How many times will SLS hardware be flown/launched?

0 -  No SLS hardware will ever fly, not even as a demo or test
1 flight
2 flights
3 flights
4-5 flights
6-10 flights
11-20 flights
21 or more flights

Author Topic: How many flights for the SLS, ever?  (Read 54306 times)

Offline Geron

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Re: How many flights for the SLS, ever?
« Reply #40 on: 08/22/2014 08:40 am »
Quote from: Geron (removed post)
The jwst could have been built for a fraction of the cost as an sls payload instead of an arianne five payload!

I voted 6-10 and I think sls will find her payloads in commercial partners with an inspiration mars here and ba2100 there.

Edit/Lar: ONE post. Collapsed these two posts together. Feel free to edit this post further to reflect what is actually desired to be said
« Last Edit: 08/22/2014 12:36 pm by Lar »

Offline redliox

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Re: How many flights for the SLS, ever?
« Reply #41 on: 08/22/2014 10:10 am »
11-20. In my opinion its unrealistic a comparable vehicle will be operational before 2030, so SLS will make several flights. By the way: I don't think its fair to reduce a vehicles achievement on the number of flights it has carried out. Saturn V only made about 14 flights and you cant tell me it wasnt a successful launcher.

I second your opinion in ever way.

I'll admit 20 is optimistic, but if it does prove to be as viable as the shuttle with less expense it could run longer than the entire pre-Skylab era line of spacecraft; i.e. it'd be useful for 15 to 20 years before a new rocket phases in (perhaps Falcon XX or its like).  No line of vehicle lasts indefinitely, which is why I voted for the 11-20 range.

There's no doubt the first 3 flights will be SLS' birth pains, but the labor would be worth it as it is pretty much the HLV that's been begged for decades about.  If the shuttle program is a prelude, NASA might keep the program running for the ~20 years I mentioned because it would be expensive to develop something new...again...from scratch. 

Lesson hopefully learned: make the thing upgradeable.  The poor shuttle wasn't exactly easy to modify aside from electronics.  Better engines and materials will inevitably come, and a vehicle with an open design would be able to last longer.
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Offline Celebrimbor

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Re: How many flights for the SLS, ever?
« Reply #42 on: 08/22/2014 11:03 am »
Here's my rough prior predictive distribution. 

0             50%
1               5%
2               7%
3               8%
4-5          12%
6-10        13%
11-20        5%
20+           0%

Naturally, I suspect there is a real "all or nothing" bias.

My mean is roughly 2.76 though my mode is 0 :)

Edit: I voted on the basis of my mode (and note that the distributions don't match).  Have others perhaps voted based on their mean estimate?  You all did a Bayesian analysis, right? ;)  Don't answer that, as per the one post rule!
« Last Edit: 08/22/2014 11:10 am by Celebrimbor »

Offline jtrame

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Re: How many flights for the SLS, ever?
« Reply #43 on: 08/22/2014 02:26 pm »
I went with 11-20 as I see it going at least a dozen flights, with a possible continuation after that or a replacement vehicle.

Exploration is very much the job of government.  The high price of spaceflight demands it.

The expedition to Mars will have to be a joint effort between NASA, ESA, and all the international partners.  SLS is our contribution, along with the joint NASA/ESA Orion.  The reality of funding says habitats, landers, etc. will (most likely) have to come from others.  The mission team will be representative of the partnership.

I agree with those that have said The SLS doesn't need a 130 ton version; press ahead with the current design.

Offline jgoldader

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Re: How many flights for the SLS, ever?
« Reply #44 on: 08/22/2014 02:30 pm »
I voted 4-5, since there's propulsion hardware for 4 sets.  I expect schedule issues delaying the first flight or two, and there's no clear mission, or money to define and build payloads for SLS that require humans beyond the asteroid mission, if that ever actually flies.  (And I note that the robotic piece of that hasn't been designed yet, so there can't be realistic costing info on it, and one wonders if budget issues will get that cancelled, along with the crewed part of the mission.)  If the asteroid mission doesn't fly, then I'd guess SLS will be limited to a SLS-1 Earth orbit test flight with boilerplate Orion, SLS-2 lunar flyby or orbit (no crew), SLS-3 as a crewed lunar flyby, with SLS-4 being either Apollo 8 v.2, or a Europa mission (which may not be affordable).  It's not impossible that the SLS-4 hardware ends up as a museum exhibit around 2025.

