NASA unveils powerful new rocket system

Since we are all bored to tears with the “Climate Reality Project” I figure If I don’t want WUWT’s ship to go down with Gore’s I had better provide something interesting to read. This fits the bill nicely as it’s the first positive new thing I’ve seen out of NASA’s space program this year.

The Space Launch System, or SLS, will be designed to carry the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, as well as important cargo, equipment and science experiments to Earth’s orbit and destinations beyond. Additionally, the SLS will serve as a back up for commercial and international partner transportation services to the International Space Station.

The SLS rocket will incorporate technological investments from the Space Shuttle program and the Constellation program in order to take advantage of proven hardware and cutting-edge tooling and manufacturing technology that will significantly reduce development and operations costs. It will use a liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propulsion system, which will include the RS-25D/E from the Space Shuttle program for the core stage and the J-2X engine for the upper stage. SLS will also use solid rocket boosters for the initial development flights, while follow-on boosters will be competed based on performance requirements and affordability considerations. The SLS will have an initial lift capacity of 70 metric tons (mT) and will be evolvable to 130 mT. The first developmental flight, or mission, is targeted for the end of 2017.

The Space Launch System will be NASA’s first exploration-class vehicle since the Saturn V took American astronauts to the moon over 40 years ago. With its superior lift capability, the SLS will expand our reach in the solar system and allow us to explore cis-lunar space, near-Earth asteroids, Mars and its moons and beyond. We will learn more about how the solar system formed, where Earth’ water and organics originated and how life might be sustained in places far from our Earth’s atmosphere and expand the boundaries of human exploration. These discoveries will change the way we understand ourselves, our planet, and its place in the universe.

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Jay Currie

Hmmm…what’s the carbon footprint?

Go read some space blogs like http://www.transterrestrial.com . You find us space cookies less than enamoured of another NASA waste of time, engineering talent and money.
The damn thing will cost heaps, fly infrequently and be unaffordable to operate, consequently exploitation of the rest of the universe will be setback. Fortunately NASA isn’t the only game in town.

David Davidovics

Seems to me they just integrated the shuttle into the hydrogen fuel tank. Pop an engine on the bottom of the tank and a crew/cargo module on the top and presto, you’re done! (/sarc) Half a century after the moon landings and this is what they come up with?

Tom

6 years…a long time w/out a man-rated heavy lift vehicle.

ColdinOz

Thanks for this Anthony. A much needed distraction. 30 minutes into the Goreathon I had a full bucket and empty stomach.

Stephen Singer

First test flight not till 2017, six years from now. First manned mission not till 2021, ten years from now. Why bother the Russians and Chinese will be so far ahead of us by then. We did the old Saturn rocket for the moon mission in what 3-4 years. Maybe we should just wait and buy cheap rockets from the Chinese in four or five years.

Leon Brozyna

Poor NASA … caught between a rockk and a hard place. And what can they expect from the new administration that comes to office in 2013? What kind of changes will they go through again?

wermet

SpaceX plans to have a slightly smaller launch vehicle (53 metric tons to LEO), the Falcon 9 Heavy, ready to fly in 2013. That will be 4 years earlier than this new NASA shuttle follow-on. SpaceX is advertising a total launch cost (including the vehicle) of $80M – $125M. http://www.spacex.com/falcon_heavy.php (I wonder if NASA can even pay their electric bill for this cost.)
As an experienced aerospace engineer, I have seen this particular rocket stack configuration proposed many times. Some of these proposals were made as early as the 1980’s. However, NASA has always seen fit to withdrawal their support every time. What will be different this time? If history is our guide, nothing.

j.pickens

Spacex could be launching people in two years, if given the funding.
The Dragon will be flying by the ISS this year, and another mission will resupply by docking either later this year or early 2012.

[sigh] Five decades into the Space Age. Well into the 21st century.
And NASA still can’t do any better than Apollo v2.0.

j.pickens

Just did some searching, and it seems that the flyby and first docking missions have been combined, and will take place Nov. 31, 2011, if the schedule holds.

