Author Topic: SLS General Discussion Thread 3  (Read 76572 times)

Offline ncb1397

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Re: SLS General Discussion Thread 3
« Reply #360 on: 01/17/2019 06:42 am »
Interesting about the H2 storage tanks.  Tech improvements are good, but I wonder was this part of the original plan for SLS 1st launch or an add in? If part of the original plan it is being constructed quite late.


It is related to improving operability of SLS Block 1 and the additional fuel requirements of Block 1B. A NASA blog post has more details:

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"The larger tank will allow us to attempt SLS launches on three consecutive days," Fesmire said. "In the past, we had to stand down after two attempts so additional liquid hydrogen could be trucked in and loaded into the storage tank."
https://www.nasa.gov/feature/innovative-liquid-hydrogen-storage-to-support-space-launch-system

I don't think this tank will be ready for the first launch.

edit: Want to highlight their crude diagram of IRAS so attached below. Seems like something NASA would want to test on the ground (in space later) for its own sake regardless of attachment to a launch vehicle.

« Last Edit: 01/17/2019 06:58 am by ncb1397 »

Offline Slarty1080

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Re: SLS General Discussion Thread 3
« Reply #361 on: 01/19/2019 02:51 pm »
How badly will the Government shutdown affect the SLS program? Have we reached the point yet where every day the Government is shut down pushes the schedule out a day? Or is that point still in the future? What's the consensus on the delay accrued so far from the shut down?
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Offline Robotbeat

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Re: SLS General Discussion Thread 3
« Reply #362 on: 01/20/2019 02:33 am »
How badly will the Government shutdown affect the SLS program? Have we reached the point yet where every day the Government is shut down pushes the schedule out a day? ...
It may be even worse, actually.


Think about summer vacation for kids. Often, without summer school, not only do kids stand still on their reading and writing skills, but they often actually REGRESS a couple months.

Parts of SLS and Orion were sent to contractors to continue work, but certain things still need NASA. NASA civil servants are deeply involved in all these areas, and there's going to be insane slippage when they get back as NASA folk will need to review EVERYTHING that happened in the meantime (and much of the work may need to be redone). I would bet probably two or three months delay if the shutdown ended right now.
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Offline ZachF

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Re: SLS General Discussion Thread 3
« Reply #363 on: 01/20/2019 02:01 pm »
How badly will the Government shutdown affect the SLS program? Have we reached the point yet where every day the Government is shut down pushes the schedule out a day? ...
It may be even worse, actually.


Think about summer vacation for kids. Often, without summer school, not only do kids stand still on their reading and writing skills, but they often actually REGRESS a couple months.

Parts of SLS and Orion were sent to contractors to continue work, but certain things still need NASA. NASA civil servants are deeply involved in all these areas, and there's going to be insane slippage when they get back as NASA folk will need to review EVERYTHING that happened in the meantime (and much of the work may need to be redone). I would bet probably two or three months delay if the shutdown ended right now.

Also need to factor in during "business as usual" the SLS program seemingly gets pushed back 12-23 hours every day anyways.
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Online spacenut

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Re: SLS General Discussion Thread 3
« Reply #364 on: 01/20/2019 03:19 pm »
Maybe being pushed further to the right would give SpaceX and Blue Origin time to get more done on Starship and New Glenn.  Then if Starship and New Glenn fly in a couple of years, may make the senate and house rethink continuing a now obsolete program.  China, Russia, India, among others have been are are looking into reusable boosters at least.  I still cannot understand why NASA is so slow with this rocket.  We went to the moon in less than 10 years.  Maybe it is two things, lack of money and contractors charging more than they should and stretching out as long as possible work on the SLS. 

Offline Slarty1080

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Re: SLS General Discussion Thread 3
« Reply #365 on: 01/20/2019 04:04 pm »
Sounds to me like there might have been a few weeks of minimal slippage followed by a few weeks of excessive slippage, but by now we must be into 1 day of slip for each day of shut down territory?
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Online Coastal Ron

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Re: SLS General Discussion Thread 3
« Reply #366 on: 01/20/2019 04:30 pm »
Maybe being pushed further to the right would give SpaceX and Blue Origin time to get more done on Starship and New Glenn.  Then if Starship and New Glenn fly in a couple of years, may make the senate and house rethink continuing a now obsolete program.

The SLS is not being built because there was never a commercial option, it is being built at the direction of Congress despite there being commercial options. So having commercial options does not really change anything from the perspective of those in Congress that wanted the SLS built.

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China, Russia, India, among others have been are are looking into reusable boosters at least.

Which has nothing to do with why the SLS is being built.

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I still cannot understand why NASA is so slow with this rocket.  We went to the moon in less than 10 years.  Maybe it is two things, lack of money and contractors charging more than they should and stretching out as long as possible work on the SLS.

NASA is not physically building the SLS, Boeing is. And both NASA and Boeing had to start with the fuzzy product spec that was issued by Congress in Senate bill S.3729.

Remember also that the only specific date for having the SLS operational came and went on December 31, 2016, and Congress did NOT care. So Boeing feels no pressure to move the program along - it's not a fixed-price contract, so they get paid no matter how long it takes to build a safe vehicle.

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We went to the moon in less than 10 years.  Maybe it is two things, lack of money and contractors charging more than they should and stretching out as long as possible work on the SLS.

Yes, we had a VERY specific goal for Apollo, but there is no corresponding need or goal for the SLS. Which pretty much explains everything you've been asking about...
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Offline ZachF

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Re: SLS General Discussion Thread 3
« Reply #367 on: 01/20/2019 04:48 pm »
Maybe being pushed further to the right would give SpaceX and Blue Origin time to get more done on Starship and New Glenn.  Then if Starship and New Glenn fly in a couple of years, may make the senate and house rethink continuing a now obsolete program.  China, Russia, India, among others have been are are looking into reusable boosters at least.  I still cannot understand why NASA is so slow with this rocket.  We went to the moon in less than 10 years.  Maybe it is two things, lack of money and contractors charging more than they should and stretching out as long as possible work on the SLS.

The (unspoken) primary objective of SLS is putting money into those contractors and giving them work to stretch out.
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Offline Proponent

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Re: SLS General Discussion Thread 3
« Reply #368 on: 01/20/2019 05:01 pm »
The SLS is not being built because there was never a commercial option, it is being built at the direction of Congress despite there being commercial options. So having commercial options does not really change anything from the perspective of those in Congress that wanted the SLS built.

I generally agree with your entire post, but I wonder if there aren't a few nuances on this particular point.  Different congresspeople probably have different reasons for supporting or at least not opposing SLS.  Some, like Sen. Shelby, probably support it principally because of the federal money it brings to their constituents and donors.  They will continue to support it even if SpaceX and Blue Origin are launching SLS-sized payloads every week.

Many other supporters probably haven't thought about it much and are on board because they simplistically equate NASA having a big rocket with the glory of Apollo*.  As Blue Origin's and SpaceX's heavy-lift capabilities become more prominent, it will probably begin to occur to these people that SLS may not be the way to go.  The Shelbys will not, of course, take this lying down.  They may dream up NASA-unique requirements that the commercial boosters don't satisfy, argue that government back-up is needed, or suggest other things such as we saw before the ridiculous idea of Orion providing back-up ISS transport finally faded.  And they'll engage in the usual legislative horse-trading:  support SLS, and I'll support your project.  But, in the long run, I think commercial heavy-lift projects are relevant to Congress's view of SLS.


* So they not only fail to ask whether NASA needs its own heavy lifter, they fail to ask whether it needs heavy lift of any kind.
« Last Edit: 01/20/2019 07:38 pm by Proponent »

Online Coastal Ron

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Re: SLS General Discussion Thread 3
« Reply #369 on: 01/21/2019 12:12 am »
I generally agree with your entire post, but I wonder if there aren't a few nuances on this particular point.  Different congresspeople probably have different reasons for supporting or at least not opposing SLS.  Some, like Sen. Shelby, probably support it principally because of the federal money it brings to their constituents and donors.  They will continue to support it even if SpaceX and Blue Origin are launching SLS-sized payloads every week.

Many other supporters probably haven't thought about it much and are on board because they simplistically equate NASA having a big rocket with the glory of Apollo*.

And also because Congress has not reviewed the SLS program since it was created. Congress does not know how much the SLS will cost to operate, and no one has been tracking how much the original estimates were compared to how much the current ones are. You know, basic responsibilities outlined in our constitution that Congress is supposed to be performing.

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As Blue Origin's and SpaceX's heavy-lift capabilities become more prominent, it will probably begin to occur to these people that SLS may not be the way to go...


* So they not only fail to ask whether NASA needs its own heavy lifter, they fail to ask whether it needs heavy lift of any kind.

Well this is the type of periodic assessment that Congress is supposed to do with all major spending programs, but has not yet done with the SLS in it's 8 years of existence.

And I'm not saying such a review will automatically result in any changes, since the House and Senate may not agree on any changes, and the President may not approve of any changes. But such a review, if made public, would be educational...  ;)
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Offline joek

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Re: SLS General Discussion Thread 3
« Reply #370 on: 01/21/2019 01:26 am »
...Well this is the type of periodic assessment that Congress is supposed to do with all major spending programs, but has not yet done with the SLS in it's 8 years of existence.

Not sure what you mean by "Congress" in this context.  Certainly the GAO has done several such assessments, often as requested and required by Congress.  Several over the last few years if memory serves.

Online Coastal Ron

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Re: SLS General Discussion Thread 3
« Reply #371 on: 01/21/2019 02:49 am »
...Well this is the type of periodic assessment that Congress is supposed to do with all major spending programs, but has not yet done with the SLS in it's 8 years of existence.

Not sure what you mean by "Congress" in this context.  Certainly the GAO has done several such assessments, often as requested and required by Congress.  Several over the last few years if memory serves.

The GAO has not been told by NASA how much the SLS will cost to operate, and NASA has not told Congress either. Those are significant costs that have not been identified for future programs, and are important for understanding if the SLS program will achieve whatever Congress wants it to achieve in the future.

And at such a review it would be natural for the cost of operating the SLS to be compared with commercial alternatives, but the real reason for cancelling or keeping the SLS will boil down to whether there are near-term U.S. Government programs that require it's capabilities. As of today there isn't, but that could change - or not.

Hence the need for Congress to review the program, because it's only a couple of years until the SLS will be operational, and there isn't anything for it to launch except for Orion test flights (which needs it's own congressional review too).
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Offline clongton

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Re: SLS General Discussion Thread 3
« Reply #372 on: 01/21/2019 02:37 pm »
How badly will the Government shutdown affect the SLS program? Have we reached the point yet where every day the Government is shut down pushes the schedule out a day? Or is that point still in the future? What's the consensus on the delay accrued so far from the shut down?

Looking back at the snail's pace that government contracting is actually moving on the SLS program I don't think the partial shutdown will have much effect on it. In the absolute best of times they only manage to get up to turtle pace and they even slow-walk that. When the shutdown does finally end I suspect that the program will not even have noticed it.
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Offline UltraViolet9

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Re: SLS General Discussion Thread 3
« Reply #373 on: 01/21/2019 07:56 pm »
How badly will the Government shutdown affect the SLS program? Have we reached the point yet where every day the Government is shut down pushes the schedule out a day? ...
It may be even worse, actually.

Parts of SLS and Orion were sent to contractors to continue work, but certain things still need NASA.

