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A NASA trip to the Moon might have to find another rocket or two



Fighting to prepare its new giant missile in time for scheduled launch next year, NASA can just leave it on the ground and turn to commercial alternatives. Jim Brindstede, NASA Administrator, at a meeting of the Senate Commission on Wednesday, "and I'm trying to change that." around the moon next year.

But the schedule for completing the missile, which Orion will carry, known as the Space Launch System, has snuck repeatedly, even though NASA spends more than $ 10 billion on the program so far. Last year, when it announced the latest delay, NASA said the mission was sealed by the end of 2019, but even then it admitted that June 2020 was a more realistic target date. In October, NASA's chief inspector issued a report that criticized Boeing, the chief contractor of the rocket. r

"The increase in costs and the slowdown in the development of the basic stage can be traced to a large extent to the problems of governance, technical and infrastructure problems caused by Boeing's poor performance, "the report said. "Boeing employees, for example, constantly underestimate the scope of the work to be done and hence the size and skills of the workforce." On Wednesday, Mr Brixtristina said last week it became clear that the missile would probably not be ready even by June 2020. He said he had directed managers to investigate whether there would be another way to start.

"The goal is to get back to the track," said Mr Bristedtina. He said the space agency would decide "over the next few weeks" and may require additional money from Congress.

The largest missiles currently built by private companies are smaller than the Space System, so if NASA decides this approach, the payload for the mission will have to be split between two missiles. The Orion capsule and its service module, a component built by the European Space Agency to provide power and propulsion, will ride in the orbit of a rocket. A powered Orion Propulsion Propulsion Stage on the moon would rise separately. The two parts would meet and climb into orbit before heading to the moon. Mr. Bridenstine noted that at this time, Orion was unable to board another spacecraft in orbit. "From now until June 2020, we will have to make it happen," said Mr Bristedtina.

Senator Roger Wicker, a Mississippi Republican and chairman of the Committee on Trade, Science and Transport, said: "That's 2019," but the main goals will push the spacecraft's first flight into the future.

Mr. Bridenstine has not indicated which commercial missiles can be used, but the two powerful enough are Delta 4 Heavy from the United Launch Alliance, joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, and Falcon Heavy from SpaceX, a rocket company based by Elon Musk.

The Orion was released once at the top of the Delta 4 Heavy in 2014 for a non-crew test flight, but it did not go to the moon. Falcon Heavy only passed in February 2018.

At the hearing, Mr Bridenstine continued to describe NASA's major missile as a major component of the space agency's plans. But if the commercial approach works for the test flight, some observers of space wonder why the same strategy will not work for missions with astronauts.

NASA can move away from the space launch system and use cheaper commercial missiles for other missions. including Lunar Gateway pieces, planned outposts in orbit around the moon, and the launch of Europa Clipper, a robot mission to study one of the moons of Jupiter.

In its budget proposal for the fiscal year 2020, the Trump Administration also suggests delaying the upgrade to the second stage of Boeing's space launching system. This is not necessary for early missions, but will allow the transport of heavier loads into space.


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