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Launch Attempt Scrubbed (nasa.gov)
172 points by pseudolus 7 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 228 comments

According to SpaceFlightNow

> “SCRUB. NASA launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson has called off today's Artemis 1 launch attempt due to an issue with an engine bleed on the core stage.” https://spaceflightnow.com/2022/08/29/artemis-1-launch-live-...

Given the other issues (crack in the interstage section, comm link issue) mentioned in the live thread, I wonder how many engineers are secretly relieved the launch was scrubbed this morning.

They already cleared up the crack. It was an issue with the foam and not an actual crack

A question I don't see asked around is: what now?

Try to fix it by the launch window on Friday, per NASA livestream commentary.

Called it. Boeing can't do anything right. Furthermore, the SRBs are way past their expiration date: https://www.reddit.com/r/SpaceLaunchSystem/comments/rfu32c/d...

And the fuel and oxygen tanks are only rated for 9 fills which, while I don't have an exact figure, I believe they are close to if not exceeded with this most recent fill and scrub. They can't afford another mistake.

>> Boeing can't do anything right

>> while I don't have an exact figure

Well, that is what I call a fact based comment...

My comment on Boeing not doing anything right is based upon:

- Multiple failures of Starliner

- 737 MAX

- 787

- USAF Replacement Tanker

Do you have any fact based comments that they are an engineering powerhouse? And don't quote me projects older than 10 years.

787, F/A-18, 777, 747-8 freighter? The T-7A? Just from top of my head.

Just off the top of my head:

F/A-18 was designed by McDonnel Douglas in the 1970s (Boeing has never designed their own successful fighter jet. Not once..)

The 777 is from the early 90s, close to 30 years ago.

The 747-8 Freighter is highly derivative of the 747-8, a 20 year old program, which is itself derivative of an airframe who's design began in the 1960s.

The 787 is your best counter example, that program started not quite 20 years ago and hasn't been a complete disaster.

The T-7 is a Saab jet; Boeing's contribution is being an American manufacturer so the jet could win the contract.

Exactly. Boeing used to build great stuff until the McDonnel Douglas merger. Now the money people run the show and engineering takes a back seat. Love how no one has tried to refute me. Just downvotes.

The latest iterations of the F/A-18 all happened after the merger. The 777-X is quite recent as is the 787. Aerspace standards mean 30 years is basically yesterday. Oh, you also have the F-15, in it latest iteration a Boeing jet.

Hell, Boeing has its issues and problems but not realizing what an imoressive aerospace company it is while ignoring all the issues SpaceX has, and comopletely ignoring all non-rocket programs Boeing has going, is borderline ignorant.

> F-15, in it latest iteration a Boeing jet.

Just another derivative. The F-15 was McDonnell Douglas. Boeing has never designed their own fighter jet, and not for want of trying.

I already asked someone else, but how much aerospace exerience do you have? Honest question.

See https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=32643225

You can't get basic shit right, like pitching the F/A-18 as an example of Boeing design competence. Then you ask people for their backgrounds without sharing your own? Leaning on implicit credentialism when your arguments wilt under criticism. Is it going too far for me to guess that you or some of your colleagues work for Boeing, and thus take Boeing's reputation personally?

Boeing is a stinker, they have been for years and their contributions to SLS is just one example of this, of many. Crewed starliner should be aaaany day now, right? How many years behind crewed Dragon? Is Boeing's excuse that crewed Dragon started development 30 years before Starliner? If it were up to Boeing, America would depend on Russia to get to the ISS.

As far as my experience goes, 10+ years in aerospace, none at Boeing. Personally, I couldn't care less about Boeings reputation. I have enough experience so to realize that Boeing is a pretty strong aerospace company, both civilian and military. I also know that development cycles in aerospace are measured in decades, so an artificial limit to ten years is pointless and naive, it also shows a certain lack of insight by those putting that limit in place. I also know that a 737 MAX, a 747-8, a F/A-18 F and a F-15 X are by all means and purposes new planes conpared to their first gen ancestors. Failing to see that also shoes a lack of understanding.

I do have an issue with people dumping on Boeing, using BS reasons, without any ubderstanding of what theybare talking about. Starliner? Sure, a true delayed program. MAX, as serious a fuck as they get in aerospace. Use those examples, but writting of Boeing as company as whole is more than one bridge to far.

And for now, it is you and the commenter you linked whom resorted to personal attacks. Just saying. Usually, HN is better than that.

>> And don't quote me projects older than 10 years.

Pretty sure you ignored that part. Yes, Boeing used to do great engineering. gsibble didn't deny that. The issue is the last decade or so.

By limiting it to a decade, and a lot of the latest versions of the programs I mentiones are actually quite recent developments, just shows how ignorant OP is when it comes to aerospace. 30 years ago is, in aerospace, basically yesterday. That things on the civilian side sped up is largely due to the 787.

At considering 747-8 just another 747, no idea where to start... That as stupid as calling the MAX just another 737, we all agree I hope that this is not the case.

You're still not giving me any examples of anything they've done successfully in the last decade while I gave plenty of examples of things they've fucked up.

I gave you plenty of recent examples where Boeing did a decent job, excluding MAX of course. I also tried to explain that your limit of ten years doesn't make any sense in aerospace where cycles are more like 30 years. But hey, you wanna hate Boeing go and hate Boeing, plenty of reasons for it if you search for them. Being uncapable as an aerospace company is none of them so, trying to fram eit like that is just showing a certain level of ignorance about the whole industry.

Their USAF inventory?

Oh, that too. What a mess.

In what way is the inventory of the most powerful airforce, including airlift, a mess? Care to elaborate?

Is expiration date not more like a certification date? Similar to a bag of crips beyond their expiration date cannot be sold anymore but are still fine in practice.

Apparently this is developing into a pattern, and has happened 16 times already!

> The original launch date of Artemis 1 was planned in December 2016, but it was delayed at least sixteen times due to technical issues with the SLS and the Orion spacecraft.[0]

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artemis_1

Sounds like a well-established pattern.

