NASA takes next step toward most powerful rocket to date

NASA is preparing to get much more ambitious about exploring the solar system. The last Space Shuttle mission landed in 2011 and the last manned mission to the moon was in 1972. Now, however, NASA is preparing to visit to an asteroid and a manned mission to mars.

The space agency recently announced that their plans have taken a big step forward with the approval of a design for the engine that will power these deep space flights. NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) has passed it’s Critical Design Review and a contract has been awarded to Boeing to build the engine.

Representatives of NASA and Boeing met at NASA’s Mashall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama on June 30 and July 1 for the CDR Review Board. Technical teams representing 11 specific disciplines examined 3,000 core stage artifacts before finalizing the design.

“The SLS program team completed the core stage critical design review ahead of schedule and continues to make excellent progress towards delivering the rocket to the launch pad. Our entire prime contractor and government team has been working full-steam on this program since its inception,” said SLS Program Manager Todd May in a statement.

Components of flight hardware and core stage test articles is now underway at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility outside of New Orleans, Louisiana. Under a newly finalized contract, Boeing Aerospace will now begin construction of the 200 foot long core stage, which will store liquid hydrogen and oxygen to feed the RS-25 engines.

Ultimately the rocket will be able to life 130-metric tons into space.

“Completing the CDR is a huge accomplishment, as this is the first time a stage of a major NASA launch vehicle has passed a critical design review since the 1970s. In just 18 months since the Preliminary Design Review, we are ready to go forward from design to qualification production of flight hardware,” said Tony Lavoie, manager of the Stages Office at Marshall.

While these may be the most ambitious NASA plans since the Apollo missions, the agency obviously has an eye toward even more impressive plans in the future. Last month, the agency unveiled plans for a warp drive or faster than light spacecraft which could take humans well beyond the solar system.