back to article NASA scrubs Artemis SLS Moon rocket launch

NASA's Space Launch System remained rooted to the pad this morning at the Kennedy Space Center on the US East Coast after its launch was scrubbed by controllers. The unmanned rocket was supposed to blast off around 0830 ET (1230 UTC). The flight would have been the first proper test of the multi-billion-dollar SLS – the US …

  1. Version 1.0 Silver badge
    Happy

    200% trust in NASA

    This is a typical example of how NASA engineers always do a great job, if they see a problem then they fix it, and then they verify that it's fixed, before just moving on and getting things going. What would the world be like today if NASA had built a phone called Voyager in 1977 that was still working?

    1. Andy Mac
      Pint

      Re: 200% trust in NASA

      Seconded. This is, literally, rocket science. Hang on in there NASA.

      1. Joe Gurman

        Re: 200% trust in NASA

        This is literally _not_ rocket science. It's 100% rocket _engineering_.

        — Former employee of a four-letter acronym US gumming agency, and a scientist

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge
          Boffin

          This is literally _not_ rocket science. It's 100% rocket _engineering_.

          Exactly.

        2. Swiss Anton

          The problem is with 1 of 4 engines.

          Since 3 of the 4 identically designed engines do not have an issue, Occam's razor says that the problem is down to some sloppy build or QA work. Though of course that doesn't rule out fragile design etc as being the cause.

        3. IanRS

          Re: 200% trust in NASA

          As I repeatedly tell my son when playing with model rockets, which do not always perform according to plan. Rocket science is easy (exhaust goes backward = rocket goes forward). Rocket engineering on the other hand is really really hard.

    2. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: 200% trust in NASA

      * since STS-114.

    3. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: 200% trust in congress

      I am confident congress will keep funding this no matter how many times it scrubs. Even if it does not launch on time (2016) funding will be approved. A commercial alternative for under a tenth of the cost that has been operational since 2018 hasn't come close to ending SLS. An explosion might make a difference but scrubs can continue until the main tank cracks.

      1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: 200% trust in congress

        A commercial alternative for under a tenth of the cost that has been operational since 2018

        If you're refering to Falcon Heavy then you're not quite right.

        SLS (Block 1) is supposed to be able to lift 95t to LEO whereas Falcon Heavey can only lift 63.8t.

        1. Jim Mitchell
          Boffin

          Re: 200% trust in congress

          SLS (Block 1) is supposed to be able to lift 95t to LEO whereas Falcon Heavey (sic) can only lift 63.8t.

          As they say, "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush".

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Pint

            Re: 200% trust in congress

            As they say, "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush".

            But what is 2/3 of a bird in the hand worth?

            Right now, the SLS is the closest to operational, At least until SpaceX can keep its Starship from Rapid Unscheduled Disassemblies.

            I actually have confidence in both NASA and SpaceX getting it right, eventually.

            1. Jim Mitchell

              Re: 200% trust in congress

              I'm not sure what you are getting at. SpaceX's Falcon Heavy is fully in hand, having already launched multiple times.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: 200% trust in congress

                Falcon Heavy doesn't have the required lift capacity. Super Heavy does, but hasn't launched yet. It is stacked and waiting on paper work for its first test.

                It will have to work before Artemis 3 as they are relying it putting the lander there for the Artemis 3 crew to dock with.

                1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

                  Re: 200% trust in congress

                  But how many Falcon Heavy launches could you get for the cost of one SLS launch?

                  NASA toyed with multiple-launch options while scoping the Apollo program and settled on the Single Big Launch Vehicle (with lunar orbit rendezvous) for cost reasons. Now, even that isn't a constraint.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: 200% trust in congress

                    Once Super Heavy/Starship is proven there will be no more Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy. SpaceX will just use Super Heavy/Starship for everything. Since it is almost ready to test, there is no point considering the many Falcon Heavy launches that would be required to achieve what is already planned using Super Heavy.

                    Putting the lander in orbit round the moon for Artemis 3 will involve multiple super heavy launches.

                    The first launch will put a starship configured as a tanker into Earth orbit. Next, between 4 and 12 launches will fill the tanker with fuel. Not sure why they are not a bit more precise with exactly how many fuel launches are needed.

                    Finally the lander Starship will launch, dock with the tanker to refuel, then take itself to the moon. There it will dock with the gateway (if it exists!) and wait for the Artemis 3 Orion. If there is no gateway, it will just wait in lunar orbit and dock directly with the Orion.

                    Also, NASA haven't ruled out using Super Heavy for future Orion launches.

                    Basically, SLS is the pork barrel express. Started many years ago before Super Heavy was even a dream. The money has been spent, congressmen bribed and NASA have the rocket ready to go (just about). They will it use it until the cheaper options are ready and proven.

                    1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

                      Re: 200% trust in congress

                      Setting SLS entirely aside for a moment, despite the impressive progress SpaceX has made, Super Heavy and Starship remain untested and unproven vehicles. The program has been beset with issues (because they're ambitious and rocketry isn't easy) and the SS test articles are still basically just big tubes with some propellant tanks inside. SH is probably pretty close to functional since it's just the booster but even if SpaceX manages to conduct a successful first orbital flight test, whenever that might occur, there's still a huge amount of work to be done to turn SS into a usable launch vehicle.

