Today, NASA announced the new Space Launch System (SLS), an advanced heavy-lift launch vehicle that will provide an entirely new national capability for human exploration beyond Earth's orbit.
The SLS will be designed to carry the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, as well as important cargo, equipment, and science experiments to Earth's orbit and beyond. Additionally, the SLS will serve as a backup for commercial and international partner transportation services to the International Space Station.
The SLS rocket will use a liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propulsion system, which will include the RS-25D/E from the Space Shuttle program for the core stage, and the J-2X engine for the upper stage. SLS will also use solid rocket boosters for the initial development flights, while follow-on boosters will be competed based on performance requirements and affordability considerations.
The SLS will be NASA's first exploration-class vehicle since the Saturn V took American astronauts to the Moon over 40 years ago. The first developmental flight, or mission, is targeted for the end of 2017.
Click here to view a simulated launch of the SLS.