I wonder what the issue is/was. As an aside we seem to be having storms developing in the Atlantic for what has otherwise been a very quiet hurricane season so I wouldn't be surprised if Artemis has to be moved back to the VAB and we miss the next launch window (Sep 2).

As excited as I am about the prospect of another super-heavy launch vehicle and a manned return to the Moon, the whole SLS/Orion project still feels like a giant waste of money. We're $40 billion in and each SLS launch costs ~$4B.

According to the updated description of the YouTube livestream:

"Teams are currently troubleshooting an issue with engine number 3 on the SLS rocket core stage. A new launch date has not yet been confirmed. The next available launch opportunity is Sept. 2."

Cooling issue.

Issue with one of the engines.

Word is they will need to bring the rocket back to the VAB to fix the engine issue so we're now looking at an October launch date. (Might need to swap engines)

> Word is they will need to bring the rocket back to the VAB to fix the engine issue

If this is true, it's not super surprising. The "clean pad concept" means that the amount of work NASA can do on the rocket when it's on the pad is pretty limited.

Who knows, maybe Starship takes the title of “most powerful rocket” then away.

Makes me wonder if it’s related to the hydrogen bleed issue that ended up halting the July rehearsal twenty seconds earlier than it was meant to.

From what I understand, it's only "related" to the July issue because the rehearsal back then was stopped before they got to testing engine bleed. If they'd finished the WDR properly in July, it's likely that today's problem would've been caught.

Comparing the SLS program to SpaceX with their multiple vehicles in progress and constant updates to the systems, seems to prove that the people pushing for more private space industry were completely right.

It seems though that having multiple component vendors should be advantageous. Is there any company working on that premise of integrating systems from multiple vendors? Because somehow it's not working out economically with NASA.

Seems like we are still in early days, with a lot of the money wrapped up in bloated contracts for oversized military companies.

I do find myself wishing for a candid assessment from NASA engineers & techs about this problem, and the set of problems plaguing the STS. Is there a forum where they can and do speak plainly (and perhaps anonymously)? If not, maybe someone should make one and call it "feynmanesque.space"

It’s worth noting Krispy Kreme continued with its Artemis donut mission nonetheless. Another victory for private space flight.

In all seriousness, can’t wait to see this thing take off safely!

Artemis will rocket into outer space and we will do the same to your insulin levels! --KK Marketing

Where is a good place to watch these? I was on NASA's official Youtube channel waiting for the feed to start at 8:30 (EDT), when 8:30 rolled around, it jumped to 9:00, when 9:00 rolled around it changed to something generic, still with no info on what was going on, or that it had been scrubbed.

Looking at Youtube now, there are clips from some feeds, so it was being streamed somewhere.

This one has commentary. https://youtu.be/0_vyZiVxEEo

FranLab and EEVBlog did a livestream together, there also was done by the Angry Astronaut, as well as one by the Everyday Astronaut. I'd say if you're on HN there's a decent chance you know at least one of these channels already, Youtube just isn't doing a good job of notifying subscribers to livestreams :)

Everyday Astronaut has some good coverage

Nasaspaceflight (independent youtube channel) has good coverage

What's more likely to orbit first now: SLS or Starship?

A Starship launch is months away at best. I'm betting on 2023.

Unless there are some serious issues with SLS it will launch first.

Significant delays would be really, really bad for SLS. They already extended the lifetime for the SRBs...

Who remember when we were talking about what will launch first, SLS or Falcon Heavy. Good times.

I remember being called a idiot SpaceX fanboy that understands nothing about engineering when I said Falcon Heavy would launch first. And by somebody who worked at NASA as far as I can tell.

Unless there is a longer delay with upper stage refuel, they likely make it first.

Yeah, the comments boiling down to "Starship doesn't exist, SLS does" are hilarious.

> "Let's be very honest again," Bolden said in a 2014 interview. "We don't have a commercially available heavy lift vehicle. Falcon 9 Heavy may someday come about. It's on the drawing board right now. SLS is real.

Falcon Heavy launched four years after he said that. SLS still hasn't.

Will Starship's upcoming test flight count as "to orbit"? IIRC they're not planning on circularising the orbit - i.e. perigee will be well inside the atmosphere, and the vehicle will re-enter and splashdown before getting back to the starting longitude.

If they can get it out of the atmosphere, up to orbital velocity, and back in, and land it in one piece, they will have done the hard part, and getting it fully to orbit will be a foregone conclusion.

Good point on the mismatched comparison. My assumption is the hardest part is an orbital altitude, not the completion of orbit. The completion of an orbit just seems to be an unnecessary safety and control risk.

If you can't land it, it makes sense to sandwich the 'orbital altitude' and 'smile and wave around the moon' mission into one.

For SpaceX, focusing on the altitude seems to make the most sense. Especially considering that refilling may even be a higher priority than a moon pass.

NASA appears focused on inspirational discovery/science, while SpaceX is focused on making life multiplanetary. These are closely related, but fundamentally different missions.

This is the kind of scrub that gets retried in days.

Per the official NASA livestream, they're taking the rest of the day off and they're going to have meetings tomorrow to plan meetings about meetings about when to schedule the next scrub.

With the Starship/FCC test window opening tomorrow (9/1), are there additional launch permits that will specify a particular date? Or can they send it when they want?

They still need the launch license from the FAA (what they have right now is the environmental review). It'll probably take a few days or weeks once static fire testing is done.

I'm not so sure. If the rocket needs to be rolled back I don't think they can make the September 2 or 5 launch windows.

They should've just done the full Wet Dress Rehearsal.

This is a minor mechanical issue scrub that nearly everyone will use to express opinions they already had about the program. Please just stop.

> minor mechanical issue scrub

Engine fuckup is minor. But it’s also uncommon with modern engines. (At this stage, assembled and fuelled on the pad.) SLS’s choice to use an old engine is relevant to the discussion.

Very few launch vehicles get off in their first launch window. There's a lot of procedures and adjustments to get juuuust right to make a launch window 90%+ of the time.

The issue here isn't really an "engine issue", but an issue with putting cold gases through the engine so it's not thermally shocked at ignition-- some combination of lines and valves probably want a different procedure and thermal profile.

