Author Topic: SLS requires Advanced Boosters by flight nine due to lack of Shuttle components  (Read 15648 times)


Offline redliox

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Good article, but I am left slightly stunned regarding SLS from it.  :o

Between the need for new engines for both Orion and SLS and now needing new boosters, it clearly shows how the decision to utilize STS i.e. space shuttle heritage parts is backfiring a bit.  However, at the time the decisions were made it wasn't necessarily a bad idea but apparently the workforce and factories, even the ones not based on 1970s traditional shuttle tech, moved on quicker than NASA anticipated.

So I'm guessing that the take-away from this and the prior news bits on Orion and SLS is that, somehow, SLS will have to forcibly evolve to block 2  even before the assumed 2030s timeline.  Almost a good thing, since improved boosters would boost payloads, but a rush job works best if it's properly paid for...which NASA never has been since the Apollo era.

Mostly I'm stunned.
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Offline Coastal Ron

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Good article, but I am left slightly stunned regarding SLS from it.  :o

Between the need for new engines for both Orion and SLS and now needing new boosters, it clearly shows how the decision to utilize STS i.e. space shuttle heritage parts is backfiring a bit.  However, at the time the decisions were made it wasn't necessarily a bad idea but apparently the workforce and factories, even the ones not based on 1970s traditional shuttle tech, moved on quicker than NASA anticipated.

Remember that NASA did not request the SLS or the Orion MPCV - Congress came up with them. And Congress did not ask NASA to do an analysis to determine if utilizing Shuttle heritage components would be practical or a cost savings.

So while issues like this may seem like a surprise, they are to be expected.

Also, issues like this don't affect the future of the SLS or Orion despite any cost increases they may incur because Congress has not shown that they care about the cost of the SLS or Orion. They never approved the SLS or Orion MPCV based on an estimated cost, and they have not asked NASA to provide estimates of the current cost trends.

Which is why the future of the SLS and Orion are not tied to how much they cost, how long they take to fly, or even whether there are lower-cost alternatives. Their future is determined on whether Congress funds payloads and programs that require them - which Congress really hasn't so far.
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Offline redliox

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So while issues like this may seem like a surprise, they are to be expected.

Also, issues like this don't affect the future of the SLS or Orion despite any cost increases they may incur because Congress has not shown that they care about the cost of the SLS or Orion. They never approved the SLS or Orion MPCV based on an estimated cost, and they have not asked NASA to provide estimates of the current cost trends.

Which is why the future of the SLS and Orion are not tied to how much they cost, how long they take to fly, or even whether there are lower-cost alternatives. Their future is determined on whether Congress funds payloads and programs that require them - which Congress really hasn't so far.

So basically as long as Congress doesn't get bored with SLS they would tolerate and keep it going?  Apollo being an example of the last time they got bored or otherwise reprioritized.  Putting it bluntly of course...
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Offline ejb749

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"Orbital ATK’s proposal – nicknamed the “Dark Knights” due to their black casings – builds on their booster legacy, with a motor that is “advanced” on several levels, by “provid(ing) NASA the capability for the SLS to achieve 130 mT capability – the baseline for SLS Block 2 – with significant margin, utilizing a booster that is 40 percent less expensive and 24 percent more reliable than the current SLS booster."

Isn't a 24% reliability improvement enough to justify going to the replacement immediately?

Offline Joffan

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"Orbital ATK’s proposal – nicknamed the “Dark Knights” due to their black casings – builds on their booster legacy, with a motor that is “advanced” on several levels, by “provid(ing) NASA the capability for the SLS to achieve 130 mT capability – the baseline for SLS Block 2 – with significant margin, utilizing a booster that is 40 percent less expensive and 24 percent more reliable than the current SLS booster."

Isn't a 24% reliability improvement enough to justify going to the replacement immediately?

I imagine there is some lead time involved and development required.

24% reliability improvement may not be all that interesting if that improvement is to something that is reliable enough already that it doesn't impact the overall vehicle reliability. A bit like 24% thicker socks don't make you much taller.
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Offline whitelancer64

Good article, but I am left slightly stunned regarding SLS from it.  :o

Between the need for new engines for both Orion and SLS and now needing new boosters, it clearly shows how the decision to utilize STS i.e. space shuttle heritage parts is backfiring a bit.  However, at the time the decisions were made it wasn't necessarily a bad idea but apparently the workforce and factories, even the ones not based on 1970s traditional shuttle tech, moved on quicker than NASA anticipated.

So I'm guessing that the take-away from this and the prior news bits on Orion and SLS is that, somehow, SLS will have to forcibly evolve to block 2  even before the assumed 2030s timeline.  Almost a good thing, since improved boosters would boost payloads, but a rush job works best if it's properly paid for...which NASA never has been since the Apollo era.

Mostly I'm stunned.

You shouldn't be stunned. The use of STS hardware isn't backfiring, either. This is exactly the plan.

