New Mars Forums

Official discussion forum of The Mars Society and MarsNews.com

You are not logged in.

Announcement

Announcement: We've recently made changes to our user database and have removed inactive and spam users. If you can not login, please re-register.

#1 2011-11-29 00:30:20

Josh Cryer
Administrator
Registered: 2001-09-29
Posts: 3,830

The SLS: too expensive for exploration?

The SLS: too expensive for exploration?

The SLS: too expensive for exploration? wrote:

One estimate of individual SLS launch costs (not including the payload) can be obtained from private launch cost projections, which are now about ten times lower than the current prices for government-sponsored launchers like the Delta 4 Heavy, which are actually increasing due to reduced launch rates. If the projected cost for the Falcon Heavy is about $850–1,000 per pound, or $100 million per 53-ton launch, for about four launches a year, then the cost per pound for an SLS payload would be about ten times higher at $8,500 to $10,000 per pound to low Earth orbit (LEO). This would equate to about $1.3 billion for the 70-ton payload version and $2.45 billion for the 130-ton version. Projected launch costs for the proposed Falcon Super Heavy (150 tons to LEO) are about $300 million, giving cost per pound that are comparable to the Falcon Heavy or still about ten times cheaper per pound than existing costs or projected SLS costs. Some estimates for the SLS test launch costs are as much as 25 times more per pound ($25,000 per pound) than those for the Falcon Heavy. These estimates are based primarily on the development costs. If we include a typical government payload, the cost per mission (vehicle costs, operational launch costs and payload costs) approaches $5 billion or more per launch. It is thus probable that the cost of each SLS launch with payload will be much more than the cost of a shuttle launch, which recent calculations have shown to be about $1.5 billion apiece. The Shuttle did recover the “upper stage” (the Shuttle itself) with all of its expensive rocket engines.

Good article explaining the folly of SLS.


Some useful links while MER are active. Offical site NASA TV JPL MER2004 Text feed
--------
The amount of solar radiation reaching the surface of the earth totals some 3.9 million exajoules a year.

Offline

#2 2011-11-29 09:41:26

Glandu
Member
From: France
Registered: 2011-11-23
Posts: 106

Re: The SLS: too expensive for exploration?

Folly? The guy voting that will be reelected. That's perfectly rational.

Or not sad


"I promise not to exclude from consideration any idea based on its source, but to consider ideas across schools and heritages in order to find the ones that best suit the current situation." (Alistair Cockburn, Oath of Non-Allegiance)

Offline

#3 2011-11-30 14:01:43

JoshNH4H
Member
From: Pullman, WA
Registered: 2007-07-15
Posts: 2,526
Website

Re: The SLS: too expensive for exploration?

I've never been much of a fan of SLS myself.  As far as I'm concerned, it's money down the toilet, especially given that SpaceX can probably have a rocket for a tenth the cost, in less time, with equal capacity and potentially a higher launch rate.

I'm all for competition, since it drives down prices and spurs innovation; but SLS is simply wateful.


-Josh

Offline

#4 2011-11-30 22:59:35

SpaceNut
Administrator
From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 20,263

Re: The SLS: too expensive for exploration?

What was missed so long ago in the mid to late 80's was to make use of slow but steady change to the existing platform to make what we would need today. Nasa did work of Shuttle c but only to a mock up level. If the shuttle c was an unmanned then we could have explored its orbiter to be a throw away as well with no heat sheild as a delivery vehicle. With the original down mass to be executed by the normal shuttle if need be. That said unmanned would also be to use a non man rated main engines such as the Rs68 instead of the Rs25 of the shuttle.

To put it bluntly Nasa should have followed what the Russians have been doing with its Progress and Soyuz vehicles....

Its not to late to go another way with the Delta IV or Altas V with the Russian model in this case but Nasa and the politicains need to stop draging there heals and get to paying as well as building to meet the goals that men need for space travel....

Offline

#5 2011-12-01 19:13:21

Adaptation
Member
Registered: 2011-11-22
Posts: 42

Re: The SLS: too expensive for exploration?

