Douglas Loverro, the new associate administrator for human exploration and operations who started work on Dec. 2, supported the long-delayed heavy-lift rocket as "absolute mandatory" for returning humans to the moon
Fremont, CA: The Space Launch System gets approval and support from the new head of NASA's Human Spaceflight programs. Douglas Loverro, the new associate administrator for human exploration and operations who started work on Dec 2, supported the long-delayed heavy-lift rocket as "absolute mandatory" for returning humans to the moon.
Speaking to the agency employees at NASA Headquarters' town hall meeting, Doug Loverro and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine turned down the criticism that the SLS is too costly to be sustainable for NASA compared to commercial vehicles that cost far less.
In a letter by Russell Vought, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Vought sought relief from a provision in a Senate appropriations bill that instructed NASA to launch Europa Clipper, a mission aimed to study Jupiter's large icy moon Europa, on an SLS. This letter added oil to the fire of the criticism of the SLS in the month of October.
"At an estimated cost of over $2 billion per launch for the SLS once development is complete, the use of a commercial launch vehicle would provide over $1.5 billion in cost savings," Vought wrote.
Loverro disagreed with the fact that SLS was competing with commercial vehicles under development, such as SpaceX's Starship/Super Heavy and Blue Origin's New Glenn. "I think there is a large ecosystem of space capabilities, and we need every capability that the nation is going to provide, whether the nation provides it through government funding, as SLS is, or through entrepreneurial and commercial funding" he added.
As the new head of NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, SLS will be one of Loverro's top priority project. The first launch of the vehicle was proposed at the end of 2017 but was not given the final signal because of the criticisms going around it. As now it has got approval and support, it may launch by late 2020 or even slip into 2021.
The core stage of the vehicle is nearing completion in New Orleans' Michoud Assemble Facility and will be shipped around the end of December to STennis Space Center in Mississippi for testing.
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