NASA Reveals a Moon Plan That Relies on the Terrible SLS Rocket

NASA has selected 11 companies to conduct studies and produce prototypes of human landers for its Artemis lunar exploration program. This effort will help put American astronauts — the first woman and next man — on the Moon’s south pole by 2024 and establish sustainable missions by 2028.

NASA has asked for an extra $1.6 billion in funding for 2020 to support the moon by 2024 program.

NASA has shown a plan for 37 launches of private and NASA rockets, robotic and human landers and starting a moon base long-duration crew stays in 2028.

15 Years, $30 Billion and No Good Test of a Big Rocket Based on Shuttle Technology

The plan still relies on the crappy Space Launch System (SLS). SLS has NOT flown its first test flight. There was a test flight in the Constellation program which was before SLS. The Constellation test was terrible.

Space Launch System (SLS) spent about $17 billion from 2011 to 2019. It will spend another $4 billion from 2020 to 2021. There is about $2.3 billion per year being spent on SLS. From 2005 to 2010, there was about $11.9 billion spent on the Constellation program. This was paid to mainly the same companies working on Space Launch System. The whole thinking was let make a big rocket out of Space Shuttle Technology.

NASA Spreading $45 Million Around to Get Start Making a New Lunar Lander

Selected companies for Lunar Lander hardware development are:

Aerojet Rocketdyne – Canoga Park, California
One transfer vehicle study

Blue Origin – Kent, Washington
One descent element study, one transfer vehicle study, and one transfer vehicle prototype

Boeing – Houston
One descent element study, two descent element prototypes, one transfer vehicle study, one transfer vehicle prototype, one refueling element study, and one refueling element prototype

Dynetics – Huntsville, Alabama
One descent element study and five descent element prototypes

Lockheed Martin – Littleton, Colorado
One descent element study, four descent element prototypes, one transfer vehicle study, and one refueling element study

Masten Space Systems – Mojave, California
One descent element prototype

Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems – Dulles, Virginia
One descent element study, four descent element prototypes, one refueling element study, and one refueling element prototype

OrbitBeyond – Edison, New Jersey

Two refueling element prototypes
Sierra Nevada Corporation, Louisville, Colorado, and Madison, Wisconsin
One descent element study, one descent element prototype, one transfer vehicle study, one transfer vehicle prototype, and one refueling element study
SpaceX – Hawthorne, California
One descent element study
SSL – Palo Alto, California
One refueling element study and one refueling element prototype

SOURCES- NASA, Wikipedia

66 thoughts on “NASA Reveals a Moon Plan That Relies on the Terrible SLS Rocket”

  1. What tribal knowledge is SLS necessary to keep alive? That’s typically only true of things like the Lima Tank plant where they literally have nothing to do but make tanks for the US Army and if the Army isn’t buying tanks, they’re not hiring and training new people.

    But SLS is being built by Boeing, NG, ULA, Aerojet… they all have other projects where their rocket development procedures and methodologies are being polished, used and updated. SLS isn’t like the Lima plant. You could kill SLS and it would not in an any way endanger knowledge and experience in rocketry at these companies.

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  2. SLS allows hydrogen upper stages. It will be quite awhile before New Armstrong can match that.

    SLS is infrastructure and keeps alive tribal knowledge.

    F-35 and the EELVs–that’s pork.

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  3. That’s still a serious weight penalty for Methane/LOX compared to H2/LOX, if you’re talking a Moon base and fuel manufacture on site. Methane/LOX is better optimized for Mars, no surprise there given Musk’s stated intentions. Whereas Bezos picked H2/LOX because he was aiming for the Moon.

    If you’re setting up a fuel factory on the Moon, and plan to use Methane, you’d bring carbon, not Methane; Sure, the weight difference of the fuel is minimal, but the tankage difference is enormous. Since manufacturing the LOX will produce a lot of hydrogen, you can manufacture methane from that hydrogen and carbon, and the reaction is exothermic, though you need elevated temperatures and a catalyst to get it to run.

    Might actually be easier to burn the carbon with the oxygen and run a Sabatier reactor using the resulting heat; Sabatier reactors are much better developed than reactors to convert carbon and hydrogen to methane.

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  4. Bring your own methane from Earth for the return trip, ISRU for LOX. LOX by weight is most of the propellant.

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  5. Not many.
    It just miffs me that SO much is being spent on SLS.
    Seriously, for that money we could entice private enterprises to develop the backbone for ISRU and build actual LIVABLE space stations in orbit. Like, large megastructures.

