Friday, March 15, 2019

Bridenstine Reassures SLS/Orion Workforce That They're Still Needed

          By Henry Stewart

Jim Bridenstine. Photo c/o NASA/ Bill Ingalls.
It's worth noting that, only a day after questioning whether the US Space Launch System (SLS) will be ready in time to be used for the scheduled 2020 first orbital flight of NASA's Orion spacecraft and its European built service module, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine sent an e-mail to NASA employees and SLS contractors praising the SLS workforce and stating that using alternative commercial carriers for Orion missions "is not optimum or sustainable."

As outlined in the March 14th, 2019 NASA blog post, "A Message to the Workforce on SLS and Orion," Bridenstine sent this message to NASA employees and contractors:
Yesterday, I was asked by Congress about the schedule slip of the Space Launch System and plans to get NASA back on track. I mentioned that we are exploring the possibility of launching Orion and the European Service Module to low-Earth orbit on an existing heavy-lift rocket, then using a boost from another existing vehicle for Trans Lunar Injection. Our goal would be to test Orion in lunar orbit in 2020 and free up the first SLS for the launch of habitation or other hardware in 2021. This would get us back on schedule for a crewed lunar orbital mission in 2022 with the added bonus of a lunar destination for our astronauts. 
We are studying this approach to accelerate our lunar efforts. The review will take no longer than two weeks and the results will be made available. Please know that NASA is committed to building and flying the SLS for the following reasons: 
  • Launching two heavy-lift rockets to get Orion to the Moon is not optimum or sustainable. 
  • Docking crewed vehicles in Earth orbit to get to the Moon adds complexity and risk that is undesirable. 
  • SLS mitigates these challenges and allows crew and payloads to get to the Moon, and eventually to Mars, safer and more efficiently than any temporary solution used to get back on track.
I believe in the strength of our workforce and our ability to utilize every tool available to achieve our objectives. Our goal is to get to the Moon sustainably and on to Mars. With your focused efforts, and unmatched talent, the possibility of achieving this objective is real. 
Ad astra, 
Jim Bridenstine
Only the day before, as outlined in the March 14th, 2019 post, "NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) is Officially in Trouble," Bridenstine had questioned the capabilities of SLS contractors to meet the tight deadlines required to be included as part of the first orbital Orion mission and stated that NASA was investigating alternatives to using SLS.

Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer.

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