Author Topic: Where does Falcon Heavy leave SLS? Should NASA abandon launch?  (Read 88462 times)

Offline simonbp

The essential difference between Falcon Heavy and SLS is that FH would exist and fly even if the entire NASA HSF program were cancelled. That cannot be said for any version of SLS thus far proposed, and it puts FH in a very different category.

Now, just up and switching to FH would, frankly be just as bad as the sole-source contracts to ATK and PWR in (CxP and since). A way around that would be to reset the SLS process to be 50 tonnes by, say, 2015 and let ULA (and ATK+whoever) propose an alternative. SpaceX would most likely still win, but at least they'll have some competition to keep them honest...

Online Chris Bergin

I do get where you're coming from Alex. I myself was listening to Elon talking about two FHs for a Lunar mission, four for Mars and thinking "what the heck, and we need $15 billion (or whatever, apparently now much less) for SLS?"

However, we need to be balanced.

Quote
But what ever SpaceX says, it's a valid policy question. If SpaceX are going to produce a 53 ton rocket, why should NASA spend several billion to produce a 70+ ton rocket.

Block 0 is the LEO SLS, then evolvable through to the super heavy, just as Falcon has evolved to 9, FH and their notional super heavy or XX (depending on what jump they make after FH).

Online Robotbeat

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The essential difference between Falcon Heavy and SLS is that FH would exist and fly even if the entire NASA HSF program were cancelled. That cannot be said for any version of SLS thus far proposed, and it puts FH in a very different category.

Now, just up and switching to FH would, frankly be just as bad as the sole-source contracts to ATK and PWR in (CxP and since). A way around that would be to reset the SLS process to be 50 tonnes by, say, 2015 and let ULA (and ATK+whoever) propose an alternative. SpaceX would most likely still win, but at least they'll have some competition to keep them honest...
Delta IV Heavy plus upgrades (cross-feed, prop densification, upgraded upper stage, add-on GEMs, etc) can evolve to ~50 tons (to LEO) using existing pads.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers. US law http://goo.gl/YZYNt0

Offline simonbp

Because the 70 ton rocket is only supposed to be the foundation for the 130 ton rocket.

Except it isn't. The 100-tonne Block-1 5/5 is the foundation for the 130-tonne Block-2 5/5. The 70-tonne Block 0 4/3 is entirely separate rocket dropped in there as a stopgap because 5/5 will take forever and a day to get flying. I know you want as much commonality as you can between them, but at the end of the day, they are still separate rockets, with costs accordingly.

Offline simonbp

Delta IV Heavy plus upgrades (cross-feed, prop densification, upgraded upper stage, add-on GEMs, etc) can evolve to ~50 tons (to LEO) using existing pads.

And if they can do that for cheaper than SpaceX (to the auditors' satisfaction), they should get the contract.

Online Chris Bergin

Delta IV Heavy plus upgrades (cross-feed, prop densification, upgraded upper stage, add-on GEMs, etc) can evolve to ~50 tons (to LEO) using existing pads.

And if they can do that for cheaper than SpaceX (to the auditors' satisfaction), they should get the contract.

HEFT/HEAT's RACs "No likey" EELVs.

Online Robotbeat

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Delta IV Heavy plus upgrades (cross-feed, prop densification, upgraded upper stage, add-on GEMs, etc) can evolve to ~50 tons (to LEO) using existing pads.

And if they can do that for cheaper than SpaceX (to the auditors' satisfaction), they should get the contract.
I really, really doubt they could get Delta IV Heavy (with all those upgrades) to be cheaper than SpaceX, but it's an option just in case. The point is that the base vehicle will likely be around. Either that, or USAF will transition to Atlas V (which has its own set of upgrades).

And who knows? Maybe XCor or Blue Origin or Orbital will get ambitious (and around a billion dollars) or something. Just a thought. 2020 (the first time any real exploration hardware will be finished) is a while from now. If SpaceX really does open up substantial new market opportunities, there will be competitors.
« Last Edit: 04/06/2011 04:35 PM by Robotbeat »
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

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Online Robotbeat

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Delta IV Heavy plus upgrades (cross-feed, prop densification, upgraded upper stage, add-on GEMs, etc) can evolve to ~50 tons (to LEO) using existing pads.