Neil Jones

Looks like a Saturn V recycled

wermet

Quick correction: I should have said, “I have seen very similar rocket stack configurations proposed many times.” I did not mean to imply this exact configuration. Each previously proposed configuration was “slightly” different.

This looks remarkably like the Mars Direct launch vehicle imagined by Bob Zubrin back in the 1990s… Glad to see NASA is being innovative….

crosspatch

I still am not comfortable with those multi-section SRBs. They are still prone to gas leak at the joints and if the leak is facing the main booster, are a potential catastrophic failure mode.
I prefer the SpaceX approach.

Dave

With over $2 billion slotted in for climate science, I’m surprised they even have enough left to develop a new soda bottle rocket.

MrV

Why don’t they build a shuttle that can make it to the moon with the capacity to land and takeoff again from a runway (built robotically ahead of time).

Ray

Oh, another NASA simulation… goody!

Enough with these “new” proposals. Just build the f************** thing!!!!! On past performance it’ll be canceled by next President or ready by 2023 having costed three times more than expected.

MrV says: September 14, 2011 at 11:08 pm
Why don’t they build a shuttle that can make it to the moon with the capacity to land and takeoff again from a runway (built robotically ahead of time).

[blink] You’re… kidding?
(If not, think “no lunar atmosphere to speak of” and take it from there.)

Dave Wendt

If the Saturn V could be considered as the Ford Model T of space flight, given the hundreds of billions that has been ratholed on NASA over the decades and the extra decade lead time on this project, they ought to be offering the equivalent of Ferrari 458 Italia, Instead it looks like they still haven’t made it to the Flathead V-8.

Brian H

I’m not sure the Orion will ever fly; AFAIK it’s been scrubbed, $1.6 billion in. (That’s twice the cost of SpaceX’s total expenditures since the founding of the company, including orbit and de-orbit of the Dragon, which is arguably better than the Orion anyway.)

NASA Rockets are the ultimate waste of time.
After the nuclear bomb, the Manhattan Scientists designed and partly tested a space drive so powerful, it could have lifted thousands, or even millions of tons, into orbit, for a few dimes per kilo.
The best design for the space drive had a theoretical top speed of 10% of the speed of light – all this with 1950s technology!
Nowdays, noone even remembers it.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Orion_(nuclear_propulsion)

wermet

The Saturn V cannot be considered the space equivalent of the Ford Model T. The Model T was the first low-cost, factory-line mass-produced car, that was available in plentiful supply to the public. NASA has NEVER had a space craft that can even come close to meeting these traits. All NASA vehicles are produced as extremely expensive, one-at-a-time custom-built labor-intensive machines.
About the closest rocket we have to the Model T currently are the SpaceX vehicles. And they are not yet readily available (i.e., accessible) to a large portion of the public.
Sorry to be so negative, but I believe that we are still in the automotive equivalent of the late 1800’s with respect to our launch vehicle development maturity.

Tony Moore

What ever happened to HOTOL. I know it had a smaller payload but it took off and landed horizontally and was completely recoverable.
wiki entry http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HOTOL

ggm

This is a bad joke. The first test flight is due for 2017 and the first manned mission will be 2021. And we all know NASA can not deliver missions like this on time, so it`s unlikely we`ll see a manned flight before 2025 at best. What`s the point of even bothering ? The US space industry might as well just close up shop. Good one Obama, add the US space industry to the list of great US achievements you`ve destroyed.

Don K

What do we need this thing for? Will it tell us things about the Moon, Mars, the Solar System, Earth that we do not know? Humans are not designed to operate in space, and the logistics of putting them there and keeping them alive are huge. The cost of life support and safety is horrendous and the return in knowledge is small. Not cost effective
Skylab — half a century ago — looked at most of the things humans might do in space and pretty well established that there is little real need for humans in space. Not none. We do need the capability to put a human into LEO for a few hours or days every now and then. But aren’t Soyuz and perhaps Space-X (which will presumably be late and over budget, but still a lot more cost effective than this) or a modified X-37B adequate for our real needs?
My position: Forget high-cost, low reward programs like the Shuttle, the ISS, and this thing. Spend more on unmanned research platforms than we do now. Spend some money on manned ocean exploration. We know remarkably little about the two thirds of the planet covered by salt water. Entry costs for manned ocean exploration are much lower than space and it will give those silly souls who need flags waving and trumpets sounding to spice up their science a bit of soap opera to follow.

