NASA ready to launch its Space Launch System

Here they are pointing the tip of their headdress. Super heavy launchers, those huge next-gen rockets, are talking about them and it’s not about yet another delay or another budget slippage. Honor to NASA. On October 22, the US Space Agency announced its provisional schedule for its Space Launch System (SLS), the super heavy launcher it is developing for future planetary missions. The maiden flight of this rocket, the first to target the moon from the Saturn V launcher during the last mission of the Apollo program in 1972, is scheduled to take place on February 12, 2022 as part of the Artemis I mission.

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100 meters high, this launcher allows the sending into lunar orbit of payloads of 27 to 46 tons, depending on the version – against 5 to 10 tons in low orbit for Ariane-5. What to take a crew and its equipment to the Moon, the objective of NASA. Before that, Artemis I must make it possible to validate the operation of the rocket and the Orion capsule (which will accommodate future astronauts) during a lunar orbit and then return to Earth. To do this, the SLS was assembled last week. “This is a very important step. This shows that we are on the home stretch of the mission ”, said Mike Sarafin, in charge of this at Agence France Presse.

The United States dreams of allowing the first woman and the first person of color to set foot on the lunar regolith. The date is set for 2024, but this calendar looks fanciful. You still have to acquire a lander to land on the Moon and take off again. Rocket builder SpaceX recently got a contract about it with the agency, but Elon Musk’s firm has yet to produce the device.

Industrial challenge

The industry is used to delays. The SLS, built by Boeing, was originally scheduled to make its first flight in 2017. The total budget has increased from $ 10 billion to $ 30 billion since the start of its gestation. October 26, revealed the review Ars Technica, NASA appealed to industry to produce its giant rocket at half price (this one not officially known), committing to command an annual manned mission for at least a decade. Will manufacturers be tempted by such a challenge?

SpaceX has built and tested around fifteen prototypes, most of which exploded at various stages of their testing.

For its part, SpaceX published a video this week showing the assembly of its Starship, capable of carrying more than 100 tons of cargo into low orbit. This reusable rocket ship will be powered by a super heavy launcher named Super Heavy. Starship must then take astronauts and cargo ships to the Moon, to Mars, or to other distant destinations. SpaceX has built and tested around fifteen prototypes, most of which exploded at various stages of their testing.

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NASA ready to launch its Space Launch System