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Should NASA continue the Space Launch System?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/6/2018 Category: Technology
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 847 times Debate No: 112416
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (1)
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The Space Launch System will waste American taxpayers huge amounts of money. Then, by the time it is finished in 2020, SpaceX's BFR would be ready to launch! The BFR will be better than the SLS in every way, from cost efficiency, launch capability, and practically everything else.
So what is the point in even continuing the SLS?
What are the advantages of the SLS?


"The potential use of SLS for science will further enhance the synergy between scientific exploration and human exploration," said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator for science at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "SLS has the promise of enabling transformational science in our exploration of the solar system and cosmos."

Currently under construction, NASA"s Space Launch System will be the world"s most powerful launch vehicle. Designed to enable human exploration missions to deep space destinations, including an asteroid and Mars, SLS is working toward a first launch in 2017. For that first flight test, the rocket will be able to launch 70 metric tons (77 tons) of payload into low-Earth orbit, almost three times what the space shuttle could carry. From there, SLS will be evolved to a configuration that will be able to carry 130 metric tons (143 tons), more weight than any rocket ever has been able to carry.

"While many people think of the Space Launch System in terms of human exploration, SLS could have a wide application in a lot of other areas, including space science," said Steve Creech, assistant program manager for strategy and partnerships for SLS. "For missions to the outer planets, for example, SLS could make it possible to do things that are currently impossible, such as sending larger scientific spacecraft with more instruments to far off destinations with reduced transit times."
Debate Round No. 1


I am negating the resolve that NASA should continue the Space Launch System ( value criterion of utilitarianism...aka I'm here to talk about costs).
Contention 1: The Space Launch System is way, way, way behind schedule.
As you said, they promised it would be done by 2017...well they haven't even gotten close now. NASA's new report says it wouldn't be done by 2020. By then, everything would've changed already. This is almost a replica of the Space Shuttle, costing the United States a lot of money and now it's retired and useless.
Contention 2: The Space Launch System costs too much.
Similar argument: the budget costs have gone higher and higher as new reports come in. They will need a brand new tower, among many other costly projects. Even with such budget (an increase of $20.7 billion as of 2018), the rocket is nowhere near complete.
Contention 3: There will be the BFR by 2020.
By 2020, we would have the BFR by SpaceX, and probably a bunch of other launch vehicles which are BOTH cheaper and can lift more than the SLS. They might as well invest their money on BFR if anything...The SLS would just be a huge waste of money.
Everything that you have mentioned that the SLS would be capable of doing, BFR would be able to do for cheaper.


Agency scientific and engineering teams have been evaluating whether there would be potential benefits from launching deep space robotic spacecraft, such as the Europa Clipper, a proposed mission to one of Jupiter's icy moons, on the SLS rocket, and determined the rocket would enable the spacecraft to fly direct trajectories to our solar system"s outer planets, rather than using planetary gravities to gain speed, reducing transit time compared to current launch vehicles. In the case of the Europa Clipper, for example, the transit time would be reduced to less than half of what it would be using other launch vehicles.

"For as long as people have been launching rockets into space, mission designers have had to work within certain limitations " a spacecraft can only be so heavy and it has to fit within a certain width," Creech said. "Depending on how large you make it, it can only go so fast, which in some cases limits where you can go. Today, if you want to send a mission to the outer planets, you have to be able to make it fit within that box. With SLS, we"re about to make that box much larger.

"With the space shuttle, for example, we were able to launch missions like NASA"s Hubble Space Telescope that were about the size of a school bus. With SLS, you can design a spacecraft even larger than the space shuttle that carried Hubble. It"s going to open up an entirely new way of thinking about how we plan and design planetary science missions."
Debate Round No. 2


I will keep this argument nice and concise:
The fact remains that by the time the SLS is complete, there will be rockets, such as the BFR, that will be cheaper, more efficient, and have better capabilities and lift power than SLS. Everything that you are saying here will be possible but so much cheaper...
The BFR is said to be able to launch to low earth by 2019 with launch capabilities to launch 150,000 kg to low earth orbit at $7 million per launch.
The SLS is said to be capable to launch by 2020 with launch capabilities to launch at most 130,000 kg to low earth orbit at billions of dollars a piece.


A "reusable booster" does not significantly save money, if it saves money at all. There is a cost of bringing it back down to Earth after launch, a cost of recover and transportation back to be recycled. All these costs don"t occur with a single use booster. Also, the stress of the fuel, the launch, the ascent, the separation, falling through the atmosphere, refiring the boosters, and landing take a toll on the booster. It is not a load-it-up-with-fuel-and-relaunch-it situation. It has to go through an extensive refit before it can be reused.