I'm not bashing the SLS hardware or team.  Given the political constraints, the design constraints were inevitable, and I believe the team is capable of getting SLS off the ground.  But it's following in the budgetary path of CxP.
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Offline Rocket Science

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Re: How many flights for the SLS, ever?
« Reply #45 on: 08/22/2014 02:32 pm »
I voted 3 based on 15 SSME's engines available. If there are enough spares to build one more we could get 4...
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Offline RonM

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Re: How many flights for the SLS, ever?
« Reply #46 on: 08/22/2014 03:00 pm »
I voted 4-5. SLS will get 4 launches as NASA runs through the SSMEs, then Congress will realize they didn't fund any payloads beyond the tests. Yet another costly reset for NASA manned spaceflight.

That's too bad. I actually like the SLS.

Offline jongoff

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Re: How many flights for the SLS, ever?
« Reply #47 on: 08/22/2014 03:27 pm »
I voted 4-5. NASA and Congress were clever enough to pick a vehicle that would be hard to kill quickly. By the time it hits its 4th or 5th flight though I expect NASA will on an inflation-adjusted basis have no bigger of a budget than it does today, will have no massive new programs that need SLS, and commercial competition will be making SLS look more and more obsolete. It'll eventually get cancelled, and we'll realize that we've had another lost decade of NASA manned exploration, but not until long after most of the people responsible for the mess have retired. A utter waste of money, and thousands of man-decades worth of talent that could've been spent on something useful.


Offline kraisee

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Re: How many flights for the SLS, ever?
« Reply #48 on: 08/22/2014 03:48 pm »
I agree with all of Jon's comments, however I am less optimistic about it than he is.   I think cancellation will occur sooner.   Within the first 1-2 flights.

I had to check just one of those, so I picked "1" given the thinking that it will mirror recent history, an expensive "Ares-IX" test, followed by swift cancellation as the reality sinks-in that it is never going to live up to the promise.

Without the stupid "130 ton" requirement from Congress (<cough> Shelby <cough>) this system had potential to be a reasonably affordable heavy lift system that we could really have made use of.   Unfortunately, the system we actually have coming down the pipe, misses that mark by a Martian orbit.

« Last Edit: 08/22/2014 03:51 pm by kraisee »
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Offline JasonAW3

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Re: How many flights for the SLS, ever?
« Reply #49 on: 08/22/2014 04:02 pm »
Assuming that NASA starts getting an infusion of cash as things seem to be deteriorating with the Russians, I figure that there'll likely be 4 to 7 flights as a simplified, updated Space Shuttle System is initiated with a flyback booster.

IF, (And that's a BIG if) full reusability is established for one of the companies developing reusable launchers, more than likely NASA will go with that company to help design and build the Next Generation Reusable HLLV system.  Not withstanding a simple purchase of a few Reusable HLLV systems that said company might already have in use.

The vast majority of the cost of any space probe or satillite that NASA launches is the launch vehicle itself.  If a reusable system can be put into place, the costs would be vastly reduced to those of fuel, maintenance and replacement parts.  This would free up a large portion of NASA's limited budget to pursue science projects, and possibly more MANNED space Flights.

    As the current ISS has a limited useful lifespan left, a replacement station will be required, not only for science experiments, but as a logistics platform for future spaceflights for both Manned and unmanned craft.

The SLS, COULD loft some of the early modules for this, but teh overall expense of replacing a complete launch vehicle with each launch is unsustainable, especially at the current costs as outlined for the SLS.
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Offline Lobo

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Re: How many flights for the SLS, ever?
« Reply #50 on: 08/22/2014 06:00 pm »
I voted 2.

I think the current schedule won't be accelerated much, so the second flight will be in 2020 or so and by that time I think (being a SpaceX fan boy) that SpaceX will have FH flying routinely. The MCT/BFR will be well in development and the need for SLS will lessen. Congress will come to its senses, and the need to save money and have robust missions will win over pork. Current SLS centers will be redirected to work on exploration hardware (landers and habs) so the pork will continue to flow.

Most of that has been stated ad nauseum on other threads and I know it's not a lock. It's rather optimistic, in fact. I also know that others may disagree. Which is why we have a poll.

I voted 2 as well, but with an option for as many as 4, as there's enough engines for four cores.  And as I understand, there's enough steel casings for several booster pairs, although I think only 2 are currently under contract with ATK.  Assuming that could be changed to 4 pairs, I think we could see up to launches, but no more than 4, for the reasons Lar stated, except even more so as the 4th launch would be in the 2021-2023 (or more) time frame likely and SpaceX BFR will be even farther along, or perhaps even flying depending on how abitiously Elon wishes to help SLS's demise along.

