NASA Space Launch System Launch May Be Delayed Until 2021

Share

NASA’s Beguiled Megarocket—The Space Launch System (SLS)—Faces Even More Delays

The Space Launch System, or SLS, won’t fly this year. Probably not next year either. The megarocket meant to send U.S. astronauts back to the Moon has faced many delays. And it looks like things are only getting worse for the controversial project. 

Over the summer, Ken Bowersox, the guy who stepped into William Gerstenmaier’s shoes as the acting head of human exploration and operations, announced that the SLS would clear terra firma by the end of next year. Now it appears that first flight may not happen until mid-2021.

Plans for Artemis

The Artemis program currently depends on the SLS as its solution for getting our next astronauts back to the moon. The first test flight mission, called Artemis 1, aims to orbit the moon with an uncrewed Orion spacecraft. The next phase will be a crewed orbit (hopefully) in 2022. That mission is called Artemis 2, and it will be the first crewed mission of the program.

Artemis 3 is the big show, however. That’s the mission planned for 2024 (after the White House cut four years off of the deadline) in which the first woman and the next man will set foot on the Moon. Another giant leap—despite the President’s insistence to the contrary—if I may be so bold as to invoke Armstrong. During the time between Artemis missions, the Space Launch System is slated to launch other missions as well. The Europa Clipper mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa, for example, will use the SLS to propel its robotic payload halfway across the solar system.

That Timing, Though…

All of those timelines assume that every stage of development over the next four years goes perfectly. So far that has not been the case for the Artemis program in general, let alone the SLS. Even Bowersox admits that. He told reporters recently, “But then there’s risks like weather, and then we don’t know how much refurbishment we might need to do to the stage after we’ve run those engines for a whole flight duration and a test flight, so we’re conservatively thinking we could take an extra couple months to do some of that work.

“In the very best case, we have a chance to actually have a rocket on the pad and launched by the end of next year, but when you start throwing all those different uncertainties, it’s more likely that we will move out into 2021.”

Still, as improbable as meeting all of these deadlines seems, NASA’s pulled off the “impossible” before. Here’s hoping for a miracle next year!

Read More:


Love Space Porn? We know you do. Why not support the site by checking out our Marketplace, or better yet, by becoming a patron? You get some great merch or perks, plus the satisfaction of knowing you’re supporting your favorite space news and entertainment site.

Brandon Humphreys

Brandon Humphreys

I'm a wizard. I write stuff and it goes from my head into yours - Magic! Apart from that, I am the Senior Editor for Space Porn, a veteran, a rock guitarist, and a teacher.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *