Tomorrow's Rocket Taking Shape Today

At NASA we’re constantly reaching for new heights and bringing about a future where we can do more than we can do today. We’re making the impossible possible. We’re helping to create jobs while we do it. We’ve done it many times in the past, and now we’re striving to do it again by building the largest rocket the world has ever seen to carry humans farther into to space than ever before. Today we take one more step on that path.

In order to reach the deep space destinations like an asteroid and Mars, our Space Launch System, or SLS, will require boosters similar to, but more powerful than those we designed for the space shuttle. Today, NASA selected six proposals to improve the affordability, reliability, and performance of an advanced booster for the SLS. The companies selected will develop engineering demonstrations and risk reduction concepts for the heavy-lift rocket — a launch vehicle that will provide an entirely new capability for human exploration beyond low Earth orbit.

The SLS is crucial to our future exploration plans, and we look forward to the concepts and ideas that these companies will give us. The funding for this work is contingent, however, on Congress providing the resources that President Obama has requested in his Fiscal Year 2013 budget request.

A new era of space exploration has already begun. Commercial partners are making more and more milestones, such as SpaceX’s historic launch, berthing, and return of the Dragon capsule in May. With commercial space well on its way to taking over the transport to low Earth orbit that NASA pioneered, it’s time again for NASA to innovate by doing the next big thing no one can right now.

NASA is lining up the work to continue aggressively on a new transportation system to get American astronauts on missions to an asteroid and Mars. The Orion crew vehicle that will ride atop the SLS is already well into development. In 2014 our prime contractor, Lockheed Martin, will launch it on an unmanned flight that will simulate a lunar mission re-entry. This will help us buy down risks on the ultimate human-certified vehicle. We can’t stop now on the SLS, and we look forward to the support we need to carry out the work that a bi-partisan majority in Congress has supported to take America’s space program to new destinations and keep us reaching higher.

To read more about SLS, visit: