NASA: Intense work under way on rocket for future moonshots

NASA: Intense work under way on rocket for future moonshots
People work on the engine section of the core stage of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS), which they say will carry the Orion spacecraft, and ultimately a crew, to the moon and beyond, at the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Friday, June 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Crews are working around the clock at a NASA rocket factory, intent on meeting a new fall 2020 deadline to test launch a mega-rocket designed to propel astronauts to the moon and beyond, a space agency official said Friday.

"I came out here in the middle of the night ... talking to people who were working on the engine section, working hard through the night," NASA Deputy Administrator James Morhard said on a press tour at New Orleans' Michoud Assembly Center .

He said the core assembly—or Space Launch System—is 80 percent complete, with one of five sections still under assembly.

If all goes well, the often-delayed Artemis 1 is expected take place in fall 2020, though no launch date has been announced. Plans call for the rocket to carry an uncrewed Orion capsule aloft before the engines are jettisoned 8 minutes and 14 seconds out. The capsule is then to make a double loop around the during 25½ days in flight, NASA has said.

Officials said no commercial rocket, current or planned, is as powerful as the Space Launch System, which will carry a load three times as heavy as the space shuttle could handle. They also called it a new approach to reaching the moon, unlike the Apollo missions decades ago.

"The exciting part is this is not going to be done like Apollo ... where we put a flag on the moon and left," said Lionel Dutreix, deputy chief operations manager at Michoud. "We're going to keep returning to the moon and use it as a technical base and knowledge to go on to Mars. We've got to make sure this rocket will meet those needs."

  • NASA: Intense work under way on rocket for future moonshots
    A man walks underneath the core stage for NASA's Space Launch System (SLS), which they say will carry the Orion spacecraft, and ultimately a crew, to the moon and beyond, at the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Friday, June 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
  • NASA: Intense work under way on rocket for future moonshots
    Workers lift a welded section of a core stage for NASA's Space Launch System (SLS), which they say will carry the Orion spacecraft, and ultimately a crew, to the moon and beyond, at the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Friday, June 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
  • NASA: Intense work under way on rocket for future moonshots
    NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold waits to address media during a preview of the core stage for NASA's Space Launch System (SLS), which they say will carry the Orion spacecraft, and ultimately a crew, to the moon and beyond, at the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Friday, June 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
  • NASA: Intense work under way on rocket for future moonshots
    Workers prepare to lift a welded section of a core stage for NASA's Space Launch System (SLS), which they say will carry the Orion spacecraft, and ultimately a crew, to the moon and beyond, at the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Friday, June 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
  • NASA: Intense work under way on rocket for future moonshots
    A television journalist films a test core stage for NASA's Space Launch System (SLS), being readied to transport on a barge for testing, at the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Friday, June 28, 2019. They say the SLS will carry the Orion spacecraft, and ultimately a crew, to the moon and beyond, (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
  • NASA: Intense work under way on rocket for future moonshots
    NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold waits to address media during a preview of the core stage for NASA's Space Launch System (SLS), which they say will carry the Orion spacecraft, and ultimately a crew, to the moon and beyond, at the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Friday, June 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
  • NASA: Intense work under way on rocket for future moonshots
    People work on the engine section of the core stage of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS), which they say will carry the Orion spacecraft, and ultimately a crew, to the moon and beyond, at the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Friday, June 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

The rocket isn't reusable because, under current plans, it would cost more to recover and refurbish the engine assembly than to build anew, Dutreix said.

In December, the giant rocket is to be transported on the NASA barge Pegasus to Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama for testing. When topped with the Orion spacecraft and its , it will stand 322 feet (98 meters) high—taller than the Statue of Liberty but shorter than the Saturn V rocket that launched the Skylab space station and the Apollo program that carried men to the moon.

The rocket section currently being assembled at Michoud will hold four RS-25 engines of the kind that propelled space shuttles.

NASA: Intense work under way on rocket for future moonshots
Media and employees view four RS-25 engines, formerly used for space shuttle missions, that will be used for the core stage of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS), which they say will carry the Orion spacecraft, and ultimately a crew, to the moon and beyond, at the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Friday, June 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

The engines were visible at Michoud, with bright red covers marked "THIS SIDE FACES AFT" covering their wide back ends. Officials said NASA has another dozen for further Artemis missions, with six more under contract.

Asked whether $20 billion to $30 billion was an accurate figure for cost overruns on the program, the deputy administrator said, "I'm not going to stand here and give an exact budget."

Morhard also wouldn't say whether he expects NASA to get the $1.6 billion 2020 budget addition requested by President Donald Trump for exploration.

"The House added $1.3 billion for science programs. The Senate hasn't marked up the bill. I'm waiting to see what the Senate does," he said.


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Jun 29, 2019
Lionel Dutreix is incredibly disingenuous if not insulting if he thinks Apollo didn't do more than "put a flag on the Moon and left". What a rotten thing to say.

He ought to know full well Apollo did considerably more than that. And they did it all from SCRATCH within 8 years, starting with zero experience in spaceflight, which is considerably more than what SLS and its progenitors can ever aspire to.