> Very few launch vehicles get off in their first launch window.

This was their 3rd launch window right?

Yep how many of space x's early attempts went up in flames?

Do you have a source for it being uncommon?

See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-89xl-v0gs&t=2590s for a recent rather larger engine fuckup with the other major launch system under develop.

That’s an engine test. Not a rocket with payload attached.

You're moving the goalposts.

Still, https://www.noozhawk.com/article/missile_test_ends_in_explos... is a rocket that blew up early last month, 11 seconds into flight. See https://www.space.com/biggest-launch-failures-2021 for a list of notable failures last year.

Failures, particularly with new rockets, are much more common than you believe.

> You're moving the goalposts

Don’t believe I am. I specifically caveated “at this stage, assembled and fuelled on the pad” because an engine under a fully-assembled rocket has assumptions made about it that one on the test stand obviously does not.

> list of notable failures last year

How many of these are engine failures? None, based on my scan.

The engine can be tested separately. That makes them wildly more predictable in a way the rest of the rocket, which can’t usually be similarly tested, is not. As someone with a background in aerospace engineering, I perk up when someone’s engine fails at the pad, because that—nowadays—shouldn’t happen.

I can't avoid notice the irony that, although NASA is still investigating, you already seem to scope the issue, and troubleshoot it as a minor mechanical problem...

What's is your analysis on the SRB's being 1 month past their validity date per @gsibble reference?

Snark doesn't add much to conversations here.

It is possible for something to be preliminarily marked as minor while also still being investigated. There's no need to be pointlessly antagonistic.

> There's no need to be pointlessly antagonistic.

Did you notice the post I replied to, was asking the whole discussion to stop?

They scrubbed because the bleed procedure that cools the fuel wasn’t working. This usually doesn’t point to major issues.

alternatively you could see it as "yet another issue in a program that's been plagued with issues for years". When you find the 300th bug in the same piece of code, it's a pattern, not a coincidence.

It's also something that could have been discovered and worked way back at the wet dress rehearsal, if they'd completed it. Instead, they got a hydrogen leak that stopped the test before it got to the step that failed today. For whatever reason (GO fever?) NASA managers decided that a partial test that ended in failure was "good enough".

I agree.

Delaying the launch is not a big deal.

Launching and going boom is a big deal.

There isn't much to discuss because this is literally business as usual in this line of work.

If the opinions being expressed were "SLS is great, that launch was fantastic", would you still be trying to silence the expression of those opinions? I seriously doubt it.

I guess we'll find out if you leave such a comment in 4 days after SLS successfully launches right? Well, maybe not..

“Your opinions are no longer valid and will not be acknowledged. Please stop talking.”

Seriously. It seems like the two things that really rile up all the garbage opinions here are NASA launches and COVID posts. Holy cow, just some pure trash comments.

And cryptocurrencies, and everything by Elon Musk, and Kubernetes, and AI, and search engines, and privacy, and China, and...

Trash comments everywhere (but also good ones).

I've definitely correlated those topics to lower quality comments

How exactly can you use this news to express the opinion similar to:

“NASA & Boeing are the best, props for using cutting edge technology, SpaceX is a scam and not worth taxpayers money, Elon Musk suck!”


I'm not sure why a Twitter link is the source for this on HN, https://blogs.nasa.gov/artemis/2022/08/29/launch-attempt-scr... is the proper source for this news. It should also be mentioned this is NOT a major failure. Important launches like this often see delays, often the first launch of a new system will see multiple delays. This rocket alone has cost billions and NASA wants to ensure that money is not wasted.

This is indeed minor. The major failure is the entire program itself being set up without reusability and with a miserably slow launch cadence.

Whether or not the program is a failure depends on what you view the end goal of SLS to be.

If you look at it as a federal jobs program that just happens to result in a rocket, then I'd say it was pretty successful...

They can still be a job program and also advance the state of the art of space exploration in material, propulsion, in orbit refueling, ISRU, etc. Instead they end up with a rocket using old technology engine, costing $4B a piece, being able to launch at most once a year. It’s a missed opportunity, charitably speaking.

They could have had that number of jobs by building out rooftop solar or other beneficial projects.

I assume it has also sustained a large flow of campaign donations.

How is one "proper" while the other is not? The blog URL is literally in the tweet, and it's NASA's official account.

Of course if you're doing citation for your paper the later one would be better but this is "just" posting on HN. I would even go so far as to say I prefer the tweet link so I can easily retweet, and no information is lost.

It says as such in the site guidelines

> Please submit the original source. If a post reports on something found on another site, submit the latter.


I prefer the blog link as it's more informative.

It's not usually useful to debate what's "proper". Debating utility is a better use of everyone's time, as you point out.

Except Twitter is actively hostile to non-logged-in users which makes the Twitter link much worse when there is an actual underlying source.

Twitter also completely blocked its static HTML site a few years ago. They insist that we enable JS to view plain-text content that I can directly view on the blog without JS.

True. I always use this: https://nitter.net/NASA/status/1564232429279272962

Now if you try to post a Nitter link on HN, it changes to the Twitter link. Why not sure.

I never have any problem viewing a single tweet on Twitter without logging in, sans ones that are marked "NSFW".

Can you please explain what you see that are "hostile"? I opened this tweet RN in a guest profile and it looks exactly the same as the one I saw when I logged in.

Huh, I've had Twitter repeatedly prompt me to log in, fail to load tweets and misbehave in all kinds of other ways.

However, even if Twitter didn't have a history of such problems, having to click an extra link is annoying to the majority of users, which is part of why the HN Guidelines say to always link to the original source:

> Please submit the original source. If a post reports on something found on another site, submit the latter.


Every time you try to see the link you get after a few seconds a window:

"See what’s happening

Join Twitter to get the full story with all the live commentary."

And you have two options SignUp, Login, or F#^&^#@&^ :-) Now if you don't see it, because you have script blockers, that is a recognition of the interface hostility.

I see that, but that doesn't affect me to see the tweet in anyway [1], does it?

[1] https://i.imgur.com/tfEwSgT.png

I am not talking about the one at bottom, but the annoying popup...