SpaceNut wrote:

What was missed so long ago in the mid to late 80's was to make use of slow but steady change to the existing platform to make what we would need today. Nasa did work of Shuttle c but only to a mock up level. If the shuttle c was an unmanned then we could have explored its orbiter to be a throw away as well with no heat sheild as a delivery vehicle. With the original down mass to be executed by the normal shuttle if need be. That said unmanned would also be to use a non man rated main engines such as the Rs68 instead of the Rs25 of the shuttle.

To put it bluntly Nasa should have followed what the Russians have been doing with its Progress and Soyuz vehicles....

Its not to late to go another way with the Delta IV or Altas V with the Russian model in this case but Nasa and the politicains need to stop draging there heals and get to paying as well as building to meet the goals that men need for space travel....

The Russians would have loved to use their space shuttle.  We just had more money to waist than they did.

Offline

#6 2011-12-16 17:51:36

GW Johnson
Member
From: McGregor, Texas USA
Registered: 2011-12-04
Posts: 4,146
Website

Re: The SLS: too expensive for exploration?

Last data I saw posted / projected for Falcon-heavy said $800-1000/lb to LEO,  at 53 metric ton sizes.  Of what possible attraction is an SLS at 8,000-10,000/lb?  Only larger payloads?  So what?   We know how to rendezvous and dock. 

There's very little we would want to do in the next few decades that we couldn't do with Falcon-heavy.  I haven't been to Spacex's site lately,  so I am not (yet) acquainted with any Falcon-super-heavy.  But,  Falcon-heavy is supposed to fly sometime next year out of Vandenburg AFB.  I know they are building a new thrust stand here in McGregor,  Texas,  to accommodate an all-up Falcon-heavy test,  at reduced noise. 

GW


GW Johnson
McGregor,  Texas

"There is nothing as expensive as a dead crew,  especially one dead from a bad management decision"

Offline

#7 2013-06-06 10:49:22

idiom
Member
From: New Zealand
Registered: 2004-04-21
Posts: 312

Re: The SLS: too expensive for exploration?

If SLS gets under $10k/lb it would be doing pretty well...

On the upside, after we build we would have to use it... because we built it and we wouldn't build something to stupid to use right?


Come on to the Future

Offline

#8 2013-06-07 07:40:55

JoshNH4H
Member
From: Pullman, WA
Registered: 2007-07-15
Posts: 2,526
Website

Re: The SLS: too expensive for exploration?

I think it's entirely reasonable at this point to say that SLS will never be completed.


-Josh

Offline

#9 2013-06-08 03:05:03

GW Johnson
Member
From: McGregor, Texas USA
Registered: 2011-12-04
Posts: 4,146
Website

Re: The SLS: too expensive for exploration?

A while back,  I tried to make a fair comparison of unit launch costs,  given that size of launcher affects it.  My results are the curves posted over at "exrocketman" in the 9-13-12 article titled "Revised Launch Cost Update".  (That site is http://exrocketman.blogspot.com,  for those not familiar with it.) 

I calculated a min unit cost as max payload capability to LEO divided by turn-key launch price.  Some of the cost data I found on the internet were older,  so I tried to inflation-correct everything to 2012 dollars for that article.  (Actual unit cost could be much higher if you don't fly "full".)  I then plotted these versus max payload capability to LEO. 

The curves show very high unit cost for smaller launchers,  but a very gently decreasing trend with size from roughly 10 tons on up.  That slope is quite gentle.  All the commercial vehicles seem to fall on it,  including projections for Falcon-Heavy. 

Titan-IV (no longer available) was never commercial,  government only.  It's about 4 times higher than the commercial trend.  So also are projections for SLS,  which at 100 ton sizes,  shouldn't cost more than around $500/pound,  if it followed the commercial trend line (it does not).  Of course,  SLS might actually fall even higher:  the government is infamous for radically-underestimating costs early on in a program.  (Any program one cares to name.) 

