That’s why it’s called a monster rocket + MAVEN and humans Mars missions
Ray at the Vision Restoration blog discusses the SLS/Orion choir service last week: SLS for Unaffordable Giant Robotic Missions: The More Things Don’t Change, the More They Stay the Same – Vision Restoration
One of the messages that the panelists sought to drive home was that SLS will be a wonderful launcher for ambitious robotic space missions such as NASA science missions and NRO spy satellites. How generous for the SLS advocates to suggest that the NASA government rocket should compete with the U.S. launch industry. Back in 2009 I wrote a post here called Constellation: Launching Science or Leeching Science based on the National Research Council’s Launching Science: Science Opportunities Provided by NASA’s Constellation System document evaluating the opportunities and dangers presented to NASA science by Constellation, mainly by the Ares V rocket. I won’t go into all of the details again, since the linked blog post and the report itself cover the ugly details, none of which have changed for the better. The JWST is still absorbing a huge chunk of the NASA robotic science budget, that budget is still under great stress from general government-wide trends and the cost of the HLV and Orion, and still NASA and other space agencies seem to have crushing problems when developing large, ambitious space missions.
The danger is real: if it ever becomes operational and then allowed to compete with the U.S. launch industry with the backing of parochial Congressional interests, the SLS could cause serious harm to NASA science or even U.S. defense and intelligence capabilities by pushing them towards huge, unaffordable spacecraft beyond even JWST that they have no infrastructure to develop. No wonder it’s called a monster rocket.
He also points to this video of a NASA panel discussion titled, “The Path Toward Humans to Mars“. They talk about how MAVEN will help to prepare for human spaceflight missions and include topics such as the plan for
the 2020 rover [to] have an ISRU demo. For space technology, at about 21 minutes into the video they mentioned discussions about use of Dragon and/or Cygnus for work related to entry descent and landing technology and cryogenic propellant storage technology.