Proposals include composite research and manufacturing advances.
NASA announced on Sept 21 that the agency is selecting 26 proposals from academia and industry for advanced development activities for the Space Launch System (SLS). The SLS is slated to be the US’s next heavy lift rocket, according to the agency. It is intended to eventually launch both standard payloads and manned spacecraft, such as NASA’s proposed Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle for deep space exploration.
According to NASA, some of the 26 proposals that were particularly interesting include:
- “Challenges Towards Improved Friction Stir Welds Using On-line Sensing of Weld Quality,” Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, La.
- “Characterization of Aluminum/Alumina/Carbon Interactions under Simulated Rocket Motor Conditions,” Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pa.
- “Space Launch System (SLS) Advanced Development Affordable Composite Structures,” ATK Space Systems, Inc., Clearfield, Utah
- “Hybrid Precision Casting for Regeneratively-Cooled Thrust Chamber Components,” Orbital Technologies Corp., Madison, Wis.
The first flight test of NASA’s SLS, which will feature a configuration for a 77 ton (70-metric-ton) lift capacity, is scheduled for 2017 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. However, these proposals may well be aimed at a 130-metric-ton version of the rocket. Aviation Week (9/25, Morring) reports “…Congress wants a beefier, 130-metric-ton rocket for serious exploration, as well as mix-and-match versions in between to launch big space telescopes and other scientific hardware, and the U.S. space agency is starting to spend some money to get there.”
In related news, the Orlando Sentinel (9/22, Matthews) reports that NASA is proposing a use for the new heavy lift SLS – a moon capable of being manned permanently. “Documents obtained by the Orlando Sentinel show that NASA wants to build a small outpost — likely with parts left over from the $100 billion International Space Station — at what’s known as the Earth-Moon Lagrange Point 2, a spot about 38,000 miles from the moon and 277,000 miles from Earth.” The article notes that the Orion space capsule and SLS costs the agency about $3B annually to develop.