Spaceplane systems like shuttle are higher still,  because that's a different way to launch and operate.  I suspect vertical launch rockets with reusable stages will also be quite different,  and on a higher trend as well.  I have a hunch these might be attractive in the very small tonnages,  while expendable vertical launch rockets will be very hard to beat in the large tonnages (until we start building real "Star Trek"-like propulsion). 

I'm no fan of SLS.  The wrong people are trying to build it.  The right people could do a far more cost-effective job.  (Sorry Congress,  that's just the history as testified by the real data.) 

GW

Last edited by GW Johnson (2013-06-08 03:07:37)


GW Johnson
McGregor,  Texas

"There is nothing as expensive as a dead crew,  especially one dead from a bad management decision"

Offline

#10 2013-11-14 07:45:35

Tom Kalbfus
Banned
Registered: 2006-08-16
Posts: 4,401

Re: The SLS: too expensive for exploration?

Even given the waste and abuse, NASA at least test things before they launch them, and they don't let rockets blow up on the launch pad with astronauts on board. I think NASA has benefited from the fact that the Obama Administration is not sufficiently interested in it, unlike the HHS. NASA has also benefitted from the fact that Congress hasn't had a budget since 2009 and has simply repeated the 2009 budget with an automatic increase year after year, so NASA gets to continue the same programs it has had since 2009. A sort of "Groundhogs Day" for NASA and the SLS, since the SLS was in 2009's budget it is also in this years budget as well!

Offline

#11 2013-11-14 13:17:33

JoshNH4H
Member
From: Pullman, WA
Registered: 2007-07-15
Posts: 2,526
Website

Re: The SLS: too expensive for exploration?

What's really gonna get SLS is, imo, the low launch rate.  They're talking about maybe two launches in its first five years of operation.  That's crazy low, because you still have to keep the infrastructure going, which costs money.  That'll make the price even higher than it would be otherwise.


-Josh

Offline

#12 2013-11-14 17:36:32

Tom Kalbfus
Banned
Registered: 2006-08-16
Posts: 4,401

Re: The SLS: too expensive for exploration?

Are any parts of it reuseable? If not its like the Saturn V and can only be used once each. If you have parallel launch facilities, you can launch them in parallel ion close succession. The question is, how many times would a reusable vehicle have to be used in order to equal the tonnage of an SLS?

Offline

#13 2013-11-14 18:14:14

JoshNH4H
Member
From: Pullman, WA
Registered: 2007-07-15
Posts: 2,526
Website

Re: The SLS: too expensive for exploration?

I'd expect that the Solid Rocket Boosters are reusable seeing as they're the same technology as used in the Shuttle.

The shuttle still cost somewhere between $1B and $1.5B per launch, of course.


-Josh

Offline

#14 2013-11-14 19:05:10

RobertDyck
Moderator
From: Winnipeg, Canada
Registered: 2002-08-20
Posts: 6,280
Website

Re: The SLS: too expensive for exploration?

NASA's website listed Energia with its upper stage at $120 Million per launch, in 1994 dollars. I did confirm it could have been restored prior to the roof collapse in 2002. It was able to lift 88 metric tonnes to 200km orbit, without the EUS Energia Upper Stage. I learned about Energia from Robert Zubrin's book: The Case for Mars. Energia has effectively been lost since 12 May 2002. But with the projected price for SLS, could Energia be revived?

Offline

#15 2013-11-14 19:32:19

JoshNH4H
Member
From: Pullman, WA
Registered: 2007-07-15
Posts: 2,526
Website

Re: The SLS: too expensive for exploration?

Probably.  But for political reasons NASA will never pay to develop a Russian launcher.

Given the state of US-Russian relations at this point, I would even say for good reasons.

On the other hand the Falcon Heavy will be able to lift 53 tonnes to LEO, and it's not hard to imagine that it wouldn't be too difficult to increase he number of Common Core Boosters to 5 or 7 to get the payload over 100 tonnes.

