So after two years of delays caused by Mr. Obama cancelling Constellation, we get...
...essentially the 2005 ESAS version of Ares V, with SSMEs for the core stage and an External Tank Diameter core stage; but now painted shiny white and black to try and get Apollo-era cachet.
NASA quickly realized how stupid throwing away $50 million dollar engines designed for reuse between 50 flights was back during Constellation; and they switched to RS-68, which was developed out of a 1980s/1990s effort to develop a simplified expendable SSME.
But then the fools at DIRECT started coming out of the woodwork, claiming that the ablative nozzle of the RS-68 would never work on Ares V with the heat from the SRBs....
...Never mind that they had base heating problems in Apollo, specifically the Saturn V base heating environment was so severe that each F-1 engine had to be covered in about 1,000+ pounds of insulation to work.
Later plans to ground launch S-II stages with SRB boosters (look, Ares V forty years early!), ran into this problem of base heating from SRBs, albeit with the J-2s. Their solution was to design a heat shield that would prevent the J-2s from being fried by the SRB heat.
Anyway, it gets so much better.
Where will the SSMEs come from for the Obama [tm] version of Constellation? Link
NASA’s three retired Space Shuttle orbiters are set to donate their entire Main Propulsion Systems (MPS) to the opening salvo of Space Launch System (SLS) Heavy Lift Launch Vehicles (HLV).
I'm sure the museums who paid $50~ million for each Orbiter are loving the fact that they will get defaced artifacts with no SSMEs, but in fact replica SSMEs in the back.
Ultimately, I predict that SLS will be within schedules and budgets for about a year. Maybe it'll actually run a bit ahead of schedule; as:
- A lot of tough/costly work on 5-Seg and J-2X was done under CxP, providing immediate boost to appearances of viability for SLS.
- The program would be in that phase of development that is cheapish
However, winter 2012; issues will unexpectedly
arise, and the program will be restructured and then killed after a pretty hefty cost increase/overrun on the scope of what occured to JWST.
Mainly I think due to the programmatic costs inherent in redesigning and rechecking everything when you go from the 3 x SSME boattail in the 70 ton version that will fly first, to the 5 x SSME base for the next spiral.
Some more minor points:
Why will this rocket with many of the same elements as Ares V, be affordable when Ares V wasn't according to Obama?
How will they affordably recreate the workforce, which was already laid off by this point? (A lot of shuttle related workers were laid off in late August).
It's just a way for Obama to get certain Senators off his butt, and to defuse the use of NASA as a weapon against him in 2012 in certain very important states
Once he's re-elected, he can quietly let SLS die when it cost-implodes in Winter 2012/Spring 2013.