Poor NASA: it's got a president who doesn't like its climate research and wants it to pay more attention to putting humans on the Moon and Mars – but its launch vehicle for that kind of mission is costing too much.
That vehicle is the Space Launch System, a rocket hoped to be capable of one day hauling loads up to 130,000kg and reaching Mars.
In a Request For Information (RFI) that hit Federal Business Opportunities late last week, the agency revealed wants to trim the costs to build, operate and maintain the SLS, Orion, and Exploration Ground System (EGS) projects.
As the RFI notes: “Given NASA’s assumption of flat funding levels, minimising POM [production, operations and maintenance – The Register] costs for SLS, Orion, and EGS is critical to free resources for re-investment”.
The money it hopes to free up would make it easier to fund space walks, docking systems, Mars exploration and safety efforts.
The RFI opens up pretty much the gamut of SLS and Orion activities, including whether or not there's a commercial user base for the lifters.
At the end of last week, NASA announced that the SLS's propulsion system is in the Marshall test stand, ready for the first test of its Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS).
ICPS will burn liquid oxygen and hydrogen to shove the Orion spacecraft past the moon in a return flight planned for 2018. A full test series of the SLS is planned for 2017.
The cost-shaving comes amid reports that president-elect Donald Trump is going to tell NASA to cut its Earth sciences spend, in line with his belief that climate change is a Chinese hoax (for example, from the UK's The Telegraph). ®