                      It's all well and good to say that SH+SS is going to make various other launchers obsolete, but there's currently no timeframe for that to occur.

                      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                        Re: 200% trust in congress

                        "Super Heavy and Starship remain untested and unproven vehicles"

                        They've gone from concept to prototypes in a startlingly short period of time and NASA wouldn't DARE repeatedly building up/tearing down prelaunch iterations until they felt happy about launching one. There's just too much political pressure on them for that option

                    2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

                      Re: 200% trust in congress

                      'Proven' means different things to different people. I think Elon will put a few Starlinks on the first launch even though perigee will be too low for those satellites to complete one orbit. (embiggen)If(/embiggen) the first Starship completes a fractional orbit then Starship will be proven sufficiently for Starlink. It will take more than one successful Starship launch before NASA considers it 'proven' for satellites let alone crew and many landings before they consider it for landing crew on Earth. SpaceX have said that they will fly Falcon for as long as customers want it while putting a clause in the contract to allow customers to switch to Starship if they want.

                      Orion in a Starship is something I have only ever seen in speculation and never in an official NASA announcement. Shelby would explode with rage if someone from NASA whispered a joke about this in Alabama. NASA would not put crew inside an Orion inside a Starship because they require a launch abort system to be able to work without fairing separation (ask Sierra Nevada Corporation about Dream Chaser). If SLS does a spectacular RUD then there is a slight possibility for the following plan to be costed in secret by NASA: An empty Orion gets taken near the Moon by a Starship. Astronauts ride a Dragon to HLS Starship in LEO and that Starship takes them to the Moon then back to the Orion for return to Earth.

                      The reason for 4 to 12 tanker launches to refuel a Starship is that Starship performance changes every month. SpaceX put 12 in the HLS bid so NASA would not need to do much thinking before deciding that SpaceX had assigned easily sufficient launches for the complete mission.

                    3. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

                      Re: 200% trust in congress

                      Someone's been sniffing the musk!

                      1. Anonymous Coward
                        Anonymous Coward

                        Re: 200% trust in congress

                        Not really, just that SpaceX have consistently shown that they can do what they say they will do. Also, if Super Heavy and Starship don't work, there will be no Artemis 3 mission.

                    4. FIA Silver badge

                      Re: 200% trust in congress

                      The first launch will put a starship configured as a tanker into Earth orbit. Next, between 4 and 12 launches will fill the tanker with fuel. Not sure why they are not a bit more precise with exactly how many fuel launches are needed.

                      They could do it in 4, but they get more Green Shield stamps if they do it in 12, and Elon really wants that new toaster.

                  2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
                    Unhappy

                    But how many Falcon Heavy launches could you get for the cost of one SLS launch?

                    Well givne the 10 yrs from 2011 cost the US taxpayers $23Bn and lets say a NASA specific FH launch was $200m (with all the NASA specific "mission assurance" special sauce they need) that's 115 launches worth. Of course FH has only been flying since 2018 so tha's only $9.2Bn pro rata. Only 46 launches.

                    But this misses the key metric.

                    The number of jobs in Alabama that the Senator for Alabama can claim he's bought to the state.

                    1. Anonymous Coward
                      Anonymous Coward

                      Re: But how many Falcon Heavy launches could you get for the cost of one SLS launch?

                      All that money is a sunk cost. You won't get it back regardless of what you use to launch in future.

                      The only cost worth looking at now is future launches. Since NASA already have one SLS ready to go now, they may as well launch it to prove Orion and the rest of the systems. If other SLS are nearly complete and already paid for, then use them as well.

                      After that, use Super Heavy/Starship once it has been proven and can be adapted to launch Orion.

                      The one thing that definitely won't be used is Falcon Heavy. Once Super Heavy and Starship are flying, SpaceX plan to kill it off. Falcon heavy can't do anything that Starship can't do and it certainly cannot launch Orion or the Starship moon lander.

                      Like it or not, Orion is the ship that is taking astronauts to the moon and the Starship lander is what is going to land them. The only things that can launch these are SLS and Super Heavy.

                      1. John Robson Silver badge

                        Re: But how many Falcon Heavy launches could you get for the cost of one SLS launch?

                        "Like it or not, Orion is the ship that is taking astronauts to the moon and the Starship lander is what is going to land them. The only things that can launch these are SLS and Super Heavy."

                        Given that the starship lander is required, and is by definition human rated, and designed for long duration missions... there is nothing actually stopping them launching in a dragon, docking with the starship in LEO and being on board from TLI to return.

                        It would need an additional refuel for the return and that's a *big* extra step for human rating but otherwise a 'simple' case of launch more tankers.

                        The return would be powered back to LEO, then dock with dragon for return (or even just beef up on the heat shielding for the dragon to moon-rate it rather than the LEO rating it currently has) - then haul an F9 second stage (already man rated) to the moon on board the starship for the return.

                        Assuming that starship works as planned then the above is likely to be cheaper than even the operational costs of SLS - ignoring the sunk costs totally.

                        Do I think it's likely? No (not even remotely).

