Just weeks after unveiling its long-term plan for astronauts to research, explore and eventually live on Mars, Nasa has announced that its Space Launch System (SLS) is now the first vehicle that’s been designed to meet the challenges of journeying all the way to Martian soil.
According to Nasa, it’s the first time in nearly 40 years that a human-rated vehicle has completed all of the steps needed in order to clear what’s known as a critical design review (CDR) — and basically be certified as space-worthy with humans on-board.
This means that SLS, the rather boring name for Nasa’s homegrown vehicle, will be the most powerful rocket that’s ever been built capable of launching humans.
Bill Hill, the deputy associate administrator of Nasa’s Exploration Systems Development Division, said:
“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.”
Over 11 weeks 13 teams, comprised of engineers and aerospace experts, reviewed more than 1,000 SLS documents and data as part of the assessment.
Of course there’s till a long way to go before SLS is ready to jet off to Mars — or even Earth orbit for tests. Full-scale fabrication is set to begin now initial design reviews and concepts are out of the way — a process that’s bound to open up a bunch of new issues.
“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,” Hill said.
Regardless, the SLS is set to be ready to send up into the skies for testing at some point during 2018.