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Space Launch System

The Space Launch System (SLS) is an American Space Shuttle-derived super heavy-lift expendable launch vehicle. It is part of NASA's deep space exploration plans including a crewed mission to Mars.SLS follows the cancellation of the Constellation program, and is to replace the retired Space Shuttle. The NASA Authorization Act of 2010 envisions the transformation of the Constellation program's Ares I and Ares V vehicle designs into a single launch vehicle usable for both crew and cargo, similar to the Ares IV concept. The SLS is to be the most powerful rocket in existence with a total thrust greater than that of the Saturn V, although Saturn V could carry a greater payload mass.
Three versions of the SLS launch vehicle are planned: Block 1, Block 1B, and Block 2. Each will use the same core stage with four main engines, but Block 1B will feature a more powerful second stage called the Exploration Upper Stage (EUS), and Block 2 will combine the EUS with upgraded boosters. Block 1 has a baseline LEO payload capacity of 95 metric tons (105 short tons) and Block 1B has a baseline of 105 metric tons (116 short tons). The proposed Block 2 will have lift capacity of 130 metric tons (140 short tons), which is similar to that of the Saturn V. Some sources state this would make the SLS the most capable heavy lift vehicle built; although the Saturn V lifted approximately 140 metric tons (150 short tons) to LEO in the Apollo 17 mission.
Blocks 1 and 1B of the SLS will use two five-segment Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs), which are based on the four-segment Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Boosters. Modifications for the SLS included the addition of a center booster segment, new avionics, and new insulation which eliminates the Shuttle SRB's asbestos and is 860 kg (1,900 lb) lighter. The five-segment SRBs provide approximately 25% more total impulse than the Shuttle SRB and will not be recovered after use.
Confidence article builds for the core stage began on January 5, 2016 and were expected to be completed in late January of that year. Once completed the test articles will be sent to ensure structural integrity at Marshall Spaceflight Center. The ICPS for EM-1 was slated for assembly in late January 2016, and a structural test article was delivered to NASA in 2015 for confidence testing.
NASA SLS deputy project manager Jody Singer at Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama stated in September 2012 that $500 million per launch is a reasonable target cost for SLS, with a relatively minor dependence of costs on launch capability. By comparison, a Saturn V launch cost US$185 to US$189 million in 1969-1971 dollars or roughly $1.23 billion in 2016 dollars adjusted for inflation.
There are no NASA estimates for the SLS program recurring yearly costs once operational, for a certain flight rate per year, or for the resulting average costs per flight. Bill Hill, NASA manager of exploration systems development has indicated "My top number for Orion, SLS, and the ground systems that support it is $2 billion or less" (annually). NASA associate administrator William H. Gerstenmaier has indicated, "[per mission] costs must be derived from the data and are not directly available. This was done by design to lower NASA's expenditures.