"Twitter disables browsing without an account" - https://www.reddit.com/r/assholedesign/comments/p62que/twitt...

Official would have been a better word. In my defense I had just woken up when I posted this.

Changed from https://twitter.com/NASA/status/1564232429279272962. Thanks!

It's not as if a Twitter link is "the" source - it's just stochastic what gets submitted, what gets noticed, what version of a story happens to make the front page. Sometimes we change the URL to a better one if we notice it.

Scrubs and delays are the rule not the exception with space launches.

Shuttle was like this too. Not really a surprise as SLS is just a shuttle remix.

In the age of SpaceX, a rocket costing billions is a waste of money before it ever takes off.

How much do you think starship launches will cost? Hint, it's billions

Are you trying to equate the cost of the entire development program with a single launch?

Hint, SpaceX has an assembly line and is cranking out new starships and boosters every couple months while SLS will launch only every few years and then be chunked into the ocean with a hardware cost in the billions PER launch.

No I'm not equating the two. A current starship launch with all the testing and support systems is likely well above a billion dollars right now. Eventual launches will bring the price down, but as we haven't seen a full launch it's hard to tell.

Note that SpaceX has received ~$10 billion in total investment since inception, and receives about $2b in revenue annually from launches.

We don't have insight into SpaceX finances, but this should give you an upper bound on how much money SpaceX is spending on something.

This $10 billion in total investment and annual revenue has financed the development of Falcon 9, Dragon, Dragon 2 and Crew Dragon, Starship, launch pads at Vandenburg, Boca Chica, and two at the Cape, Merlin, Raptor, Starlink development, thousands of Starlink satellites, and all the associated ground infrastructure, recovery and recovery ships, and everything else.

While we don't have any hard numbers on what the Starship development program has cost thus far, it's not likely to be in the billions.

SpaceX is contracted to deliver people to the Moon surface for 2.8 billion dollars total (development + actual mission).

To do it they need around 6 launches for refueling in orbit.

The very upper limit on a single Starship launch is 0.5 billion.

That's shortsightedly frugal accounting.

Developing a working Starship is worth a lot to SpaceX. They could go deeply into debt on the first six launches, and make it up later.

You can invent elaborate conspiracy theories about how Musk is laying to everyone including NASA.

And how SpaceX does pro-bono work for NASA in hopes of ripping them up later.

How NASA, Jeff Bezos, Government Accountability Office as well as courts are blind to it.

(Bezos already dragged NASA trough GAO and courts with regard to HLS)

And Musk is doing that instead of doing it in the honest and straightforward way like Bezos by just lobbing the Congress and asking for a lot of money.

Or you could just accept SpaceX track record on space programs and that SpaceX delivers cheap services.

Its a huge difference designing a system that you know can only launch 1 a year at best and maybe 2 in a decade compared to a system architecture that is designed for 100s of launches.

For SLS, the hardware cost alone is 1.5 billion. Starship has development cost, but I can guarantee you that the pure cost of ordering the hardware didn't cost 1.5 billion $.

> Eventual launches will bring the price down

And this is not even a possibility with the non-reusable SLS, which makes continuing it seem kind of crazy.

I think it will likely cost under $10 million.


Do you have a source behind your estimate that a fully reusable Starship launch is over 20x the cost of a partially reusable Falcon 9 launch?

I certainly would not consider Musk a reliable source.

SpaceX is contracted to deliver people to the Moon surface for 2.8 billion dollars total (development + actual mission).

To do it they need around 6 launches for refueling in orbit.

The very upper limit on a single Starship launch is 0.5 billion (2.8/6).

The upper limit, with the assumption they don't lose money on the contract.

Yes and full self driving will be ready late next year. Elon musk is a liar about everything he works on. The launch cost will not reach 10 million until later into the program, with the 1 million dollar launch cost estimate being a fallacy. Launch costs for the first 5 rockets will be massive.

Where these massive launch costs are coming from? All Starship's Raptor V2 engines COMBINED cost less than refurbishment of ONE RS-25 engine. There are four RS-25 engines on SLS.

In other words you don't have a source other than your confidence that Musk is a liar?

doubters had a major goalpost moving moment the first time spacex landed a falcon 9 booster. then they had another when they landed on a barge. a much smaller one when fairings were recovered. if starship misses the cost by 5x it'll still be cheaper to launch than everything other than a recoverable falcon 9 and will completely dominate all aspects of space launch business (except non-US national security payloads).

The real race is not whether or not SLS or Starship will launch first, but how many times will Starship launch between Artemis I and Artemis II.

The more launches, the cheaper Starship gets.

LOL! More than a billion dollars to refill a rocket with fuel? You are bugging.

That's not how a launch cost is calculated. The cost of the rocket's construction is included in every launch, hence the cost going down with subsequent launches. RND costs must also be included, as well as support system costs, staff costs, etc. Also, current starship designs require refurbishment between launches, as well as an expensive set of checks and tests on systems. 1 billion as the cost for the first fully test launch is not at all out of the ballpark.

SpaceX is contracted to deliver people to the Moon surface for 2.8 billion dollars total (development + actual mission).

To do it they need around 6 launches for refueling in orbit.

Therefore, the very upper limit on a single Starship launch is 0.5 billion (2.8/6).

And that's without development cost of Starship HLS.

Single SLS launch cost without Orion, including development, will be around 4 billion dollars.

20 billion overall for SLS development + 20 billion for Orion development.


> SLS is made by Boeing

SLS is at best partially made by Boeing. There are 5 prime contracts:

1. Core stage - Boeing

2. Upper stage (both ICPS and EUS) - Boeing

3. Upper stage engines - Aerojet Rocketdyne

4. Core stage engines - Aerojet Rocketdyne

5. Solid rocket boosters - Northrup Grumman

NASA does the software, integration and operations.

There's also Orion, which is being done by Lockheed Martin. It's not technically SLS, but the vast majority of SLSes will launch Orion, so it seems not unreasonable to lump it in.

Same thing, they wouldn't exist if it weren't for the taxpayer's teat provided to them by the MIC.