Zeke

NASA is in desperate need to be privatized. I’ve had it with this centrally planned, political power point driven insanity. USA is bankrupt, thanks is large part to the BS conditioning that nothing of consequence can happen without government direction. Look around at where that thinking has brought the country. NASA is currently the biggest waste of engineering talent on the planet. Set them free.

charles nelson

Wow, in terms of launch capacity this will take Nasa up to where the Soviets were!

charles nelson

It’s like “Back to the Future” without the laughs.

Bloke down the pub

Tony Moore says:
September 15, 2011 at 12:38 am
What ever happened to HOTOL
Google Skylon

Nope, nothing positive about this. It’s a return to the old Cold War competition except the Russians are no longer playing. We’re shouting “My rocket is longer than yours!!! Nyah nyah nyah!!!” but nobody is listening.
If NASA wanted to do something positive, they would work hard on ways to move sticky jet streams, to break up persistent high/low patterns. That’s the problem we need to solve.
Won’t happen, because the result of that research would benefit humanity. And that’s obviously prohibited by NASA’s prime directives.

Allen63

As a retired NASA Project Scientist, Project Manager for Space Shuttle and Space Station science hardware, I share the pessimism expressed by some here.
Based on my personal experience, at NASA, most of the civil-service men and women doing the day-to-day Science, Engineering, and support are excellent. “Its the questionable management, stupid” — to parallel an old quote — and the fact that the “big” projects are highly politicized (in almost every respect) at the expense of practical success.

Robert Schapiro

The rounded top of the rocket looks exactly like the spires of a mosque. A perfect design in the age of the NASA Muslim outreach program.

Dodgy Geezer

It would be interesting to compare this with what the Russians, Chinese and Indians are doing…

Dave Springer

I fail to see anything new or innovative in the SLS project. The title should read
“NASA re-assembles mothballed technologies into new vision-free launch system”.
FAIL.
NASA should be building a space elevator and/or a single stage to orbit reusable launch vehicle. There is nothing ground breaking in this SLS system. It’s basically playing catchup with the Russkies who never abandoned their traditional heavy launch system.

Hadn’t NASA already test flown a heavy launch system that cost several billions of dollars? It is/was called Ares, and would likely have been, or would soon be, flying to the moon, as per the requests from President Bush a long time ago. What happens to this new, new launch system when the Obamatron is tossed from office in 14 months? Back to square one again?
Privatise NASA!

Don K says:
September 15, 2011 at 1:37 am
What do we need this thing for? Will it tell us things about the Moon, Mars, the Solar System, Earth that we do not know? Humans are not designed to operate in space, and the logistics of putting them there and keeping them alive are huge. The cost of life support and safety is horrendous and the return in knowledge is small. Not cost effective. . .

Humans “are not designed to operate” anywhere outside of the equatorial zones of Africa, but here we are, all over this planet. Barring catastrophic self-destruction, or socio-political paralysis, the future of mankind is towards the rest of the Solar System, and eventually to the stars. This is why the ISS is so important: it is teaching us what we need to know about living and working for long periods in space: baby steps at this point, but a start on the great journey ahead of our species.
Bloke down the pub: I had not heard about Skylon. Fascinating!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reaction_Engines_Skylon
A heat-exchanger that can convert incoming atmospheric oxygen to LOX literally “on the fly” is an amazing development. I have long thought that the cheapest way to LEO was to launch from a high altitude aircraft, rather than bootstrapping up from the ground on a wingless torch.
/Mr Lynn

G. Karst

This will probably translate to a decade without any heavy lift capability. What kind of long range planning is that? Shameful!
Decreasing (absence?) technology perceived as advancement. George would not approve. GK

Bennett

ggm says: September 15, 2011 at 1:34 am
Uh, no. This stupid monster rocket is the work of the porkers who have NASA centers in their states and districts. Obama’s FY2011 NASA budget was the best thing for HSF and true tech development ever released by an administration. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the weight to see it through, especially in the face of HUGE lobbying efforts by entrenched aerospace contractors.
I don’t mind blaming Obama for the things he’s massively screwed up, but NASA isn’t one of them.

