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NASA advances design of more powerful SLS rocket

HUNTSVILLE — While NASA prepares Artemis I for its initial launch, the space agency reached a milestone toward enhancing the Space Launch System  rocket for deep space missions.

Managers convened last week for the critical design review of the Block IB evolved configuration of the rocket. In the process, they determined teams will continue with design and initial production work for the evolved rocket design.

Beginning with Artemis IV, the SLS rocket will use the evolved configuration with a more powerful Exploration Upper Stage that includes larger fuel tanks and four RL10 engines. The current Block I configuration uses an interim cryogenic propulsion stage with one RL10 engine to provide in-space propulsion to send Orion to the moon.

There are also new stage and payload adapters to send the Orion crew and large cargos to the moon on a single mission.

This configuration will be capable of launching more than 80,000 pounds of payload to the moon. It includes new flight software capabilities, allows for more launch date opportunities, and enhances crew safety.

It will be capable of lifting 40% more mass than the current SLS configuration that will soon launch the uncrewed Artemis I flight test, as well as the Artemis II and III missions.

Early production work on an EUS structural test article is underway at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, and teams recently delivered the interstage simulator to the Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Miss., for testing.

As teams at Michoud build SLS core stages for future Artemis missions, they are also testing the weld parameters on the recently manufactured EUS hydrogen tank barrel weld confidence article. These tests will allow engineers to construct the EUS structural test article that will be used to qualify the stage for flight.

Manufacturing the upper stage is a collaborative effort between NASA and Boeing, the lead contractor for EUS and the SLS core stage.

Through Artemis, NASA will land the first woman and the first person of color on the lunar surface and establish long-term exploration on the moon in preparation for human missions to Mars.

SLS is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts, and supplies to the moon in a single mission.

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