NASA Unveils Space Shuttle Successor

NASA has announced a new launch vehicle, the Space Launch System (SLS), designed to carry astronauts past the moon to near-Earth asteroids and eventually Mars.

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The Space Launch System (SLS) will make use of a central first stage equipped with no less than five shuttle main engines, flanked by strap-on solid boosters of the same kind which used to be attached to the shuttle's disposable fuel tank.    The initial SLS will weight 5.5 million pounds and stand 320 ft tall, with a lift capacity of 286,600 lbs.    NASA is aiming for an unmanned SLS test flight in late 2017, with the first manned flight in 2021. The first manned asteroid mission could take place around 2025, and a trip to Mars in the 2030s.
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