NASA SLS and Boeing Starliner Slipping to 2022

Ars Technica is reporting that the first launch of the NASA SLS (Space Launch System) is slipping to mid-2022. Boeing is the primary contractor for SLS. SLS has received over $20 billion in funding. Each year the SLS program gets over $2.5 billion.

Boeing is also developing the crewed Starliner. During the August 2021 launch window 13 propulsion system valves got stuck and Boeing had to return the spacecraft back to factory. They are hoping to try again by mid-October. However, if the fixes are not fast and very smooth missing mid-October will push the next launch attempt into 2022. This is the second test launch to certify man-rating. There will need to be a lot of verifications that Starliner is really perfectly fixed to certify it as man-rated. There were major software errors on the first flight and now defective hardware before the second flight.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) awarded $4.3 billion for Boeing and $2.5 billion for SpaceX. NASA agreed to pay Boeing nearly $300 million extra for Starliner.

If SLS slips into 2023 and Starliner does not get deemed safe enough to transport astronauts then Boeing could be the prime contractor for over $30 billion of failing space programs. The SLS program has already been running for 11 years.

In 2010, the Constellation program was cancelled. This was basically the same contractors working to reconfigure Space Shuttle parts into an Apollo rocket configuration. U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, quickly dismissed a plan to spend $6 billion to fund commercial rocket developers to make an alternative to the Ares rocket.

“We cannot continue to coddle the dreams of rocket hobbyists and so-called ‘commercial’ providers who claim the future of U.S. human space flight can be achieved faster and cheaper than Constellation,” Senator Shelby said in February 2010.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 had a successful flight June 4 2010. There were test firings from late 2009 into the March 2010.

The Constellation program seemed to get about $12 billion from 2005-2010. There was also $2.5 billion paid to shutdown the program.

SpaceX Crew Dragon is about two years ahead of the Boeing Starliner, if Starliner can fly its first crewed mission by May 2022.

SpaceX Super Heavy Starship should have multiple orbital test flights for 2021 and 2022. In 2022, SpaceX will have major tests preparing the Starship Human Landing System for the moon. SpaceX Super Heavy seems certain to beat SLS to orbit.

If Boeing SLS first launch slips to 2023 or later, then SpaceX Super Heavy Starship could be on the moon before SLS gets its first launch.

The SpaceX Starship tests and developments started in 2019.

SOURCES- Wikipedia, NASA, SpaceX
Written By Brian Wang,

85 thoughts on “NASA SLS and Boeing Starliner Slipping to 2022”

  1. Well, you got me there. I used to point to Japanese cities and say, "See America? Density doesn't mean crime and dirt. Let's do that." But we're not Japanese, and our cities don't turn out that way.

  2. For decades, starting in 1977, I had to feign an interest in Mars to get into the discussion as to "Moon support Mars" v Mars FDO. This was to get lunar activity started, for O'Neill use, not Mars, in my secret plan. Bridenstein made Moon then Mars official. Now, they are trying to get rid of the useful O'Neill orbital micr0g stuff and do practice runs for Mars, with no long term infrastructure, as per Mars FDO again. Early Space Solar will open Space to make Mars trips easy, they are so small in comparison. Get off the Earth. Forget Mars. It is a total distraction. Was in 77, is now.

  3. '"Is the surface of a planet the right place for" a sustainable off Earth lifeboat population?' of course, as fast as possible. The answer may be unclear to most as to surface Mars or Earth orbit built O'Neill, towed out to distance and coated with shielding, but given that we are not on Mars, better start on that Earth orbit construction now. We can! Esp for the needed micr0g facility to be a part of the self sufficient settlement wherever located. Do it NOW!

    The private Musk Mars Direct plan, focused on self sufficiency, is ironically O'Neill like, in that he plans to send pretty much only humans, and do the rest ISRU as you say, as quickly as possible. Trying to be separate from Earth is the appeal and is important to achieve, by design. He has a disincentive to help Earth in any way, as it will slow him down. Very similar to Belter thought.

    That is not the NASA or O'Neill plan. NASA sees
    exploration rather than escape. O'Neill has a far superior lifeboat, earlier and as a matter of course.

