According to a statement by NASA administrator Bill Nelson earlier this week, the agency is working hard in its stacking of the SLS rocket in Florida, with the goal of launching before the end of the year.
That statement was revealed in the last sentence of this article describing the work on getting SLS ready, work that appears to be moving along briskly with few surprises.
The present official targeted launch date is set for November. The agency had said it would take between six to ten months to get the rocket ready after the core stage arrived at Kennedy in May. This pointed to a launch sometime between November and March. Right now it appears that NASA is trying very hard to meet that earlier date.
This aggressive effort to launch on schedule is behavior quite out of character for the NASA of the past three decades. In the past, the agency would have moved leisurely along, so that those four months of margin would have almost certainly been used and the launch would have been delayed until March.
I suspect this push now to launch on time is partly generated by a fear that SpaceX’s Starship will reach orbit before SLS. If that happens it will be a major embarrassment to NASA, considering that the agency has spent about three times longer and ten times more money on its rocket than SpaceX.
Isn’t competition wonderful? It even makes government work more efficiently.
Stay tuned. There is still a lot of time between now and November. This race between comparable rockets being built by the government and a private company appears to be neck and neck as we head down the stretch.
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