Commercial Spaceflight Federation Backs SLS

The Commercial Spaceflight Federation is now backing NASA’s Space Launch System, the multi-billionaire heavy lift vehicle.

In a speech opening the 20th Annual Commercial Space Transportation Conference here Feb. 7, Alan Stern, chairman of the board of the industry group, said the organization believes that the SLS could potentially be useful for its members.

“The exploration of space for all purposes, including commercial spaceflight, is our interest. And to that end, the CSF is announcing that we see many potential benefits in the development of NASA’s Space Launch System,” Stern said in his remarks. “The SLS can be a resource that benefits commercial spaceflight.”

Stern said in an interview after his speech that support for SLS came up in a meeting of the CSF’s board the previous day. “CSF has evolved over the years. There’s a strong net benefit in SLS,” he said.

That support comes, though, as some of CSF’s own member companies are developing their own heavy-lift vehicles. SpaceX is planning the first launch of its Falcon Heavy rocket later this year, and unveiled plans for a far larger booster last year as part of its Interplanetary Transport System. Blue Origin also plans to debut a heavy-lift rocket, the New Glenn, by the end of the decade, with notional concepts for a potentially much larger vehicle called New Armstrong.

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  • windbourne

    Sounds like a backroom deal got cut.

  • delphinus100

    So…how much would an SLS launch cost me? Just the launch and appropriate services from the contractor, no NASA involvement that might constitute a subsidy?

    That answer will tell me if it has commercial value or not….

  • Kenneth_Brown

    …the multi billionaire heavy lift vehicle.

    Is this white elephant only going to carry billionaires now?

  • therealdmt

    Potentially this does make sense for multiple billionaires (well, two or three).

    SLS, which Congress wants, will eventually need a destination. The easiest destination in the short-to-medium term is the Moon. If you’re not just going to repeat Apollo, there will be a need for an at least intermittently manned moon base. If you have a moon base, or are even just repeating Apollo, you’ll need moon landers. NASA’s budget will be too tied up in the too-expensive-to-operate SLS for them to both operate SLS, carry on some LEO operations and simultaneously develop said moon base and landers.

    Meanwhile,NASA is very aware that COTS type programs can develop and operate hardware for much lower cost than traditional NASA development and contracting. So, they are likely to open up at least a portion of lunar infrastructure to COTS-type public private partnerships. Enter Bigelow for the moon base, SpaceX and Masten for the lander, and SpaceX and Orbital for supplementary cargo launches. Finally, if/when SpaceX and/or Blue Origin get their own super heavy lift rockets going, the law will basically require NASA to not compete with those commercial alternatives and so, after initial supplementation, the billion-per-launch SLS finally will get put out to pasture — but not before seeding a cislunar economy that will be to the great benefit of the CSF.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    “…but not before seeding a cislunar economy…”
    FH in 2017, New Glenn ~2020, BFR ~2025, New Armstrong ~2025-30?.

    How many times should we realistically expect SLS to be dumped into the ocean before 2025?. The second “test” ocean dumping is planned for somewhere around 2021-23. So, that leaves a 2-4 year window of opportunity for SLS to be used for “seeding a cislunar economy”. We know that solar wind and meteorite risk means that lunar bases will have to be underground, which means not just launchers, landers and habs, but also digging equipment, and no way that’s gonna happen by mid-2020s. FH and New Glenn will be 5-10 times cheaper than SLS Block 1 with similar ballpark performance. I predict that New Armstrong and/or BFR will make SLS Blocks 1B and 2 cost obsolete before it has any chance to do anything even vaguely useful.

  • publiusr

    SLS has both the lift and volume to launch the largest Bigelow modules.

    Falcon Heavy is really an EELV, in terms of payload diameter. It’s why I wish Elon would use hypergolics for upper stages. I know that scares folks–but that satellite that exploded looked to have a fair amount anyway.

    I think hypergolics are fine for upper stages. Simpler plumbing