NASA to Spend $200 Million Just to Reduce SLS Risks

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., has issued a NASA Research Announcement for the Space Launch System (SLS) Advanced Booster risk-reduction effort.

NASA is looking for an advanced booster concept with the goal of reducing risk in the areas of affordability, reliability and performance. Proposals will identify and mitigate liquid or solid booster technical risks and provide related hardware demonstrations, as well as identify high-risk areas associated with adaptation of advanced booster technology to SLS.

The 130-metric-ton evolved SLS vehicle will require a booster with a significant increase in thrust over existing U.S. liquid or solid boosters. This new heavy-lift launch vehicle will expand human presence beyond low-Earth orbit and enable new missions of exploration across the solar system.

“These risk-reduction efforts will set the course for the full-scale design and development of this new advanced booster,” said Chris Crumbly, SLS Advanced Booster NRA evaluation team chair. “We’re excited to see what innovative solutions industry will provide as we embark on this new capability — enabling unprecedented missions beyond low-Earth orbit.”

NASA anticipates making multiple awards in response to this solicitation, and anticipates $200 million total funding. Final awards will be made based on the strength of proposals and availability of funds. The deadline for submitting proposals is April 9. The anticipated period of performance for any contracts awarded as a result of this announcement is not expected to exceed 30 months and will have an effective date of Oct.1, 2012.

This announcement is the second part of a three-part plan that includes risk-reduction planning prior to design, development, testing and evaluation of the advanced boosters.

To view the announcement and instructions for submissions, visit:

For information about NASA’s Space Launch System, visit:

Editor’s Note: Boy, that’s a lot of money. I’d love to see what some company’s could come up with starting from starting from scratch with that much dough.

How’s this for reducing risks? Why don’t we just stick with a 70-ton SLS using the same space shuttle main engines and solid rocket boosters that were flown 675 times with one failure? I know that doesn’t do much to lower operational costs, but it will save us years and billions of dollars trying to develop a 130-ton SLS for which nobody has yet determined a specific mission.

With the money we save, we might be able to get Orion flying with astronauts years earlier than 2021, and could serve as a backup to commercial crew like Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson wants. And when the engineers finished developing the smaller SLS, we could put then to work building things for human missions beyond Earth orbit that could start much sooner.

But, what am I talking about? We’re stuck with this, and I don’t see anything or anyone on the horizon that would change that reality. Complaining about this is about as effective as pissing into one of Mojave’s wind storms — of which we’ve had many lately. Ah, winter in the high desert! Fun times!

But, that’s something I can’t do anything about, either.