In a major shift in direction, NASA wants to give the first mission of the Space Launch System (SLS) to commercial rockets, Administrator Jim Bridenstine said Wednesday. “The goal is to get back on track,” Bridenstine told a Senate committee.
Bridenstine said NASA found out last week that SLS faces another delay from the original plan to launch for the first time in 2020 on a flight called Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1). The rocket’s development is being run by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.
‘If I tell you and others we’re going to launch in 2020, around the moon, which is what EM-1 is, I think we should launch around the moon in June of 2020,” Bridenstine said. “And I think it can be done.”
NASA is now studying whether to send its first Orion crew capsule and first European Service Module into space on a big commercial rocket, “launch a second heavy-lift rocket to put an upper stage into orbit around the Earth and then dock those two together to throw around the moon the Orion crew capsule with the European Space Module,” Bridenstine said.