See also: SpaceX to send an Audi to the moon.
SLS – Too inneficient? NASA ask for help to cut costs
NASA needs your help. That’s not a question you imagine hearing too often, but we recently heard it when they asked for designs of a spacesuit that you can poop in for 6 days straight. Now, it seems, they need further help but this time with cost cutting on their flagship program. They recently released an RFI, or Request for Information, and openly admit they are spending too much money on the project; especially given that other companies are working on similar designs that cost way less.
Within a few months, NASA will be working under a new administration which promises a great deal of change and they need to get their act together fast before president-elect Trump utters his favorite line: ‘You’re fired!” NASA have asked the public for suggestions on how to cut “production, operations and maintenance costs” of the rocket system.
If you have any ideas how NASA could cut costs, you can find out more on their page.
ORION – The better part of the program
Will the SLS be shelved?
It is too soon to say. Trump has signaled in the past that he wants NASA to be at the forefront of space exploration and he wants to go to Mars and beyond, bigly, and win the new space race to the red planet. This, technically, was what SLS was designed for in the first place but it does cost them $3 billion a year to develop and we are yet to see any firm results. NASA had a budget of $19 billion for 2016, so SLS did take up a huge chunk of that.
Judging by the tone of NASA recently, they look to be opening the door to collaborations on future projects. They wrote in the RFI that the goal has not changed, but they are looking for “Competing exploration services in the mid-2020s timeframe and beyond if the market demonstrates such services are available, reliable, and consistent with NASA architectural needs.”
Artist impression of SLS launch
This means that NASA is not ruling out working with other corporations on their projects. If they can prove to be reliable and cheap, which is difficult in this industry, NASA will use equipment made by other companies such as Blue Origin, United Launch Alliance and SpaceX. All of which are working on their own long-distance haulers to astronauts into the depths of space.
The end of SLS?
It’s too soon to tell and it’s definitely too soon to write off SLS. NASA still has some of the best minds on the planet working for them and could still pull something incredible out of the bag. The current goal has not changed and they hope to be sending SLS and Orion into space by 2023.
But, the SLS is not an economical project. Many were heavily against the project to begin with and I can see Donald Trump, who is proud of his self-confessed ability to spot a loser, binning SLS and looking for the cheapest option which would probably be SpaceX. If you look at the technicalities of SLS, there isn’t really a way to make it cheap. They want to use expensive engines, hydrogen first stage, a solid rocket booster and then launch it only once a year; then throw it all away and start again. It doesn’t take Donald Trump to work out that is not a cost efficient plan.
What do you think of SLS? Will it even get off the ground? Let me know hat you think in the comments below or check out my Facebook page.