Space Launch System Delay gives SpaceX some space to breathe | Markets and actions –

Space Launch System Delay gives SpaceX some space to breathe | Markets and actions


After years of listening to anyone and everyone talking about how the United States needs to go to Mars, in 2017, conversations began to change if the visit to the moon and even the installation of a transit station there might not be the same. best. first step towards an expedition to Mars.

Elon Musk's SpaceX wants to go to the moon, and once its new Falcon Heavy rocket begins to fly, it should be powerful enough to get there. Blue Origin Jeff Bezos has plans to visit the moon as well and is also building a rocket that could eventually make the trip. Meanwhile, at NASA, the team that was building the new Space Launch System expected to test a mole next year, proving that NASA is still relevant to the space race in the 21st century, and marking the way before Musk or Bezos could steal his thunder.

This is how Space Launch System will look, if it is ever built. Source of the image: NASA.

Hurry up and wait

For the second time this year, NASA has delayed the inaugural flight of its Space Launch System (SLS). Citing technical problems with welding at the central stage of the rocket, among other issues, NASA announced in April that SLS will not be launched next year as scheduled, but in 2019.

Last week, NASA revised its schedule again. While the agency says there is still a remote possibility that the SLS rocket could be launched in December 2019, it now appears that it is more likely to be June 2020, and the first manned trip by the SLS may not take place until 2023.

What is the Space Launch System?

Nearly double the Space Shuttle, which measures 322 feet on its launchpad, and costs about $ 23 billion in development costs over the seven years it takes to build NASA's space launch system will be the most powerful spacecraft that the agency built from its Apollo program of the seventies. Most of the most important names in space (with the notable exception of SpaceX) have been included in its construction, with Boeing [196590009] (NYSE: BA) acting as prime contractor on the project, Aerojet Rocketdyne (NYSE: AJRD) building the main and second-stage engines, ATK Orbital (NYSE: OA) providing a pair of solid rocket boosters for give SLS extra lift oomph, and Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) building the Orion space capsule that sits atop the SLS.

And at an estimated cost of $ 500 million to build and launch each SLS rocket, there would be a lot of loot to share with these partners.

What was the original plan?

Just a couple of years ago, SLS was on track to make its first unmanned launch: Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1) – on September 30, 2018. The spacecraft will be launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, shoot your Orion s pbad the capsule beyond the moon, and then push home to launch on Earth 20 days later. A few years later, EM-2 would send the SLS back to the Luna neighborhood, this time on a manned mission and with the possible objective of capturing and studying a pbading asteroid. Advance a dozen years or so, and the SLS could be ready to try to reach Mars.

The SLS will justify its high cost, again, approximately $ 500 million per launch, as it has the highest payload capacity. of any rocket on Earth. However, the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket, which is now expected to make its first launch early next year, should be almost as capable and at a much more attractive cost.

According to the SpaceX website, a Falcon Heavy release should cost $ 90 million per launch. – 18% of the cost of the SLS. The SLS can carry 70 tons of cargo in orbit; Falcon Heavy, 64 tons, or 91% of the SLS payload. In addition, a planned upgrade for the Merlin "Block 5" engines that are in process will improve the thrust of the Flacon Heavy engine by "almost 10%", reducing the advantage of the SLS payload over practically zero Falcon Heavy.

What it all means to SpaceX – and to ULA

Now here's the thing: in delineating its space policy last year, the advisers of the now president Trump seemed to express their preference to finance a single space launch platform for Reach the moon. Given the considerable difference in the cost of SpaceX to launch its large rocket, compared to what it would cost United Launch Alliance Boeing-and-Lockheed to launch the SLS, this could induce management to choose the SpaceX Falcon Heavy to reach the moon if (a) the rocket works and (b) it's as cheap as Elon Musk says it will be.

If Falcon Heavy is launched as planned next year, it could answer these two questions simultaneously and launch a trap in NASA's plans to continue funding the efforts of Boeing, Lockheed, Aerojet and Orbital to build a viable SLS . Although it was disappointing to see the release of Falcon Heavy delayed – as recently as last week, we still expected to see its release in December – the big new SpaceX rocket should still beat the SLS in orbit for at least a year, and maybe even two. years.

This will give Musk a lot of time to show the president, and NASA, that he has a rocket almost as good as the SLS, and a lot cheaper than the SLS. ready and waiting to visit the moon, and years before NASA and its contractors prepare the SLS for prime time.

Final point: Do not forget the BFR

Also, by the time the SLS is ready to start launching, SpaceX can have an even bigger, even better, rocket to compete with: the huge " BFR ", which according to Musk could be ready in 2020. If that one is ready for the demonstration, when Musk says wait for it, then the SLS may be just one more delay away from being completely excluded from the space race. [19] 659002] 10 shares that we like better than Boeing

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