pm by Robotbeat »
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