Have We Lost the Moon?

The LOP-G in orbit around the Moon. Look, but don’t touch.

There was real excitement in the lunar community last fall when Vice President Mike Pence announced, during a meeting of the reconstituted National Space Council, that the next step in human spaceflight would be our return to the Moon. Advocates for this direction felt enormous relief; at last, reason had returned to the strategic planning of NASA’s human program – a program stalled for the last decade, merely marking time. True enough, the new Orion spacecraft is being built and the new SLS launch system development continues; but with only one boilerplate flight of same (and that launched on an existing Delta-IV Heavy, not the SLS), many felt certain the Orion program was trapped in development hell.

The space policy directive put forth by the new Administration, one of returning to the Moon’s surface, was long overdue. It appeared that despite programmatic delays, a return to the Moon was back in the cards. But six months later, that direction, along with all of our earlier optimism, is now in question.

The first and biggest problem is that a year-and-half into President Trump’s administration, NASA still has no permanent Administrator. The nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine, a superb selection from any honest perspective, has been stymied in the Senate by the machinations of Florida’s two senators, Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio. Due to the narrow Republican majority in the Senate, the actions of these two have had an overstated impact on the nomination voting process. So, while Rep. Bridenstine’s confirmation vote is held up in the Senate, NASA has been unable to initiate the space policy direction called for by the Administration, because, in Beltway terms, it can do nothing, except continue to execute the existing program of record.

The current Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot is retiring this month and no doubt another interim chief will be designated. Their job will be to see that the agency keeps running: whether towards somewhere, or in place, is irrelevant. Thus, plans made during the Obama administration, no matter how idiotic or irrelevant to our national strategic goals, are kept, adapted or simply, re-branded.

And that brings us to the development and deployment of the Deep Space Gateway (DSG, a.k.a., LOP-G, Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway). This piece of space hardware is what’s left of the Obama-era Asteroid Redirect Mission, a plan almost universally derided by the space community, to capture an asteroid boulder, bring it to cislunar space and let a manned Orion vehicle study it. This bizarre scheme was adopted once it was found that a near-Earth asteroid suitable for a human visit did not exist. Aside from the utter pointlessness of such a mission, it seems we are on track to take the manned space development budget and spend it on this “Mini-Me” space station, one that cannot (other than for short periods) be permanently inhabited because of resupply problems, hard radiation environment and other considerations.

NASA has easily morphed the ARM into the DSG because they are essentially the same spacecraft – a solar electric propulsion (SEP) module, a habitation module and a docking collar. The LOP-G will be placed in what is called a rectilinear halo orbit, an elliptical path varying between 7000 and 70000 above the Moon. The idea is to make the LOP-G a test Mars transfer vehicle, in that SEP is being considered as a way to move cargo between Earth and Mars. As a staging node for going to the lunar surface, the LOP-G leaves a great deal to be desired, as it has both a high propulsive cost (greater than 2.4 km/s) and serious phasing problems for lunar arrival and departure. How does this square with the Trump administration’s call to return to the Moon?

Because (wait for it)…..LOP-G is in orbit around the Moon!

With this “wool-over-their-eyes” program, the agency has many believing that they have dutifully answered Vice-President Pence’s bold challenge for lunar return. And, mirabile dictu, it’s a “twofer,” as they’ve managed to keep their eye on the “real prize” – Mars.

Alas, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. In fact, the LOP-G answers neither lunar nor martian mission needs particularly well. The location of the platform does not allow easy access to the lunar surface, and certainly not for a single-stage vehicle. Some independent means to get cargo and (probably) crew down to the Moon will have to be developed, which means that the LOP-G is irrelevant to lunar return. Mars mission architectures are in way too early a state of development to determine if the LOP-G is useful for them and likely to be fraught with additional complications. It would be much simpler, in each case, to assemble what you need in low Earth orbit and then go the destination of choice.

But NASA wants the DSG/LOP-G and so, there it is. But wait! How has NASA – an agency “operating” without a new Administrator for the past 18 months – continued to function and set policy direction without the Trump Administration’s pick at the helm? Easy – the continuing and permanent bureaucracy of the agency determines what policy or program it wants, slow-rolls any newly proposed changes or alterations to the previous policy, and eventually, what was in (slow) motion, stays in (exceedingly slow) motion – implemented by default, with the change agents eventually having to give up and go home. We are watching this process in action now.

