After Delay, NASA’s SLS Is Scheduled For Launch

Rohan Parasnis, Science & Tech Writer

   After over six years of delays, NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) is scheduled to lift off in early November.

   When it comes to space travel, every measure of caution is a necessity. Whether it is checking if a system is online or if enough food or fuel is packed aboard, each aspect of space travel needs to be checked carefully due to the innate risks involved. Despite that, years upon years of delays can be frustrating to everyone involved with the project. 

   Take the James Webb Telescope for example, which was set to launch in early 2007, but was plagued with thirteen years worth of delay. This brought much scrutiny upon NASA and its related agencies, as people wondered whether the project would ever come to fruition. In past years, NASA’s SLS has faced similar scrutiny, as it carried an original launch window of 2016. 

   The Space Launch System, also known as SLS, is NASA’s super heavy lift rocket project. The rocket is one of the most powerful rockets that NASA has built. In the coming years, it will be tasked with carrying heavy payloads to outer space, which includes a manned crew to the moon as part of the Artemis Program. 

   The SLS project was not loved by all, however, as it cost $10 billion. Congress agreed to this price, but also required the rocket to launch no later than December of 2016. 

   Anticipation grew surrounding the rocket as it appeared to be NASA’s first step into a new age of space exploration, but with this anticipation also came great frustration. The project was hit with delays and overspending, stemming from a variety of factors. In 2013, an error was revealed in a machine that was used to assemble SLS’s fuel tanks, causing a recall and forcing the expected launch date to be postponed to 2018. 

   With margins to make the 2018 launch date already thin, a tornado hit a key NASA factory in Louisiana, prompting further delays. In the following years, sporadic fuel leaks plagued the project as fuel had to be reformulated, and fuel tanks redesigned numerous times. The initial budget estimate also ended up falling short. In total, it is estimated that the SLS project will cost nearly $12 billion, $2 billion over the predetermined budget.

   While the SLS project has been plagued with delays and other challenges, its upside gives it potential to be worth the wait.