Same teat provides for SpaceX - they wouldn't exist without DoD funding (and not just for early days - Starlink was heavily financed by US military)

FWIW, scrubs are common. https://www.floridatoday.com/story/tech/science/space/2022/0...

The larger issue is that it's 2022 and Artemis doesn't even have a track record to determine how frequent scrubs can be expected yet for this launch stack.


They probably do, I think it's the U.S. Senate that doesn't (which is why it has the nickname Senate Launch System).

It's not like NASA hasn't been launching rockets in the time since Apollo or STS. SpaceX has spent upwards of 10 billion dollars on the Starship program, with a finished product still not on a launchpad. SLS is the largest rocket ever produced and will cost an insane amount of money, the actual price for this launch is actually around 4 billion dollars according to NASA itself.

NASA should stick to what it does best, space science and robotic operations. The Hubble, Voyagers, the rovers and Webb are amazing. Do more of that. Let Musk do the now boring stuff of near earth, and the idiotic stuff like putting people in mars.

What do you think the Artemis missions are for? The goal isn't a PR win or anything. Real science is happening. Even stuff like the Apollo missions gave us technology we still use today. With NASA those discoveries are more open and available to all. Elon and other oligarchs would have a financial incentive to hoard any advancement they make.

> What do you think the Artemis missions are for?

To justify pumping billions of USD into Shuttle-era contractors who would've otherwise gone bankrupt a decade ago. NASA is doing the best it can with what it's been given, but Artemis and its predecessors are a Congress-mandated jobs program.

> To justify pumping billions of USD into Shuttle-era contractors who would've otherwise gone bankrupt a decade ago.

You might have a case with Aerojet Rocketdyne - not sure if they can survive on RL-10 sales alone. But the others: Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrup Grumman, aren't depending on SLS contracts to survive. It's just a nice cherry on top of their defense and commercial contracts.

You're right, that was somewhat hyperbolic on my part. Last time I checked, AR was in rough shape after losing the contract for the Vulcan first stage engines to Blue Origin. Losing SLS would probably break them, but the rest aren't in such dire straits.

Artemis is a political prestige project.

We need some of that right now though

The reasons why it's postponed matter. It was not weather, but clearly technical issues the program is struggling with.

50 Years ago...With less experience, more challenging technical issues, doing something never done, the Kennedy Space Center to the Moon line, had no scrubs and typical schedule delay was 1 second. Think about that...


"...Only Apollo 17 had a long launch delay of 2 hours 40 minutes, Apollo 14 of 40 minutes. Most delays were less than a second..."

It is wrong to compare these two very different eras. The Apollo program was an ideological race, so there was a mush higher tolerance of risk and financial and human costs. Remember, people died on the US & Soviet space programs as they were figuring things out. There might not have been many launch scrubs but there were plenty of failures.

Today, the tolerance for risk is much lower, the costs higher and the budget much more controlled. There are many politicians who want to greatly reduce NASA's budget in favour of private ventures. A failed launch is ammo for their cause. So whereas Apollo could proceed (with some delays) after people burnt to death in a capsule, if that happened today the whole program would be halted indefinitely and NASA heavily questioned as to why it needed to take such risks. 50 years on from Apollo, NASA has learnt that an abundance of caution is needed.

I agree that the tolerance for risk is different today. But the argument would seem to imply, that NASA was then somehow more willing to endanger the lives of the crew. As mentioned, people died, so the increased caution was already a part of the program.

Let's not diminish the brilliant, flawless execution of the Apollo program, with the argument that they cared less for the lives of Astronauts.

Sorry, they were more willing to endanger the lives of the crew, and they even admitted it. I remember watching a documentary where they were estimating the percentage chance of the loss of the crew, and comparing that to the chance the Russians would beat them to the moon.

The comment you replied to is correct. Every launch has a non-zero chance of death, and the Apollo program was simply willing to tolerate a higher probability of loss than we are today. I think if you want to call that "they cared less for the lives of Astronauts" that that's your own interpretation.

"Flawless execution"? Apollo 1 burned three astronauts to death during a rehearsal test. They had astronauts back on top of a rocket in under twenty months.

Acknowledging that their risk tolerances were higher than politics necessitates today doesn't "diminish" anything.

> They had astronauts back on top of a rocket in under twenty months.

In a redesigned spacecraft (based on the Block II that was already in development) that replaced the pure oxygen environment at launch with a Nitrogen/Oxygen atmosphere that was slowly bled off to pure O2 at the desired partial pressure once it was in space.

Some of the critical changes were previously vetoed until Apollo 1 confirmed the worth of doors that opened to outside rather than inside, despite increased weight of the sealing mechanism.

And yet the inward-opening door was itself a response to a near-fatal failure of the hatch on Liberty Bell 7. That almost killed the second American in space, Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom.

Grissom was one of the three astronauts that died in the Apollo 1 fire.

Brilliant, but certainly not flawless.

There's a movie about one of the flawed launches.

"Houston, we have a problem"

This is dangerous. It's going to kill people. We need to make a decision on whether or not it's acceptable and proceed or not. But this seems to be politically not possible. Really the only people's opinions that I care about at all about this are the actual astronauts that are putting their lives at risk, but somehow it always seems to come down to some bureaucrats whose definition of risky is leaving blanks on a form unfilled.

I don’t think this explanation adds up very well.

NASA had a manned spaceflight program after Apollo that was specifically designed for safety and efficiency—the Space Shuttle—which turned out to be expensive and unsafe. After the Columbia disaster the Shuttle was cancelled, but the subcontractors for the Shuttle cried foul and Congress pretty much forced NASA to build a new rocket out of Shuttle parts—first Ares, then SLS.

If it were up to NASA, they would either build the rocket out of something other than old Shuttle parts or just outsource rocket development and focus on operations. The politicians are the ones making them build SLS.

It's not nice what I'm about to say, but maybe it would be better in the long run if the SLS blew on the launchpad. It's not manned, so it won't lead to loss of life. It would lead to program termination, which is a good outcome.

It wouldn't just terminate SLS though, it would probably kill Artemis, which would be a bad thing.

Maybe. But then again, Musk is hellbent to go to Mars. If SpaceX indeed builds thousands of Starships, then a private-funded Artemis-like program will be possible for what will amount to spare change.

