Friday, August 5, 2022

Even Though SLS Has Never Flown

As the Space Launch System (SLS) prepares for its roll out to pad 39B on August 18 and first launch August 29,  NASA is preparing to award a contract to a Boeing-Northrop Grumman joint venture for SLS missions that could run through the middle of the 2030s.

On July 26, NASA issued a pre-solicitation notice for its Exploration Production and Operations Contract (EPOC), which would shift procurement of SLS launches to a services contract. The contract won't start until the late 2020s.

NASA envisions EPOC as a means of saving money as well as opening the door to other uses of the heavy-lift rocket. The baseline contract would cover missions Artemis 5 through 9, with an option for missions Artemis 10 through 14 and another option for up to 10 non-Artemis launches. If the options are exercised, the contract would run through the Artemis 14 mission that NASA projects flying in 2036.

The source article at Space News doesn't mention the October '21 request from NASA to everyone in the industry that said "Cut SLS Costs by 50% and We'll Use it 'Till 2050."  My own wild-ass guess is that awarding this contract exclusively to one supplier is another way of saying that SLS "is what it is" and either no other company responded to that Request for Information, or none of them could bid building a replacement for SLS without massive costs and delays.  

NASA expects to award the contract to a new joint venture called Deep Space Transport LLC. That joint venture consists of Boeing, the prime contractor for the SLS core stage and the Exploration Upper Stage that will be used on SLS missions starting with Artemis 4, and Northrop Grumman, the prime contractor for the SLS solid rocket boosters.
“To have another company manufacture the Core Stage and Exploration Upper Stage may take as long as 10 years,” NASA states in the documents, with “a duplicative cost to the Government not expected to be recovered through competition.” Producing the five-segment boosters would take another company up to nine years, NASA estimates, and seven years for an alternative manufacturer of the RS-25 engines for the core stage produced by Aerojet Rocketdyne.

Artemis/SLS on the way to pad 39B on March 17th for the first attempts at the WDR. 

In communications prior to the pre-solicitation notice NASA stated that it expects to make the EPOC award to Deep Space Transport by the end of 2023.



  1. That's ok, when NASA completes its movie reboot of , the prop spacecraft can be loaded inside the nosecone of a SpaceX product for transport.

  2. Ah, same NASA, same business...

    Have an acquaintance who works for NASA who insists that the moon landings have had to be faked because NASA is such a pile of bureaucratic dog-squeeze. What a friggin idiot. Apollo NASA was so definitely different than entrenched- bureaucracy-NASA, well, it's like old can-do-Boeing vs today's management-ruining-Boeing.



    A giant jobs program, with no real expectations of success and staying on schedule. Our tax dollars at work. Yaaaayyyyy......

  3. "Deep Space Transport LLC"?? It is to laugh. By the time they get that clunker running well enough to venture into deep space, they'll be able to stop by a Giga Starbase to change oil and fix the driveshaft.

  4. the corruption and incompetence of our gov is repugnant.

  5. Same old, same old grift and pork, with kickbacks to appropriate Pieces o' Slime.

  6. Re: a SiGB comment elsewhere about grid increases to support EV's: I did the back of the envelope calculation about how many Watt*hour equivalents are transferred in 24 hours using gasoline through the East coast pair of 36" diameter pipelines. (Laughter)

    1. Yeah - one of the things that has stood out in my memory is the specific energy (Watt*hours/kg) between batteries and gasoline. The "best-in-class" numbers I've heard of for lithium batteries run in the vicinity of 900 Wh/kg, while gasoline runs about 12,000. Li batteries aren't even 10% of gasoline.