WASHINGTON – One day after Vice President Mike Pence told NASA to bring people to the surface of the moon by 2024, US President Jim Bridenstine told congressmen that the goal was "very aggressive" and needed additional funding for the Agency
Bridenstine, who testified before the House Appropriations Committee's Trade, Justice and Science Subcommittee on 27 March, said the agency had been looking for ways to accelerate the development of the Space Launch System but could not Ensure that the vehicle would do so Be ready for a maiden flight in mid-2020.
The Agency's budget 2020 hearing was scheduled prior to the National Space Council's meeting on 26 March in Huntsville, Alabama, where Pence NASA was tasked with accelerating space exploration plans to people within five years to land at the south pole of the moon. Bridenstine, who attended the meeting, approved the plan and said he would continue to use the SLS and refrain from proposing two weeks in advance to use commercial launch vehicles for the Orion Exploration Mission (EM) 1
Bridenstine reaffirmed this commitment to use SLS for EM-1 at the hearing. "Some of these options are feasible," he said of the two-week study that looked at commercial alternatives to EM-1. "However, none of these options will keep us within the budget and timeline." on the specific options that the agency considered.
NASA is now looking for ways to accelerate the development of SLS for EM-1. "How do we really speed up the SLS at this point?" He said.
Bridenstine announced that NASA is conducting a 45-day study to find ways to accelerate work on the SLS, with a particular focus on the core phase, where development issues were a key factor in the vehicle's delays , This report will be completed "in a few weeks".
Options include the "Green Run" test of the SLS core phase, where the stage is to be sent from the Michoud Assembly Facility to New York, the Stennis Space Center and put it on a test bench on which the four RS 25-engine engines would fire the stage for eight minutes. If you skip the test and send the completed phase directly to the Kennedy Space Center, industry could save you several months in the EM-1 schedule.
"The question is, is this necessary?" Bridenstine said. "Could we test each engine individually at very high conditions outside the nominal range to gain certainty or at least avoid so much risk, or almost as much risk as we would if we went the green way?" , saved six months time.
The idea of eliminating the Green Run test attracted the attention of a committee member, Steven Palazzo (R-Miss), whose district is home to Stennis. He asked Bridenstine for a briefing on alternatives to this test.
Palazzo, a former member of the House Space Subcommittee, testified to earlier hearings by astronauts who "understand how important it is to test our rocket engines and test them properly just once, get a chance," said he. "You do not have to test a rocket when you're strapped into this rocket."
Another way to speed up the schedule is to change the integration of core phase sections. Bridenstine said NASA had already acquired the necessary tools to enable horizontal integration of the core tier rather than vertical integration.
Bridenstine said horizontal integration could bring together other parts of the SLS core while work on the stage engine continues. This section is more complex and time consuming than originally expected. "We're trying to get that engine section out of the critical path," he said.
While these and possibly other measures could cut the development schedule by months, Bridenstine said that EM-1 could still take place in June 2020, the official date for the mission. The likelihood of delays beyond June 2020 prompted the study of commercial vehicle vehicles earlier this month to find ways in which EM-1 may launch by mid-next year.
"Will we reach a launch date for June 2020? ? I do not think that's in the cards, "he said. "However, I think that from where we were originally told that the start date would come, we can speed up considerably. This could be a slip-up of almost two years. I think we can speed up a lot before that.
As soon as the EM-1 mission and the first occupation mission, the EM-2, took place, Bridenstine said the production of SLS and Orion had been ramped up to support up to two launches a year. The members also urged him to engage in the development of the Block 1B version of SLS with its more powerful Upper Stage exploration and a second mobile launch platform specifically designed for the SLS Block 1B.
However, Bridenstine did not elaborate on a specific plan that will allow humans to return to the lunar surface by 2024, nor the estimated cost. At one point in the hearing, MP Charlie Crist (D-Fla.), One of the members who voted in favor of SLS Block 1B and a second mobile launcher, asked whether the budget had been sent to Congress earlier this month , the human return of man by 2024.
"If we have 2024 boots on the moon, as the vice president said yesterday and I think we can reach, we need SLS, and we have to accelerate and get it like that many of them as soon as possible, and we'll need Exploration Upper Stage as soon as possible, "Bridenstine replied. "2024 is a very aggressive schedule."
"So I think we need all the resources to reach those goals," said Crist. Bridenstine gave an answer in one word: "Yes".