Hang on – I thought that the newly reconstituted National Space Council was supposed to provide educated, adult supervision to the NASA bureaucrats? Surely, if the Vice President announces a new policy of lunar return, the Council will monitor NASA management and assure that the agency complies with that directive. In this case, it appears that such has not occurred. Or, more precisely, it appears that for some reason, the Council is convinced that NASA is complying with that directive. They certainly claim to be. New artwork of the LOP-G always shows the Moon in the background, so we must be going to the Moon, right? However, note the composition in the image above – the Moon, always in the background. Although I hesitate to conclude that the Council is deficient here, they appear unable to see through this slight-of-hand in order to direct difficult, pointed questions to the minions generating this smokescreen.

The biggest indicator that NASA has no interest in going to the lunar surface came with the recent announcement that the launch of a small mission called Resource Prospector – a mission designed to land at one of the Moon’s poles and sample polar volatiles – has been delayed, once again, this time until 2022. This relatively simple mission would be our first look at lunar polar ice, a mission critical to the idea of developing and using the resources of the Moon. So with this “delay,” it appears there is no plan for NASA to locate and examine lunar resources in order to learn and understand their potential implications for America’s national economy and its security. True enough, small commercial missions may get there before 2022, but we’re talking about a supposed national priority and the importance of being back on the Moon at a time when other countries are already moving ahead in this important cislunar arena.

When the White House asked for cost estimates for lunar return, no effort was made to realistically estimate the costs to develop a new lunar lander. My sources tell me that the old Augustine Committee/Aerospace Corporation estimates of 2009 were hauled out in response. I have discussed previously why that effort was seriously flawed and deficient; those cost estimates are from the 2007-2009 Altair effort and have no more relation to the real cost of new lander development than the cost of a B-17 has to a Space Shuttle.

Is there a solution to this on-going space policy problem, one that involves vital national interests? If Rep. Jim Bridenstine were to be swiftly confirmed and allowed to take office, would the ship correct its course? There is good reason to suspect that even in the case of that happy eventuality, due to the long delay in getting Bridenstine confirmed, we will still waste time and money on the LOP-G. The agency has convinced the White House and Congress that LOP-G is the first step towards going to the Moon, despite the falsity of their claim.

That said, a strong hand in the Administrator’s chair could help redirect some of the more egregious missteps in direction of the agency. A vigorous program of robotic prospecting missions to the lunar poles to gather key strategic data for the ice deposits could be instituted for a modest amount of money. Such data are crucial to almost any future lunar surface operations (and other eventual space destinations), at least to those who understand and are concerned about creating a new, affordable, extendable and productive spaceflight capability.

Have we lost the Moon? Perhaps not, but we are pretty close to it. Message to National Space Council: Please take the necessary time and initiative needed in order to clearly and independently understand the situation, then fulfill your mandate and hold NASA’s feet to the fire!

This entry was posted in Lunar development, Lunar exploration, Lunar Science, space industry, space policy. Bookmark the permalink.

36 Responses to Have We Lost the Moon?

  1. Andrew Swallow says:

    Return to the Moon is happening slowly but it is returning.

    As part of NASA’s Lunar CATALYST initiative Milestone 20 required the Masten Space Systems company to hold a Concept Design Review 1 on the XEUS lander. The slides may be available. XEUS is a modified Centaur from ULA.
    The expendable version of XEUS can land about 10-12 tonnes, where as the reusable version can land 5-6 tonne. The reusable version would have to return to a spacecraft or spacestation in lunar orbit.

    LOP-G is a lunar spacestation but current proposals put it in the wrong orbit.

    NASA’s 2019 Presidential Budget Request introduced a new line item “Advanced Cislunar and
    Surface Capabilities” as part of Advanced Exploration Systems. It may only be peanuts but NASA can now spend money on Moon projects. A future NASA Administrator can ask for more money.

    • Gary Church says:

      “The expendable version of XEUS can land about 10-12 tonnes, where as the reusable version can land 5-6 tonne.”

      Bastardizing a Centaur is not going work. There is no cheap.

      Blue Moon seems to be the only decent hardware available. And I would add the hydrogen is not great for a trip to the Moon; methane might store better.