Jun 29, 2019
The Apollo program cost the equivalent of $150 billion in 2019 dollars. Trump's $1.6 billion is less than 1% of what it will likely cost to do it again.

They are smoking crack if they think $30 Billion is a cost "overrun."

Rather, 1% is about the minimum it takes to pretend they are going to do it and have enough planning and "testing" stuff to write BS articles about.

HTK
Jun 29, 2019
NASA supposedly one of the most intelligent employees are building 1 time use disposable rockets. LOL! So they are willing to spend billions per launch? Scrap this crap and use SpaceX. Better investment. Faster investment. It is not sustainable. ~What a waste of tax payer money.

Jun 30, 2019
Sheeee-it. We are talking 'bout the cash-to-BBQ pipeline!!! Not nobody is gonna stand there and put a number on that budget. Hell naw!

Jun 30, 2019
Scrap this crap and use SpaceX. Better investment. Faster investment. It is not sustainable. ~What a waste of tax payer money.


Even something like ULA Vulcan + ACES would be much cheaper and ultimately capable of much higher flight rates and even reuse of first stage engine bay. SLS is a last century rocket design that is still being pushed for political, not technical reasons.

https://spacenews...acility/

Jun 30, 2019
Just rebuild the Saturn V. Why re-invent the wheel and RISK problems? Better than begging hat in hand to Russia or using creepy Elon Musk and "Space-X."

Jun 30, 2019
NASA supposedly one of the most intelligent employees are building 1 time use disposable rockets. LOL! So they are willing to spend billions per launch? Scrap this crap and use SpaceX. Better investment. Faster investment. It is not sustainable. ~What a waste of tax payer money
SLS and Orion are milspec. NASA is, was, and always has been a military agency. Its vehicles are military. Its missions are recce. It establishes forward bases and bridgeheads like the ISS and the lunar gateway.

And like other military vehicles and systems, they anticipate and incorporate the latest tech as they are being developed. If they didn't they would be obsolete before they got off the ground.

So of course they are typically over budget. Of course their schedules slip. Ocean liners are easier to build than nuclear subs. The world needs both if we are to settle the moon and mars, and protect those settlements.

Jun 30, 2019
Interesting that they get questioned on reusability, since only one rocket is partially reusable since NASA abandoned its own partially reusable system.

Speaking of systems, the SLS will be less powerful than the Starship/SuperHeavy combo when it goes interplanetary by being refueled in later versions. In its commercial non-refueled LEO version it targets commercial 2021 [ https://spacenews...-launch/ ], which would be the same year that SLS Artemis 1 test flight likely slips to.

But as for "the most powerful rocket" the Starship booster will have it beat. The SLS 1 has a lift off thrust of max 40 MN [ https://en.wikipe...h_System ] while Starship will lift off with max 62 MN [ https://en.wikipe...er_Heavy ]. The refueled Starship can transport 100 humans and 100 mt cargo to Mars, the SLS can transport 26 mt cargo to Mars [ https://www.nasa....iew.html ].

Jun 30, 2019
disingenuous


That is the political outcome of such press tours, they cannot admit to shortcomings and they will not compare apples with apples (SLS is an unsustainable runt compared to Starship, it is specifically targeted for general cis-lunar travel and cannot even do Moon as well as Apollo (cannot meet the ascent stages).

Jun 30, 2019
Isn't it a fair assumption that a rocket that is built to be reusable would be better built than one that is not, since it needs to be reliable enough to be used many times. My guess is that its cheaper if its a "just use once, then trash it".

At least the shuttles were reused.

Jun 30, 2019
They could be at the moon in less than a year if they scrapped SLS & just used the Falcon Heavy. But this is what happens when you have congress critters meddling in NASA's affairs, specifically the Republicans from AL
/LA + Marshal/Stennis flight centers who keep pushing the outdated SLS pork.

The shuttles may have been "reusable" but you had tear them apart. Engines had to be completely disassembled, which was both expensive and time consuming because the RS-25 is probably the most complicated engine ever created (but it is also one of the best). The shuttle was also a death trap, if you strike a bird or a piece of foam at launch and a tile is taken out, you've got big problems. Spaceflight is always a gamble but the design of the space shuttle made it especially dangerous.

Also, who cares if Elon is creepy? That is one of the most idiotic reasons to not give a very successful company your business. Most techy folks are creepy in some way. My best advice is to get over it.

Jul 01, 2019
Just rebuild the Saturn V. Better than using creepy Elon Musk and "Space-X."


Quoted for utter stupidity. Saturn V was almost as expensive per launch and per ton to orbit as SLS. It was a fine rocket for its time and served its purpose well, but rocketry has moved on in half a century since then.

Jul 01, 2019
Expect the SLS to be cancelled

Jul 02, 2019
Expect the SLS to be cancelled
It is currently the only purely military deep space option existing, which means it won't get cancelled.
Speaking of systems, the SLS will be less powerful than the Starship/SuperHeavy combo when it goes interplanetary by being refueled in later versions
Orbital refueling presents a tactical weakspot, another indication of the true nature of SLS and orion. The escape system includes complete shroud coverage of Orion during ascent which offers protection from lasers, shrapnel, and small arms. Yet more evidence-

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