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SLS concept  (Source:
This flight software is needed to control the launch vehicle both during flight and preflight tanking operations

Boeing gave NASA's new Space Launch System (SLS) a huge boost by delivering the first three flight computer software test beds needed for launch vehicle control.

NASA's SLS is an advanced heavy lift vehicle that was designed to carry the Orion Multi-purpose Crew Vehicle and cargo. It will also be used as a backup for commercial and international partner transportation to the International Space Station (ISS).

Boeing delivered the three flight computer software test beds on April 25, which was ahead of schedule. This flight software is needed to control the launch vehicle both during flight and preflight tanking operations.

There are three processors within each flight computer to analyze data. They then vote on a response before sending it from the computer, and from there, the three flight computers compare the answers to a solution and send commands to the launch vehicle.

"These are the most capable flight computers ever developed for human spaceflight," said Dane Richardson, manager for the Boeing SLS Avionics and Software Team. "They have the highest processing capability available in a flight computer and triple modular redundant processors. The technology is proven from years of satellite applications, and it's reliable enough to take SLS beyond Earth's orbit.

"The triple redundant processors make each computer reliable in the harsh radiation environment. Similarly, the three computers working in concert make the vehicle reliable. The configuration is called the flight computer operating group."

Boeing is playing a critical role in NASA's SLS development. Boeing is designing the two cryogenic stages in order to make rocket development and operations affordable. The two-stage vehicle configuration will offer a lift capability of over 130 metric tons, allowing NASA to delve into deep space exploration.

An initial flight-test configuration, which uses only the first stage with a 70-metric ton lift capacity, will take place in 2017.

Just last month, NASA announced that it was starting its second round of tests for the J-2X engine, which is the next generation liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen rocket engine modeled after the J-2 engine that carried astronauts to the moon during the 1960s and 1970s. The J-2X engine is designed to power deep space missions and will be used for NASA's SLS.

Source: Boeing

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By Bubbacub on 6/2/2012 6:11:21 AM , Rating: 2
every article on this steaming pork barrel demonstration of government corruption makes me angry.

a falcon 9 heavy shoves 53 tons to LEO and will be flying at the end of the year and will cost ~ $150 million.

at the same time NASA is spending almost all of its budget to maybe send 70 tons to LEO in 2017-18

im sure a modified super heavy falcon 9 with 4 boosters instead of 2 would see it surpass SLS.

if the tens of billions that are going on this pointless monster were spent on building a modular deep space vehicle (launched using existing launchers) and on technologies for in situ resource utilisation (i.e. reactors to make methane rocket fuel for a return journey from mars for example) we would actually make some progress as a species.

RE: Pork
By Gondor on 6/2/2012 3:21:50 PM , Rating: 2
Why bother making fuel when you need to bring the oxidant along ? Liftoff from Mars shoudl require substantionally less fuel than liftoff from Earth so bringing along sufficient stock of fuel + oxygen shouldn't be a problem.

RE: Pork
By Bubbacub on 6/2/2012 4:52:48 PM , Rating: 2
read about the sabatier reaction.

the aim is to use martian CO2 with terran h2 to make a long term easily stored fuel (methane) and oxidiser (o2).

in chemical rockets the major weight component is the oxidiser not the fuel.

in source resource utilisation on mars is all about sending a dumb rocket with a full h2 tank and a few empty tanks to mars - it can then sit there and turn the h2 tank and atmospheric CO2 into a useful combination of ch4 and 02 which could be stored for ages without boiling off.

a second manned rocket with no return fuel can then follow once the full martian fuel tanks have been confirmed and can then refuel for the journey back home.

this massively the increases the possible payload to mars/ reduces the size of the launcher to get to mars.

RE: Pork
By delphinus100 on 6/3/2012 5:46:31 PM , Rating: 2
It matters, when you consider how difficult it is to get any significant mass down to the Martian surface. It's massive enough that a propulsive landing is difficult, but its atmosphere is so thin, that aerobraking helps you only so much... (61.7mb podcast)

So, any refueling you can do from local resources, is that much less mass you have to decelerate to get down there.