      Converting a hydrogen turbopump to methane is not a huge challenge (unlike converting those made to pump denser propellants like kerosene to lighter ones, which is not practical).

      • Joe says:

        Actually both the XEUS and Blue Moon landers present opportunities for a joint government/contractor project to develop lunar landers.

        (1) The contractors develop the propulsion and cargo modules.
        (2) The government (with private sub-contractor -probably Boeing) develop the crew module.

        That seemed to be what Blue Origin had in mind in the White Paper they presented to the Space Council.

        • Andrew Swallow says:

          Since we have propulsion the cabin does not need to come from a traditional aircraft supplier. For instance Paragon Space Development Corporation could supply the life support.
          World View Enterprises could provide the airframe.

          There may be other companies.

          • Joe says:

            Paragon is a good company. They were originally developing a standard set of life support requirements (down to the level that would have listed specific approved sub-component providers) for the Commercial Crew Program.

            In spite of the fact they were doing a good job, that part of the contract was cancelled (and the money transferred to the two vehicle primes). Have always thought that was a mistake.

            They are currently a sub-contractor to Boeing on their Commercial Crew Vehicle in the Life Support area.


            Paragon Space Development Corporation® Named Boeing Supplier for New American Crew Transportation System

            TUCSON, AZ (April 27, 2015) – Paragon was recently awarded a contract by The Boeing Company [NYSE: BA] to provide services to support their Crew Space Transportation System (CCTS) and Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 spacecraft. Specifically, Paragon will provide the CST-100 Humidity Control Subassembly (HCS) for cabin atmospheric humidity control.


            But there is more to building a crew rated module than developing specific sub-components like life support and airframes.

            Integration of all the subsystems (and there will be far more than those two) and subsequent verification/certification testing two name just a few. That is the reason Blue Origin (wisely) wants to leave that (at least for the first iteration) to others.

            I am not specifically selling Boeing, but they do have lengthy experience in such activities

  2. John K Strickland says:

    I knew that that the launch of the Resource Prospector mission would not even occur for about 5 years, but this further delay is very disappointing. Dr. Spudis is the first one who has made the connection between this delay and the probable lack of interest by NASA of actually landing anything on the Moon. With no landing, we would get no information about the characteristics of the surface in the polar cold trap areas. This means we cannot even start to design equipment to mine ice in those areas. We have no idea if the surfaces there are as hard as rock or as fluffy as snow or lunar dust. Do we need a scoop or a grinder? No one knows.

    Access to the lunar water resources means access to both the Moon and Mars, but we really do need the lunar access first to reduce transport costs. An “observation platform” orbiting “near” the moon is of no use in establishing a lunar mining base and would have no ability to store any lunar-derived propellant for use on either cis-lunar or Mars transport routes.

    The focus of the National Space Council seems to be on (1) military space and (2) perpetuating the SLS and Orion). Military space is an important and often neglected issue, but every dollar spent on the SLS and Orion is a wasted dollar. The LOP-G seems to be a way of giving the SLS another potential payload.

    An alternate and possibly quicker result might be obtained by supporting the former lunar X-prize effort. If a company or team can land its vehicle on the moon, it could also land a simple system at one of the polar cold trap areas, equipped with a bright light, a small drill and a sharp rod to test the surface consistency. The system would only have to survive the cold and dark for an hour or so. Such low cost missions could be repeated as piggy-back payloads on commercial rockets until we get the basic information we need. We might need a comsat orbiting over a lunar pole to transmit the data back to Earth. Lets get this information any way we can.

    John Strickland

    • Paul Spudis says:

      The LOP-G seems to be a way of giving the SLS another potential payload.

      It’s worse than that — it’s make-work for bureaucrats steeped in ISS culture. It’s building a new space station in a different place.

      • nova9 says:

        A real DSG is supposed to be a simple radiation shielded (from heavy nuclei) docking port and storm shelter for crewed vehicles traveling between LEO and the Lagrange Points and between the Lagrange points and the lunar surface. It can be as simple as deploying a Bigelow BA-330 to EML1 with a single SLS launch.

