As of 2019[update], four flights of the Space Launch System (SLS) – a Shuttle-derived, super heavy-lift expendable launch vehicle – are planned for the 2020s. The current launch manifest includes three flights in support of the Artemis program, a human spaceflight project aimed at establishing a permanent human presence on the Moon, and the launch of the Europa Clipper to Jupiter. The flights will launch from the vehicle's dedicated pad at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39B, and will use either its Block 1 configuration with a modified Delta Cryogenic Second Stage known as the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS), or its Block 1B configuration with the Exploration Upper Stage (EUS).
|Flight No.||Date / time (UTC)||Configuration||Payload||Orbit||Outcome|
|1||November 2021 ||Block 1 Crew||TLI||Planned|
|Uncrewed Maiden flight of the SLS, carrying the Artemis 1 mission hardware and cubesats for ten missions in the CubeSat Launch Initiative (CLSI), and three missions in the Cube Quest Challenge. The payloads will be sent on a trans-lunar injection trajectory.|
|2||Q4 2022||Block 1 Crew||
|Crewed, lunar flyby. Carrying the Artemis 2 mission hardware, along with numerous cubesats to be selected through the CSLI.|
|3||2024||Block 1 Crew||
|Crewed lunar rendezvous. Carrying the Artemis 3 mission hardware.|
|4||2025[a]||Block 1 Cargo[a]||Jovian||Planned|
|Carrying the Europa Clipper spacecraft to Jupiter via a direct Hohmann transfer orbit.|
In early 2019, then-Associate Administrator for Human Exploration William H. Gerstenmaier drafted a proposal for five more launches of SLS Block 1B launch vehicles between 2024 and 2028 in support of the Artemis program. These include four crewed launches of the Orion spacecraft. In 2012, Skylab II was proposed by an engineer working with NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. It would use the EUS hydrogen tank to build a 21st-century version of Skylab. The SLS has been proposed as the launch vehicle for the future Large UV Optical Infrared Surveyor (LUVOIR) space telescope, which will have a main segmented mirror between 8 and 16 meters in diameter, making it 300 times more powerful than Hubble Space Telescope. It would be deployed at the Earth-Sun L2 point in 2035. Proposals by Bigelow Aerospace, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Orbital ATK, Sierra Nevada Corporation, Space Systems Loral, and NanoRacks to build the Deep Space Habitat – a spacecraft with a large enough living space for humans to travel to destinations such as Mars, near Earth asteroids, or cislunar space – all envisioned a launch aboard an SLS vehicle.
The proposed Europa Lander, which had formerly been a part of the Europa Clipper mission, is now proposed to be launched aboard an SLS in the mid-2020s. The joint NASA-ESA Titan Saturn System Mission proposal envisioned the SLS as an option for launch. The SLS has also been proposed by Boeing as a launch vehicle for a Uranus probe concept developed by NASA. The rocket would "deliver a small payload into orbit around Uranus and a shallow probe into the planet's atmosphere." The mission would study the Uranian atmosphere, magnetic and thermal characteristics, gravitational harmonics, as well as do flybys of Uranian moons. In addition, a 2017 study suggested that a single SLS Block 1B launch vehicle could launch two spacecraft, one to each ice giant, with launch dates suggested from 2024 to 2037 followed by a four-year transit time.
- List of Atlas launches (2020–2029)
- List of Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launches
- List of Thor and Delta launches (2020–29)
- "Hopeful for launch next year, NASA aims to resume SLS operations within weeks". spaceflightnow.com. 2 May 2020. Retrieved 2 May 2020.
- Foust, Jeff (21 May 2019). "In 2020, NASA Will Send Living Things to Deep Space for First Time Since Apollo". Space.com. Archived from the original on 6 August 2019. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
BioSentinel is one of 13 cubesats flying aboard the Artemis 1 mission, which is currently targeted for mid-2020. [...] The other 12 cubesats flying aboard Artemis 1 are a diverse lot. For example, the Lunar Flashlight and Lunar IceCube missions will hunt for signs of water ice on the moon, and Near-Earth Asteroid Scout will use a solar sail to rendezvous with a space rock.
- Northon, Karen (9 June 2017). "Three DIY CubeSats Score Rides on Exploration Mission-1". National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Archived from the original on 6 August 2019. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) has awarded rides for three small spacecraft on the agency's newest rocket, and $20,000 each in prize money, to the winning teams of citizen solvers competing in the semi-final round of the agency’s Cube Quest Challenge.
- Crane, Aimee (11 June 2019). "Artemis 1 Flight Control Team Simulates Mission Scenarios". National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Archived from the original on 6 August 2019. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
...after the Space Launch System performs the Trans-Lunar Injection burn that sends the spacecraft out of Earth orbit and toward the Moon.
- Clark, Stephen (22 July 2019). "First moon-bound Orion crew capsule declared complete, major tests remain". SpaceflightNow. Archived from the original on 6 August 2019. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
The Artemis 1 mission profile. Credit: NASA [...] The Artemis 1 mission will send the Orion spacecraft into a distant retrograde lunar orbit and back...
- UNITED STATES COMMERCIAL LAUNCH MANIFEST
- Hill, Denise (6 August 2019). "NASA's CubeSat Launch Initiative Opens Call for Payloads on Artemis 2 Mission". National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Archived from the original on 6 August 2019. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
NASA is seeking proposals from U.S. small satellite developers to fly their CubeSat missions as secondary payloads aboard the SLS on the Artemis 2 mission under the agency's CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI).