                        Is it possible, or even attractive financially? Yes.

                  3. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

                    Re: 200% trust in congress

                    Office of Inspector General figures: SLS+Orion+Service module launch, excluding R&D is $4B. By itself SLS is "only" $2B. OIG said that costs had been obfuscated and he was not certain he had found them all.

                    Falcon Heavy, no payload reusable $97M (2022). Expendable $150m (2017). These are base figures. Payload integration and handling have extra costs. Falcon 9, no payload is somewhere between $50M and $67M. Falcon 9 with a crew Dragon is $240M-264M so by itself, a Dragon is about $192M.

                    Dragons were originally designed to be able to return from the Moon. Some features were cut when it became clear that it wasn't going there. The heat shield should still be good as the over specification was turned into multiple re-use. Dragon on Falcon Heavy to replace SLS+Orion is probably around $400M. NASA have said they would not man-rate Falcon Heavy because of the extra separation event for the side boosters. I believe this statement gets forgotten when convenient.

                    The other cost of SLS is at best one year between launches. Falcon 9s currently launch about once per week. Falcon heavy launches are limited by payload availability. Without Dragons, Falcon Heavy could launch about once per month. Dragons are more restricted, probably three this year an six next year.

                    1. Anonymous Coward
                      Anonymous Coward

                      Re: 200% trust in congress

                      Why keep talking about Falcon Heavy? Spacex future is Super Heavy/Starship. Their words, not mine.

                      Falcon Heavy is an intermittent step until Starship is ready. After that, it's going the way of the dodo.

                      I can see Super Heavy maybe launching future Artemis missions. No chance Falcon Heavy will.

                      Starship already has 1 satellite contract. Once it is proven, it will get more. Would not be surprised if SpaceX tried to move existing Falcon Heavy launches to Starship.

                  4. Alan Brown Silver badge

                    Re: 200% trust in congress

                    It waasn't _just_ cost reasons.

                    The very limited technology of the day made multi-mission orbital rendezvous risky and it was something that was only really proven reliable in the mid 1970s

                    As it was, the LEMs were eggshell-fragile machines. Good enough to win a sprint but not for sustained exploration programs - one would have been lost sooner or later if Apollo had continued - and continued using them

                    The moon race essentially put space exploration back at least 20 years

                2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

                  Re: 27t <=> 23±1t++

                  Analysis of the speedometer on the last Starlink launch shows that the Merlin engine on stage 2 got an upgrade. There was not much of a gap before. Upgrade the other 27 engines on a Falcon Heavy and the difference between SLS and FH payload to TLI must be getting really thin.

                  Starship is not just waiting for a launch license. They are still changing and testing the ground support equipment - possibly because they are waiting for the license.

        2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

          Re: 200% trust in congress

          Also Falcon Heavy doesn't cost a tenth of an SLS...

          Tons to LEO is not a good figure as SLS will never deliver a payload there. It can (and will only ever) do 27t to trans-lunar injection. I have not seen an official quote but popular guesses at Falcon Heavy payload to TLI are between 22t and 24t.

          SLS can be diced two different ways: replace Orion+Service Module with something not designed to be too heavy to be launched with anything but SLS to get the mass down to FH range or split crew and cargo into different launches. 2x Falcon Heavy + Crew Dragon is still well under a tenth of the cost of SLS+Orion.

          There is one critical area where SLS totally demolishes FH: election campaign contributions.

          1. DS999 Silver badge

            Re: 200% trust in congress

            There is one critical area where SLS totally demolishes FH: election campaign contributions

            Depends on whether one would consider Musk buying Twitter and allowing Trump back onto the platform as effectively a "campaign contribution" since even raising the spectre of that quickly made him a darling of republicans and conservative media.

            I have to think that would give SpaceX a leg up in decision making of any future republican administrations.

            1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

              Re: 200% trust in congress

              Before Musk got buyer's remorse, a famous Florida man called him "another bullshit artist". They are not BFsF. Not buying twitter isn't going to help, but at the rate Deep State conspiracy theories spin they might be BFsF tomorrow.

              The Biden administration has been working hard on their stupidity contest with Elon. They are really going to have to step up their game if there are going to get close.

              If anything, Musk does a thorough job of antagonising both sides.

              1. DS999 Silver badge

                Re: 200% trust in congress

                Trump loves anyone who kisses his ass, even people who have said the worst things about him previously.

                I agree that Musk is (trying to) playing the middle, as anyone as dependent as he is on government subsidies and who wants government contracts pretty much has to do.

        3. HereAndGone

          Re: 200% trust in congress

          Funny how minor phrasing can imply very different things. A more honest version would be:

          SLS (Block 1) is supposed to be able to lift 95t to LEO *In the Future* whereas Falcon Heavey {sic} can *and already does* lift 63.8t.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            At this point

            I suspect SpaceX could strap a third booster on the Heavy faster than the problems with the SLS stack can or will be fixed. Starship may be flight rated quicker than either, and the whole lunar mission is both a black hole sucking up all the money in it's orbit and a meaningless publicity stunt.

            We missed the project milestones for a crewed mission to Mars, so they decided to go to the moon again instead to cover up the flushing sounds where all the money has been going. Literally to do nothing but take press photos and replicate science results we could have gotten from drones and rovers.

            And unless someone gets killed or thrown in jail, this will just keep happeing, as it's tremendously profitable to bleed the taxpayers for this kind of fiasco.

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: At this point

              There's a bigger problem with going to the moon than the rocketry

              The dust

              Lunar dust _wrecked_ every apollo EVA suit in less than 30 hours. It's extremely abrasive and sticks worse than shit to a blanket thanks to electrostatic charges.

              Once inside a pressurised environment it presents a major silicosis hazard due to its extreme fineness

              Compared to mars it's an incredibly hostile environment and major efforts will be required to keep people healthy over and above anything already being done in space/zero-g environments

              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFqpgmZAZgo

              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0k9wIsKKgqo

              1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

                Re: At this point

                Neither of those claims is really true. NASA was worried about moon dust before the Apollo missions, but it turned out to be a small problem. It does do both the things you suggest, but not to anything like that extent.

                It's easy to clean off because it's magnetically charged, so being aware of the problems and taking basic steps is enough.

        4. rg287

          Re: 200% trust in congress

          SLS (Block 1) is supposed to be able to lift 95t to LEO whereas Falcon Heavey can only lift 63.8t.

          This is true. But FH is so much cheaper that you could launch >200t for less money. Unless you have some seriously pressing architectural limitation that makes it impossible to launch the mission in more than one shot and assemble on-orbit (in which case, architect better!).

          The more pressing issue with FH (and F9) is the limited fairing volume due to the rocket’s relatively slender diameter. This means you often can’t use the full mass capacity of the rocket unless you intend to launch a literal cube of lead to orbit. This is a side-effect of the incredible efficiency gains they pulled out of the Merlin engine, which ended up being far more powerful than they designed the rest of the rocket for.

          1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

            Re: 200% trust in congress

            This is all complete drivel. FH isn't a comparable super-heavy launch system at all, except in expendable mode - and guess what, in expendable mode it's far more expensive per launch. The 64t to LEO stuff is nonsense. Actual payload in reusable mode is a fraction of that - it's <30t.

            So what you end up with is a rocket that incurs significant extra up-front costs, and significant limitations, in order to be reusable - and then you throw it away after each launch. Obviously mad. A Falcon Heavy costs roughly the same to build as the SLS for a third of the payload, which is fine when you reuse it, but clearly uneconomic if you don't.

            The simple reality is that people here are conflating two different rockets with two different jobs, produced by two closely linked groups (who are not in competition), to meet two different aims. The Musky fanboys are shrill, but not correct. Nasa is quietly right.

            https://everydayastronaut.com/sls-vs-starship/

        5. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: 200% trust in congress

          Falcon Heavy is not what SLS needs to compete with

      2. gandalfcn Silver badge

        Re: 200% trust in congress

        I'm not too sure as far too many politicians see anything to with the State being commie, unless it's more guns and bombs.

    4. Jan K. Bronze badge

      Re: 200% trust in NASA

      Heh! I was about to post, that NASA is like Linux... :)

      Finding bits and bobs and getting better by the day.

    5. jake Silver badge

      Re: 200% trust in NASA

      "What would the world be like today if NASA had built a phone called Voyager in 1977 that was still working?"

      Well ... My Father's early 1950s Model 500 Western Electric rotary dial telephone is at my elbow, and still works just fine (yes, my local telco still supports pulse dialing ... and I have proactively installed a switch & simple circuitry to convert from pulse to DTMF as insurance for when the local CO drops pulse capability).

      Before you knee-jerk a "luddite" comment, where will all the money you have spent on telephones be in 70ish years? Down the toilet, that's where. Think about it.

      1. HereAndGone

        Fun with Children

        It would be most entertaining for you to challenge teens, or even 20 somethings, to make a call on that phone.

        Video the entertainment and post it.

        (Note: You probably will need a newer phone that the 1950's model to do the video)

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Fun with Children

          Already been done. I think there might have been a TV show, not sure, but I am sure I've seen this sort of thing on YouTube where young kids are given tech gadgets from before they are born and left to discover how to make them work. Things like wonder how to skip a track or read the playlist on Walkman, boot up a Commodore 64 etc :-)

        2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

          Re: Fun with Children

          There were some fun videos of teens with an early PC. None of them were able to guess that the machine could not do anything useful without a boot floppy disk inserted. Most didn't find the power switch on the back. To be fair, I would expect to have difficulty getting a horse ready for a ride to work.

        3. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: Fun with Children

          Twice in the last month I've tried to make a call and my phone was optimising apps! Good job the fucking house wasn't on fire the time it took. Dont remember my old bakerlite block ever having that problem!

          As an aside my spell checker thinks "obliterate" is the correct spelling of bakerlite!

          1. AlbertH
            Coat

            Re: Fun with Children

            Actually, the correct spelling is "Bakelite"! - no "r"!!

            I'll get my coat......

            1. jake Silver badge
              Pint

              Re: Fun with Children

              Actually, the correct spleling is "polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride", one "r".

              1. Dave559 Silver badge
                Joke

                Re: Fun with Children

                Isn't that a railway station in Wales…?

                1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                  Re: Fun with Children

                  No, too many vowels :-)

                  1. Mark 85 Silver badge
                    Coat

                    Re: Fun with Children

                    No, too many vowels :-)

                    Or not enough????? I'll get my coat now....

                2. Tom 7 Silver badge

                  Re: Fun with Children

                  And Cheshire too!

            2. Tom 7 Silver badge

              Re: Fun with Children

              Must confess I've been spelling it wrong for 50 years now. Just to be petty I shall tell my spell checker to add it to its dicshunary.

          2. hoola Silver badge

            Re: Fun with Children

            And what does that "Optimising x of yyy Apps" actually do?

            It appears to have zero impact on anything useful.....

          3. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Fun with Children

            I'm old enough and have lived in places backwater enough to have used phones with crank handles and needing to decode morse code rings to decide whether to answer the call

            I also participated in replacing all those lines with individual service DTMF service a few years later as a young telco tech

            My suspicion is that children would find the older voice-operated tech easier to interface with than rotary dials

        4. jake Silver badge

          Re: Fun with Children

          A couple years ago I offered a teenager $50 if he could place a call on it.

          He refused to touch it.

          I made a call to show him it worked, and asked him to try again. He still refused.

          My granddaughter discovered the phone when she was about 5 years old. I gave her one of her own for her 6th birthday ... complete with a switch, a couple momentaries, & circuitry to convert from pulse to DTMF as insurance for when her local CO drops pulse capability. Almost a decade later, she's still using it. She thinks it's wonderful ... and her friends think she's weird, which she also thinks is wonderful. Mission accomplished.

          I don't use cheap phone cameras to make videos ...

        5. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Fun with Children

          A few years ago there was an article here on the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum (excellent palce to visit + excellent cornish cream teas in the cafe!) and someone left a comment about how there was a rotary phone on display and their chidlren looked bemused at it trying to push the numbers and asking how you could dial a number with no buttons and being amazed when shown how a rotary dial worked ... and I replied to say that I'd had exactly the same experience with my children when we'd visited!

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: Fun with Children

            My young daughter figured it out straight away, because she had seen them in films and TV.

      2. vogon00

        Re: 200% trust in NASA

        Oh, the fun I had testing 'phone instruments and exchanges/COs for pulses-per-second and mark/space ratio compliance...among lots of other things. At one stage, I was a 'Walking, Talking SIN350'.

        I miss all that analogue stuff....anyone feeling really nostalgic about British exchanges could do worse than visit Light Straw. Most of it is before my time, but still nice to see what the forefathers got up to!

    6. Nudge Away

      Re: 200% trust in NASA

      Question: Would Engineers skip a test that was scheduled ?

      NASA saw a potential problem in not testing & skipped the test anyway.

      You can dress it up however you wish (what does 200% trust actually mean BTW) *but* the test was skipped, by someone (Engineer or Management) who decided to skip it.

      Exactly the same mentality (it will be ok) caused the Challenger failure.

      1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

        Re: 200% trust in NASA

        Managers would make Engineers skip a test that was scheduled - certainly NASA has had problems but the Engineers have always learned how to fix them so that event like the Challenger have only happened once so far. I was standing outside my office in Florida waiting to see the Challenger rise (we could normally see them shoot up high from the other side of Florida) and I remember being so sad when I went back into the office and heard what had happened on the radio.

        1. Crypto Monad

          Re: 200% trust in NASA

          event like the Challenger have only happened once so far

          Apart from the Columbia that is.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: 200% trust in NASA

            That was a different "once"

      2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

        Re: 200% trust in NASA

        Another way to put this is it was a wet dress rehearsal test that could continue to orbit if everything worked as planned. The procedure would be exactly the same but the presentation would have been more realistic.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: 200% trust in NASA

          Yeah, and that looked like what was happening here, that they were proceeding through as much as they could to shake any more problems loose before they unloaded it again, or rolled the dice on incinerating the launch pad to get some flight data.

          The fun thing is all of the upper stages are still untried at this point, and plenty of miles between here and the far side of the moon. I will be amazed if after all of this they don't hit more problems with those systems as well based on the pervasive engineering defects at every stage of this project.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: 200% trust in NASA

            "The fun thing is all of the upper stages are still untried at this point"

            However there's only one SLS and the odds of a second one are slim to negligable

    7. Snowy Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: 200% trust in NASA

      Sure for the Engineers not so much trust in the management.

      1. FIA Silver badge

        Re: 200% trust in NASA

        For things to succeed, you kind of need trust in both.

        Unmanaged engineers go and make things like the Commodore 128. A brilliant piece of engineering; but possibly not the best idea.

        Oh, hang on, I've just invoked Commodore in a 'pro management' rant, ignore me.

        1. Crypto Monad

          Re: 200% trust in NASA

          What do you mean? I loved my Commodore 128.

          I never used the Z80 + CP/M part of it though.

          1. FIA Silver badge

            Re: 200% trust in NASA

            What do you mean? I loved my Commodore 128.

            I mean it was a technical masterpiece, 2 computers in one, a C64 and a (possibly not that fast) CP/M compatable Z80, technically great....