  4. The O'Neill understanding is that Space is better than Earth for tech stuff. If you are tech or science person, you can back this up and be a strong O'Neill understander, willing to say that Earth needs to be left. A common sense person can at least understand that micr0g is only avail in Space, and that there is more sunlight, so at least significant industry should be in Space. Either of these lead to a significant move into space, O'Neill style. That will make Mars a trivial tourist side issue, and far better assure lifeboats for humans, than sitting on another planet. Forget Mars when you understand O'Neill. Everyone does. Think $$$ solving global weirding with Space Solar, starting with Earth to Earth power beaming.

    And to repeat, there is plenty of water, C, and N on Moon or NEOs. See LCROSS for more. Or BIS for even more recent.

  5. SpaceX vs SLS LOL. I often bring up them to showcase just how much more wasteful the Govt bureaucracy is compared to the private sector. It is somewhat scary to think that this may not be the worst example. In the US, the Govt is less corrupt and more efficient. In other countries – like India and Russia, their Govt is a great deal more parasitic and does a great deal less for its People. Alas, most People are more or less happy with the state of affairs (primarily due to habitual ignorance and feeling of safety) but for a thinking individual who sees these trends, this situation is far from being acceptable.

    This is why a lot of people moved from Europe to the Americas back in the day. This is why people will be moving to Mars (harsh as it is) from all over the Earth. Just to escape parasitic Governments and stifling regulations; to start anew; to do things your way – without annoyance or oversight.

  6. yea, Musk time might be way over-optimistic but at least the guy is DOING something with a sense of urgency, at that.

  7. O'Neills are a way off. First you have to make space access affordable.
    Besides which, ISRU is still WAY in its infancy.

  8. Musk's starship should be a national priority. From the standpoint of national security, it is a game changer.

  9. From my point of view, you have always seemed pretty alarmed at the prospect of going to Mars EVER, never mind First/Direct/Only. It's almost as though there is something there you don't want people to see…

  10. You may argue that O'Neill is "better" than Mars, for whatever given value of "easier", but it is definitely not "easier" for any definition of "easy". If there is much we need to learn to build a colony in Martian (sub-)surface, then we need to learn much more about how to build pressure vessels in space without access to liquids, how to make soil out of regolith, how to bring water from icy asteroids out beyond the snow line to stock our colonies, etc. It is theoretically doable with 70s-tech, but only after a couple of decades of intense R&D. It may actually be easier to do this somewhere materials are closer at hand, even if we have to go down a gravity well to get them.

    Eventually? Sure, sign me up, even, but saying that there is no point to even go to Mars is the same as saying "we should fix our problems on Earth first".

  11. a subsidized industry branch of $2,5 billion/year.
    I think even in socialistic Europe you can't find this type of money-drain

  12. The question Musk wants the answer to is not, "Where is the best place for humanity to live, long term?"

    It's, "How can I create a lifeboat for humanity in the event of a planetary extinction event, as fast as possible?"

    That "as fast as possible" is the important part. An interplanetary civilization living in O'Neill colonies would be an excellent way of preserving humanity against a planetary extinction event. But, would it be the fastest way of accomplishing that? Would it minimize the chance of said extinction event occurring before the lifeboat was built?

    Arguably not. And Musk is in a hurry, because he sees this problem, and he is willing and capable of solving it, and he worries that if it isn't solved before he's gone, nobody is going to solve it in time.

    But, really, since almost everything he's doing at this point is equally usable for other paths, why complain? If O'Neill makes economic sense, it will happen without beating people up about it, just from people making economically rational decisions. Musk himself will find that lunar O2 makes his Mars colony more affordable, for instance!

  13. I have often thot that a piece of Moon rock encased in a glass vacuum chamber made in a factory in lunar orbit with actual Space vacuum and actual Moon rock and actual ISMRU vacuum chamber would be a cool key fob thingy.

  14. The logical form of your question is directly applicable to the current situation. Why worry ONLY about the ultimate goal, Mars, when there are so many easier and better goals close at hand, O'Neill, $$$$? And, mind you, I am NOT actually agreeing that Mars or Moon surface is the ultimate goal, only stipulating it so as to apply the correct logic of your question. As many are seeing, Mars is not any goal at all, too far, too small, no micr0g, tourist/science only. Forget Mars. Help the Earth. Make money doing it.

