Boeing Statement on SLS & Moving Up Moon Landing Up Four Years

Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft on Pad 39B. (Credit: NASA)

Boeing Statement

SLS is the backbone for a permanent human presence in deep space, for multiple missions to the moon and eventually to Mars and beyond. As NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine stated in his address to the National Space Council, we’re working relentlessly to develop SLS to do what is absolutely necessary to support a NASA launch in 2020.

Boeing and NASA have implemented changes in both processes and technologies to accelerate production, without sacrificing safety or quality, and we remain on schedule to deliver the first SLS core stage to NASA by the end of the year.

As the commercial launch alternative studies have shown, NASA has affirmed that SLS remains the best approach to achieve our lunar objectives with a reconfirmation of the importance of the Exploration Upper Stage by EM-3. SLS is also the world’s only super heavy rocket capable of safely transporting astronauts to deep space with major payloads like landers, habitats and Gateway elements.

America needs SLS’ deep-space capability in order to maintain our leadership in human space exploration. We are committed to supporting the vision outlined by Vice President Pence today.

  • therealdmt

    It’s a real issue. Considering typical development timelines in aerospace (at least for non-drones), that’s not much time at all

  • therealdmt

    This push isn’t, unfortunately, geared towards staying.

    It’s geared towards rushing to meet a political deadline (i.e., returning astronauts to the Moon before the end of a 2nd Trump term) while dealing with the existent political realities (funding for such venture has to come through the Senate Appropriations Committee, chaired by our friend from Alabama).

  • ThomasLMatula

    The Congressional Hearing was intresting. It focused on why it took the FAA so long to ground the B737 Max after other nations had already done so. Some of the Congress Critters implied the FAA was too cozy with Boeing. Sounds the same as NASA and Boeing.

  • duheagle

    Not surprising. I’ve developed a bit of a jaundiced view of the medical profession over the decades, having also had plenty of failures to diagnose. The worst was a condition I tried to get diagnosed for over a decade by multiple doctors on two different continents – no dice. Then I read a magazine article by chance that described my symptoms to a T and diagnosed myself.

    I’m also unimpressed with what the medical profession chooses to count as “success” anent treatment. To a pretty good first-order approximation, doctors will claim “success” if you simply don’t die during or right after treatment.

  • duheagle

    Don’t know about safe. Predictable, on the other hand, is pretty much a slam dunk.

  • duheagle

    The baselessly self-congratulatory culture at Boeing seems to start at the top. For the last two years their brain-dead CEO has been going around the country claiming Boeing will beat SpaceX to Mars.

  • duheagle

    Glass houses. Stones.

  • Robert G. Oler

    the hearing was stupid. the FAA is the repository of knowledge about the airplane, no other nation in the world has that expertise.

  • Robert G. Oler

    its extremly safe. in less than 5 years the effort has to 1) develop a lander, 2) a space suit, 3) some type of lunar vehicle to rov around with and 4) do some training and test missions

    they dont even have an architecture that works now. goofy

  • dbooker

    Boeing response…. “Send signed check, leave amount blank. Don’t include any milesones because we’re always late.” . If only there was a morning after pill for NASA contractors.

  • duheagle

    Agree on the multiple SHLV thing. I just don’t think ULA or NGIS are ever going to be players in that space. When SpaceX gets SH-Starship up and running, it will likely have a decade or more of monopoly capability before Blue gets New Armstrong going – Gradatim and all that.

    SLS will not be a competitor even if it isn’t cancelled next year – or whenever.

    On the foreign front, Russia will never build their spitballed SHLV and the Euros don’t seem interested in the whole subject.

    The Chinese will build theirs, but it won’t be flying for at least another decade. And, unless it’s reconceptualized and built as reusable, it won’t be a market factor either.

    Looking that far out, India might have the capacity to be a dark horse player in the SHLV space by then. They’ll be surpassing China as the world’s most populous nation pretty soon and they’re pretty obviously looking to match or exceed the Chinese in all sorts of other ways too – hence the recent ASAT test.

  • duheagle

    If you were referring to NASA’s program, you’re quite correct. I thought you were referring to SpaceX.

  • duheagle

    It certainly doesn’t look to be unattainable by SpaceX. Boeing – yeah, most likely. But I really think Trump, Pence and Bridenstine are willing to throw Boeing and SLS under the bus “if this goes on…”

  • duheagle

    Done by legacy contractors in the NASA way, you’re right, because they’d be starting from a clean sheet of paper and dragging all the usual bureaucratic balls and chains. SpaceX, though, plans to make the entire Starship the lander so that’s a two-fer once it flies – which shouldn’t take anywhere near five years.

  • windbourne

    sadly, I have to agree with all of that.

  • windbourne

    as an ex-Boeing guy (and wife that still is), I have to agree with that.
    Boeing should NOT be allowed to run the DARs. It really needs to be FAA that does that directly or via DARs. This is more true with the trash executives that are now being ran through the company.

  • windbourne

    That is exactly why I am concerned about Bigelow and Axiom. We need to get them going. Then it will make it possible to be on the moon.

    BTW, I continue to say that we need to locate any lunar unit to south pole, along with a nuke unit like evinci, and then require that it be treated like lunar.

  • Robert G. Oler

    spaceX has no real plan either…you have no idea what the final “mold lines” of the Star whatever are…neither does Elon.

  • Robert G. Oler

    no problem we have strong glass…the skylight in the bedroom has withstood two hurricanes no issues

  • Paul451

    Only three days late…

    but wanted to address this…

    Besides, most of the complex mission costs are NEVER in launchers anyway, so even if you halve your launch costs, the program costs would drop only marginally.

    There is, however, a strong relationship between the two. Expensive launchers don’t launch that often. That feeds into the mentality that missions are “rare” and therefore a) everyone tries to dogpile their requirements into one mission, and b) there’s little true experimentation. (The Mars-copter thing is unique in how rare that is.) Both make missions more critical, but riskier, increasing the cost of the mission development (and overruns and cancellations), reducing the number of missions, reinforcing the rarity of missions.

    Frank Crary (fmr Cassini engineer) related a surreal meeting where the science division was offered a “free” SLS launch for the proposed Ice Giants mission, allowing them to fly a much larger probe. The principles fretted and moaned that they couldn’t “afford” a heavy probe on their proposed budget. Crary, knowing from experience how much cost goes into shaving every gram off of instruments, suggested saving money by flying less mass-optimised (therefore cheaper, OTS) systems and instruments. Ie, fly heavy, fly cheap. Some people just stared blankly, not comprehending the idea at all; others strongly objected to the “waste” of not flying as many instruments as could be squeezed into the mass budget. They couldn’t see the contradiction, the madness, of bemoaning the cost of flying a larger spacecraft, but rejecting any alternative to doing things the same way. (Others “got it”, but none were senior.)

    This mentality won’t change until something drastic changes. If the cost of launch drops enough that small-team R&D projects, currently limited to ground work, can afford to fund their own launches, bypassing the existing PIs and seniors, you might see the necessary bottom-up revolution. Just as small-sats are doing within existing launchers, “Cheap sats” could do on low-cost launchers.

  • savuporo

    While there is some merit to idea that you can do less mass optimization if launch cost per pound drops, it will not fundamentally change how space missions are engineered and magically drop mission costs. By your example, missions to Mars or Outer planets for instance. These are inherently low frequency until we somehow beat synods and Hohmann transfers, and manage fly to Pluto in a month instead of a decade. Not happening with rockets.

    Hence, you can’t really mess up and try again and you absolutely need to make sure your spacecraft actually works once it gets to its destination. And now, spacecraft engineering is a niche discipline, and shares little in common with say marine or automotive applications or anything else. Design tools that you use are niche, test facilities you use are niche, etc. All of this contributes far more to the missions being high cost than launchers being expensive.

    The only glimmer of hope for un-constraining this situation is currently cubesats going to LEO, with faster iterations being not limited by anything but R&D budgets and microlauncher flight rates. Hopefully this has a chance to evolve beyond LEO and earth orbit applications all the way to the Moon as well.

    However, deep space missions engineering and cost structures will not budge for a loong time, even if you somehow manage to decimate large launcher costs.

  • Paul451

    While missions to large-AU targets require different designs, there’s nothing fundamental about the way you design spacecraft that makes moon/Mars/solar spacecraft design somehow fundamentally, categorically different to deep-AU spacecraft. The same people, universities, etc, are designing hardware for both classes of missions. There’s isn’t a separate group of specialist “deep space mission” designers.

    And I’ll note that you pretty much ignored my point about the current psychological inability of senior people to even understand the opportunity of substituting mass for cost, instead of cost for mass. Your response reflects that received by Dr. Crary: You can’t even see the option. You just repeat the excuses for the status quo without questioning them. It is how it must be, and it must be because it is.

  • savuporo

    I think you misread what i wrote, i never said deep space spacecraft engineering is done by different people or requires different principles ( although yes, designs are often quite different ).

    I’m pointing out that these things are inherently niche domain with very slow opportunities to fly again. You can really only fly Voyager-like once every 175 years, and you gotta make sure not to screw up – which is expensive.

    I understand well the option of trying to make things easier to engineer and more reliable with more mass, but it only helps a little, it doesn’t fundamentally change the cost structure of those programs.

  • Paul451

    Talking to people who’ve done it, a huge amount of effort goes into keeping under the mass budget.

    Which also feeds into reliability because bespoke hardware tends to be fragile and less reliable. If you don’t have to customise every system, you can use proven hardware from other projects. Proven, flown systems are more reliable. That reduces risk. That lets you fly more missions. That lets you prove more systems, that lowers the risk/cost of future missions. It also lets you innovate more with less critical missions, or add less critical systems to missions to prove concepts.

    You can also use parts that are over-spec. Doesn’t matter if its a bit
    heavier, not optimised. You don’t care if you’re carrying too much
    battery storage, too strong a truss/frame. You can have more redundant systems.You can add shielding with dumb mass instead of expensive elec.hardening. You can add more fuel instead of risky manoeuvres or clever manipulation of instruments.

    And no, not every mission can be Voyager; but with lower cost missions you don’t need a Voyager alignment. You can flyby (or orbit) each target individually. Annual launch windows, not once per 175yrs. Ten Voyagers instead of two.

    Plus there are so many concepts that aren’t developed (such as orbital refuelling) because missions that would benefit can’t budget to also be the testbed. But if you have cheap launch, cheaper missions, someone will inevitably sneak in a refuelable booster into their missions (because why not). Once its proven, everyone will do it (why not, launch is cheap, who cares if it adds three extra launches) to turn slow slingshot missions into fast direct missions. Flybys into orbiters. Single encounters into multi-target.