Author Topic: Opinion by Jack Schmitt on SLS: The right rocket for the moon and Mars  (Read 4955 times)

Offline Proponent

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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.

I agree completely that it would be a mistake for NASA to cross its fingers and base its plans on the hope that BFR or NA will arrive on schedule and with the advertised capabilities.

But if NASA actually needs an SLS-sized rocket -- and that has never been established (if you think it has, please identify the study in which NASA reached this conclusion), then it should compare SLS with the alternative of buying equivalent launch services from American industry (that's never been done either; again, if you disagree, please show us the study).  If NASA concluded that buying launch services was preferable, then it could sign a legally binding contract with a suitable company.  There would be no need to "trust" and hope that that the company would deliver on its marketing hype.

All of the above is subject to the caveat that some of the key decisions are outside of NASA's control.  But the point is that the credibility of SpaceX's and Blue Origin's non-enforceable marketing pitches is irrrelevant.

Offline john smith 19

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But if NASA actually needs an SLS-sized rocket -- and that has never been established (if you think it has, please identify the study in which NASA reached this conclusion), then it should compare SLS with the alternative of buying equivalent launch services from American industry (that's never been done either; again, if you disagree, please show us the study).  If NASA concluded that buying launch services was preferable, then it could sign a legally binding contract with a suitable company.  There would be no need to "trust" and hope that that the company would deliver on its marketing hype.
This remains the question for an SLS payload.

What needs both a 130tonne mass in a 10m faring?

I've seen 3 real applications that would need this sort of capability. They are
1) A big space nuclear electric (or mechanical shaft) reactor. Not 10Kw, 10 (or a 100) MW. Nuclear ship sized. AFAIK there is no budget for this at all.
2) A really big single piece telescope mirror. Bigger than JWST. AFAIK there is no budget for this either.
3) A single piece heat shield to do aerocapture into say Mars orbit, without retro slow down.AFAIK there is no budget for this either, and of course if HIAD works out very large heat shields can be packed into existing PLF's. 
Aerocapture (aerobraking has already been demonstrated) is a serious enabler of settlement (or "force multiplier" if  you have a more military turn of mind), by cutting the needed propellant to circularize into Mars orbit on arrival (or Earth return) a lot (at 1:1 trading propellant for anything else).

BTW Vulcan (with the BE-4 option) is 5.4m in dia. Jon Goff mentioned ULA had done fairing studies which were up to 1.89x bigger than a rockets core diameter. That would mean a Vulcan could launch a 10.2m dia fairing (although no one's funded them to do so AFAIK). Obviously nowhere near the payload mass of SLS but again, what actually needs that mass in a single lump?

Once you know that most of any deep space mission is the propellant to get it there you start asking yourself "Do I really need such a big new vehicle to do this?" Really?

BTW for anyone who's thinking "Yeah, but BFS is huge" without on orbit propellant loading it would much bigger. BFS is big because Musk and SX don't want a flags and footprints mission, they want to set up a whole settlement.  NASA's DRA 5.0 is simply irrelevant from their PoV.
« Last Edit: 06/16/2018 06:17 PM by john smith 19 »
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 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 Endeavour_01

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

I think if you read the quotes that AncientU posted it seems that Schmitt wasn't arguing against SLS itself. He was arguing against the then current policy of not using it for a specific purpose. The strategy at that time was, "we'll build the rocket and then figure out what to do with it since we can't go back to the Moon cause we have been there before."

The situation today is different. The moon is no longer verboten and SLS has a specific role to play with the LOP-G going forward.
I cheer for both NASA and commercial space. For SLS, Orion, Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy, Dragon, Starliner, Cygnus and all the rest!
I was blessed to see the launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour on STS-99. The launch was beyond amazing. My 8-year old mind was blown. I remember the noise and seeing the exhaust pour out of the shuttle as it lifted off. I remember staring and watching it soar while it was visible in the clear blue sky. It was one of the greatest moments of my life and I will never forget it.