    The fantasy world of even handed treatment for O'Neill and Mars concepts is agonizing to see. Azimov chose "chauvinism" at a time when "male chauvinist (optional: pig)" was a common phrase. The unconscious assumptions inherent in planet chauvinism are understandable. And deadly dangerous.

  15. Also, a lot of interesting scientific knowledge. That'll be valuable enough to establish a base, though probably without Musk it'd be done far later.

    And anything that can be done on Mars to cut the cost of doing research there (producing fuel and oxygen for return flights, growing food, using Mars soil for radiation shielding that doesn't need to be brought from Earth, etc) effectively exports reduced costs to Earth – though obviously there's a limit on that (zero marginal cost to Earth).

    Also, if Earth is paying for a moon colony and sending nitrogen there from Mars makes sense, Mars would actually be selling nitrogen to Earth – simply deployed to the moon.

  16. I suspect NASA sees Gateway more as an anchor, functioning the same way that ISS kept the human space program alive despite not having enough reliable budget to work toward long range human missions such as getting back to the moon (which was always on again/off again). It gave the shuttle a destination and required frequent crewed flights for resupply.

    NASA probably sees Gateway having a similar "keep Congress throwing money at us" function. If Gateway can get built and then is viewed as sunk cost with lots of districts getting a piece of the on-going spending, and if it can convincingly be said to even modestly improve safety of or reduce the cost of missions to the lunar surface, it serves its political role.

    (Doesn't mean I have to like it… anchors also slow you down a LOT, which was the case for ISS and shuttle.)

  17. You were not clear in that thot. You should think before you write. It is the fact that we do *not* know that means we should not wait for the unneeded info before proceeding to O'Neill g choice system.

  18. You should think before you write. There is no advantage to Mars, or any of those places, for software. An independent variable.

  19. I'm not saying that Mars is not the ultimate solution, and thus is unimportant. I'm saying that the Earth is not the right place for the stuff Musk wants to do on Mars. Mars sure ain't. It is the wrong intermediate and short term goal. Far and away if even Earth is.

  20. I always applaud his rockets. Do you think before you write? JB was saying Musk *should* think about Moon more. I agree. But JB is assuming that a planet is the goal, not Space, so is all concerned with landing on the Moon with humans. Apollo repeat. Very little of interest to Musk, it would seem, if not getting paid. But, O'Neill micr0g HALO Gateway orbital facility is the goal. Build it from Musk rockets. Build it!

  21. "useful things" far more likely in micr0g O'Neill HALO Gateway facility. Easier to set up from Earth! Gateway idea started as assembly point for Mars bound stuff for Mars Direct/First/Only plans, so it has usefulness. see BIS for details. Can be towed to Mars for their micr0g facility when outgrown here in cislunar. "Both", indeed. As much O'Neill as Earth plus Mars, good! THAT is the plan.

    The easier the launch, the quicker you come up against other constraints, on Earth. Merely dealing with energy opens Space. Add in micr0g industry, Mars is a no $$ small potato.

  22. Of course. So, the question is: Do we launch the O2 factory directly, or launch a factory to make such a factory. O'Neill bootstrap plan would be Viking type scooper (but non science rated) O2 cooker, 70s start on that. Great idea! Now, if you have a different goal than O'Neill, planitorial perhaps? you may decide to do some other thing with the launches. Surely tiny Mars is not such a different goal!

  23. The Boeing money is for the big plan, Mars deep space. I say give THAT money, SLS etc to a reasonable O'Neill plan. Musk's private Mars Direct is w/o significant lunar input, other than practice. Pretty sure he will get no O2 from Moon, all Earth launch, as is all of his self-funded Mars plan. Prob is Musk paid contract to practice Mars on Moon w/o any O'Neill startup, cancelling out the rational O'Neill micr0g HALO Gateway. Everyone sees Mars *only*, and gateway mfg facility not needed for Musk Mars plans.

  24. Seriously, I will pay $1k for an actual moon rock, about say one twentieth of a kg.

    Please Musk TAKE MY MONEY!

    For Dan Musk can sell him some of the vacuum of space for $1k.

