The SLS will be using five segment boosters derived from the four segment ones used during the STS program.

Almost all of the STS boosters were recovered and reused, however NASA doesn't plan to try and recover any of the new solid rocket boosters for SLS.

What is the reasoning behind this? Technical or limited number of launches? Is it cheaper to simply make new boosters than try and refurbish recovered ones?


1 Answer 1


The usual answer - $. Booster recovery was only marginally worth it for STS - once you witnessed how every screw and nut was taken apart, cleaned, and reassembled, you began to wonder why not just build a new one. That said, it is a wonderful thing for problem resolution if you get the hardware back to look at.

Here are some pictures I took at the STS-124 TCDT showing a recently recovered aft skirt versus an aft skirt in the process of being refurbed.

enter image description hereenter image description here

With the low SLS flight rate and the economics of reuse bad anyway, it doesn't make sense. But don't take my word for it:

"We don't need to recover the boosters because we have saved enough booster hardware to advance them for SLS specifications, resulting in cost savings," said Bruce Tiller, deputy manager of the SLS Boosters Office at Marshall. "Removing all the parachutes and their associated infrastructure lifts many thousands of pounds off the vehicle and improves performance to carry more payload."

Edit: per request, here's a locater diagram showing where the aft skirt is on the SRB. enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ Those photos are great! Thank you! I hadn't considered the extra mass saving by removing the recovery systems but that alone could be worth the value of recovery. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 18:07
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, and since they will be five-segment boosters (which have never flown), there would at least be testing & analysis to make sure the existing recovery system (designed for the 4 segment STS boosters) would work (more money) and maybe a redesign if it wouldn't (major more money). $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 18:12
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    $\begingroup$ No chutes, so they would probably be heavily damaged. To put it mildly. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 20:48
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    $\begingroup$ @LocalFluff worst of both worlds — if you want to get anything back in inspectable condition you need the chutes, which means you don't get the cost, weight, and complexity savings of deleting them. $\endgroup$
    – hobbs
    Commented Jun 28, 2016 at 3:56
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling Sure, done. It's the aft-most part of the SRB, the item in pinkish color. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 28, 2016 at 13:16

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