October 22, 2021

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How NASA’s Artemis moon landing with astronauts works

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An artist’s depiction of NASA’s Space Launch System mid-launch.

(Image credit: NASA)

4) Space Launch System rocket

NASA’s Space Launch System is the agency’s heavy-lift rocket designed to bring humans and cargo deep into the solar system. It was first announced in September 2011 under the administration of President Barack Obama, back when NASA was targeting “flexible destinations,” including Mars and a near-Earth asteroid, for future human missions. After overcoming delays and development challenges in late 2020 and early 2021, SLS is currently slated to make its debut flight, Artemis 1, in December 2021 when it will launch an Orion spacecraft on a loop around the moon.

SLS will be available in a few configurations, with the astronaut-launching lunar version anticipated at 321 feet (98 m) tall. It is being developed in three major phases with different capabilities, mostly in the upper stages: Block 1, Block 1B, and Block 2. The core stage of all versions will be built by Boeing, which received an initial $2.8 billion contract for the work in 2014. The core stage includes four liquid-propellant engines — using RS-25 engines, also used on the space shuttle — and two solid rocket-boosters to heft the rocket into space.

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