NASA has been working on developing a giant launch vehicle, SLS, to put astronauts back on the moon,media reported. After 10 years of hard work, the rocket was finally assembled and ready for testing. Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s director, has revealed his latest estimate of the cost of each launch of SLS: a bulk order worth $800million (RMB5.6 billion) per rocket, and $1.6 billion if NASA buys only one launch mission. 11.3 billion yuan).
This is only an estimate, Mr. Bridenstin eig, because NASA “needs to sit down with its main contractor, Boeing, and negotiate the best solution to get the best combination of rocket numbers and cost per rocket.” Boeing declined to comment on the talks and referred the issue back to NASA.
The SLS is expected to be the most powerful rocket of all time, producing 20 percent more thrust than the Saturn V rocket that powered the Apollo mission 50 years ago. But the project is controversial because Boeing spends much more time and money building rockets than originally promised.
Critics have long pointed out that commercial rockets made by SpaceX and United Launch Alliance (ULA) are much cheaper than SLS and can do many of SLS’s missions. SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket, for example, costs about $90 million per launch and provides just as much thrust as the SLS. ULA’s rocket Delta IV Heavy costs about $300 million.
But Bridenstine and several federal lawmakers are staunchly defending the development of SLS. They point out that these commercial rockets are not as powerful as the SLS and are not currently eligible for manned flights. SLS can transport manned spacecraft Orion and a large number of cargo to the moon. Therefore, SLS is critical to the U.S. goal of returning to the moon by 2024.
Laura Forczyk, founder of Aerospace Analytics, an aerospace industry analytics firm, points out that Bridenstine may have shared the estimated cost of a single launch of SLS in an attempt to cushion the impact of previous White House estimates. The White House estimates that SLS’s single launch could cost more than $2 billion.
But Mr. Fukik said it was unrealistic for NASA to want to buy the SLS rocket for $800 million. “Where does NASA get the money to order SLS in bulk for 10 to 12 launches?” she said. NASA is now trying to raise money to achieve its goal of returning to the moon. “
“The Saturn V was launched 13 times in the last century, but we were in the Cold War, and nasa’s budget was much higher because of geopolitical motives, and Congress now has no intention of giving NASA $8 billion to $9.6 billion to buy rockets in bulk,” she admits. “
Bridenstein didn’t say whether NASA actually needed 10 or more SLS rockets. The re-entry program will require three rockets, two for test flights and one for the moon landing in 2024, “and may need more later.”
NASA has also often talked about the usefulness of SLS for solar system exploration missions. But critics say these tasks can be done with cheaper commercial rockets. Europa Clipper, for example, will study Jupiter’s moons and plans to launch a SLS rocket in 2025. But the White House has asked Congress to switch to commercial rockets, saying it could save $1.5 billion in costs.
Boeing signed on in 2012 to build major SLS components, and the rocket is expected to begin flying in December 2017. Now more than two years later than planned, the U.S. Congress has allocated $14.6 billion to develop and build the first two rockets, far more than initially forecast. Earlier this year, After Bridenstine publicly threatened to abandon the SLS rocket, Boeing promised to get the project back on track.