Future Trends in NASA's SLS Rocket & Industry Recommendations

Potential Future Trends in NASA’s SLS Rocket and Recommendations for the Industry

NASA’s ongoing Artemis campaign aims to return astronauts to the Moon and establish a sustainable presence there. The Space Launch System (SLS) rocket will play a crucial role in launching astronauts on their journey. Recent developments in the construction of the SLS rocket’s core stage indicate significant progress towards achieving this goal.

Key Points

  • The major structures of the SLS rocket’s core stage, including the liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen tanks, are now fully welded and ready for additional outfitting.
  • Technicians completed the welding of the 51-foot liquid oxygen tank structure on January 8th at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.
  • The liquid hydrogen tank finished internal cleaning on November 14th.
  • The internal cleaning process is necessary to ensure the absence of contaminants that could impact the complex propulsion and engine systems.
  • The next steps involve priming the liquid hydrogen tank in preparation for applying a foam-based thermal protection system.
  • NASA and Boeing, the SLS core stage lead contractor, are working together to process major hardware elements for multiple SLS rockets in parallel.
  • The super-chilled propellant held in the two massive propellant tanks powers the four RS-25 engines of the SLS rocket.
  • The core stage and RS-25 engines will produce two million pounds of thrust to launch NASA’s Orion spacecraft and astronauts beyond Earth’s orbit, landing on the lunar surface for Artemis III.
  • SLS is the only rocket capable of sending Orion, astronauts, and supplies to the Moon in a single launch.
  • Artemis aims to send diverse astronauts, including the first woman, first person of color, and first international partner astronaut, to explore the Moon.
  • SLS is an integral part of NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration, working in conjunction with other components such as the Orion spacecraft and Gateway.

Potential Future Trends

The completion of the major structures for the SLS rocket’s core stage brings us closer to the realization of NASA’s Artemis program. With additional outfitting and final preparations, the SLS rocket will be ready to launch astronauts on their historic journey to the Moon.

Looking ahead, there are several potential future trends related to the development and use of the SLS rocket:

  1. Advancements in Propellant Technologies: As NASA continues to improve its capabilities and technologies, there may be advancements in propellant technologies. These advancements could lead to more efficient and sustainable propellant options, reducing the environmental impact of space missions.
  2. Enhanced Rocket Reusability: The concept of reusability has gained significant importance in the space industry. Future iterations of the SLS rocket could incorporate reusable components, reducing costs and making space exploration more economically viable.
  3. Collaborative Efforts with International Partners: NASA’s Artemis program aims to build international partnerships for lunar exploration. Collaborative efforts with international partners may involve sharing resources and expertise, further enhancing the capabilities of the SLS rocket and supporting crewed missions to the Moon and beyond.
  4. Automation and Robotics in Manufacturing: Continued advancements in automation and robotics could streamline the manufacturing process of the SLS rocket. The use of automated robotic tools for tasks like priming and thermal protection system application could improve efficiency and reduce human error.

Recommendations for the Industry

Based on the trends and developments in the SLS rocket and the broader space industry, here are some recommendations:

  • Invest in Research and Development: Both public and private entities should invest in research and development efforts focused on propellant technologies, reusable rocket components, and automation in manufacturing. These investments will drive innovation and improve the overall capabilities of future space launch systems.
  • Facilitate International Collaboration: Governments and space agencies should foster collaborative partnerships with international entities to pool resources, knowledge, and expertise. Joint development efforts can accelerate progress and open up new possibilities for lunar exploration.
  • Prioritize Sustainability: The space industry should prioritize sustainability by exploring environmentally friendly propellant options and adopting practices that minimize the impact on Earth and other celestial bodies. This includes developing new approaches for waste management and reducing space debris.
  • Support STEM Education: To ensure a strong pipeline of talent for the space industry, there should be a focus on supporting science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. Encouraging young students to pursue careers in space-related fields will contribute to the growth and advancement of the industry.


The completion of the major structures for NASA’s SLS rocket marks a significant milestone in the agency’s Artemis program. The SLS rocket, along with other components like the Orion spacecraft and Gateway, will enable crewed missions to the Moon and lay the foundation for future deep space exploration, including missions to Mars. By embracing advancements in propellant technologies, reusability, international collaboration, and automation, the space industry can enhance its capabilities and usher in a new era of space exploration.

For more information on NASA’s SLS rocket, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/humans-in-space/space-launch-system/


NASA News. (2021, January 8). Major Hardware for NASA’s Space Launch System Installed. NASA. https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/major-hardware-for-nasa-s-space-launch-system-installed

NASA. (2021, January 8). NASA Completes Major Space Launch System Core Stage Hardware. NASA. https://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/nasa-completes-major-space-launch-system-core-stage-hardware