By Buddy Blouin
Humanity made a major leap by exploring space in 1957 with the first satellite launch. Since then, we’ve learned a lot more about the Final Frontier, and great strides have been made, but a lot more may become possible than going to the moon thanks to the NASA SLS. Capable of launching vital components into space, the NASA Space Launch System (SLS) is going to help the United States complete more complex space missions that will not only change our world but the universe as we know it.

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When Will NASA SLS Launch?

After several delays, the first NASA SLS launch has moved again. The Space Launch System launch date will now be in late October 2022. This change comes after yet another delay from the Artemis 1 launch shelved on September 27, 2022, due to Hurricane Ian.

What Is Space Launch System?

NASA’s Space Launch System is an expendable vehicle that's used to launch America’s deep exploration efforts. Development on the NASA SLS began in 2011 and was slated to have its first launch in December 2016 after being mandated to do so by Congress. Despite this, numerous delays have hindered the program, and it's now slated to have its maiden launch in 2022 from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. NASA’s Space Launch System is replacing the Ares I and Ares V launch vehicles, as well as the entire Constellation program, and will act as the next step from the now-retired Saturn V vehicle. Several initiatives are slated for the Space Launch System, including the Artemis program, which could lead humans to Mars, and the launching of the Orion spacecraft.

The Artemis Space Launch System

Known officially as Artemis I, Artemis 1 is the previous Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) initiative that will bring Americans back to the moon. The first four Artemis missions will be conducted by NASA before the agency transfers the SLS to private interests. Establishing a base camp on the moon is one of the program’s major long-term goals, as is successfully launching missions with humans going to Mars. Again, several delays have so far hindered progress, but Artemis 1 is aiming to launch in 2022, Artemis 2 in 2024, Artemis 3 in 2025, and Artemis 4 in 2027.

Space Launch System vs. Saturn V

Getting cargo into space takes a tremendous amount of power. The more power you have, the more you can lift and the farther it can go. Such is the case with the NASA SLS when compared to Saturn V. It features 15% more thrust and is positioning itself as the megarocket of the future.

Space Launch System vs. Starship

One of the big questions that hit the aerospace industry with the rise of both the NASA SLS and SpaceX Starship is: Why do both programs exist? There are a couple main considerations to remember about having both NASA and SpaceX:
  • Space exploration is still very early, and both government and private entities are working together to advance technology and capabilities.
  • The timing of SpaceX gaining funding and capabilities was not anticipated, as developments have closed the gap between private and government entities.
Together, these launch vehicles can help each other and the aerospace industry as a whole advance itself in new, innovative ways. To learn more, Everyday Astronaut has an extremely deep dive into this exact comparison.

The NASA SLS Will Transfer to the Private Sector

While the SLS is a program of NASA’s for the time being, after the first four Artemis missions, the U.S. government agency will be transferring the project to the private sector. But don’t worry; the program will be in capable, familiar hands under the guidance of Deep Space Transport LLC. A joint venture by the Boeing Company and Northrop Grumman, Deep Space Transport is spearheaded by aerospace leaders that often collaborate and create for the U.S. government. This includes current components that are a part of the NASA Space Launch System rocket. What was once unthinkable is becoming easier and easier by the day. Space exploration continues to play a major role in the next steps of American interests. One of the most obvious examples of an uptick in interest and capability from America in space would be the creation of the U.S. Space Force (USSF) in recent years. As the NASA SLS continues to improve where and how we can explore space, the USSF will continue to have an expanded role in keeping American interests safe up above and down below.

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