NASA's Space Launch System enters its critical design review phase
NASA's imaginatively-named Space Launch System (SLS), has entered its critical designreview phase, which will see the leviathan rocket given the go-aheadfor full-scale construction. The review represents a major milestonethat must be passed with flying colors if the SLS is to make itsintended maiden launch date, which is currently slated for 2017.
Individual elements ofthe rocket, including the 177-ft (54-m) solid fuel boosters and theR-25 main stage engines have already passed their design review. Withthis done, an overall assessment of the rocket is taking place in theform of the integrated program review. It will require the analysisof thousands of documents and months of hard work for the staff atNASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
The process willinvolve a comprehensive analysis of the SLS's design, ensuring thatit meets a set of stringent standards, with an emphasis on safety,cost, schedule constraints, and sustainability.
Should it pass thecritical review phase, which is set to conclude in late July thisyear, it will continue a regimen of production, assembly,integration, and testing, leading up to its maiden flight.
The launchwill see the leviathan hurl an unmanned Orion spacecraft beyondlow-Earth orbit. A future variation of the rocket will represent themost powerful launch vehicle ever created, with a lift capacityexceeding that of the fabled Apollo-era Saturn-V rocket.