Actually, Boeing stopped work early in the shutdown.  I don't recall the date, but the blurbs in the article below are the first public mention I've seen of those orders:

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Boeing has halted testing for a multibillion-dollar rocket program designed to return astronauts to the moon...

... But no longer is it just smaller federal contractors that are worried. And Boeing is a prime example.

Tests of key components to ensure that the company's Space Launch System rocket can withstand its demanding mission have been halted at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama and Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, Boeing project manager John Shannon told POLITICO. [So] that work has come to a halt during the shutdown," he said.

https://www.politico.com/story/2019/01/20/federal-contractors-shutdown-problems-1100206

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NASA civil servants are deeply involved in all these areas, and there's going to be insane slippage when they get back as NASA folk will need to review EVERYTHING that happened in the meantime (and much of the work may need to be redone). I would bet probably two or three months delay if the shutdown ended right now.

No matter how well managed, any project the size of and with as many moving parts as SLS will suffer substantial disruptions from lengthy workforce furloughs, layoffs, strikes, etc.  I would expect multiple days for each day of furlough as the program ramps back up, workforce holes are identified and filled, and managers reassess and realign all the constituent elements.  If something(s) on the critical path get especially hard hit with key workforce not returning, we could be looking at a week or more per day of furlough.

That said, the managers will use the opportunity to add back margin to the schedule.  So expect slippage over and above that actually caused by the furlough.  Hopefully the NASA IG, GAO, and OMB keep close tabs on this for future reference if/when a future Administration moves to review or terminate.


Offline joek

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Re: SLS General Discussion Thread 3
« Reply #374 on: 01/23/2019 01:21 am »
The GAO has not been told by NASA how much the SLS will cost to operate...

It's not GAO's job to be told by NASA or Congress how much a program will cost.  It is GAO's job to tell them how much the GAO thinks a program will cost.  GAO has reported on it regularly, e.g., see here.

Your beef is not the fact that NASA or Congress has (edit) NOT told the GAO how much SLS will cost, but that NASA and Congress appear to have ignored the GAO reports... and several other unrelated items in your laundry list of complaints (having nothing to do with the actual cost of the SLS program).
« Last Edit: 01/23/2019 01:33 am by joek »

Online Coastal Ron

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Re: SLS General Discussion Thread 3
« Reply #375 on: 01/23/2019 03:05 pm »
The GAO has not been told by NASA how much the SLS will cost to operate...

It's not GAO's job to be told by NASA or Congress how much a program will cost.  It is GAO's job to tell them how much the GAO thinks a program will cost.  GAO has reported on it regularly, e.g., see here.

I never said it was their job. You implied that just having a GAO report was enough information for Congress, and I pointed out that no one outside of NASA knows how much it will cost to fly the SLS in an operational mode.

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Your beef is not the fact that NASA or Congress has (edit) NOT told the GAO how much SLS will cost, but that NASA and Congress appear to have ignored the GAO reports... and several other unrelated items in your laundry list of complaints (having nothing to do with the actual cost of the SLS program).

Wow, you really like throwing darts with your eyes closed...  ;)

My point (not a "beef") is that Congress has not yet been told how much the SLS will cost to operate, and when they do find out that it may change their opinion of the program.

Remember Congress has not fully funded ANY programs that require the SLS, and we are just a mere 3 years away from when the SLS is supposed to be operational - and it normally takes at least 7 years to build small planetary robotic hardware, so there is a HUGE gap between when the SLS will be ready to fly and when payloads will be ready to fly. That will also be assessed in any full Congressional review.