We are pretty close to (if not already at) the point where we don't need Government funding for space exploration.

> Musk is hellbent to go to Mars.

He's hellbent on building Starship I think, but Mars? I don't see it. He's invested a lot of time and money into building a booster that will excel at putting satellites into orbit for Starlink and DoD contracts. But how much has he invested in Mars colony habitat technology? Virtually nothing.

Starship is a satellite launcher, not a Mars rocket. The Mars talk is a recruiting tactic.

You have a point, but in the end it doesn't matter. If you can bring 100 tons of cargo in Low Earth Orbit and refuel there, then a Moon mission is easy enough for a VC-funded startup to put together. Musk will be more than happy to sell ride tickets on his Starship.

Going to Mars will cost between $100B and $10T (the latter includes building a city). There's no way that Musk can do this on his own without government assistance.

Given his behavior over the past few years, i'd rather have two baskets with two sets of eggs.

> Today, the tolerance for risk is much lower,

yet SpaceX can launch a lot more often and a lot more reliably, and cheaper too. Strange, huh?

Falcon 9 flight 1 was delayed more than 10 times, for about 6 months, from it's initial NET launch date of Nov 29 2009 until the actual launch on June 4 2010.


That’s a great point, because it bellies the core strategic problems with SLS. When your rocket has already flown a lot, and getting it human-rated does not slow your rate of launches, you can afford to take your time not to kill anyone. The same plan is being put in place with Starship, which will fly a lot before they put people in it.

SLS is one and done. It’s the old Apollo and Shuttle strategy, with the post-Columbia and Challenger risk management. It’s a bad strategy.

The first 19 Falcon 9s were "one and done". But even after the first, those next 18 still had a fair few launch delays between them too.

Getting your launches right is always a challenge for any new rocket family, and delaying your early test flights when (not if) you see unexpected telemetry data during the countdown should be seen as normal while you're learning how your rocket works in the real world.

Even with Starship, where cratering the first few test article hops was considered pretty likely, they had a bunch of holds and scrubs during the countdowns to those launch attempts. I expect the next test flight not to have zero delays either.

And SLS is being cautious. Delays should be expected, and not seen as some terrible bit of mismanagement. "Go fever" is real, and is a bad thing.


When I said one-and-done, I meant that they're flying an empty one and the second one already has people in it. That's the losing strategy.

Frequency and cost yes, but reliability is more complicated.

ULA has 148 launches with NO accidents. SpaceX has put up more, but had an accident in flight with the Falcon 9 in June 2015, and another on the pad in September 2016.

Mind you, ULA started with a known rocket design. While SpaceX has been iterating as it goes.

But still, we don't have significant statistical evidence about which is actually more reliable.

As you said, ULA when it started already had mature rockets. You need to compare rocket families not operators.

And ULA had a number of issues in that time. For example a failure in an Atlas first stage and the only just managed to deploy the sat because the upper stage had just enough margin.

And ULA had major delays, way longer then what SpaceX could afford for things like their Delta 4 Heavy launches.

ULA of course also got 1 billion $ in subsidies per year to ensure launch safety, a luxury SpaceX never had.

> But still, we don't have significant statistical evidence about which is actually more reliable.

Actually we do. It you look at the launch rates and how often Falcon 9 has launched already the statistical significant of the results gets bigger and bigger.

Unfortunately I can't find the list that shows this data and explains the methods used right now.

But Falcon 9 is very clearly on top of the list.

No, we really don't have significant statistical evidence. Even for the rocket family. And there is no need to look for the reference you can't find since this is all verifiable from public data.

The ULA workhorse was the Atlas 5. Over its whole lifetime, both under Lockheed and ULA, it had 95 launches of which one was a partial failure (declared success). Wikipedia is good enough for that.

The SpaceX workhorse is the Falcon 9. https://www.spacex.com/launches/ puts it at 176 launches with 1 failure and 1 partial failure. This is not counting one that blew up on the pad with the satellite aboard.

The measured failure rate of the Atlas 5 is 0/95. Of Falcon 9 is 1/176. Note that 0/95 < 1/176.

The measured "not perfect success" rate of the Atlas 5 is 1/95. Of Falcon 9 is 2/176 = 1/88. Note that 1/95 < 1/88.

Also anyone with basic statistical knowledge will immediately see that the sample size is sufficiently low that we cannot draw any conclusion at 95% confidence.

Now what Falcon 9 does have the crown on is the longest string of uninterrupted successes of any rocket family. They are now at 148. (Not counting, of course, the one that blew up on the launch pad with the satellite on board.) But not enough to be statistically strong evidence that they are best. Also ULA has over 150 launches across their rocket platforms without any being declared a failure - which exceeds SpaceX's current winning streak.

That said, I agree with you about ULA's advantages, and I agree that SpaceX is the future. But I'm not going to lie about the math. And the math says that there isn't significant statistical evidence that SpaceX is better on safety.

The statistical measure I was talking about does some more complex calculation and takes into account the different iteration of the rocket as well.

In low sample size cases such measures are a better predictor of the future.

Insurance rates also reflect this same reality, as SpaceX has industry leading safety rating.

If I can find this document again I will send it, but somehow I can't find the damn thing.

Every time they do a run-of-the-mill Starlink launch that goes without a hitch, Falcon 9 becomes safer and more valuable. Every time Falcon 9 flies, the necessity for Starship to succeed soon decreases.

I doubt Starlink is commercially viable in the long run if they don't get Starship operational. The Starlink constellation requires continuous maintenance, replacement of old satellites that have expended their fuel and fall out of LEO a few months later. To do this with Falcon 9 instead of Starship, they need something on the order of 10x more launches, and each time they throw away the second stage.

Furthermore the Starlink constellation 'only' has 3,000 satellites so far, but SpaceX has sought approval for 30,000 more than the 12,000 already approved. To launch and maintain a constellation that huge with Falcon 9? It might be commercially viable, but I doubt it, they already have a very rapid launch cadence with Falcon 9 starlink launches and they evidently think they need much more.

