News / Science & Technology

NASA Unveils Next-Generation Rocket

The Space Launch System, or SLS (artist's conception)
The Space Launch System, or SLS (artist's conception)

NASA on Wednesday unveiled its long-awaited plans for a new, powerful rocket to take astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit to the Moon, to asteroids and, one day, to Mars.  

NASA has selected the design of a massive rocket that will take humans beyond low-Earth-orbit into deep space, and the space agency says it hopes to fire up this rocket in late 2017 for an unmanned test mission.

NASA's chief, Charles Bolden, says the agency is ready to move ahead with the Space Launch System or SLS, a rather dry name for what NASA says will be the biggest and most powerful rocket ever built, and that will take people farther into space than ever before.  

"The SLS will be the cornerstone of our deep-space human exploration program," said Bolden. "President Obama has challenged us at NASA to be bold and to dream big, and that's exactly what we do.  While I was proud to fly on the space shuttle, tomorrow's explorers will dream of one day walking on Mars."

President Barack Obama has set the goal of a manned-mission to an asteroid by 2025 and to Mars the following decade.

The Space Launch System will be NASA's first exploration-class vehicle since the Saturn V, which carried astronauts to the moon more than 40 years ago.  But this new rocket will have 10 to 20 percent more thrust than the Saturn V.  In more relatable terms, the final version of the SLS would have more than 34 times the total thrust of a 747 jet.

NASA animation:

NASA envisions two versions of the SLS, with the initial version being nearly 100 meters tall and able to carry 70 metric tons - about the weight of 12 adult elephants.  The second "evolved" version would be even taller  - 122 meters - and able to carry the equivalent of 21 full-grown elephants into space.
The SLS will use a liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propulsion system, and the colossal rocket's core is similar to the orange-colored external tank that was used in the space shuttle's launch configuration.   It will have five main rocket engines.

The new capsule that will carry the crew, called the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, is being built.  The crew module would sit at the top of the launch system. In the event of a launchpad explosion or failure during ascent, the module will have an abort system that would rocket it away from the launch vehicle and carry the astronauts to a safe splash-down.

But, innovation does not come cheap.  NASA estimates the program will cost $18 billion over the next six years - and that is just through the unmanned test flight. The cost includes the rocket, capsule, and efforts to reconfigure the launch facilities at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.    

Kay Bailey Hutchison is the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.  Speaking alongside other lawmakers and NASA's Bolden Wednesday, she said this plan enjoys bipartisan support in Congress.

"I believe that we will get the funding," she said. "I will just use as an example - even some of the strongest budget cutters on my side of the aisle have put forward massive cuts, but they have not cut the core mission of NASA because they see that as a part of the American spirit and most certainly part of the American economy and America's national security."     

The SLS will benefit from the technological strides made in the space shuttle program as well as the now-defunct Constellation program, which was developing a replacement for the shuttle fleet that was retired in July.   
Officials say building on other programs will take advantage of hardware that is known to work and will reduce development and operations costs.  

NASA  says the new launch system design is adaptable, and it will allow engineers to use different core and booster combinations, depending on the mission.  Although commercial enterprises have been tasked with developing vehicles to ferry cargo and astronauts to-and-from the International Space Station, NASA says its new deep-space rocket will also serve as a back up.

You May Like

Will Cuba Follow the Southeast Asia Model?

Decision to restore ties between US and Cuba has some debating whether it will lead to enhancement or regression of democracy for Communist island nation More

Kenyan Designer Finds Her Niche in Fashion Industry

‘Made in China’ fabrics underlie her success More

Report: CIA, Israel's Mossad Killed Senior Hezbollah Commander

The Washington Post story says Imad Mughniyah was killed instantly by a bomb "triggered remotely" from Tel Aviv by Mossad agents More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Lateri
X
Deborah Block
January 31, 2015 12:12 AM
Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Later

Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid