NASA said that SLS will provide a safe, affordable and sustainable technology to carry the Orion spacecraft into space. The SLS will also serve as backup for commercial and international partner transportation services to the International Space Station (ISS).
According to NASA, SLS will combine features from the Space Shuttle as well as the Constellation program. The device will be using a liquid oxygen propulsion system that will be built from the Space Shuttle's RS-25D/E core stage as well as the new J-2X engine. The total lift capacity initially will be 70 metric tons, or about 154,000 pounds. NASA believes that the capacity can be expanded to 130 metric tons in the future. The first flight is targeted for late 2017.
"NASA has been making steady progress toward realizing the president's goal of deep space exploration, while doing so in a more affordable way," NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said. "We have been driving down the costs on the Space Launch System and Orion contracts by adopting new ways of doing business and project hundreds of millions of dollars of savings each year."
SLS is designed as NASA's first new "space exploration-class" system since the Saturn V took astronauts to the moon more than 40 years ago. NASA hopes that SLS will enable it to explore "near-Earth asteroids, Mars and its moons and beyond."