NASA SLS - Space Launch System

#1
I intend to post a few articles on the new NASA flight system currently under development. The build is well underway with many of the parts of the rocket being tested and evaluated at various centers across the US.
Space Launch System (SLS) Overview


Credits: NASA
Download SLS Factsheet (pdf)
America’s Rocket for Deep Space Exploration
NASA’s Space Launch System, or SLS, is an advanced launch vehicle that provides the foundation for human exploration beyond Earth’s orbit. With its unprecedented power and capabilities, SLS is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts and large cargo to the Moon on a single mission.

Offering more payload mass, volume capability and energy to speed missions through space than any current launch vehicle, SLS is designed to be flexible and evolvable and will open new possibilities for payloads, including robotic scientific missions to places like the Moon, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter.

The SLS team is producing NASA’ first exploration-class rocket built since the Saturn V. Engineers are making progress toward delivering the first SLS rocket to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for its first launch.

The Power to Explore Beyond Earth’s Orbit
To fill America’s future needs for deep space missions, SLS will evolve into increasingly more powerful configurations. SLS is designed for deep space missions and will send Orion or other cargo to the Moon, which is nearly 1,000 times farther than where the space station resides in low-Earth orbit. The rocket will provide the power to help Orion reach a speed of at least 24,500 mph needed to break out of low-Earth orbit and travel to the Moon. That is about 7,000 mph faster than the space station travels around Earth.

Every SLS configuration uses the core stage with four RS-25 engines. The first SLS vehicle, called Block 1, can send more than 26 metric tons (t) or 57,000 pounds (lbs.) to orbits beyond the Moon. It will be powered by twin five-segment solid rocket boosters and four RS-25 liquid propellant engines. After reaching space, the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) sends Orion on to the Moon.

The next planned evolution of the SLS, the Block 1B crew vehicle, will use a new, more powerful Exploration Upper Stage (EUS) to enable more ambitious missions. The Block 1B vehicle can, in a single launch, carry the Orion crew vehicle along with exploration systems like a deep space habitat module.

The Block 1B crew vehicle can send approximately 37 t (81,571 lbs.) to deep space including Orion and its crew. Launching with cargo only, SLS has a large volume payload fairing to send larger exploration systems or science spacecraft on solar system exploration missions.

The next SLS configuration, Block 2, will provide 11.9 million lbs. of thrust and will be the workhorse vehicle for sending cargo to the Moon, Mars and other deep space destinations. SLS Block 2 will be designed to lift more than 45 t (99,000 lbs.) to deep space. An evolvable design provides the nation with a rocket able to pioneer new human spaceflight missions.
 
#2
An overview of what the system entails.
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#3
The expected fleet of vehicles.

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#4
RS-25 Engines
Propulsion for the SLS core stage will be provided by four RS-25 engines. Aerojet Rocketdyne of Sacramento, California, is upgrading an inventory of 16 RS-25 shuttle engines to SLS performance requirements, including a new engine controller, nozzle insulation and required operation at 512,000 pounds of thrust. During the flight, the four engines provide around 2 million pounds of thrust.
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EM-1 RS-25 Engines.
Credits: Aerojet Rocketdyne

The engines for EM-1 are built, tested and ready for attachment to the core stage. After the engines are installed and the core stage is fully assembled, NASA’s Pegasus barge will transport the entire stage to Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, for green run testing. Then, Pegasus will take the core stage to Kennedy Space Center in Florida where it will be prepared for launch. Aerojet Rocketdyne has finished testing new controllers for EM-2 and has started development testing of new, advanced components to make the engines more affordable for future missions.


EM-1 Solid Rocket Booster Segment
Credits: NASA
Boosters
Two shuttle-derived solid rocket boosters will be used for the initial flights of the SLS. To provide the additional power needed for the rocket, the prime contractor for the boosters, Northrop Grumman, of Redondo Beach, California, has modified the original shuttle’s configuration of four propellant segments to a five-segment version. The design includes new avionics, propellant design and case insulation and eliminates the recovery parachutes.

At the Utah facility, Northrop Grumman has cast all booster segments needed for EM-1 and started casting booster segments for EM-2. At Kennedy, engineers are refurbishing and upgrading space shuttle booster components to meet SLS requirements. Trains will carry booster segments from Utah to Kennedy Space Center where they will be stacked with other booster components. The boosters’ avionics systems are being tested at Kennedy and Marshall.


EM-1 ICPS delivered to Kennedy Space Center.
Credits: NASA

Spacecraft and Payload Adapter, Fairings and In-Space Stage
The Orion stage adapter will connect Orion to the ICPS on the SLS Block 1 vehicle and is the place where the small satellites will ride to space. The Orion stage adapter has been delivered to Kennedy for the first launch.

