NASA, Boeing Finalize $2.8 Billion Space Launch System Rocket Contract

NASA, Boeing Finalize $2.8 Billion Space Launch System Rocket Contract

NASA Boeing SLS Rocket 310x

The Space Launch System (SLS) initiative could one day lead to sending men to Mars, or back to the Moon.

NASA has approved Boeing's initial designs for its SLS (Space Launch System) rocket, and the $2.8 billion project is now moving into the next phase of production.

The SLS project, which aims to produce the most powerful rocket ever constructed, has beyond-Earth travel in mind, as the rockets and designs crafted under the contract could be used to send man back to the Moon, or eventually to Mars.

Boeing met with NASA last week at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The meeting was the SLS project's Critical Design Review, which is essentially the first major critique and analysis of Boeing's rocket and avionics designs. "More than 3,000 core stage artifacts were reviewed by 11 individual technical discipline teams," said NASA in a press release. "'The SLS program team completed the core stage critical design review ahead of schedule and continues to make excellent progress towards delivering the rocket to the launch pad,' said SLS Program Manager Todd May. 'Our entire prime contractor and government team has been working full-steam on this program since its inception.'"

The SLS program appears to be running as smoothly as any government project not fueled by global conflict can be expected to run, although NASA will have some large rocket competiion in the future. SpaceX is working on its own large rocket platform to be used for the exact same purposes, pitting government work against the ever-rising promise of private space industry.

Source: NASA

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Two questions:

1. Why are they reinventing the wheel so to speak? The Saturn V design was robust enough to support interplanetary travel. Why not use that? Is it because everyone involved with that project is dead or retired and they don't have enough knowledge to bring it back? This whole process of qualifying all new hardware is painstakingly slow, especially since there's no real innovation.

2. Why are the first two links to NASA and Boeing directing to unrelated articles? I fail to see how some F-18 flight demonstration has anything to do with this story, except in the very basic "they are both things that fly".

Avaholic03:
Two questions:

2. Why are the first two links to NASA and Boeing directing to unrelated articles? I fail to see how some F-18 flight demonstration has anything to do with this story, except in the very basic "they are both things that fly".

It just a keyword thing. First link goes to a very recent NASA post (posted yesterday). The second link pops up because F-18 Super Hornet fighters are built by Boeing.

-Devin Connors

Avaholic03:
Two questions:

1. Why are they reinventing the wheel so to speak? The Saturn V design was robust enough to support interplanetary travel. Why not use that? Is it because everyone involved with that project is dead or retired and they don't have enough knowledge to bring it back? This whole process of qualifying all new hardware is painstakingly slow, especially since there's no real innovation.

2. Why are the first two links to NASA and Boeing directing to unrelated articles? I fail to see how some F-18 flight demonstration has anything to do with this story, except in the very basic "they are both things that fly".

Going off of wikipedia, the Saturn V's largest payload was 118 metric tons. This rocket is supposed to get 143 metric tons, or about 22% better. The extra fuel is useful for doing more than dropping a probe as they fly by.

Avaholic03:
Two questions:

1. Why are they reinventing the wheel so to speak? The Saturn V design was robust enough to support interplanetary travel. Why not use that? Is it because everyone involved with that project is dead or retired and they don't have enough knowledge to bring it back? This whole process of qualifying all new hardware is painstakingly slow, especially since there's no real innovation.

2. Why are the first two links to NASA and Boeing directing to unrelated articles? I fail to see how some F-18 flight demonstration has anything to do with this story, except in the very basic "they are both things that fly".

1) Perhaps more durable, lighter materials are to be used or more efficient fuel. It has been 48 years since the Saturn rocket was originally designed. You think it might have become obsolete in that time? Also, that rocket was originally designed to be expendable, essentially a 12 ton chunk of garbage left to fall to Earth when it's expended. Using that much material, for every launch in space ever, will become progressively more expensive the more we employ it. This is why SpaceX has been pushing so hard for reusable, self-landing rockets. Less fuel and a better designed propulsion system would translate to better craft design and more room for other things, like living quarters, various scientific tools and experiments, a host of things that would be required for an extended launch to Mars.

2) The link at the bottom, the one that says Source links to the article under discussion, while the links in the article go to other stories done by the Escapist. This is typical of almost every article on the site. Source at the bottom, other stories linked within.

They finally chose a replacement design. The only things that make me sad are the facts they didn't consider an Orion Drive stage for interplanetary travel and the ever looming threat Congress will "reallocate" more of NASA's budget either to surplus military hardware(because they're in the defense contractor's pockets), megacorps that say they will fail(and need that money for the board's bonuses), or directly into their pockets(Because when you're rich and your country can still maintain air superiority in almost every part of the world, why does leading the exploration of space and new resources matter?).

Two questions I have is will this be used for near Earth missions or is it meant solely for distant missions? Also, is it designed to be reusable? The space shuttle was meant from its inception to be reusable but that limited it to low orbit missions as after it reached its destination it had just enough full and propellant to make a reentry burn and do course corrections.

The captcha is asking what kind of car I'd be interested in buying. "Well I heard there's some old space craft on the market now. Why isn't that on your list."

Avaholic03:
Two questions:

1. Why are they reinventing the wheel so to speak? The Saturn V design was robust enough to support interplanetary travel. Why not use that? Is it because everyone involved with that project is dead or retired and they don't have enough knowledge to bring it back? This whole process of qualifying all new hardware is painstakingly slow, especially since there's no real innovation.

That's actually a pretty interesting, ongoing thing.

Arstechnica covered some of what's going on with recreation of the Saturn V engines here:

http://arstechnica.com/science/2013/04/how-nasa-brought-the-monstrous-f-1-moon-rocket-back-to-life/

Been a while since I've read through all of it, but from what I recall, part of it is that some of the blueprints were lost, so they're deconstructing a existing one, 3d mapping the entire thing, and plan to use computer modelling to improve upon it even further.

The original engine production was an absolutely terrifying amount of "yeah, that'll probably work I guess" and eyeball work. The engines themselves were welded by hand. It's amazing what they managed to accomplish, but it wouldn't be wise to use the engines as they are.

However, with modern production techniques, we could see some pretty amazing engines come out of it in the end.

Areloch:
The original engine production was an absolutely terrifying amount of "yeah, that'll probably work I guess" and eyeball work. The engines themselves were welded by hand. It's amazing what they managed to accomplish, but it wouldn't be wise to use the engines as they are.

However, with modern production techniques, we could see some pretty amazing engines come out of it in the end.

A few years back I bought my father a copy of "When We Left Earth"[1] for Christmas. Aside from being amazing, it does a remarkable job of highlighting just how 'new' space travel really was. For generations that grew up in the post-Shuttle era, it's easy to take our world of satellites and space-stations for granted. Back then however, the next-closest thing they had to work from were WW2-era German rockets, which were neither manned nor spaceworthy. And to be fair, you don't often hear about all the unmanned test rockets that blew themselves across launch-pads, before Mercury was judged "safe enough" for a manned flight.

So yeah, Saturn V and its ilk were built with duct-tape, guesswork, and good math. They might have been functional for the time, but trying to use one in these days is a bit like trusting your grandmother's rusty Plymouth to a cross-country roadtrip.

And in space, no one can hear you call AAA.

[1] I also blame it for feeding my addiction to KSP.

 

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