announced the design for its new launching system for transporting astronauts out of
Earth orbit to the ISS and into deep space. The new Space Launch System or SLS is
designed to carry the Orion
Multi-purpose Crew Vehicle and cargo (i.e. science experiments and
equipment). The SLS is an advanced heavy lift vehicle that will also be used as
the backup for commercial and international partner transportation to the ISS.
"This launch system will create good-paying American jobs, ensure
continued U.S. leadership in space, and inspire millions around the
world," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. "President Obama
challenged us to be bold and dream big, and that's exactly what we are doing at
NASA. While I was proud to fly on the space shuttle, kids today can now dream
of one day walking on Mars."
The SLS rocket will use some of the technological investment from the Space
Shuttle and the Constellation programs which allows the SLS to take advantage
of proven hardware and technology. This use of existing technology will allow
the development and operation of the SLS to be cheaper than designing all-new
technology. The space shuttle program tech that will be used include the core
stage and J-2X engine for the upper stage.
The SLS will also use the space shuttle’s solid rocket boosters for the initial
development flights, with future follow-on booster design completed and
developed based on affordability and performance requirements. The SLS will use
a liquid power rocket with liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. The benefit of
liquid engines over solid engines is that the liquid type can be shut off if
needed whereas once a solid booster is lit there is no stopping.
vehicle will initially have a lift capacity of 70 metric tons and will be able
to evolve to handle 130 metric tons. The SLS is designed to allow NASA to
tailor the system using a modular design to support the weight launched into
that the first planned development flight is set for the end of 2017.
"NASA has been making steady progress toward realizing the president's
goal of deep space exploration, while doing so in a more affordable way,"
NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver added. "We have been driving down
the costs on the Space Launch System and Orion contracts by adopting new ways
of doing business and project hundreds of millions of dollars of savings each
MSNBC reports that the SLS
will eventually be able to lift as much as 165 tons of people and gear into
space. The Saturn V booster that took man to the moon could lift 130 tons by
comparison. The space shuttle,
which flew its last mission in July, could only lift 27 tons into orbit and the current
largest unmanned rocket can only carry 25 tons to orbit.
MSNBC also states that the
downside to the program is that the SLS rockets will be constructed specifically for each
mission and the massive size will
mean that they can only be built at a certain pace.
NASA pegs the cost of the program at about $3 billion yearly with total
development costs adding up to $35 billion. The cost to get the SLS ready for
its 2017 test launch will be $18 billion with $10 billion in rocket cost, $6
billion to the Orion capsule, and the launch pad for the SLS costing $2
billion. NASA's budget has been a major concern for future space flight in America.
the newly minted NASA's Deep Space Missions Office will be involved with the project.