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Upper Stage of SLS Exploration passes an evaluation

A significant review has been passed for an improved upper stage for Space Launch System rocket, allowing its primary contractor, Boeing, to start manufacturing hardware. The SLS Exploration Upper Stage (EUS) concluded a crucial concept analysis with NASA, Boeing reported on December 21. The analysis validated the EUS concept, enabling Boeing to continue with stage development, such as hardware manufacture. The EUS will be utilized on the SLS version of Block 1B, replacing the Intermediate Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) utilized on the original SLS version of Block 1 and focused on the upper stage of Delta 4. The EUS will have bigger tanks, and it is going to use four RL10 engines from the Aerojet Rocketdyne.

Block 1B has improved efficiency over Block 1. Although Block 1 will put 27 metric tons on a translunar injection trajectory, this output will be enhanced to 38 tons by SLS Block 1B. This will allow more “co-manifested” payloads, like modules for lunar Gateway, to be carried by missions launching Orion spacecraft of SLS Block 1B.  “EUS has been designed from the outset for crewed flights, as well as the additional lift capacity which comes with EUS needing fewer flights to allow an earlier and safer continuous human habitation in deep space,” said Steve Snell, Boeing’s EUS program manager, in a report.

However, the Block 1B model of SLS will not fly till the mid-2020s. The first 3 SLS missions are going to be versions of Block 1 which will be using the ICPS. Depending on the improvements in the timetable of Artemis missions as well as the possible usage of SLS to deploy Europa Clipper, this will bring the SLS Block 1B debut past 2024.

NASA attempted to slow down the growth of EUS without a short-term requirement for it. Its budget proposal for the fiscal year 2021 recommended postponing final conceptual design on Block 1B of the SLS. Although the configuration of the SLS Block 1B with Exploration Upper Stage (EUS) continues a valuable potential capability, the substantial performance and price challenges faced by NASA’s primary contractor, Boeing, compel NASA and its suppliers to focus on the satisfactory implementation of Block 1 SLS and also the reliable development of the flight system in the short term when finishing up Block 1 core stage.

An authorization bill of NASA approved in the Senate by unanimous consent on Dec. 18 went still further, prompting NASA to begin “the implementation of Exploration Upper Stage for Space Launch System with a planned availability adequate to be used on the third deployment of the Space Launch System.” The House would not adopt the bill in this Congress, but its Senate backers see it as a starter.

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