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  6. I thought that was clearly implied by the capacity to be refueled from fuel made on the Moon, and the fact that it doesn’t shed any parts to take off, the way the lunar lander did.

    I did watch his video, and while I don’t recall if he explicitly said it was reusable, he was going on and on about the importance of reuse, so again, clearly implied.

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  7. I don’t necessarily agree or disagree with you but what Dennis and Combinatorics are missing is that they’re not even using Elon’s potentially “rosy” numbers in their claims, rather *I am*.

    • nobody has ever claimed a BFR mission to the moon costs $9m, EVER
    • that’s a fully amoritized cost to send 100 people to MARS, not the moon
    • FH costs $90m to orbit, absolutely more to the moon, because there’s more work to be done to design it to carry a manned capsule with compartments and cabins to the moon. None of that design work has been done or even suggested by Space X.
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  8. Make sure you vote out all of the senators and congressmen pushing it to create jobs, most of whom are in Florida, Texas, Georgia, and Utah. I’ll give you one guess as to which letter appears in front of most of their names.

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  9. I’m not defending SLS, but you are confused about how this works. The president doesn’t say “cut SLS”, nor does Congress. NASA submits a budgetary request and Congress either approves it or approves an amended version. Of all things that Congress would scrutinize, SLS is probably as a matter of fact – THE LAST THING – they’d directly scrutinize, even when they SHOULD. As Goat said, it’s a pork project, Congress is the one guilty of creating it. So you’re all backwards on how this goes and how this was driven.

    This also has absolutely nothing to do with the budget for the National Science Foundation being cut, either. It is just the Trump cabinet/Trump value system saying “maybe science is important to you, but defense/tax cuts are importanter”.

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  10. ⊕1 … because you’re seeing past the almost ridiculous optimism re: how rapidly the much advertised 250× reduction in per kilogram-to-Luna is going to materialize. 

    When I look back on the amazing Apollo (and equally amazing SpaceLab) programs, I cannot but remember in awe how much was done for such a modest amount of present-day normalized dollars. Apollo especially. 

    Thing is, I think Elon glad-hands and sugar-coats the longer term amortized, profitized, research-paid-in cost of maturing to regular Terra-Lunar shuttling service. Moreover, no one — including the Great Musk — has even ventured believable numbers for the costs and investments needed in the SHORT term, to establish a couple of 100+ resident/visitor Lunar bases, and keep the supply chain going, to keep them nominally operational. No one. 

    And I cannot imagine that such will be cheap. Not like running a Motel 6 with free cereal-crunches breakfasts and pathetically worn towels.  Tourists will expect a few uprated creature comforts.

    Just saying,
    GoatGuy ✓

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  11. Justifiably. The SLS is a crappy program, that (IMO) was designed as a very large pork barrel instead of an actual launch system.

    “Look! We’re doing something! Even if it’ll never fly!”

    There’s no incentive to actually build it, and every incentive (when the culture producing it cannot stand a failure of any kind) to NEVER launch it.

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  12. in that analogy, the “blueprints and technical data” aren’t literal blueprints and technical data, they’re brains. The brains are what’s important.

    Dude I can hand you every drawing and every interconnect for an intercontinental ballistic missile and you’d have no fucking idea at all what you’re looking at, you wouldn’t even know where to START reverse engineering it. You wouldn’t know how anything was flight tested. You wouldn’t know the material tolerances. You wouldn’t have any knowledge of what kinda NC’s they ran into, you wouldn’t know how anything was pressure tested, there’s a literal fucking WAREHOUSE LOAD of information you would be lacking EVEN IF you did have literally every single piece of paper technical information.

    And, in addition to that, yes, much of it was lost. Do you have any fucking idea how many subcomponents were on Gemini? Do you honestly think the blueprints and schematics for all that shit still exists? Spoiler alert, companies go out of business. Stuff ends up in storage. Tossed in dumpsters. Living in some filing cabinet in Reston, Virginia for 10 years before it’s dumped. This stuff just disappears, when it’s not important. The sheer volume of technical data that America’s aeronautics industry has generated and dumped, is enormous. Because for good cause in most cases. Things get replaced, redesigned, aren’t needed. And what about part obsolescence? How do you update a computer from 1957 that had vacuum tubes? You don’t.

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  13. They’ve got the records, such as they are, but a lot of the tooling is gone, and much of the fabrication process was never properly documented.

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  14. Yeah I got that. The point was that you don’t understand why doing something you’ve already done is still complex and expensive because you’re an uneducated fool who probably retired to be a Walmart greeter after — statistically speaking — probably a few decades in the military and then something fairly… pedestrian like… worked for the railroad, or was a lineman, or something suitably inbred like that.