  25. Musk: "I'm going to build this intercontinental railroad so I can make a city on the other side of the continent."

    Dan: "Ha you fool! Everybody knows that the only thing you can do with an intercontinental railroad is build single family detached homes on the other side of the continent!"

    Me: "You know I bet that this intercontinental railroad could simultaneously be used for all sorts of things that are in no way mutually exclusive."

  26. The pork must flow. Seeing how the pork is still flowing then I would say that everything is working as expected.

    I mean you do realize that five years from now when we have two BFR launches a day that SLS will still be a line item in the budget.

    The Pork Must Flow.

  27. Single stage Mars to orbit is trivial. Just need a SpaceX Starship and cargo capacity is good too.

    Delta-v is only one problem. The other problem is the time it takes to get something from the asteroids to anywhere else. Maybe we'll get fusion propulsion but in the meantime…

  28. The idea that Lunar gravity is some kind of prison… Single Stage to Lunar Orbit is child's play.

    You can make a lunar space elevator out of Kevlar.

    Moon is rich in resources. Moon is just a big asteroid and it is nearby. Go forth and mine it.

  29. Look, it only makes sense to avoid launches by bootstrapping if launches are more expensive than bootstrapping.

    I mean, if you've got a self-replicating nanofactory in your back pocket, by all means let's fire it to the Moon tomorrow on the smallest rocket that will get the job done. That's only good sense.

    But if you don't have that, and it's going to cost $23B to develop, maybe a hundred $20M rocket launches is the better deal.

    At SOME point, bootstrapping eventually takes over even if you don't mean it to, when your infrastructure out there is so extensive that people build ball bearing factories and mine rare earths just to avoid shipping charges.

    But when you do that is an economic decision, and the cheaper launches get, the less sense it makes to concentrate on ISRU immediately and to the exclusion of just launching more stuff.

  30. What software needs to be made in India?

    What software needs to be made in Europe?

    What software needs to be made in America?

    What software needs to be made in an O’Neill colony?

    Answer: whatever the software developers who live there right. Why move to TX if you can move to space?

  31. "Do you support an O'Neill style effort at HALO Gateway? Or a surface Moon base as the primary goal, to practice for Mars? This is not a trivial question at this time."

    For now NASA pays the SpaceX dev costs so they get a moon base. I prefer a moon base for ISRU. Once a moon base has a space elevator then it is just a big asteroid with useful gravity. You can mine all sorts of useful things there and make more moon base and start making habitats in LLO.

    Gateway is stupid congressional pork. But stupid congressional pork is paying for SpaceX development so you do what congress wants until one day we wake up and realize we have a privatized space program that can do what it wants with Starlink money.

    Why do you keep thinking that we must pick between Mars and O'Neill? Why not both?

    It won't be tax dollars that do either. NASA will never colonize space. It will be venture capital doing both Mars and Moon and O'Neill. We aren't fighting over zero sum tax dollars doled out by NASA bureaucrats doing the bidding of their Senators, it will be dueling elevator pitches fighting for many $100 million payments.

    You only need to bootstrap when launch is prohibitively expensive. When launch is cheap you can make huge Moon landers that are reusable and put 100 metric tons of spider-fab ready Ti power in to LEO every day of every week of every month of every year.

  32. Just for rockets. Musk wants to colonise Mars, so he should pay for the colonisation. Since the rockets are useful for doing other stuff out in space, we help pay for that part.

  33. I'm referring to the idea that you seem to know that Mars gravity is inadequate for humanity. You seem to have knowledge that the rest of humanity lacks so I assume you are a time traveler.

  34. Be careful of "space has everything Mars has and more": if you spend the ΔV, space indeed has everything. But to get to a source with an appreciable concentration of any given element, you may need to spend several km/s shuttling ices from beyond the snow line. It may end up more expedient to go down Mars's gravity well and access water or carbon or nitrogen there and then haul it back up rather than go perhaps to the main belt or even the Jovian system.

  35. More concerned about the macrometorites, and being able to stop them. Which mining them would help get going. And the macrogammaraybursters, which being in Space will make survival much easier, even maybe protect Earth with a disk if we see it coming. They vote: "O'Neill!".

  36. The question is, what are we going to do about the impending heat death of the universe?

    What's that, you say? We're allowed to have intermediate goals and side projects before we tackle that one? We don't have to do the ultimate thing first?

