Author Topic: The fate of SLS after Falcon Heavy debut  (Read 35381 times)

Offline Svetoslav

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The fate of SLS after Falcon Heavy debut
« on: 02/07/2018 12:34 pm »
How do you think the successful flight of Falcon Heavy will impact SLS? Will there be consequences? Will development of the rocket continue as planned, will the status quo will be maintained?

Or is there any chance for the Adminstration to redirect the Lunar efforts to Falcon Heavy?

Offline MATTBLAK

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Re: The fate of SLS after Falcon Heavy debut
« Reply #1 on: 02/07/2018 12:51 pm »
If you'll indulge my lightly comic touch a moment:

If Falcon Heavy flies successfully two more times before years end - with big, real payloads - then the knives could be or should be out for SLS. It would then be a LITERAL 'Emporer Has No Clothes' situation... Or more accurately; the Black Knight from 'Monty Python's Holy Grail', with Elon Musk playing the part of King Arthur and SLS/Boeing playing the part of the Black Knight....


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Offline whitelancer64

Re: The fate of SLS after Falcon Heavy debut
« Reply #2 on: 02/07/2018 12:55 pm »
 The SLS will continue development, which would only make sense given that nearly all the flight hardware has been made for EM-1, and flight hardware is already in process for EM-2
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Offline speedevil

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Re: The fate of SLS after Falcon Heavy debut
« Reply #3 on: 02/07/2018 01:05 pm »
The following comments were made by Musk, following the launch.

Probably twelve launches in 'three to four years'.
Certainly (barring accidents) several before EM-1. (Assuming Dec 19). And likely ten before EM-2, of a frozen configuration (mostly) after the next launch, though they are not planing on man-rating. (other non-quoted bits)


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It depends on which national security mission that we need to get. How many flights depends on which mission but we have a number of commercial customers for Falcon Heavy and so I it's not gonna be in any way an impediment to acceptance of national security missions.  We'll be doing several heavy missions flights per year so, say there's a big national security satellite that's due for launch in three or four years and we're probably have like a dozen or more launches done by then.
I don't think launch number will be an inhibitor for national security stuff. And yeah so I think we've got the STP mission that's coming up which is another test mission that will go on falcon heavy block 5 and then we'll be launching block 5  single stick in a couple months so I think it's hopefully smooth sailing for qualification for national security missions.

Our investment to date probably a lot more than I'd like to admit. We tried to cancel the Falcon Heavy program three times at SpaceX because it's like 'man this is way harder than we thought'. The initial idea was just I thought you know you stick on two first stages of side boosters how hard can it be?  It's like way hard.
We have to redesign the center core completely.  We redesigned the grid fins, because well it's a long story but you've got a nose cone on the end of at the end of the booster instead of a cylinder, you lose control authority because if you if you've got a cylinder you can kind of bounce the air off of the rocket and you get like a 30% more increased control authority than if you've got a cylindrical section instead of a Ogive section at the end of the booster so we have to redesign the grid fins.  Redesigning the control system.
Vastly redesigned the thrust structure at the base to take way more load - that center boosters got to deal with over a million pounds of load coming in combined from the site boosters so it ends up being heavier so that the center core basically complete redesign, and even the side boosters has a pretty large number of parts that change. Then the launch site itself needs to change a lot.
I'm guessing our total investment is over half a billion. Probably more.

And on EM-1
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Falcon Heavy opens up a new class of payload. It can launch more than twice as much payload as any other rocket in the world, so it's kind of up to customers what want. It can launch things direct to Pluto and beyond with no need for a gravity assist or anything. Launch giant satellites, it can do anything you want. You could send people back to the moon with a bunch of Falcon Heavy and an orbital refilling.  Two or three falcon heavies would equal the payload of a Saturn Five.
(full transcript in progress at https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=43154.msg1784964#msg1784964 )

In the short term, little will change, hardware being bent will continue to be bent.
« Last Edit: 02/07/2018 01:18 pm by speedevil »

Online Chris Bergin

Re: The fate of SLS after Falcon Heavy debut
« Reply #4 on: 02/07/2018 01:08 pm »
How do you think the successful flight of Falcon Heavy will impact SLS? Will there be consequences? Will development of the rocket continue as planned, will the status quo will be maintained?

Or is there any chance for the Adminstration to redirect the Lunar efforts to Falcon Heavy?

No impact to SLS. Remember, Falcon Heavy hasn't just come on the scene....in fact she's years late and SLS wasn't riding along a competitive path. The only rocket that will be muttering in a disgruntled manner will be Delta IV-Heavy.

