Space Launch System first unmanned launch Dec 2019 or more likely mid-2020

NASA is providing an update on the first integrated launch of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft after completing a comprehensive review of the launch schedule. The new launch date for an unmanned first flight of the Space Launch System is Dec, 2019. This is NASA’s stretch goal target rather than June 2020 which is what the review expects will happen.

A congressman expressed disappointment and implied going to other unstated options. The unstated option is of course Spacex.

Almost $10 billion was spent on the SLS program from 2011 to 2016. The first unmanned launch had been planned for 2017. Slipping to 2020 with a $2 billion per year spend from 2017-2020 means about $17 billion to get to a first unmanned launch.

22 thoughts on “Space Launch System first unmanned launch Dec 2019 or more likely mid-2020”

  1. Since FH is not a program of record I don’t think NASA could bank on it till the service was up and running. Now that, 4 years late, FH is about to become other than “aspirational” we can start talking about what to do with the money savings. Obviously there is some Mars and Moon groundwork and missions that can and should be done.

    If heavy lifting is about to become cheapish than maybe we can do some interesting side missions as well. Like putting up a variable gravity station. I was thinking two modules connected by a tether that simulates gravity. If ISS has proven anything it is that zero G is bad for us.

    I think the next logical step in that inquiry is to build a laboratory that simulates gravity by using centrifugal force and find out does that solve the problems of zero G? Also, we need to know things like is ⅓ gravity good enough? Kind of important before we send people to live on a planet with ⅓ gravity for 2 years or longer.

    There are also questions that would be interesting to find out. How many spins a minute can we get away with? 1, 2 or even 6. This drastically affects the radius that is between the two rotation habs. . .

  2. NASA – do something useful, like a megawatt class space qualified nuclear reactor. Or pioneer an LEO fuel depot.

  3. Scrap Scrap Scrap and start working on a realistic next gen launch system. If you don’t have anything to offer that SpaceX and Blue Origin are going to do then play a supporting role only.

    • I object to using SpaceX and Blue Origin in the same sentence. Blue Origin has much to prove before it can be considered a near pear to SpaceX.

      • Blue O is not constrained by having to make current profit. All of their activity is long range R&D, with O’Neill as a guide. Two dramatic advantages!

  4. I’m sure they will do their best to avoid launching after BFR does by 2021-2022. But as crack addicts, they make no promises about relinquishing those nice billions in cost overruns per year.

    Yes, I know 2022 is just Elon’s aspirational schedule but oh boy, that would be shameful (for SLS pushers) if it happened.

    • Falcon Heavy is not much off on what SLS Block 1 can do. So, we dont even need BFR to compete with SLS. SLS Block 2 would be more comparable to BFR, but thats not scheduled for its first flight until 2029. 12 years from now. Anyone want to lay odds on that happening?

      Musk doesnt have to get BFR flying in the next 5 years.. he has 10 years to do it.

      • I concur Elon Musk doesn’t have to rush BFR, but as per the look of things, he wants to in order to achieve his lifelong goal of retiring and dying on Mars (just not on impact).

        This situation gives some leeway to the delivery of BFR, so I expect SpaceX will have it tested and flying way before 2029. Probably as early as 2024.

        • I think NASA would need to atleast highly consider just contracting to SpaceX if FH delivers on half of what Musk said it would. Think about it – Literally since Obama told NASA to work on SLS here is what SpaceX has done:

          – Launched Falcon 1
          – Launched Falcon 9
          – Launched Dragon to the ISS – Multiple Times
          – Landed Falcon 9 – Multiple Times
          – Reflew Falcon 9
          – Built Falcon Heavy – And if the timeline holds – Launched in December

          I’m sure i’m missing a bunch also – Thats remarkable. If NASA had done that, they would be the darling of the Federal Government. At the least SpaceX earned street cred, and should be trusted to build something bigger.. even if it means giving them money earmarked for SLS.

  5. $10 billion on development *already* and that was only half way through? Need I remind you that if this were SpaceX throwing around that kind of dough, we’d already have a transdimensional Martian slipspace colony.

  6. 10 times more time, 10 times more money and ten times too late. Come on NASA. After YEARS of seeing rocket boosters falling down and burning down to earth I don’t know why they couldn’t figure out how to save money and do what Spacex and OTHER rocket companies are doing now. “Hey let’s save some money by recovering boosters !!!!…. naaaaaa why ??? more money comes. the happier we are”

    • Kill the sweetheart contract, cost-plus rocket launcher business driven by politicians through NASA.

      JPL, NIAC and other more basic R&D parts of NASA are OK.

    • NASA is fine. Asking NASA to build a rocket when the private sector can do it better is the problem. Let NASA focus on Science, probes, rovers, next gen propulsion, research, etc.. Dont ask them to build a commodity rocket, they will suck at it.

      • Nah, I think it will die in the next 2 years.. Once FH is stable there is no need for SLS Block 1. They have almost the same throw weight, and one is $100m to launch, and the other $1B. Not even to mention NASA doesnt even have anything to put on it aside from Orion which could easily work on a F9, Delta, or Atlas.

        Once FH is stable I see Musk taking a trip to Congress and calling NASA out on this.

        • You are assuming the point of SLS is to do some useful space-related job.
          It’s not. The point is to dole out tax payer money to voters.

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