  37. If you understand and agree with the Galileo/O'Neill outlook on things, you will cheer any effort to increase work in Space, such as HALO Gateway, and be ALARMED that the Mars First/Direct/Only crowd is still wallowing in ignorance. Starting to remind me of China gov. Bezos has understood O'Neill nearly as long as I, so his Space cred is impeccable. Certainly NOT "doing exactly the same old tired space things". More like:

  38. The second big point of O'Neill is to avoid (not totally eliminate, btw) launch by *bootstrapping*, a word that looks better the more we struggle with alternatives. This avoids the "Once you have" syndrome we have seen for decades, if it is understood. It is independent of rocket size, certainly once you can get a few crew to help set up. Do it.

    The big glaring first foremost point of O'Neill is not understood by those who want to do Mars. At all. Ever. For anything but Science. Do you support an O'Neill style effort at HALO Gateway? Or a surface Moon base as the primary goal, to practice for Mars? This is not a trivial question at this time. The micr0g ISS stuff is changing minds. The obvious answer to O'Neill's question is changing minds. The decades of delay is getting tiresome.

    And, the fact that Space IS the Place means $$$$. Mars or Moon surface means EXPENSE without return. No way to help Earth means no $$ as return. Almost looks bad for Musk when you see it that way. Escape poorly or escape big time while helping Earth O'Neill?

  39. They want guaranteed access. Right or wrong, this is what they want- to not be locked in to a single space shuttle.

  40. "What will be produced on Mars & sold for a profit on Earth?"


    "What will be produced on Mars & sold for a profit on the Moon?"

    Bulk Ammonia ice.

  41. I don't think we have ever really disagreed with your point, we just realize:

    -You have to do the work to pay the bills before you play with your rockets
    -Once you have cheap access to LEO then the economy is open for both Moon, Mars, and O'Neill and different groups can and will do all of these simultaneously

  42. So, he's doing this out of the goodness of his heart?

    No, he isn't. This is just pettiness, it won't help him get any further, it won't help humanity move ahead. It's just a waste of time to feed his ego.

    He would perfectly be in SpaceX's place if he could, doing exactly the same old tired space things you think he's fighting now.

    I don't believe anyone calling himself a space fan can endorse this behavior, whatever song Bezos sang before, he's now an avowed enemy of human space.

  43. My question about what Musk wants is far bigger: "Is the surface of a planet the right place for" a sustainable off Earth lifeboat population? Perhaps as he ponders closer $$$ opps he will see the light. I suspect the Inspiration4 crew will fill his ears with the need to "Help the Earth", to borrow from Bezos' O'Neill understanding. Survival starting with O'Neill far easier than having to land on Mars first, and then have to stay there.

  44. You may consider that that team won their (cloud) case. Are you saying they did the same thing they were basing their complaint upon, political interference?

  45. The *big* reason for this is that SLS is designed for "one shot" Mars First/Direct/Only missions. Launching and combining smaller bits would be just fine, as JB and BB show above. Because "the plan" is dead set against anything NOT Mars FDO, esp cislunar dev, you will see the good O'Neill stuff suppressed.

    Saw a story about Boeing buying McDonnall. Explained a lot. My dad worked for Lockheed, so I am biased.

  46. Also, Space has the right g, however you define the "right g", for any occasion, selectable. Mars has .4 g which cannot be avoided, thus making other g values very hard, and impossible for lower gs.

  47. Why wouldn't Musk want payload back from the Moon. Have you looked at the going price for Moon rocks? $50-$4000 a gram for tiny pieces. Even if he tanks the market and the price drops 100 fold, he could make a killing on the first flight back.

  48. Yeah, what Bezos doesn't understand is "hurry". Elon time is a joke, of course, but SpaceX missing schedules is faster than BO meeting them, if they ever got around to actually doing that.

    And I'm quite certain that Musk would be happy to assemble things in orbit if you paid him to. In fact, that's probably on the agenda for 2024ish, once he's got things he wants to accomplish in space that require it.

  49. Or, they could build the Gateway and visit the Moon to set up stuff, not live as practice for yet another gravity prison floor. If you are building at the wrong location, nothing right will ensue.

  50. Why would Musk want to do that? He is only doing lunar stuff because we pay him to. His plan is Mars First/Direct/Only, the same loser as always, for decades. Forget Mars.

  51. Bezos is burning the Mars First/Direct/Only version of Artemis. Which is the one you all support, rather than HALO Gateway being the focus of cislunar O'Neill. If you are on the wrong train, every stop is the wrong stop. Forget Mars.

  52. "assembled in orbit" is something Musk does not plan. Certainly not longer term In Space Resource Use. Give Bezos the money, have him purchase Musk boosters or build own. Bezos understands O'Neill.

  53. What will be produced on Mars & sold for a profit on Earth? Maybe reality shows? I don't think going back down a gravity well (other than small, convenient ones like the Moon) is going to work. Space has everything that Mars has & more. Not least, Earth's orbit receives 5 times the solar power available on the surface of Mars.

  54. Shut down the whole program, and give half the annual budget to SpaceX for technology development.
    Taxpayer save money.
    Space exploration gets cheaper better advancement. Not just manned either. Imagine the telescopes that can be assembled in orbit, or at a LaGrange point. We could be exploring Pluto, and looking for land masses on distant worlds with the telescopes, before deciding to go there.

  55. I would personally consider the use of a drop tank system for the Lunar Starship, to increase available delta V. It might require a few more fuel flights, but you'd bring back a lot more payload.

  56. " A lunar Starship can be launched and refueled in LEO, with the astronauts getting onboard using Dragon."

    I believe that's the current plan, actually. Plus the unnecessary Lunar Gateway, of course, but the Moon contract does not involve, IIRC, launching the Starship from Earth manned.

    If the SLS slides any longer, they'll have to give up on that Gateway, and settle for just flying direct to the Moon from Earth orbit.

    Here's the current plan, by the way:
    1) Launch specialize fuel depot Starship to hold fuel.
    2) Multiple fuel ferry Starship launches to carry fuel, and transfer to fuel dept.
    3) Launch Moon landing Starship, and refuel in orbit from the depot.
    4) Then NASA insists that the Moon landing starship meet the Orion carried by SLS in an orbit near the moon. (Like that's going to happen in time.)
    5) Now manned Lunar Starship lands on Moon.
    6) Actual Moon stuff happens.
    7) Starship launches from Moon and meets Orion in lunar orbit.
    8) Orion takes astronauts back to Earth.
    9) Ideally, Starship returns to Earth orbit with cargo, and remains there until needed again.

    If you cut out the part where they insist on using SLS, the man rated Falcon/Dragon would meet the refueled Lunar starship at the fuel depot, which would fly direct to the Moon from there, then back to Earth orbit after the mission. Then board the Dragon for reentry.

  57. Moon and Lunar Gateway is a boondoggle. Another NASA waste of money, time and resources and claim to fame for nothing. Been there done it. Very little gravity to operate or function. NASA and SpaceX should toss aside the Moon and go to Mars as originally planned. Learn to deliver tonnage cargo, nuclear reactor power plants, earth moving equipment and lego like building parts.. with robotics and build a base in 2023 to 2029 to sustain people initially. Then in 2032 send people to mars. Mars has usable methane, water, minerals and 1/3 gravity of earth.

  58. Musk ought to be making plans to go to the Moon solo, if he wants that contract.

    With just HLS Starship and Crew Dragon, that is. A lunar Starship can be launched and refueled in LEO, with the astronauts getting onboard using Dragon.

    It can then go to the Moon, land, return to lunar orbit and then to Earth's orbit, to rendezvous with a Dragon again for returning the crew to Earth.

    This architecture makes more sense than Gateway anyway, which is really a way to justify SLS and Orion.

    The good part, is they could prove this whole scheme without anyone risking their necks. The full architecture could be rehearsed without any astronauts onboard. If it fails, too bad, it was just another test.

    At this pace, SLS might never fly and the only existing option becomes the chosen one.

  59. I can't say that I didn't expect this to happen, but it still pisses me off. I guess this is how Jordan from Angry Astronaut feels…

  60. Between a big cheap cargo booster and even minimal crew launch, we should be able to get started on rational O'Neill expansion into HALO Gateway ISMRU facility. Forget Mars.

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