I think you might not be taking a significant numbers of factors into account as these are not comparable programs. Artemis & the SLS have very different requirements to SpaceX’s falcon. The closer comparison is to Starship & Super Heavy, which has also not yet launched. The Artemis program is ahead of SpaceX.

Compare SLS and SpaceX, not Artemis and SpaceX. SpaceX became a part of Artemis when it was selected to take Astronauts to the moon. SLS will only take them into orbit near the moon. SpaceX will take them to the actual surface of the moon. That’s a kinda important part of Artemis.

That landing ever actually occurring seems about as likely as pigs flying (or pork barrels flying?) NASA selecting the absurd Starship lander proposal seems like a tacit admission of this.

The lander contract is a 'safe' contract for SpaceX to win, despite their absurd proposal, since the whole program is very unlikely to ever get to the stage where the lander is actually put to use and sent to the moon.

Yeah. It’s maddening to imagine that the spaceship to bring them to the moon is smaller than the lander that will put them on the moon.

> There are many politicians who want to greatly reduce NASA's budget in favour of private ventures.

No actually they want to give NASA more money so NASA can buy what it needs from private ventures.

Never launching is also a risk and a mode of failure.

How many versions of Starship did Space X explode or crash?

They seem to have produced better results on less money — so if NASA can’t follow the strategy that works, why should we throw more into the money pit?

Unfortunately NASA doesn't have the ability to even appear to fail explosively while SpaceX can afford to laugh about it. Any significant explosion would have the tech illiterate Congress breathing down their necks.

> Unfortunately NASA doesn't have the ability to even appear to fail explosively while SpaceX can afford to laugh about it.

It's the curse of waterfall budgeting. A democratic government with typical constraints wants to minimize spending and to have all spending fully accounted for in advance.

"I dunno, maybe it will blow up this time?" is not an acceptable line-item under either standard.

Therefore, budgets must plan for success and design failure out of the process. Minimizing risk maximizes process and cost, ironically sacrificing the very low-cost public policy goal at the feet of risk intolerance. Instead of fifty SLS launches, of which the first dozen or so might fail as learning experiences, we get five that all must go flawlessly.

True "risky" development is reserved for programs of true national urgency (e.g. the original defense focus of the space race) or for programs that can operate well outside the public's watchful eye.

This. This right here. I absolutely hate seeing the two compared. They're doing two very different things with two very different goals.

Their goals are similar, NASA is just hamstrung by Congress and the general public. If NASA had the freedom to choose its direction they too would be working on a Starship style rocket by now, not attempting to pass off a dinosaur as modern.

> NASA is just hamstrung by Congress and the general public

I don't think you can assert that NASA hasn't or wouldn't fall to Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy. What makes NASA special to be immune to such dysfunction?

Or they might have ran their original design of STS instead of one hamstrung and made hilariously expensive due to contract with DoD

What do you think is different about their goals?

SpaceX is a profit motivated company with large degrees of flexibility. They move fast and break ships. NASA is a research institution focused on scientific advancement and space research. They also are very rigid due to the way they receive funding. NASA cannot afford to move to a starship style system because the SLS contract was locked in.

All that scientific advancement to end up 50 years later with a Moon vehicle not much more different than Apollo.

SpaceX want to produce the least rocket they need, NASA want 0 failures, so they'll always have too much rocket

Also SpaceX plan to make 1000 Starships, and NASA plans to make about 5 of theirs

>> why should we throw more into the money pit?

You don’t get to decide where the money goes at all. Senators do so they can boast about bringing jobs to their state in reelection campaigns.

blah, blah, blah, and after the first mishap with the new system… No amount of money will make the system perfect.

We’ve heard the same story for 50 years.

Cancel the project now. There should be a price for taking the wrong path.

There was an article from The Economist that was posted on Hacker News earlier today, arguing the SLS wasn't a good use of resources[1]. It got flagged and was removed, for some reason.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=32636643

The first uncrewed test flight of a Saturn V was Apollo 4.

>The original launch date was planned for early 1967, but was delayed to November 9 because of a myriad of problems with various elements of the spacecraft, and difficulties during pre-flight testing.... These issues delayed the flight through much of 1967.


> "...Only Apollo 17 had a long launch delay of 2 hours 40 minutes, Apollo 14 of 40 minutes. Most delays were less than a second..."

NASA is out of practice (and it's not being run by Germans anymore).

[1] "...The Saturn second stage was built by North American Aviation at its plant at Seal Beach, California, shipped to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama, and there tested to ensure that it met contract specifications. Problems developed on this piece of the Saturn effort and Wernher von Braun began intensive investigations. Essentially his engineers completely disassembled and examined every part of every stage delivered by North American to ensure no defects...

...This was an enormously expensive and time-consuming process, grinding the stage's production schedule almost to a standstill and jeopardizing the Presidential timetable.

When this happened Webb told von Braun to desist, adding that "We've got to trust American industry." The issue came to a showdown at a meeting where the Marshall rocket team was asked to explain its extreme measures. While doing so, one of the engineers produced a rag and told Webb that "this is what we find in this stuff." The contractors, the Marshall engineers believed, required extensive oversight to ensure they produced the highest quality work. A compromise emerged that was called the 10 percent rule: 10 percent of all funding for NASA was to be spent to ensure in- house expertise and in the process check contractor reliability..."

[1] https://history.nasa.gov/Apollomon/Apollo.html

"NASA is not being run by Germans anymore."

Literally laghed out loud on this one and had to explain to coworkers what was so funny :)

Now that you mention it, until 2021, the Vice President of Mission Assurance at SpaceX was German... :-)

At what point do we say “you were wrong, project canceled!”

We are way past the original timeline and budget. You fail!

After 2 decades, time to acknowledge it:


When the senators behind the program are out of power.

The Apollo program cost was roughly $257bn adjusted for inflation. The Saturn V rocket project cost roughly $50bn adjusted for inflation. Artemis is roughly $35bn. The SLS rocket project cost $23bn.

Perspective helps

Rather than pure dollar costs, better the compare in % of government budget.


Doesn't get much clearer than that chart. Oof!

