NASA builds a huge rocket ship to return the astronauts to the moon and eventually carry the first crew to and from Mars.
However, agency leaders are already considering retirement of the Space Starter System (SLS), because it is called a still-flying government rocket, and the Orion Space Capsule to be on top.
NASA expects the emergence of two multiple and probably more accessible mega-rockets created by private airlines.
These systems are the Big Falcon Rocket (BFR), built by Elon Musk's SpaceX; and New Glenn, built by Jeff Bezos "Blue Origin".
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"I think our opinion is that if commercial capabilities come online, we will eventually retire the government system and simply move to the redemption capacity [rockets], "Said Stephen Jurczyk, assistant administrator of NASA, who told Business Insider at the Economist Space Summit on November 1.
However, NASA may soon find themselves in a strange situation, as two private launch systems can defeat the SLS back to the Moon – and one may be the first to send people to Mars.
Super size fights with SLS
Space Launch System is often referred to as a super-heavy rocket launcher. This means that it is designed to carry more than 55 tonnes (approximately the mass of the battle tank) to the low-Earth orbit.
"We need it [super-]the capacity to start a heavy lift, "said Jurczyk." Without this, we will not have a safe, reliable and affordable architecture and performance for human research. "
More releases of the SLS are planned through 2020, the first being Block 1. This rocket is supposed to be around 322 meters and could raise about 70 tons of hardware and spacecraft into orbit.
NASA hopes to launch the first rocket from Group 1 in June this year, called Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1). The objective of the mission is to prove that the SLS is safe and reliable by sending an unmanned Orion spacecraft around the moon and back to Earth.
The missile research mission-2 (EM-2) would follow several years later.
But so far, NASA has spent US $ 11.9 billion on the SLS, and the agency estimates that it needs $ 4-5 billion more than planned by 2021. With this, the planned date for the launch of EM-1 in June 2020 is about 2, 5- schedule.
The internal audit of the NASA program has shown that preventable accidents are problems with contract management and other Boeing-related performance problems, the main contractor, mostly responsible for overpricing costs and delays.
Such questions have some experts who estimate an average cost of $ 5 billion for the launch of the SLS, which is a disposable rocket. Probably, SpaceX or Blue Origin could start work at this price, as their upcoming vehicles can be re-used.
If there is more SLK with the SLS program, NASA can also see that SpaceX has beaten the agency to the moon with the crew. This is because Musk, the founder of the company, pursued aggressive hands to explore the solar system with BFR.
How would SpaceX be able to defeat NASA back to the moon?
SpaceX employees beat the construction of the upper half of the system, called Big Falcon Spaceship, in a tent in Los Angeles.
Musk and Gwynne Shotwell, chairman of SpaceX, both said that the spacecraft could launch short launches, called "hops," soon in late 2019.
Musk is also planning to change the upper level of the Falcon 9 rocket into the "mini-BFR ship" in order to test and improve some of the more demanding aspects of the design of fully renewable spacecraft. One obstacle: testing a heat shield that survives hot return to the earth's atmosphere (to protect the crew and allow the launch of the space ship).
In 2020 or 2021, it aims to launch a fully integrated version of the BFR – Big Falcon Booster with Big Falcon Spaceship at the top – into orbit around the Earth. (About the same time, Blue Origin plans to use New Glenn, the main part of which can land on Earth and reuse it to give the lander the surface of the moon to spill water ice.)
If the first orbital launch of SpaceX and later an unmanned mission flew without an explosion or other incident, the company intends to set up a Japanese billionaire and a group of artists around the moon in 2023.
It's still how the space agency would respond to such a feat, which is essentially a creative repetition of the Apollo 8 mission from 1968. In fact, in 2023 the NASA plan for launching the EM-2 around the moon.
It is also unclear what NASA would do if SpaceX launches its first unmanned mission to Mars with the BFR in 2022, followed by the first crews on the red planet in 2024. This is a few years before the Space Agency hopes to it will land on the moon and maybe a decade earlier than NASA would try to plant Mars.
"SpaceXa did not actually deal with how to work together on the BFR and eventually come to the Mars mission – yet," Jurczyk said of the NASA leadership. "My guess is coming."
An American space agency without an American spacecraft
Now Jurczyk said that he and others in the space agency's laser agency are focused on the test shifts for their Commercial Crew program, which is a competition for private companies to build and launch US space ships.
The ultimate goal of the commercial crew is to revitalize the capacity of US spacecraft that the agency lost when it retired the space fleet in 2011. In addition, (Since then, NASA has referred only to Russia to bring its astronauts to and from the 150 billion US International Space Station.)
Boeing and SpaceX have each planned and built seven-member space capsule that approaches approval for unmanaged and crew tests. SpaceX is currently searching for the first flight by Crew Dragon.
"Their first failed flight test is now scheduled for January, and then a few more months later, perhaps in the spring, their first airplane test," Jurczyk said.
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When the Crew Dragon and Boeing's ship CST-100 Starliner prove they can be safely and reliably started, the agency's management will continue to discuss its future in the deeper space with BFR and Blue Glossa New Glenn.
"How we cooperate will depend greatly on the speed at which these systems and capabilities develop," said Jurczyk.
The key to NASA is to get some sort of super-heavy lifting capability as quickly as possible.
"We now see how to do this through the SLS, because we have some kind of launch and use of these old technologies and systems," he said, referring to the fact that the SLS will use space vehicles and other well-being, understands the machine equipment.
"It's somewhere where we are," added Jurczyk. "We know that we need this type of BFR – and it evolves from the New Glenn – the capacity for heavy lifting, if we do a human exploration of the solar system. We feel that a different approach will not be so safe, accessible, and reliable."