Video — NASA Unveils Spacecraft of the Future

NASA has selected the spacecraft design of the future, a heavy-lift rocket intended to take human space exploration to Mars and beyond.

After months of design reviews, the space agency settled on a rocket equipped with RS-25D/E engines for core propulsion and a J-2X engine for power in the upper stage. Both will rely on a liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen fuel system, a move NASA officials say will cut costs.

NASA officials maintain the rocket will initially have lifting capabilities of 70-100 metric tons, but will eventually evolve to carry 130 metric tons.

NASA says the launch system, designed to replace the Shuttle program that was
retired earlier this year
, will carry astronauts, cargo and other equipment to near-Earth asteroids, cis-lunar space, Mars, its moons and other deep areas of space never before reached by mankind.

“The booster will be America’s most powerful since the Saturn V rocket that carried Apollo astronauts to the moon and will launch humans to places no one has gone before,” NASA said in a press release.

NASA leaders stressed the “evolvable nature” of the selected design, and maintain that it was chosen with both flexibility and cost-savings in mind. Due to current economic realities, however, as well as close reminders of the original Shuttle program’s expenses, the new initiative is likely to face political opposition and possible funding difficulties.

NASA hopes to carry out its first mission using the new rocket in 2017.


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