The Space Launch System (SLS) is a US super heavy-lift expendable launch vehicle, which is under development as of 2019. It is the primary launch vehicle of NASA’s deep space exploration plans, including the planned crewed lunar flights of the Artemis program and a possible follow-on human mission to Mars. SLS replaces the previous Ares V launch vehicle of 2005, although it shares a number of technologies and systems.
The initial SLS Block 1 is required by the US Congress to lift a payload of 95 metric tons (209,000 lb) to low Earth orbit (LEO), and will launch Artemis 1 and Artemis 2. The later Block 1B is intended to debut the Exploration Upper Stage and launch the Artemis 3 and the notional Artemis 4-8. Block 2 is planned to replace the initial Shuttle-derived boosters with advanced boosters and would have a LEO capability of more than 150 metric tons (330,000 lb), again as required by Congress. Block 2 is intended to enable crewed launches to Mars. The SLS will launch the Orion spacecraft and use the ground operations and launch facilities at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
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