NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) has hit a milestone today as engineers began structurally matting the rockets four RS-25 engines. News from the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans has been met with rejoice as the nation waits for the Space Shuttles predecessor to begin operations early next year.
The RS-25 engines were developed by Los Angeles based rocket engine design company Rocketdyne and were previously flown on the Space Shuttle. Concerted efforts to design them began in the 1970's, which speaks to their effectiveness as NASA plans to use 4 for each launch of the SLS.
In 2011 the Senate announced that it would fund the research and development for SLS with a budget of $18 billion through 2017. $6 billion of which would be put aside for the development and manufacture of the Orion crew Capsule. The program has seen a few setbacks in the form of delays and budget concerns. Still, NASA has pushed forward in an effort to create self sufficiency and allow Americans to launch to space from our terrestrial soil.
NASA tested its Orion crew capsule's abort capabilities earlier this year, and its Mobile Launch Platform is ready for the SLS to roll out.
Currently NASA has plans for three variants of the SLS. Block 1, Block 1B and Block 2. Each variant will use the same core stage consisting of four RS-25 engines making this announcement out of New Orleans particularly exhilarating. SLS will be the vehicle that launches the first female astronaut to space compounding the importance of this program.