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NASA’s super rocket to Mars clears critical review

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An artist's concept of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), the first vehicle designed to meet the challenges of the journey to Mars and the first exploration class rocket since the Saturn V.
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Washington: For the first time in almost 40 years, NASA has completed all steps needed to clear a critical design review (CDR) for the most powerful rocket ever built that will take humans to deeper space missions, including Mars.

The agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) is the first vehicle designed to meet the challenges of the journey to Mars and the first exploration class rocket since the Saturn V.

SLS will launch America into a new era of exploration to destinations beyond Earth’s orbit.

“We have successfully completed the first round of testing of the rocket’s engines and boosters and all the major components for the first flight are now in production,” explained Bill Hill, deputy associate administrator of NASA’s Exploration Systems Development Division.

“This review gives us confidence that we are on the right track for the first flight of SLS and using it to extend permanent human presence into deep space,” he added.

This review is the last of four reviews that examine concepts and designs.

The next step for the programme is design certification, which will take place in 2017 after manufacturing, integration and testing is complete.

The design certification will compare the actual final product to the rocket’s design.

The final review, the flight readiness review, will take place just prior to the 2018 flight readiness date.

“This is a major step in the design and readiness of SLS,” added John Honeycutt, SLS programme manager.

The core stage of SLS, towering more than 200 feet tall and with a diameter of 27.6 feet, will carry cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen fuel for the rocket’s four RS-25 engines.

NASA recently completed the first developmental test series on the RS-25 engines.

(IANS)

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The Aborted Mission To Relaunch In December: NASA

In August, a hole appeared in a Soyuz capsule docked to the ISS that caused a brief loss of air pressure and had to be patched.

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Russian Rocket
Astronaut Anne McClain, left, is seen during training at the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston, Texas. VOA

The American astronaut who will hitch the first ride on a Russian rocket since last month’s aborted launch and dramatic emergency landing is confident that her scheduled trip in December on a rocket that she calls a “workhorse” will go smoothly.

Astronaut Anne McClain, along with a Russian cosmonaut and a Canadian astronaut, will man the Dec. 3 mission. It will be the Russian-made Soyuz-FG’s first crewed flight since Oct. 11, when U.S. astronaut Nick Hague and a Russian cosmonaut landed unharmed on the Kazakh desert steppe after the rocket bound for the International Space Station failed in mid-air two minutes after liftoff.

NASA, rocket
Specialists watch broadcasts from the Soyuz spacecraft showing astronaut David Saint-Jacques of Canada, Oleg Kononenko of Russia and astronaut Anne McClain of the U.S. attending the final qualification training for their upcoming space mission in Star City near Moscow, Russia. VOA

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has relied on Russian rockets to ferry astronauts to the space station since the United States retired its Space Shuttle program in 2011, though the agency has announced plans for test flights carrying two astronauts on commercial rockets made by Boeing and SpaceX next April.

“I do see the incident that happened on Oct. 11 with our launch abort not as a failure but as a success,” McClain told Reuters in a telephone interview from Russia. “It actually bolsters my confidence in the rocket and in the processes that we have.

“We’re confident in the vehicle and getting back to it,” McClain said of the Soyuz rocket, which she called “the workhorse of the space program.”

After lifting off from Kazakhstan’s Soviet-era cosmodrome of Baikonur last month, a damaged sensor caused one of the rocket’s three booster stages to separate improperly, falling inward on the rocket and jolting it off its ascent two miles above ground, Russian investigators announced earlier this month.

Russian Rocket
The Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft carrying the crew of astronaut Nick Hague of the U.S. and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin of Russia blasts off to the International Space Station (ISS) from the launchpad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. VOA

During Assembly

Video from inside the capsule showed the two men being shaken around at the moment the failure occurred, their arms and legs flailing. Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin can be heard saying, “That was a quick flight.”

The accident was the first serious launch problem experienced by a crewed Soyuz space mission since 1983, when a crew narrowly escaped before a launchpad explosion.

Also Read: NASA Grants $7 Mn For New Life Detection

In August, a hole appeared in a Soyuz capsule docked to the ISS that caused a brief loss of air pressure and had to be patched. Dmitry Rogozin, head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, has said that it could have been made deliberately by someone during manufacturing or while the craft was in space.

McClain and two other crewmates will launch from the same launchpad in Baikonur, joining the space station’s current three-person crew. (VOA)