White House Urges Congress to Ditch the SLS Rocket

Share

The Fate of the Clipper Mission to Europa Might Depend on an SLS Rocket That Is Simply Too Costly to Sustain.

For Once, The Trump Administration and I Agree on Something: The SLS Rocket Has Got to Go. In a letter to Congress responding to the Senate Appropriations Committee’s 2020 budget bill, the administration’s Office of Management and Budget urged them to ditch the rocket. Russell Vought, acting director of the White House budget office signed the letter. In the letter, Vought brings up some surprising numbers regarding the cost of the SLS. And These numbers make it very hard to justify continuing the SLS project.

Despite repeated pleas like the one in the letter, Congress continues to insist that the SLS is the way forward for U.S. deep space missions. The problem: Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama). Sen. Shelby chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, and the SLS Rocket has been his baby for over a decade. NASA engineers at Marshall Space Flight Center designed and are managing the project in Shelby’s home state of Alabama. So he has a huge political interest in keeping the project alive—regardless of its cost or virtue.

So How Much Is the SLS Rocket Going to Cost?

Clipper is getting ready to go to Europa, the bitchin’ ice moon of Jupiter that scientists are sure has liquid oceans underneath it’s frozen surface. How it gets there is the question. Congress—specifically Sen. Shelby—has mandated that the SLS send the Clipper mission’s payload there. Until recently, NASA has been hesitant to put a price on an SLS launch, but now it appears the cat’s out of the bag.

In his letter, Vought says, “At an estimated cost of over $2 billion per launch for the SLS once development is complete, the use of a commercial launch vehicle would provide over $1.5 billion in cost savings. The Administration urges the Congress to provide NASA the flexibility called for by the NASA Inspector General.”

Why Would We Pay $1.5 Billion More?

Do I really need to answer that? Okay. Senator Shelby and those hardworking folks in Alabama who won’t vote to re-elect him if he lets a SpaceX Falcon Heavy take the payload for much cheaper. After all, we can’t have rockets made in California and Texas going into deep space. Especially not when we can have one that’s expensive in mammoth proportions that’s made in sweet home Alabama. Sen. Shelby holds the purse strings, and as long as he’s in charge, he’s got no real motivation to change his mind.

The only upside to the SLS is that it’s the fastest way to get to Jupiter. Other than that, there’s the Delta IV Heavy rocket from United Launch Alliance. This option would take the longest and would require gravity assists and a flyby of Venus which would make it less than ideal because of heat constraints.

SpaceX would get us there in twice the time it would take the SLS, but it’s the cheapest option and could save taxpayers over a billion and a half per launch. However, there’s the right thing to do, and then there’s politics.

Read More:


Enjoying Space Porn? Why not support the site by checking out some of our badass merch on the Marketplace, or by becoming a patron? Thanks in advance!!

Brandon Humphreys

Brandon Humphreys

I'm a wizard. I write stuff and it goes from my head into yours - Magic! Apart from that, I am the Senior Editor for Space Porn, a veteran, a rock guitarist, and a teacher.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *