Will the Space Launch System Reckoning be in 2020 or 2021?

Jim Bridenstine congratulated SpaceX on Starship and then poked them about the Commercial Crew program being year late.

NASA technical people and NASA Director Bridenstine know that they could save about $5 billion over the next two years by canceling the Space Launch System and using the flight-proven SpaceX Falcon Heavy to launch the Orion capsule.

Bridenstine told Congress in 2019 that the SLS EM-1 mission (which is delayed into 2021 with SLS) would require two launches: one to place the Orion into orbit the Earth, and a second carrying an upper stage. The two would then dock and the upper stage ignited to send Orion to the moon.

Bridenstine got stopped by Senator Shelby of Alabama.

NASA awarded firm-fixed-price contracts in 2014 to Boeing and SpaceX, valued at up to $4.2 billion and $2.6 billion, respectively, for the development of crew transportation systems that meet NASA requirements and for the initial service missions to the ISS.

Spx-dm2 was scheduled for November, 2019.

The Crew abort test is now likely to be late November or early December. The crew flight test would be about two months after a successful crew abort test.

SpX-dm2 will be a crewed test flight with two astronauts for two weeks. They will use the capsule planned for the first operational crew mission.

If NASA used the SpaceX Falcon Heavy to complete the EM-1 mission they would save double what was paid to SpaceX for the commercial crew project.

Boeing was paid more and Boeing is not completing and certifying its crew transport system (CTS Starliner) before SpaceX.

GAO reported:

Program Office Workload Is a Continued Schedule Risk to Certification.

The Commercial Crew Program’s ability to process certification data packages for its two contractors continues to create uncertainty about the timing of certification. Specifically, the program is concurrently reviewing and approving both contractors’ phased safety reviews and verification closure notices. [GAO] previously reported that program officials, the contractors, and independent review organizations had concerns about a “bow wave” of work for the program.

SpaceX Super Heavy Starship Should Fly to Orbit Before SLS has its Green Run Hold Down Test

The main constraint on the Super-Heavy booster is ramping up the production of the Raptor engines. They will need 100 Raptor engines to get to the orbital test. They build one Raptor engine currently every eight days. On 2 months they want to get to one Raptor engine every two days. By Q12020, they want to get to one engine every day. This means the orbital flight would not be until about March, 2020.

This would be ahead of the Space Launch System launch which is looking like 2021. This should be ahead of the green run hold down fueled test of the Space Launch System.

It has been obvious and clear since the first Falcon Heavy launch that the SLS should have been canceled. This would have saved about $5-6 billion already. When the SpaceX Super Heavy Starship is flying to orbit and the SLS has still not had a Green run then Nextbigfuture will record all of the waste and delays permitted by Bridenstine and forced by Senator Shelby. In 2020, the waste will be about $8-9 billion and in 2021 it will be about $12-13 billion.

A successful orbital flight of a SpaceX Super Heavy Starship might not be enough to kill Space Launch System. It would have the payload capacity of any planned version of SLS and it would be fully reusable while SLS is expendable.

An actual moon mission could be needed to kill SLS. It would be worth it for SpaceX to risk a SpaceX Super Heavy Starship. They would fly it to the moon after the first orbital flight. If they did not lose it then it would only cost a few tens of millions of dollars. I think they would attempt it later in 2020. This would likely let SpaceX takeover all of the SLS missions and the moon program.

SOURCES- GOA, NASA, Twitter Bridenstine, SpaceX, Elon Musk
Written by Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com

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