National aeronautics and space agency (NASA)
Who is nasa?
When most think of NASA they think of the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and Space Shuttle programs. While NASA was the main launch provider throughout the majority of our history in space, in recent times they’ve taken a more administrative approach overseeing commercial launch efforts. Though NASA currently has no active launch vehicles, they are working on the development of the Space Launch System (SLS). The SLS is at the center of NASA’s deep space exploration plans with launches currently planned for the early 2020’s.
space launch system (SLS)
The SLS is NASA’s solution to deep space exploration and an integral part of the future Orion Program, which aims to send crewed missions to both the lunar surface and Mars. In it’s final configuration, this super-heavy lift rocket is planned to be more powerful and stand over 35 feet taller than the Saturn V moon rocket, which remains the tallest, heaviest, and most powerful rocket ever successfully launched. Comprised of repurposed Space Shuttle technologies, the SLS has had it’s fair share of controversy. With numerous delays and budget issues as well as concerns over the cost-per-launch, lack of reusability, and the rapid advancement of commercial launch vehicles, many are left wondering if the SLS is even necessary. In an early-2019 hearing, NASA Administrator, Jim Bridenstine confirmed that NASA is considering utilizing a private launch provider for the 2020 EM-1 circumlunar flight, which was intended to be the first SLS mission. But it is now known that NASA is still planning to launch EM-1 on SLS sometime in the early 2020’s.