Opinion: “We’re gonna need a bigger boat”- NASA’s SLS should have four boosters

by | Sep 19, 2013 | commercial launch services, exploration, NASA, Russia, Seradata News, Space Shuttle | 0 comments

Our previous article outlined the fact that the later Block 1A and Block 2 versions of NASA’s SLS  were probably too small for proper manned exploration (according to studies two SLS launch vehicles will be needed for a manned lunar mission).   We went onto suggest that a vehicle carrying about  200 metric ton to orbit (about 30% more than the Block 2 SLS) would be needed for both lunar and Mars expeditions.

Of course, the way to achieve this class of payload performance for SLS would be to have four boosters attached to the SLS core launch vehicle, though this could create major infrastructure problems such as redesigning the structure of the launch pad/plaform to take this size of vehicle and to allow it to clear the tower safely.  Nevertheless, the addition two more boosters to SLS (either solids or liquids) would be be preferable in operational performance, cost and reliabilty to needing extra launches for each mission – and having a large hard-to-manage time gap between such multiple launches.

This is not the first time that a four-booster configuration has been used or considered.  In the 1980s, the 100 metric ton (tonne) payload LOx/liquid hydrogen core Soviet-era Energia rocket used four LOx (liquid oxygen)/kerosene boosters to lift off.  Early NASA designs for a Shuttle-based heavy lift launch vehicle capable of carrying 120 metric tons to orbit used four-SSME (RS-25D/E) core configuration similar to SLS albeit with four standard solid rocket boosters, instead of two advanced ones.

For its proposed Long March 9 “moon rocket” four booster heavy lift rocket, two designs are being considered  (either LOx/kerosene boosters and first stage with a LOx/liquid hydrogen upper stage (like a super Saturn V), or using a LOx/liquid hydrogen core (like SLS) with four solid rocket boosters.  The designs, which are thought to be capable of launching 130 metric tons (tonnes) to LEO, are aimed to launch smaller Apollo-class manned missions to the Moon than those larger missions proposed by elements within NASA.

The China Academy of Launch Technology (CALT) has yet to formally decide between two competing heavy lift designs for the rocket which could one day put “taikonauts” (Chinese astronauts) on the surface of the Moon.  Presumably elements of both these designs could be used together on a final design i.e. having LOx/Kerosene boosters atttached to  LOx/liquid hydrogen core for a more powerful launch vehicle.  That really would get NASA’s SLS designers thinking.

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 www.seradata.com/spacetrak

Related Articles

SpaceX puts USA back in astronaut launching game with successful Crew Dragon mission

The former Space Shuttle launch pad LC-39A at the Kennedy Space Center hosted the first crewed launch since the Space Read more

On a sadder note: Astronaut and test pilot Rick Searfoss has passed away

Former NASA astronaut, Rick Searfoss who flew three Space Shuttle missions STS-58, STS-76 and STS-90 during the 1990s has died at Read more

Dream Chaser has successful aerodynamic glide and landing test

After being dropped from altitude of 10,000 feet by a balloon, the Dream Chaser mini-shuttle design of Sierra Nevada Corporation Read more

On a sadder note: We say goodbye to Shuttle launch director Gene Thomas and to comedy writing genius Caroline Aherne

Former Space Shuttle launch director, Gene Thomas, passed away as an octogenarian in June. Thomas was probably the most unfortunate of NASA launch directors Read more

US Presidential Election: Candidates get astronauts to support them

The candidates of the US Presidential Election, Donald Trump, and Hillary Clinton, are keen to deploy former astronauts in their support. Read more

India uses solid rocket to launch space plane on hypersonic test flight

India’s space agency, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), has made a test flight of a new design for winged Read more

Skylab: No need for a buffer brake – very slow array deployment was predicted

While USA decides whether or not it wants to continue with the International Space Station, whose cost-effectiveness is often criticised Read more

On a lighter note: If you start finding slapstick funny again you could be turning into a gaga-naut (or a German)

While this column has previously noted that astronauts on long missions might be prone to premature dementia due to cosmic and Read more




nasaspacexecoreviewsissesaArianespacevideochina25virgin galacticULAfalcon 9RoscosmosDGAaviation weekaresIGTsoyuzawardsBeidouspacespacewalkSatellite broadcastingmoonInternational Space StationevarussiaCargo Return VehicleBlue OriginmarsblogresearchboeingimpactAirbus DSspaceshiptwomarshyperboladelayjaxademocratISROobamaorionhypertextrocketgoogle lunar prizelunarVegalaunchtourismbarack obamaconstellationStarlinkfiguresEutelsatnorthRocket LabSESFalcon 9v1.2FT Block 5spaceflightnode 2fundedOneWebRaymond Lygorome2009Express MD-2Atlas Vthales alenia spacess2dassault aviation2008Lucywk2aviationElon MuskLockheed MartinIntelsatradioukexplorationtestmissiledocking portsstlinternetsuborbitalChina Manned Space Engineeringsts-1222010newspapercotsgalileoAriane 5flightmissile defensespaceportspace tourismExpress AMU 1Ariane 5 ECAaltairbuildspace stationProton MSLSshuttleIntelsat 23scaled compositesVirgin OrbitCosmosinternational astronautical congressEuropean Space AgencyrulesElectronbudgetnew yorkhanleyLauncherOneshenzhouspace shuttleatvVietnamboldenAriane 6congressMojaveGuiana Space CenterOrbital ATKNorthrop GrummaniackscSpace Systems/LoralUK Space AgencylawscnesUS Air ForceInmarsatILSprotonnew shepardsoyuz 2-1aTalulah RileyLong March 4CApollousadarpaSkyloneuAstriumastronautlanderLong March 4BpicturebasedragoneventLong March 2CSSLfiveWednesdayAprilinterviewSea Launchlunar landerfalconSNC50thlink7successorcustomeratlantisSpace InsuranceLong March 2D/2conferencenational space symposiumorbiterTelesat15