Space Launch System Core Stage Passes Critical Design Review

NASA continues to make progress toward its next giant leap to send humans farther into the solar system than ever before, including to an asteroid and eventually to Mars. This week, the core stage for NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) has passed its Critical Design Review -- a major milestone for the program which proves the first new design for America's next great rocket is mature enough for production.

Representatives from various NASA centers and The Boeing Company -- prime contractor for the core stage, including its avionics -- met June 30 and July 1 for the Critical Design Review board at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. More than 3,000 core stage artifacts were reviewed by 11 individual technical discipline teams. Marshall manages the SLS Program for the agency.

"The SLS program team completed the core stage critical design review ahead of schedule and continues to make excellent progress towards delivering the rocket to the launch pad," said SLS Program Manager Todd May. "Our entire prime contractor and government team has been working full-steam on this program since its inception."

Components of the core stage test article and actual flight hardware manufacturing is underway at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans, while development and integration of flight computers and software continues at Marshall.

"Completing the CDR is a huge accomplishment, as this is the first time a stage of a major NASA launch vehicle has passed a critical design review since the 1970s," said Tony Lavoie, manager of the Stages Office at Marshall. "In just 18 months since the Preliminary Design Review, we are ready to go forward from design to qualification production of flight hardware."

Program officials also completed modification of the remaining major SLS contract with Boeing Aerospace of Huntsville, Alabama, a division of Boeing Company of St. Louis. Under the contract, Boeing will develop the 200-foot core stage, including the avionics system for SLS. The core stage will store cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen that will feed the RS-25 engines at the base of the core stage. Boeing has also been tasked to study the Exploration Upper Stage, which will be needed for the 130-metric-ton version of SLS that will further expand mission range and payload capabilities.

Three prime contractors support SLS in addition to Boeing: ATK of Brigham City, Utah; Aerojet Rocketdyne of Sacramento, California; and Teledyne Brown Engineering of Huntsville, Alabama.

The first configuration of the SLS launch vehicle will have a 70-metric-ton (77-ton) lift capacity and carry an uncrewed Orion spacecraft beyond low-Earth orbit to test the performance of the integrated system. As the SLS is evolved, it will be the most powerful rocket ever built and provide an unprecedented lift capability of 130 metric tons (143 tons) to enable missions even farther into our solar system.