A NASA ‘human-rated’ rocket has completed all steps needed to clear a critical design review (CDR) for the first time since the 1970s. The agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) is the first vehicle designed to meet the challenges of the journey to Mars and the first exploration class rocket since the Saturn V.
SLS will be the most powerful rocket ever built and, with the agency’s Orion spacecraft, will launch a new era of exploration to destinations beyond Earth’s orbit. The CDR provided a final look at the design and development of the integrated launch vehicle before full-scale fabrication begins.
The CDR examined the first of three configurations planned for the rocket, referred to as SLS Block 1. The Block I configuration will have a minimum 70-metric ton (77-ton) lift capability and be powered by twin boosters and four RS-25 engines. The next planned upgrade of SLS, Block 1B, would use a more powerful exploration upper stage for more ambitious missions with a 105-metric ton (115-ton) lift capacity. Block 2 will add a pair of advanced solid or liquid propellant boosters to provide a 130-metric ton (143-ton) lift capacity. In each configuration, SLS will continue to use the same core stage and four RS-25 engines.
The SLS Program completed the review in July, in conjunction with a separate review by the Standing Review Board, which is composed of seasoned experts from NASA and industry who are independent of the program.
This review is the last of four reviews that examine concepts and designs. The next step for the program is design certification, which will take place in 2017 after manufacturing, integration and testing are complete. The design certification will compare the actual final product to the rocket’s design. The final review, the flight readiness review, will take place just prior to the 2018 flight readiness date.
Critical design reviews for the individual SLS elements of the core stage, boosters and engines were completed successfully as part of this milestone.
The integrated spacecraft and payloads are nearing completion on their CDR. Flight hardware is currently in production for every element. NASA is preparing for a second qualification test for the SLS boosters, and structural test articles for the core and upper stages of the rocket are either completed or currently in production. NASA also recently completed the first developmental test series on the RS-25 engines.
For more information visit www.nasa.gov/sls
October 30, 2015