Author Topic: Opinion by Jack Schmitt on SLS: The right rocket for the moon and Mars  (Read 5056 times)

Offline yg1968

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The right rocket for the moon and Mars

Apollo astronaut Jack Schmitt makes a detailed case for why NASA's Space Launch System beats the commercial alternatives.

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/06/15/mars-moon-rocket-jack-schmitt-636632
« Last Edit: 06/15/2018 01:38 pm by yg1968 »

Online hopalong

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He is comparing the SLS with the FH, apples and pears?

He should have been comparing the SLS with the BFR, then it looks a bit different.


Offline Coastal Ron

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Mr. Schmitt has a lot of great history that he shares, and my hat is off to him for risking his life to go to the Moon.

However, Mr. Schmitt is being very selective with his justifications, and he is not taking into account modern space technology and techniques.

For instance, he assumes:

A. There is unlimited government money to launch the SLS and Orion
B. That in-space assembly is not to be used
C. That in-space refueling is not to be used
D. That an SLS flight will cost $500M

These are, of course, incorrect assumptions.

He also assumes that all mass has to be sent directly to the Moon, which is true for anything the SLS launches. But as we all know from our experience with the ISS, in-space assembly is within our current capabilities, and can be used to assemble much large payloads that need to be sent to not only our Moon, but to destinations beyond.

Thoughts on his closing arguments:

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Final Thoughts

Human activity in deep space always will be difficult and highly risky relative to now familiar, but still challenging activities in LEO. Performance and mission requirements drive the need for innovative, cutting edge technology and engineering solutions to unprecedented challenges in performance and safety.

While it is true that cutting edge technology may be necessary to open up frontiers, it is commodity technology that expands them. And the SLS and Orion are too niche, and too expensive for the U.S. Taxpayer to fund if the goal is to create a permanent presence at our Moon.

As the over 17 years of constant occupation of LEO has shown, we do know how to build large structures in space using in-space assembly, and we can do in-space refueling. Reverting back to the Apollo model for space exploration will cost more, and it limits us to venturing no further than our Moon.

My $0.02
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 dlapine

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Hmm, there is another error in analysis by Jack Schmidt that I'd note. He assumes that only the "production" version of SLS the block 1B with EUS should be considered for comparison to the current FH. That's fine, but the FH is available today, and the SLS 1B is not scheduled to fly for the first time by what, 2026 now?

Given a decision to make lunar operations a priority and reasonable funding, a man-rated FH could be available by the end of 2020. Giving up 6 years of operations for a potentially more capable vehicle would seem to be sub-optimal.

Online hopalong

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I am wondering if a lot of the industry, especially the 'old timers' just cannot see the BFR and / or New Armstrong coming. It is an OCP to them -

 As defined in Wikipedia -

Outside Context Problem (OCP), the kind of problem "most civilizations would encounter just once, and which they tended to encounter rather in the same way a sentence encountered a full stop."

Sub 'old space' for civilizations.......


Offline notsorandom

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I am wondering if a lot of the industry, especially the 'old timers' just cannot see the BFR and / or New Armstrong coming. It is an OCP to them
How much should one trust the BRF and NA projects when Musk and Bezos deliberately withhold as much information as possible about them? In order to replace SLS with either of them there needs to be a high level of confidence that the projects will succeed as promised. Musk has given a few presentations on BFR, shown some a few seconds of engine tests, and built a large composite test tank. As cool as that stuff is no one can tell from it how far along the project is, how much trouble it is having, how much it will really cost, and if it can even do what he says it will. Bezos has made maybe a few tweets regarding NA that's all we know about it. To be fair though neither company is calling for SLS to be canceled and have the funds given to them. They are not in competition with SLS and thus don't need to be open and transparent enough for us to compare them to SLS.

Offline Rocket Science

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Too bad the ex Apollo astronauts never use their platform to complain about why we haven't gone anywhere using existing capability or from new opportunities...
"The laws of physics are unforgiving"
~Rob: Physics instructor, Aviator, Vintage auto racer

Offline john smith 19

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The right rocket for the moon and Mars

Apollo astronaut Jack Schmitt makes a detailed case for why NASA's Space Launch System beats the commercial alternatives.

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/06/15/mars-moon-rocket-jack-schmitt-636632
I'll just remind people that right now a salvo launch of all major US LV's together will put about 136 tonnes into LEO within 1 week.

