Saturday, 16 November, 2019

NASA nixes crew for test flight of new megarocket in 2019

NASA nixes crew for test flight of new megarocket in 2019 NASA nixes crew for test flight of new megarocket in 2019
Clarence Schmidt | 13 May, 2017, 09:40

NASA has delayed the first launch of its heavy-payload rocket until 2019 and decided against an idea floated by the White House to put astronauts aboard the capsule that is set to fly around the moon, the US space agency said on Friday.The National Aeronautics and Space Administration had hoped to launch the Space Launch System, or SLS, rocket in November 2018.

By the end of the next fiscal year on September 30, 2018, Nasa will have spent US$23 billion on the rocket, capsule, launch site and support systems, according to an audit by Nasa's Office of Inspector General. NASA will execute its normal process to determine an official revised launch date for EM-1.

Still in development, the super-sized Space Launch System rocket is meant to eventually send astronauts to Mars.

NASA plans for the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft to be the flagship of the agency for decades to come, flying astronauts deeper into space than ever before.

The unmanned test flight had been scheduled for November 2018 but was pushed back after the White House asked for a feasibility study of the cost, safety and technical constraints. Orion would have to have been fitted with a slew of different life-support systems to sustain a crew for a few weeks, increase testing of an abort system, install software to allow the crew to interface with the spacecraft's instruments, and also required ESA to speed up the construction of Orion's service module (NASA outsources to its partners in Europe).

"While it's technically feasible, they really reaffirmed that the baseline plan we had in place was the best way to go", Lightfoot said in a teleconference with reporters.

The agency's current schedule calls for the initial, unmanned SLS-Orion flight in 2019.

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NASA has always been working toward an uncrewed first mission for the SLS, so inserting a crew at this stage in the game seemed at best, slightly reckless.

"It's really consistent with our available resources, and while it still has technical risk, we have a good handle on that and how an uncrewed mission will actually help EM-2 be a safer mission when we put crew on there".

That second flight is likely be delayed beyond 2021, too, said Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator of NASA's Human Explorations and Operations Mission Directorate. The agency has had some setbacks, including a tornado that seriously damaged the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans in February. "Leave EM-1 uncrewed". "But we're building off of that legacy now to move in a more sustained manner", he said.

The SLS program is managed in Huntsville at the Marshall Space Flight Center and the upper stage of the rocket for EM-1 is being built by United Launch Alliance in Decatur.

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

Lightfoot emphasized, "the White House has been very supportive of our plan", and that based on the study's findings, NASA and the White House made the latest EM-1 decisions "together". "I'd say that new manufacturing is causing the delays that we're seeing", he said. If you would like to discuss another topic, look for a relevant article. Lightfoot's only response: "They have not asked us to go to Mars by 2024".

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