Shifting to Advanced Boosters was always going to happen, it's the SLS Block 2.

So also the requirement for new engines for SLS / Orion's SM. There's only so many existing things that can be used up before new things are needed.
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Offline TomH

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With what we were recently hearing about delays with EUS and continuing with iCPS instead, does this portend advanced boosters possibly coming online before EUS?

With reusable first stages now a proven reality, this LV would benefit from a BFB-like reusable S1 booster with a beefed up but shorter SLS core becoming the S2 and using J-2X rather than restarting RS-25.

I used to be a fan of this LV, but even without the big new elephant in the room, it really faces a lot of challenges.

Online clongton

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... and 24 percent more reliable than the current SLS booster."

Isn't a 24% reliability improvement enough to justify going to the replacement immediately?

First: Thank you Chris for the article. It is well written and informative.

Now, I personally consider that statement of a 24% increase in reliability to be suspect in the extreme.
The original booster was already 100% reliable.

The only failure of the booster was caused by NASA mismanagement insisting over the objections of their own safety teams that they fly Shuttle in violation of their own safety standards. The weather was too cold for the segment seals to seal properly. ATK engineers said "don't launch". NASA engineers said "don't launch". NASA safety said "don't launch". So what did NASA do? NASA launched - and lost the vehicle and killed 7 astronauts. That was not the booster's fault. It was NASA managerial stupidity and arrogance.

The booster itself was already 100% reliable. But like any machine there are limits to safe operation. Stay in the limits and we had 100% reliability. You cannot get better reliability than 100%.

It's a bogus statement. There is no such thing as 124% reliability. It's a stupid thing to say. It's an arrogant thing to say. It's the kind of stupidity and arrogance that gets people killed.
« Last Edit: 05/08/2018 10:24 PM by clongton »
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Offline Tomness

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That be cool if SpaceX or ULA/BLUE proposed a Raptor based boosters or Vulcan based Boosters but rockets aren't legos.

Offline faadaadaa

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 Somehow I can only picture the need for evolved boosters as a theoretical one, since I don't expect SLS to get anywhere near nine launches in it's career.  Still though, spend it while you've got it, even if you don't. 

Offline mike robel

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The obvious thing to me is at a flight rate of 1 per year, we have at least 8 years before the new ones are needed.

Assuming no other delays push the flights to a later date.

Offline Lars-J

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8 years (?) now into the SLS program, and we are still 8-9 years away from STS replacement technology (black knight booster) being ready and available. (16 YEARS!) I don't know if I should  ;D or  :'(.

But as others have hinted, this is a *feature* of the program, not a bug. This is how the contractors wanted it. Maximum contracts with minimal deliverables.

« Last Edit: 05/08/2018 10:48 PM by Lars-J »

Offline russianhalo117

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8 years (?) now into the SLS program, and we are still 8-9 years away from STS replacement technology (black knight booster) being ready and available. (16 YEARS!) I don't know if I should  ;D or  :'(.

But as others have hinted, this is a *feature* of the program, not a bug. This is how the contractors wanted it. Maximum contracts with minimal deliverables.


It is not really 8 years for the replacements to be ready to fly rather it is a push by AR, OATK and other companies to clean out through repurpose/reuse and not write off everything leftover from the STS programme. We are talking buildings upon buildings and bunkers upon bunkers that are being occupied at a large cost (in some cases (Life expectancy et al)) that are needed for other current and future programmes.

Offline redliox

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Mostly I'm stunned.

You shouldn't be stunned. The use of STS hardware isn't backfiring, either. This is exactly the plan.

Shifting to Advanced Boosters was always going to happen, it's the SLS Block 2.

So also the requirement for new engines for SLS / Orion's SM. There's only so many existing things that can be used up before new things are needed.

Specifically the SRBs seemed to be the one solid, simple piece of the STS left.  While its parents company merged and changed, it still exists and actively tested 5 segment variations of the SRBs.  It wouldn't seem a stretch to maintain rather than break the molds.

Ultimately of course, everyone's right regarding there's only so much of every kind of hardware to go around.  Block 2 and the advanced boosters, though, were always emphasized to be "in the future" with a date only slightly less vague than the first mission to Mars (even the orbital version).  Thinking that way you'd naturally make optimistic assumptions about OrbitalATK and NASA...

That be cool if SpaceX or ULA/BLUE proposed a Raptor based boosters or Vulcan based Boosters but rockets aren't legos.

In a way that was almost the premise of SLS; specifically the boosters and core of the old STS/shuttle were just the starter lego block set with Orion and EUS being the add-ons.

It would be interesting to see the competition open up in addition to OrbitalATK's automatic entry; Chris' article seems to imply it will happen sooner than expected.

The obvious thing to me is at a flight rate of 1 per year, we have at least 8 years before the new ones are needed.

Assuming no other delays push the flights to a later date.

Correct.  With delays that does mean 10 years after the likely start flight of EM-1 in '20 we'd see Block 2 happen in '30.  That however just depresses me further regarding NASA's HSF.
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Offline Zardar

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It's a bogus statement. There is no such thing as 124% reliability. It's a stupid thing to say. It's an arrogant thing to say. It's the kind of stupidity and arrogance that gets people killed.

Yes, crazy abuse of numbers. They possibly really mean 24% less unreliable, so , for example a 99% reliable rocket would go to ~99.76%  But the less than a percent increase stated that way wouldn't look nearly as impressive.

Offline redliox

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8 years (?) now into the SLS program, and we are still 8-9 years away from STS replacement technology (black knight booster) being ready and available. (16 YEARS!) I don't know if I should  ;D or  :'(.

If it is going to be 9 years for replacements and with previous hints that we may be stuck with Block 1 a while longer, I start to wonder if it'd make more sense to skip 1B and go straight to Block 2 after the STS supplies die out.

I'm losing track on what we have left for inventory on STS parts!  I know we had articles similar to this before with the OMS-now-Orion-engines and STS-now-SLS-core-engines.  How many flights do we have before worrying about gaps in replacements?
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Offline whitelancer64

... and 24 percent more reliable than the current SLS booster."

Isn't a 24% reliability improvement enough to justify going to the replacement immediately?

First: Thank you Chris for the article. It is well written and informative.

Now, I personally consider that statement of a 24% increase in reliability to be suspect in the extreme.
The original booster was already 100% reliable.

The only failure of the booster was caused by NASA mismanagement insisting over the objections of their own safety teams that they fly Shuttle in violation of their own safety standards. The weather was too cold for the segment seals to seal properly. ATK engineers said "don't launch". NASA engineers said "don't launch". NASA safety said "don't launch". So what did NASA do? NASA launched - and lost the vehicle and killed 7 astronauts. That was not the booster's fault. It was NASA managerial stupidity and arrogance.

The booster itself was already 100% reliable. But like any machine there are limits to safe operation. Stay in the limits and we had 100% reliability. You cannot get better reliability than 100%.

It's a bogus statement. There is no such thing as 124% reliability. It's a stupid thing to say. It's an arrogant thing to say. It's the kind of stupidity and arrogance that gets people killed.

Incorrect. There is ALWAYS a risk of failure. They're saying they've improved their risk of failure by 24%.

They didn't say their reliability is 124%, you did.
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Offline whitelancer64

Mostly I'm stunned.

You shouldn't be stunned. The use of STS hardware isn't backfiring, either. This is exactly the plan.

Shifting to Advanced Boosters was always going to happen, it's the SLS Block 2.

So also the requirement for new engines for SLS / Orion's SM. There's only so many existing things that can be used up before new things are needed.

Specifically the SRBs seemed to be the one solid, simple piece of the STS left.  While its parents company merged and changed, it still exists and actively tested 5 segment variations of the SRBs.  It wouldn't seem a stretch to maintain rather than break the molds.

Ultimately of course, everyone's right regarding there's only so much of every kind of hardware to go around.  Block 2 and the advanced boosters, though, were always emphasized to be "in the future" with a date only slightly less vague than the first mission to Mars (even the orbital version).  Thinking that way you'd naturally make optimistic assumptions about OrbitalATK and NASA...

The SRB being used by the SLS effectively isn't the STS SRB. It was significantly redesigned. Practically the only STS thing about it is the external casings. The nose cap, avionics, fuel composition, fuel grain / geometry, aft skirt, and gimbal mechanism were all reworked.

Quote
The obvious thing to me is at a flight rate of 1 per year, we have at least 8 years before the new ones are needed.

Assuming no other delays push the flights to a later date.

Correct.  With delays that does mean 10 years after the likely start flight of EM-1 in '20 we'd see Block 2 happen in '30.  That however just depresses me further regarding NASA's HSF.

That IS a pessimistic number. I would expect NASA to plan for two launches per year and achieve that at least a few times.
"One bit of advice: it is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree -- make sure you understand the fundamental principles, ie the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to." - Elon Musk
"There are lies, damned lies, and launch schedules." - Larry J

Offline whitelancer64

8 years (?) now into the SLS program, and we are still 8-9 years away from STS replacement technology (black knight booster) being ready and available. (16 YEARS!) I don't know if I should  ;D or  :'(.

If it is going to be 9 years for replacements and with previous hints that we may be stuck with Block 1 a while longer, I start to wonder if it'd make more sense to skip 1B and go straight to Block 2 after the STS supplies die out.

I'm losing track on what we have left for inventory on STS parts!  I know we had articles similar to this before with the OMS-now-Orion-engines and STS-now-SLS-core-engines.  How many flights do we have before worrying about gaps in replacements?

None, if the replacements are ready when they are required.
"One bit of advice: it is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree -- make sure you understand the fundamental principles, ie the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to." - Elon Musk
"There are lies, damned lies, and launch schedules." - Larry J

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