NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), which will be the most powerful rocket ever built and the first vehicle designed to meet the challenges of the journey to Mars, has completed all steps needed to clear a critical design review.
This is the first time in almost 40 years that a NASA human-rated rocket has cleared a critical design review (CDR).
“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,” said Bill Hill, deputy associate administrator of NASA’s Exploration Systems Development Division in US.
“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,” Mr. Hill said.
The CDR examined the first of three configurations planned for the rocket, referred to as SLS Block 1.
The Block 1 configuration will have a minimum 70-metric-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 lift capacity.
Block 2 will add a pair of advanced solid or liquid propellant boosters to provide a 130-metric-ton lift capacity.
In each configuration, SLS will continue to use the same core stage and four RS-25 engines.
The SLS Programme 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 programme.
Throughout the course of 11 weeks, 13 teams — made up of senior engineers and aerospace experts across the agency and industry — reviewed more than 1,000 SLS documents and more than 150 GB of data as part of the comprehensive assessment process at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Centre, where SLS is managed for the agency.
The Standing Review Board reviewed and assessed the programme’s readiness and confirmed the technical effort is on track to complete system development and meet performance requirements on budget and on schedule.
The programme briefed the results of the review in October to the Agency Program Management Council, led by NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot, as the final step in the CDR process.
This review is the last of four reviews that examine concepts and designs. The next step for the programme is design certification, which will take place in 2017 after manufacturing, integration and testing is complete.
Critical design reviews for the individual SLS elements of the core stage, boosters and engines were completed successfully as part of this milestone.