Managers of three key NASA exploration programs said May 10 that they are making good progress towards a first launch of the Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket as soon as September 2018.
Managers of the SLS, Orion, and Ground Systems Development and Operations (GSDO) programs said at a Space Transportation Association luncheon here that while the programs are working towards a first launch of SLS and Orion, called Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1), in November 2018, they believe that they could launch up to two months earlier.
“The agency’s baseline commitment is November of 2018,” said Mike Bolger, manager of the GSDP program. “The September date we’ve talked internally about, and pressed them to see if we can make it by September. It gives us a little margin at the end.”
His comments came after an earlier presentation by Mark Kirasich, the Orion program manager, who discussed preparations for the EM-1 launch, including photos of the pressure vessel of the spacecraft being assembled at the Kennedy Space Center.
“This is the pressure vessel that, about 28 months from now, will be on its way towards the moon and into a distant retrograde orbit around the moon,” he said, a timeframe that corresponds to a September 2018 launch.