Some Mind Blowing Facts About NASA’s Space Launch System,The World’s Largest Rocket!

NASA and the U.S. Space Program in general seems to have lost a bit of their sheen ever since the retirement of the legendary space shuttle program three years ago. Currently, NASA astronauts are at the mercy of Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft to make their trips to the International Space Station. And that status isn’t going to change until the next few years.

However, as the old saying goes, good things come to those who wait. The good thing we are referring to here is something known as the Space Launch System. The Space Launch System (SLS) would be the U.S.’ primary launch vehicle for missions of various types of the future. It is also considered to be a backup replacement to the Space Shuttle Program – even though it is radically different from it – both in looks and size. While there are a lot of things to say about the Space Launch System launch vehicle, for the laymen like you and me, it would always be its sheer size that would be of primary interest. The Space Launch System happens to be the biggest, most capable rocket ever built by humans ever since the dawn of the space age. When it makes its first flight in 2017, it will break some long held records that have been standing for over 40 years.

Let us check out some mind blowing facts about the Space Launch System. Before we start, I must tell you that the Space Launch System launch vehicle is a multipurpose rocket. It primarily comes in four different variants – two 70 metric ton crew and cargo variants and two huge 130 metric ton crew and cargo variants. The smaller, 70 metric ton variant, even though smaller is still bigger and more powerful than any other rocket or lift vehicle that is operational today. Key facts about the 70 ton variant.

  • It weighs as much as 5.5 million pounds – or roughly 7.5 fully loaded Boeing 747 Jumbos
  • At 321 feet, it is as tall as a 30 story building and much taller than the Statue Of Liberty
  • It can carry a payload of a colossal 70 tons to space. That is the equivalent of carrying 12 fully grown elephants in to space.
  • At the time of lift off, the engines of the 70 ton variant of the Space Launch System makes an astounding 8.4 million pounds of thrust. This is 31 times more than the thrust of a Boeing 747
  • This is also equivalent to the horsepower that would be created by 160,000 Corvette engines or 13,400 locomotives
  • While not bigger in size than the previous biggest rocket the Saturn V, even the 70 ton variant makes 10 percent more thrust than the Saturn V.

Let’s now see some astounding facts about the 130 ton variant. This would be the biggest, most powerful rocket ever built. Much bigger than the aforementioned Saturn V which was the rocket the U.S. used to reach the moon.

  • At 6.5 million pounds, this is the heaviest rocket ever. It is equivalent to 8.8 fully loaded Boeing 747’s
  • It stands at an incredible 384 feet tall. That is as tall as a 38 story building. It has a cargo volume of the equivalent of of 9 school buses.
  • It would be capable of carrying over 130 tons in to space. A one-ton pickup truck would need to make 143 trips to do that. The weight is equal to 22 fully grown elephants.
  • The 130 ton variant will produce as much power as 220,000 Corvette engines and 17,400 locomotives
  • At lift off, it would produce 20 percent more thrust than the Saturn V.

Here are some facts about the Space Launch System’s Solid Rocket Boosters, the Core stage engines and the upper stage engines.

  • If the heat energy produced by the Solid Rocket Boosters (which burns for just 2 minutes at lift off) could be converted to electricity, it could power 92,000 homes for an entire day. Each of the SRB’s burn 5 tons of fuel each second.
  • As for the RS 25 engines used in the core stage, these engines generate as much power as the output from 12 Hoover Dams. According to NASA, if three RS 25 engines pumped water rather than fuel, they could drain a family sized swimming pool in less than 25 seconds!
  • As for the J-2X engine for the upper stage, one engine produces the equivalent power of two Hoover Dams. These engines gobble up 217 gallons of fuel, each second!

With the first launch of the Space Launch System only scheduled for 2017, people are criticizing the program already for simply being too slow and expensive.

[Images via NASA/ Space Answers]

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