Tuesday, October 25, 2011

SLS Funding Already in Question

Space Shuttle Main Engines, designed to be reusable, will meet their demise at the bottom of the ocean after Space Launch System test flights. Image source: NASA.

Six weeks after announcement of the Space Launch System that has no mission or destination, Aviation Week reports that NASA is already stuggling to find ways to administer the program within its $3 billion per year budget.

NASA will store some rocket engines, slow work on others and study still more as it struggles to squeeze the heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) Congress has ordered into a flat, $3 billion annual budget for development ...

The trick, for NASA and its existing and potential rocket contractors, will be to manage the development within the $3 billion in annual funding the agency hopes to get. NASA managers drummed that point home to contractors during an SLS industry day at Marshall Space Flight Center, but it offers scant solace to companies that have been struggling to keep their teams together while NASA determines its next moves.

According to a NASA document, the surviving Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSMEs) will be used to power the SLS first stage. "Space Shuttle Main Engines (RS-25) in stock will provide the core propulsion," according to the document. The engines, designed for reuse by the Shuttle, apparently will meet their demise by falling into the ocean or burning up upon re-entry.

According to the Aviation Week article, Pratt & Whitney has begun internal design work on "a throw-away -25E variant for the SLS" but early flights will use the existing SSMEs.

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