HOUSTON – The new Space Launch System will be the most powerful rocket ever developed.
Its goal is to take humans beyond the orbit of the Earth and deep into space.
When it is completed, it will carry four astronauts in the Orion crew capsule.
In 2015, it became the first NASA human-rated launch vehicle to complete the critical design review since the space shuttle four decades ago. The SLS will launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The first configuration of the launch system will stand 322 feet tall. That is taller than the Statue of Liberty.
It will weigh 5.75 million pounds when it’s full of fuel.
When it lifts off, it will produce nearly 9 million pounds of thrust. NASA says that is equivalent to 160,000 Corvette engines.
When it launches, it will offer 15 percent more thrust than the Saturn V rocket. It will carry more than three times the mass of the space shuttle.
The first SLS flight, expected in late 2019, will be called Exploration Mission-1, or EM-1, and will carry the Orion spacecraft beyond the moon and bring it back to the Earth. That will show NASA that the rocket is ready to carry humans into space.
The second SLS mission, EM-2, will launch Orion with as many as four astronauts on board. Those astronauts will go somewhere near the moon and farther into space than humans have ever been.
The first flight with humans on board is expected in the early 2020s.
"We're going beyond the moon, farther than humans have ever been into space before. Then, we're going to set up a gateway and we're going to orbit around the moon. And eventually, we'll go to the surface of the moon and eventually on to Mars," astronaut Nicole Mann said.
Taller configurations of the SLS will stand taller than the Saturn V. They will take humans on missions even deeper into space.
For more on the SLS, click here.