NASA’s rocket, the Space Launch System, or SLS, is taking much longer to make than expected and probably won’t be ready to fly by its current target launch date of June 2020, whereas other commercial vehicles already on the market are ready to fly right now.
The agency will also need to develop new technologies and figure out how to piece together certain vehicles in space in order to ensure that its mission can actually make it all the way out to the Moon.
But if NASA can pull off this monumental shift to commercial vehicles, the agency may just demonstrate a new method of deep-space travel that relies on multiple launches of smaller vehicles and doesn’t necessarily require massive rockets to succeed.
Space tugs For this upcoming mission, NASA wants to send two heavy spacecraft out on a three-week trip around the Moon next year: an empty crew capsule called Orion and a piece of cylindrical hardware that provides power and support to the capsule called the European Service Module.
This has been a problem for certain complex missions, like NASA’s future space observatory, the James Webb Space Telescope, which doesn’t exactly fit fully inside the rocket it’s launching on.