            I never used the Z80 + CP/M part of it though.

            ...but possibly overkill because of that.

            Most people never used them as anything other than a C64. From a business POV, that's a terrible thing. Selling a computer with half going unused.

    8. The Sprocket

      Re: 200% trust in NASA

      Also seconded. 100% support since the days of John Glenn!

  2. Paul Herber Silver badge

    NASA

    Yes, NASA, none of this Nasa nonsense I've seen in the last few years.

  3. jake Silver badge

    ::pockets winnings::

    That was the safest bet I ever made ...

  4. martinusher Silver badge

    Its a prototype

    Hyping up the rocket as 'return to the Moon', "manned mission to Mars" or whatever is riding for a fall. This is a prototype even if it is based on proven technology. Things will go wrong, and as its a rocket they're likely to go wrong spectacularly. Expectations need to be managed until a SpaceX level of "yet another rocket launch (yawn)" is achieved. Otherwise we're looking at a massive PR blunder.

    1. Nudge Away

      Re: Its a prototype

      Question: Are more things likely to go wrong if a scheduled test is skipped ?

      Either the test is required *or* it is not and if so remove it.

      Testing 101 really ...

    2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: Its a prototype

      SLS is different things to different people. For me it is a bunch of parts that were always difficult to operate, have been modified to a significant extent and put together in a way to maximise billable expenditure. I was expecting a scrub and I think more scrubs are likely.

      A different point of view is that these are heritage parts that people have years of experience with. The design is perfect because it has completed simulations ad nauseam. It has to work perfectly first time to justify the expense and because a RUD would set the return to the Moon back two years.

      Different people at NASA and politicians have different expectations within that range and off to each side. Some are trying to manage expectations to avoid disappointment. Some are trying to silence dissent. Some are keeping their heads down until retirement.

      SLS is going to shamble on with expectations projected to match the budget rather than the lack of maturity of the rocket and ground support equipment. This will continue until SpaceX demonstrates Starships refuelling in orbit and returning to Earth or until SLS RUDs.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Its a prototype

        Those folk that made the trip to Cocoa Beach are having a great time this week camping out or booking out the Titusville Holiday Inn and Howard Johnson. It’s kind of useful that it’s a summer beach resort area. But they will be less happy if they keep on scrubbing.

      2. anothercynic Silver badge

        Re: Its a prototype

        A friend of mine worked on Orion. He's sadly no longer with us. But the enthusiasm the guy had for rocket engineering was... boundless. He really wanted to see SLS fly. When that colossus lifts off, I'll raise a glass to Steve.

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Unhappy

          But the enthusiasm the guy had for rocket engineering was... boundless.

          Much like the $ US taxpayers have been coughing up to get this thing built for most of the last 20+ years (SLS is the latest incarnation of the HLV-that-will-not-die).

          Let's keep in mind yes it's bigger than Saturn V.

          But at the end of the day it's yet another TSTO ELV, only with added SRB's just to make it more stupid challenging.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Its a prototype

        And SpaceX has singed the grass a few times it's self, but it getting farther and faster with each "RUD" as they like to say. The original Apollo project had plenty of test flights too, not all of them cake walks and aside from the tragedy of the crew module fire, but they were moving fast during the space race.

        SLS is even more eye wateringly expensive, but is moving at a glacial pace in the face of persistent and agile competitors.

        Saving face isn't worth the billions wasted on these flights. Scrap it, then push the launch out till something re-usable is available. Let the dinosaurs that built the SLS bid on the next round if they want, god knows they have the money now, but let Bezos play too then, so Elon doen't start getting too lazy.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Its a prototype

          "SpaceX has singed the grass a few times it's self"

          Yes, but they've always made it clear they expect to do so - and more importantly they don't have a bunch of cretins calling the RUDs "failures" or "boondoggles" and trying to slash funding

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Its a prototype

      IIRC Columbia was "yet another rocket launch (yawn)"

      We all know how that ended up

      I realise you said "expectations need to be managed", but the political reality in an animal like NASA is politics, pork and inflated national egos

  5. JDPower666 Silver badge

    Was always gonna happen, made on the cheap (whilst costing a fortune), and obsolete by design. It's the very definition of a dead duck, but they'll keep pushing it for fear of admitting their mistake. At least until one of the private companies is launching successful moon/Mars missions, then they'll quietly switch over to that, whilst proclaiming SLS was a huge success in the interim.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One of the things not tested

    The previous "wet dress" rehearsals got stopped before these valves were tested. Folks are feeling frustrated.

    On the GOOD side, there's no hydrogen leaks, which is usually a "feature" of every new rocket. That was what I was betting on, so I lost $5.

    1. Gary Stewart

      Re: One of the things not tested

      According to space.com live updates there was a hydrogen leak detected (4:15 AM EDT). It was determined that it was not serious enough (?) to stop the launch.

      As for 200% confidence in NASA I wonder why everybody seems to have forgotten about the Space Shuttle Columbia? A well known problem with bits of insulating foam falling off the external fuel tank and colliding with thermal tiles on the space shuttle wings during launch was determined to not be serious enough to stop launches. I live in Dallas and heard it explode. And I remember what happened when NASA determined that a 100% oxygen atmosphere and a inward opening hatch (couldn't be opened when the capsule was pressurized) in the Apollo 1 space craft was safe. Both of these engineering failures produced easily predictable disasters, no hindsight needed.

