NASA thinks it is still possible to carry out the foremost launch of the Space Launch System (SLS) prior to the end of 2020. The agency believes that it is possible even if it decides to retain some version of the important static-fire test of the spacecraft’s core stage.
Speaking at this week’s meeting of the NASA Advisory Council’s human exploration and operations committee, Bill Hill, Deputy Associate Administrator, Exploration Systems Development, proclaimed that NASA has not decided whether to carry out the “green run test.” In this test, the core stage and its four RS-25 engines are fired on a test stand for eight minutes at the Stennis Space Center, Mississippi. He further added, “We provided the agency with a recommendation. The agency is contemplating it.” However, Hill did not discuss what that recommendation stated regarding the green run.
On a similar note, NASA came into the news as a congressional watchdog agency highlighted that the space agency’s major projects are busting schedules and budgets like never before. This week, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that NASA’s key projects are more than 27% over baseline prices and the standard launch delay is about 13 Months. That is said to be the biggest schedule postponement since the GAO started assessing NASA’s key projects about 10 Years ago.
The still-in-process James Webb Space Telescope is said to be the key offender. Now, the estimated launch date for this advanced successor to the Hubble Space Telescope is shifted to 2021. At the same time, the GAO noted that this mission now holds an estimated $9.6 Billion price tag. When the project was started, its initial target launch date was 2007, and preliminary cost estimates were low at about $1 Billion.