Space

SLS completes key development review

SLS completes key development ...
Artist's concept of the SLS in flight (Image: NASA)
Artist's concept of the SLS in flight (Image: NASA)
View 3 Images
Artist's concept of the SLS in flight (Image: NASA)
1/3
Artist's concept of the SLS in flight (Image: NASA)
The SLS will have more thrust than the Saturn V rocket (Image: NASA)
2/3
The SLS will have more thrust than the Saturn V rocket (Image: NASA)
SLS infographic (Image: NASA)
3/3
SLS infographic (Image: NASA)

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) program has received the green light to progress after the completion of a critical design review. The next generation heavy launch system, which is designed to lift the Orion spacecraft for manned missions into deep space, is NASA’s most ambitious project since the 1960s and the most powerful rocket ever built, with 12 percent more thrust than the Saturn V booster used to send the Apollo missions to the Moon.

Scheduled to fly its first mission with an operational Orion spacecraft in December 2017, the SLS is currently undergoing a series of reviews in anticipation of final construction. As part of this process, Wednesday’s announcement moved the rocket from formulation to development, which the space agency says is the first for a NASA exploration-class space vehicle since the Space Shuttle.

The SLS will have more thrust than the Saturn V rocket (Image: NASA)
The SLS will have more thrust than the Saturn V rocket (Image: NASA)

Although the SLS will provide a lift capability of 130 tonnes (143 tons) in its most powerful configuration, for its first flight test it will be configured with a 70 tonne (77 ton) lift capacity and carry an uncrewed Orion spacecraft beyond low-Earth orbit. The review, known as Key Decision Point C (KDP-C), provides a development cost baseline for the 70-tonne version of US$7.021 billion from February 2014 through the first launch and a launch readiness schedule based on an initial SLS flight no later than November 2018.

As development progresses, SLS, its Orion manned space capsule, and the Ground Systems Development and Operations programs will continue to receive design reviews to make sure technical and cost factors are met.

"The Space Launch System Program has done exemplary work during the past three years to get us to this point," says William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for the Human Explorations and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "We will keep the teams working toward a more ambitious readiness date, but will be ready no later than November 2018.”

Source: NASA

10 comments
MattII
Well if it works it'll put NASA on the map once again, although it'll probably be for national projects, because I can't imagine the thing being cheap enough for anyone else.
Curly Oldfield
Why is this better than spaceX's reusable?? seems like a step backwards 50 years.
Tom Swift
Not a rocket scientist but... 12% gain in power over the 60's era Apollo engines? in 50 years?? That's about 0.24% gain per year. Well maybe they weigh half as much.....
VirtualGathis
"...12% gain in power over the 60's era Apollo engines? in 50 years??" No in 20 years. Remeber this thing is built from the 1980's shuttle technology. Congress mandated that NASA stop developing rocket technology and become a life support system for the Shuttle. It is illegal for the US space program to not keep these folks employed, and the factories that produce shuttle parts running, until congress gets behind repealing the law. That is why this thing is "shuttle derived". So that it would keep the shuttle infrastructure employed regardless of how outdated or useless it becomes. That followed on when the space plane program was terminated because material science wasn't ready for the fuel tanks they dreamed up. There are only two ways to fix the problems that law has created, repeal itt or close NASA. Regrettably NASA is still doing some good science elsewhere on the shoestring that is left after the shuttle infrastructure life support programs, so closing it isn't feasible. Repealing the law would require enough momentum to overpower the senators and representatives fom the states that currently benefit from that life support system which has historically been impossible.
mookins
@VirtualGathis: Another example of our government guaranteeing the profits of the 1%, with our money.
Astro Rosaire
In reference to the composite tanks they were pushing, they also had a backup technology of standard LiAl tanks that weighed only a few percent more than the composites, but one of the NASA officials stated the composites were "required" and then congress canceled the x33 after the failure of the composite tank structure which could have easily been tentatively replaced with the standard cryogenic tank alloy. Even worse, Lockheed Martin (I think) finally got one to pass cryogenic qualifications a few years after the program was canceled.
JMOdom
Why not just have Obuma just pass an executive order and shut them down. He seems to be good at passing them out. (said tongue-in-cheek).
frogola
77 tons for the Orion what's going with it, to leave orbit.
Slowburn
I'll take Falcon Heavies.
Ryan Johnson
This seems well short of what we need to get to mars. The capsule looks way to small, I see no reason to build and do this, waste of time. Why go back to the moon ? and I cant see the orion being big enough to carry people to mars, unless they are sleeping the whole time for 6 to 8 months to get to mars. I see no system here worth doing, unless it can go to mars and back !