NASA’s new rocket, Space Launch Systems (SLS), will be launching off to deep space in 2018 as NASA prepares the ground for crewed missions to outer space. The SLS will be carrying 13 CubeSats, together with an unscrewed Orion spacecraft 2 years from now.
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NASA's blog reveals that both SLS and Orion will carry science experiments that will enable man make a successful visit to deep space, plus a trip to Mars when the time comes. SLS’ first flight is referred to as Exploration Mission-1 or EM-1, and this will make it possible for certain scientific experiments to reach deep space since most CubeSat launches only reach low-Earth orbits.
“The 13 CubeSats that will fly to deep space as secondary payloads aboard SLS on EM-1 showcase the intersection of science and technology, and advance our journey to Mars,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Dava Newman.
NASA picked the secondary payloads after a series of announcements had been made to this effect, and there was also a NASA challenge as well as other agreements reached with NASA’s international collaborators.
“The SLS is providing an incredible opportunity to conduct science missions and test key technologies beyond low-Earth orbit," said Bill Hill, deputy associate administrator for Exploration Systems Development at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
“This rocket has the unprecedented power to send Orion to deep space plus room to carry 13 small satellites – payloads that will advance our knowledge about deep space with minimal cost,” he added.
NASA chose Skyfire and Lunar IceCube after the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships announcement; and it selected Lunar Flashlight, Bio Sentinel, and Near-Earth Asteroid Scout via the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate; while CuSP and LunaH-Map were chosen as secondary payloads by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.
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Three payload slots have been reserved for NASA’s international partners but more news on this will be shared much later.