Teledyne Brown Engineering of Huntsville, Alabama, has built the launch vehicle stage adapter that will connect SLS’s core stage to the upper part of the rocket.

The initial capability to propel Orion out of Earth’s orbit for Block 1 will come from the ICPS, based on the Delta Cryogenic Second Stage used successfully on United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV family of rockets.





It uses one RL10 engine made by Aerojet Rockedyne. The engine is powered by liquid hydrogen and oxygen and generates 24,750 pounds of thrust. This stage has been delivered to Kennedy and is ready for integration before launch.

The SLS Team
SLS is America’s rocket with more than 1,000 companies from across the U.S. and every NASA center supporting the development of the world’s most powerful rocket. The SLS Program at Marshall works closely with the Orion Program, managed by NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, and the Exploration Ground Systems at Kennedy. All three programs are managed by the Exploration Systems Development Division within the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

NASA’s Space Launch System is powerful enough to send the Orion spacecraft beyond the Moon. For Exploration Mission-1, Orion will travel 280,000 miles from Earth—farther in deep space than any spacecraft built for humans has ever ventured.
 
#6
Looks impressive, any idea on timings for first two flights?
The 'Expected Launch' is scheduled for 2022 but I'm not sure if that is the actual Moon Launch, or if that is the 1st test launch or not. If I see any updates I will post them as and when the details come in.
 
#7
@Bagl0ck mentioned in the Apollo 8 thread there is opposition to the NASA plan, and competition from other systems. So I'm looking forward to a discussion on that as well. If you could re-post it on here BL that would be great.
 
#8
@Bagl0ck mentioned in the Apollo 8 thread there is opposition to the NASA plan, and competition from other systems. So I'm looking forward to a discussion on that as well. If you could re-post it on here BL that would be great.
Sadly, it seems that the SLS may something of a white elephant since the astronomic (Yes) development and critically the projected launch costs are much higher than that of the Falcon Heavy.

Couple this with the fact that the program might not be ready for several more years and the most obvious question is whether the US Government needs it's own launch system?

NASA can look forward to even more costs and longer delays for its next big rocket

the Falcon Heavy costs anywhere between $90 million to $150 million to launch — a small cost compared to SLS development.

NASA is trying to make the Space Launch System rocket more affordable

However, one problem with legacy hardware, built by traditional contractors such as Orbital ATK and Aerojet Rocketdyne, is that it's expensive. And while NASA has not released per-flight estimates of the expendable SLS rocket's cost, conservative estimates peg it at $1.5 to $2.5 billion per launch. The cost is so high that it effectively precludes more than one to two SLS launches per year
 
#9
I'm somewhat concerned that the system may become obsolete due to the (projected) economics highlighted above.

However, pork barrel politics being what they are, I'd be surprised to see this project get cancelled....

Perhaps, we are finally entering the era when the private sector overtakes the public sector space programme. At least in manned space flight.
 
#10
I'm somewhat concerned that the system may become obsolete due to the (projected) economics highlighted above.

However, pork barrel politics being what they are, I'd be surprised to see this project get cancelled....

Perhaps, we are finally entering the era when the private sector overtakes the public sector space programme. At least in manned space flight.
I think the project is too far along to be cancelled tbh, the build is almost done, that's not to say that it won't be cancelled in the future but there will be a lot of kickback from the Senate, especially the states that have projects in progress.
 
#11
As an aside, in true NASA fashion the images and PDF's are coming in at 50+Megs per pic with a res of 7,000 to 9,000 so I have to use an image reducer before I can throw them up on here.
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#12
As an aside, in true NASA fashion the images and PDF's are coming in at 50+Megs per pic with a res of 7,000 to 9,000 so I have to use an image reducer before I can throw them up on here.
View attachment 369176
Interesting graphic including the shuttle.

The main flaw with the shuttle concept was the orbiter vehicle itself was effectively dead weight (~77 metric tonnes) that could have been used as payload mass in another system such as SLS, Delta Heavy, Falcon heavy etc

Obviously, they were thinking about re usability during the conception phase, but it didn't turn out to be cheap or easy to turn the shuttle around for another launch
 
#13
Interesting graphic including the shuttle.

The main flaw with the shuttle concept was the orbiter vehicle itself was effectively dead weight (~77 metric tonnes) that could have been used as payload mass in another system such as SLS, Delta Heavy, Falcon heavy etc

Obviously, they were thinking about re usability during the conception phase, but it didn't turn out to be cheap or easy to turn the shuttle around for another launch
That's why I am always skeptical about ANY claims from Government entities no mater what the project but that is another thread all on it's own :)

You are right though, the 77 tonnes was a huge drawback to the shuttle system.
 
