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5 months ago

NASA’s Most Powerful Ever Rocket (SLS) May Be Its Last

TomoNews US
TomoNews US
WASHINGTON — As NASA successfully moved its massive new Space Launch System rocket to Pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center on Friday, March 18, ready for tests that pump more than 3.2 million liters of cryogenic propellants into its tanks, Space site Ars Technica explains its role in carrying the Orion crew capsule could be the last time NASA attempts to build its own rocket in-house, for financial and logistical reasons.

The background is this. After committing in 2005 to return humans to the Moon and then push on to Mars through its Artemis program, the cost of NASA flying one Orion and SLS mission per year has spiraled up to $4.1 billion, while numerous delays have pushed back launch dates repeatedly.

The SLS’s first uncrewed mission, Artemis 1, could be ready to launch in June, but this schedule has already seen its first crewed mission, Artemis 2, pushed from April 2022 to May 2023 and its first crewed mission to land on the Moon pushed from 2024 to 2025, according to Gizmodo.

Now, Ars Technica suggests that such problems and the expense behind them can largely be attributed to a funding structure built by Congress, which has prioritized hiring contractors across 50 states, rather than allowing private-sector-funded rockets like SpaceX's Falcon Heavy, or its forthcoming Starship vehicle, to power the project at lower costs.

The site summarizes: “NASA could have just bought launch services from the private sector at a significant discount” and focused its own efforts on developing technologies such as in-space fuel depots, propellant transfer in orbit, and space-based propulsion.

This situation leads the site to the following conclusion, seemingly dramatic conclusion: the combination of cost, time and the existence of companies with currently better setups makes it unlikely that NASA will take on another equivalent project in future.

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