The reusable booster is a parlor trick that gets people to cheer. It makes SpaceX look like it is making progress, but we had reusable boosters with the Space Shuttle program and the only difference is that SpaceX is wasting valuable fuel to re-land the booster.
Debate Round No. 3


Let's start with the Falcon Nine:
According the Space News, it costs less than half of the original cost to reuse (from recover to transport and refurbish) a Falcon Nine (Source[1]).
According to The Verge, it costs $60 million to create the Falcon Nine and $200,000 to fuel it (Source[2]).
In essence, we are talking about saving at least $28 million dollars.
Just because Space Shuttle was a failed program doesn't mean SpaceX is as well. The Space Shuttle failed due to a whole lot of politics, bad design, and heat problems, structural problems, etc. It ended up costing almost the same for NASA to recreate a Space Shuttle than to refurbish a used one. The SpaceX, on the other hand, succeeded, and as technological advances continue, it will simply get cheaper and cheaper (In NASA defense, SpaceX probably also learned a lot from NASA's failed Space Shuttle program).
The point therefore stands: spending billions of dollars for an expendable launch system is a horrible idea. The Space Shuttle failed, but the idea of reusable launch system didn't (SpaceX saved it).
The BFR will be better than the SLS in every way. Both BFR and SLS are conceptual. If we put in the effort in either, both will work (almost all strategies stop working simply because the communimty as a whole refuse to put in the effort anymore, instead of the idea actually not working). If BFR is going to be better than the SLS in every way, why waste tens of billions of dollars on SLS?



The falcon heavy is a heavy lift launcher, but it is meant to compete with heavy lift launchers like the Delta IV Heavy. The SLS is a moon rocket, designed to lift dramatically heavier payloads than the falcon heavy will be able to. The BFR will likely be comparable to the SLS, but we don't really know anything about it. While it's been mentioned a lot in tweets and small talks by spacex officials, nothing official has been released detailing even the most basic details like how much payload it can actually lift or when it can be expected to make its first flight. Cancelling a rocket that is currently in production to use a rocket that hasn't even been officially announced would be a truly terrible decision.
Debate Round No. 4


....Except it has been sub-offically announced. The plans are quite clear from the 40 minute speech that Elon Musk delivered in the International Astronautical Congress (Source[1]) ...twice (Source[2]).
Perhaps it is not made technically official (as in all the forms are signed by NASA, FAA, etc), but having the CEO of SpaceX giving more than 40 minute speeches for two consecutive years in the International Astronautical Congress seems pretty official to me.
The BFR has been in production as much as the SLS is in production, if not more. After the success of the Falcon Heavy, SpaceX has officially switched its focus primarily to the BFR.
I will like to summarize my argument:
1) SLS costs tens of billions of tax payer dollars which is not worth it at all.
2) By the time SLS is completed there will be technology, such as the BFR, which will be way better than the SLS in any aspects.

My opponent has not shown reasonable doubt that there is a chance for the SLS to be useful at all since by the time of its completion there will be technology far better than it.
As a suggestion, the money and manpower that is currently budgeted to SLS should be used to improve technology that actually shows a bright future, such as the BFR,



NASA is partnering with Boeing to build the most powerful rocket of all time to carry crew and cargo deep into the solar system: the Space Launch System (SLS). Its 2019 launch will officially start a new era of human exploration in deep space.

Here are five reasons the SLS is the best rocket to send Americans to Mars:

1.The SLS is the world"s most powerful rocket.
The SLS is the most powerful rocket ever built. There are two versions with two capacities: 70 metric tons and 130 metric tons. The configuration for 70 metric tons equals the horsepower of about 160,000 Corvette engines. The configuration for 130 metric tons could take 22 elephants into space.

It has enough power to catapult people and cargo beyond the moon and into deep space. No other rocket has such power.

2.The SLS is the world"s largest rocket.
The SLS is the largest rocket ever built. At 384 feet tall, it surpasses both the Statue of Liberty and the Saturn V, the rocket that took humans to the moon in the 1960s and 1970s through the Apollo program.

3.The SLS is flexible for different types of missions to deep space.
The SLS can be configured to transport people, cargo and science experiments into space. The rocket can evolve based on the needs of the mission, while remaining safe, affordable and sustainable.

4.The SLS is American-made.
The Boeing-built SLS is made right here in America. Designed in Alabama, built in Louisiana, tested in Mississippi and launched in Florida, with suppliers from almost every state providing hardware and advanced technologies.

5.The SLS is part of a long-term space program.
Boeing helped America win the 20th century space race. In fact, they"ve been building spacecraft for more than 50 years with NASA.

Because of this history, Boeing has the aerospace expertise to ensure that NASA astronauts are the first to Mars and help America win the modern-day space race.
Debate Round No. 5
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by BillPhil 3 years ago
NASA has no choice in whether or not they continue with SLS. Well, They have influence, But ultimately Congress decides.
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