A deeper look at the Artemis 1 rocket

Originally published at: A deeper look at the Artemis 1 rocket | Boing Boing


I’m with you in that I had divorced myself of the idea of us meatbags leaving the only hospitable place we know of for a while, but the Artemis has me cautiously hopeful. The fact that everything has been tested and tested again, the re-use of engines and boosters from the space shuttle program performing so well, it all has me nostalgic for when I was a kid watching the moon landings, and how thrilled I was when they gave the glider model shuttle the name Enterprise.

Crossing my fingers for Artemis 1.


Artemis is a sad recycled rocket made to serve the needs of bloated defense contractors. The best thing that could possibly happen to it is to blow up on the pad, thereby permanently ending the gravy train.

I hope Scott Manly can convince me otherwise. I am not a SpaceX fanboy, but I do believe in physics and they seem to be leading the industry towards the kind of efficiency we need.


SLS is a pterosaur - a flying dinosaur. $20 billion in development costs plus $2 billion per launch in operational costs, with maybe 1 launch per year possible in the best case scenario. Everyone in the space community knows it’s dead on arrival.


So a cursory search showed that the Artemis rocket has a bout a million more pounds of thrust as the Saturn V, but a little over half the payload capability to the moon. What gives with that?


My guess is that the Saturn V rocket wasn’t designed to be recovered and this was able to direct all that thrust into putting stuff in orbit, whereas the shuttle-era SLS sacrifices efficiency for re-usability.


Well, inflation adjusted it’s “only” about twice the cost per launch compared to Saturn V (2 billion 2022 versus 1.2 billion 2022 equivalent), so it’s mostly a NASA budget issue rather than the obscene cost of the system (mostly). It’s also under half the cost overall compared to the Saturn V system (though it’s likely most of that is from cost savings of being a Shuttle-derived launch system) at 20 vs. 50 billion dollars.

And yes, it’s DOA, but right now, with Boeing still not able to deliver a fully reliable Starliner, and NASA having cut the funding to other launch systems, it’s the best bet we have to do SOMETHING now.

Remember, perfect is the enemy of good, and while it’ll take another year before Artemis II launches with humans, and another two years at least before Artemis III returns to the surface with humans, that’s at least progress, and SLS is much closer to launching to the Moon than Starship/Super Heavy, even the latter will likely lap the former in accomplishments once the launches start happening.


That doesn’t seem to be the case, because SLS is actually lighter as well. So Saturn V was heavier, had less thrust, yet twice the payload. Not really sure why that is. :thinking:

To the rest of this thread, there’s a lot of cynicism about Artemis that I don’t think is warranted. They are going to the moon and nobody else can do that. Going to the moon is so many orders of magnitude harder than anything Space X has done. They are nowhere close to being able to, either. LEO is easy. The moon is serious shit.

SLS is a little bit of duct-tape-and-parts-bin, sure, but it’s going to put human boots on the moon and that is not something to be cynical about. NASA is serious about permanent settlement there, and their plan to do it is plausible (aside from the timeline of course, which is never reasonable without the 2.5% of the entire US GDP that Apollo was given)

Strong disagree. I have many friends in aerospace who are excited about Artemis.

I’m sorry NASA isn’t going about it exactly the way all of you would like them to, but they are doing it and I refuse to be disappointed by the effort.


Seems like the Saturn V would still have some efficiency advantage just by virtue of being able to ditch its various stages as the fuel in each stage was exhausted, so it wouldn’t be expending as much energy lifting the launch system itself through the higher stages of its flight.

I imagine the difference is a little bit like having a light car with a huge gas tank vs. having a heavier car that was towing a trailer full of fuel that it ditched by the side of the road once it ran empty.


This article has a bit more info about the project:

The space-shuttle sourced engines aren’t going to be recovered for re-use, sadly.


seth meyers GIF by Late Night with Seth Meyers


Sigh. yeah, I am reminded of the way they scoured the closets after the end of the Apollo Moon landings to do the Skylab and ASTP missions. The creative use of leftovers is certainly not a BAD thing, but it is hardly real path forward. I still think meatbag flights are COOL, but I’m don’t think that they’re very useful.

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This kinda snuck up on me. I was aware it was being worked on, but it was off my radar until recently that it actually built and going to fly. So I too am excited.


It’s really not progress. By the time a single Artemis mission gets to that milestone (though I expect it will be scrapped before getting there) SpaceX’s Starship and probably Blue Origin’s New Glenn will regularly be flying multiple, even dozens of equivalent payload missions per year at a small fraction of the cost. Artemisis’ only technological achievement is in creating a space launch system entirely from pork. It is doing nothing new, pushing no technology forward, and consuming vast amounts of NASA’s money to do it that could be used more productively.


The Apollo rockets basically launched with more thrust than they needed, essentially carrying a spare engine in case one failed. If one engine failed they could still get enough speed to get to orbit. The engine peformance could be monitored and throttled as necessary, so you could get max thrust at takeoff then throttle it back later. This also allowed for heavier payloads as you could just run the engines at full bore for longer.

The Artemis rocket doesnt have the redundant engines. It has SRBs though which cannot be throttled, so you get the max thrust on takeoff and then you need the four RL-25s to get you up to speed. The Artemis missions dont have to worry about carrying the lunar module since that goes seperately.


Not to the moon or Mars, they won’t.

NASA is executing on their plan of leading the way in R&D and risky one-off stuff, while leaving the space truckers to do the boring day to day stuff more cheaply than they can. That’s exactly what is happening.

Comparing NASA to Space X and the others is apples and oranges. They have completely different missions and benefits to humanity. There’s no money to be made going to the moon and it’s way too difficult for any private company to bother attempting, billionaire nonsense tweeting notwithstanding.

SLS is not an LEO vehicle. It is an interplanetary vehicle. Completely different animal, and something only NASA can do.


Well, also because Von Braun secretly designed it for a direct orbital insertion flight path to Mars. He knew the US’ excitement for all this space stuff wouldn’t last, so he was doing as much forward-thinking development with the infinite resources they gave him while he could. He was making hay while the sun shone, which is why Saturn is way overbuilt.


I think it is down to this launch being with the SLS Block 1 using a modified Delta Cryogenic Second Stage derived from the Delta IV.

From flight 4 onwards, SLS plans to use the new Exploration Upper Stage which provides a serious increase in power to 46 tonnes at Trans Lunar Injection when the final Block 2 rockets are assembled.


I think that the corporations are waiting for NASA to do proof of concept before they try to stand on their shoulders to make money off of it. Commercial launches happened a substantial time after governments put things into orbit, and still went up on NASA (or other government) rockets


The very earliest that Artemis II will launch is in 2024, assuming that this test launch goes perfectly. The former deputy administrator of NASA was pretty critical of that schedule, combined with the lack of any real contingency planning for anything less than a perfect test flight.