        But it now appears that some in NASA are attempting to design the Deep Space (DSG) Gateway to actually be a– hyper expensive– test vehicle to prove that solar powered electric propulsion can be used to transports astronauts to Mars orbit. The Mars First advocates within NASA never seem to rest:-)

        This is why establishing a permanent lunar outpost needs to be– prioritized– by NASA and why propellant producing water depots located at LEO, EML1 and on the lunar surface also needs to be prioritized.

        Ironically, such a depot based extraterrestrial lunar architecture is probably the fastest and cheapest way of eventually establishing a permanent human presence in Mars orbit and on the surface of Mars.


        • Gary Church says:

          “Some independent means to get cargo and (probably) crew down to the Moon will have to be developed, which means that the LOP-G is irrelevant to lunar return.”

          And nothing on it is shielded from heavy nuclei. A “storm shelter” and heavy nuclei shielding are two completely different things.

          The more I troubleshoot this problem the more often I come back to the wet workshop. Debilitation is the secondary problem and a tether system can provide artificial Earth gravity by spinning a pair of workshops which are already engineered for a multi-G launch. Unfortunately a SLS iteration will be difficult to make effective in terms of re-purposing as a heavy nuclei water shield since that takes about 15 feet of outer envelope and around 20 feet or more of center compartment (and thousands of tons of water). This entails a stage at least 50 feet in diameter (Saturn V was 33 feet); a “fat workshop” as a universal building block deep space crew compartment. Launching such a stage would require a Nova-size Super Heavy Lift Vehicle larger than the SLS. The water will be brought up from the lunar poles.

          This Fat Workshop could possible have crew in one shop and at the end of the tether the other would be a propellant splitting section for producing oxygen and hydrogen (or perhaps methane). As a Lunar Cycler this could fly around the Earth and the Moon taking on board water from landers and refueling the landers (and possibly performing maintenance in an inflatable wrap-around hanger) and also taking on/dropping off astronauts when near the Earth. Others might be in frozen Low Lunar Orbit (LLO).

  3. tomdperkins says:

    ” Have We Lost the Moon? ”

    Not only no but of course not. No other nation has any launch provider with the technology to exploit lunar resources economically. Only the US has a launch provider intent on lowering the cost (price necessarily being larger than cost) of getting pounds into orbit to below $50/lb, and potentially as little as $25/lb, and the system with that cost will be operational within 5 years. No other nation has any launch provider with the apparent capability to catch up to that either within the next 10 years.

    Design the hardware now that can make use of that capability, counting on launching it in that time frame, with the expectation any launch rate you can conceive of at 100 to 150 tons to LEO per shot can be met.

    • Paul Spudis says:

      It’s not a question of technical capability or even of affordability. It’s a question of commitment and choice, both of which are lacking in the current edition of NASA.

  4. Gary Church says:

    “A vigorous program of robotic prospecting missions to the lunar poles to gather key strategic data”

    In my view the only practical course is to abandon LEO ASAP and expand core production and launch cadence of the SLS for a lunar return. Period.

    Blue Moon is probably the best choice for a robot program by developing it as a human-rated lander and to learn how to turn lunar resources into propellant. Period.

    I have frequently expressed my views on why to go to the Moon. The first step would be to fill wet workshop upper stage iterations of the SLS with water so humans can actually live Beyond Low Earth Orbit (BLEO) without being dosed. Develop a tether system so they are not debilitated. This would open up long duration missions of up to a year or more. Why?

    Getting humans into space BLEO so they can work without suffering profound dosing and debilitation is not just something nice to have- it is the prerequisite. The thousands of tons of water shielding have to come from the shallow gravity well of the Moon. Period.

  5. Joe says:

    The political situation is frustrating.

    Apparently all 49 Democrats are ready to vote against Bridenstine simply because Trump nominated him.

    McCain is likely to vote against him for the same reason. Although McCain’s rationale is more of a personal (and understandable) nature, it would be hoped his fight with Trump could be pursued with out stalling the entire U.S. Space Program “in it’s tracks”.

    Rubio is a puzzle. What he is trying to do, have no idea.

    • Kirk says:

      This is an unfortunate though foreseeable consequence of Mr. Trump’s confrontational style. While it may entertain many of his supporters, it has established him as a “heel” — given his involvement with professional wrestling, I can’t decide if this is fitting or ironic — so that Democrats win support by opposing him purely out of spite. Thus, it would be best that any space initiative come from the the Vice President’s Office, not this president’s.

      Regarding NASA’s ‘“real prize” – Mars’, I get the impression that it is not so much Mars, as any place which is comfortably and continuously more than a decade away. They are ready for a concrete destination in a reasonably short time frame as long as it comes with a large increase in their budget, but they don’t truly believe that either Mars or a return to the Moon can be achieved at their current funding level, so the more remote (in both time and space) destination is the more comfortable choice.

      • Joe says:

        I hesitated to make the above post as it is more generically political than I think appropriate for this forum

        However, I will venture one more comment.

        The idea that the Democrats would be more amenable to working with Pence (a long time very socially conservative Republican) than Trump (until recently a Democrat himself and much more socially liberal) is questionable at best.

  6. Vladislaw says:

    “NASA considers acquiring more than one gateway propulsion module”

    “As NASA prepares to request proposals from industry to develop the first element of its proposed cislunar gateway, the agency says it may be open to buying more than one of the modules.

    For the PPE, NASA plans to develop the module in a public private partnership with industry. Once the module is launched and its performance demonstrated in space, NASA would have the option to then buy the module for use in the gateway.

    Gates said that NASA expects to issue a draft solicitation for the PPE in April, with an industry day to take place in late April or early May. A final solicitation will then follow, with proposals due to NASA in late July.

    NASA envisions a 2022 launch of the PPE on a commercial launch vehicle. There is “substantial” funding planned to support its development, she said, including $51.5 million for the current fiscal year and $542.1 million projected through fiscal year 2022.

    However, NASA is not restricted to buying a single PPE. The proposal synopsis, released in February, states that NASA is planning “potentially one or more contract awards” for PPE development.”


    Paul would it be possible to have one in the halo orbit as a “substation” only visited occasionally and use it for the mars phase II and for providing earth to luna communications. Place the second unit in a LLO that you have suggested, best of both worlds or would it unfundable to do both?

    • Paul Spudis says:

      would it be possible to have one in the halo orbit as a “substation” only visited occasionally and use it for the mars phase II and for providing earth to luna communications. Place the second unit in a LLO that you have suggested, best of both worlds or would it unfundable to do both?

      Possible in principle, I guess, but why would you want that? No one is going to Mars for the next few decades. We either do the Moon or do nothing. And the LOP-G is one definition of nothing.

      • Vladislaw says:

        I was thinking that by allowing one in LLO it would win out over time and the halo would be canceled. I would think commercial capital will want to go towards the LLO over the halo orbit and that would help NASA move to the moon and forget mars for now.

  7. denniswingo says:

    Paul, a very cogent article about a very real danger. As you say LOP-G (good lord what a name) is in a non functional orbit regarding anything serious related to the Moon. It seems to be a $30 billion dollar distraction from any effort to get to the lunar surface.

    • LocalFluff says:

      My impression is that most of the money that has gone into ARM and now LOOP-Geezuschrist has gone to the Solar electric propulsion, which is a good thing because it is so generally useful. I still have hope that a new NASA administrator will cancel this old ARM heritage from the last administration and put something on the Moon instead. Shouldn’t a congressman as NASA administrator be expected to make some big (visible) changes, and deliver something for the public that helps his future career? Am I maybe being too wishful.

  8. DJE1 says:

    Unbelievably, not one mention of the name SpaceX in this discussion. I know that the preference of Dr. Spudis is for a US Government approach, and I respect this. However, I am rapidly giving up on NASA to provide the proper direction – especially given the divide between the two political parties on who should lead the agency. The Deep Space Gateway is, I think, an accident waiting to happen, I find it hard to understand why anyone would advocate for this type of space station. On the surface, regolith can be used to shield from damaging radiation, but not in space. The goal in (deep) space is to get out of space as quickly as possible! I think personally that NASA should morph into an enabler of so called “new space” or more realistically called, private enterprise solutions to the problems of setting up a lunar base. I know that SpaceX is focused on mars, but they also have said their next generation spaceship will be able to deliver about 100 to 150 tons of cargo to the lunar surface. Blue Origin has similar plans. Right now, they do not intend to use ISRU, but with this initial capability, then NASA can help develop both living quarters and ISRU possibilities on the surface. If NASA asked for bids for various structures on the lunar surface, I believe that they would come in way below what the SLS and NASA is currently planning for.

