ASAP: SLS/Orion Launch Cadence Poses Safety Risks

Space Launch System in flight. (Credit: NASA)
Space Launch System in flight. (Credit: NASA)

NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) believes the projected low flight rates of the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion crew vehicle will create significant safety challenges for the space agency. The independent safety group also raised questions about the safety of flying astronauts on the system in 2021.

“The ASAP and the Agency remain concerned about risks introduced in the currently scheduled frequency of SLS/Orion launches, ” according to ASAP’s 2014 Annual Report. “The plan indicates a launch about every 2 to 4 years. This would challenge ground crew competency. The skills, procedures, and knowledge of conducting the launch, mission, and recovery are perish-able. The ASAP believes that an extended interval requires the relearning of many lessons and skills, in contrast to Apollo and Shuttle, which had a relatively steady cadence.”

ASAP also expressed concerns about the risks to crew members on the first crewed flight of Orion scheduled for 2021. The report noted that Exploration Mission 2 (EM-2)

will be the first full-up flight test of the new upper stage rocket motor as well as several critical life-support systems, including the Pressure Control System, the Air Revitalization System, and the Fire Detection and Suppression system. NASA has an extensive ground and flight test program planned to exercise these systems extensively before this flight test and to verify their design features. Included in this test program will be microgravity exposure on the ISS.

However, NASA should give careful consideration to the unknowns that may be detected only by actual flight test of safety-critical Orion systems before exposing crew to the flight test regime. If NASA does indeed decide to fly crew on EM-2, the Panel urges NASA to be transparent with all stakeholders and the public on the risks involved, including the rationale supporting why crew are needed on this mission.

ASAP noted that overall risks in programs are higher during early flights than they are over the course of a program. For example, in the space shuttle program

actual risk during early flights was as much as 10 to 100 times greater than the analyses indicated. Early Shuttle astronauts actually faced a 1 in 10 probability of catastrophe on each flight rather than the 1 in 1,000 probability that some analyses had indicated….

Because the perception of external stakeholders is vitally important, NASA’s Office of Communications must be cautious not to create or reinforce inaccurate perceptions of risk….

Download ASAP’s 2014 Annual Report here.

  • newpapyrus

    The Augustine commission supported the building of a heavy lift vehicle and so did the Obama administration. And even Elon wants a super heavy lift vehicle:-)

  • Tonya

    And you don’t need to create a massive and expensive mining operation if you have nuclear engines.

    Now why don’t you want to talk about the economics of your proposal?

  • newpapyrus

    I think a lunar outpost needs to eventually produce 1000 tonnes of water annually to support cis-lunar operations and future voyages to Mars. So by 2030 (when the Mars era begins), a lunar outpost needs to be producing nearly three tonnes of water on the Moon per day. That would require electric powered robot excavators to dig up nearly 60 tonnes of regolith every day to place in simple solar evaporators.

    A one tonne electric mini excavator (they already exist on Earth today) on the lunar surface should be able to dig and transport at least one tonne of regolith per hour (24 tonnes per day). An SLS launched lunar lander should be able to deploy at least ten tonnes to the lunar surface. So ten such vehicles could be deployed to the lunar surface with a single SLS launch. So in theory, they could transport 240 tonnes of regolith per day to solar heaters producing 12 tonnes of water per day (over 4000 tonnes of water per year).

    Marcel

  • JimNobles

    Maybe in the future it might be, that remains to be seen. You’d have to have the infrastructure on the Moon to mine the water, process it into useable form, package it for shipping, and then launching it. Nobody has even proven they can extract water from where they think it is yet much less build up all that’s needed to make a successful effort in a Moon water export business.

    And, as I said before, any water or other resources that can support humans is probably better left on the Moon for the people who actually do want to settle the Moon and develop it. It probably doesn’t need to be shipped off into outer space. It’s not like the Moon appears to have an over-abundance of resources to support human activities.

    The decision on where to get the water, whenever that decision must be made, will almost certainly be made on cost and while there is certainly less delta V in launching from the Moon rather than the Earth it is looking more and more likely Earth launch is going to win out due to economic factors. Companies on Earth are working their butts off to get launch cost down.

    You want to convince people they need to mine water from the Moon and ship it into space? Come up with a plan that addresses all the issues and not just the delta V difference. And have the plan show how it’s more economical then just shipping it up from Earth. Right now Moon water export looks like a non-starter.

  • Tonya

    Will you be answering the other questions?

  • Well, maybe that’s ok for you, the naive and gullible taxpayer, but I personally want to go to space, I personally want America to go to space and become a space faring nation, and I personally want humanity to become a space faring species, That will not happen with SLS and Orion. That will not happen with expendable launch vehicles.

    Enjoy your delusions Marcel. They’re so precious. You’re special. America is excellent. SLS and Orion are, expensive, expendable, and virtually useless to American citizens.

    So close but so far. No cigar for you Marcel.

  • Valerij Gilinskij

    newpapyrus, you have long answered this question more than once.

  • Valerij Gilinskij

    newpapyrus, you grow up become the president and he will give orders to NASA. And while President Obama.

  • Valerij Gilinskij

    You’re talking nonsense, or at worst, especially lying. Official amounts are published, there is no need to guess.

  • Valerij Gilinskij

    Your arguments are easily refuted by calculations.

  • Valerij Gilinskij

    Why do I need to “import water” from Mars for people who are on Mars?

  • Valerij Gilinskij

    Construction of the plant on the Moon in 2020 is not planned.

  • Valerij Gilinskij

    But first it is necessary to build on the moon for the mine production regolith processing plant for its launch site and to start from the moon heavy missiles. And it will take a lot of money, effort, and a hundred years time.

  • Valerij Gilinskij

    You forgot to send from the Earth to the Moon 2000 tons of equipment for the extraction of water on the moon.

  • Valerij Gilinskij

    But it is better not to waste.

  • Valerij Gilinskij

    You are badly learned at school physics.

  • Valerij Gilinskij

    Why should I listen to your nonsense, and do not trust those who build the SLS?

  • Valerij Gilinskij

    There’s no budget to return to the moon, because the money is being spent on useless SLS and Orion.

  • Valerij Gilinskij

    Blatant lies.

    Construction of the SLS and Orion did not support President Obama. NASA scientists have just objected to the SLS and Orion. On the creation of SLS and Orion insisted members of Congress. These policies reduce funding for the creation of commercial vessels, which leads to increase the period their development, and increase funding for SLS and Orion.

  • Valerij Gilinskij

    For the transport of 240 tons per day of regolith you need 2-3 20-ton dump trucks, each weighing 12 tons, Loader, and five people working, which would require a residential unit, and which NGO to bring to the moon and back. With SLS you do not do this on the moon in ten years.

  • The LCROSS lunar impact threw up water, which was detected. If you have evidence to the contrary, feel free to present it. This is already an old and well known result.