Online Coastal Ron

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I think if you read the quotes that AncientU posted it seems that Schmitt wasn't arguing against SLS itself. He was arguing against the then current policy of not using it for a specific purpose. The strategy at that time was, "we'll build the rocket and then figure out what to do with it since we can't go back to the Moon cause we have been there before."

Remember though that it was Congress who mandated the SLS, not Obama. So it was Congress who was, according to Schmitt, just building the SLS as a jobs program:

Quote
"Apollo was sustained because Congress and the country agreed that we ought to do it. Its not quite so clear now, at least in the Congress, that the motivation is anything more than jobs.

The situation today is different. The moon is no longer verboten and SLS has a specific role to play with the LOP-G going forward.

Deciding that the next goal of the United States was to go to Mars is not the same as saying we could never return to our Moon.

And this new initiative for returning to our Moon is far from clear:

- What are the objectives?
- How long is the effort?
- How is "success" measured?
- What is the outcome we want?

As to whether the SLS is the right rocket, that depends on the answers to these questions.

In the meantime Congress has not funded a return-to-the-Moon program, only funded looking into it. Which isn't much different than what was going on during Obama's administration...
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 Endeavour_01

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Remember though that it was Congress who mandated the SLS, not Obama. So it was Congress who was, according to Schmitt, just building the SLS as a jobs program:

Sure, but the initial Obama plan (at least on the deep space side) was even worse than that. There were zero plans for manned spaceflight in deep space aside from spending money on nebulous "game changing technologies". A flawed plan to move forward was better than no plan at all.

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Deciding that the next goal of the United States was to go to Mars is not the same as saying we could never return to our Moon.

Re-read your history. The President said we weren't going back to the Moon because we had "been there before". The Obama administration was clear that the moon was no longer a target for NASA.

Quote
In the meantime Congress has not funded a return-to-the-Moon program, only funded looking into it. Which isn't much different than what was going on during Obama's administration...

Actually they have funded the LOP-G to the tune of $500 Million. That is in addition to the funds allocated to SLS/Orion. Not as much as needed to be sure but it is a good start. This current direction is more solid than the Journey to Mars ever was.
I cheer for both NASA and commercial space. For SLS, Orion, Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy, Dragon, Starliner, Cygnus and all the rest!
I was blessed to see the launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour on STS-99. The launch was beyond amazing. My 8-year old mind was blown. I remember the noise and seeing the exhaust pour out of the shuttle as it lifted off. I remember staring and watching it soar while it was visible in the clear blue sky. It was one of the greatest moments of my life and I will never forget it.

Online AncientU

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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.

I agree completely that it would be a mistake for NASA to cross its fingers and base its plans on the hope that BFR or NA will arrive on schedule and with the advertised capabilities.
...

Much less likely that SLS (the Boeing Rocket) would arrive on schedule and with advertised capabilities if all NASA did was cross its fingers and base its plans on hope.  Contract for a BFR (or a BFR launch per year) and see what happens.

Better yet, contract for each an SLS Block 2 and a BFR per year starting 2021 and see what happens -- of course, contract conditions with Boeing and SpaceX would be identical.  Cash on delivery; same dollars per tonne on orbit for each.
« Last Edit: 06/17/2018 11:44 AM by AncientU »
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Offline clongton

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It is painfully obvious to me that Jack Schmitt has created a PR document for NASA/SLS without sufficient regard for what is real and what is not. There are too many things he stated that are simply wrong. There are too many cases where he ignores an alternative that invalidates his statements. And most glaring of all is that he bases his argument on the use of a commercial rocket that was never designed for nor intended to go the moon, the Falcon Heavy. Neither SLS nor BFR actually exist as an operational vehicle yet. While SLS is further along in development than BFR, the way SLS development is going BFR will likely fly before SLS. THAT should have been the comparison vehicle, not Falcon Heavy, a vehicle that was designed for earth orbit medium lift, not lunar heavy lift. For all I know this entire thing was authored by NASA PR and handed to Jack Schmitt for him to sign and deliver because that sure is what this looks like.
« Last Edit: 06/17/2018 01:54 PM by clongton »
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Online AncientU