RE: Pork
By danielravennest on 6/3/2012 6:20:15 PM , Rating: 2
The reason is the rocket equation, which tells you how much fuel is needed for a given amount of velocity in space missions. It has an exponential term in it, so bringing fuel from Earth requires a large amount of fuel to deliver a small amount to Mars.

If you set up extraction plants in High Earth Orbit (from Near Earth Asteroid rock), Phobos, and Mars surface, and fuel each step of the way as you need it, you turn an exponential fuel requirement into an almost linear one. It costs a bit more to set up your mining plants at each location, but after the first trip you are way ahead on what you need to launch from Earth.

RE: Pork
By dlapine on 6/3/2012 12:55:40 AM , Rating: 2
To be fair, it's $3 Billion a year to develop both the SLS rocket and the Orion capsule. Almost a bargain by NASA standards. You'll note that the article doesn't specify the cost of this marvelous flight software. I'm betting Boeing collected more for it than the cost of an entire SpaceX resupply mission. Haven't these guys caught up on the modern cost of apps these days?

What really blows is that there is some significant effort in congress to cancel the small amount of NASA funding (~ $0.5B over 4 years) that helps to pay for some "commercial crew" development. This is the research money that goes to 4 commercial space companies (SpaceX & Orbital and others) to help cover their costs to develop a crew-capable vehicle in the near future, like before 2018. We want this so that we can stop paying the Russians $50M a seat for a flight to our own fracking space station via Soyuz.

One might suspect that SpaceX has succeeded so well and so cheaply that some pigs in congress (and Utah, Alabama and others) are afraid for their slops...

Pork you say? I daresay you don't go nearly far enough- more like DIRE-BOAR! Ok, with more fat and less tusks, but still...

The thing that makes me cut NASA no slack is that they were handed a plan called DIRECT by their own engineers to be flying in 2014 for about $3 billion.

The plan would have reused a goodly chunk of the old space shuttle (still needed Orion for crew) systems, so they would have saved a ton of development and refurbishing money by not re-inventing the wheel.

They threw that out the window and came up with the SLS: a perfect example design by big government and good ol' boy networking. $3 billion a year for development way past 2018, and $1 Billion a flight to do the same job a SpaceX vehicle will be capable of doing in 2014 for $150 million.

If they just paid that much cash to SpaceX, we'd all be vacationing on Mars by 2018.


RE: Pork
By US56 on 6/4/2012 12:09:05 PM , Rating: 2
It's not really political pork in the usual sense. NASA has degenerated into a hidebound and root bound bureaucracy currently incapable of fulfilling the principal mission for which the agency was originally created and is now struggling to maintain relevance in an atmosphere of fiscal distress and lack of interest on the part of the majority of the general public and consequent lack of support from elected representatives. The primary motive of NASA staff at this point consciously acknowledged or not is to keep their jobs as long as possible and hopefully reach retirement. Repeated failure to design a workable replacement for the Space Shuttle and the current economic and political environment yields a seemingly irrational expenditure of public funds called the SLS. I'd call it a steaming barrel of something else. What I hate most about it is that the first stage core design uses the SSME re-purposed as an expendable. Literally billions of dollars (adjusted for inflation) were spent to design and manufacture very high performance re-useable engines for the Shuttle. Using the SSME as an expendable is an incredible waste of public investment. What I really, really hate most about it, however, is that the "Block 0" and Block I core stages are planned to use veteran Shuttle engines. They are planning to slam historic hardware into the ocean! That would be a crime against history as far as I'm concerned. It brings to mind the U.S. Navy scrapping the WWII era USS Enterprise (CV-6) because the Naval Chief of Staff at the time wanted to use the very historic name for the first nuclear powered super carrier (CVAN-60). It also brings to mind the oft misquoted and taken out of context expression from the Vietnam War, "We had to destroy the village to save it." What they're saving at NASA is their own jobs and taxpayer paid retirements and what they're destroying is the history of U.S. manned spaceflight and the reputation of a once great federal agency. How many federal civil agencies ever performed at a level of historic greatness even if for only a few brief years?

RE: Pork
By Moishe on 6/6/2012 8:34:47 AM , Rating: 2
I agree... BUT the ~$150 million figure is supposed to be a per-flight figure for the Dragon 9, not the cost of development.

I have no doubt at all that the NASA and Boeing contract is full of pork and waste though.

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