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NASA Announces Design For New Deep Space Exploration System


Space Videos

Posted: Feb 22, 2012

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden speaking at a Sept. 14, 2011 news conference, announcing the selected design of a new Space Launch System.

The new heavy-lift rocket will take the agency’s astronauts farther into space than ever before, create high-quality jobs here at home, and provide the cornerstone for America’s future human space exploration efforts. The booster will launch humans to places no one has gone before.


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The SLS is a launcher with no specific missions or set of missions either selected or funded for it. Uses much of the technological and support heritage that made the Shuttle too expensive to continue operating (what, you thought it was only about the orbiter?), would be manufactured and flown too infrequently (NASA will be the only customer) to enjoy economies of scale, or keep support personnel (who must be paid, no matter how little it flies) proficient. We don't need a heavy-lift launcher now or in the near future, nor would this be the best choice if we did.

Existing EELV (Atlas and Delta) and Falcon launchers (or upgrades of them) plus orbital assembly and refueling will be adequate for anything we may want to do in the near future, launchers already manufactured for an existing customer base (which ULA will be more than happy to ramp up), of which NASA can be a part.

Viable, affordable alternatives can be seen here:

Some question the need for the Orion capsule as well, but I can live with that, given the understanding that it will go to low Earth orbit on the Delta IV, which is adequate to fly it. Want to go beyond to geostationary orbit, Earth-Moon Lagrange points, or Lunar orbit? Then use either a refuelable upper stage, or dock it with a separately launched transfer stage, an enhanced version of what was done in the 1960's with Gemini-Agena, once going as far as 850 miles from Earth, a record that stood until Apollo 8...

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