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It is painfully obvious to me that Jack Schmitt has created a PR document for NASA/SLS without sufficient regard for what is real and what is not. There are too many things he stated that are simply wrong. There are too many cases where he ignores an alternative that invalidates his statements. And most glaring of all is that he bases his argument on the use of a commercial rocket that was never designed for nor intended to go the moon. Neither SLS nor BFR actually exist as an operational vehicle yet. While SLS is further along in development than BFR, the way SLS development is going BFR will likely fly before SLS. THAT should have been the comparison vehicle, not Falcon Heavy, a vehicle that was designed for earth orbit medium lift, not lunar heavy lift. For all I know this entire thing was authored by NASA PR and handed to Jack Schmitt for him to sign and deliver because that sure is what this looks like.

MSFC/Boeing PR
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Offline IRobot

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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, 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.
Going against the flow (and Neil Degrasse Tyson), I believe that NASA is properly funded. The problem is in how it spends the money. Divert the SLS+Orion funding to payload development and there is enough money.

The big question is if NASA can maintain its budget when SLS and Orion are discard. I don't believe so.

Online Coastal Ron

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Sure, but the initial Obama plan (at least on the deep space side) was even worse than that. There were zero plans for manned spaceflight in deep space aside from spending money on nebulous "game changing technologies". A flawed plan to move forward was better than no plan at all.

Not "nebulous". From the FY2011 Budget Estimates:
Quote
1. Technology demonstration program, $7.8 billion over five years.
Funds the development and demonstration of technologies that reduce the cost and expand the capabilities of future exploration activities, including in-orbit refueling and storage.

I know SLS supporters can't overtly support in-space refueling and fuel depots because it diminishes the need for the SLS, but if humanity wants to expand out into space we can't do it with single-launch architectures like the SLS.

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Re-read your history. The President said we weren't going back to the Moon because we had "been there before". The Obama administration was clear that the moon was no longer a target for NASA.

Right, because we were moving on to Mars. Show me where Obama declared that the United States could never return to our Moon? It's time to bury this meme...

But since NASA can barely focus on one HSF program at a time, and Congress does not lavish funds on NASA, the President chose ONE destination to focus NASA's efforts on. And this is actually better than what we have today, since NASA still says it's going to Mars, but then also has to say it's returning to our Moon - they are not complementary destinations.

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Actually they have funded the LOP-G to the tune of $500 Million.

I think you have a pretty low threshold for saying something is funded, since none of this money results in flight hardware. Which means Congress has only funded research into a potential future program, not the program itself. NASA spends a lot of money on proposals that never turn into programs, which is why no one should automatically correlate the two.

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That is in addition to the funds allocated to SLS/Orion.

The SLS and Orion are transportation systems that were funded by Congress before any beyond-LEO needs were identified, so you can't count their funding towards a return-to-Moon program. Congress wants the SLS and Orion regardless whether there is an actual need for them.

This is especially true since a LOP-G could be built and supported using existing commercial launchers. So the SLS is not critical to the U.S. leaving LEO - even the Orion is replaceable in the near-term.

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This current direction is more solid than the Journey to Mars ever was.

Well, THAT'S a low bar...  ;)

However since the end of the Apollo program there have been many efforts to return to our Moon or move on to Mars. So far this current effort is no greater than what they did, and in many ways far less. And all of those were cancelled due to cost and lack of defined need.

So until Congress OFFICIALLY funds a return-to-Moon program, like they did with the Constellation program, a return-to-Moon program does not exist. Only research into such efforts exists. The two are not the same.
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

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