And if they can do that for cheaper than SpaceX (to the auditors' satisfaction), they should get the contract.

HEFT/HEAT's RACs "No likey" EELVs.
I still am waiting to see just why exactly that is.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers. US law http://goo.gl/YZYNt0

Offline yg1968

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The essential difference between Falcon Heavy and SLS is that FH would exist and fly even if the entire NASA HSF program were cancelled. That cannot be said for any version of SLS thus far proposed, and it puts FH in a very different category.

Now, just up and switching to FH would, frankly be just as bad as the sole-source contracts to ATK and PWR in (CxP and since). A way around that would be to reset the SLS process to be 50 tonnes by, say, 2015 and let ULA (and ATK+whoever) propose an alternative. SpaceX would most likely still win, but at least they'll have some competition to keep them honest...
Delta IV Heavy plus upgrades (cross-feed, prop densification, upgraded upper stage, add-on GEMs, etc) can evolve to ~50 tons (to LEO) using existing pads.

Having competing 50mt Medium/Heavy lift vehicles would be ideal.  But it would go against the compromise that was obtained in the NASA Authorization bill. Although, you could argue that recent attacks by House Representatives on commercial crew also goes against the compromise that was achieved.
« Last Edit: 04/06/2011 04:42 PM by yg1968 »

Offline Namechange User

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"SpaceX agrees with the need to develop a vehicle of that class as the best way to conduct a large number of human missions to Mars."

I must be missing something here ;D

Do you mean SpaceX didn't say "SpaceX agrees with the need FOR NASA to develop....?

I doubt that would be of any concern to NASA, or change their plans - which is what this thread is intimating.

We all need to be careful not to get drunk on SpaceX after what has been a very exciting week. I say that, cause I started feeling a bit tipsy yesterday :)

He might mean that Elon said a HLV was needed, not that NASA was the one that needed to build it.

Still valid though, Falcon-Heavy is not a contester for SLS and therefore this thread should be renamed or it would be pointless.



I'm not sure how many times this must be said.  NASA WILL NOT BUILD THE SLS.

Even if SpaceX was contracted to build what will become SLS, since the market cannot support it by itself at this time, it WILL BE government owned. 

Given that it will be government owned, whatever company will operate under the direction of NASA.  NASA will have the project office, NASA engineering directorites will be involved with the contractors.  NASA will be paying the bills. 

This will likely be a traditional contracting arrangement with whoever.  What has been discussed as of late by the more reasonable is who to make that relationship as efficient as it can be. 

So, in the end, NASA will be involved regardless of who builds SLS. 
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Online Robotbeat

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"SpaceX agrees with the need to develop a vehicle of that class as the best way to conduct a large number of human missions to Mars."

I must be missing something here ;D

Do you mean SpaceX didn't say "SpaceX agrees with the need FOR NASA to develop....?

I doubt that would be of any concern to NASA, or change their plans - which is what this thread is intimating.

We all need to be careful not to get drunk on SpaceX after what has been a very exciting week. I say that, cause I started feeling a bit tipsy yesterday :)

He might mean that Elon said a HLV was needed, not that NASA was the one that needed to build it.

Still valid though, Falcon-Heavy is not a contester for SLS and therefore this thread should be renamed or it would be pointless.



I'm not sure how many times this must be said.  NASA WILL NOT BUILD THE SLS.

Even if SpaceX was contracted to build what will become SLS, since the market cannot support it by itself at this time, it WILL BE government owned. 

Given that it will be government owned, whatever company will operate under the direction of NASA.  NASA will have the project office, NASA engineering directorites will be involved with the contractors.  NASA will be paying the bills. 

This will likely be a traditional contracting arrangement with whoever.  What has been discussed as of late by the more reasonable is who to make that relationship as efficient as it can be. 

