"The Senate Launch System is being designed with NO specific mission in mind."
Lunar flybys are going to be one of many missions.
It looks like there is a push for a lunar return among many nations: http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2094/1
Speaking at a plenary session at GLEX on May 22 that featured the leaders or other top officials of six space agencies, Popovkin suggested the Moon, and not the asteroids, was the preferred destination of the Russian space program...“I think General Popovkin’s comments this morning were on target,” Griffin said, emphasizing that he was expressing his own opinion and not speaking for anyone else, including the AIAA, where Griffin serves as president.
"In this case, it isn't a question of whether the rocket will overrun its budget by a small or huge amount. Given the political realities faced by NASA, it's a question of whether or not it will ever fly at all."
Well, if this really is the Senate LV as people joke--and they hold the purse-strings (not slide rules--that's MSFC), they will push on:
"The Russians built SEVERAL space stations this way, and the Chinese are reusing that technique for Tiangong-2."
The Chinese modules are not really Mir Examples. Remember there were two Chinese station examples. One module will be launched by their upcoming Long March 5--these are more Shenzou based craft, so its even smaller than Mir--but they are working on HLLVs.
"This is ironic, because NASA's reliance on HLVs (the Saturn-V) and derivative technology left their space program with a gaping performance gap through which Skylab eventually crashed."
I was abandoning Saturn in favor of STS that really held us back.That and this push for RLVs. You might remember the 1970s Mars missions using Saturn architecture that STS gobbled up. RLVs are the technological pipe dream that has already proven not to work very well.
"Second of all, your math is a little funny on this, considering 24 F9 Heavies would be worth TEN HLVs, not just one or two."
Assuming the hydrogen didn't boil off from the first launches into space--making a case to keep launching? Even if it made economic sense to say, cut up the Curiosity rover and launch it on 20 or so Vanguard rockets--is that really the best thing to do? That's why Musk himself wants to build Falcon XX.
"--an HLV that will not be operational for more than a decade." On that we will have to wait and see.
"It's the same people who crunched the numbers and figured out that the same money that is being spent on the DEVELOPMENT of the Senate Launch System could just as easily find a hundred LAUNCHES of useful payloads on the rockets we already have."
That was also the arguments of fans of clipper-ships who thought larger steel ships like Great Eastern were a waste. Why, you could fund lots of schooners with that money. And you could buy lots of cessnas for the price of a C-5 Galaxy. But that is short sighted.
"It's a silly argument, because at the end of the day the only reason to buy the truck is "because it's cool!"
That's Skylon your talking about
"EELV can launch every 6 months from any SINGLE launch pad (and can use multiple locations without a lot of overhead) and an HLV can barely manage it once a year and can only launch from Kennedy."
Stratolaunch could do even better if Paul Allen spends some dough. But Delta has become a real pad sitter. Shuttle flew about as frequently as Delta IV, and SLS won't have that orbiter to deal with.
As it stands, it looks like Shuttle-derived heavy lift seems secure. Obama allowed Bolden and Lori Garver (who wasn't fond of HLLVs, or so scuttlebut has it) to roll out SLS. Worse for enemies of SLS, is this quote from the article I linked to above:
" both Griffin and Pace...are advising presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on space issues."
The good thing is that Falcon's success may erode support for the Ares-I redux that is called Liberty. Dynetics, which has Griffin as an advisor, wants to build F-1 powered LFBs to replace SRBs, and also is to do work on Stratolaunch. Moreover P&W Rocetdyne is up for sale, and Bezos wanted to recover the recently discovered Saturn stages from the sea Floor. It looks like interest in larger engines is here to stay.