NASA drops a clanger as it damages SLS tank dome “beyond repair”

by | May 12, 2017 | Launches, NASA, Seradata News, Technology

The credibility of NASA’s uber-expensive heavy-lift rocket programme, SLS, is in jeopardy. This follows NASA’s admission that its first flight would be delayed for financial reasons and because of the damage inflicted on one of it tanks after it was dropped. reports sources saying that the liquid oxygen (LOx) tank dome for the SLS under construction was dropped and is damaged beyond repair. The accident also damaged some tooling. An investigation into the accident and an assessment of its consequences is under way.

SLS Liquid Oxygen tank showing dome end. Courtesy: NASA/Steven Seipel

Along with financial issues, this means that the first operational flight of the Orion spacecraft (in unmanned condition despite suggestions of a manned flight) has been delayed from November 2018 until 2019 at the earliest.

Comment by David Todd: The US$18 billion (and rising) SLS now looks likely to be a disastrously expensive interim rocket with a very short lifespan indeed. Yes, at the time of the SLS selection NASA did need a heavy-lift rocket (the much more powerful commercial designs of SpaceX and Blue Origin were not even on the drawing board then). But a much cheaper option would have been the US$6 billion Sidemount design, which was much closer to the Space Shuttle configuration. This could have been transitioned to while the Space Shuttle was still flying (it would have used the same pad infrastructure). Sidemount would now be operational had NASA chosen this course. Instead it will become a footnote as the NASA heavy-lift workhorse that got away.

NASA has to show both the critics of HLVs and the US taxpayer that investing in SLS was worthwhile – if only as an interim rocket. To do this NASA must actually use it – and as quickly and as much as possible. That means using the SLS Block 1 now. It can do this by giving up on the EUS (Exploration Upper Stage) development and freeing up this money to fly SLS as soon as possible. Later, the current SLS upper stage could be stretched, perhaps by adding new LOx/Kerosene boosters to up its payload.


About Seradata

Seradata produce the renowned SpaceTrak Launch & Satellite Database. Trusted by 100 of the world’s leading Space organisations, SpaceTrak is a fully queryable database used for market analysis, failure/risk assessment, spectrum analysis and space situational awareness (SSA).

For more information go to

Related Articles

SLS is delayed again – this time by a hydrogen leak – but repair and subsequent test allows another go

Having had its previous launch attempt on 29 August scrubbed by an engine temperature sensor issue, a second attempt to Read more

SLS maiden launch carrying Artemis I has first attempt scrubbed by engine sensor concern (Updated and corrected)

The much awaited first flight of the US SLS (Space Launch System) launch vehicle carrying the NASA Artemis I test Read more

NASA’s SLS heavy lift rocket is passed for lunar duty after completing curtailed fuelling and countdown test

NASA’s plans for unmanned and later human launches to the Moon have been given the green light to proceed after Read more

SLS Wet Dress Rehearsal is dogged by delays which eventually postpones it

The much delayed SLS Heavy-lift Launch Vehicle (HLV) due to take NASA astronauts back to the Moon won’t be going Read more

SLS saves itself with successful full-duration engine firing but its career may still be short

NASA’s much delayed and very expensive SLS heavy-lift launch vehicle (HLV) has coming under renewed criticism as SpaceX’s partly reusable Read more

NASA paints a brave face on SLS engine test failure (Updated)

NASA might have said that it wanted a minimum of 250 seconds' worth of engine firing plus gimbal movements to Read more

Despite anti-democratic attempt to storm its government, the USA gets a new President – with Senate power which is bad news for SLS

After politically traumatic events in Washington DC, the inauguration of President elect Joe Biden and his Vice President elect Kamala Read more

Bridenstine notes public-private partnerships in NASA push to develop crewed lunar landers

At the 35th Space Symposium in Colorado on 9 April, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine put some meat on the bare Read more