The most powerful rocket in history, SLS will carry the Orion spacecraft, as well as important cargo, equipment and science experiments, to deep space. The high-capacity launch system is capable of:

  • Capturing an asteroid
  • Carrying more than 70 Mars rovers
  • Carrying two International Space Stations

The initial configuration of SLS will generate 8.4 million pounds of thrust at launch and be able to carry 70 metric tons of payload to low-Earth orbit, greater than any contemporary launch vehicle and more than twice the capability of the Space Shuttle. It is evolvable to support much larger payloads and additional missions.


  • Four-fold increase mass to LEO
  • Five-fold increase in volume


  • Significantly shorter flight times


  • Bigger and faster means shorter travel time, simpler spacecraft design, and significant reduction in launches necessary to enable deep space missions, all of which makes deep space exploration drastically more affordable than using smaller rockets.


The flexible SLS design will allow it to support any mission destination and satisfy a variety of crew and cargo mission needs.

SLS will perform a full-scale launch with an unmanned Orion in 2018 for Exploration Mission 1.