There's a Neil deGrasse Tyson video titled We Stopped Dreaming that gets into the NASA budget (and the related society changes) https://youtu.be/CbIZU8cQWXc

The part about the NASA budget is at 2:00 though it's all a good watch.

Apollo also had its fair share of problems, some of which cost lives. This launch is a test flight, so such problems are normal, and delays are much better than an exploding rocket. Launch delays of this nature are very common across the space industry. The Artemis program is going straight to crewed flights after this one so they are being very cautious.

I wouldn't rise to an unconditional defense of SLS as a whole, but this particular issue is picking nits.

I remember the challenger explosion. I know exactly where I was. I remember seeing the teacher's face on the tv. That's what take unnecessary risks gets you. I understand being careful.

Presumably you're thinking of Christa McAuliffe's mother, who were, unless this is a fake memory in my head, shown on live TV just as the space shuttle blew up right in front of her face.

Understandably, her face was all in turmoil. It is three first picture popping into my mind whenever Challenger comes up.

Shown, yes. Shown on live TV, no. It was a while after the explosion before the networks began running the tape from the camera focused on Ms. McAuliffe’s parents and sister in the grandstands on the beach.

Thanks! (I was eight at the time and in Europe, so while I remember it as being live, it is not unlikely it was an edited news segment shown on Norwegian TV.)

"The teacher" being Christa McAuliffe?

It also makes one question just how useful spending those resources on going to the moon in the first place. After spending all that time and all those resources (not just financial; it also occupied the time of our limited pool of top engineers and scientists) on going to the moon, over 50 years later we're still struggling to return there.

People don't seem to understand that we make good use of space and space flight, but humans in space just aren't that useful at the moment. At the beginning of the space age it seemed like they might be; there were ideas for a manned spy satellite, such as the Manned Orbiting Laboratory[1]. But as tech advanced, the people who actually using space flight to accomplish things realized that automated systems functioned better.

NASA spends 44.9% of its budget on human space flight, and just 3.5% on aeronautics[2], when it's likely the aeronautics research improves people's lives much more than the human space flight efforts.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manned_Orbiting_Laboratory [2] https://www.planetary.org/space-policy/nasa-budget

I'll go further. It is insane that we are spending billions just to say we put people in lunar orbit because we're worried our peepees will look too small if the Chinese do it first.

There's zero useful science being accomplished here that cannot be accomplished minus humans on the craft for less money, faster.

It's a national embarrassment that we have teachers being paid a pittance, doing unpaid labor, paying for basic supplies out of pocket, and children go hungry at school because we think they should have to pay for a meal - but we can spend billions on what amounts to a blank check to the aerospace defense industry in the name of "science."

People always talk about the benefits of space exploration for developments in science and technology that are necessitated (when really, most of the tech was developed for spy satellites and nuclear weapons delivery, and the doe-eyed "exploration" missions are post-facto justifications and emotional manipulation.)

What would be the benefits for science and technology if every kid in the US was fed at school, had enough (and current) textbooks, sufficient stationary supplies in their classrooms, and teachers who were fairly compensated for their labor (and their school staffed sufficiently such that teachers didn't have to put in nearly 100% more labor than they are paid for?)

> but we can spend billions on what amounts to a blank check to the aerospace defense industry in the name of "science."

Do you really think single-digit billions is going to pay for a meaningful increase to teachers' wages, plus feeding students?

NASA gets $22B per year - less than $12B of that goes to manned flights.

There's 3.1M public school teachers in the US. If you took ALL of that money and gave it all to teachers (which is ridiculous - they're paid by states, not federally) - that amounts to a ~10% raise - and if you count future pensions - it's not even a ~3% raise.

You have $0 left over to pay for hungry students. There's also another 3M employees at public schools beside teachers that get nothing...

It's almost as if NASA's budget has nothing to do with anything you mentioned.

10% and even a 3% raise across the board for all teacher sounds amazing. You're stats proved the opposite point you tried to make.

You can’t claim territory without sending people.

Consider the last inhospitable area there was a rush to explore, Antarctica. The efforts to claim it haven't amounted to much, mostly because it's such a terrible place to build settlements. Chile and Argentina have tried to make settlements at the very tip, but the population there is smaller than the population of the USA's McMurdo Station.

Antarctic exploration is a good analogy. A little over a century ago, it was the new frontier. But as we advanced, the excitement gave way to cold reality. Though it was exciting at the time, I doubt most people could tell you who the first person to reach the South Pole was. And the doubtful that the journeys actually provided any benefit to modern researchers there. If we had simply waited a few decades and started exploring when the technology was there (the so-called "Mechanical age" of Antarctic exploration), fewer lives would have been lost and we would have been in the same place we are today.

One crucial difference is that Antarctica isn’t strategically important, so there is no incentive to colonize.

I suggest you look up Apollo 1 if you think everything was rosy during the first set of missions to the moon.

edit for humility: I had to look up the Artemis details last night to see that SpaceX is part of the critical path to a moon landing, so I'm not faulting someone for ignorance. It happens.

It was a time of, frankly, reckless engineering and hubris, though with great results. Challenger taught us a lesson. They pushed ahead into disaster due to ego. NASA won't do that again.

Besides Apollo 1, which other commenters mentioned, I wanted to do a fair comparison so looked up the first numbered apollo mission, 4. Wiki has a whole "Delays" section. I guess the closes equivalent was that it was originally rolled out Aug 26, 1967 but only launched Nov 9.

So "no scrubs and typical schedule delay was 1 second" is totally untrue.

Totally true from Apollo 7 to Apollo 17. These are the missions in the reference link.

But if we are going to include previous programs before Apollo 7, then we should include the predecessors programs of Artemis 1. Meaning, none...What speaks to the delays and lack of execution. Also caused of course, by Congress mandates.

50 years ago no one wore seatbelts and things were great? Nowadays everyone wears them, which means cars got more unsafe?

Half of century is a a lot of advancement in safety. You have many orders more of magnitude of data, sensors and understanding of what to look for.

Is Artemis a good program? Hell no. But that’s not a way to compare it.

Ah yes, the glory days of Apollo 1 and Challenger.

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