      I am very conflicted about the usefulness of SLS. Especially with it's complete failures as far as cost, time, and technology goes but I still want to see it complete it's mission. At least we will get some bang for our bucks (wrong phrase?).

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: One of the things not tested

        Everybody has not forgotten. See my comment about STS-114.

      2. anothercynic Silver badge

        Re: One of the things not tested

        SLS makes the machinery of the US government independent of the Russian one (Roskosmos). It's just like Europe who wanted independence from the US launch complex and founded things that eventually became Arianespace. And yes, having multiple different organisations build heavy lifters is a good thing.

        This is why the Chinese are developing their own heavy-lift capability, why Japan does, why India does... they all don't want to be beholden to one of three nations/nation-blocs on the planet who can lift heavy stuff to orbit, as is their right to.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: One of the things not tested

        Apollo capsules weren't pressurised above atmospheric pressure. The pure oxygen atmosphere allowed them to be pressurised to 20% of normal, equivalent to the partial pressure of oxygen in air.

        1. PerlyKing

          Re: One of the things not tested

          I'm pretty sure that the Apollo 1 CM was pressurised to one atmosphere for the fatal ground test.

          A tragic irony of that event was that the door was designed to open inwards because of the problem Gus Grissom had with his Mercury capsule in 1961: the hatch release was triggered early and he nearly drowned.

          Recommended reading: "Rocket Men" by Craig Nelson.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: One of the things not tested

            It was indeed at 1atm, so not pressurised to any level that would have prevented a hatch being opened. IIRC the hatch issue was that it was bolted shut.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: One of the things not tested

          That was true IN SPACE and amounted to 2-4psi

          However that wasn't true on the ground and that's the root cause of the Apollo 1 fire

          The problem was that they were pressurised to 2-4psi over atmospheric pressure _with pure oxygen_ in order to verify the leak integrity of the capsule (16.7psi, according to the report, vs 14.7psi atmospheric)

          Pure oxygen at 16-18psi makes velcro (nylon) essentially an explosive and there was a LOT of velcro in the cabin - apparently various engineers had been pleading for these tests not to be done in case there was a spark, or at least to reduce the amount of flammables in the cabin, whilst the astronauts themselves were worried about the quality of the wiring

          It turned out that the netting used for the wiring harnesses was also made of nylon

          Once the fire took hold and spread from the wiring harnesses to the cabin velcro, pressure inside the capsule ballooned due to combusion gasses plus temperature rise and the door essentially corked itself shut. Bolted or not, it wasn't openable without several tons of force - an opening force that the ground crew weren't able to provide

          https://aapt.scitation.org/doi/10.1119/1.5095379 - "The Apollo 1 Fire: A Case Study in the Flammability of Fabrics"

          https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/01/the-hell-of-apollo-1-pure-oxygen-a-single-spark-and-death-in-17-seconds/

      4. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

        Re: Hydrogen leak

        The leak was stopped by stopping the flow of liquid hydrogen, restarting it slowly then building up to the full flow rate. The problem was a connector that leaks when the two sides are at different temperatures but is fine when the two sides are at the same temperature.

        This is not a "lets continue and hope the fans disburse the hydrogen before it explodes". It was a genuine tested way to fix a hydrogen leak. Much as I dislike the SLS I respect the ground crew for their ability to get this rocket safely to almost launching.

      5. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: One of the things not tested

        "I am very conflicted about the usefulness of SLS"

        Sunk cost fallacy - having spent that much on it, it's regarded as too expensive to scrap now

  7. Dave559 Silver badge

    Fireworks

    At the end of the day, it's always a rather sobering thought to realise that a rocket is really just a very big firework. A very complicated and very, very, very big firework, but one to which "Light blue touchpaper, stand well back, and hope nothing goes wrong" still very much applies.

    And if cars had as many issues when "filling up the tank" as rockets seem to do, nobody would use them and pretty much everyone would always travel by metro instead!

    1. DJO Silver badge

      Re: Fireworks

      If cars needed to be fuelled with liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen and possibly some hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide, I think they too would have "issues".

      1. anothercynic Silver badge

        Re: Fireworks

        Especially with the latter two... Neither hydrazine nor N2O4 are nice things.

    2. Diogenes

      Re: Fireworks

      And our Government (the wonderful world of Oz - sorry Aus) is promising us nirvana based around a "green hydrogen" economy.

      1. Uncle Ron

        Re: Fireworks

        Except for the higher pressure, hydrogen is no different than gasoline. It's volatile, highly flammable, etc. Nothing solves engineering problems like this like mass production. Whatever government that gets behind it first will lead the world.

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          FAIL

          "Except for the higher pressure, hydrogen is no different than gasoline. "

          Except.

          It can go bang at levels from 4% to 96% in air.

          It can diffuse quite easily through most metals.