So, in the end, NASA will be involved regardless of who builds SLS. 
Completely agreed.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

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Offline yg1968

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SpaceX answered this on their press release yesterday:

"Please note that Falcon Heavy should not be confused with the super heavy lift rocket program being debated by the U.S. Congress.  That vehicle is authorized to carry between 70-130 metric tons to orbit.  SpaceX agrees with the need to develop a vehicle of that class as the best way to conduct a large number of human missions to Mars."

So I'm not sure what this thread is about.

Elon also said this during his conference. But then he kept talkiing about the fact that Dragon and FH could be used for BLEO exploration.
« Last Edit: 04/06/2011 05:24 PM by yg1968 »

Offline Danderman

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If I were in congress, I'd be tempted. Why not?

Congress should tell NASA to simply lay out the technical requirements for HLV, and let the private sector design, build and fly it. Perhaps Elon would win that competition, maybe not.

This business of Congress designing the launcher is a recipe for disaster.

Offline jimgagnon

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Wouldn't the best scenario be for NASA to exit the launcher business entirely, buy 1,000 tons per year or so from SpaceX (or anyone else who can offer better), and use the money saved to undertake space exploration?
The money might not go to NASA anymore, unfortunately.
Instead of doing more, they will have to do the same thing with less money.

Otherwise, that scenario would be great, IMHO.

If NASA wants to lock in that money, they could if they move now to quantify and start the bidding on a space-only capability -- that first step of the flexible path. Instead, the workforce and industrial base have Congress trying to lock in Shuttle-derived, that although it means less pain short term simply isn't viable or competitive long term and will sooner or later be found too expensive. At that point the money will be taken away, and not given back for any other capabilities. NASA will then be stuck sending puny little capsules to the ISS and watching others visiting the Moon, Mars and other NEOs.

Holdren, Bolden and Garver have always seen that. Soon as the rest of the NASA Industrial Complex does, the better we'll all be.

Offline Lee Jay

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Am I the only one that thinks the 53ton/70ton comparison isn't apples-to-apples?  I'm guessing the 53 number doesn't include any reserves, and the 70 number includes substantial reserves both as APM and as management/design reserve.  I think it's more like 53/85 or so if using the same methods, but I'm not sure.

Offline Namechange User

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SpaceX answered this on their press release yesterday:

"Please note that Falcon Heavy should not be confused with the super heavy lift rocket program being debated by the U.S. Congress.  That vehicle is authorized to carry between 70-130 metric tons to orbit.  SpaceX agrees with the need to develop a vehicle of that class as the best way to conduct a large number of human missions to Mars."

So I'm not sure what this thread is about.

Elon also said this during his conference. But then he kept talkiing about the fact that Dragon and FH could be used for BLEO.

And they probably could be.  Is that not a good thing?  Can't commercial companies operate with and in parallel to NASA?  Isn't space big?

The problem here is everyone wants "commercial" to be NASA and NASA to be "commercial".  They can benefit each other but that does not mean one has to serve the other or vice versa.  It's time to learn that and absorb that. 
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Offline phantomdj

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SpaceX answered this on their press release yesterday:

"Please note that Falcon Heavy should not be confused with the super heavy lift rocket program being debated by the U.S. Congress.  That vehicle is authorized to carry between 70-130 metric tons to orbit.  SpaceX agrees with the need to develop a vehicle of that class as the best way to conduct a large number of human missions to Mars."

So I'm not sure what this thread is about.

Elon also said this during his conference. But then he kept talkiing about the fact that Dragon and FH could be used for BLEO.

And they probably could be.  Is that not a good thing?  Can't commercial companies operate with and in parallel to NASA?  Isn't space big?

The problem here is everyone wants "commercial" to be NASA and NASA to be "commercial".  They can benefit each other but that does not mean one has to serve the other or vice versa.  It's time to learn that and absorb that. 

I agree both can exist.

1) “Don’t skimp on heavy lift” – Norm Augustine

2) "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana

I believe it is important to remember these two quotes as we continue this discussion about FH and SLS.

1) Whether it be a DIRECT style, SLS or a commercial vehicle, the idea of building a evolvable and scalable launch system that can achieve 130+ mt is desirable.  Whether we need it in 5, 10 or 20 years can be debated but it will be useful in the future.

2) NASA and the Air Force placed most, if not all, of their eggs in the Space Shuttle basket prior to the Challenger tragedy causing a number of problems in the succeeding years. It is vital that we do not repeat this mistake.

By having NASA build the SLS it will serve a number of purposes. 

First, it will be the stepping stone to the super heavy lift vehicle that will be needed for human space exploration (which I define as beyond earth orbit).  While Congress may care, I do not care if it takes a little longer than 2016 for the 70 mt version and possibly 2020 for the 130 mt version.  The fact that it is built is important. 

Second, it serves as a backup insurance policy if the commercial companies fail to live up to the hype or they incur an accident along the way.

If more than one commercial company shows that they can construct a vehicle that can be scaled to 130 mt that meets NASA requirements then and only then should NASA get out of the launch vehicle business and devote their resources to payloads and missions.
1 percent for NASA.  We spend more than twice that per year on soda.

Offline yg1968

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SpaceX answered this on their press release yesterday:

"Please note that Falcon Heavy should not be confused with the super heavy lift rocket program being debated by the U.S. Congress.  That vehicle is authorized to carry between 70-130 metric tons to orbit.  SpaceX agrees with the need to develop a vehicle of that class as the best way to conduct a large number of human missions to Mars."

So I'm not sure what this thread is about.

Elon also said this during his conference. But then he kept talkiing about the fact that Dragon and FH could be used for BLEO.

And they probably could be.  Is that not a good thing?  Can't commercial companies operate with and in parallel to NASA?  Isn't space big?

The problem here is everyone wants "commercial" to be NASA and NASA to be "commercial".  They can benefit each other but that does not mean one has to serve the other or vice versa.  It's time to learn that and absorb that. 

Space is big. But there is not enough funds to pay for the payloads on the HLVs (until the ISS is deorbited).

Edit: added until the ISS is deorbited. 
« Last Edit: 04/06/2011 06:10 PM by yg1968 »

Offline Namechange User

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SpaceX answered this on their press release yesterday:

"Please note that Falcon Heavy should not be confused with the super heavy lift rocket program being debated by the U.S. Congress.  That vehicle is authorized to carry between 70-130 metric tons to orbit.  SpaceX agrees with the need to develop a vehicle of that class as the best way to conduct a large number of human missions to Mars."

So I'm not sure what this thread is about.

Elon also said this during his conference. But then he kept talkiing about the fact that Dragon and FH could be used for BLEO.

And they probably could be.  Is that not a good thing?  Can't commercial companies operate with and in parallel to NASA?  Isn't space big?

The problem here is everyone wants "commercial" to be NASA and NASA to be "commercial".  They can benefit each other but that does not mean one has to serve the other or vice versa.  It's time to learn that and absorb that. 

Space is big. But there is a shortage of funding for payloads for these HLVs.

How do you know that?  Frankly I'm tired of people just saying that in order to drive a conversation one way or the other.  Obviously you have an agenda here.  Yet, that being the case tell me the following:

1.  What exactly is SLS and what will be the performance of the vehicle?
2.  Where are the first destinations along the "flexible path to Mars"?
3.  What is the timetable?
4.  What "capabilities" do we need and when and how do these developments fit into said flexible path?

Guess what.  You don't know the answer to these either.  These seem far more important as to if a SLS is shuttle-derived or not, yet when one has an axe to grind......
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Offline yg1968

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I meant that there is not enough funds for payloads until the ISS is deorbited. After the ISS is deorbited, I admit that I don't know what the situation for payloads will be. It should improve.

As far as me having an agenda, I disagree that I have one. I admit that I am pro-commercial for LEO but I haven't entirely made up my mind on the SLS yet. You could argue that the FH negates the need for a 70mt SD-HLV and that we should skip the 70mt SD-HLV and go directly to a 100mt SD-HLV. So ironicly the development of the FH could have the opposite effect of what some anti-HLV people may wish (i.e. it could make the SD-HLV even bigger).   
« Last Edit: 04/06/2011 05:47 PM by yg1968 »

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