Offline MATTBLAK

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Re: The fate of SLS after Falcon Heavy debut
« Reply #5 on: 02/07/2018 01:11 pm »
Extremely good point, Chris. Perhaps the Python film extract is more appropriate to DIV-H, then.
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Offline Jim

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Re: The fate of SLS after Falcon Heavy debut
« Reply #6 on: 02/07/2018 01:23 pm »
How do you think the successful flight of Falcon Heavy will impact SLS? Will there be consequences? Will development of the rocket continue as planned, will the status quo will be maintained?

Or is there any chance for the Adminstration to redirect the Lunar efforts to Falcon Heavy?

No impact to SLS. Remember, Falcon Heavy hasn't just come on the scene....in fact she's years late and SLS wasn't riding along a competitive path. The only rocket that will be muttering in a disgruntled manner will be Delta IV-Heavy.

The  Delta IV-Heavy isn't going to lose any missions over this.  No more orders are being taken.  Vulcan is going directly to a heavy capable configuration.

Offline wolfpack

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Re: The fate of SLS after Falcon Heavy debut
« Reply #7 on: 02/07/2018 02:17 pm »
The only rocket that will be muttering in a disgruntled manner will be Delta IV-Heavy.

Ariane 5?

Offline bad_astra

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Re: The fate of SLS after Falcon Heavy debut
« Reply #8 on: 02/07/2018 03:06 pm »
SLS won't look superfluous until and if BFR flies. After that, it's hard to understand its justification.
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Online oldAtlas_Eguy

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Re: The fate of SLS after Falcon Heavy debut
« Reply #9 on: 02/07/2018 05:32 pm »
It is not so much that FH exists but that it was so successful in all of it's goals for the Demo first flight.

There is now another BEO High Delta V capable launcher for those big NASA outer planet payloads that is open for business NOW (June 2018 [STP], Arabsat possibly earlier). SLS will not be at this point until June 2023 with the possible launch of EC. That is 5 years after FH. By that time There could be a BFR in test. If Elon is correct in his assertion of a Grasshopper like test of the BFS in 2019 (probably late 2019), actual orbital tests BFS [as a SSTO] and the combined full BFR/BFS demo(s) could already have happened by the time that the first SLS 1B is even ready for a launch.

Online butters

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Re: The fate of SLS after Falcon Heavy debut
« Reply #10 on: 02/07/2018 05:47 pm »
FH is a threat to SLS only to the extent that it lends credibility to the BFR project. It's an "if they can do this, they can probably do that" proposition. Otherwise it's not much of a threat to anybody in the industry, I think.

Offline ZachF

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Re: The fate of SLS after Falcon Heavy debut
« Reply #11 on: 02/07/2018 07:01 pm »
$500 million to develop Falcon Heavy, compared to $2.5 billion per year on SLS development... We probably spend more money on SLS every year now than it took SpaceX to develop it's entire product line from scratch.
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Offline RotoSequence

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Re: The fate of SLS after Falcon Heavy debut
« Reply #12 on: 02/07/2018 07:09 pm »
$500 million to develop Falcon Heavy, compared to $2.5 billion per year on SLS development... We probably spend more money on SLS every year now than it took SpaceX to develop it's entire product line from scratch.

It's also probably a lot more rigorously studied, understood, and characterized than SpaceX's vehicle.

I wouldn't go so far to say it's money for nothing, but it might be a bit harder to see it as money well spent.

Offline AncientU

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Re: The fate of SLS after Falcon Heavy debut
« Reply #13 on: 02/07/2018 07:13 pm »
The only thing that could challenge SLS is someone in the USG deciding to actually start an exploration program using existing assets.  Nothing directly would happen to SLS even then... it would just accelerate its slide into irrelevance, then oblivion.

But that assumes someone in the USG actually do something; also highly unlikely to happen.
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Offline Toast

Re: The fate of SLS after Falcon Heavy debut
« Reply #14 on: 02/07/2018 07:32 pm »
The only thing that could challenge SLS is someone in the USG deciding to actually start an exploration program using existing assets.  Nothing directly would happen to SLS even then... it would just accelerate its slide into irrelevance, then oblivion.

But that assumes someone in the USG actually do something; also highly unlikely to happen.

Not just someone, but a majority of someones in congress. SLS will probably be short-lived, but it'll probably continue at least until first flight.

Offline AS_501

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Re: The fate of SLS after Falcon Heavy debut
« Reply #15 on: 02/07/2018 07:33 pm »
I'm an SLS fan, but I wouldn't mind seeing some of the outer planet probes (e.g. Europa Clipper) moved to Falcon Heavy.  After all, if the launcher price in the overall mission budget is much lower, you can devote more $ to the probe itself (no skimming on science instruments).  In fact, couldn't low-cost delivery to the outer planets allow even more such probes to be approved?

