NASA Is Delaying Its Jumbo Space Rocket To 2019

13 May, 2017, 10:16 | Author: Lorena Waters
  • US Navy divers and other personnel practicing for recovery of Orion on its return from deep space missions using a test version of the crew module

Flight hardware for SLS and Orion is now in production for both the first and second missions.

A NASA working group has concluded after a two-month review that sending astronauts on the first flight of its massive new rocket wouldn't be feasible due to the enormous costs of safely accommodating a crew on the planned 2019 mission, the first step in America's return to human space exploration. Lightfoot mentioned in the press conference that keeping EM-1 uncrewed will allow NASA to accelerate the development of crewed systems, such as life support and a robust heat shield, that will be needed for EM-2.

The long-range plan is to use the SLS to send astronauts beyond the moon in the mid 2020s before eventual flights to Mars. We will continue to work with Congress as we move toward a crewed flight test on EM-2 and, right now, we are very focused on accomplishing the EM-1 flight test. The agency had hoped to launch in 2018, with a crewed mission in 2021. Friday afternoon's announcement was held because NASA had just wrapped up a study looking into how feasible it might be to turn EM-1 from an uncrewed mission to a crewed one.

Nasa's Space Launch System (SLS) 70 metric tonnes configuration is seen launching to space in this undated artist's rendering released August 2, 2014.

When NASA's next big rocket launches for the first time, chances are good it won't have people on board.

"It really reaffirmed the baseline plan we had in place was the best way for us to go", Lightfoot said.

SpaceX tested its rocket in a ground firing earlier this week.

Spicer Calls Sally Yates a 'Political Opponent' of Trump
Ted Cruz criticized Yates for failing to enforce the ban after the Office of Legal Counsel signed off on the document. Brady Press Briefing Room during the daily news briefing at the White House on February 1, 2017 in Washington .

Lightfoot said it would have been technically feasible to add a crew, given more funding, but chose to stay the course.

Part of this has to do with what the goals behind EM-1: "really push as hard as we can" all navigation and propulsion systems on Orion, Gerstenmaier told reporters.

"Any time you are trying to rapidly add capabilities, you are asking for trouble in a system like this", said Casey Dreier, director of space policy at The Planetary Society, which lobbies for greater funding of space science and exploration.

On Friday, Lightfoot said the staffers doing the feasibility study had concluded that NASA should stick to its original idea.

Earlier this week, NASA reported that a section of test hardware was damaged during manufacturing in New Orleans. Refitting the system to carry astronauts would also disrupt the schedule for completing both the SLS booster and Orion capsule. Earlier this month, as first reported by the blog NASA Watch, workers at Michoud accidentally damaged beyond fix a large dome that was to be part of a liquid oxygen fuel tank.

A crunch to make the Orion module astronaut-worthy on its first flight could also collide with other White House budget priorities, many of which will cost tens of billions of dollars: a wall on the Mexican border, an infrastructure-renewal plan, and a large increase in US military spending.

In his statement, Lightfoot outlined the progress of SLS and Orion, which he described as "challenging but going well".

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