NASA is expected to announce this week that it will disable its long overdue Space Launch System missile and use commercial launchers instead. The Space Agency commissioned Boeing to build SLS core components in 2012.
NASA US President Jim Bridenstine, at a Senate hearing on March 13, announced an impressive announcement that the space agency would weigh up missiles such as SpaceX and United Launch Alliance. 19659002] This consideration is necessary, he said, because SLS is facing new hangups, which threatened the plans to launch his Orion probe in mid-2020 on an unmanned test flight around the moon.
It was the first time that an agency official was publicly suggesting that existing heavy-duty missiles could do the job. The news encouraged critics who said that NASA does not have to spend billions on SLS to achieve many of its goals.
But NASA is not giving up its rocket. Bridenstine reiterated NASA's long-term commitment to SLS and said it remained "critical" because of its size for US space ambitions: the rocket would far exceed anything that is currently on the market and open up new opportunities, for example Land people on Mars.  To avoid embarrassing delays for Orion's next test flight, Bridenstine said NASA will spend two weeks testing other launch options for this mission.
The results will be published in the next few days. and it's not clear what NASA will decide.
Boeing spokeswoman Patricia Soloveichik said on Saturday that the company had "made some breakthroughs in manufacturing innovation" and will be able to deliver its components on time. A NASA spokesman did not respond to requests for comments during the weekend.
SLS, Boeing and Commercial Landscapes
Boeing began building the core stage, the backbone of the rocket, about seven years ago. Officials said that SLS would be ready to fly the Orion capsule in December 2017 on its unmanned moon mission called the EM-1.
However, this goal has been pushed back at least until mid-2020.
The Space Agency said at the time that they "fully supported" SLS and Boeing, and the program showed "significant improvements in efficiency and management."
When Administrator Bridenstine faced Congress on March 13, he said more Delays are unacceptable and promise to consider all options "For the introduction of the EM-1 by the deadline 2020.
" Of course, there are ways to use commercial skills, "he said, suggesting two heavy rockets instead One could propel Orion, he suggested, and another could launch the service module to bring the capsule to the Moon.
This could lower the starting price: SLS is reported to cost $ 1 billion per flight "Two SpaceX Falcon Heavy missiles could cost less than $ 200 million, but NASA would need to spend time and money linking Orion to its service module while in orbit.
Two days after the hearing, Bridenstine said in a tweet that NASA and Boeing "work overtime" to accelerate the SLS development.
"If this is possible, this is the preferred option for our first exploration mission," he said, although he added that NASA is still considering alternatives.