A deeper look at the Artemis 1 rocket

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.


Relevant stats:
Weight at liftoff: Saturn V 6.2 million pounds; SLS 5.7 million pounds
Power (thrust): Saturn V 7.5 million pounds; SLS 8.8 million pounds
Lift capability: Saturn V 100,000 pounds to the moon; SLS 154,000 pounds to the moon

Looks to me like the SLS has half again as much payload capacity; SLS not only has more thrust, but the vehicle is lighter, and that makes a real difference, as well.

Let’s wait and see how it performs first, shall we?

Sure, it uses some leftover components from the Shuttle program.
The first four flights will use old engines, for example, and the SRBs are based on Shuttle SRBs.

How so?
Early NASA boosters were based on military hardware [Redstone, Atlas, Titan, etc], up until the Saturns.
Yeah, they get contracts to build the things, but that’s always been the case, up until recently.

The screams from the No-Nothings [“Look at all that money wasted for nothing! Space exploration is useless, given all the problems we have here on earth!” etc…] would be immediate and deafening.
How would this be good for NASA?

NASA funding is barely a rounding error as far as the MIC is concerned.

No NASA, then, no Space X and no Blue Origin, etc.


yeah, but a billion dollars is not what it used to be


Yah, and this is literally the NASA model post-shuttle. They figured out that works- NASA blazes the trail to solve the really hard problems, then hands off to industry to keep it going. This is what NASA wants to happen.

It’s a form of government-funded research, which I am all for. Pretty much all basic science research is publicly funded because the time scales of practical application are too long for industry to be interested, but we need someone to be doing it. We need someone to find out, “hey look, this protein folds a weird way!” which turns into a new treatment for cancer 40 or 50 years later. Pfizer or whoever will get all the credit for work built on NIH-funded science decades earlier, but that’s okay! We all win.

Someday SpaceX or whoever will claim all the credit for getting us settled on the moon, but that’s okay. They couldn’t and wouldn’t have done it without NASA doing the research for them and we all win in the long run.


I’ve seen conflicting numbers on the payload.

Meanwhile, the former (SLS) has a maximum payload of 59,500 pounds (27 tons)-the equivalent of 11 large SUVs-whereas the latter has a payload of 90,000 pounds (41 tons).

It looks like future iterations will have more payload capacity.

Every SLS configuration uses the core stage with four RS-25 engines. The first SLS vehicle, called Block 1, can send more than 27 metric tons (t) or 59,500 pounds (lbs.) to orbits beyond the Moon. It will be powered by twin five-segment solid rocket boosters and four RS-25 liquid propellant engines. After reaching space, the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS ) sends Orion on to the Moon. The first three Artemis missions will use a Block 1 rocket with an ICPS.
n systems needed to support a sustained presence on the Moon.

The Block 1B crew vehicle can send 38 t (83,700 lbs.) to deep space including Orion and its crew. Launching with cargo only, SLS has a large volume payload fairing to send larger exploration systems to the Moon and Mars or for science spacecraft on solar system exploration missions.

SLS Block 2 will be designed to lift more than 46 t (101,400 lbs.) to deep space. An evolvable design provides the nation with a rocket able to pioneer new human and robotic spaceflight missions.

That must be the difference is tons of payload quoted. Though I still don’t quite understand how it has more thrust but less payload. I guess it probably has to to do with staging and hauling more weight for longer on the trip.

You read China’s and Russia’s minds. Impressive.

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On top of the differences between the various blocks of the SLS, some of the confusion is down to comparisons not necessary being like for like between Saturn V and the SLS. The common figure for Saturn V is about 150 tonnes to LEO - but that is ‘injected mass’ which not only includes the payload but also the mass of the third stage and its fuel. The actual payload mass was about 120 tonnes. The SLS Block 1 can put 95 tonnes of payload into LEO; rising to 130 tonnes when the Exploration Upper Stage and uprated boosters are used.

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So, you wrote an article to let us know you don’t particularly give a shit about this. How compelling.

Ultimately there’s going to have to be some different architecture if we’re genuinely going to the moon to stay, because 4 billion USD per launch of the SLS (“Senate Launch System”) is not sustainable.

Eventually, we’ll probably need to expand the role of the Starship HLS from mere lander, to lunar transit and lander – which will enable retiring the absurdly expensive and obsolete, disposable SLS rocket.

