NASA’s Space Launch System, being engineered by a team in Huntsville, has become the first NASA human-rated rocket in almost 40 years to complete all the steps needed to clear a critical design review, meaning that it meets the challenges of flying to Mars.
The SLS will be the most powerful rocket ever built. Paired with NASA’s Orion spacecraft, it will power the American space program well into the next era of exploration.
“We’ve nailed down the design of SLS, we’ve successfully completed the first round of testing of the rocket’s engines and boosters, and all the major components for the first flight are now in production, ” says Bill Hill, deputy associate administrator of NASA’s Exploration Systems Development Division. “There have been challenges, and there will be more ahead, but this review gives us confidence that we are on the right track for the first flight of SLS and using it to extend permanent human presence into deep space.”
The next step, according to NASA officials, is design certification, which will take place in 2017, after manufacturing, integration and testing are complete. The design certification will compare the actual final product to the rocket’s design. The final review, the flight readiness review, will take place just prior to the 2018 flight readiness date.
Text by Dave Helms