One of the projects NASA is currently responsible for is developing the Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lifting rocket. This rocket will be incredibly powerful, enabling the space agency to launch crewed capsules into deep space for distant space missions, such as those to Mars.
Image Credit: NASA/MSFC
The powerful rocket will be capable of sending astronauts beyond Earth’s orbit, which is a necessary step for getting mankind to another planet.
On the other hand, while the first test launch of this monstrous rocket was originally planned for November of 2018, NASA is expecting some delays and has come out with the official word that a test launch will be pushed back until early 2019 or later.
The delays are to address problems in the rocket’s core design, in which cracking issues and other safety hazards have been observed.
As we've learned with rocket failures in the past, these aren't the kinds of technical difficulties you want to flip a coin on. These types technical problems could put future astronauts at risk of catastrophic failure and death if a green light were to be given for a launch without first properly addressing the concerns.
While the 2018 delay was bad enough, since Congress wanted to see a launch as soon as 2016, the official word that another delay is inevitable means that NASA has reached a saddening 3-year delay in test-launching the SLS rocket.
In the meantime, third-party space companies like Blue Origin and SpaceX are already developing more powerful rockets that will be capable of lifting heavy (crewed) payloads into deep space. Blue Origin recently detailed their New Glenn rocket, while SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket has been detailed for quite some time.
It’s possible that the U.S. government may force NASA to take a different approach to space travel given all the delays that they’re experiencing despite Congress’ growing impatience. Unfortunately, NASA’s budget is only so large and there are also other priorities the space agency is obligated to focus on.
NASA is expected to re-think their entire plan and release a new schedule some time in September.
Source: The Verge