Friday, July 9, 2021

SLS science mission role delayed

A limited supply chain and the demands of the Artemis program will prevent the use of the Space Launch System for alternative roles, such as launching science missions, until at least late this decade. In a briefing about the SLS to the steering committee of the planetary science decadal survey July 7, Robert Stough of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center said that if scientists are contemplating missions that require the use of the SLS, they should be talking with NASA now to secure manifest slots no earlier than the late 2020s or early 2030s. While NASA has a goal of being able to launch three SLS missions in a 24-month period, and two in 12 months, the supply chain is currently limited to one SLS per year. That will change by the early 2030s, he said, growing to two per year and thus creating opportunities for additional SLS missions beyond the Artemis program. That will be enabled by changes to at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, La., to increase core stage production and a “block upgrade” to the RS-25 engine used on that core stage that will be cheaper and faster to produce. (Source: SpaceNews, 07/08/21)