Solid Rocket Boosters Complete Space Launch System Program Milestone

Image Credit: NASA
Image Credit: NASA

NASA and ATK have completed Preliminary Design Review (PDR) of the Solid Rocket Booster design that will be used on NASA’s new Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift booster. The completion of this milestone means that SLS is one step closer to launch, with the first flight planned to take place in 2017.

“This is a tremendous milestone for ATK as we work toward building the boosters for our country’s Space Launch System,” said Charlie Precourt, vice president and general manager of ATK’s Space Launch division. “NASA’s SLS will enable human exploration for decades to come.”

With the PDR behind them, SLS proceeds forward to the Critical Design Review (CDR).

ATK plans to do a static firing of its Qualification Motor-1 (QM-1) sometime later this year.

“The booster PDR was successful and speaks to the importance of a collaborative design process with our NASA customer,” said ATK Vice President of the company’s Next-Generation Booster branch Fred Brasfield.

The first SLS is slated to launch in 2017; it will be an unmanned test flight of the rocket. However, it will be an additional four years before the rocket sends humans into space. Whereas it was previously believed that the 2021 flight would be a cislunar mission, that has since changed.

It was unveiled in the FY 2014 Budget Proposal Request that the White House wants NASA to capture an asteroid and bring it into lunar orbit. Astronauts would then launch using SLS and travel to the asteroid in the space agency’s new crewed spacecraft, Orion, to study it, collect samples, and then return to Earth.

NASA representatives have gone on record as stating that SLS is key to sending crews to Mars, a mission that is currently estimated to take place sometime in the 2030s. The rocket’s 130 MT lifting capability is viewed as crucial to getting the elements needed for such an undertaking to orbit in as few launches as possible.


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  1. Before this system launches …there will already be humans on Mars for 5 years and they will have gotten there using SpaceX and Bigelow systems…just a hunch…

    • That is “Set to launch in 2017” or…. maybe they mean in reality 2027…

      • Tracy,
        I’m sure your opinions & comments are “cool” to you, however, for the rest of us – they just make you look bad & drag down what you’re trying to promote. Rather than walk away – you choose to add more snark. NASA has the first launch of SLS is slated for 2017, you said SpaceX & Bigelow will have a base on Mars five years before it launches. This means SpaceX should have had its base built – last year. Before you & other NewSpace trolls make snarky comments that you think make you look “cool” – you should try doing the math. I try not to be rude, but given you have no problem stooping to this level allow me to say this makes you look, at best, childish & serves as a glaring indictment of NewSpace supporters.

        • Jason,
          I think you miss the point as to what the SLS is…It is a jobs program to give high tech engineers something to do in certain states that have the political strength to get the money….this is 1970s tech concepts…..As this is a jobs program that keeps high paying jobs in certain districts…the longer this government program continues the better…expect delays..delays are good…No humans until 2021 or 4 years after its first voyage. Mars One just annonuced they will have people on mars by 2023…Could SLS delay 5 or 7 years….Considering the cost and economy and the deficites of the Federal government…I think that is a given…and a practical basis at that…

          • Tracy,
            Regarding what SLS “is” – that’s your opinion. I’m not a fan of any launch vehicle. But I am an opponent to people who state their personal beliefs as fact, who behave as their opinions are the only ones that matter, who hold up one PowerPoint rocket & say its better than the other.

            NewSpace companies make announcements every day. The point you miss is that few of them actually do what they say they will. Another point you have missed is that, to date, none of these company’s have launched a single person. You are expressing what people who have an empty human flight portfolio state what will do, as if it already has – meanwhile stating the project NASA is working on – is nothing more than a jobs creator. You could be right. However, I tend to place bets on folks with experience – instead of taking the word of folks with none.

            I find the fact that you & other NewSpacers are willing to ignore NASA’s 150+ manned flights in favor of those with none – to be disappointing & disrespectful. Experience counts.

  2. Well, if nothing else, the production of the five segment solid rocket boosters could be used in the proposed Liberty launch vehicle.

  3. I was working in NYC when the first shuttle blew up. When my employee told me the SRBs were the cause I didn’t believe her. What could go wrong with a solid booster?

    Then we all learned about O-rings and cold weather.

    It seems incredible to me that we would go forward with a design that can’t be throttled down.

    • Actually – you asked the wrong question. In terms of Challenger you should have asked: “What can go wrong with management?” It was management that dictated that Challenger would fly that day. I don’t blame the tech – I blame the people that made the call.

      BTW – while this has been a revealing conversation. I think it has run its course. I need to get back to actually writing articles, so please don’t take my lack of response as anything other than I’ve moved on.
      Sincerely, Jason

      • Being that they chose to again use SRBs it appears management hasn’t changed. Except they’ve upped the ante by adding a new segment which increases risk 33% in the one area we know we’ve had a problem.

        It wasn’t just blowby on one mission. They recorded blowby on several missions which is why the engineers didn’t want to launch.

        This is Russian roulette.

        You are correct to spread the blame, but “I don’t blame the tech” doesn’t absolve it.

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