Getting humans to Mars is a new kind of mission, so NASA is building a new kind of rocket to make it happen.
The space agency has announced that for the first time in almost 40 years, a NASA human-rated rocket has completed all steps needed to clear a critical design review. Dubbed the Space Launch System (SLS), the new rocket is the first vehicle designed to reach Mars, and the first “exploration class” rocket since the Saturn V. Now let’s just figure out how to fuel that bad boy on the moon. Just sayin’.
The SLS will be used to launch NASA’s new Orion spacecraft, which will (eventually) get us to Mars. This final design review is essentially one more exhaustive look at the design and concept before full-scale fabrication begins to build the rockets. The core stage, boosters and engines were all reviewed as part of this phase.
“We’ve nailed down the design of SLS, we’ve successfully completed the first round of testing of the rocket’s engines and boosters, and all the major components for the first flight are now in production,” said Bill Hill, deputy associate administrator of NASA’s Exploration Systems Development Division. “There have been challenges, and there will be more ahead, but this review gives us confidence that we are on the right track for the first flight of SLS and using it to extend permanent human presence into deep space.”
Another tweak that came out of the review? NASA has decided the core stage of the rocket and Launch Vehicle Stage Adapter will remain orange, the natural color of the insulation that will cover those elements, instead of painted white. Which, seeing the artist’s rendering above, seems like a good call. That looks very, very cool.