Cox, Renee, Creech, Steve, and Robinson, Kimberly F
Reinventing Space Conference; 30 Oct.-1 Nov. 2018; London; United Kingdom
Launch Vehicles and Launch Operations
As part of a renewed focus on deep space exploration, NASA and its private sector and international partners are building a new super heavy-lift launch vehicle, the Space Launch System (SLS), as well as the new Orion crew vehicle, and upgrading launch facilities at Kennedy Space Center. Progress made on the Block 1 vehicle, as well as its expected performance metrics and fiscal support from the U.S. administration and Congress, have opened up additional manifest possibilities that the Agency continues to evaluate. Offering a combination of power, payload capacity and departure energy unmatched in contemporary boosters, the SLS family of launch vehicles features the world's most-proven propulsion system: solid rocket boosters and RS-25 main engines with a modified existing cryogenic in-space stage. The initial SLS configuration, Block 1, will deliver at least 26 metric tons (t) of payload to trans-lunar injection (TLI). The vehicle's flexible architecture will enable the rocket to evolve over the next decade to meet the most demanding deep space mission requirements. The second configuration, Block 1B, will deliver at least 34 to 40 t to TLI, depending on whether the crewed or cargo variant is selected. Although designed to facilitate human exploration of deep space, the vehicle also provides game-changing benefits for large science payloads and even harnesses excess capacity to provide small satellites with affordable access to deep space. For the first integrated mission of SLS and Orion, launching from Kennedy Space Center in fiscal year 2020, SLS Block 1 will send Orion on a 25.5-day mission to a distant retrograde lunar orbit with the primary objective to test and validate new systems and procedures. That first mission, called Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), also has 13 6U-class CubeSat payloads manifested. Those payloads, which will carry out a variety of scientific experiments and technology demonstrations, will deploy in several locations along the trajectory after Orion has separated from SLS. Contractors and suppliers have made significant progress since last year manufacturing the Block 1 vehicle for EM-1. The upper stage and adapters are complete as are the four RS-25 engines. All other major components are constructed and being outfitted for flight. In fact, hardware for the second flight is currently being manufactured at locations across the United States. This paper will outline hardware, avionics and testing progress toward the first and second flights of SLS. Manifest opportunities for primary, co-manifested and secondary payloads will be discussed. An in-depth look at payload utilization and integration will be provided, as well as lessons learned from installing a secondary payload deployment system for EM-1.