There are a lot of costs related to the SLS program that Congress has not been made aware of, and usually Congress does not like $Billion dollar surprises...
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Offline ncb1397

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Re: SLS General Discussion Thread 3
« Reply #376 on: 01/23/2019 05:17 pm »
Remember Congress has not fully funded ANY programs that require the SLS, and we are just a mere 3 years away from when the SLS is supposed to be operational - and it normally takes at least 7 years to build small planetary robotic hardware

It really doesn't take that long. Psyche was selected in 2017(there was a small investment of a few million dollars prior to that) and has a planned launch in 2022. Lucy was selected at the same time and is targeted to launch a year earlier. Juno took 6 years from selection to launch. New Horizons was even shorter with funding provided in 2002 and a launch date in mid 2006. Osiris Rex was selected in 2011 and launched in 2016. Europa Clipper fits your profile of 7 years plus, having a launch targeted for 2023 with initial funding provided in 2013, but that is somewhat of an odd case where NASA didn't commit to a mission while receiving a budget to the tune of $100 million per year for multiple years.

This should highlight the peculiarity of the situation:

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For the last two years, NASA has been the shy partner refusing to get on the dance floor, and Congress has been the aggressive partner insisting on a dance now. Recently, NASA has said maybe on another night but only if it's a cheap date. While NASA says no for now, Congress looks to be willing to slip the band a cool $100M on top of $150M already paid to keep the music playing, but (to keep the metaphor going) has not been willing to fully commit itself to paying the bigger bill to rent the dance hall.

The dance, of course, is the continuing attempt by Congress to have NASA commit to a mission to explore Europa, and NASA managers' attempts to delay a mission well into the 2020s. NASA is also seeking ideas for alternatives to the current $2B Europa Clipper concept that would cost no more than $1B but that also would presumably be much less capable.
http://www.planetary.org/blogs/guest-blogs/van-kane/20140514-nasas-reluctant-dance-towards-europa.html

Online Coastal Ron

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Re: SLS General Discussion Thread 3
« Reply #377 on: 01/23/2019 10:35 pm »
Remember Congress has not fully funded ANY programs that require the SLS, and we are just a mere 3 years away from when the SLS is supposed to be operational - and it normally takes at least 7 years to build small planetary robotic hardware

It really doesn't take that long.

Most everyone thinks and hopes that the SLS will be used for HSF missions, so my point was that non-HSF mission, which are far less complex, can take 7 years or more. The Mars rovers have taken that long, and the human-rated Orion spacecraft will have taken 18 years by the time it is fully certified to fly crew.

In our modern times, HSF certified hardware has always taken far long to get ready for launch than planned, meaning that the SLS may not actually fly any payloads for years. Congress is already unhappy with the now $10B JWST, so I would not expect them to be thrilled with programs that start at $10B and don't launch for a decade or more.

Not funding payloads for the SLS will just continue to exacerbate the problem the SLS will have when it's ready to be operational - and there will be nothing to launch. At some point someone is going to notice that situation is just a couple of years away, and that will force Congress and the President to do something - either fund payloads quickly and fully, or debate whether the SLS is needed at all.

Either way, Congress has to finally review the SLS program.
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Offline JDTractorGuy

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Re: SLS General Discussion Thread 3
« Reply #378 on: 02/07/2019 12:13 pm »
In his last article Eric Berger reports that the first launch will likely slip into 2021:
Multiple sources have told Ars that while NASA is still targeting sometime later in 2020 for a test launch of the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft, known as Exploration Mission-1, this flight is likely to slip into 2021.
Full article at Ars Technica: https://arstechnica.com/science/2019/02/nasa-still-working-toward-2020-launch-of-massive-sls-rocket/

It seems that SLS is also in "Elon time" or worse ;)

This is getting past ridiculous.  How far is congress going to let this go before someone holds someone at Boeing/NASA accountable for these insane cost and time overruns?

I used to be a big fan on the SLS program a few years ago.  Now it seems like every time I check updates they've slipped more.  Sigh...

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Re: SLS General Discussion Thread 3
« Reply #379 on: 02/08/2019 05:43 am »
My question is simple: where is all this money going? And what's taking so long? Engines are the most expensive and complicated bits of the engine and they didn't even design and build new ones. Over 10 billion spent and nothing to show for it is kind of unacceptable.

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