Initially, the plan could involve launching a lunar transit and lander vehicle (packed with at least 100 metric tonnes of payload) on top of a SpaceX Super Heavy booster, followed by several Starship fuel tanker launches to refuel the lunar vehicle in orbit, followed by a launch of astronauts is a highly reliable, human-rated Dragon capsule on top of a Falcon 9. Then the Dragon would dock with the Starship lunar vehicle, transfer the astronauts, and the astronauts would be transported to the lunar surface.

The Starship lunar vehicle would return astronauts to Earth orbit, dock with a Dragon, and the Dragon would return the astronauts to Earth.

Eventually the Starship lunar vehicle could take astronauts to Earth orbit, where they could live while the vehicle is orbitally fueled for the trip to the moon. And then, down the road, hopefully astronauts could ride a regular Starship back down to Earth, although I expect it will take dozens of flawless Starship landings before that’s approved for humans (looks like a pants-sharting ride to me).

Maybe, hopefully, there will be other players with fully reusable vehicles, in addition to SpaceX, like Relativity Space – because we’re not going to have a permanently crewed lunar outpost if we’re launching veryone on SLS/Orion; just too damned expensive.

Oh, and that lunar Gateway station is pretty close to a pointless money drain. Hopefully that’s done away with soon.

I’d rather spend it on that instead of spending money to kill people who did nothing to me on the otherside of the planet. Strikes me that state-sponsored space exploration allows us to do things that aren’t about “profitability”, which is inevitably what will happen if we turn it all over to the private sector. That doesn’t mean that private corporations can’t provide help and support, but I don’t want our space exploration to be focused solely on enriching a few rich white dudes, when it can be focused on what actually matters, which is enriching all of us via expanding our understanding of the universe we live in.


I wonder why the bar graph left out the cost of the F-35? Over its lifetime it’s expected to cost around $1.5 trillion, which is up there with the total cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Our GDP is over 20,000 billion dollars per year

These are not big numbers anymore—that’s why nobody is bothering to cancel it this time


But what if you need to get there now? And can you drive your cybertruck to the launchpad?


There’s another way to look at the money: the Apollo program cost a sizable fraction of the nation’s GDP in the 1960s (and around 10% of the federal budget, IIRC). Spending that money meant reductions across the board for other federal programs. 50 billion now isn’t a tenth of a decimal point of today’s GDP. We can afford it a lot easier.

And yes, the money theoretically could have been spent on schools, food programs, poverty fighting, livable wages, etc. Except it couldn’t, because half this country votes for batshit crazy racists, xenophobes, nazis, and every other flavor of corrupt asshole imaginable, and they wouldn’t pass a dime to feed a starving infant.


Respectfully, the primary “really hard problem” at this point isn’t finding a way to get to the moon (which, after all, has been done) it’s finding a way to do it relatively sustainably and at a reasonable cost-per-launch. And I don’t see this specific rocket design moving the needle very far in that effort.

In a way it’s really cool that they found a way to piece together a rocket design using the actual engines left over from old shuttle missions, and slightly modified solid rocket boosters. And the Orion capsule is probably a good step up from the Apollo era capsules. But overall this design doesn’t have a lot of major reusable components and thus has no prospect of ever bringing the cost-per-launch down to a reasonable level, so any commercial companies taking over the effort in the future will need an entirely different approach when coming up with affordable designs.

I was just at the California Science Center earlier today, looking at the shuttle Endeavor. A docent told me that before sending it to the museum NASA actually removed the main parts of the three RS-25 engines (everything but the nozzles) for use in Artemis and related programs. Pretty cool, but there’s only so many of those sitting around. And unlike on shuttle flights, we don’t get these ones back.


You can see the details in the link right below, if your’e interested… my point was that, yeah, Artemis is expensive, no doubt. But our biggest expense that needs to come way down is maintaining our empire.

True. And yet we decided it was worth the expense, as a larger part of our cold war spending. Since our current “enemy” is people who don’t have massive empires like we do, our current military budget makes no sense, except that the real goal is ensuring our hegemony over the global south.

I think, again, if we cut into our military budget, it could.

I’ve said it before, it is not half, it’s like a quarter, maybe. A loud vocal minority who is benefiting from voter suppression and general apathy that so many have about how our country is constantly being held back by that vocal minority. We got to keep calling them out and doing whatever we can to get the country onto a sane track. We have no choice in the matter but to keep on pushing for that.


The past is prologue.