$28 Billion into SLS Through 2019 and $59-69 Billion Total Cost SLS by 2024

Senator Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, said NASA Administrator Bridenstine said Artemis (SLS – Space Launch System – Moon by 2024 program) could cost $20 (billion) to $30 billion over the next five years. This would mean $4 billion to $6 billion in extra funding each year.

Early in 2019, the Trump administration ordered NASA to accelerate its plans to return astronauts to the moon, moving landing up from 2028 to 2024. The administration has requested $1.6 billion in supplemental funding for NASA’s fiscal 2020 budget to help with development of the new Space Launch System booster and other required systems.

The $1.6 billion extra would be on top of $2.2 billion every year. There has been $14 billion spent on SLS from 2011-2018 and $18 billion from 2011-2019. There was $10 billion spent on the related Constellation rocket. SLS and Constellation were both adapting Space Shuttle technology for a launcher.

SLS 2011-2019 plus Constellation has been $28 billion.
SLS 2011-2024 plus Constellation and with Artemis would be $59 to $69 billion.

This does not include the costs for the Orion manned capsule.

Bridenstine had said that with modifications, the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket could carry astronauts on Orion to the Moon if the SLS rocket was not ready. SLS political allies in Congress most notably Alabama Senator Richard Shelby have prevented a $100 million or less SpaceX Falcon Heavy with less than $1 billion in modifications from saving $7+ billion per launch of the SLS with Artemis. SLS was pitched in 2010 to cost $500 million. But how can we say that is the cost when from now to 2028 there are 9 planned launches and the SLS would cost $30 billion without any extra Artemis costs, but just to build and have 9 launches. This is $3+ billion per launch with development included.

NASA is working to refine program costs and plans for the NASA fiscal 2021 budget request. The NASA 2021 budget will be released in February 2020.

Last week, Bridenstine removed Bill Gerstenmaier from his role as chief of space operations at NASA Headquarters, along with another key manager overseeing development of the SLS rocket and Orion capsule, in a major management shakeup.

In Senate testimony NASA Admin Bridensine admitted that the first SLS launch might now be in 2021 instead of 2020.

The original first launch was for 2016 when SLS was first funded in 2010. By 2014, the date had slipped to 2018.

16 thoughts on “$28 Billion into SLS Through 2019 and $59-69 Billion Total Cost SLS by 2024”

  1. That’s accurate. The corruption that exists inside NASA are the people lobbying for Contractors. Take Gateway for example, it’s just a bunch of parts that are similar to existing pieces made by longtime Suppliers and it doesn’t even have to work 11 months out of the year. So that’s the sliver of the corrupt in NASA that needs to go. ✌

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  2. Please contact your congressional Representative to stop funding the SLS and to never start Gateway or the part-time ‘balloon-around-the-Moon.’

    Now is the best moment to communicate with your Representative and Senators. You must do your part. ✌

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  3. But Musk(Mars guy) has plans for even better Starliner, perhaps before SLS. It will really make a nice station. No telling about Bezos plan along those lines, but Blue Moon lander may also be before SLS can do it. Ouch for SLS and taxpayer monay!

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  4. I like SLS in that–like Atlas–you could put that core in orbit with minimal payload. That will do for a Convair Atlas type station.

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  5. $2.2B/year is a little light. It’s actually $2.1B for SLS and about $0.4B for “exploration ground systems”, aka the ongoing charlie-foxtrot that is the mobile launcher and launch software.

    The Frankenrocket (FH + ICPS interstage + ICPS + Orion stage adapter + Orion ESM + Orion CM + Orion LAS) sounds great if it can be made to work. But it’s 22 meters longer than the current FH fairing, so I suspect that there’s a fair amount of aerodynamics and structural work to be done, in addition to all the vertical integration, hydrolox fueling, and FH crew-certification issues for the ICPS. It’s not a slam dunk.

    Some other possibilities, which are also not slam-dunks:

    1) D4H/Orion uncrewed, F9/D2 or Atlas/Starliner for crew transfer in LEO, FH/ICPS for transfer stage.

    2) FH/Orion crewed, FH/ICPS for transfer stage.

    3) FH/Orion crewed, FH/no-payload, with FH S2 as transfer stage. (Needs S2 thrust reduced from min 500 kN to min 300 kN.)

    4) FH/Orion crewed, New Glenn/no payload with NG S2 as transfer stage. Orion needs to make up 300-400 m/s of delta-v to TLI.

    5) Vulcan/Orion, FH/ICPS, or thrust-reduced FH/no-payload.

    I’m leaving out Starship options because they likely take too long, but those are possibilities, too.

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  6. All of this is part of a Mars plan. Bezos knows G. K. O’Neill was correct: Forget Mars! Live in O’Neill Space.
    This has been clear for over 40 years now. Mars addiction has cost us dearly in getting started on the Moon, as a resource, not a place to live.
    Even Hawking and Aldren get this wrong, altho I do agree with Hawking that we should do Moon first, not Mars. But the goal is Space, not tiny little planets. Wake up, people. This is an important fact. It totally changes the direction, for not only Space efforts, but all sorts of enviro efforts, esp climate heating (Space Solar Power) as a first big O’Neill project.

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  7. That’s not really a cost driver. Subcontracting, mission assurance, audits, design reviews, complex prime/sub/sub/sub/sub relationships drive costs more. They’re more than likely going to have design reviews from hell with ungodly amounts of oversight and auditing, mission assurance requirements are going to be through the ass and out the other side (even outside of manned spaceflight, in defense and space, we are seeing contractual incorporation of new mission assurance guidelines that are substantial cost and schedule drivers). I would not be at all surprised if an itemized budget finds that systems engineering and mission assurance are primary cost drivers. Design and I&T is probably not out of the industrial norm.

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  8. Recycling old technology is part of it. The biggest factor is that the SLS and the Constellation program before it was never intended to result in anything that actually flies. It has always been a jobs program and corporate welfare, first and foremost.

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  9. Wondering if the costs spiraled so high because they insisted on recycling an old technology From the Atlas program, to the space shuttle and now to the SLS. A clean sheet design might have been not only better, but simpler.

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