NASA artist concept of a super-sized Space Launch System rocket blasting off from Kennedy Space Center.
(FL Today) -- NASA is making swift progress on a new super rocket for human expeditions beyond Earth orbit and officials said Tuesday the agency is on track to launch a first unmanned test flight in late 2017.
"We're making steady progress and we're hitting our marks as we go," said Todd May, manager of the Space Launch System Program Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. "We're pleased to report that we're on track for 2017."
NASA is designing and developing a new rocket system to launch its Orion multipurpose crew vehicle on missions to the moon, Mars, asteroids and other interplanetary destinations.
An initial vehicle capable of launching 70 metric tons will debut in late 2017. The goal is to expand on that system and develop a Saturn V-class rocket capable of launching 140 metric tons.
May gave a progress report to the National Space Club Florida Committee at a luncheon at the Radisson Resort at the Port in Cape Canaveral today.
A first piloted flight test is scheduled to launch from Kennedy Space Center in 2021. After that, May said, the rocket and the Orion spacecraft will be ready to carrying astronauts on missions anywhere in the solar system.
Todd Halvorson, Florida Today