SLS delayed again and no crew on EM-1

This week NASA announced that they had completed the study requested by the Trump administration who had requested that they look into add crew to the first launch of the Space Launch System (SLS).  NASA concluded that it would cost an additional $600-900 million to do this and would delay the first flight until sometime in 2020.  Due to this, the White House decided to leave the EM-1 mission as an uncrewed mission.

During the same press conference, NASA announced that the first launch of SLS would be delayed anyway due to several factors including damage sustained at the Michoud facility earlier in the year by a tornado that touched down.  The launch which has already been delayed several times was previously set for November 2018 and will now be delayed to some time in 2019.  However, at present, they haven’t determined an exact date and will be reporting back in the next couple of weeks.

During the Q&A time after it was determined that there would most likely be an impact on the EM-2 mission too as NASA needs approximately 33 months to modify the Launch Platform for the taller version of SLS due to the introduction of the Exploration Upper Stage which is approximately 40 feet taller than the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) flying on EM-1.

NASA has been developing a replacement for the Space Transport System (STS) since the 2005 NASA Authorization act and to date has only performed two launches related to the programs.  NASA started work on the Constellation program which proposed the development of two rockets Ares I and V, a crew capsule Orion and several other components.  This program ran until 2010, during which time they launched a single Ares 1 rocket.  The Ares 1 basically consisted of a Solid Rocket Booster derived from the boosters used by the space shuttle.  While this launch was successful nothing further came from the program.

In 2010 the program was canceled and morphed into the Space Launch System which proposed a single rocket capable of launching the Orion capsule beyond Low Earth Orbit.  Since then there has only been one launch related to the program in 2014 when a Delta IV Heavy rocket carried the Orion capsule to orbit for a 4-hour 24-minute mission to test the vehicle’s heat shield.  This was also a successful mission with the capsule splashing down in the Pacific Ocean.

To date, NASA has spent approximately $9 billion on Constellation and another $15+ billion on SLS.  From an investment north of $24 billion dollars only having two launches equals $12 billion each.  With these additional delays more and more money is being poured into the program and while NASA recently announced plans for more missions for SLS there is no guarantee that the program won’t be canceled especially if there any further delays.


2 responses to “SLS delayed again and no crew on EM-1”

  1. It should be quite obvious that NASA is not the leader today in space. One would even question why they are there at all? As a NASA contractor at JPL in the 60’s and early 70’s we had missions with real objectives; today NASA is nothing more than another government bureaucratic entity eating taxpayer’s dollars.

    Administrations just play games with NASA, implying they are not sure what to do with this bunch of people. This has been going on ever since I left JPL, it has been one thing after another. We know other space programs are in existence, and probably funded better with more meaningful objectives during these past 45 years. I think it is time someone starts to do some explaining to the U.S. taxpayers what really is going on in space today.

    We had a director of the military top-secret projects making claims of ‘they have the means to reach the stars and the capability to take ET’s back home’ and then alluding to a ESP-like system performing this feat. Many state he was just joking, maybe, but maybe not too; you and I will never know! However, this was almost a quarter of a century ago, and what really is important ‘in those words’ being he alluded to the only system that could ever reached the stars. A system providing near or beyond lightspeed travel & instantaneous communication capability. Both being the very basic requirements for interstellar space travel. This technology not even being on NASA table today.

    As far back as the middle 60’s both Douglas Aircraft and Lockheed were either reverse engineering UFO propulsion technology, or at a minimum studying the possibility of using it; that was 50 years ago. I give more credence to our ability to develop space technology than some advance rocket technology, i.e. the SLS. Just look at what SpaceX has done in the its 15 years, and with peanuts compared to what the military, NASA, and all other government space programs done with tons of our taxpayers dollars. It is time we get some answers – some real answers!

    Should the technology not exist to reach the stars, then the American public needs to know WHAT all this R & D taxpayer dollars did create?

    1. ChrisDMarshall Avatar

      I would argue that NASA is the leader when it comes to deep space scientific missions. However, I agree that they are no longer the leader in LEO or crewed launches. Thankfully we have the commercial crew program or I fear it would be 2023 or later before US can launch crew again.

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