The Heavy-Lift Empire Strikes Back

Readers of this space will recall that there was a leak of an internal NASA document a couple weeks ago that showed what a waste of money the Senate Launch System is, by presenting an analysis that using existing launch systems and orbital storage of propellants will cost tens of billions less and accelerate by several years the schedule under which we could be sending humans beyond earth orbit. If this gets publicized much, it is a huge threat to the Senate Launch System, particularly given that NASA is going to have to be looking for places to cut, in the current and future budgets, because it makes it a very attractive to target to anyone who has been paying attention to what’s going on.

Accordingly, defenders of the status quo are desperately fighting back. On Thursday, there was an op-ed at Space News by former NASA administrator Mike Griffin and former associate administrator and current head of the Space Policy Institute at GWU (and former colleague and longtime friend of mine) Scott Pace, defending the SLS and sowing Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt with multiple straw men and disingenuous cost analyses about alternate approaches. While I’m hoping to get a response to it into Space News some time this week, on Friday, I deployed four thousand words or so to mercilessly fisk it over at the Competitive Space Task Force website. If you want to understand the technical and cost issues of human spaceflight, I urge you to read it.