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The Space Launch System “Jobs Program”

2 May 2016, 17:40 UTC
The Space Launch System “Jobs Program”
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NASA’s Space Launch System — A boondoggle?
An endlessly repeated media trope is that NASA’s new launch vehicle program, the Space Launch System (SLS), is some kind of entitlement boondoggle, a gigantic “make-work” project for the agency – a derision summed up through the use of the derogatory phrase, “jobs program.” Mocked as a “rocket to nowhere,” the current SLS program takes a substantial fraction of the agency’s exploration budget, about $2 billion out of the $8.5 billion per year designated for human spaceflight. It is designed to launch massive payloads (initially, about 70 metric tons to low Earth orbit, later up to 120 metric tons) into space, allowing the use of pre-fueled departure stages to send payloads beyond LEO into deep space. In contrast to some misleading promotional slight of hand, the SLS will not “take astronauts to Mars” but it could launch ready-to-assemble pieces for a human Mars mission into space (it would take between 8 and 12 launches of an augmented SLS to get a fully fueled manned Mars vehicle into space and prepared for departure to Mars).
Why does the SLS draw such invective? It is claimed by space advocates that commercial launch can do the ...

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