Online Coastal Ron

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Re: The fate of SLS after Falcon Heavy debut
« Reply #16 on: 02/07/2018 07:44 pm »
How do you think the successful flight of Falcon Heavy will impact SLS?

The SLS was not created because the private sector could not develop a large rocket, nor because the U.S. Government had an identified need for a large rocket.

The SLS was created out of the contract for the Ares I/V (i.e. Constellation program), and it short-circuited the normal procurement processes that would have required some sort of justification for NASA building a large government-only rocket. So from that standpoint it lives on because of political support, not because there is an actual operational need for it.

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Will there be consequences?

Likely not.

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Will development of the rocket continue as planned, will the status quo will be maintained?

The current budget, which has not been fully approved yet, is for FY2018, and it contains continuing funding for the SLS. The earliest fiscal year that changes could be made to that budget would be FY2019, which is supposed to be debated and created into law between now and the end of September.

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Or is there any chance for the Adminstration to redirect the Lunar efforts to Falcon Heavy?

The way things SHOULD work is that NASA identifies a task and then releases a Request For Proposal to industry. Based on that feedback NASA would then identify what the plan is they want to go with for transportation, which would include whether the SLS is assumed to be available or not. As of today NASA would have to assume that it is the transportation method of choice for NASA hardware (i.e. Orion, lunar lander, DSG elements, etc.), so I think the private sector would only have a chance to bid on a small part of such an effort.

And BTW, even though I'm a SpaceX supporter I think all services should be put out to a public bid process, and that there should be more than one provider chosen. Monopolies are not good, and part of the goal of the U.S. Government should be to ensure that our private space industry as a whole is being included - and that is worth any extra costs that may entail.

My $0.02
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Offline RonM

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Re: The fate of SLS after Falcon Heavy debut
« Reply #17 on: 02/07/2018 08:24 pm »
SLS, even the interim, limited Block 1 variant, has more payload capability than Falcon Heavy.  Orion is crew capable.  Falcon Heavy is not.  Falcon Heavy cannot replace SLS/Orion.  It is that simple.

That's right, FH is not an SLS replacement. The potential problem for SLS will be an operational BFR/BFS or lack of large payloads justifying its existence.

Offline AncientU

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Re: The fate of SLS after Falcon Heavy debut
« Reply #18 on: 02/07/2018 08:26 pm »
SLS, even the interim, limited Block 1 variant, has more payload capability than Falcon Heavy.  Orion is crew capable.  Falcon Heavy is not.  Falcon Heavy cannot replace SLS/Orion.  It is that simple.

Sorted by Payload Capability

==============================================================
Vehicle          1st Flt   TransLunar   TransMars      GTO   
==============================================================
SLS Blk 2          2028?   >45,000 kg   >37,600 kg      N/A
SLS Blk 1B         2021?    39,000 kg    32,000 kg      N/A
SLS Blk 1          2019?    24,500 kg    19,500 kg      N/A
Falcon Heavy-X     2018?   ~20,500 kg    16,800 kg   26,700 kg
Falcon Heavy       2018?    ~5,500 kg    ~4,900 kg    8,000 kg
==============================================================
"X" Denotes Expendable Version


 - Ed Kyle

No true at all. 
SLS has zero payload capability, and will continue to have zero until around 2023-2024.

FH could launch 4 times per year (easily) in support of a BEO effort... that's 1,200 tonnes to LEO by the time SLS is operational, if the program picks up the pace a bit.

PowerPoints aren't real, Ed.  You should know that.
You should also know 2019 for a test flight of SLS is fiction... 2020 if they are lucky, 2021 more likely... and that carries zero useful payload.  2021 for Block1B... hahaha.

Edit: corrected tonnage -- too high by 10x
« Last Edit: 02/07/2018 09:00 pm by AncientU »
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Offline bob the martian

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Re: The fate of SLS after Falcon Heavy debut
« Reply #19 on: 02/07/2018 08:51 pm »
SLS is a creature of politics, not engineering or economics - the only thing that will kill it is Congress deciding it's no longer worth funding, and that decision won't be made on the basis of FH (or BFR, or NG) capability. 

What will kill SLS is Senator Shelby (and other Space Coast representatives/officials) retiring, dying, or otherwise losing their positions of power, and their replacements deciding to funnel that money to something other than manned spaceflight.  The existence of one or more privately developed systems that can deliver similar payloads for a fraction of the cost won't make a dent.   

SLS is a jobs program, designed to keep certain aerospace workers employed.  Actually using it to put stuff in orbit is a nice side benefit. 

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