NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said on September 14, 2011, that NASA is ready to move forward with the development of the Space Launch System – an advanced heavy-lift launch vehicle that will provide a new national capability for human exploration beyond Earth’s orbit.
Video: What the SLS launch will look like. Artist’s conception.
The Space Launch System, or SLS, will be designed to carry a crew vehicle, cargo, equipment and science experiments to Earth’s orbit and destinations beyond. NASA says SLS will also serve as a backup for commercial and international partner transportation services to the International Space Station. Administrator Bolden indicated that the first launch of a crew via this new rocket is expected in 2021. He added:
President Obama challenged us to be bold and dream big, and that’s exactly what we are doing at NASA. While I was proud to fly on the space shuttle, kids today can dream of one day walking on Mars.
The SLS rocket will cost $35 billion to design and build. In its earlier versions, the rocket will be able to lift 70 metric tons; later versions, up to 130 metric tons (the equivalent of 75 sports utility vehicles), according to a NASA press release. Bolden said:
With its superior lift capability, the SLS will expand our reach in the solar system and allow us to explore cis-lunar space, near-Earth asteroids, Mars and its moons and beyond.
For those who are interested in the nitty-gritty of the SLS engines, WIRED’s Brian McLaughlin had a nice write-up on the subject.
Bottom line: Administrator Charles Bolden announced on September 14 that NASA is ready to move forward with the development of the Space Launch System (SLS) – an advanced heavy-lift launch vehicle that will provide a new capability for human exploration beyond Earth’s orbit.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.