Tuesday, December 20, 2011

NASA is moving towards the Space Launch System

Next Big Future

Read through the thread of links to that post and you are left with the inescapable impression that this is a big boondoggle that will never get off the ground.

NASA doesn't innovate anymore, if it ever did. The technology for SLS is half a century old. Imagine trying to open a new car dealership which markets Model T's. They won't sell because they're obsolete. The "dealership" won't shut down now even though that fact should be obvious, they will continue the subsidies because governments are slow to recognize realities. However, once it becomes clear that the taxpayer is subsidizing obsolescent hardware at great cost, the political support for its continuance will become untenable. The public can be fooled for the moment, but the moment is quickly coming to an end.

There are many improvements upon the current technology, but these are not as well known for the moment. Now that Spacex has launched, there will be many others, who will be able to offer much more for much less.

Here is a list of posts of future technologies which can drastically reduce the cost of launching into low earth orbit
  1. Refueling from LEO using the upper atmosphere:  LOXLEO
  2. Stratolaunch
  3. QuickLaunch
  4. Skylon
  5. Spacex's reusable rockets
  6. Vasimr and others
  7. Fusion propulsion concepts
Not to mention that a moonbase will cut the cost of launch by a factor of 14.  But you have to get there first.  A moonbase could also launch nuclear thermal rockets from the lunar surface.  That could cut the costs by another factor of two.  John Hunter of Quicklaunch says that it will take a million pounds of propellant for each crew member to get to Mars.  If you launched from the Moon, that may come down to just 35,000 pounds each! (assuming a Nerva type rocket using lunar INSR materials)

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