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