          It makes welded joints brittle even at room temperature

          You need to store it either at -253c or 5000Psi to get decent amounts of usable H2 (and the USAF range safety specs class 5000psi tanks in "lbs of TNT equivalent" regardless of what gas they are storing)

          It takes about 3x the energy to compress or cool it as it does to mfg it.

          Other than those it's just like gasoline.

          1. Zack Mollusc

            Re: "Except for the higher pressure, hydrogen is no different than gasoline. "

            Well the 'permeating through most metals' problem is trivially solved by fastening the hydrogen atoms to some carbon atoms.

            1. DJO Silver badge

              Re: "Except for the higher pressure, hydrogen is no different than gasoline. "

              Seeing as most hydrogen is made by catalytic breakdown of methane that seems a superfluous step.

              The Sabatier reaction is not all that efficient and runs hot to produce wet methane with all the cooling and drying costs that incurs.

              Adding carbon to hydrogen kind of defeats the whole point of using hydrogen in the first place - reducing CO₂ emissions.

              1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: "Except for the higher pressure, hydrogen is no different than gasoline. "

                "Adding carbon to hydrogen kind of defeats the whole point of using hydrogen in the first place - reducing CO₂ emissions."

                That depends on the source of the carbon. Fossil fuels or old-growth forests are definitely out

                Atmospheric carbon is perfect and a net-zero emitter as long as your energy and hydrogen source is zero-carbon (realistically this means nuclear power, not wind or solar - these processes need consistent energy sources)

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: "Except for the higher pressure, hydrogen is no different than gasoline. "

            "It takes about 3x the energy to compress or cool it as it does to mfg it."

            This is why I tell people that if they have the abundant cheap energy available to manufacture hydrogen they may as well take the extra step of tacking on atmospheric carbon atoms to make it easier to handle at the next few stages (storage, transportation, usage)

            Unfortunately talking to hydrogen proponents is mostly like dealing with Brexit cultists. They invariably invoke magic unicorn poo in order to get to step 1 (in this case, cheap carbon-free hydrogen - there's no point in stripping carbon off hydrocarbons to manufacture it - so no matter which way they cut it, the per kWh(*) cost of the hydrogen will be substantially higher than the per kWh cost of equivalent electricity, so the entire premise of reticulated domestic hydrogen gas networks or gas-fuelled cars falls apart and the only viable use case for synthetic hydrocarbon fuels is long-haul aviation or other niche purposes)

            (*) or per 3.6MJ if you prefer

            1. DJO Silver badge

              Re: "Except for the higher pressure, hydrogen is no different than gasoline. "

              ...talking to hydrogen proponents is mostly like dealing with Brexit cultists. They invariably invoke magic unicorn poo...

              Very true but you are slightly guilty of the same thing. Bolting carbon to hydrogen is also an energy intensive process and the products need drying and some compression and you'd probably want to remove any contaminates which are also produced.

              Realistically hydrogen is only suitable for static installations where there's enough room to store the hydrogen as a compressed gas instead of as a liquid.

              We could just go back to what we used before natural gas - coal gas was just a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen with depending on the grade of coal, a bit of methane. An identical fuel would be really easy to produce from hydrogen and atmospheric or waste carbon dioxide and the distribution infrastructure is largely still extant.

    3. druck Silver badge

      Re: Fireworks

      The solid boosters are just big fireworks, the core stage powered by rocket engines is very complicated mechanics. That's why the Saturn V still is a far more impressive achievement - fully dependant on rocket motors, rather getting most of it thrust from solid boosters as the the SLS does.

  8. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    There, there

    @RocketGirlHarp will kiss it better...

    https://twitter.com/RocketGirlHarp/status/1563872379511635971

  9. spireite Silver badge

    Can't help but think NASA are building a high-altitude lawn dart...

    It may be able to carry substantially more payload than a Falcon Heavy, but it's also got to get off the ground as well.

    I have less than zero confidence in it ever getting off the ground.

    Arguably, the only way it gets off the ground is its current state. Hoisted on a transporter.

    I can well imagine that it may never see a real mission, and much like a bad film goes 'straight to video/dvd', there is still a high chance this may go 'straight to museum'.

    We know Elon can't admit he's wrong. and he'll get his up (ahem)

  10. Uncle Ron

    Subtitle of the Article is "This science stuff is harder than it looks."

    IMHO, this has nothing to do with science. It's straight-up engineering. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge dedicated life-long fan of space-flight and space technology. Almost all this Artemis stuff is used and/or repurposed technology. Again, IMHO, there is just no excuse for this crowd to have had so much trouble putting Artemis up on it's feet. They should stand down, fire a bunch of people, then hire SpaceX. I'm sick of it.

  11. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    It's been called the "Senate Launch System"

    Because that's who set the ground rules for the design.

    And this is what you get from a design to maximise employment at certain defense con-tractors.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Whats up there? Its a mystery.

    Its been so long that finding a stars and stripes flag would be just amazing.

    Bit like when someone digs up a crappy spoon discarded in 1652 and thinks its amazing and profound and answers lots of questions about the past. And everyone is impressed and thinks they are clever.

  13. JulieM

    Wow

    I don't think I've ever seen so much hate for a publicly-funded institution.

    https://xkcd.com/893/

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