How Do We Get to Mars?
NASA today announced a huge step on the way to Mars. The Space Launch System (SLS) passed a rigorous review of schedules and budgets and it is still funded and on schedule for a first test launch no later than November 2018. The SLS will be the largest launch vehicle ever built – even larger than the Saturn V that took the Apollo astronauts to the moon. For its initial flight, SLS will be configured for 70-metric-tons lift capacity, but its most powerful configuration will provide lift capacity of 130 metic tons, enough to power missions to asteroids and Mars. “We are on a journey of scientific and human exploration that leads to Mars,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “And we’re firmly committed to building the launch vehicle and other supporting systems that will take us on that journey.”
The SLS will lift the Orion crew module, developed in a separate program as is a new ground control system. “We are keeping each part of the program — the rocket, ground systems, and Orion — moving at its best possible speed toward the first integrated test launch,” said Bill Hill, director Exploration Systems Development at NASA. “We are on a solid path toward an integrated mission and making progress in all three programs every day.”
Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans has all major tools installed and is producing hardware, including the first pieces of flight hardware for SLS. Sixteen RS-25 engines, enough for four flights, currently are in inventory at Stennis Space Center, in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, where an engine is already installed and ready for testing this fall. NASA contractor ATK has conducted successful test firings of the five-segment solid rocket boosters and is preparing for the first qualification motor test.
With a minimum of fanfare, NASA is pulling together the equipment that it needs for a mission to Mars in about fifteen years.
How do we get to Mars? On the SLS!
More information on the SLS is at http://www.NASA.gov/sls