NASA unveils new deep-space rocket design

NASA unveils new deep-space rocket design

Summary: The Space Launch System (SLS) is NASA's next-generation rocket system that will serve as the centerpiece for deep space exploration for the coming decades.

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TOPICS: Nasa / Space
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NASA unveiled Wednesday the design for the Space Launch System (SLS), a next-generation rocket system that will serve as the centerpiece for deep space exploration for the coming decades.

Credit: NASA

The rocket would be the most powerful since the Saturn V that took Americans to the moon four decades ago. NASA expects it to propel astronauts on missions farther than anyone has ever traveled, including an asteroid by 2025 and Mars the following decade.

The agency said that SLS will provide the nation with a safe, affordable and sustainable means of reaching beyond our current limits and open up new discoveries from the unique vantage point of space.

"This launch system will create good-paying American jobs, ensure continued U.S. leadership in space, and inspire millions around the world," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. "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 now dream of one day walking on Mars."

The SLS rocket will be designed to carry the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, as well as important cargo, equipment and science experiments to Earth's orbit and beyond. It will also serve as a back up for commercial and international partner transportation services to the International Space Station.

To speed up development and control costs, NASA relied on pieces from the just-retired space shuttles for thew new rocket design (shuttle tiles are going to schools). The first stage would essentially be an elongated shuttle fuel tank, and it would use the same rocket engines. Initial test flights would use strapped on solid rocket boosters--stretched versions of the shuttle boosters--to provide additional thrust.

The first unmanned test flight of the first iteration of the rocket, able to lift 70 metric tons (154,000 pounds) to low-Earth orbit, is targeted for the end of 2017.  Future iterations are to be more powerful, capable of lifting up to 130 metric tons (286,000 pounds).

The cost of the program is estimated at $18 billion through an initial test flight in 2017, and about $30 billion through the first piloted mission in 2021.

According to an article in New York Times, it would take roughly $62 billion to fly up to two missions a year and start developing deep-space habitat and other components needed for a mission to an asteroid.

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Topic: Nasa / Space

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20 comments
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  • RE: NASA unveils new deep-space rocket design

    It's about time we started getting back to rockets. Reusable equipment is great from a financial standpoint (sort of), but there's no doubt that disposable rockets are more reliable...which is what I'm more worried about for something like the Space Program.
    Aerowind
    • RE: NASA unveils new deep-space rocket design

      @Aerowind
      Would you replace the $35 Billion Dollar Disposable rocket with another $35 Billion Dollar rocket Mr. Economist? How many times?
      Josephus Hap
    • RE: NASA unveils new deep-space rocket design

      Wow, very awesome job. <a href="http://www.replicawatchesbest.org">replica watches</a>
      meimeili
  • RE: NASA unveils new deep-space rocket design

    Oh great. Something else that costs too much and does too little.
    BR999
    • Don't worry it's only a Press release

      It'll cost as budgeted, even more, but you won't see anything. Like much of America, a once great agency reduced to press releases. Sad.
      Richard Flude
  • RE: NASA unveils new deep-space rocket design

    Do we not already have enough space debry? We are quickly becoming prisoners of our own planet.
    Skynet40
  • So... We can put a man on the moon in 8 years.

    So we can put a man on the moon eight years after putting him into space using completely new technology that was barely on the drawing boards with only three human casualties, but... It will take us 8 years to get a rocket designed enough to be tested and another four years to get a man into space based on existing technology? How far have we fallen?
    nucrash
    • And those casualties where on the ground

      @nucrash

      but I'm following what you're saying.

      I guess they have to follow those new union rules - I knew that slowed things down, but this is ridiculous
      William Farrell
      • RE: NASA unveils new deep-space rocket design

        @William Farrell

        Yeah, have to get in those mandatory coffee breaks so an important bolt will not get tightened because someone forgot where they left off. Then they will blame it on a deteriorating seal so no one gets fired.
        Test Subject
    • RE: NASA unveils new deep-space rocket design

      @nucrash,

      In the 1960's NASA had far more resources, because the space race was a big part of the Cold War. If NASA was funded at those levels, of course it would go faster. It's all about the money.
      gplex86
  • Did my eyes deceive me? $62 billion for 2 flights!!!!

    I'm sorry. This is just too expensive. I'm not even sweating the development costs, which would make this far more expensive than Hubble ($6 billion) or the Webb telescope (estimated $6.8 billion).

    I want to see NASA workers back to work, but I also want the money spent wisely.
    JohnVoter
    • RE: NASA unveils new deep-space rocket design

      @JohnVoter

      To clarify, that's two missions PER year.

      The $62B would be the estimated total cost over the next 14 years to move up the first manned flight by three years and build the 130-metric-ton rocket by 2021.
      christopher_jablonski
    • RE: NASA unveils new deep-space rocket design

      @JohnVoter What should NASA be doing?
      carlson1@...
  • Returning to overpriced solutions

    The shuttle SRB (Solid Rocket Booster) and the shuttle fuel tank with a "cargo cone" on at the top is not an improvement, but just returning to the old technology that has show to be unnecessarily expensive.

    If we are going to return to capsules (revert back 50 years in time), why not just return to using the "Saturn" rockets? They cost a lot less than a single fuel ring for the SRBs and with current engine technology the thrust to weight ratio would be at least 10 times better than the Apollo era.
    wackoae
  • Returning to using overpriced solutions

    The shuttle SRB (Solid Rocket Booster) and the shuttle fuel tank with a "cargo area" on at the top is not an improvement, but just returning to the old technology that has show to be unnecessarily expensive.

    If we are going to return to capsules (revert back 50 years in time), why not just return to using the "Saturn" rockets? They cost a lot less than a single fuel ring for the SRBs and with current engine technology the thrust to weight ratio would be at least 10 times better than the Apollo era.
    wackoae
  • RE: NASA unveils new deep-space rocket design

    For only One Billion, I will design and build a real Spacecraft, using the technology of the Flying Saucer, discovered and patented. It could have a crew of forty, in all professions.
    A Rocket is not something new, it is just a make work scheme for schemers and their hangers-on in the Government.
    Josephus Hap
  • Good news!

    To anyone that thinks this is a waste of money:
    1) This program put Americans back to work, in skilled science jobs here in the US.
    2) The TSA has a bigger budget and more employees than NASA. And provides what? The illusion of security? With high-paid, unskilled labor.
    3) The commercialization of technology from this program will start thousands of new businesses.
    SDTangler
  • RE: NASA unveils new deep-space rocket design

    SpaceX is taking orders for 117K lb to low earth orbit. $80M to $125M per flight beginning 2013. http://www.spacex.com/falcon_heavy.php

    Govt (NASA included) is the least efficient way to get a job done. Their focus should be on doing things that industry can't or won't do.

    This appears to be an unnecessary competition with commercial space flight efforts and will only benefit the 'old-school' companies instead of stimulating innovation.
    mtarlton@...
  • It is sad...

    ... to see that von Brown???s rocket lobby is still at power blocking any intelligent attempt to develop a truly advanced XXI century space flight system, namely a true space-plane for orbital tasks and a nuclear powered craft for interstellar travel, attempts started decades ago and killed-off for the convenience of the rocket/missile producers. All with the dubious justification of excessive cost in the making and exploiting such devices, when the space-shuttle has clearly shown that the expenses of the named system were severalfold superior of what was promised by its promoters.
    darije.djokic@...
  • RE: NASA unveils new deep-space rocket design

    Instead of designing another all new rocket, NASA should just fly the way more capable Saturn V. It never had a launch failure and a perfect safety record. Why reinvent the wheel?
    ExCorpGuy