All are existing flown designs.
BFS. The worlds first Methane fueled FFORSC engined CFRP structured A380 sized aerospaceplane tail sitter capable of flying in Earth and Mars atmospheres. BFR. The worlds biggest Methane fueled FFORSC engined CFRP stainless steel structured booster for BFS. First flight to Mars by end of 2022. Forward looking statements. T&C apply. Believe no one. Run your own numbers. So, you are going to Mars to start a better life? Picture it in your mind. Now say what it is out loud.

Offline freddo411

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It seems illogical to argue vociferously against assembled structures and turn around and refer to SLS launching Orion and a seperate 10 ton piece.   

The giant fairing and "my pieces are bigger than your pieces" argument is not very compelling in a world where any launch system supporting activities on or near the Moon will be sending many missions.    Multiple pieces are clearly part of any future architecture.

It seems to me that the cost per pound *IS* the correct metric to optimize as long as you can meet a minimum package size delivered.   The previously mentioned 10 tones could be reasonable value.   FH can deliver that.

Offline ChrisWilson68

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I am wondering if a lot of the industry, especially the 'old timers' just cannot see the BFR and / or New Armstrong coming. It is an OCP to them
How much should one trust the BRF and NA projects when Musk and Bezos deliberately withhold as much information as possible about them? In order to replace SLS with either of them there needs to be a high level of confidence that the projects will succeed as promised. Musk has given a few presentations on BFR, shown some a few seconds of engine tests, and built a large composite test tank. As cool as that stuff is no one can tell from it how far along the project is, how much trouble it is having, how much it will really cost, and if it can even do what he says it will. Bezos has made maybe a few tweets regarding NA that's all we know about it. To be fair though neither company is calling for SLS to be canceled and have the funds given to them. They are not in competition with SLS and thus don't need to be open and transparent enough for us to compare them to SLS.

There's no need to know more -- Musk has already provided enough information about BFR for us to know it is a far, far better way to spend money than SLS.

Offline RonM

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I am wondering if a lot of the industry, especially the 'old timers' just cannot see the BFR and / or New Armstrong coming. It is an OCP to them
How much should one trust the BRF and NA projects when Musk and Bezos deliberately withhold as much information as possible about them? In order to replace SLS with either of them there needs to be a high level of confidence that the projects will succeed as promised. Musk has given a few presentations on BFR, shown some a few seconds of engine tests, and built a large composite test tank. As cool as that stuff is no one can tell from it how far along the project is, how much trouble it is having, how much it will really cost, and if it can even do what he says it will. Bezos has made maybe a few tweets regarding NA that's all we know about it. To be fair though neither company is calling for SLS to be canceled and have the funds given to them. They are not in competition with SLS and thus don't need to be open and transparent enough for us to compare them to SLS.

There's no need to know more -- Musk has already provided enough information about BFR for us to know it is a far, far better way to spend money than SLS.

Assuming BFR works as advertised. Once SpaceX succeeds in getting a cargo BFS into orbit, then it will be time to reexamine SLS. There are no guarantees in life, especially in aerospace.

Offline ChrisWilson68

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I am wondering if a lot of the industry, especially the 'old timers' just cannot see the BFR and / or New Armstrong coming. It is an OCP to them
How much should one trust the BRF and NA projects when Musk and Bezos deliberately withhold as much information as possible about them? In order to replace SLS with either of them there needs to be a high level of confidence that the projects will succeed as promised. Musk has given a few presentations on BFR, shown some a few seconds of engine tests, and built a large composite test tank. As cool as that stuff is no one can tell from it how far along the project is, how much trouble it is having, how much it will really cost, and if it can even do what he says it will. Bezos has made maybe a few tweets regarding NA that's all we know about it. To be fair though neither company is calling for SLS to be canceled and have the funds given to them. They are not in competition with SLS and thus don't need to be open and transparent enough for us to compare them to SLS.

There's no need to know more -- Musk has already provided enough information about BFR for us to know it is a far, far better way to spend money than SLS.

Assuming BFR works as advertised. Once SpaceX succeeds in getting a cargo BFS into orbit, then it will be time to reexamine SLS. There are no guarantees in life, especially in aerospace.

Yeah, I agree there are risks.  But what SpaceX has said about BFR already combined with their track record is more than enough evidence, in my opinion, the BFR is a far better bet than SLS.

