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Space Launch System

Space Launch System Overview

What is it?
SLS is a heavy-lift, exploration-class space system capable of transporting people, cargo, and science experiments beyond low Earth orbit (LEO). It will be the largest, most powerful rocket ever built launching larger payloads farther in our solar system, faster than ever before possible.

The launch vehicle will have an initial lift capacity of over 154,000 pounds, with a final configuration capacity exceeding 285,000 pounds. (By comparison, the Space Shuttle’s lift capacity was about 54,000 pounds.)

Where to?
Designed to be flexible for crew or cargo missions, SLS’s heavy-lift capability will take us on a journey through our solar system from the rocky inner planets to the outer gaseous giants and the asteroids in between.

With the support of the American people, SLS will complete its first developmental flight mission in 2019.

New frontiers are inherently challenging to reach. An arduous journey to destinations previously beyond our grasp requires a unified effort, leveraging our global ingenuity and an unwavering commitment to the advancement of knowledge. The successful launch of the next era of exploration will continue to thrust our civilization further into the solar system while providing technological advancements that improve life on Earth.


Space Launch System


Click here for more information about NASA’s SLS program.


Image Source: NASA

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Innovate, Explore, Discover
SLS lift capacity and performance enables a variety of missions including human exploration, planetary science, astrophysics, heliophysics, planetary defense and commercial space endeavors. Explore some of these exciting missions below:

Asteroid Redirect Mission

Mission Objective:
Rendezvous, capture and return an asteroid to lunar orbit for long-term future human exploration.

Why SLS:
SLS enables direct injection of the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) spacecraft to a Near-Earth Asteroid (NEA) target, eliminates the outbound and shortens overall mission time by two years.

MARs_SLS_Page-process-s500x333Humans To Mars

Mission Objective:
Enable human exploration of the Red Planet allowing scientific investigation of what was believed to be a warmer, wetter world which could have supported primitive life forms.

Why SLS:
The fully evolved SLS enables a crewed mission to the Martian surface with the fewest number of launches, thus reducing overall risk and minimizing cost.

Europa_SLS-process-s500x333Europa Clipper

Mission Objective:
The spacecraft will investigate the Jupiter’s moon’s ice shell, the existence of a subsurface liquid ocean and surface-ice-ocean exchange processes.

Why SLS:

Eliminating Venus and Earth flybys, SLS provides a direct launch to the Jovian system, arriving four years earlier than missions utilizing existing launch vehicles.


Learn more about these and other SLS-enabled missions here.


Did You Know?

How many pounds of thrust does the SLS 70 ton configuration produce? 

8.4 million pounds of thrust. That is more than 31 times the total thrust of a 747 jet and equivalent to 160,000 Corvette engines. The heavy-lift rocket will be the most powerful rocket ever developed, reducing deep space mission time and costs.

Click To Reveal Answer

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