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  15. BFR to the moon does not cost $9m. You just invented that figure.

    First of all $11m was the advertised cost of a fully amoritized s/c of 100 people to MARS. That means 100s of people per day for years on hundreds of flights after dozens of design optimizations. You’re not going to have that cost when you only send 30 people. And not in the next 10 or 15 years.

    You have all kinds of problems here. Let’s start off with the obvious one, it would be nice if you could assume 100 people a day will be going to the moon – except you can’t, that was the whole point of Combinatorics tossing out “30”, because it’s a much more rational assumption about lunar tourism. There will not be 100 people per day paying 5 figures to go to the moon. There aren’t even 100 people per day paying 4-5 figures for the owner’s suites on cruise ships during peak season.

    So forget talking about a 100-person BFR for this little thought experiment because we’re talking about a less mature point in time of the lunar tourism industry; i.e., NOW. You’re not going to get 100 people on a BFR to the moon in the next 4 years. There’s no infrastructure and there’s no cost amoritization, it would be hellaciously expensive, nowhere near 40k.

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  16. I didn’t say single launch FH’s. Reusable FH launches cost $90m. That is already the reduced cost. $90m IS the cheap number. Why are you saying “F9H?”? You mean FH.

    Did you think $32.85b somehow reflected an expendable launch cost? HA! That’s more like $55b.

    The first several dozen trips of people to take a FH to the moon are going to pay roughy $2.92m per ride until the vehicles are fully amoritized, then it’ll drop. I haven’t looked at SpaceX’s non-amoritizable costs so I don’t know what it drops to but it’s going to be quite a few trips before that happens.

    And in fact… I’m wrong. That’s low. Because this is a cost to orbit. Not a cost to TLI. There’s more work to be done to produce that kind of vehicle configuration. That is all overhead that has to be paid for. It is more than that.

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  17. Can’t easily manufacture fuel on the Moon for the BFR; It’s Methane fueled, and the Moon is carbon deficient.

    There’s probably some mixed in with that cometary derived ice at the poles, but not a lot.

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  18. It would require substantial modification to do that; The lubricants aren’t vacuum compatible, and the temperature range it would encounter would be way outside normal automotive standards. And the vacuum UV would rot the tires amazingly fast.

    You couldn’t just drop one on the Moon and drive off, it would be a major R&D project.

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  19. “and will be landing an entire spaceship on the moon in one peice”

    Because SpaceX isn’t stupid and wants to build a reusable infrastructure.

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  20. If a video game can get over $150 million in Kickstarter funds[Star Citizen] why couldn’t it be the case for making ACTUAL star citizens?

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  21. Seems to me that Spacex isn’t participating in most of Nasa landing Studies because they have already moved beyond most of the ideas of a two module system and will be landing an entire spaceship on the moon in one peice without gateway or other components

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  22. better yet he could Land a self driving Tesla on the moon with solar panels and then do doughnuts on the lunar surface around anything Boeing Lockheed etc land on moon..

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  23. Are you actually implying all blue prints and most of technical data from the Apollo flights hardware was destroyed? Just because?

    You’re supporting Frank’s assertion.

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  24. I want a new SLS, I would love to see NASA award SpaceX for a Super Lunar Starship. But probably won’t happen until they prove the concept with their 2 prototypes. Plus they have yet to deliver rides to the ISS, with their delayed dragon 2.

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  25. He shouldn’t extend too much. Landing and returning from Mars is huge and should stay his sole focus together with bringing loads to space which is easy and profitable. But he should rent the big tool he is building for anyone that wants to use it for this goal or any other feasible goal that can be easily adapted from going the focus of going to Mars.

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  26. BFR launch cost is supposed to be more like $9 million, and it could easily carry 100 people.

    That $9M is to LEO so call it twice that for a moon trip with orbital refueling. But with a permanent moon base you can start producing fuel on the moon, and launch it cheaply to an earth-moon transfer vehicle that you just cycle back and forth.

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  27. That’s not a sustainable business model. 30 people arriving/departing per day is 1 Falcon Heavy launch per day, which is $32.85B/yr in costs. You made $400m. Woohoo.

    And you can’t even get 30 people on a Falcon Heavy capsule/space craft. I’m just being generous because realistically it’s a Starship per day, which is probably more like $100-200m/launch.

