Will the US waste $100+ billion on SLS, Orion and LOP-G by 2030?

The US could get so much more accomplished in space if they stop wasting money on the Space Launch System, Orion and the Lunar gateway. The US did waste money on the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station. The Space Shuttle was supposed to demonstrate fast reusability but had to have its heat shield reinspected and rebuilt after launches. The Space shuttle cost more than disposable rockets. The SLS will continue that tradition of costing more for no gain. SLS will cost $2-5 billion per launch versus about $20-100 million for SpaceX Falcon Heavy with 4 boosters or a SpaceX BFR.

NASA is planning a 2023 launch of a Block 1 configuration of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. The SLS will circle Earth twice while periodically firing its engines to build up enough speed to push it toward the Moon before looping back to Earth. The SLS will perform a loop around the moon.

NASA is targeting a test SLS and Orion together for the first time without crew for three weeks in 2020.

NASA Space Launch system is reusing and modifying Shuttle rockets and facilities. SLS and Orion will cost the United States more than $30 billion dollars before it has completed a single full launch. This will go over $40 billion by the time the system is ready to launch NASA astronauts.

$14 billion has been spent on the rockets between 2011 and 2018. This does not include billions more spent refurbishing and modifying aging Saturn and Shuttle-derived launch infrastructure at Kennedy Space Center.

Orion’s development has cost the U.S. about $16 billion since 2006. $4-6 billion more will be spent between now and 2023. This does not include the costs of production and operations once development is complete.

The Orion space capsule is NOT capable of landing on the Moon, much less Mars. The capsule can dock with an intermediate orbiting space station off-planet (the Lunar Orbital Platform – Gateway). Operating on the moon or Mars with SLS will require a new lander. The Lunar Orbital Platform – Gateway is an updated version of the International Space Station. The ISS cost $150 billion to build. The Lunar Orbital Gateway will have fewer modules but will easily cost $40 billion.

Boeing and Lockheed own United Launch Alliance. 20% of revenues for Boeing and Lockheed come from space projects.

SLS got $2.15 billion in the fiscal 2018 budget. The Orion crew capsule got $1.35 billion. A total of $3.5 billion in just 2018. Two more years of increasing funding to try to get to the first unmanned test launch in 2020.

In September 2011, the SLS program gave a development cost to the Senate of $18 billion through 2017, with $10 billion for the SLS rocket, $6 billion for the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and $2 billion for upgrades to the launch pad and other facilities at Kennedy Space Center. The original plan was the first unmanned SLS launch in 2017.

The Space Review estimated the cost per launch at $5 billion, depending on the rate of launches.

SpaceX BFR is targeting 2023 for manned lunar orbiting tourist mission

SpaceX is close to completing a new Raptor engine. SpaceX is building parts of the fully reusable SpaceX BFR. Suborbital SpaceX BFR flights will start next year. Unmanned testing will be started before Space Launch System despite development of the BFR starting years after the start of SLS work.

Falcon Heavies could build a moon base in 4 years

Falcon Heavy had a successful flight in February, 2018.

Robert Zubrin detailed creating a moon base within 4 years using a few SpaceX Falcon Heavy missions.

10 kilometer power beaming is a key to creating lunar fuel.

Once we have lunar fuel production, we can use Falcon 9 to launch missions.

He wants to use a lunar vehicle with 6 kilometer per second which can explore most of the moon and directly return to earth orbit.

The Falcon Heavy can lift 60 tons to low Earth orbit (LEO). Starting from that point, a hydrogen/oxygen rocket-propelled cargo lander could deliver 12 tons of payload to the lunar surface.

We therefore proceed by sending two such landers to our planned base location. The best place for it would be at one of the poles, because there are spots at both lunar poles where sunlight is accessible all the time, as well as permanently shadowed craters nearby where water ice has accumulated. Such ice could be electrolyzed to make hydrogen-oxygen rocket propellant, to fuel both Earth-return vehicles as well as flying rocket vehicles that would provide the lunar base’s crew with exploratory access to most of the rest of the moon.

The first cargo lander carries a load of equipment, including a solar panel array, high-data-rate communications gear, a microwave power-beaming set up with a range of 100 kilometers, an electrolysis/refrigeration unit, two crew vehicles, a trailer, and a group of tele-operated robotic rovers. After landing, some of the rovers are used to set up the solar array and communications system, while others are used to scout out the landing area in detail, putting down radio beacons on the precise target locations for the landings to follow.

The second cargo lander brings out a 12-ton habitation module, loaded with food, spare spacesuits, scientific equipment, tools, and other supplies. This will serve as the astronauts’ house, laboratory, and workshop of the moon. Once it has landed, the rovers hook it up to the power supply and all systems are checked out. This done, the rovers are redeployed to do detailed photography of the base area and its surroundings. All this data is sent back to Earth, to aid mission planners and the science and engineering support teams, and ultimately forming the basis of a virtual reality program that will allow millions of members of the public to participate in the missions as well.