When completed, SLS will be capable of taking crew and cargo on deep space missions, including to an asteroid and eventually to Mars. The SLS 70-metric-ton (77-ton) initial configuration will launch an un-crewed Orion spacecraft to demonstrate the integrated system performance of the SLS rocket and spacecraft prior to a crewed flight.
On August 27, NASA officials announced they have completed a rigorous review of the Space Launch System (SLS) — the heavy-lift, exploration class rocket under development to take humans beyond Earth orbit and to Mars — and approved the program’s progression from formulation to development, something no other exploration class vehicle has achieved since the agency built the space shuttle.
Engineers and technicians at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center have finished installing the cone-shaped back shell of Orion’s crew module – the protective cover on the sides that make up Orion’s upside down cone shape. It’s made up of 970 black tiles that should look very familiar – the same tiles protected the belly of the space shuttles as they returned from space.
Because the SLS rockets will be larger (and, ultimately, more powerful) than the Saturn V’s of the 1960s and 1970s, NASA Kennedy’s Ground Systems Development and Operations (GSDO) Program has been hard at work getting the VAB ship-shape (or “spaceship-shape”) to process the new launch vehicles.
Towering a staggering 384 feet tall, the Space Launch System (SLS) will provide 9.2 million pounds of thrust at liftoff and weigh 6.5 million pounds.
NASA is building the world’s most advanced heat shield to keep astronauts cool as they return from Mars, burning through the Earth’s atmosphere at 20,000 mph. Bloomberg looks at the futuristic design that makes that possible.