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May 13, 2017, 07:39 PM
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Death of the SLS


It was disappointing to read the SLS had encountered similar failures as the X-33. According to kiwipedia, the hydrogen tank for the X-33 failed pressure tests shortly before it was canceled. The oxygen tank for the SLS similarly failed weld tests before ever reaching pressure testing. More specifically, the oxygen tank required a thicker wall than any previous friction stir weld & they weren't able to develop a suitable welding tool.

Probably the final nail in the coffin was the LOX dome being dropped by incompetence & damaging tooling. The delay will give bean counters more time to kill it. NASA has a strange mandate to pursue cutting edge methods in some places like the welding, yet stick to age old propellants like hydrogen.

Ironically, it may be the conservative use of aluminum that kills the SLS. In the 20 years since X-33, progress on composite tanks continued at a snail's pace. They could have probably done it more easily with composites than aluminum, now. The powers that be gave Earth the bare minimum amount of materials so if we worked right at the limit of physics & did it absolutely perfectly, we could just barely colonize another planet.

Unfortunately, the room temperature layups with vacuum bags of your hobby project aren't perfect enough to do the job. The carbon fiber needs to be heated & evacuated in an autoclave to reach the perfect mass required. Then, the entire tank needs to be built in 1 piece.

In the 8 Mike Griffin years, they managed to produce 1 new vehicle, an Ares I test article. In the 8 Charlie Bolden years, they produced absolutely nothing. Even in that time span, without counting the moon program, the trend was down. Also noteworthy, 50 years after building the Saturn V, they were completely unable to build an equivalent rocket.
Last edited by Jack Crossfire; May 14, 2017 at 03:18 AM.
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May 13, 2017, 09:15 PM
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The SLS is another NASA/Senate boondoggle that should be cancelled. Let SpaceX do the heavy lifting. We don't need another billion dollar per launch system.


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