Aviation Week reports it will cost NASA $18 billion to build a test version of Space Launch System for launch by 2017.
Early cost estimates for the heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) that Congress has ordered NASA to build indicate the agency believes it can test an unmanned version of the “core” vehicle selected by Administrator Charles Bolden for about $18 billion by the end of 2017.
That previously undisclosed figure, which the agency gave to Booz Allen Hamilton for an independent analysis of the big rocket’s cost, includes the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) based on the Orion capsule Lockheed Martin started under the Constellation program, and $2 billion in modifications to ground launch facilities at Kennedy Space Center, Fla. The amount, which NASA believes it could provide under its fiscal 2012 budget request for human space exploration, would deliver a basic SLS able to lift 70 metric tons to low Earth orbit.
That core would use surplus space shuttle main engines and the J-2X upper-stage engine now in development. With upgrades approved by Bolden after a lengthy engineering analysis within NASA, the rocket could “evolve” to the 130-metric-ton capability Congress ordered in the three-year NASA reauthorization act passed and signed by President Barack Obama in December 2010.
Do we really need to spend $18 billion on this?! Surely there are smarter ways to invest $18 billion in the future of the U.S. space program.
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