SpaceX Heavy Best Option to Replace SLS for EM-1 Mission in 2020

SpaceX also has the second mission for the Falcon Heavy scheduled for April, 2019. There should be a third Falcon Heavy mission a few months later. If NASA is serious about completing the Exploration Mission-1 in June 2020, then SpaceX could be the only option. The Space Launch System will not be ready for its first launch in 2020 and could easily slip to 2022 or 2023. The Delta IV Heavy would be better to launch the Orion capsule because it has the same upper stage as the Space Launch System (SLS). However, it would probably take two years for a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy to be prepared for launch. It seems only SpaceX has the flexibility and responsiveness to make the adjustments for the two heavy launches that would be needed for Exploration Mission-1 in 2020. SpaceX would need to make quite a few modifications. They would need a larger faring and they would need to adapt the upper stage. It seems SpaceX can complete the greater amount of work on the NASA schedule while ULA would not be able to get a Delta IV Heavy together on short notice. If SpaceX shows they can launch the SLS mission with two Falcon Heavy launches and the Europa mission with an extra gravity assist then there would be no reason for the much more expensive SLS.
SOURCES- NASA Written By Brian Wang

22 thoughts on “SpaceX Heavy Best Option to Replace SLS for EM-1 Mission in 2020”

  1. I’d guess that a major piece of the investigation right now is whether they can pry one of the D4Hes away from NROL. If they can’t, I doubt that any change will be made.

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  2. It’s bad politics and bad strategy not to help Bridenstine kill SLS, which, make no mistake, is what this is about.

    Hahahahahahah! Right.

    Bridenstine is political TOAST if this is what it is really all about. Toast.

    So, it’s not what it is all about. Musk Fluffing Fantasy Football should be what NBF is called from here on out, jeeez.

    SLS will be around no matter that happens. Period.

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  3. Maybe nasa can fool the general public by changing the acronym to that… ohh yes… umm… we didn’t waste tax funds on a black hole project that never attains its goal… it all went to “spacex launch systems” … (crossing fingers)

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  4. i heard some guy in a YouTube video claiming to be a nasa dude describing a change of directions on sls that sounded a bit like starship…. like we don’t need the biggest sls rocket now…we can refuel in orbit…and then continue on out merry way…

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  5. Yeah, but those were already spoken for in the sense that production was already scheduled. ULA isn’t planning on making any new DIV-H beyond the currently spoken for production lot, and have announced they will wind down and close the line. ULA is effectively all in on Atlas-V, so all this DIV-H talk is theoretical unless ULA get money pronto to add a few more to the end of the current batch. That said, Tory Bruno says they’ve gotten DIV-H prep from 25 months down to 15, so if they do get the money right now, they might make the 2020 window.

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  6. The prize is eliminating any reason for SLS, it’s cancelation and it’s budget going to missions SpaceX can bid on.

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  7. No dragon. After rendezvous, a no-payload FHE has enough prop left in the S2 to put an Orion (launched on D4H) in TLI.

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  8. All they need to do is slap a docking ring on an FH S2 payload attach fitting and launch it empty to rendezvous with the Orion (launched on a D4H). It’s almost trivial.

    It’s bad politics and bad strategy not to help Bridenstine kill SLS, which, make no mistake, is what this is about.

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  9. The minimum EM-1 mission is 18 days, and Orion’s design life is 21 days. Unless SpaceX can turn around two FH launches on LC-39A in three days, a double FH mission isn’t going to happen. If EM-1 is going commercial, it’ll be on one FH and one D4H.

    If I had to guess, somebody will prevail on the NRO to re-host one of the two D4H missions they’ve got in the pipeline to FH, freeing 3 cores for the EM-1 launch.

    Here’s the easiest, most viable mission:

    1) D4H launches Orion to a 185×700 parking orbit.

    2) FHE (expendable) with no payload launches about 90 minutes later. FH S2 has an NDS docking ring attached to the payload attach fitting.

    3) FH S2 rendezvous with the Orion.

    4) Orion does nose-to-nose dock with FH S2 using NDS.

    5) FH S2 has enough prop from launch to send Orion to TLI.

    Work items:

    a) Hosting LAS+Orion+ESM+ESM Fairings+Orion Stage Adapter on the DCSS. This should be almost zero work, since DCSS and ICPS are almost the same stage. (Alternative: Replace DCSS with ICPS on the D4H, which would likely be slightly more work, but might be desirable to test ICPS/Orion interaction.)

    b) Work out the rendezvous and docking sequence. This is by far the hardest thing, because the FH S2 mission life is only about 6 hours. The Russians have done 4-hour rendezvous/dock operations with ISS, but NASA never has.

    c) Verify that Orion can be boosted backwards. Worst-case acceleration is about 11 m/s^2.

    It’s pretty easy.

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  10. Orion isn’t Boeing’s. It’s Lockheed Martin’s. Boeing and Lockmart share ownership of ULA (which manufactures and launches the D4H now), but Orion is Lockmart’s, and SLS is Boeing’s.

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  11. I would suggest SpaceX pass on this “opportunity” … lots of hassles, pointless time pressures, probably not a lot of $$$ and way off the SHSS vision. Just to bail out NASA and Orion (and SLS)? No, FH commercial proving and manned Crew Dragon are plenty of SpaceX mainline biz risk and SHSS is a ton of R&D risk. Eyes on the prize. Keep on the SHSS track and show the world a 100x Orion vehicle with the already contracted SHSS lunar flyby in the 2023 timeframe.

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  12. EM-1 is not a crewed flight
    Most likely it goes up on a delta heavy and falcon heavy with dragon docks with it for TLI

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  13. So man-rating the Boeing capsule + SLS being ready and man-rated after all these years

    vs

    SpaceX makes a new engine, a new rocket and a new spaceship

    I say even odds

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  14. If they are serious about the 2020 deadline, they have no other options.

    But the unavoidable annoying questions about SLS, could make them change their minds about that schedule.

    Tight schedules usually aren’t that important for any government, budget and self preservation are often quite more urgent.

    It’s all a matter of who’s behind the urgency, if the presidency is, then they will have to move.

    And of course, black swans can also get in the way. If SpaceX can launch a billionaire around the Moon before EM-1 flies, that will look bad regardless.

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  15. I’m pretty sure Boeing will find all sorts of reasons why their capsule (whose name even I can’t remember) can’t be attached to a Falcon 9 Heavy.

    NASA will also not allow a manned launch on a rocket until the rocket has five successful unmodified, unmanned launches or is called SLS.

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