NASA Fleshes Out SLS Development Schedule

By Frank Morring, Jr., Jefferson Morris
Marshall Space Flight Center, Washington

Struggling to stay within a flat budget for the heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS), NASA plans to halt development of the J-2X rocket engine that will power its upper stage after the ongoing development-test series.

Once the pacing item for the defunct Ares I crew launch vehicle, the Saturn-heritage J-2X may not fly until well into the 2020s. With the SLS program office expecting an annual development budget of $1.2 billion, near-term engine-development money is deemed better spent on a throwaway version of the RS-25D space shuttle main engine (SSME) that will power the SLS main stage. That engine—designated RS-25E—will use advanced manufacturing and design changes to lower the cost of the reusable SSME.

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