NASASpaceFlight.com reported late Wednesday on a draft manifest for the Space Launch System (SLS) under a “budget restricted” scenario. According to that document, the first SLS launch would take place in 2017 and send an uncrewed Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) on a circumlunar trajectory. The next SLS mission would not take place until 2021, and carry a crewed Orion on the same type of mission. Those initial SLS missions would use the initial SLS configuration with shuttle-derived components. The “evolved” SLS, with a capacity of 130 metric tons to LEO, would not debut until 2032. Those initial milestones would appear to match up with comments by NASA administrator Charles Bolden at a House hearing earlier this month, where he said the SLS would debut in 2017 carrying an uncrewed Orion, but that the SLS would not be human-rated until “late this decade, early ’20s”.
Another poll released yesterday adds to the volume of polling data about the public’s perceptions about the end of the shuttle program and NASA’s future. The IBOPE Zogby found that 59 percent of respondents disagree with the decision to end the shuttle, with nearly three quarters saying that the shuttle was a good use of government resources. Echoing some other polls, 48 percent said that “future space exploration” should be done by both NASA and private companies, versus 28 percent who said NASA alone should do it. (The poll does not define what “space exploration” means in this context.) Three in five respondents said the were very or somewhat concerned that the US would fall behind other nations in the ability to explore space.