Bennett

TrueNorthist says: “…flying to the moon, as per the requests from President Bush a long time ago.”
Actually, the path suggested by this adminstration was amazingly similar to the VSE announced by GW Bush. It was Mike Griffin who ignored almost ALL of this document and gave us Area and Constellation. Again, big stupid rockets that we don’t need in order to return to the moon, but make great do-nothing-jobs-projects for aerospace contractors and senate porkers.
Oh well.

J. Bob

Looks like they digitized von Braun’s Saturn V (1950’s-60’s) system.. I wonder if they kept the slide rules also?

ferdberple

Dave Wendt says:
September 14, 2011 at 11:51 pm
If the Saturn V could be considered as the Ford Model T of space flight,
The Saturn V could lift 118 tons to LEO. The shuttle, 24 tons. This new proposed SLS, 70 tons.
What made the moon mission possible was the ability to lift a large enough package into space to get to the moon. If you want to go further, like mars, you need to be able to lift even bigger packages. It looks like the SLS is an advance – backwards.

G. Karst

ferd berple says:
September 15, 2011 at 7:57 am
What made the moon mission possible was the ability to lift a large enough package into space to get to the moon. If you want to go further, like mars, you need to be able to lift even bigger packages. It looks like the SLS is an advance – backwards.

…Or assemble several packages into one, in space. After-all, we do have an orbiting, functional, space station.
Come to think of it, why not boost the Hubble telescope up to the space station and attach it? Why not park a shuttle at the station, as more working space, and as a emergency re-entry vehicle. Nothing of the evolution of our space program makes logical sense to me. GK

Dodgy Geezer

I want the 2001 space station, with a revolving docking area. And a thinking computer…

Gary Swift

The article above talks about liquid fueled rockets and boosters, but they just tested a new solid fueled rocket booster (SRB) for the SLS last week. It was a stationary horrizontal test, and went well.
The new boster has five solid fuel segments, as opposed to the Shuttle’s four segments. It also has a larger exhaust nozzle throat and redesigned insulation. It is a significant advancement over the shuttle boosters. This isn’t NASA Houston or Kenedy doing the work. It’s run by Huntsville/JPL and ATK Space Systems. I have a lot more confidence in Huntsville and JPL than I do with the rest of NASA.
http://www.space-travel.com/reports/NASA_Tests_Five_Segment_Solid_Rocket_Motor_999.html
If you’ll have a look at the photograph of the SRB test, I have to ask one question. What the _____ was the point of placing that big US flag on the side of the test rocket? Were they afraid it might break free of the test bed and end up in some foreign country? Does it have a tag on it that says “if found, please return to:”

Davy123

This is so wrong. I think NASA is starting to look old and tired. To get people into space we need to start looking at the X prize contest. These guys are pushing the envelope. They are doing this on a shoe string.

Dave Worley

The pessimism here saddens me.
It’s probably a trial ballon and it looks like Americans, even those seemingly interested in science, are more inclined to pop balloons than watch them fly.
Most of the privateers are hucksters and are way overselling their capabilities. Branson is the biggest huckster of all, but some of the others mentioned in the comments are either sub-orbital ventures or are not likely to engage in any real exploration ventures.
There are some things that governments can do better and this is one of them.

jae lee

NASA should focus attention on next generation of propulsion engine like ion thrusters. Chemical rockets won’t be able to fly any manned spacecraft to outer solar systems. Chemical rockets are like the sailing ships for navigating the ocean. Ion thrusters propulsioned spacecraft would be like motorized ocean ships. It’s time to move on to the next generation of propulsion engine.

Kelvin Vaughan

omnologos says:
September 14, 2011 at 11:19 pm
Enough with these “new” proposals. Just build the f************** thing!!!!! On past performance it’ll be canceled by next President …………………….
Al Gore?