Old, expensive technologies cannot be reused as rockets. The space launch system is less attractive than its private competitors.
On December 14, 1972, Eugène Cernan, commander of Apollo 17, left the last human footprint on the surface of the Moon. The American Aerospace Agency (NASA) intends to repeat this feat in the coming years with the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, whose first launch took place on November 16 after several months of delay due to software problems. weather report.
On November 16, SLS launched the Orion capsule into space. It is an unmanned capsule, containing 3 mannequins, which should fly over the Moon and return within 26 days. It’s the first time in half a century that NASA has launched a rocket powerful enough to carry people beyond low Earth orbit.
Panorama of the SLS rocket launch on November 16.
Panorama of the SLS rocket launch on November 16. (Photo: Space News).
This mission is called Artemis I, part of NASA’s Artemis space program, to test whether the SLS rocket and Orion capsule can safely transport people, in preparation for the mission to return astronauts to the Moon in 2025.
The task seems modern, but in reality it is not. The Artemis program, named after the Moon goddess and twin sister of the Sun god Apollo, is built on previously abandoned plans to return to the Moon.
And the majority of ЅLS is made from reused parts from Spaceshipa reusable spacecraft that first flew in 1981.
SLS rocket on launch pad after numerous delays due to hardware issues.
SLS rocket on launch pad after numerous delays due to hardware issues. (Photo: BBC).
The SLS’s striking orange body is an elongated version of the Space Shuttle’s fuel tank. At the bottom of the rocket are 4 RS-25 engines, these engines brought the space shuttle into space. On both sides of the SLS are a pair of solid-fuel thrusters, also developed from corresponding parts of the Space Shuttle.
Using old technology is not NASA’s idea. SLS is generally correct “have ideas” by the US Congress and former President Barack Obama to create jobs in the manufacturing sector, particularly in Alabama, according to The Economist. Most of the Space Shuttle was also built here. Some people also call SLS “Senate Launch System”.
Although made from recycled materials, often to reduce costs, SLS is still quite expensive. Rocket development costs have so far reached more than $23 billion, and the cost of each launch is around $2 billion.
Many observers, including former NASA Director Jim Bridenstine, have questioned the need for SLS. This isn’t the only giant rocket under construction.
SpaceX was building Falcon rockets cheaper than SLS, has almost the same carrying capacity, can be reused. Falcon is regularly used to deliver cargo and astronauts to the International Space Station. This company is growing Starship, the rocket that even surpasses the SLS in size and power, and capable of sending astronauts to the Moon.
SpaceX’s Starship rocket is larger in size, power and payload than the SLS.
SpaceX’s Starship rocket has a larger size, power and payload than the SLS. (Photo: Technological Review).
Starship is also cheaper than SLS. The Space Shuttle is partially reusable, but the SLS is not. After each launch, each part of the rocket, except the Orion compartment, will be abandoned in the ocean or in space.
Opposite, Starship launchers are all designed to return to Earth, refuel and make the next flight. Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, estimates launch costs at around $10 million per time. Even if the error is doubled, the cost of a Starship launch will still be only 1% of the cost of an SLS launch.
In theory, SpaceX’s rocket could be an alternative to SLS to serve the Artemis program or any space payload mission. But NASA doesn’t have many options.
When Bridenstine proposed in 2019 that the United States could return to the Moon with Falcon Heavy, SpaceX’s largest rocket at the time with a payload two-thirds the size of SLS, he ran into opposition. opposition from Richard Shelby, senator from Alabama and president of the Council. U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee at that time. “NASA space exploration has always taken place and always will take place through the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama”Helby said.
Falcon Heavy’s first commercial flight in April 2019.
Falcon Heavy’s first commercial flight in April 2019. (Photo: science journalist).
However, the private space industry still has a foot in the Artemis program. SLS cannot carry enough payload to land astronauts directly on the Moon’s surface. Instead, this rocket will have to “rendezvous” with a landing vehicle, Human Landing System (HLS). In 2021, NASA awarded the HLL development contract to SpaceX.
The Artemis program also includes a mission to build a space station in orbit around the Moon, called the Lunar Gateway. The components of this space station will be transported into space by Falcon Heavy rockets.
And another serious problem for the SLS is that Shelby, who supports the development of this missile, is not running for office this year. Meanwhile, Elon Musk said he will launch Starship soon, perhaps by the end of the year. If Starship works properly and each flight is cheaper than SLS, it is likely that SLS’s first flight will also be its last.
Article source: Zing
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The technology is old, expensive and above all not reusable, which makes the Space Launch System rocket less attractive compared to its private competitors.