NASA PR — America’s next heavy-lift launch vehicle — the Space Launch System — is one step closer to its first launch in 2017, following the successful completion of the first phase of a combined set of milestone reviews.
The SLS Program has completed step one in a combined System Requirements Review and System Definition Review — both extensive NASA-led reviews that set requirements to further narrow the scope of the system design and evaluate the vehicle concept based on top-level program requirements.
Tea Party in Space White Paper Space Launch System Procurement Could Violate CICA September 2011
Subject: De Facto Sole Sourcing of Space Launch System Would Violate Law
Summary: A violation of 41 U.S.C. 253 (the Competition in Contracting Act of 1984) will occur if NASA moves ahead with a decision to avoid full and open competition by implementing “de facto sole source awards” on the Space Launch System, which will cost anywhere from $111 to $322 billion in taxpayer funds, and potentially much more.
California Rep. Tom McClintock is asking the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate NASA’s plans to use existing contractors for the Space Launch System instead of competitive bidding.
“I have serious concerns with NASA’s attempt to avoid holding a full and open competition to acquire the SLS,” McClintock wrote. “NASA is considering modifying and/or extending existing contracts for retired or cancelled programs resulting in one or more ‘de facto sole source awards.’ Some of those contracts were originally awarded on a sole source basis.
Earlier this week, NASA submitted a progress report that says it cannot build a shuttle-derived HLV within the time and budget restraints imposed by Congress. The politicians who mandated the vehicle clearly know better:
Senate Commerce Committee Members, including Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), and Senator David Vitter (R-La.), today issued a joint statement responding to a NASA report this week in which the space agency says it cannot build a capsule and heavy-lift rocket based on the cost and schedule outlined by Congress:
â€œWe appreciate NASAâ€™s report and look forward to the additional material that was required but not submitted. In the meantime, the production of a heavy-lift rocket and capsule is not optional. Itâ€™s the law. NASA must use its decades of space know-how and billions of dollars in previous investments to come up with a concept that works. We believe it can be done affordably and efficiently â€“ and, it must be a priority.â€
Huh. The Congressional hearings on this will be, if nothing else, highly entertaining — and nauseating.
Additionally, guidance from the NASA Administrator has established three principles for development of any future systems for exploration â€“ namely that these systems must be affordable, sustainable, and realistic.
Florida Today’s John Kelly asks an interesting question about NASA’s HLV rocket:
Why in the world is NASA developing its own supersized rocket when no fewer than three private companies already have one on the drawing board?
Decades of experience shows a big-ticket space project developed wholly by the government will:
Take years longer than estimated to complete.
Cost taxpayers billions more dollars than advertised.
Fly with less capability than originally envisioned.
Unless, of course, the government changes the way it deals with contractors on those kinds of projects.The difference that is being pushed under the new “commercial” space approach is not that NASA is using different companies. It’s that NASA is employing a different way of paying those companies.
The basic answer is: jobs. Long-term projects that pump billions of dollars into individual districts and states are good for employment — of constituents and members of Congress. Development expenses, operating costs and system capability are strictly secondary considerations. (Well, that’s not strictly true; Congress is insisting that NASA build a HLV capable of lofting 130 tons into orbit. Of course, that’s because they think it will force NASA into using shuttle- and Constellation-derived hardware that will keep money flowing and lots of people employed for a long time.)
The Huntsville Times has an editorial titled, “It’s time to end NASA’s limbo,” in which it urges a quick action on finalizing the space agency’s budget and a rapid start of work on its heavy-lift program:
Congress and the White House then spent most of 2010 trying to agree on a direction for NASA. The end result, which should put the creation of a new heavy-lift vehicle in the hands of Huntsville’s Marshall Space Flight Center, now appears to be stuck: There’s a direction, but a continuing resolution by Congress doesn’t specifically point money to the new heavy-lift program, which means work might not get off the ground.
It looks like a battle is heating up over exactly the type of heavy-lift vehicle that NASA will build. The Congressional authorization bill directs NASA to make use of technology developed for the Constellation and space shuttle programs. That means solid rockets designed in Alabama and built by ATK in Utah, thus preserving thousands of jobs in key Congressional districts. However, NASA has some other ideas.
NASA has issued a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) seeking proposals and industry input on heavy-lift system concepts and propulsion technology.
NASA is seeking an innovative path for human space exploration that strengthens its capability to extend human and robotic presence throughout the solar system. The information also may help lay the groundwork for humans to safely reach multiple potential destinations, including asteroids, Lagrange points, the moon and Mars.
Ambitious Ares test flight plan proposed for HLV demonstrations NASASpaceflight.com A plan has been created for the continued use of Ares via a series of test flights, ultimately leading up to a Heavy Lift Vehicle (HLV) program in the second half of this decade. Appearing to bank on major changes being negotiated by Congress in NASAâ€™s FY2011 budget proposal, the plan would result in three Ares I test flights being conducted by the end of 2014…
ESMD will lead research and development (R&D) activities related to space launch propulsion technologies. This propulsion R&D effort will include development of a U.S. first-stage hydrocarbon engine for potential use in future heavy lift (and other) launch systems, as well as basic research in areas such as new propellants, advanced propulsion materials manufacturing techniques, combustion processes, and engine health monitoring. In support of this initiative, NASA will explore cooperative efforts with the Department of Defense (DOD) and also develop a competitive process for allocating a small portion of these funds to universities and other non-governmental organizations. (more…)
NASASpaceFlight.com is reporting that NASA could conduct a test flight of a heavy-lift rocket as early as late 2012:
The Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) have confirmed they have almost enough External Tank resources to allow for one ET-sized â€œIn Lineâ€ Shuttle Derived Heavy Launch Vehicle (SD HLV) test flight and up to three Block I SD HLVs. The news comes as NASA managers insist the workforce should wait for official news, and not to be distracted by reports on Aresâ€™ demise.
The SD HLV would be along the lines of the proposed Jupiter Direct, a rocket proposed by a group of dissident NASA engineers who were unhappy with the space agency’s Ares I and V programs.
…several NASA departments [are] already carrying out evaluations on one of the major elements of the likely future path for NASA â€“ moving away from Low Earth Orbit (LEO) based around the development of a Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle.
While Ares Iâ€™s role for International Space Station (ISS) missions heads to a commercial service provider, the HLV will be contracted out â€“ not unlike NASA already does to some extent with the shuttle â€“ moving to a multi-company effort led by Boeing, partnering with Alliant Techsystems, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne and United Space Alliance (USA), with heavy NASA involvement from Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC)….
Even the long-time Constellation supporter, Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) is understood to be supportive of this alternate plan, along with many of his colleagues.