    • Joe says:

      The entire subject of SpaceX and their promises vs. their performance has been beaten into the ground on this website. If you are interested you can peruse many earlier articles and the attached comments sections.

      Will make one note, you say – “I know that SpaceX is focused on mars, but they also have said their next generation spaceship will be able to deliver about 100 to 150 tons of cargo to the lunar surface. Blue Origin has similar plans.”.

      While SpaceX is indeed focused on Mars, Blue Origin is very much interested in Lunar ISRU.. It is therefore a mistake to conflate the two organizations

    • gbaikie says:

      “However, I am rapidly giving up on NASA to provide the proper direction ”
      NASA doesn’t exist due to NASA providing proper direction.

      I tend to think that without the satellite market, NASA would have ceased to exist,
      fortunately for NASA mis-management, the satellite market will continue to
      exist, and NASA can continue to pretend they provide direction.

      Now, NASA and Senate want to have independency of having their own launch capable, but they don’t and they actually can’t. NASA has always depended on commercial launch companies, which depend upon the Earth orbital market.
      NASA should explore the Moon, so there could be a lunar market.
      And then explore Mars so there can be a Martian market.

      But NASA has never provided any meaningful direction.
      So who will provide proper direction?
      It would have nice if a suborbital market could have been started, and who knows that might start at some point.
      It’s possible we could see some presidential leadership in terms of forcing some meaningful direction from NASA in terms of exploring the Moon.
      The rest of world seems to indicate interest in exploring the Moon, but not something amounting to providing direction.
      Anyhow, it does seem like lull which seems to lack much hope.

      • gbaikie says:

        I think NASA should built a LOX depot at a low cost. And NASA should do this, to start a depot market in Space.
        NASA shouldn’t attempt to have depots and be competitor in depot market, which it hopeful can play a part in starting.
        The goal of NASA making a depot is not to lower the price of rocket fuel available in space, as it’s meaningless and foolish goal, but NASA could demonstrate that having lower cost rocket fuel sold in space could have lower price.
        It is competition which lowers price (of anything) and NASA should not be competing with business.
        But it seems to me, that lower cost of doing a Mars exploration program, will involve using depots, and depot use is not something one can regarded as operational.
        And in addition it seems to me that depots at low lunar orbit, are on a critical path of commercial lunar water mining.

        So NASA building a LOX depot at LEO, which can be used mostly for robotic missions (such as lunar robotic landers), should be something NASA get up to operational capability.
        So NASA starts with lunar exploration (not manned lunar exploration) and starts by making depot with robotic missions can use.
        Depots elsewhere, should built because they are profitable thing to build, and NASA should not be building them, and trying to make them “profitable” – NASA isn’t in business and making profit, it not what governments should be doing.

    • TheSpaceCow says:

      It’s the “filter bubble” phenomenon in online media, the participants here are mostly hardcore anti-SpaceX, so no one interested in SpaceX bothers to comment here, this makes all the comments one sided and reinforces the participants’ beliefs.

      I’m just commenting this time because I find it pretty funny someone below suggested we need to examine “promises vs performance” of SpaceX, as if the fact that SpaceX launched the same number of rockets as China last year doesn’t speak for itself. Of course SpaceX is also the owner of the most powerful operational launch vehicle in the world, the same vehicle that was labeled as vaporware here just a year ago, yeah maybe we should examine this inconvenient episode first…

      Anyway I agree with you that anyone planning to return to the Moon without including SpaceX is kidding themselves, especially considering SpaceX is the only one who is actively designing a large lunar lander right now.

      • Paul Spudis says:

        Just for your information, I allow most all comments, both pro- and anti-New Space. I delete many that are abusive, ignorant or uninformative. You are free to participate in the discussion or not. I am under no obligation to give “balance” or equal time or anything else. Comments are reserved for what I write about, not a free-for-all forum for internet space advocates.

        I have been in the business for 35 years, including participation in four different mission teams, one of which I was the PI for (Mini-SAR on Chandrayaan-1). I have worked with NASA, DoD and commercial space entities. I still do. No one has to lecture me on the value of commercial space — I am a fully engaged participant in it.