#14
The Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) stands suspended in a silo-like structure at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This graphic shows what the ICPS looks like from inside the tower. The ICPS, which will lie just below the Orion capsule, at the top of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket, is a liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen-based system that will give Orion the big in-space push needed to fly beyond the Moon.

Image credit: NASA/Kevin O’Brien
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#15
NASA's Super Guppy aircraft prepares to depart the U.S. Army’s Redstone Airfield in Huntsville, Alabama, April 3, with flight hardware for NASA’s Space Launch System. The Orion stage adapter, the top of the rocket that connects SLS to Orion is loaded into the Guppy, which will deliver it to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for flight preparations. On Exploration Mission-1, the first integrated flight of SLS and the Orion spacecraft, the adapter will carry 13 CubeSats as secondary payloads.

Image Credit: NASA/Marshall/Fred Deaton

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#16
To create the liquid hydrogen tank structural test article, engineers built a tank identical to the Space Launch System tank that will be flown on Exploration Mission-1, the first flight of SLS and the Orion spacecraft. Then, as shown in this photo, they attached pieces that simulate the two parts of the core stage that attach to the hydrogen tank: the engine section and the intertank. The149-foot test article built at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans by Boeing, the prime contractor for the SLS core stage, will travel on the barge Pegasus to Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama where it will be placed in the largest SLS structural test stand.

Credit: NASA/ Jude Guidry

Last Updated: Dec. 12, 2018
Editor: Jennifer Harbaugh

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The 149-foot-long Space Launch System liquid hydrogen tank structural test article is almost as large as the entire space shuttle external tank. Engineers assembled the tank and two simulators vertically at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. Then they lifted it with large cranes to break it over, or lower it, onto special transporters, which will move it to NASA’s barge Pegasus. Image Credit: NASA/Eric Bordelon
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Technicians at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, moved the largest piece of structural test hardware for America's new deep space rocket, the Space Launch System, from the factory to the dock where it was loaded onto NASA’s barge Pegasus Dec. 14, 2018. The liquid hydrogen tank test article will make its way up the river to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, where dozens of hydraulic cylinders in Test Stand 4693 will push and pull on the giant tank, subjecting it to the same stresses and loads it will endure during liftoff and flight. The test hardware is structurally identical to the flight version of the liquid hydrogen tank that will comprise two-thirds of the core stage and hold 537,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen cooled to minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit.

Image Credit: NASA/Steven Seipel (Me: Awesome Photograph btw)
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A structural test version of the intertank for NASA's new deep-space rocket, the Space Launch System, arrives at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, March 4, aboard the barge Pegasus. The intertank is the second piece of structural hardware for the massive SLS core stage built at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans delivered to Marshall for testing. The structural test article will undergo critical testing as engineers push, pull and bend the hardware with millions of pounds of force to ensure it can withstand the forces of launch and ascent. The test hardware is structurally identical to the flight version of the intertank that will connect the core stage's two colossal propellant tanks, serve as the upper-connection point for the two solid rocket boosters and house critical avionics and electronics. Pegasus, originally used during the Space Shuttle Program, has been redesigned and extended to accommodate the SLS rocket's massive, 212-foot-long core stage -- the backbone of the rocket. The 310-foot-long barge will ferry the flight core stage from Michoud to other NASA centers for tests and launch. Image Credit: NASA/MSFC/Emmett Given
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#17
An interesting video on the launch pads used by the NASA manned spaceflight programmes inc Apollo and SLS in the future

 
#18
Comparing the SLS with Russia's heavy lifter.

The Angara can lift up to 35 tones which is similar to the SLS 37 Tons, but the max orbit is far less for the Angara which stands at 35,8786km with a payload of 3 tons against the SLS with a 37t payload to a moon orbit.
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#19
NASA joins SLS rocket structures

Engineers at the space agency’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans have completed the “forward join” connecting structures to form the top part of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s core stage.

The forward join connected three structures: the forward skirt, the liquid oxygen tank and the intertank.

This milestone marks the beginning of integration and assembly of the massive, 212 foot-tall SLS core stage, which will include the rocket’s four RS-25 rocket engines, propellant tanks and flight computers.
 
#20
Does anyone else think SLS looks like the bastard offspring of a Space Shuttle got up the duff by a Saturn V?

Wonder how it's costs will compare to Musk's Big F**c*n Rocket, or whatever it's called now?
 
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