Will Artemis SLS Blow Up on the Pad or During the Launch?

The Artemis Space Launch System was built to be expendable. The rocket has had more fuel loading and unloading from tests and from scrubbed launches than planned. Fuel loading and unloading cycles the rocket between extreme cold and normal temperatures. This can increase cracks and leaks which are already a problem.

Winter launch schedules in Florida have greater risks of weather cancellations.

This increases the chances that an attempt to launch in late October, November or December gets canceled or interrupted because of weather.

SLS will be undergoing more fixes and inspections so it would be easy to delay into 2023.

When SLS finally does launch the extra stresses and age of components (some of which are thirty years old) have increased the chances of blowing up on the pad or when it launches.

SLS Launch Windows:

October 17 – October 31 [NBF: Maybe, but probably not]

11 launch opportunities

No launch availability on October 24, 25, 26, and 28

November 12 – November 27 (preliminary)

12 launch opportunities
No launch availability on November 20, 21, and 26

December 9 – December 23 (preliminary)

11 launch opportunities
No launch availability on December 10, 14, 18, and 23

18 thoughts on “Will Artemis SLS Blow Up on the Pad or During the Launch?”

  1. Despite knowing government/cronyism and stupidity go hand in hand (every centralized government has proven this. Eventually), it’s still amazingly disappointing when it happens right in front of you.
    Is it bad of me to wish it explodes so they will finally throw their full support behind better (you know which one I’m talking about) systems?

  2. Some components 30 years old, hmm?

    I guess the Tesla success is probably due to not using any parts left over from Ford’s 1915 attempts at an electric car.

    NASA, heads up, I think there is a lesson here.

  3. In the Air Force we defined “mixed emotions” as watching the inspector general’s plane crash on inbound (landing for an unscheduled inspection).

    Watching a US rocket explode, even if it is the SLS? Mixed emotions.

  4. It will blow up in budget negotiations when NASA asks for BILLIONS more to make a launchpad bathroom, or somesuch, for the legions of government employees inspecting everything.

  5. Your comment about parts being 30 years old is a reminder that SLS started off a proposal to quickly make a big economical launch system by reusing leftover Shuttle engines and parts on a disposable booster. Decades and tens of billions of dollars later, this is the result.

  6. The commenters over at Ars Technica refer to this as a Wickwick Event, after one of the commenters who apparently was strongly advocating that SLS blowing up would be the best result.

    Contrary to Icepilot’s and Combinatorics’ opinion, I think blowing up at liftoff would be better than blowing up after it is well up in the air, precisely because that would also destroy the tower. I doubt any but the most devastating failure has any chance of shaking things up enough to put the beyond low earth orbit human spaceflight program on a more sensible course. Blowing up at liftoff would not endanger any people, since the area is cleared well before ignition. I sure wish I did not feel that would be the best result, but the SLS program, unfortunately, has earned such a bad feeling.

    • Best case scenario I think is blowing up at the pad, taking the tower with it. That tower alone, I believe, was on the order of like a billion dollars.
      So the rocket AND the tower getting taken out would be a more convincing reason to cancel SLS and do something sensible.

  7. While it’s still on the pad, but locked down, there’s much less vibration, and no aerodynamic loading or turbulence. And the capacity is there to abort the launch right up until the moment they unlock, so you’d likely not see an actual explosion unless you had a very rapid cascade of explosive engine failures blowing out the bottom of the main tank.

    But the engine is probably the best engineered part of this beast, and can be very rapidly shut down if caught operating out of spec, so I’m not expecting that.

    If it explodes it’s more likely to happen in flight, as once they unlock the hold downs the entire rocket structure is going to be stressed by both vibrations and aerodynamic loading. And the vibration will be cumulative. And there’s really no option if they have a structural failure besides a big boom.

    So my bet is on an in flight explosion somewhere near max Q.

    Are we going to set up a pool on how many seconds after ignition it happens at?

  8. I think it’d be better for the program to go down in flames than continue for so many billions, when millions with more private companies will get you so much more for much less!!!

    • The whole SLS business is a corrupt boondoggle, without justification now that SpaceX has proven the concept of reusability, has Falcon Heavy capability, and is well on the way to “upgrading” that to fully reusable super-heavy Starship capability.

      SLS serves politically and financially “degenerate” — ie ‘corrupt’ — Boeing and Boeing’s bribed Congressional stooges. It’s no longer a secret. It’s all out in the open, and been that way for a while now.

      Per Eisenhower so long ago:

      “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”

      Ditto Big Pharma, the Neoliberal financial cabal, and Isr … er … foreign special interests.

      Stick a fork in America, she’s done:


  9. In light of what the US taxpayers have paid for this launch I expect to get an explosion on the pad and in flight. Anything less and I’ll be disappointed by the show.


    (side note- exploding on the pad is worse as it would destroy the billion dollar gantry)

    • No, exploding on the pad and taking that tower out is better since I am sure that is a more convincing reason to cancel SLS than the rocket alone.

  10. I suppose that in flight RUD is more likely an option. You have more time in flight than on the pad and in flight you have experienced more shaking and stress due to POGO, max Q, etc.

  11. I won’t be happy if such a thig happens, but it can indeed happen. RUDs are an ever present risk of rocketry.

    Hopefully no one gets hurt, except some politicians and bootlicker’s egos.

    Better if it works, the powers that be sigh in relief from mission accomplished, and then get out of the way and let commercial space take the lead.

Comments are closed.