back to article OMG! OIG to audit SLS: NASA probed over big rocket project's big budgets, big delays

The management of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) is to be audited by the agency's watchdog. The probe was announced in a tweet by NASA's Office of Inspector General (OIG), and is sure not to have ruined the morning coffee of Uncle Sam's army of scientists. The SLS mega-rocket is supposed to take space adventurers to the …

  1. Alistair Silver badge
    Windows

    Im inclined to agree with the mood of the twitter responses.

    El Reg staff: we *absolutely* need a popcorn icon.

    1. wolfetone

      "El Reg staff: we *absolutely* need a popcorn icon."

      Agreed. How hard can it be guys? We've been asking for ages.

      Tesla will be making 6,000 cars a year before we get the icon :(

      1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

        Tesla will be making 6,000 cars a year before we get the icon :(

        Is that just before they shut up shop?

  2. DROP DATABASE
    Coat

    If I was ULA I would be squeezing every last cent out of the money firehouse, I got a feeling its about to be turned off (PS You Need a Porky Pig Icon)

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Boffin

      "If I was ULA I would be squeezing every last cent out of the money firehouse,"

      Except ULA aren't actually building it.

      Did you not know this?

      While it's true ULA holds basically all the big rocket experience of Boeing and LM Boeing has the contract for SLS and LM the Orion capsule (they had to get the Service Module as a barter deal from ESA because they'd p**sed away all the budget for that already).

      Yes ULA should have been the only sensible candidate for the SLS contract.

      But sensible has f**k all to do with this. And won't until the Senators of Utah and Alabama change.

      BTW using current US LV's (which will be available for the foreseeable future) the US can put about 138 tonnes into LEO within 10 days

      No rocket development budget needed.

      With some work that can be got down to 7 days.

      If you figure out a way to split that into standard sized and mass units (about 6250Kg) you don't need them to be adapted to any particular launcher. 1 unit for Antares, multiple for F9, Atlas V, Delta IV Heavy.

  3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Windows

    You know it!

    Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people:

    First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.

    Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.

    The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.

    OIG! OIG! Snuffles.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: You know it!

      Except the goals of the organisation in this case are to funnel money to all the aerospace companies (and congressional districts) that don't currently have Boeing or Lockheed contracts

  4. Curly4
    FAIL

    The government has spent billions and long years to develop the SLS and is not yet ready to launch. Now SpaceX with very little money has already launched a missile with greater lift capacity than SLS and at a much lower cost. But the SLS will not be ready for a couple more years. There should be an investigation and maybe some heads should also role.

    1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Now SpaceX with very little money has already launched a missile with greater lift capacity than SLS

      Falcon Heavy is rated at 64 t (fully expendable) while SLS's lightest configuration (Block 1) is currently designed to lift 70 t.

      Although I suppose, technically, you could say that SLS currently has a payload of 0 t...

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        "Although I suppose, technically, you could say that SLS currently has a payload of 0 t..."

        Not a technicality.

        As of right now the payload to LEO for an FH is 64t (It's flown) and the SLS payload is 0 tonnes.

        Deciding that putting humans on top of a 5 segment SRB (Aries 1) wasted a shedload of money.

        Then "discovering" that the SSME's could not be made to light at altitude (despite Rocketdyne swearing that was possible 10 years earlier), which both companies planned to use, p**sed away a few $Bns more.

        Basically there have been some very stupid decisions made on this programme.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      There's an old saying:

      "An elephant is a mouse built to government specifications."

      And why have one when you can get two for twice the price!

  5. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

    $18bn! (or twice that!!)

    It looks like trying to reuse all that Space Shuttle tech is still biting them in the arse.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sad but unfortunately all too true.

    "Since major US policy decisions appear to be emitted on Twitter these days...."

  7. James 51
    FAIL

    Take the politics out of NASA and the things it is trying to get done and that would lower the cost. Unfortunately given that most of the political support is tied to contracts going to particular companies and places regardless of efficiency, the costs were always going to rise but they didn't need to rise by that much.

  8. annodomini2

    Curious...

    Are the legacy Ares 1 and Ares 5 dev costs being piled into these development costs?

    I'm not saying NASA are innocent in this, but there's typically a lot of messing from the Elected representatives.

  9. John Mangan

    Can someone explain to me...

    as an across-the-pond observer how NASA is supposed to have any strategy when successive administrations want to go to the moon, to Mars, to the Moon, to harvest asteroids, etc?

    Or are these over-runs completely divorced from the constant changing targets or too great to be accounted for by that?

  10. Matthew 17

    They ripped up Apollo

    and spent far, far more developing a dangerous vehicle that could carry only a tiny load and then only into LEO. They spent so much money on it, it became too expensive to fail so they built the thing anyway.

    But they beat their drum and tried to sell the idea that this was more sensible than continuing with Apollo, making the Saturn VIII and Nova rockets from that technology (as per Soyuz)

    They've now spent a fortune on developing Apollo 2.0 and that's getting to the tipping point whereby it's too expensive to fail so they'll plod on regardless. The Space station will have been ditched into the ocean before it does anything and they'll just keep reinventing the wheel with public money as before.

  11. hec031
    Pint

    Not Invented Here

    NASA's space launch department has got Titanic issues.

    The single largest one is denial.

    They just can't come to grips with the reality that private efforts have now become the dominant method for developing new advanced launch technology.

    SLS is just the poster child for the old way of doing things. A scientific welfare system in bad disguise.

    It would be just as effective and financially responsible to simple contract Blue Origins and SpaceX to develop variants of their flagship vehicles for use by NASA.

    But at this point, it's obvious that "The Niel (a.k.a Denial) is not just a place in Egypt".

    1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: Not Invented Here

      SLS is just the poster child for the old way of doing things. A scientific welfare system in bad disguise.

      I would agree with you, except to point out that it's a military-industrial welfare system.

  12. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    Now you might be wondereing "Where'e the money to make payloads that big?"

    And if you're an American you definitely should, because there is none.

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