HUNTSVILLE, Ala., 23 June 2012. Last week, Boeing [NYSE: BA] completed its first major technical reviews for the cryogenic stages of the Space Launch System (SLS), bringing the team into the design phase for the nation's next heavy-lift, human-rated rocket.
The combined system requirements review (SRR) and system definition review (SDR), held at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville with independent consultants from previous programs, validated that Boeing and NASA have developed solid system requirements for the cryogenic stages and supporting hardware. Cryogenic rocket engines use liquefied gas stored at very low temperatures for optimal rocket efficiency.
While SRR is a contractual requirement, Boeing simultaneously pursued the SDR to enable a higher quality of requirements as the team enters the design phase. The reviews, completed ahead of the scheduled August time frame for SRR, enabled a fast path to core stage delivery to NASA, and validated the stage's design concept and production approaches.
NASA's plan uses existing elements for the boosters, crew capsule, and engines, but the cryogenic stages are new elements that require more design and development. That makes successful, timely reviews important to the progress of the SLS program.
The first test flight of the SLS is scheduled for 2017, for which the launch vehicle will be configured for a 70-metric ton lift capacity. An evolved, two-stage launch vehicle configuration will provide a lift capability of 130 metric tons to enable missions beyond Earth's orbit and support deep space exploration.
The SLS is a heavy launch vehicle designed by NASA. The SLS follows the cancellation of the cnostellation program and will be replacing the retired space shuttle. Its core capability will be between 70 metric tons and 100 metric tons.
Boeing is designing, developing and producing part of the SLS. Boeing is responsible for the SLS cryogenic stages and avionics. Design work for the cryogenic stages is performed in Huntsville, Ala., with production at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.