NASA’s Space Launch System rocket, designed in Huntsville and manufactured at Decatur’s United Launch Alliance, among other places, is on Time magazine’s list of Inventions of the Year, along with the James Webb Space Telescope, which a number of Alabama companies helped build.
The SLS rocket is scheduled to launch on its first test flight Nov. 16. That will send an uncrewed Orion spacecraft around the moon and back to Earth.
“We will demonstrate the capability of the Space Launch System Moon rocket, the largest rocket NASA has built since the Saturn V, on the Artemis I mission,” said John Honeycutt, SLS program manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. “The heavy-lift rocket’s innovative design allows it to evolve and become even more powerful so that it can carry both astronauts and large cargos on increasingly more complex missions to the Moon and Mars.”
Eventually, the Artemis missions will be crewed and land on the moon, and subsequent SLS mission are envisioned going far beyond the moon.
The Webb telescope began sending deep space images back to Earth in July. Helping design and build the telescope were the University of Alabama in Huntsville, the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, NeXolve Corp. in Huntsville, General Dynamics in Cullman and Southern Research in Birmingham and its successor for the project, Kratos Defense.
“We designed the Webb observatory to see the first lights that turned on in our universe. When I saw the first images released, I was struck with awe, wonder, and the satisfaction of knowing that whatever is out there, Webb will see it,” said Mike Menzel, NASA mission systems engineer for Webb at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
The telescope was named a Best Invention in the Design category, and the SLS rocket was named a Best Invention in the Experimental category.