- Klotz, Irene (5 August 2019). "NASA Scouting Cubesats For Artemis-2 Mission". Aviation Week. Archived from the original on 6 August 2019. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
NASA on Aug. 5 released a solicitation for cubesats to ride along with the first crewed flight of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion capsule, with the caveat that selected projects fill strategic knowledge gaps for future lunar and Mars exploration.
- Loff, Sarah (15 October 2019). "NASA Commits to Future Artemis Missions With More SLS Rocket Stages". NASA. Retrieved 16 October 2019. Quote:"NASA aims to use the first EUS on the Artemis IV mission"
- Grush, Loren (22 May 2018). "The first three missions of NASA's next big rocket will have to settle for a less-powerful ride". The Verge. Archived from the original on 6 August 2019. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
But now NASA is going to fly all three missions — EM-1, EM-2, and Europa Clipper — on Block 1. [...] According to the memo, NASA will aim to have the second platform ready for a Block 1B launch in the beginning of 2024.
- Sloss, Philip (7 May 2019). "NASA puts SLS Europa Clipper option in the wind tunnel". NASASpaceFlight.com. Archived from the original on 6 August 2019. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
Data was collected during several hundred supersonic test runs in the Unitary Plan Wind Tunnel at Langley of a scale model of the Block 1 Cargo vehicle that is the currently mandated booster for the upcoming Europa Clipper mission.
- Sloss, Philip (11 September 2018). "NASA updates Lunar Gateway plans". NASASpaceFlight.com. Archived from the original on 6 August 2019. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
Although U.S. federal appropriations bills enacted into law for the last three fiscal years mandate a Europa Clipper launch on SLS and "no later than 2022," the presentations to the HEO committee show that launch on a Block 1 Cargo vehicle in 2023.
- Sloss, Philip (25 May 2018). "NASA digging into SLS Block 1 revival plans after getting second Mobile Launcher money". NASASpaceFlight.com. Archived from the original on 6 August 2019. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
In the wake of ML-2 funding and the change in direction, NASA began looking at "Jupiter Direct" trajectories with Block 1 again. NASA's early analyses of launch windows for Europa Clipper in 2022, 2023, 2024, or 2025 indicate that direct trajectories are feasible for SLS Block 1.
- Foust, Jeff (10 May 2018). "House bill keeps Europa Clipper on track despite launch vehicle uncertainties". SpaceNews. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
He added that both the original Block 1 version of SLS, as well as the Block 1B with the more powerful Exploration Upper Stage, are the only vehicles with C3 values high enough to allow for a direct trajectory for the six-ton Europa Clipper spacecraft. The less-powerful Block 1 is still sufficient, he said, mitigating concerns about any delays in the development of the Block 1B.
- Gebhardt, Chris (3 November 2017). "Europa Clipper's launch date dependent on SLS Mobile Launcher readiness". NASASpaceFlight.com. Archived from the original on 7 August 2019. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
The mission will be the first cargo flight of the SLS and will likely – though not confirmed – be the first SLS Block 1B launch.
- Berger, Eric (20 May 2019). "NASA's full Artemis plan revealed: 37 launches and a lunar outpost". Ars Technica. Archived from the original on 23 May 2019. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
[Illustration] NASA's "notional" plan for a human return to the Moon by 2024, and an outpost by 2028.
- Foust, Jeff (24 May 2019). "NASA Has a Full Plate of Lunar Missions Before Astronauts Can Return to Moon". Space.com. Archived from the original on 25 May 2019. Retrieved 25 May 2019.
[Illustration] A NASA infographic shows the proposed timeline for landing astronauts on the moon in 2024 and building a sustained human presence on the lunar surface and in orbit by 2028. [...] After Artemis 3, NASA would launch four additional crewed missions to the lunar surface between 2025 and 2028.
- Markus Hammonds (14 April 2013). "Skylab II:Living Beyond the Dark Side of the Moon". Discovery.
- "Deep Space Habitat module concepts outlined for BEO exploration". NASASpaceFlight.com. Retrieved 30 March 2017.
- Frank Morring, Jr. (22 October 2012). "NASA Deep-Space Program Gaining Focus". Aviation Week & Space Technology. Retrieved 30 March 2017.
- SLS Launched Missions Concept Studies for LUVOIR Mission. SPIE Optics + Photonics 2015; Aug 9-13, 2015; San Diego, CA; United States. UV/Optical/IR Space Telescopes and Instruments: Innovative Technologies and Concepts VII; Aug 9-10, 2015; San Diego, CA; United States. August 9, 2015.
- The Space Launch System—the most powerful rocket ever built. Universe Today, published by PhysOrg. July 31, 2017.
- Chris Gebhardt (20 November 2013). "New SLS mission options explored via new Large Upper Stage". NASASpaceFlight.
- Scoles, Sarah (30 March 2016). "NASA Considers Its Next Flagship Space Telescope". Scientific American. Retrieved 15 August 2017.
- Boeing's deep space habitat could be home for Mars astronauts. Mariella Moon, engadget. April 4, 2017.
- JPL moves ahead with Mars and Europa missions despite funding uncertainty. Jeff Foust. July 18, 2017.
- "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 March 2016. Retrieved 15 January 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- NASA's Space Launch System: A Capability for Deep Space Exploration. (PDF) Stephen Creech, Space Launch System (SLS) Program.
- "Space Launch System Exploration, Science, Security" (PDF). Boeing.com. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 30 March 2017.
- Ice Giants - Pre-decadal Survey. NASA. 2017.