In addition to EM-1 and EM-2, I could see there eventually being two more stacks allocated to two more missions.  Perhaps a mission to EML2 along wtih some version of a DSH.   A Europa mission and a Mars sample return mission in the mix too.  4 missions over 5-6 years could perhaps be enough for NASA/Congress to "save face" a bit with an LV that actually flew and operated as advertised rather than being cancelled prior to it as CxP was.  Before a quiet shift over to SpaceX BFR under the guise of the law that supposedly requires the government to use commercial launche services if they are available of the necessary capability.  NASA will certainly skirt that law if they want (Ares 1), but it may also give NASA and Congress an "out" to cancel SLS and switch to BFR without the usual cloud of bad PR that accompanies most cancelled big budget government programs.
They can just say there's never been a commercial HLV before and so NASA has had to build and fly their own.  As there now is one, the law mandates that NASA use it when available.  And all the real reasons for it's cancellation don't really get talked about as much.

Caviat:  If SpaceX is late with their BFR and they run into a lot of development issues with it, I could perhaps see SLS living longer than 2-4 missions.  In the early 2020's, if it's nowhere near flying, then I could see SLS living on, with the justification that is already flying and there's nothing else that can even come close to it's performance, which NASA needs for some plan which will be announced at that time.
Once it is actually flying, I think only a SpaceX BFR will kill it, as flying hardware is much more difficult to cancel than paper hardware is.

Offline PDJennings

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Re: How many flights for the SLS, ever?
« Reply #51 on: 08/22/2014 06:36 pm »
My vote would be 4.  I think production of new RS-25s will be the straw that breaks the camel's back on this program. 

On the other hand, if you cancel SLS, you almost have to cancel Orion at the same time.  What, then, will NASA do with their money if you take away those two programs?  There is wide support in Congress for NASA's bottom line, so they will have to spend it on something.  That inertia will make it hard to cancel SLS before it flies.  SLS may linger on if future administrations don't advocate something else to take over its budget line. 

One possibility would be to cancel Orion, keep the SLS, and use it to launch a replacement (or significantly renovated) international space station in the late 2020s.  The Orion money would go to funding RS-25s and boosters.  The commercial crew and cargo vehicles developed in the 2010s would be used for continuing space station operations.   BEO missions would stay in the planning phase, really no different than the past 20 years' experience.

Another possibility would be to cancel station, crew transport, and cargo transport in the 2020s in favor of a manned Mars mission.  That would probably guarantee more life for SLS, but it would also result in many years with NASA doing no manned space missions at all, until a big surge for the Mars mission (and hard to see there being more than one, at that).  I doubt this possibility will happen, because Americans have become used to having an operational manned space program.   It would be a hard adjustment (for Congress and the public) to go without any manned missions for the 8-12 years it would take to build up a Mars mission at current funding levels.

My opinion is that budget reality will eventually force any manned BEO mission to be staged at or near the ISS (or its successor), which would make it possible to assemble such a mission in a piecemeal fashion from elements launched over time by smaller launchers.  The current BEO exploration vision using Orion and SLS doesn't work due to insufficient budget to fly SLS and build the payloads for it at the same time.  We can already see that in the recent discussion of the SLS launch cadence.  That situation is not going to get any better.  The hab, lander, and ascent vehicle for a manned Mars mission will each cost what Orion has been costing.  And there are many lesser elements to be developed as well.  There is just not enough money to build them at current funding levels, with SLS, Orion, and station all still going on.

Offline TomH

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Re: How many flights for the SLS, ever?
« Reply #52 on: 08/22/2014 10:30 pm »
Lobo nailed it, said exactly what I wanted to say, down to the last detail. I also agree with strangequark that Shelby and Co. are the only real reason for the LV to exist now, and that when they are gone in 10 years, SLS will need something else to justify its continued existence.

If Tesla takes off and finances SX Raptor BFR, it will go down just like Lobo said. If Tesla fails, somehow goes public and is led by a board, or Elon suffers a fate like Steve Jobs, that bird will never fly. The success of Raptor BFR depends upon one single person.

If RapMon (Raptor Monster) makes it to the pad, SLS goes down and NASA will ask SpX if it's interested in a joint public-private venture. Elon will want the greatest amount of control he can get, but also the greatest amount of supplemental money he can get. That is the part that will entail a lot of negotiation.

If RapMon does not come into existence and SLS makes it to flight 3, I do not think SLS will be cancelled. After all the other cancellations, if SLS comes in on time and on budget (do not confuse Orion's SM problems with SLS), it would be too much egg on pols' faces to cancel it and just leave no deep space options. They will find some rationalle to continue it and it will fly for a long time, like the B-52, even though the B-52 is reusable. I do believe that manned deep space exploration is a justified cause simply because that is in the nature of humanity. So if it can make it to flight 3 and there's no SX BFR, SLS will eventually take off, in more ways than one. If it cannot make it that far and/or the Raptor Monster becomes extant, SLS is doomed.

As far as SLS being a threat, there is no thing, no entity, no persons to which it manifests a threat of any kind.
« Last Edit: 08/24/2014 05:43 am by TomH »

Offline Avron

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Re: How many flights for the SLS, ever?
« Reply #53 on: 08/22/2014 10:47 pm »
I am with the 2 flight gang, however, I do not see spx having any impact to SLS.. The money needs to be spent and the parties have come to an agreement where to sink that money.

