It will be a while before humans can travel to Mars – maybe a long while – but NASA is already hard at work building the craft that will take them there. Space technology takes a long time to develop, and you really want to be sure you have the kinks worked out before you send people that far into the cosmos. The Space Launch System (SLS) that will eventually (hopefully) carry astronauts to the Red Planet has graduated from an early phase of the development process and is now, according to NASA, ready to be built.
Last week, NASA announced that the Critical Design Review (CDR) had been completed successfully. A CDR is a crucial part of the design process, and marks the first time in nearly four decades that a rocket intended to carry humans has passed this milestone. The CDR specifically served to approve the design of the integrated launch vehicle, a necessary feature for a rocket meant to carry passengers to Mars and then sustain a human presence for a yet-to-be-determined period of time. Additionally, NASA reports the SLS will be the most powerful rocket ever built.
The next stage of development is full-scale manufacturing, integration, and testing of the launch vehicle with the other rocket components. After that, in 2017, the design certification process will take place, wherein the final product gets compared to the original design and deviations noted. NASA notes the final review could deem the rocket ready for flight in 2018.
“This is a major step in the design and readiness of SLS,” said John Honeycutt, SLS program manager. “Our team has worked extremely hard, and we are moving forward with building this rocket. We are qualifying hardware, building structural test articles, and making real progress.”
Images via NASA