Offline kraisee

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I seem to recall that about a year before it collapsed, CxP trotted out a few other Apollo astronauts just like this, trying prop-up the failing Ares Program.

I was left with the feeling that they only did it because they were doing someone a big favour by showing support for 'whatever' was the Program of Record, simply because they feared what might happen if it failed.

I've got the utmost respect for all of these guys, but I just can't bring myself to agree with them.

The money will still flow - the politico's will guarantee that - but wouldn't it be a lot better to be backing a thoroughbred horse that would really win, instead of continually supporting these two-legged old dried-up ponies that end up looking embarrassing to even the casual observer?

Ross.
"The meek shall inherit the Earth -- the rest of us will go to the stars"
-Robert A. Heinlein

Offline Coastal Ron

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How much should one trust the BRF and NA projects when Musk and Bezos deliberately withhold as much information as possible about them?

Not sure why "trust" is needed. Believe them or not, it doesn't cost you anything either way.

Quote
In order to replace SLS with either of them there needs to be a high level of confidence that the projects will succeed as promised.

Whoa, not so fast. Replace for what? There are no payloads or missions funded today that can only be lifted by the SLS. None. So there is nothing to "replace".

This seems to be one of the dividing lines between SLS supporters and everyone else, in that SLS supporters ASSUME that there is a set of requirements defined that when compared to all potential launchers that only the SLS meets the requirements. There are no requirements.

And in reality, the normal process for any government proposal would be to set the end requirements and then solicit industry for proposals on how to meet the requirements. So if a lunar outpost was requested, and the U.S. Government wanted it occupied continuously for X number of years, then industry could make proposals for how to accomplish that. NASA would then have the ability to consider all the alternatives, and recommend which approach would be the best combination of meeting the requirement and being affordable.

So far NASA only talks about the requirements, but no one in government talks about cost. Pretty suspicious, huh? Since we're talking about $Billions that could make or break a government budget.

From that standpoint, cost, it's clear that the private sector wins, regardless if it's Musk, Bezos, or existing launch providers. And it's only if SLS specific capabilities are mandated for the elements (regardless if they are really needed or not) where the SLS becomes a viable alternative. Which is how Mr. Schmitt was trying to justify the SLS, by only using criteria that matches the SLS, not criteria where it doesn't.

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Musk has given a few presentations on BFR, shown some a few seconds of engine tests, and built a large composite test tank. As cool as that stuff is no one can tell from it how far along the project is...

Of course you are ignoring that the SLS was mandated by Congress to have "...operational capability for the core elements not later than December 31, 2016." As of today the first operational mission with crew is not slated to launch until 2022, which is 6 years late. And the current trend in SLS schedules has been to slip almost one year for each year that goes by, so who knows what the actual launch date could be. And U.S. Taxpayers are paying for those slips, whereas we don't pay for any delays with the BFR/BFS or New Glenn.

Just to add some perspective...
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 mike robel

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Properly resourced, CxP, Orion, SLS, a Space Shuttle follow on, etc. would have probably all been successful but they weren't.

As Kennedy said at the end of the Rice speech:  "However, I think we're going to do it, and I think that we must pay what needs to be paid. I don't think we ought to waste any money, but I think we ought to do the job. And this will be done in the decade of the sixties. It may be done while some of you are still here at school at this college and university. It will be done during the term of office of some of the people who sit here on this platform. But it will be done. And it will be done before the end of this decade."

And form his speech to Congress:  "Let it be clear--and this is a judgment which the Members of the Congress must finally make--let it be clear that I am asking the Congress and the country to accept a firm commitment to a new course of action, a course which will last for many years and carry very heavy costs: 531 million dollars in fiscal '62--an estimated 7 to 9 billion dollars additional over the next five years. If we are to go only half way, or reduce our sights in the face of difficulty, in my judgment it would be better not to go at all."

(Emphasis mine)


Now we live in a time where we have lowered our sights or perhaps don't have a target at all, the only sacrifice most people are asked to make is to go shopping more, we pass tax cuts and then promptly spend more money, we are waging a 30 - 100 years war, and we think we will gain security by putting a wall up when every other similar wall failed to keep people out and the latest failed and it was meant to keep people in.


