News & Opinion | March 15, 2019 12:40 pm

Is NASA’s Supersize Space Launch System No Longer Necessary?

It has been struggling to meet its schedule.

NASA (Getty Images)
Getty Images

NASA’s Space Launch System, the multibillion-dollar launcher that was expected to bring humans and cargo into deep space, has long been struggling to meet its schedule, even though the agency has vocally committed to sending an American craft to the moon next year. According to WiredNASA’s “new lunar taxi,” dubbed Orion, is basically ready. The issue is that the shuttle meant to take it, is not. The Supersize Space Launch System (SLS) is still years from completion.

This week, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine made a surprising announcement when he appeared before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. He said that NASA would consider commercial rockets to get its crew capsule off the ground.

“We are now understanding better how difficult this project is,” he explained, according to Wired. The inaugural launch of the SLS was meant for 2018, but it has been pushed back every year. At this point, officials are not sure if a 2020 timeline is feasible. But Bridenstine told Congress his hope for NASA is that they hit their deadlines going forward, even if it means using commercial rockets.

“I want to be really clear,” he said, writes Wired. “I think we as an agency need to stick to our commitment. If we tell you, and others, that we’re going to launch in June of 2020 around the moon, I think we should launch around the moon in June of 2020.”