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

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory 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.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid