For the first time in nearly forty years, NASA completed their first critical design review for a human-rated launch vehicle. This was for their Space Launch System (SLS), a new powerful, and highly advanced launch vehicle. The purpose of SLS is to stay relevant with the new era of human space exploration beyond Earth’s orbit. SLS will launch crews of up to four astronauts in the Orion spacecraft on missions focused on exploring multiple, deep-space destinations. Due to its greater payload mass capability, volume capability, and energy to speed missions through space compared to other current launch vehicles, SLS will have the capabilities to be flexible and evolvable, thus offering new opportunities for payloads, including robotic scientific missions to places such as Mars, Jupiter, and/or Saturn.
courtesy of nasa.gov
According to NASA, the initial block configuration of SLS, as shown above, will stand 322 feet tall, higher than the Statue of Liberty, and weigh 5.75 million pounds when fueled. It will produce 8.8 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, the equivalent of more than 160,000 Corvette engines. In comparison to Saturn V, the last exploration-class launch vehicle first utilized in 1966, SLS will provide 15 percent more thrust at launch, and will carry more than three times the mass of the space shuttle.
Engineers are aiming to deliver the first SLS rocket in 2018 to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
For further information regarding SLS, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/sls/
Above information and graphics were found on NASA’s SLS Fact Sheet from 2015: http://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/sls_october_2015_fact_sheet.pdf