NASA has announced that it is currently “reassessing” the launch of the agency’s first Space Launch System (SLS) mission, likely suggesting delays.
Currently, NASA’s SLS Exploration Mission 1 (EM 1) is scheduled to be launched in 2020. However, during the Space Transportation Association luncheon on March 5, the director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Jody Singer revealed that dates for the first SLS mission were being reassessed.
“We do know that we are reassessing those dates to see if that date will work, based on making sure we have the vehicle ready, and ready to go fly safely,” she Singer. “We are assessing that date. Our launch readiness date is still 2020, and we’re doing everything within our power to make sure that we support that.”
Singer did not give any additional details and despite confirming the agency was reassessing the dates, insisted that EM 1 would still be launched in 2020.
The SLS EM 1 mission’s launch date was originally set for November 2018 after the Block 1 variant passed a key milestone in August 2014. In April 2017, the launch slipped to 2019 after delays in the construction of the rocket’s core stage. Just months later, NASA again pushed the EM 1 launch date this time to June 2020.
According to Singer, construction on most of the major elements of the first SLS rocket has been completed. “We are working hard to build SLS and, yes, we’re overcoming challenges,” she said. “The SLS vehicle is almost complete. It’s in its final outfitting.” Singer did, however, conceded that delays continue to hamper the construction of the rocket’s core stage.
The SLS core stage is being developed and built by Boeing. Once complete, it will stand at 64.6 meters (211 feet) tall with a diameter of 8.4 meters (27 feet). It’s powered by four liquid-fueled RS-25D/E engines (the same engines that powered NASA’s space shuttles) burning liquid hydrogen and oxygen.