Alternatively they might decide to design a booster with a larger fairing (7 m or more) so that it could be done with just an upper stage and lower stage.  Bu either way, the Falcon 9 only cost the American taxpayer $300 million to develop.  Since the larger booster would use functionally similar technologies I would expect it to at least not cost more than that.  $120 million in 1994 is $190 million today.  Given the roof collapse I'd imagine that the cost would easily exceed what SpaceX would do it for even if it were politically feasible to try to get Energia going again.

Of course, I don't think Musk would engage in the development of the rocket unless he saw a market for it.  It's unfortunate but true.  Having said that, I think the F9/FH combination will be sufficient to do quite a lot with.  We'll probably get even better at on-orbit assembly than we are now as a consequence.


-Josh

Offline

#16 2013-11-14 20:02:35

RobertDyck
Moderator
From: Winnipeg, Canada
Registered: 2002-08-20
Posts: 6,280
Website

Re: The SLS: too expensive for exploration?

The Mars architecture that I came up with has a number of lunaches already. It can be done with Energia, or SLS. It could be done with SLS using existing SRBs, not the new advanced ones, but would still require the full-size upper stage. I don't see how to do it with Falcon Heavy. To keep it practical, it includes launching the MAV in one throw, from Earth surface to Mars surface. Even extreme weight saving features like unpressurized cabin (astronauts wear spacesuits), and fluoropolymer bag for soft cryogenic propellants, supported by carbon fibre composite basket, Falcon Heavy just isn't big enough. Especially since my architecture uses the MAV as the TEI stage, so must carry sufficient propellant to do that. Even with ISPP, that's a substantial vehicle.

Offline

#17 2013-11-14 20:59:07

JoshNH4H
Member
From: Pullman, WA
Registered: 2007-07-15
Posts: 2,526
Website

Re: The SLS: too expensive for exploration?

Have you considered launching it unfueled?  That's a nice safety feature but given cost constraints it might be worth asking oneself whether it could be worth it to try to make up for he reduction in safety some other way.

For example, if experience shows the Falcon series of rockets to be much safer than other rockets, it would sill be an improvement in safety to do multiple launches and then do some kind of rendezvous.


-Josh

Offline

#18 2013-11-14 21:47:52

RobertDyck
Moderator
From: Winnipeg, Canada
Registered: 2002-08-20
Posts: 6,280
Website

Re: The SLS: too expensive for exploration?

NASA complained that Mars Direct was too small. Reducing from 6 crew to 4 will already gain objections. Using ISPP for the entire return to Earth will also gain objections. I did include artificial gravity for both transits: Earth-Mars, and Mars-Earth. Shrinking any further puts mission objectives/value at risk.

But we should move this to the Mars architecture thread.

Offline

#19 2013-11-14 23:36:43

JoshNH4H
Member
From: Pullman, WA
Registered: 2007-07-15
Posts: 2,526
Website

Re: The SLS: too expensive for exploration?

Replied there.


-Josh

Offline

#20 2013-12-27 12:41:35

Quaoar
Member
Registered: 2013-12-13
Posts: 489

Re: The SLS: too expensive for exploration?

JoshNH4H wrote:

Have you considered launching it unfueled?  That's a nice safety feature but given cost constraints it might be worth asking oneself whether it could be worth it to try to make up for he reduction in safety some other way.

For example, if experience shows the Falcon series of rockets to be much safer than other rockets, it would sill be an improvement in safety to do multiple launches and then do some kind of rendezvous.

Is it possible to launch with Falcon H vehicles larger than payload fairing (like an 8 meters large upgraded Dragon), if they have a good aerodinamical design?

Offline

#21 2013-12-27 23:59:14

JoshNH4H
Member
From: Pullman, WA
Registered: 2007-07-15
Posts: 2,526
Website

Re: The SLS: too expensive for exploration?

I don't see why not, if you're careful about your component design.


-Josh

Offline

#22 2013-12-28 17:20:10

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 5,878

Re: The SLS: too expensive for exploration?