Offline llanitedave

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Re: How many flights for the SLS, ever?
« Reply #54 on: 08/23/2014 02:29 am »
I went with 6-10.  It would not be able to compete with SpaceX's BFR, if that becomes available for general missions, but we don't know how far into the future that will be.  In the meantime, core development money will eventually become available as payload and mission development money, and there will be some very smart people working on developing and fleshing out those missions.
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Offline CNYMike

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Re: How many flights for the SLS, ever?
« Reply #55 on: 08/24/2014 12:59 am »
I voted 21 or more, assuming the SLS program lasts about 30 years -- same as the Shuttle -- and flies once or twice a year.
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Offline Bubbinski

Re: How many flights for the SLS, ever?
« Reply #56 on: 08/24/2014 01:07 pm »
I'm going with the lower end of 11-20 flights (say, 11-14).  I do think the SLS will fly, and that eventually a "roadmap" will come about to make use of it and missions will be flown, including Mars missions (at least sample return, hopefully also flights related to a human Mars landing) and some sort of Lagrange point gateway as a successor to ISS (I believe the commercial crew companies will want something like that to keep demand for their product after ISS is deorbited). 

I also do think however that this will be the last rocket NASA develops, and that its successors will be commercially operated.  The "roadmap" that will be cobbled together will feature some exciting missions flown by SLS but will also make use of commercially operated rockets to fly some parts of these missions as well.
I'll even excitedly look forward to "flags and footprints" and suborbital missions. Just fly...somewhere.

Offline Hog

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Re: How many flights for the SLS, ever?
« Reply #57 on: 08/24/2014 01:21 pm »
I voted 11-20 launches, my guess is more optimistic than most.  This optimism is bolstered by "new" or "legacy" RS25 engine production set to re-start in a couple months.  If the end result is actual "new" RS25 engines (RS25-E or F or whatever model) coming off the line beyond prototype or beta test models, then I think that investment will be used for increased SLS program duration.

As a child reading Popular Science magazine, Mars missions were always "20 years out".  1st it was 2000, then 2010, then 2020, then 2030,  now 2030+, and this was before any sort of hardware capable of such a mission was beyond the concept stage.  Now we have actual bent metal, actual engines(for 2 stages at that), Astros willing to go, but the currect politics/money situation isnt right.

We North Americans live in a democracy, if we want something, all we have to do is apply a little pressure to people in power and we can have whatever we want.  We have the technology, we lack the will to exploit it in human spaceflight.

I dont even care if it is a "boots and flags" mission. More money has been squandered in much more wasteful ways it is 100% laughable.  In the very long term it would be an investment.  It has always been NASA or sometimes it's countries military taking the 1st footstep, with US citizens "footing" the bill. Once NASA jumps a hurdle, there are other entities that will either try to emulate, or try to make a dollar.  There is more than one plan for other countries to make lunar attempts, with the many commercials making a financial go of spaceflight..

My dream is Mars, hopefully before I return my molecules to the Earth. But long after that point in time, we as humans will have to leave this Earth. Not doing so guarentees our extinction.

We have the hardware in hand, lets feed and nurture SLS, and when it is strong, we can let her fly to places humans have never been. Lets put the "explore", back into "space exploration".

Offline deltaV

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Re: How many flights for the SLS, ever?
« Reply #58 on: 08/28/2014 05:48 am »
I wish the answer were "canceled immediately" but my vote was for what I expect to happen, namely 6-10 launches before cancellation. That's about how long I expect in to take for SpaceX's BFR to prove itself and Congresspeople in non-SLS states to realize SLS is a needless expense.

Offline anonymous

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Re: How many flights for the SLS, ever?
« Reply #59 on: 08/28/2014 02:33 pm »
In 2007 I started a similar poll entitled "Will Ares I be cancelled?", which also gave a number of options for what would happen to Constellation. The poll itself has unfortunately been deleted, but the thread can be found here: http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=9227

The most common opinion was that Ares I would be developed, but Ares V would not. I think the lesson of that is that NSF members can be too conservative, thinking that the current plan will be stuck with to its reductio ad absurdum.

SLS still has the problem that the LV is so expensive that there isn't enough money for payloads. The way SLS rose like a phoenix from the ashes of Ares showed that there was a powerful constituency in Congress for an SDLV that was prepared to over-rule a President. The next President is likely to steer clear of the issue.

Nonetheless, the politicians are going to have to face up to the lack of money for payloads well before the end of the three test flights scheduled. I think, as TomH said, that it largely depends on how SpaceX's BFR development goes.


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