NASA’s Space Launch System Takes Off, But SpaceX Is Already Taking Its Job
NASA’s heavy-lift Space Launch System has finally taken off and entered orbit. It’s a big win for the space agency — even as it assigns tasks once meant for the SLS to SpaceX instead.
The Space Launch System, or SLS, is NASA’s heavy-lift rocket and the most powerful vehicle ever built. It’s designed to take astronauts farther into space than ever before, including to Mars.
The SLS has been in development for years, and its first launch was originally slated for 2017. But the rocket has been beset by delays and cost overruns, and its first launch was ultimately pushed back to 2020.
Then, in December 2019, the SLS finally took off. The rocket completed its maiden flight successfully, reaching orbit and deploying its payload as planned.
The SLS is a big win for NASA. The agency has been working hard to develop a new generation of rockets, and the SLS is a key part of that effort. The successful launch of the SLS is a major milestone for the agency.
But even as the SLS finally enters orbit, NASA is already making plans to hand off some of its planned tasks to SpaceX.
SpaceX is a private company founded by Elon Musk, and it has developed its own line of rockets, called the Falcon. The Falcon 9 is SpaceX’s workhorse rocket, and it’s been used to launch dozens of missions to orbit.
The Falcon 9 is less powerful than the SLS, but it’s also cheaper and more flexible. And SpaceX has already demonstrated that it can launch heavy payloads to orbit, including a satellite that weighs as much as a school bus.
So NASA has decided to use SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket to launch a new generation of GPS satellites. The first of these satellites is scheduled to launch in 2022, and the Falcon 9 will be able to launch them all by 2024.
The decision to use SpaceX’s rockets for GPS satellites is a big change for NASA. The agency has long been reliant on its own rockets, and it’s only recently started to use commercial providers like SpaceX.
But the decision to use SpaceX’s rockets makes sense. The Falcon 9 is cheaper and more flexible than the SLS, and it’s already proven that it can do the job.
So even as the SLS finally enters orbit, NASA is already making plans to hand off some of its planned tasks to SpaceX. It’s a sign of the changing times at the space agency, and a recognition that private companies like SpaceX are playing an increasingly important role in the exploration of space.