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  28. As with most NASA clusterfucks, what will happen is the budget will be allocated to NASA and it will be insufficient for what is requested, they’ll pretend like they’re still going to do it, and year by year their technical milestones will push out until we’re all complaining and wondering in 5 years why it is overbudget (when the original budget was a shortfall on projected needs), and delayed, and then after $4b has been spent, it will eventually be cancelled.

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  29. If we stopped making all forms of semiconductors today, permanently, and trashed them all into the Atlantic Ocean, took every hard drive and blue print schematic and dumped them into the ocean, obliterated 90-95% of technical data about how to make them, and then 60 years from now we decided to make a new one, when every engineer who worked on the original was dead, it would be expensive and difficult. You have no grasp of how engineering works if you don’t understand that. You probably have absolutely zero technical experience.

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  30. Probably because you’re not going to get an apology, because NASA programs and NSF programs are being cut

    https://www.theverge.com/2019/3/11/18259747/nasa-trump-budget-request-fy-2020-sls-block-1b-europa

    https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/03/trump-once-again-requests-deep-cuts-us-science-spending

    Just because you see an article about a space program that *is* happening, does not mean that reductions have not taken place. Just because NASA was not wholly liquidated does not mean its funding was not cut.

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  31. I wonder what McDonalds would pay (SpaceX) to have an automated burger restaurant on the moon waiting for the first NASA lander so the astronauts can have a meal.
    That would be some epic marketing.

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  32. I know the moon is important from a resources perspective, but for the love of all that is holy, NASA, don’t use the SLS just because you want YOUR stamp on another moon landing.

    Let the people who are ahead of you in chemical rocket tech do it for you. Save your budget for creating landers to explore places like Europa and oh, I dunno, name ANY other moon in the solar system. Go see what that monolith-looking thing is on Phobos (it is on Phobos, right, not Deimos?).

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  33. “But, I’m glad our government is paying for this sort of thing. The business model for going back to the moon is pretty sketchy. It would be challenging to raise the money to go in private markets.”

    Nonsense. If it cost $40,000 for a two week lunar vacation (one week in space, one week on the moon) then people would absolutely pay.

    30 people arriving/departing per day, 365 days per earth year, $40k per person = $400 million in revenue.

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  34. How is that all this money is being spent to develop the means to get a human on the moon??? Hmmmm haven’t we been there already??? RIGHT!

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  35. PORK – Political Objectives Resist Kiboshing…

    As Combinatorics opines, even though ostensibly the SLS Block 1A and 2 are decent once-use rockets, the egregious PORK has been that it has taken no less than $14,000 million so far with a squeak-worthy estimate of +$4,500 million more, in order to get the thing to Space in 2020, along with a pod of brave space grunts. That is a LOT of dough. Clearly PORK, by any fair 50,000 foot observer’s seat.

    I’ve recommended it before, but I again recommend, if you’ven’t yet seen it yet… Pentagon Wars (even if you only have 5 minutes, the first 5 minutes is some brilliant historical hagiography…) Here’s the linky: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ir0FAa8P2MU

    Political Objectives Resisting Kiboshing. PORK.

    Just saying.

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  36. I am a little confused by this. I thought all the talk was about how President Trump was eliminating science funding and space exploration was totally out the window.
    That is what our brilliant scientists thought and expounded upon.
    Seems the were all hoodwinked by the fake news our press was spouting about president Trump.
    I have yet to see any apologies or admissions they were wrong about President Trump at least in this regard.

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  37. It is fair to gripe about the technology choices. That seems more politically driven than anything else.

    But, I’m glad our government is paying for this sort of thing. The business model for going back to the moon is pretty sketchy. It would be challenging to raise the money to go in private markets.

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  38. Public sector:
    We are going back to the moon! We will make a rocket, a capsule, a lunar orbiting outpost, a lunar lander! None of it will be reusable.

    Private sector:
    We are going back to the moon! We will make one rocket, one spaceship and refuel in orbit to go to the moon and back! All of it will be reusable.

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  39. Are we to believe that the rent seeking clowns who can’t deliver cost effective LEO access given a decade and billions of dollars are going to build a launch infrastructure that takes us from Earth to the Moon?

    Musk should make a moon base and lunar tourism a goal of SpaceX. He’ll land paying newlyweds long before NASA can put boots on regolith.

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  40. Seriously, Musk should launch a kickstarter for a Moon landing. Just ignore the foredoomed NASA program, and go ahead and beat them there.

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  41. Depends on which congress critters are in favor of it. John Glenn kept unwanted military production lines alive in Ohio , all by himself. And Robert Byrd was touted as biggest growth industry in West Virginia due to his ability to send federal funds that way.

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