NASA’s next spacecraft a stepping stone for Mars mission


NASA is taking an incremental approach to a potential Mars mission, with the proposed 2020 launch of its new Space Launch System as the next step in space exploration. Made of refurbished, repurposed and updated equipment and designs from earlier eras in spaceflight, SLS will be used for missions that will use the moon as a proving ground for concepts that could facilitate a Mars Mission, said Bill Hill, deputy associate administrator for Exploration Systems Development.

In designing the SLS, NASA decided to make use of some RS-25 engines it had left over from the space shuttles. It will have four of these mounted at the base, at the core stage engine section, making it look similar to the Saturn V.

NASA already has contracts in place to reduce the costs of these engines by updating and replacing older concepts and obsolete parts. In some case, it’s using 3D printing to do so. NASA also has to add avionics to the core stage. In older models, all the electronics were in the orbiter. But now, with the focus on reusability for spacecraft, the core stage needs to be able to operate on its own.

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