Lori Garver Says: NASA Should Dump Space Launch System

Lifting off at 3:45 p.m. from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, a SpaceX Falcon Heavy begins its demonstration flight. (Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

Former NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver has a op-ed in The Hill arguing that NASA should dump the Space Launch System in the wake of the successful maiden flight of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy.

The question to be answered in Washington now is why would Congress continue to spend billions of taxpayer dollars a year on a government-made rocket that is unnecessary and obsolete now that the private sector has shown they can do it for a fraction of the cost?

If lawmakers continue on this path, it will siphon-off even more funds that NASA could otherwise use for science missions, transfer vehicles or landers that will further advance our understanding of the universe — and actually get us somewhere.

NASA has spent more than $15 billion to try and develop their own heavy lift rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), with a first flight planned in roughly two years — assuming all goes according to plan.

Once operational, SLS will cost NASA over $1 billion per launch. The Falcon Heavy, developed at zero cost to the taxpayer, would charge NASA approximately $100M per launch. In other words, NASA could buy 10 Falcon Heavy launches for the coat of one SLS launch — and invest the remainder in truly revolutionary and meaningful missions that advance science and exploration.

Read the full piece.

NASA KSC Director Looks Ahead to 2018 Milestones

Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana speaks to employees at the Florida spaceport about plans for the coming year. (Credits: NASA/Frank Michaux)

By Bob Granath
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana recently spoke to spaceport employees about plans for 2018. The coming year will be highlighted by NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) partners preparing to launch test flights for crewed missions to the International Space Station.

“This is going to be an awesome year for us,” Cabana said speaking to center employees on Jan. 11, in the Lunar Theater of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex’s Apollo Saturn V Center. “The number one priority this year is we’ve got to get commercial crew flying to the International Space Station.”

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CubeSats for Hunting Secrets in Lunar Darkness

Lunar Meteoroid Impacts Observer (Credit: ESA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Imagine sending a spacecraft the size of an airline cabin bag to the Moon – what would you have it do? ESA issued that challenge to European teams last year, and two winners have now been chosen.

The Lunar Meteoroid Impact Orbiter, or Lumio for short, would circle over the far side of the Moon to detect bright impact flashes during the lunar night, mapping meteoroid bombardments as they occur.

The other, the Lunar Volatile and Mineralogy Mapping Orbiter, or VMMO, would focus on a permanently shadowed crater near the lunar south pole, searching out deposits of water ice and other volatiles of interest to future colonists, while also measuring lunar radiation.

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NASA Replaces Astronaut on Upcoming Space Station Flight

Jeanette Epps (Credit: NASA)

NASA has replaced an astronaut set to launch to the International Space Station (ISS) in June with a backup.

Jeanette Epps, who was set to become the first African American crew member on the space station, has been reassigned to the Astronaut Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, the space agency announced. She will be considered for future flights.

“Serena Auñón-Chancellor, who previously was assigned to Expedition 58/59, has been reassigned to the Expedition 56/57 crew, launching in June,” NASA said in a press release. ” Anne McClain, a member of the 2013 astronaut class, will fly on the Expedition 58/59 crew, launching in November.”

NASA did not give provide a reason for the reassignment of Epps, who was selected as an astronaut in 2009.

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NASA Deep Space Exploration Systems Look Ahead to Busy 2018


KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — Engineers preparing NASA’s deep space exploration systems to support missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond are gearing up for a busy 2018. The agency aims to complete the manufacturing of all the major hardware by the end of the year for Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), which will pave the road for future missions with astronauts.

Planes, trains, trucks and ships will move across America and over oceans to deliver hardware for assembly and testing of components for the Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket while teams at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida prepare the Ground Systems infrastructure. Testing will take place from the high seas to the high skies and in between throughout the year and across the country, not only in support of EM-1, but also for all subsequent missions.
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A Look at NASA’s Deep Space Exploration Plans


Last month NASA officials gave a series of presentations about the space agency’s deep-space exploration plans to the NASA Advisory Council’s Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) Committee. I have excerpted slides from those presentations to provide an overview of what the space agency is planning.
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Space Florida Announces Partnership with NASA for Orion Testing

The LEMNOS project will provide laser communications services to NASA’s Orion vehicle, show in this artist concept. (Credit: NASA)

CAPE CANAVERAL SPACEPORT, FL (December 5, 2017) – Today, Space Florida is pleased to announce its partnership with NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas for use of Space Launch Complex 46 for the Orion spacecraft’s Ascent Abort-2 test. The landmark Sub-License Agreement gives JSC priority use of the launch complex.

The test is an effort to verify a key part of Orion’s safety system during ascent to space before it begins missions with astronauts to deep space. The collaboration is an effort to enable and ready a key part of the Orion, America’s next generation exploration vehicle, for human spaceflight by testing from Space Florida’s Space Launch Complex (SLC) 46 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport.

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NASA Sets Orion Abort Test for April…2019

Video Caption: In a test targeted for April 2019 known as Ascent Abort-2, NASA will verify the Orion spacecraft’s launch abort system, a tower on top of the crew module, can steer the capsule and astronauts inside it to safety in the event of an issue with the Space Launch System rocket when the spacecraft is under the highest aerodynamic loads it will experience during ascent for deep-space missions. The test is quick, fast and high, lasting less than three minutes with the test crew module reaching an average speed of Mach 1.5, roughly 1020 miles per hour, at approximately 32,000 feet in altitude.

NASA’s Top Management Challenges: Deep Space Exploration

An expanded view of the next configuration of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket, including the four RL10 engines. (Credit: NASA)

A recent Inspector General report, NASA’s 2017 Top Management and Performance Challenges, finds the space agency is facing serious challenges with its deep space exploration effort. The space agency is dealing with slipping schedules, constrained budgets, and thin funding reserves as it seeks to complete development of the Space Launch System, Orion spacecraft and Exploration Ground Systems. NASA also has only high-level plans for other systems that will be required to send astronauts on useful deep-space missions.

Key excerpts from the report follow.

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Clock is Ticking on NASA Human Deep Space Program

Lamar Smith

It seems that nothing so becomes a politician’s public life like the announcement that he or she is leaving it.

George Washington’s decision in 1796 to not seek a third term as president is widely hailed as the ultimate example of a small-r republican virtue of restraint the general demonstrated throughout his public life. Americans trusted Washington with power because they knew he would exercise it wisely and, that when the time came, he would walk away. Voluntarily.

In an age when many kings claimed a hereditary right to rule for life with absolute authority, relinquishing power was an astounding act. But Washington, a master of exits in war and peace, knew it was time to go. In so doing, he set a two-term precedent for the presidency that would stand for 144 years.

More recently, we’ve seen another result of what happens when politicians decide they’ve had enough: candor. Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) both launched fiery broadsides at the current occupant of Washington’s old office — and a member of their own party, no less — upon announcing they would not seek re-election next year.

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NASA Completes Review of First SLS, Orion Deep Space Exploration Mission

Artist concept of the Block I configuration of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS). The SLS Program has completed its critical design review, and the program has concluded that the core stage of the rocket will remain orange along with the Launch Vehicle Stage Adapter, which is the natural color of the insulation that will cover those elements. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA is providing an update on the first integrated launch of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft after completing a comprehensive review of the launch schedule.

This uncrewed mission, known as Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) is a critical flight test for the agency’s human deep space exploration goals. EM-1 lays the foundation for the first crewed flight of SLS and Orion, as well as a regular cadence of missions thereafter near the Moon and beyond.
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NASA’s EM-1 Mission Could Slip 4-6 Months From December 2019 Date


By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s plan for the maiden flight of the Space Launch System (SLS) faces a potential delay of up to six months, the space agency announced today.

“While the review of the possible manufacturing and production schedule risks indicate a launch date of June 2020, the agency is managing to December 2019,” said acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot in a press release. “Since several of the key risks identified have not been actually realized, we are able to put in place mitigation strategies for those risks to protect the December 2019 date.”

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GAO Report Questions NASA Management of SLS & Orion

Artist’s conception of Space Launch System in Vehicle Assembly Building (Credit: NASA)

NASA management of the Space Launch System, Orion and Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) programs could lead the agency to repeat one of the mistakes that led to the loss of the space shuttle Columbia, according to a new report from the  Government Accountability Office (GAO).

“The approach has dual-hatted positions, with individuals in two programmatic engineering and safety roles also performing oversight of those areas,” the report stated. “These dual roles subject the technical authorities to cost and schedule pressures that potentially impair their independence.

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RS-25 Engines Ready for SLS Maiden Flight

Aerojet Rocketdyne displays the four RS-25 engines slated to fly on EM-1, the maiden flight of NASA’s SLS rocket, at its facility located at NASA’s Stennis Space Center. (Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne)

STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss.  (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) — Aerojet Rocketdyne, a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:AJRD), announces the four RS-25 engines slated to fly on Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), the maiden flight of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), are ready for integration with the rocket’s core stage.

EM-1 is a three-week mission in which the SLS rocket will launch the Orion spacecraft into a distant retrograde orbit around the moon farther than a human-rated vehicle has traveled before, and also will deliver 13 small satellites to deep space.

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NASA Statement on National Space Council Policy on American Space Leadership

The following is a statement from acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot about the results from the first meeting of the National Space Council on Thursday:

“It was my pleasure today to attend the first meeting of the new National Space Council. The council includes government leaders from civil and military space, and the group also heard from space industry leaders. The council has historic roots in the earliest days of the Space Age, and it has been established by the president to streamline and coordinate national space policy.

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