Tag Archives: SLS

Congress Just Gave NASA A Massive Budget For Next Year

Good news, everyone. NASAs latest budget has just been put forward by Congress and they have allocated the agency $750 million more than they requested. This means the agencys full budget for 2016 is $19.3 billion, which incredibly in an age of cutting costs is almost $1.3 billion more than last year.

The budget increases funding to several key programs at NASA, including its Commercial Crew program, its Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, and the Orion spacecraft. “We are going back into space with Americans on American rockets, and we are going to Mars,” Senator Bill Nelson said yesterday.

Perhaps most interestingly, $175 million of the budget has been set aside for the Europa Multi-Flyby Mission, a spacecraft that will be sent to Europa in the early 2020s, and the budget dictates that NASA must include a lander for the surface of this icy moon of Jupiter. “This mission shall include an orbiter with a lander that will include competitively selected instruments and that funds shall be used to finalize the mission design concept,” it reads, reported Ars Technica.

A landerhas been touted for the upcoming Europa mission before, but NASA has not been keen to firmly commit to anything yet, as there are many unknowns about undertaking such a landing. It remains to be seen how they’ll go forward with this request.

Nonetheless, the large amount of funding essentially allows NASA to meet most of the other goals it has set itself. Crucially, they were given the $1.243 billion of funding for the Commercial Crew program that they have been pushing so hard for. Administrator Charlie Bolden recently told IFLScience that he counted this getting SpaceX and Boeings manned spacecraft up and running as one of the key goals of his time in office.

Wish you were here? Congress has told NASA they must senda lander to the surface of Europa. NASA

Elsewhere, planetary science has received a boost in the form of $1.631 billion $270 million above what the President requested. According to The Planetary Society, this “allows both the MER Opportunity rover and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to continue science operations.” The upcoming Mars 2020 rover, meanwhile, gets a $22 million boost.

The huge SLS, which Congress seems very keen to overfund, has been given $2 billion, $640 million above the $1.36 billion requested by the President. The SLS, if you arent aware, will eventually be used to take humans to Mars with the Orion spacecraft, which has been given an increase to $1.91 billion.

Of the areas to miss out on their requested levels of funding, one is the Earth Science Division, which received$1.921 billion less than the Presidents request but $149 million more than last year. Another is the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), which gets $686 million $39 million less than requested, but $90 million more than last year.

The budget still needs to pass a vote in Congress this week, which seems likely at the moment, although a controversial surveillance bill was snuck in along with it. If it gets bythis test, the White House will almost certainly sign it into law.

Onto Europa, then.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/congress-just-gave-nasa-massive-budget-next-year

NASA’s Orion Spacecraft Prepares For First Launch In 2018

The race to Mars is on, and NASAs mission to the Red Planet has just begun another important phase.

The backbone of the new Orioncrew module was unloaded this week at the Kennedy Space Center. Itwill now be outfitted ahead ofits inaugural unmanned flight in late 2018 to the Moon and back.

Orion is the spacecraft being developed by NASA to take humans to an asteroid and,ultimately, toMars. And not onlywill it take humanity further than ever before, but it is alsothe most advanced and safest space vehicle ever created.

The crew module delivered to NASA is a pressure vessel, which will be the core of the manned quarters. It was constructed at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleansand flown to the center on NASA’s fish-shaped Super Guppy plane.

NASA Super Guppy aircraft being prepped for flight. NASA

The pressure vessel is now in the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building, where engineers from NASA andLockheed Martin will install all the systems and subsystems necessary to fly Orion around the Moon. The system includes heat shields, thermal protection, propulsion, computers, plumbing, electrical, life support, parachutes, and much more.

The 2018 launch, called Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1), will take seven days to circle the Moon and return to Earth. It will be the first flight of a human-rated craft in deep spacesince the Apollo missions over four decades ago, although on this test flight it will have no humans on board. Manned flights are expected to begin in the early 2020s.

The EM-1 pressure vessel is about 3 meters (10 feet) in height and 5 meters (16 feet) in diameter, and weighs over 1,200 kilograms (2,700 pounds). The capsule will be launched atop the Space Launch System (SLS), the expendable launch vehicle that will be used by NASA in the future to bring cargo and crew into orbit.

After EM-1 is completed, a crewed mission (EM-2) will explore an asteroid in near-Earth orbit. These tests will be fundamental in learning to overcome the challenges in the eventualjourney to Mars.

Photo Gallery

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/orion-being-prepped-begin-testing

World’s Most Powerful Deep Space Rocket Set To Launch In 2018

The world’s most powerful exploration rocket—the Space Launch System (SLS)—will be ready for its first test launch by November 2018, NASA officials have announced. The SLS is designed to take humans further into deep space than ever before.

“We are on a journey of scientific and human exploration that leads to Mars,” NASA Administrator Charles Boden said in a news release.

The Space Launch System has been in development for around three years, but official approval was only granted recently following a rigorous review of cost and production issues. The review, known as Key Decision Point C (KDP-C), set a baseline cost of $7.021 billion for the development of a smaller, 70-metric-ton version of the SLS. This version will be used for the flight test, known as Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), and will carry an unmanned Orion spacecraft on a three week flight beyond low-Earth orbit.

The Orion vehicle is part of a separate project under development that intends to piggyback on the SLS and carry people to Mars on a several month-long journey. Orion’s first test flight is scheduled for December of this year when it will launch atop a ULA Delta IV Heavy booster during the Exploration Flight Test-1 mission.

It is anticipated that the first manned flight of the SLS, EM-1, will take place around 2020/2021, which could visit an asteroid.

The final version of the SLS will stand 122 meters tall (400 feet) and have a 130-metric-ton (143 tons) lift capability, making it the world’s most powerful rocket by far. This will enable us to explore our solar system further than ever before. The total cost of developing SLS—which involves producing three versions—is estimated to be a whopping $12 billion.

While NASA has given us a test flight date of no later than the end of 2018, it is possible that the rocket will be ready for launch as early as December 2017. The conservative estimate allows for scheduling and funding issues that could arise over the next few years.

“Our nation has embarked on an ambitious space exploration program, and we owe it to the American taxpayers to get it right,” Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot said in a NASA news release. “After rigorous review, we’re committing today to a funding level and readiness date that will keep us on track to sending humans to Mars in the 2030s—and we’re going to stand behind that commitment.”

Concerns about the development schedule and funding plan have already been raised by the Government Accountability Office. They suggest the program may need an extra $400 million. NASA officials have said that they are taking these suggestion into account and are in the process of addressing the recommendations. 

[Via AFPspace.com, NASA and Universe Today]

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/worlds-most-powerful-deep-space-rocket-set-launch-2018