So, we get the space program we deserve.  At time I think we should abandon manned space and place more emphasis on unmanned programs.  If Musk and Bezos want to spend their money, this is America - let them do it - they might go bankrupt or they might get richer.  That's the way it is here.  Meanwhile, most of us can look down at our feet instead of up at the stars.
« Last Edit: 06/15/2018 10:33 pm by mike robel »

Offline JH

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Meanwhile, most of us can look down at our feet instead of up at the stars.

Cheer up. There's more than one way to skin a cat. Will you really be bitterly disappointed if you get to space on a privately developed rocket rather than a publicly developed one?

Offline mike robel

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LOL.  I'm quite sure I won't be on one either way.  :)

Offline Coastal Ron

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Now we live in a time where we have lowered our sights or perhaps don't have a target at all...

What? Elon Musk wants to colonize Mars!!! How is THAT lowering our sights.

Or are you just talking about U.S. Government goals in space?

Because we shouldn't confuse the "desire" to do things in space with the "need" to do them. Especially when the U.S. Government has to pay for it with taxpayer money.

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...the only sacrifice most people are asked to make is to go shopping more, we pass tax cuts and then promptly spend more money...

Why are you concerned with what the public thinks? The public did not support the Apollo program except for a brief time around Apollo 11.

I have been advocating that we have reached a natural pause for government funded space exploration, due to a lack of problems that sending government employees into space solves. Sure, the public supports science, but sending humans to the surface of the Moon is not really viewed as "science", and we can accomplish most of the same goals by sending robotic explorers.

This is not a Trump problem - whoever was elected would have faced the same conditions. But Trump has to be clear about his goals, and WHY it is important to our nation. And he has not spent the political capital to explain the WHY we should send humans back to our Moon. Other Presidents have tried and failed, and he will too if he doesn't articulate the WHY better. And notice Congress has not funded a return-to-Moon program yet.

Quote
If Musk and Bezos want to spend their money, this is America - let them do it - they might go bankrupt or they might get richer.  That's the way it is here.  Meanwhile, most of us can look down at our feet instead of up at the stars.

Musk and Bezos (and others) are using their wealth to take what should be the next natural step - that the private sector leads us out into space.

Arguments could be made that governments should own space, but I'm of the opinion that the private sector has more reason to expand humanity out into space - and then of course government will follow. But for now, let those that have the vision AND the resources lead the way. And if I could wave my magic wand, I'd reorient NASA to focus on supporting private space efforts instead of competing with them...
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 MATTBLAK

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Dr Schmitt says in the article: "However, vehicles designed to carry crew to the International Space Station (Dragon-2 and CST-100 Starliner) each weighing between 18 and 20 mT - do not incorporate the additional fuel needed for lunar orbit entry and return to Earth," (snip cut and pasted here)

Does he know that Orion cannot insert itself into low lunar orbit - with or without a LM attached - and have enough delta-v to leave lunar orbit and head back to Earth as well? They would have to increase the small and systems jam-packed Orion Service module's propellant supply by at least 50-60% percent to do all the above.  :(
« Last Edit: 06/17/2018 11:45 am by MATTBLAK »
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Offline AncientU

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The right rocket for the moon and Mars

Apollo astronaut Jack Schmitt makes a detailed case for why NASA's Space Launch System beats the commercial alternatives.

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/06/15/mars-moon-rocket-jack-schmitt-636632

Mr. Schmitt also argued almost the opposite to Eric Berger a few years ago:

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Related. Schmitt, to me, in 2014 regarding the SLS.
"Apollo was sustained because Congress and the country agreed that we ought to do it. It’s not quite so clear now, at least in the Congress, that the motivation is anything more than jobs.”

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More: “Historically the SLS would be putting the cart before the horse. The Saturn V was developed, the Panama Canal was dug, and the Louis and Clark expeditions were done because of an overriding national purpose. ...

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... To accomplish these kinds of purposes, you needed these kinds of technologies. It’s a lot different to say we’re going to build a rocket and then figure out what we’re going to do with it."
https://twitter.com/SciGuySpace/status/1007722413461819392

Tongue in cheek...
Quote
Boeing emailed to make sure that I saw this Politico piece from Harrison Schmitt comparing the Falcon Heavy rocket to an SLS variant (Block 1B) that won't exist before at least 2025 (and will cost ~$5-10b to develop). I did, y'all. Thanks.
https://twitter.com/SciGuySpace/status/1007715155503874049
« Last Edit: 06/16/2018 11:15 am by AncientU »
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