        As far as SpaceX goes, now that Falcon Heavy has flown once, I look forward to the cascade of FH launches for the rest of the year. Should be about one every two months, no? Oh wait — it’s Elon, so his attention is elsewhere. Quelle surprise.

        • Joe says:

          “As far as SpaceX goes, now that Falcon Heavy has flown once, I look forward to the cascade of FH launches for the rest of the year. Should be about one every two months, no? Oh wait — it’s Elon, so his attention is elsewhere. Quelle surprise.”

          You have probably noted that Musk has “tweeted” his intention to shut down production of Falcon 9/Falcon Heavy hardware and fly out the inventory before 2022. By then he says his Mars booster (the BFR) will be “operational”.

          You have to hand it to him. It is not everyone that can announce the termination of a new product (the Falcon Heavy) before its first test.

        • gbaikie says:

          June 13Falcon Heavy • STP-2
          Launch window: TBD
          Launch site: LC-39A, Kennedy Space Center, Florida
          A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket will launch the U.S. Air Force’s Space Test Program-2 mission with a cluster of military and scientific research satellites. The heavy-lift rocket is formed of three Falcon 9 rocket cores strapped together with 27 Merlin 1D engines firing at liftoff. Delayed from October 2016, March 2017 and September 2017. Delayed from April 30. [March 5]

          Late 2018Falcon Heavy • Arabsat 6A
          Launch window: TBD
          Launch site: LC-39A, Kennedy Space Center, Florida
          A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket will launch the Arabsat 6A communications satellite for Arabsat of Saudi Arabia. Arabsat 6A will provide Ku-band and Ka-band communications coverage over the Middle East and North Africa regions, as well as a footprint in South Africa. Delayed from first half of 2018. [March 2]

          So, maybe 3 a year, or one every 4 months plus quite a number of falcon9.

      • Joe says:

        “I find it pretty funny someone below suggested we need to examine “promises vs performance” of SpaceX”

        A couple of examples (two among many):

        (1) Under terms of its Commercial Cargo Contract, SpaceX was to complete twelve missions by the end of 2015. CRS-13 (the twelfth successful flight under the contract) finally flew 15 December 2017, two years late.
        (2) SpaceX originally promised the Falcon Heavy would fly in 2012, it finally flew in 2018, six year late.

        It is interesting that you declare the Falcon Heavy “operational” when on its one test flight it placed its payload on the wrong Trajectory.

        You say you don’t to post here, yet you obviously view the site regularly. If you actually bothered to read the articles and comments (instead of just scanning for points of attack) you would know all these issues (and many more concerning SpaceX) have been discussed at excruciating length multiple times.

        Therefore many of the participants find it boring to repeat the process (for the umpteenth time) just because one of Musk’s fans can not stand to have any forum talk about anything but SpaceX. Not everyone shares your obsession with Musk.

      • Gary Church says:


        Over four hundred death-to-SLS comments…..and you complain about one-sided? Puh-leez.

  9. Gary Church says:

    If they want something useful for the minimum investment it might be a Lunar Cycler. And not just one but a “fleet” of them somewhat like the space shuttle. I do not know if the several LEO taxis presently being built can intercept a Cycler or not but if I am not mistaken each mission would be about two weeks looping around the Moon and Earth.

    • Gary Church says:

      I would add that a Lunar Cycler could take a lander designed for a two week mission to the Moon where it would un-dock, descend to the surface and then two weeks later ascend and rendezvous with the cycler. This would be a one-month mission for those who launch from Earth on one of the LEO taxis (re-purposed for Cycler intercept), rendezvous with the Cycler, travel the week to the Moon, pilot the lander down and spend two weeks on the surface, then ascend and rendezvous with the Cycler and one week later return to Earth.

    • LocalFluff says:

      Is a cycler really needed for the Moon? The crew could go there in a Soyuz style spacecraft, it’s only a 2 days trip. People travel like that in buses and trains. It’s another thing spending half a year going to Mars, then a cycling hotel would be nice. I think that a Lunar cycler could make sense only if there’s serious material trade between the Moon and Earth, and that’s for our children to deal with. First steps back to the Moon should be kept simple and effective. So much will be discovered that it is hopeless to today try to plan for any further future.

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