Friday, July 06, 2018

NASA Considering Flying Additional SLS Block One Rockets

NASA has started updating plans and schedules for additional SLS Block 1 launches in the early 2020s after Washington added federal budget money for a second Mobile Launcher (ML) platform and umbilical tower in late March.

Construction of a new Mobile Launcher frees the first ML from a three-year long downtime for teardown and reassembly after the first SLS launch of Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), currently projected for mid-2020. Instead of being retired after one launch, the Block 1 configuration could fly multiple times.

The first two candidates to fly on the second SLS launch are the first crewed Orion on a Lunar swingby flight test or the Europa Clipper interplanetary flagship that will repeatedly overfly Jupiter’s moon exploring for signs of habitability. The space agency formally re-assigned both missions to Block 1 last week and will decide in the future which one gets priority.

Both missions will need Block 1’s Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS), a modified Delta 4 upper stage, and NASA is now looking at purchasing more stages and human-rating the design for Orion missions.

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