According to reports NASA is soon going to launch its first astronauts into the deep space since the Apollo Program space Launch system rocket was planned. Till now this news has no official confirmation from NASA.
Few weeks’ back a speculation was reported that mission planners at the space agency have started designing the Exploration Mission 2 to launch on the Block 1 version of the SLS rocket. This has the capability to lift around 70 tons to low earth orbit.
During a congressional hearing the acting administrator of the agency Robert Lightfoot confirmed the news that NASA is in the planning stage of launching humans to the moon on the Block 1 SLS. Robert’s statement clearly establish the fact that the mission may have a little change if the humans are made to fly and the use of Interim Cryogenic Propulsion stage is important.
There is a thin line of difference between the original configurations of the SLS rocket where NASA has spent more than $10 billon since 2011, and its successor which sits at the top of the booster. According to the current plan of NASA the weaker upper stage known as ICPS will be flying on the maiden flight of the SLS rocket two years from now.
The last news which has been made to the public is that NASA will fly the SLS rocket in the Block 1 configuration at least three times before it finally launches the much powerful variant of the booster. This plan of action may send humans into the deep space faster. A NASA spokesperson has confirmed that the possible launch of this mission is still under assessment and a proper date is going to be fixed soon.
Need of a Mobile Launcher
For the purpose of testing and servicing of the SLS rocket as well as giving it a platform to launch the Congress has approved $350 million for a mobile launch tower built at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.
Upper-stage delays- A challenging issue
It has been quite a long time that NASA is struggling with the development of the exploration upper stage. At the inception the 18 meter tall stage was powered by RL-10 rocket engines, but last year after a solicitation it started looking for low cost engines.
A member of NASA’s advisory council Wayne Hale said that it may take more than five years for the development and construction of the exploration upper stage if gets started from now.