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NASA's SPACE LAUNCH SYSTEM: Development and ProgressNASA is embarked on a new era of space exploration that will lead to new capabilities, new destinations, and new discoveries by both human and robotic explorers. Today, the International Space Station (ISS) and robotic probes are yielding knowledge that will help make this exploration possible. NASA is developing both the Orion crew vehicle and the Space Launch System (SLS) (Figure 1), that will carry out a series of increasingly challenging missions leading to human exploration of Mars. This paper will discuss the development and progress on the SLS. The SLS architecture was designed to be safe, affordable, and sustainable. The current configuration is the result of literally thousands of trade studies involving cost, performance, mission requirements, and other metrics. The initial configuration of SLS, designated Block 1, will launch a minimum of 70 metric tons (mT) (154,324 pounds) into low Earth orbit - significantly greater capability than any current launch vehicle. It is designed to evolve to a capability of 130 mT (286,601 pounds) through the use of upgraded main engines, advanced boosters, and a new upper stage. With more payload mass and volume capability than any existing rocket, SLS offers mission planners larger payloads, faster trip times, simpler design, shorter design cycles, and greater opportunity for mission success. Since the program was officially created in fall 2011, it has made significant progress toward launch readiness in 2018. Every major element of SLS continued to make significant progress in 2015. Engineers fired Qualification Motor 1 (QM-1) in March 2015 to test the 5-segment motor, including new insulation, joint, and propellant grain designs. More than 70 major components of test article and flight hardware for the Core Stage have been manufactured. Seven test firings have been completed with an RS-25 engine under SLS operating conditions. The test article for the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) has also been completed. Major work continues in 2016 as the program continues both flight and development RS-25 engine testing, begins welding test article and flight core stage tanks, completes stage adapter manufacturing, and test fires the second booster qualification motor. This paper will discuss the program's key accomplishments to date and the challenging work ahead for what will be the world's most capable launch vehicle.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Honeycutt, John (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL, United States)
Lyles, Garry (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL, United States)
Date Acquired
June 3, 2016
Publication Date
May 2, 2016
Subject Category
Launch Vehicles and Launch Operations
Report/Patent Number
Meeting Information
AAAF Space Propulsion(Rome)
Funding Number(s)
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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