US Budget Office Asks to Let NASA Save $1.5 Billion Each Launch Without SLS

The US Budget Office admits that the Space Launch System which took expensive Space Shuttle technology and tried to make an Apollo-like rocket. They were surprised that it has take over 31 years and counting to get flying.

The budget calculation is that SLS will cost over $2 billion per launch. The program is ramping up to cost over $4 billion per year and they will only launch once every year or two. This means that they will be well over $4 billion per launch. This does not include the $20 billion already spent in this development program.

The SpaceX Falcon Heavy has already flown three times and is about to launch again. The new launch will have the first payload fairing reuse. The payload fairing is the two halves of the nose cone that split to launch the payload. Full re-use of the three boosters and the payload fairing means 90% of the Falcon Heavy will be reused.

NASA Europa Mission. The bill requires that NASA use the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket to launch the Europa Clipper mission. The Administration is deeply concerned that this mandate would slow the lunar exploration program, which requires every SLS rocket available. Unlike the human exploration program, which requires use of the SLS, the Europa mission could be launched by a commercial rocket. At an estimated cost of over $2 billion per launch for the SLS once development is complete, the use of a commercial launch vehicle would provide over $1.5 billion in cost savings. The Administration urges the Congress to provide NASA the flexibility called for by the NASA Inspector General and consistent with the FY 2020 Budget request.

Super Heavy Starship Will Be Over 1000 Less Expensive than SLS and More Capable

Elon Musk has indicated that the fully reusable SpaceX Super Heavy Starship will eventually cost $2 million per launch. This will be over 1000 times cheaper than SLS. SLS is still two years from its first flight.

SpaceX Falcon Heavy costs about $100 million to launch. It is already 20 to 40 times cheaper than the SLS. Some NASA missions will require two launches of a Falcon Heavy to complete the SLS mission. There is still a lot of cost savings.

NASA is working on a bulk order to buy ten more SLS launches. This would commit to launching SLS through 2035. This will likely cost about $60 billion.

The Space Shuttle program cost nearly $200 billion. There were 135 space shuttle missions. SLS will be more expensive than the Space Shuttle using the old technology. The configuration is like the Saturn V rocket.

The main justification will be to build a Lunar Gateway station in lunar orbit. This will apply the International space station modules to a station farther away. The ISS cost about $150 billion. The Lunar Gateway will cost over $100 billion.

The contractors behind the Space Shuttle and ISS got a total of $350 billion over the last 40 years. They demand that they deliver less and get the same kind of payments. Senator Shelby and others in congress are enabling this continued waste.

29 thoughts on “US Budget Office Asks to Let NASA Save $1.5 Billion Each Launch Without SLS”

  1. It’s better to take your time and recycle old technology, while making people think you’re doing incredibly difficult things. This allows more money to be diverted from U.S. taxpayers into private accounts.

  2. Wait…. stop with your SpaceX nonsense… we need the SLS… because SLS equal MONEY. A continuous stream of money flowing like a torrent after the rain. And much of that money ends up in offshore private bank accounts. SpaceX is a dam that will cut off the flow of money. “SpaceX must disappear.” – The Military-Industrial Complex

  3. I predict that Congress will put requirements on funding for presige projects, similar to Europa Clipper, where SLS is specified as the primary lift vehicle- although it would be nice to see the SpaceX banner on the refueling vessel during rendezvous. And a Blue Origin descender, Bigelow structures, Toyota rovers…

  4. Just to clarify, this is the White House Budget Office that is stating its preference to flying payloads like Europa Clipper on some other launcher than SLS to save money.

    I doubt the White House Budget Office would take a hard line on this issue, which on the grand scheme of things is a very minor point, especially since the current occupant of the White House is the same political party as the Senate’s appropriations committee chairman Richard Shelby, who has an infamous insatiable demand for SLS pork.

    The White House will likely go along with whatever budget passes the Republican-controlled Senate.

  5. Somebody tell me why Senator Shelby wouldn’t agree to taking the same money from the government for his state(s) and their space programs as before but just shifting it to producing valuable science missions and contribution to the commercial space race in a helpful way. He should be able to keep all his engineers working as before, but just on valuable jobs instead of a massive make-work project. There is a huge backlog of very-needed missions that simply aren’t getting done for lack of money, which is going to the outdated SLS instead. He should be happy to shift it over. Start fresh. I don’t get it.

  6. Does SpaceX use best standard practices?
    Here is just one of the many that are required by government contractors.
    If he had to do this under gov contract it would also cost him billions and take decades.
    Dragon will need to be verified. That is a cause for missing targets.
    As a government agent in technical support of acquisitions, we provide contractors with the standards required by the contract. They must be verified, and critical systems will be validated, using proscribed testing protocols.
    It’s great to have a guy building rockets, and making money in a tight market. But while he will have no trouble getting contracts to deliver material to orbit. He will need to perform the required validations before he gets into the critical missions. I have seen many contractors lose their butts through ignoring the standard deliverables. But I have also seen them waived by higher authorities. There is less of that now that people are investigating corruption in contracts.
    Good luck Elon. You’re gonna need it.

  7. It’s not the Falcon Heavy, it’s the Falcon 9 with a 1st stage booster that will be it’s 4th use and the 1st fairing reuse.

  8. government r&d person…I have a great idea for the project… don’t work on it…. we don’t have a charge code for doing that….here use this charge code for picking your nose….

  9. They were surprised that it has take over 31 years and counting to get flying.

    What? The SLS program only got started in the 2000’s.

  10. They’ve been working on it for over 31 years and it is ramping up to $4 billion a year? That is insanity. Toss Musk a single billion and expect the same results in a year.

  11. Orangepuzzle also thinks that bumping the flight rate up by a factor of 100 wouldn’t result in increased fuel, personel, servicing, or any other costs.

  12. what can you say …. government spending on Space is burocratic and wastes money because they need to hire 100 people for every person that does something Useful towards the goal…. there’s probably 50 percent of people working on generating safety reports for the safety reports that do nothing but get in the way and force the wrong decisions on projects….For the one person doing the work to support the other 99 parasite workers that do nothing but talk about talking….

  13. RS-25 engines cost $40 million each for the shuttle. Even if by some miracle Rocketdyne has managed to cut the cost in half (lol) then 4xRS-25 at $20 million each will be $80 million for SLS liquid fuelled engines alone.

    IN SUMMARY, your estimate of $40 million per launch is painfully laughable.

    Oh and SRB refurbishment was in the ballpark of $30 million per launch.

  14. The program is ramping up to cost over $4 billion per year and they will only launch once every year or two. This means that they will be well over $4 billion per launch.

    Launch SLS 100 times a year and the cost is $40M per launch, FH is a ripoff.

  15. The grammar in this article makes it extremely difficult to read, I would hope that a writer would have a good sense of grammar and how important that is to convey the correct information. Please try to improve this, so we the readers have a better understanding of what it is you are saying.

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