RobertDyck wrote:

NASA complained that Mars Direct was too small. Reducing from 6 crew to 4 will already gain objections. Using ISPP for the entire return to Earth will also gain objections. I did include artificial gravity for both transits: Earth-Mars, and Mars-Earth. Shrinking any further puts mission objectives/value at risk.

But we should move this to the Mars architecture thread.

Just double up the mission - that's always been my approach: the equivalent of sending two Apollo landers on one mission.


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

Offline

#23 2013-12-28 22:34:53

SpaceNut
Administrator
From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 20,263

Re: The SLS: too expensive for exploration?

The problem with the SLS is contracts and how they are written. The cost for what gets delivered over how many launches the work provides for is the cost of sls. So what is the current cost of boosters, the engines for the first stage, how about the j2? engine and the orion capsule its not until you add up the contracts for what it delivers that we can even break it down to a per launch cost.

Offline

#24 2014-01-11 16:05:51

Tom Kalbfus
Banned
Registered: 2006-08-16
Posts: 4,401

Re: The SLS: too expensive for exploration?

So we get the government to stop being a sucker and giving away money and getting ripped off as the Obamacare website should prove, you think we got our money's worth with that? So why should we apply the same principles with NASA contracts, just because contractors are friends or potential supporters or future employers. The American people have got to be pissed off to punish politicians who hand their money under the table to contractors. I think NASA will likely do things differently after that. It basically spends too much, getting its friends rich, then runs out of money and cancels programs. The contractors don't mind wasting money because its not their money thei are wasting, so long as they buy off the politicians, they'll find away to hide it from their constituents. The government wastes money all the time, and when people complain about it, they close parks and say they have to be closed to cut the budget.

Offline

#25 2014-01-11 17:50:20

SpaceNut
Administrator
From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 20,263

Re: The SLS: too expensive for exploration?

Searched around a bit for contracts.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Launch_System

Program costs

During the joint Senate-NASA presentation in September 2011, it was stated that the SLS program has a projected development cost of $18 billion through 2017, with $10 billion for the SLS rocket, $6 billion for the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and $2 billion for upgrades to the launch pad and other facilities at Kennedy Space Center. These costs and schedule are considered optimistic by Booz Allen Hamilton, which conducted an independent cost assessment for NASA. An unofficial NASA document estimated the cost of the program through 2025 to total at least $41bn for four 70 t launches (1 unmanned in 2017, 3 manned starting in 2021), with the 130 t version ready no earlier than 2030. HEFT estimate Block 0 unit cost at $1.6bn and Block 1 at $1.86bn.

NASA SLS deputy project manager Jody Singer at Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama stated in September 2012 that $500 million per launch is a reasonable target cost for SLS, with a relatively minor dependence of costs on launch capability.



http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/oc … tract.html

Oct. 1, 2012 RELEASE : 12-339  NASA Awards Space Launch System Advanced Booster Contracts 
NASA has awarded three contracts totaling $137.3 million to improve the affordability, reliability and performance of an advanced booster for the Space Launch System (SLS). The awardees will develop engineering demonstrations and risk reduction concepts for a future version of the SLS, a heavy-lift rocket that will provide an entirely new capability for human exploration beyond low Earth orbit.

The initial 77-ton (70-metric-ton) SLS configuration will use two 5-segment solid rocket boosters similar to the boosters that helped power the space shuttle to orbit. The evolved 143-ton (130-metric-ton) SLS vehicle will require an advanced booster with more thrust than any existing U.S. liquid- or solid-fueled boosters. These new initiatives will demonstrate and examine advanced booster concepts and hardware demonstrations during a 30-month period.


http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2013/fe … sters.html

Feb. 14, 2013 CONTRACT RELEASE : 13-054  NASA Awards Final Space Launch System Advanced Booster Contract   WASHINGTON -- NASA has selected Aerojet of Sacramento, Calif., for a $23.3 million contract to develop engineering demonstrations and risk reduction concepts for future advanced boosters for the agency's Space Launch System (SLS).

Offline

Board footer

Powered by FluxBB